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Ultimate Ears Live In-Ear Monitor:  King of the Hill

01-28-2019 | By Robert H. Levi | Issue 101

I am hearing through the grapevine from high-end in-ear monitor users that finally, a manufacturer has produced a model so extremely detailed and comfortable, you are not still hungry for more after using them. That it has totally achieved the important criteria of true continuity of frequency response from 20-20,000Hz, definition at all frequencies equivalent to state of the art headphone models, and a comfort seal in the ear maximizing performance particularly in the bass. It is manufactured in Southern California by Ultimate Ears and it is called Ultimate Ears Live.

Ultimate Ears builds many in-ear models, all custom fit, some designed for the stage, and others designed for the music lover and audiophile. They have an engineering design criteria which maximizes two criteria:

  1. neutral driver integration and performance
  2. high definition

They achieve this by using a patented laser process to measure your ear canals. They have two in-house 3D Printers to precisely produce the shells.

They utilize eight (8) precision audio drivers mounted by folks who could also be jewelers to precisely mount the drivers exactly as needed. WOW!

The UE Live drivers are a balanced armature design which requires little break-in. I ran them for 24 hours on an FM Tuner before critical listening. They sounded pretty much the same.

UE can print your custom in-ear monitors with any logo or lettering you want, and virtually no limit on graphics. I chose the 25th Anniversary Seal of the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society, and the result was exquisite. Plus UE can turn your custom order around and get it in your hands in 5-8 working days! 

Take a break and get some more information at the following link:  https://pro.ultimateears.com/ue-live-world-s-best-top-iem.html.

Their factory is super clean and beautiful with dedicated specialists who are all consistently long time employees. I toured the entire facility and was mightily impressed, particularly with the actual 3D printers on the job.

How do they sound?

I would never buy a floor standing loudspeaker with eight drivers per channel. The possibility that they would blend in a typical audiophile room causing the speakers to disappear in the sound stage is between zero and negative 100. However, with only your ear canal to fill, you cannot pick out any individual driver, ever. The blend and frequency sweep is perfect, perfect, perfect. They are more efficient than any headphone model I know of, except the Final Sonorous X at 116dB/w/m. 

I plugged the UE Live into my Astell & Kern A&ultima SP1000, E.A.R. HP4 Headamp, Manley Absolute Headamp, Grado Headamp, LTA Micro ZOTL Headamp, and my iPhone 8.

Through my best sources, the UE Live is STATE-OF-THE-ART. They fully compete with my best cans, even the open models. The two competing IEMs I have in house were clearly lumpy sounding and less detailed.

I have never heard the A&K A&ultima SP1000 sound more analog and sweet. The UE Live brings out the very best from the extraordinary player. This is a marriage of technology that will satisfy and entertain to the maximum.

Breakthrough in Spades

I am gobsmacked by the comfort and performance of the UE Live. You actually hear airy highs and sweet sparkle from bells and violins, endless ambiance and reverb, and powerful layered bass. Vocals are rounded and lifelike. Massed choral performances are clearly delineated with the clear placement of the orchestra and soloists. I tried LPs, CDs, SACDs, and my classic FM tuners with consistently fine results. Yes, all of the soundstage is in your head, not beyond your ears, or in front of your face. No, you really do not care at all, as the music is so compelling. Plus, external noise is close to obliterated. The UE Live wire is high-end, expensive looking, and lightweight with a sweet, richly gold 3.5 mm right-angle plug. It is supplied with a bag of adapters, a velvet sack, and a custom printed metal box.


UE Live IEMs are outstanding, but it is hard to find the specific UE webpages for the various inner ear monitor models, and then find the models for the music lover, not for a performer on stage. Otherwise, the UE Live is beyond criticism.


The Ultimate Ears Live in-ear monitor is king-of-the-hill. No in-ear monitors I know of are as neutral, detailed, even from top to bottom, efficient, comfortable, beautiful, and possess the fast turn-around of the UE Live. The UE Live IEM is clearly state-of-the-art. Plug them in and prepare yourself for sweeping, powerful, supremely detailed sound. You will hear no artificial sizzle or lumpy bass. In fact, the UE Live is more neutral and integrated than 90% of the headphones on the market. Made in America, they come with a 30-day return if you do not love them.

UE can forget about getting mine back. 

The ULTIMATE EARS LIVE receive my very highest recommendation. Absolutely amazing.

UE Live

Price: $2199

Ultimate Ears

Official Dealer

My Inears

3 Jenner, Suite 180

Irvine, CA  92618



[email protected]

All images by Bob Levi