Not everyone has an easy time getting wireless earbuds conveniently. It seems like tech companies are sizing their silicone earbuds differently, and foam tips don't always solve the problem the best they can. So earlier this month there was a lot of excitement when Ultimate Ears announced the $ 250 UE Fits, a pair of earbuds that can conform to the shape of your ear for unmatched comfort.
The earbuds use a 60 second molding process that doesn't require a visit to your local audiologist or a cast of each ear with a home-shipped kit. This approach is a further development of the technology gained by the parent company Logitech through the acquisition of Revols. Ultimate Ears doesn't quite match the perfect, unique results you get with expensive custom earbuds that professional musicians use. However, the UE fits are so close that they are more comfortable than any regular eartip tip I've ever tried. The molding process is special, but the earbuds themselves follow similarly priced competitors on some disappointing points.
7.5 from 10
- Unique, unique fit
- Good sound quality
- Long battery life of eight hours
- Compact charging case
- Limited controls
- No transparency / passthrough mode
- Insufficient resistance to sweat
- No automatic pause or wireless charging
But first let's cover this adjustment process. The UE Fits come with large earplugs – if you can call them that – with an outer layer of soft silicone. Under the silicone is a gel that contains a photopolymer that reacts to light. When you unpack the fits, you will see a warning that they are photosensitive and prompt you to download the mobile app and get it ready for use before removing them from the box. (Don't sweat too much. The sensitivity isn't extreme enough to mess it up if left outside for a while.)
The packaging of UE Fits warns that the earplugs are UV sensitive.
It's not your typical earphone unboxing experience.
Each earbud has light purple LEDs that cure the gel during the minute-long molding session and harden to the shape of your ear. The UE Fits app will walk you through the whole thing. First, you will be instructed to insert the earbuds until they are comfortable and the bass from the sound test is what you want.
The UE fits with its earplugs before the molding process.
After that you will be asked to hold each earbud firmly – you need to hang up your phone – and the process begins. During the molding, the tips heat up, which is an unusual feeling for something in your ears. It never gets uncomfortable (Ultimate Ears compares it to the temperature of a warm bath) but it will definitely grab your attention. So the app reminds you to stay calm and keep your jaw relaxed so as not to distort the fit.
According to the app, my first attempt at form actually "failed". After about 40 seconds an error message was displayed that the process was interrupted. (This wasn't really true. The app just tells the LEDs to turn on and the rest is science. So there's not much that can go wrong.)
The secret of the mold process is science. And these built-in LEDs.
As the gel reacts to the LEDs, the earplugs heat up.
After that, I could definitely tell a difference between the finished shape and the feel of the fits. The end result doesn't have the same obvious contours as a truly custom eartip tip and doesn't sink as deep into your ear canal. With this approach, the shape adjustments and bumps are more subtle. But I found that the finished fits slid into my ear with fantastic comfort and remained reassuringly planted. Even after the process is complete, the tips remain soft and flexible.
The first sentence I tried was the standard tips, which Ultimate Ears said should work for 95 percent of customers. But since I almost always tend to tip big, the company also gave me a bigger pair. Sure enough, I found these worked even better when it came to noise isolation. (The fits don't have active noise cancellation, so this is important.) Both sizes provided a stable fit and the comfort that I could wear for hours without thinking about it. According to Ultimate Ears, the fits offer a satisfaction guarantee for their fit. The company sends customers a second set of tips if they mess up the first or need a different starting size.
The UE Fits definitely hit the "appropriate" part of their name. And now that I have them, I wish I could use these tips on other earbuds – like exercising on my Powerbeats Pro. I think this personalized fit concept gives Ultimate Ears a ton of opportunities to include future products.
The shaping process adds subtle curves and bumps that match your ear shape.
Thankfully, your $ 250 doesn't just go in this direction: these earbuds sound pretty good too. Each bud contains a single driver (as opposed to professional IEMs which often have two or more), but that's still enough for respectable bass response and excellent, detailed music playback. The UE Fits app allows you to apply custom EQ settings and save your favorites. However, I stuck to the "signature" profile as that sounded the most common. With the new compilation from Tom Petty Wildflowers & All The Rest, the Fits were able to span remasters, home demo sessions and live recordings, making them all shine with depth and excellent instrumentation. These earbuds can sound great when songs like HAIM's "Don & # 39; t Wanna" warrant it, but also handle the rougher, acoustic tracks of Ruston Kelly's Shape and Destroy. The fits support AptX, AAC and SBC bluetooth codecs.
According to Ultimate Ears, the fits can be played continuously for up to eight hours. This is the top tier of battery life in true wireless earbuds. The compact, pebble-shaped carrying case, which cannot be charged wirelessly but thankfully uses USB-C, has an additional 12 hours. During my time testing the earbuds, I ran into some bugs while they were sitting in the suitcase. The UE logo on the earbud pulsed slowly to indicate charging (as expected), but the other earbud blinked quickly and seemed to think it was in pairing mode. The company informs me that it is aware of this bug and that it will be fixed in a firmware update. As a side effect of this problem, I also occasionally heard a sonar ping sound effect in the left earbud – even when it was paired and music was playing. The fits use frustrating beeps and bloop sounds for audio feedback, and I prefer straightforward voice prompts to get a clearer idea of what is happening.
The UE Fits also stumble when controlling on board. You can double-tap the stem of one of the earbuds and choose what you want to do (play / pause, skip tracks, volume, voice assistant, etc.). However, double-tapping is the only gesture that Fits supports. This is limiting when compared to most other earbuds and means that you'll be unplugging your phone on a regular basis. Still, I'm a fan of the entire form factor. The elongated pill shape makes it unmistakable that you are wearing earphones, but it also allows for easy handling.
The elongated pill shape makes the fit easy to manipulate and put in the ears.
The UE fits are rated IPX3 for sweat resistance only, and it's not hard to see why.
Water resistance is another disadvantage. The fits are rated IPX3, which means they should be semi-sweatproof. But I'm a heavy sweater, and since these lack the IPX6 or IPX7 rating of fitness focus buds, I would be a little apprehensive if I used them while training. Ultimate Ears also skipped features that are becoming the status quo – like the automatic pause when an earbud is removed. And the fits don't offer any transparency mode that some might consider a deal breaker. You can still tell what's going on around you when the music is paused, but a listening feature would have been helpful for the price.
As you can see, you are trading some notable things for the unmatched comfort that the fits provide through their molding process. But at least I can say that they were stable in audio playback with no noticeable clippings or bluetooth interference. Mic performance is decent as the fits come with two mics on each earbud to help cut out wind noise. Some callers said my voice had become a little thin, but everyone could understand me well.
The charging case is nice and compact, but it lacks wireless charging.
I think I would recommend the UE Fits to people who are never entirely satisfied with how the AirPods or Galaxy Buds in the world feel to their ears. $ 250 is expensive; The AirPods Pro is just right and not far from Bose's new QuietComfort earbuds. And you're missing out on some of the offerings on these products – namely, noise cancellation. If you're completely satisfied with regular earbuds, I can't say that the sound quality of the Fits clearly outperforms other premium earbuds in their price range (or even slightly below). However, the UE Fits are proof that this 60-second form concept works and works extremely well. They are a fascinating middle ground between everyday earplugs and costly, professional IEMs. I'm excited to see where Ultimate Ears is taking it from here.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge