A big part of how a pair of wireless earbuds sounds is how well they fit, and how effectively they can channel music into your ears. It’s why most earbud makers will include a handful of silicone ear tips, as everyone’s ears are different. But Ultimate Ears’ new UE Drop buds are guaranteed to fit every user perfectly, because they’re created from molds of their ear.
Custom-designed ear inserts for earbuds are far from a new idea, but the companies that make them mostly target professional musicians who need to wear an ear monitor on-stage that will block out all the noise of a venue while staying securely in place. Anyone can order custom in-ear monitors, and even Ultimate Ears sells them, but with price tags that soar well past $2,000. That’s a hard sell if you’re not going to wear them in front of a stadium full of people all paying to see you perform.
A few years ago, Ultimate Ears released its UE Fits, which gave users custom-fitted earbud tips through a simple at home process that took about 60 seconds. Users stuck the earbuds in their ears and then, through an app, activated “Lightforming LEDs” that heated each earbud’s “Photopolymer Gel Tip” until they were soft enough to conform to the shape of the ear. The end results didn’t provide as flawless a fit as truly custom in-ear monitors will, but for $169, the fit they did provide definitely outperformed a pair of squishy silicone ear tips or even memory foam alternatives.
With its new Ultimate Ears UE Drops, the company is bridging the gap between the ease of use of the UE Fits, and the precise fit and finish of its professional in-ear monitors. Users are still saved from having to make a visit to an audiologist, but after ordering a pair of the UE Drops, they’re first sent a FitKit. With the assistance of a guided app, the FitKit allows them to make their own custom ear impressions. When those are complete, the FitKit is sent off to Ultimate Ears who, roughly two to four weeks later, ship out the finalized pair of UE Drops with the customized ear tips that should provide a perfect, secure, and very comfortable fit—if not, you’ve got 30 days to let Ultimate Ears know they’re not quite working for you.
Available in three color options: sapphire, rose quartz, and onyx, the UE Drops feature 9.2-millimeter drivers, up to eight hours of playback time on a single charge, with the matching charging case adding an extra 14 hours on top of that while away from a power source, and a mobile app for making EQ adjustments. What the UE Drops don’t have is active noise cancellation. Compared to wireless earbuds that just use silicone tips, the passive noise blocking on the UE Drops should be much better, but given that you can get excellent ANC performance from even a $99 set of wireless earbuds, it makes the UE Drops’ $449 price tag seem even more extreme, even if it’s much cheaper than opting for a professional set of in-ear monitors.