When people spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on their music players and music collection, many of them neglect to spend even a fraction of that money on a good pair of headphones to listen to their investments. Taking a $200-300 iPod or iPhone with a few thousand songs and listening to them with the provided headphones is nearly a crime. This is why we always advocate the purchasing of a good pair of headphones after buying a new music player or phone with music capability. As such, we have come upon the Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10vi headphones that can be used in both music players and phones such as the iPhone because it has a microphone built into the wire.
First, we?d like to say a few quick things about Ultimate Ears as we?re sure that quite a few of you are unfamiliar with the company. Ultimate Ears is a company that only makes in-ear monitors and headphones. They don?t do anything else, period. This dedication to sound had landed them a reputation among sound engineers and artists as the premier solution for performance monitoring. The simple fact is that Ultimate Ears is used by the majority of the sound engineers and artists that you all listen to, and as such Ultimate Ears are how the engineers and artists hear their own music and determine its finished quality. When someone uses a specific technology to check their work and then approves it, then you know that?s the way to really hear what you were supposed to hear. Taking this a step further, Ultimate Ears offers headphones ranging from their $50 Metro-Fi all the way up to their $1,350 Ultimate Ears 18 Pro Custom In-Ear Monitors. Also, for those that may not be aware, Ultimate Ears was purchased by Logitech back in 2008 and is not an independent business unit of Logitech. This enables them to have a global reach while still delivering impeccable products, innovation and customer service.
Enough about the company, let?s get to the actual product at hand.
Before we dive into the product usage, we want to talk a bit about the specifications and technologies inside of these monitors to give you an idea of the sheer complexity of the product and how they fit it all in. First of all, there are three drivers [or speakers] per ear bud. This means that it helps product a full bodied sound that is closest to their custom monitors making them ideal for personal listening as well as stage monitoring. In addition to that, the noise isolating design provides up to 26dB of noise reduction which can be ideal in almost any setting. This is achieved through the wide array of ear pieces that come with the monitors that we will detail later in the review. In addition to that, the Triple Fi 10vi headphones offer a quality frequency response range from 10Hz up to 17,000 Hz as opposed to headphones like the Beats by Dre (which are over the ear headphones, not even ear buds) that have a slightly different range of 20Hz to 20,000 Hz. In addition to that, these headphones have both a 3.5mm and a 7mm jack for listening to music.
The packaging on the TripleFi 10vi?s is indeed eye catching and unique. The shininess of the packaging is both attractive and troublesome to photograph for us reviewers. In addition to that, Ultimate Ears has opted for a windowed approach giving you a slight peak into the various things included with the product. In addition to that, it is very sturdy and kept the product safe from any kicks or drops we may have submitted it to.
The front of the box shows you the product as well as gives you a quick bi-lingual explanation of what the product has to offer, not going into too many specific details. The front of the box also gives you a nice peek at the monitors themselves and makes them look very attractive.
The back of the box simply talks about the compatibilities and product features as well as gives you four little windows to view the 4 different sized ear buds that can be used to make the perfect fit. They also note that these monitors/headphones are not compatible with the 3rd generation of the iPod shuffle.
The sides of the box simply list the contents of the box in various languages.
The bottom of the box gives you a barrage of technical information varying from the licenses and patents down to the cable lengths and weight. Overall, we haven?t quite seen such an informative back of the box in quite some time. And if you think about it, it makes sense because most people will grab the box of a product and flip it over for more information if need be. But then again, we don?t think that most stores will have these monitors readily available for handling at their MSRP of $420.
Once the box is opened, there is simple a single multi-layered clamshell that holds everything together.
Front side of the clamshell
Back side of the clamshell showing the case and ear cushions.
This, with the exception of the monitors themselves, is really where Ultimate Ears really shines. To put it lightly, they?ve included a ridiculous amount of accessories with these in-ear monitors that really add a lot of value to the product.
Pictured above are the extension cable, 3.5 to 7mm jack, cleaning tool, and extra memory foam ear cushions.
First, we have the monitors themselves that come with a pre-installed pair of ear cushions. In addition to those, an additional 5 pairs of ear cushions are included. These pairs include 1 pair of small, 1 pair of medium, 1 pair of large and 2 pairs of memory foam comply cushions. If that?s not enough to get the right fit or have spares, then I don?t know what is. Not to mention, if you somehow lose them all you can still order a replacement pair from UE [we will now on refer to Ultimate Ears as UE for the sake of brevity]. You also get an extension cable to extend the already long [46?/1.16m] headphone cable. There is also the inclusion of a 3.5mm to 7mm jack for plugging into amplifiers.
The airline attentuator.
On top of that, there is an airline attenuator for hearing protection when using an unstable sound source which goes in between the headphones and your airline headphone jack. They have also opted to add a very small cleaning tool for cleaning out wax from the channel of the monitors to maintain cleanliness and sound accuracy. And as a bonus, they have included the same small protective metal case that they provide for the custom fit monitors. This isn?t the carrying case, but the little case that the monitors are usually stored in.
The included case where the monitors will sit when not being used to keep them protected. Also, note that the inside is lined with felt for extra luxury.
User and Reviewer Experience
With these headphones we had decided that we would take as broad of an approach as possible listening to these headphones on a broad array of devices ranging from a cell-phone, which this model would most likely be bought for, all the way to a home theater amplifier.
When it came to putting the monitors on, the process was very unique and was nothing like any other headphones we had used before. Not to mention, I personally have despised in-ear headphones because they never fit in my ears? so naturally I was skeptical that they would fit me properly and stay on. The mechanism that UE employs effectively is by having a semi-rigid part of the wire towards the end where the actual monitors are that enables you to wrap the cable around your ear to hold the actual speaker in place.
Below is a great video UE did in regards to fitting the monitors correctly.
After getting them to fit right, we proceeded to test the headphones in our Nokia N900 phone. Upon plugging them in, we noticed a painfully loud interference at which point we remembered that Nokia?s headphone jack is not compliant with the Apple iPhone/iPod standard. Because of this, in order to use this pair of headphones in our phone we had to give up the microphone functionality and use the extension cable which immediately fixed the issue as there are only 2 contact points on it as opposed to 3. We then proceeded to test this in multiple branded phones ranging from HTC to Motorola without any of these sorts of issues. So we can simply say that the issue appears to be isolated to the N900 and likely other Nokia devices.
Furthermore, we also asked the opinion of others who are musicians, audio producers, and the like. The majority of them instantaneously noticed the difference between the UE TripleFi 10vi?s versus standard audiophile headphones like the HD 555 and Beats by Dre among others. Most people upon listening to a full song with these monitors immediately had a change expression. Many people tended to get extremely excited about how good their favorite songs sounded and at times refused to return them back. Simply put, these monitors stand out significantly to the point where they make poorly recorded music sound bad. For example, many Beatles records that were recorded in mono are noticeably degraded in quality when compared to their studio mastered and re-mastered counterparts. This phenomenon is especially noticeable in genres such as techno and trance where there is very little to no distortion due to recording. As such, we found that these monitors allowed us to experience music in a much different way than we had in the past. We began to be able to break down Rap and R&B beats of various artists very easily to the point where every minuscule instrument and sound was easily recognizable. Most notably, we and everyone we spoke with simply began to hear things in songs that we hadn?t heard before. This always seems to happen whenever we go up a grade in quality of audio equipment. Having upgraded from Sony and Razer headphones, these monitors sound great for personal listening or critiquing certain songs.
When it came to isolation, the UE TripleFi 10vi?s did a great job of blocking out most ambient noises and as the volume went up there was a point where the entire ambient environment disappeared completely. As for leakage, there is almost none. These monitors are designed for the listener and only the listener to hear them and one would literally have to take them off completely and point them in the direction of the nearest person for them to have even a remote chance of hearing whatever may be playing.
The UE TripleFi 10vi in-ear monitors are by far not the cheapest in-ear headphones we?ve ever tested or seen. And we likely won?t have many chances to test a pair of $420 ear buds. Also, as a disclaimer? $420 is the MSRP but they?ve been out for long enough that the retail price has dropped to around $300. But having all of that said, the thing is that UE does everything within their power to make you feel that you got your money?s worth even though the warranty is only a year. We would have liked to see them tack on an extra year at least for these monitors especially considering that when you throw down $300+ you?d want a little more peace of mind?
The TripleFi 10vi are indeed some of the best in-ear headphones/monitors that we?ve ever laid our eyes upon. And for the price, it may be hard for some to justify such a price? but that?s what the rest of their product line is for. You get what you pay for with UE and they definitely make sure you don?t feel neglected.