Battle Test: Ultimate Ears 10 Pro

Ultimate Ears has spent most of the past 11 years creating custom-molded headphones for musicians. Not to be outdone by the likes of Shure and Etymotic, however, UE put out a line of three, more consumer-friendly universal-fit earbuds last year under the name. The company recently added a fourth set to the line, the $399 10 Pro. If you really care about what your music sounds like, whether it’s pumping from a component receiver or a portable player, you need these earbuds. The triple.fis are the new standard by which all other portable, audiophile-quality headphones should be judged.

The “triple” in the name refers to the three “individual balanced armature speakers” used in each ear piece. They are the same speakers found in the company’s professional monitors. Two of the three speakers are bass drivers allowing low frequencies to be more balanced for greater definition and clarity. Bass response is punchy without being overwhelming or muddy. The third speaker handles high frequencies.

All three speakers work together, accurately blending lows, mids and highs before the sound hits your eardrum. And across all genres–country, R&B, punk, rock, hip-hop, electronic–the performance was consistently excellent with very warm and rich sound. However, it should be noted that the quality of the source material will play a part. Don’t expect low-bitrate digital files to sound impeccable.

Sound of course is the main concern, but comfort, convenience and overall features are what make the difference between a good set of high-quality earphones and that of a fantastic set. As the 10 Pros didn’t disappoint in any area, they definitely fall into the latter category.

For starters, UE includes three pairs of single-flange silicone ear tips (small, medium and large), a pair of dual-flange silicone tips (my preferred choice) and a pair of standard foam ear tips. I recommend trying them all out to get the best, most comfortable in-ear fit; a more secure seal provides optimal noise isolation for the best sound. But for the best possible fit imaginable, a trip to your local audiologist can yield a pair of custom molded silicon buds—the difference between stock buds and custom fit ones is usually immense.

The 3.8-foot cable is a good length for use with portable players and the 1/8-inch (3.5mm) gold-plated L-shaped plug makes for a solid connection. UE went with a thicker cable than it used on the line. (And should you damage the cable, it’s easily replaceable.) The design overall is bigger in comparison to the prior models, which might turn some people off. However, I find these to be a bit more comfortable to wear, partially due to the redesigned ear loops, which provide an improved, secure feel.

Also included in the package is a nice, metallic travel case, a 1/4-inch adaptor jack, a sound-level attenuator for use on airplanes and a cleaning tool, because let’s face it, these things can collect some serious wax. Lastly, the ‘phones are covered by a two-year warranty.

So is there a noticeable sound difference between the $249 5 Pros and the $399 10s? Yes. I can honestly say there is a recognizable difference. This is actually saying a lot too, because the 5s provide, well, super sound. But, again, if you want the absolute best listening experience, the 10 Pros are worth the price. Due to their superior sound and quality, I’ve given the triple.fis a Best Bytes rating.