We’ve been fans of Ultimate Ears‘ custom-fitted earphones since we first reviewed them back in 2005 and have reported on improvements unveiled since. Now the CSX earphone family supports Bluetooth and UE’s Fitkit program allows customers to make their own ear impressions at home with a smartphone (you can still visit an audiologist to create your ear impressions) and once you send over the impressions, Ultimate Ears stores them for future use.
Originally developed for professional musicians and worn by most when on stage, Ultimate Ears customs have been available to anyone with audiophile taste and spending money. Currently available in five configurations—from the UE 5 CSX with two speakers ($499) to the UE Live with eight speakers ($2,199)—there’s an option to suit most. We tested the 18+ CSX ($1,499), an evolution of the previously reviewed UE 18s, though the process is identical across the line-up, with only the number of speakers (or drivers) inside your earphones being the difference. The interchangeable cable system lets you easily change between Bluetooth or plugging in to your audio source. With Fitkit, Ultimate Ears introduces an entirely new way of creating your custom earphones.
The ordering process exists online through a customization portal akin to Nike‘s NIKE ID tool. There, you can choose your model, faceplate, halo, logo and a complimentary case. Nearly endless combinations of colors, materials, wood grains and custom options offer extensive personalization. For ours, we chose “Clear” with no halo and a faint silver UE logo. Understated and tech-forward, our iteration is super-minimal.
The Fitkit custom-fitting system replaces a visit (and the cost associated with it) to an audiologist and allows you to do it yourself at home, with molds in the kit and the app on your smartphone. Simply follow the thorough instructions and send off your impressions, which will be used as the guideline for crafting your new earphones.
Fitkit ensures a snug and secure fit that outshines the various adjustable wings and bulbs that many other earbuds come with—though their sizes accommodate ears of all sizes, UE’s custom made earphones renders each set unique to its wearer—a luxury usually reserved for professionals. Plus, the natural seal afforded by a precise fit also acts as its own Passive Noise-Cancellation system, which favors blocking off exterior noise instead of producing sounds or frequencies to offset.
While we haven’t spent time on airplanes lately they are ideal for use onboard, cutting out ambient noise and distraction and letting you enjoy your music or entertainment with impeccable sound. The EQ app also lets you further customize your sound. Because they are custom fit for your ears, you can wear them comfortably for hours.
Images by Evan Malachosky and Josh Rubin