The Ultimate Ears 18 Pro Custom Monitors are really expensive, but the best stuff always is. Then again, $1,350 may be a lot for headphones, but it's cheap for state-of-the-art speakers. Wilson Audio's Sasha W/P floorstanding speaker is in the middle of the company's line, and it goes for $27,000 a pair; Magico's entry-level tower model, the V2, runs $18,000 a pair. The UE 18 Pro is on par with them, it's that good. It's the best headphone UE makes, but UE's custom fitted models start at $399 for the UE 4 Pro, and universal fit UE models start at $50.
The UE 18 Pro is no "earbud," those things are placed in the cupped area around the outer ear canal; in-ear headphones fit into and, most importantly, seal the ear canal. The isolation from outside noise allows listening at significantly lower volume, so it's safer to rock out with in-ears than earbuds. The UE 18 Pro's custom fit (more about that later) hushes outside noise more completely than standard in-ear designs. With external noise hushed, you hear a lot more detail and subtlety from your music.
Never heard of Ultimate Ears? That's understandable; the company originally made its mark building custom in-ear stage monitors for musicians, including Aerosmith, Arcade Fire, Mary J. Blige, John Fogerty, the Rolling Stones, Linkin Park, and hundreds of other touring bands.
I'll tell you this: the UE 18 Pro is drastically better than say, my old favorite: the Etymotic ER-4P in-ears. That's not to take anything away from the ER-4P, but it sounds constrained and contained compared with the UE 18. It's hardly a fair comparison, the ER-4P lists for around $300, the UE 18 Pro is $1,350, plus the expense of getting custom ear molds made (figure about $100). Each UE 18 Pro is a one-of-a-kind creation, hand-built for your ears. … Read more