Ultimate Ears 3D Printed UE11 In Ear Monitor Headphone Hands On and Review

Most if not all will scoff at the idea of purchasing a pair of headphones that cost $400-1500.  But before you do, consider how many pairs you’ve churned through over the year.  The headphones you’ve broken, or the headphones that didn’t fit well, or worse: didn’t produce next to any bass.  Now again, I want you to consider a pair of headphones that cost north of $400.  I’d wager a bet that you’ve spent that much, or close to that much over your lifetime attempting to purchase headphones that exceed the audio quality of the ones packaged with every iPhone.

Now with that in mind, take a second and have a look at Ultimate Ears’ custom molded in ear monitors.  Not headphones, but monitors.  I recently had the pleasure of attending a press event at Fred Seagal Melrose where they showed off their UE11 headphones, which produce outstanding clarity along with head shaking bass.  But that’s not all the company was showing off at the event.

Ultimate Ears UE11 - 1

Once upon a time UE, who supplies in ear monitors to just about any popular musician you can think of, use to “hand pour” each pair of custom molded headphones.  The process worked like this:

  • An audiologist cleans out the ears.  If you’re like me, they pull out gobs of wax (ewwww).
  • They then carefully place a string with a small cotton ball into the ear canal.
  • After that, they inject, using a gun that is analogous to that of a calking gun, a pink material into the ears.
  • After about 5 minutes, and the mold has hardened, they pull it out
  • That mold is then sent to the UE factory where another mold is made by hand, and then a pair of headphones built for your ears and your ears only
  • Finally, wait 30-45 days and they show up at your door

UE11 Fitting-1

But not any more…now it goes something like this:

  • An audiologist cleans out the ears.  If you’re like me, they pull out gobs of wax (ewwww).
  • They then carefully place a string with a small cotton ball into the ear canal.
  • After that, they inject, using a gun that is analogous to that of a calking gun, a pink material into the ears.
  • After about 5 minutes, and the mold has hardened, they pull it out
  • Next they drop the mold into a 3D scanner
  • Scan (waiting an eternity which is in fact less than 10 minutes)
  • Send the collected data, which takes about another 5 minutes, to a 3D printer
  • Then, as you guessed it, they 3D print the headphones

The results?  A set of custom molded headphones that aren’t discernible from the original process.  In fact, and if UE is to be believed, they’re even better than the made by hand process because of digital accuracy.  And remember that 30-45 day turn around time?  Forget about it! It’s now 5-7 days.  And while that may not be pertinent to you, it is to the musician on tour who needs a replacement pair before the next leg of their tour.

Ultimate Ears 3D Scanner

And not for nothing, UE is now more green thanks to this process.  Before, they’d have to ship the molds to their factory and then ship them to the customer.  Now they can just 3D scan and email them, thus reducing their carbon footprint by 50%.

So, my custom molded 3D printed headphones are in the mail.  I haven’t received them just yet, but I’ll be sure to provide my thoughts when I do.

Update:

Ultimate Ears UE11 - 4

I held this post until my UE11’s arrived.  First things first: they’re bass rich.  But not in an overwhelming, hip-hop like way.  The separate sub (yes, there is a separate sub in these headphones) really stands out and prevents the other frequencies from being muddled.  In all honesty, 99% of my music listening is via Spotify, so I’m not giving these “made for my ears only” headphones a real run for their money.  But at this point, call me impressed.

In terms of fit: I’m coming off the UE18s.  And while those are comfortable they can get a little annoying to my ears after an hour or so of wearing them.  So far the UE11s have proved more comfortable, at least during my initial use.  So much so in fact, that I sometimes forget that I’m wearing them.  Now, keep in mind the UE11s are not a new product to Ultimate Ears.  However, the process of printing them is, and that’s why they’re more comfortable and a ultimately a better fit.

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Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."

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