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Ultimate Ears Triple.fi 10 Pro Personal Earphones
for Intense Active Listening (3/2008)
by Douglas Dixon and Brian Dixon
About Ultimate Ears
Taking Care of Your Ears
Find Out More
See my Audio
Accessories Gallery for more on these products
The Ultimate Ears Triple.fi 10 Pro may look like yet another set of
earphones, but we found them to be something more -- These high-end personal
earphones provide a clear and intense listening experience that is closer to
good headphones or even studio monitors (www.ultimateears.com/_ultimateears/products/triplefi/triplefi10pro_description.php).
What's special about the Triple.fi is that they actually contain three
individual speakers for each ear, with an integrated passive crossover
circuit board that directs specific frequencies to dedicated speakers -- low-end
for bass, mid-range for vocals, and high for treble.
The result is wonderful clarity in the sound -- giving you the ability to
distinguish and really hear the components of the music. When we listened to
rock music on an iPod, for example, you can hear the kick drum separated out to
give it more punch, instead of having it get mushed in with the other sounds
because of weak bass response.
Similarly, the high strings separated out very clearly when listening to an
orchestral piece. Even the squeak of a guitar string was more distinct.
Even better, this clarity also seems to help separate the stereo field, so we
really can hear a better stereo representation and interesting panning effects.
With the Triple.fi it just feels like the sound is going on in the head -- we
can be convinced that we're are in the sound.
The result is a much more "lean forward" listening
experience -- You can distinctly listen to the music, and not just lean back and
passively listen as background sound.
But who is Ultimate Ears, and what are they doing selling $399
The company was inspired by Jerry Harvey's experience touring with Van Halen
as a monitor engineer, when drummer Alex Van Halen wanted a better solution for
the old wedge monitors that blasting his ears. Harvey engineered the first
custom-fit earpieces, which grew into a business designing custom molded
professional ear monitors for a wide variety of professional musicians
performing around the world. UE now claims an over 80% share of the professional
ear monitor market (see About UE - www.ultimateears.com/_ultimateears/about/about.php).
More recently, Ultimate Ears has developed a range of products for the
broader consumer enthusiast market:
- UE Metro.fi for on-the-go listening - single speaker, $79
- UE Super.fi for music lovers - speaker plus subwoofer, $129 - $249
- UE Triple.fi for discerning consumers - 3 speakers, $399
- UE Custom Series for touring musicians and serious audiophiles,
$700 - $1150
Product info - www.ultimateears.com/_ultimateears/products/findyourearphones.php
Product store - www.ultimateears.com/_ultimateears/store/productsoverview.php
Listening to great sound is wonderful, but Ultimate Ears is very careful in
its documentation to stress the importance of not damaging your hearing with
excessive sound pressure levels. The fun -- but serious -- manual recommends not
listening for more than an hour a day. Of course, this depends on how much you
assault your ears by cranking up the volume, and whether you use an attenuator
to limit loud peaks.
You also need to take care of what you are doing while listening. The
Triple.fi earphones are designed to provide significant passive noise isolation
-- up to -26 dB when properly inserted with the correct size ear tips (the
product includes 10 sizes and styles -- and there's a video on the site showing
proper insertion, www.ultimateears.com/_ultimateears/products/triplefi/triplefi10pro_userguide.php).
This means you can lower the volume when listening in a relatively quiet
environment, but they really are not suitable for situations in which you need
to be aware of the environment -- such as walking in a city or jogging on the
road. For such use, try the UE Metro.fi series for music on the go, which are
designed with -16 dB of isolation to let in more of the ambient environment.
So who is the target customer for $399 earphones? These are clearly too good
for casual listening -- In fact, the clarity is so good that you can hear audio
compression artifacts, which can be a problem listening to casually-compressed
music on a typical MP3 player -- You may want to re-rip some of your music after
you hear it this way.
Ultimate Ears suggests that the Triple.fi earphones are best for consumers
with a highly educated ear and discerning music taste (think
audiophiles). UE is targeting consumers willing to pay for the detail, warmth
and granularity that this technology delivers.
We'd describe the target use as "short-term intense active listening"
-- intense because of the clarity, active since the quality is so good you won't
be in a lean-back passive listening mode, and short-term to be careful of your
ears after this kind of dynamic experience. Our ears even seemed a bit fatigued
after an hour or so of this kind of intense listening experience.
They would be particularly great for a music enthusiast to listen intensely
to a new recording, or to enjoy an old favorite.
And we found them helpful for musicians as an alternate way to check out a
mix (in addition to studio monitors) -- since we could hear things that we did
not necessarily notice on other specific speakers.
But don't take our word for it -- check out the Ultimate Ears site for
reviews, celebrity endorsements, and the Ear Art Gallery with custom designs (www.ultimateears.com).
Read the product specs -- featuring a full audio signature with a frequency
response of 10 Hz to 17 kHz.
And download the User Guide for full details
Find the Ultimate
Ears triple.fi Earphones on Amazon.com