I’ve lamented the lack of wireless custom in-ear monitors (IEMs) more than once in the pages of eCoustics so when I saw the news today, I had to pass it along. Ultimate Ears now has a wireless custom in-ear monitor named Drops. This is a cool development and one that I hope other manufacturers follow, although I’m sure UE hopes to have the market to itself for a while.
The benefits of custom IEMs include better fit, comfort and sound isolation — ultimately delivering better overall quality. The downside to custom IEMs has always been the cost. The custom fit wired UE line-up ranges from the UE 5 Pro at $549 to the UE Live at $2,299.
With UE Drops retailing at $449, the price becomes approachable and it isn’t much more than a lot of universal designs. Rumor has it there are already some coupons floating that can save buyers a few additional dollars.
UE was able keep Drops priced competitively, because they’re really a hybrid and not a completely custom product. The core of the unit is an aluminum shell that contains the drivers (a 9.2mm dynamic driver per side), the electronics, the battery, and the charging pads. A custom tip is created based on your supplied impressions and fitted to the core unit. This means the internals don’t have to be hand assembled into each shell like a traditional custom fit IEM, but the fit can still be just as good.
How it works
The process of building personalized UE Drops starts with either a set of impressions being made and shipped to UE by your local audiologist, or by creating your own impressions at home with the UE FitKit. The process should take less than 30 minutes and eliminates the need for an office visit that’s typically required. If you already have a set of impressions on file, UE can use those instead. Once UE receives your impressions they mold an exact copy around a core.
UE Drops are available in 3 color options for the core: onyx (black), sapphire (blue), and rose quartz (maroon). The custom molded portion is clear regardless of the color chosen. The resulting custom IEM is IPX4 rated so should be good for gym use and like most customs will likely stay put better than many of the universal models during periods of strenuous activity.
Once you get past the custom aspect, UE Drops have all the features you’d expect in a TWS (true wireless) model, except active noise cancellation. Like most TWS earphones, you’ll need the UE App to get the most out of the buds with sound profiles, control customization, firmware updates, and Transparency mode offered through the app. The Drops support Bluetooth multipoint for those who need to switch between devices frequently. The earpieces have dual microphones for improved call quality as well as voice assistant technology and are compatible with both Siri and Google assistants.
Battery life on the earpieces is roughly 8 hours, while the charging case provides an additional 2 charges for the earpieces before requiring a recharge itself. Recharging the case can be done by USB Type-C or through a wireless charging pad.
We hope to have a full review coming soon as a true wireless custom IEM is potentially a game changer depending on how well it works and how solid a connection can be maintained during periods of exercise and at distance from the source.
|Wireless Connectivity:||Bluetooth 4.2|
|Battery Life:||8 hours stream time
+14 hours cradle
= 22 hours total
4h HFP (voice call) time
|Quick Charge:||5 minutes of charge = 1 hour play time|
|Max Sound Pressure:||110dB at 500 Hz|
|Wireless Charge:||Wireless charging case – Qi standard|
|Tips:||Custom handcrafted tips made with FitKit specifications|
|Cable:||USB-C charging case|
Price & Availability
The UE Drops are available now for $449 at custom.ultimateears.com in sapphire, rose quartz or onyx.