A few years ago, it was all about squeezing as many drivers as possible into a set of high-end earbuds. Ultimate Ears has partly helped to drive the war forward, including the UE-18 Pro from 2011, which had six drivers for each ear. The same number has the successor UE-18+ Pro, which this journalist tested just a few months ago. With a price tag of over €1900, both ears and wallet were blown away.
But all this pales in comparison to the latest UE Premier.
Many or few drivers?
Several competitors have recently moderated the number of drivers. Especially in the hi-fi department, use one, maximum two. It’s easier to get a good phase response with fewer drivers, because even a slight time delay in the delivery of the sound between them will result in poorer dynamics and a less accurate sound image. Instead, they try to perfect the sound from a single driver. Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic are among the proponents of a single driver.
To that, Ultimate Ears responds: “Hold my beer!” With the new flagship Premier, they have squeezed in no fewer than 21 drivers – in each earbud!
Several of them are of the balanced armature type, but exactly which ones and how many is not specified. Their advantage over regular dynamic drivers is that they are faster and able to reproduce more detail – especially in the high frequencies. The downside is that they can’t be driven as hard – you get a lower sound level before distortion. This is remedied by using more of them. A lot more of them.
A five-way crossover means that any of the 21 drivers reproduce the same frequency range. The distribution is as follows:
- 2 dual subwoofers
- 4 dual sub/mid basses
- 1 quadruple midrange
- 1 True Tone tweeter
- 1 quadruple super tweeter
It may seem that the number of real drivers is actually “only” 9, while the number 21 is arrived at by counting the number of diaphragms instead. Well, who cares. There’s certainly plenty of movement in these earbuds!
All these diaphragms ensure that the frequency range is stretched all the way from an inaudible 5 Hz all the way up to an equally inaudible 40 kHz. Sensitivity is a whopping 126 dB, so they hardly need any amplifier power at all. But the amplifier should still be of good quality, not least because of its low impedance of 15 ohms.
“UE PREMIER is UE Pro’s most powerful, nuanced and versatile in-ear monitors to date. For music lovers and audiophiles who want to hear music with the best possible reproduction, UE PREMIER sets a new gold standard for exceptional sound quality,” Ultimate Ears claims.
Ultimate Ears UE Premier: Price and availability
The Ultimate Ears UE Premier is available to order now and can be purchased for the tidy sum of €3,648, for example from Thomann. Or order at custom.ultimateears.com til 2999 dollars, plus shipping and import tax. Also available with a valve that lets in ambient sound – at an additional cost.