In contrary to a normal review I will use the same breakdown as I always do for my Custom Inear reviews:
- Build quality & Comfort
- Price & Accessories
- Customer Service
1. Build quality & Comfort
Ultimate Ears of course has a lot of experience in making monitors and there really isn’t anything to complain about. Size-wise this is a very normal monitor and I’m positively surprised to see that the 8 drivers only take up so little space. In case you didn’t know yet: each CIEM is handcrafted and digitally modelled and 3D printed for perfect fit, comfort, and strength.
My 18+PRO fit me perfectly and this LIVE model was built with the same impressions. Just like with the 18+PRO, the LIVE’s canal part is short and has soft edges and it perfectly fits in my ear. It’s impossible to break the seal. As long as your impressions are good, I’m convinced UE will make perfectly fitting monitors.
This time round the internal build construction is reasonably symmetric when comparing left to right. There are many different components inside the LIVE’s shells and so it is difficult to keep everything clean but UE has managed to keep things clean on both sides. With the 18+Pro I wasn’t fully convinced of the build quality of the shell but with this LIVE version, everything just is perfect. There are no errors in the shell, the connectors sit perfectly flush and tight and the faceplate closing is thin and precise. No remarks whatsoever here.
You can of course personalize the LIVE monitor when ordering it and you can find the personalization tool on their website here: https://configpro.ultimateears.com/?model=8468b6ae70ed43e485d6f2d84a1fa910 . The tool is quite nice and it gives you different options: Translucent – Solid – Sparkle – Specialty. I can’t see the LEGO design anymore but there are plenty of different options available. You can now also upload your own artwork (+$200), add a halo (+$200), add an ambient filter (+$50). The weird thing here is that you have to pay $50 to remove the UE logo…
Back in August when my LIVE was being built, I first created an “Alice in wonderland” design but unfortunately that wasn’t possible because of the protected design. I then came up with a new design to support the “Save the bees” movement and so I created a black on yellow and yellow on black honeycomb design faceplate. I’ve been told that this design since then has been copied already by others so it seems it’s a good one. I for one really love it and the bee concept draws a lot of attention on the train. A perfectly executed design by UE, mission achieved.
Don’t let the designer tool get in the way of your creativity though. UE can do so much more than their tool offers, so if you’re looking for something specific, do get in touch with them before you order your set. The online tool also lets you choose between different cable types and cases and it’ll calculate the final price for your design with the options chosen.
A top level monitor deserves a good cable, and most of the popular CIEM companies nowadays are working together with a boutique cable maker.” Ultimate Ears clearly agrees as they’re working with Estron/Linum from Denmark. The SuperBax cable is now being offered with the full UE line-up and they even developed the IPX connector together.
We already know that the SuperBax cable is an excellent cable in both sound and comfort and the Superbax also won our Best Value Cable award a few weeks ago! The SuperBax doesn’t tangle, is light, comfy and hardly noticeable. You can perfectly wear it above the ear and it won’t bother you a single bit as it’s light and soft. This new SuperBax cable does come with a new feature though as it now has a new cable tie where the cable splits left and right. With this new splitter you can lock the mechanism and that way the splitter will always stay perfectly in place where you set it (for me that’s under my chin). That way the cable never gets in the way, it won’t snag the monitors and it won’t bother you at all.
We’ll have to see how the new connecter behaves in the long run but it seems to be very sturdy so far and it has thousands of confirmed connections, so it should last very long indeed. Cable-wise, UE from me gets a double thumbs up. The Superbax IPX-cable only comes in a 3.5mm termination for now (though the 2.5mm version now is available from Linum) and it of course can only be used with T2 and IPX connectors.
4. Price & Accessories
The LIVE is UE’s TOTL monitor and its price starts at $2199. Depending on the accessories and design chosen that can end up being a few hundred USD more.
As this was my second UE monitor in a short period, we agreed to just send the monitor and the Superbax cable in a simple case without any accessories. Of course you’ll get the full experience as a normal customer and you probably get something like I did with the 18+PRO: “The 18+PRO comes in really beautiful box. When you flip it open you’ll see the UE labelled inside of the box and a manual saying “Thank You”. Under the manual, there is the roadie case which I chose. Inside the roadie case you’ll find the monitors, a soft pouch to put them in, the SuperBax cable and a basic cleaning tool. It’s a really nice package with standard accessories but they’re all very well done.”
5. Customer Service
I didn’t deal with the UE customer service directly as everything was discussed via Fischer Amps. I can only say that Fischer Amps is a really good company, they have a lot of experience and they have an excellent service.
As said FA has over 20 years of experience and they’ve been doing the European UE distribution since 1999, so also almost 20 years. That clearly means both buyers and UE are very happy with the level of support they’re getting from FA, and I’m sure the UE service is just as good.
The LIVE monitor is built for a professional audience and the monitor is intended to be used on stage. Of course we audiophiles like everything but for artists there’s a big difference between getting the right amount of bass or amplitude on stage when performing or not getting it enough. We don’t tend to listen or use the monitors in such noisy environments but for the artist it can make or break a performance.
That’s why the LIVE was designed to deliver extra bass amplitude and a full bodied sound from bass to treble. The difference in sound signature is immediately audible when you’re coming from the more neutrally tuned 18+PRO though if you’re in to bigger sounding ear-and headphones, the difference might not be as “shocking”.
But don’t get me wrong: bass and body are not exaggerated. The artists simply wouldn’t accept that and so bigg bassheads will still be left wanting more bass and bigger impact than the LIVE delivers. For some of you who prefer a lighter, more balanced presentation, the LIVE’s tuning might already be too much for you. On the other hand I find it to have great synergy with lighter, more forward, neutral sounding DAPs such as the Astell&Kern SP1000 and a lot of other ESS Sabre based players.
What strikes me most besides the bass and body is the clarity and precision, though it at he same time isn’t a surprise as the 18+PRO also scores excellent in these regards. I’m pleasantly surprised actually as it isn’t always easy to combine bass, body, cleanness and clarity all in one, and UE did an excellent job here. If clarity and a clean sound are extra important to you though, the 18+PRO will probably be the better monitor for you.
The stereo image and left/right balance with the LIVE are also really good but because of that bass and body the monitor does sound less balanced and neutral than the 18+PRO. That last one also sounds snappier and faster though this could be the same in the LIVE, yet it may be a little hidden behind that body and bass.
The sound stage is wide, the separation is good and the airiness is more than sufficient. It actually reminds me a lot of the Vision Ears VE8 in these regards and that’s an award winning monitor. At the same time the VE8 and LIVE aren’t the most spacious, precise or widest sounding monitors either, but they were intentionally tuned that way.
The part on sound continues on page three of this article, just click HERE