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Hands-on with the UE Fits
Hands-on with the UE Fits IBTimes / Jeff Li

These days, Ultimate Ears (UE for short) is a company more known to the general public for their 'Boom' Wireless Speakers. What is perhaps less known to the average person is that this is the company where the In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) were born, and still makes custom IEMs for professional musicians and audiophiles around the world.

UE is now bridging the vast divide between the two brand images of the 'consumer' and 'pro' with their newer 'custom' range of products. UE Custom products offer custom IEM's (CIEM) professional build, fit and sound to consumers in a way that is vastly more accessible than traditional CIEMs, which involves taking custom molds of one's ears and handcrafting a shell to fit the user - a process that can take months.

The UE Fits is the entry level product among its custom range, and it promises to create a custom fit for its user within 60 seconds from start to finish. Does its cutting-edge, self-shaping technology contain enough of the custom IEM DNA to distinguish it from other consumer TWS earbuds on the market? We went hands-on to find out.


Beginning with a Unusual Warning

Just as UE brought an unprecedented product - the IEM to the world, the UE Fits brings an unheard-of custom fit process to wireless earbuds. This is apparent from the moment of unboxing the UE Fits, as you immediately come face-to-face with a peculiar warning that the ear tips are sensitive to light and the fitting process should be done soon after opening the light proof inner package.


The First Encounter

Straight out of the box, the ear tips of the UE Fits already carry a shape that almost looks like an elongated version of Airpod, and is basically a translucent rubber-like billet that will be further molded to fit your ears. If you wanted to, the earphones can be used like this without being molded, but the whole point of the UE Fits is to provide a superior fit over the one-shape-fits all universal silicone tips. Let's proceed to fire up UE's patented fitting process.


The UE Fits App Fitting Process

Very little paperwork and instructions are found in the UE Fits package because it utilizes an interactive app that leads the user through the fitting process. After downloading the UE Fits app (Available on both the Apple App store and Google Play store) and pairing the earbuds via Bluetooth, I'm asked to put the earbuds into my ears and start the molding process.


Interestingly, the app actually instructs the user to stand in front of a mirror so that they can see the molding happen. The best position is cleverly found by rotating the earbuds to the position where the bass on the background music sounds optimal, thus achieving the best seal. Once ready, purple light starts to pour out of each earbud while the user lightly holds the earbuds in place.


The sensation of the molding process I would liken to having warm slugs inching into the ear canal - but in a nice way. I can actually feel the ear tips extend further into the ear while listening to UE's soundtrack playing. The whole 'light molding' process took less than 60 seconds - as UE promises, and within the minute the newly fitted earphones magically hardened permanently. I caught myself thinking: "That's it? What sorcery is this?"


The Resulting Fit

So how is the resulting fit? I have to say it's very different from what I'm used to with ordinary silicone tips. At first I thought the fit was too loose, and kept wondering if I pressed it too hard in the molding process. However I soon realized that the perception came from not having a silicone tip pushing up to my ear canal. The seal formed by the UE Fits is not around a 'plug' inside the canal formed by a bullet-shaped silicone tip, but rather distributed all around the outer ear because of the fitted contour of the ear piece.

This results in a similar noise isolation performance that is comparable to a silicone universal tip, but much more comfortable as the pressure of the seal is distributed over a larger area. The comfort of the UE Fits becomes even more apparent when you're 2-3 hours into wearing them, when the lack of fatigue on the ear canal is noticeable. This convinced me that the UE Fits would make very comfortable earphones to wear on a long haul flight, especially with its 8 hour battery life on a single charge.


Bigger Seal results in a Bigger Bass

The larger seal area over the outer ear also has an impact on the UE Fits' bass performance. Whereas the usual silicone tip seal creates a concentrated, boxed-in low-end within the canal, the UE Fits caps the space on the outside of the ear, resulting in a larger, more immersive bass sound, similar to an on-ear headphone.

Beautifully Tuned Sound

The neutral tuning of the UE Fits is on the warmer side, which suits vocals and clean electric and acoustic guitars particularly well. By using a 10 mm dynamic driver, UE swaps its usual Balanced Armature precision sound for an organic one instead. Coupling that with a wide soundstage, the UE Fits was especially enjoyable with unplugged music, acoustic sets and live performances.

It's quite impressive how clean the instrument separation is with the UE Fits that's equipped with just two dynamic drivers, which probably has something to do with the custom fit that doesn't choke all the sound inside of the ear canal. These in-ear earphones have an open-back quality to them that can't be achieved with a typical ear plug style earbud.


Customizable Touch control and EQ

The UE Fits app not only serves as the central control for the custom molding process, but is the companion app for the earphones in its daily use. From the app you're able to map the double tap controls on each of the earbuds as well as applying an EQ profile to its sound.

Mapping the double-tap has a greater significance than you would expect As I found on various TWS earphones with such a volume adjustment function, when you get the earphones out of the box, the volume on them is insufferably low even if you max out your device volume. A common reason for this is because the built-in volume on the earphones is set on 50% by default. The UE Fits had the same setting, so my pro-tip is to first map the double-tap in the settings to volume up, and increase the volume on the earphones to maximum to get the full sound of these earphones. You can thank me later.

The customizable controls can also be mapped to activate Google Assistant, Play/Pause, Next/Previous Track, as well as Volume Up/Down. They can be set to different functions on the left and right earbuds, giving you two onboard controls. By only enabling double-tapping and ignoring all single-taps, UE is avoiding a common problem with these onboard controls in accidental touches. There is also the option to turn even the double-tap controls off altogether.


Final Verdict

How did UE do in its inaugural attempt to bring its custom molding DNA into the true wireless earbud game? In my experience with the UE Fits, I call it a total success. Knowing the history of the IEM, which was initially made with UV cured shells, the new molding process is a nod to UE's roots. But UE merged it with the future by combining it with a totally wireless, mobile app driven process. Furthermore, the UE Fits got the main features that makes a good TWS earphone down too, from the excellent sound to long battery life, to a reliable Bluetooth connectivity.


For its ground-breaking innovation in a new process to access custom molded earphones, and it's benefits of comfort and excellent noise isolation, as well as its long 8 hour playback time on a single charge, we award the UE Fits with our Editor's Pick badge as a TWS earbuds for business travelers.

Sam is a production engineer turned tech writer who specializes in seeking out gadgets that enhances productivity while still looking sharp. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Business Travelers.