Rank #8: Ultimate Ears UE18+ Pro

6

As one of the first companies to manufacture ciems for musicians and audiophiles, Ultimate Ears remains a powerhouse in the industry. The audiophile business is booming, with companies coming and going; but Ultimate Ears will always have one major advantage over them – 20 years of experience in tuning, and knowing  what their clientele needs best.

Ultimate Ears UE18+ Pro
-Drivers:                             6 BA drivers
-Crossover:                        4-way crossover
-Impedance:                      37,5 Ohm
-Sensitivity:                        100 dB
-Fit:                                      Custom

-MRSP:                                $1500


Cable

The UE18+ Pro comes with a black twisted 4-wire copper cable, with a characteristic OFC tone. As such, there isn’t a great difference with the standard Plastics One commonly provided with ciems. The cable contributes to the UE18+ Pro’s warmer tone and softer treble, while adding a breeze of warmth to its stage. As a result, its stage isn’t the most airy, while its transparency could be greater. However the tone is an excellent match and even essential for the timbre and general naturalness of the UE18+ Pro’s presentation. It’s a pairing that works very well together.

Sound impressions

Presentation
The UE18+ Pro is designed as the ultimate stage monitor. To be a valued attribute for a performing artist, there are two basic things that a monitor, at the very least, should adhere to. For starters, it needs to be silky smooth – you can’t be listening to a fatiguing monitor for hours on end. Secondly, the sound needs to be accurate. You need to be hearing a realistic reproduction of the music you’re playing; in other words, its instrument timbre needs to be top notch. This isn’t only the type of sound we as an audiophile need to hear when listening to our favorite band; but what that band needs to listen to when hearing themselves.

The UE18+ Pro not only complies, it excels. When you first hear the UE18+ Pro, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of excitement going on. The soundstage is pretty average in size, and it’s not particularly upfront in its detail retrieval, even though its resolution is quite high. But take an extra minute to listen to the tone of a guitar, or the realistic portrayal of a vocal, and what’s first perceived as ordinary, seems to be extraordinary. The UE18+ Pro’s warmer tone is not only incredibly smooth, it sounds very natural. It creates this sense of naturalness by combining a fairly linear midrange with a softened treble. The result is not only a warmer, more inviting treble that positively affects the tonality, but the coherency of the presentation as a whole. This is a tuning in service of the midrange; the bass and treble seem to display a rare sense of selflessness in helping the midrange perform at its best, perhaps recognizing its crucial role as the foundation of the music.


The UE18+ Pro’s stage is roughly average in its dimensions, having a slightly wider than average width, while not being overly deep. Similarly, its precision of imaging is around average, as is its layering ability, due to the depth of the stage. However, its instruments are projected on a nicely stable black background, resulting in a fair amount of detail despite the warmer tone. But there’s something strange going on with the UE18+ Pro’s stage. There’s a rare sense of coherency in its presentation, that invites you to forget about analytically dissecting its performance. The UE18+ pro doesn’t present notes as a set of individual instruments, artificially forged together. Rather, it presents them as a unified ensemble; a band of musicians trained to play in unison, as a result of years of practice. The presentation as a whole feels comfortably intertwined.

1 2 3
Share.

About Author

Nic is currently in pursuit of a PhD degree in social neuropsychology, while trying not to get too distracted by this hobby. In pursuit of theoretical knowledge by day, and audiophile excellence at night. Luckily for him, both activities are not mutually exclusive which helps to lighten the workload. Always on the go, Nic's enthusiasm for hi-fi is focused on all chains of the portable system: iems, cables and daps.

6 Comments

  1. dongster on

    Hi FLINKENICK,

    thanks for the epic review.

    Could you please tell me how the UE18 compare to the NT6 Pro?

    and a point to clarify, u said UE18 has a dip in lower treble, but you gave it a higher score than the NT6 Pro, which is known for its quality treble? is this just a reflection of your preference or? I mean a dip from what i understand is same as recessed, which is a bad thing or?

    • flinkenick on

      Hi buddy, thanks for the kind words. This is the complicated thing about audiophile terminology, attenuated refers to its response in a frequency graph. But this is something different than recessed; recessed just means it is lacking. The treble of UE18+ is not lacking in this sense, by dampening its lower treble frequencies, they simply created a warmer more natural timbre of its treble, as well as a generally more natural signature.

      You’re asking a very good question about the NT6pro’s vs. the UE18+’ treble. But as it happened, I wrote a very detailed post about the interpreting the scores last week on Head-Fi, and I used the NT6-pro as an example. Maybe I will repost that to THL sometime. In the meanwhile, take a look at it and let me know if you have any questions after. TLDR: both are good treble, but the UE18+’ treble has a more accurate timbre.

      https://www.head-fi.org/f/threads/ranking-the-stars-flinkenicks-2017-iem-flagship-shootout.826876/page-134#post-13551884

      • dongster on

        Hi flinkenick,

        thank you so much for the reply, i read through your post in the link, very insightful, a great read! Especially the part about how hifi companies tune towards older and richer consumer segment, blew my mind a little, never thought about that.

        I listen mostly to k-pop and female vocal/ballads, and enjoy some violin/piano too.

        How do you think NT6Pro UE18+ and SE5 ultimate would perform for such genres? would the lower treble dip in ue18 and the softer nature of SE5U’s treble mean less satisfying female vocal and violin?

        btw do does the silicone make u sweat more than acrylic? thats my main concern with SE5.

        Best,
        dongster

        • flinkenick on

          Hi buddy, my guess is the NT6-pro would be the best match for you. The determining factor here is how you like your treble. If you are you a sensitive listener, the UE18+ or 5-Way would be better. But if you like your k-pop, as well as violins and pianos, to sparkle and shine, the NT6-pro is the easy choice.

          In all cases, the vocal presentation would be satisfying. Even though their vocals are slightly different, the NT6-pro, Ult and UE18+ all have really outstanding vocals. The UE18+ and Ult sound warmer though, while the NT6-pro sounds a bit clearer and sweeter perhaps. UE18+ in my opinion has the most realistic and detailed vocals, but the others are also a treat to listen to.

          I live in a cold European country, so my only concern is rain, not humidity. But I will check with others about silicone and get back to you.

          • dongster on

            many thanks for the response, i might be able to audition a ue18+ and UERR next week 😀

            • flinkenick on

              Nice! Hope they’re to your liking, and let me know if you have any questions after.

              As for the silicone, I asked two others and they said they didn’t have any problems with sweat. But you might want to check with others to be sure if you’re serious about them, maybe people in your own country if possible.

Leave A Reply