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Ultimate Ears 10 Pro Earphones

High-end triple-driver earphones are a great value

Picking out one tune with which I am intimately familiar, the artfully-produced and delightfully thick mix by producers Blake Chancey and Paul Worley of the Dixie Chicks playing "Cowboy Take Me Away," I instantly realized I could hear instruments in the mix I hadn't heard before. For instance, I've never so clearly heard the guitar parts underneath that deep mix before, and toward the end I could even hear the bass harmonica way back in the back. With other high-end earphones and speakers, that instrument could only be heard at the very end of the tune. I could also even hear a bit of feedback at the end, a recording mistake I never noticed before. The sound of these headphones made me want to be in a recording studio again, as I had as a musician in the late 70s and early 80s, recording at the highest fidelity and hearing these sounds on the finest studio monitoring headphones. It's the kind of sound that is just downright inspiring. 

Taking the earphones along with me on a musical tour of the widest variety, including classical cello played by Yo-Yo Ma, blues, a lot of rock 'n roll, jazz by the young singer Jane Monheit along with the sensational tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, and salsa with Oscar D'Leon, all were handled with complete alacrity by these spectacular earphones. Drums have a dramatic punchiness with all types of music, the overall dynamic range is startling, Indian music with its drums and picked string instruments leaps out at you, and acoustic guitars make you feel so much like you're sitting inside the instrument that you can almost smell the shellac in there. With classical cello music, I could almost feel the wood of the cello and hear every horsehair in the bow. If there is higher praise for the sound coming out of a pair of earphones on this earth, I'm certainly not capable of writing it.

For curiosity's sake, I connected both these earphones and my pair of Shure e5c high-end earphones that cost $100 more than this to the same musical source at the same time, listening to one of these phones in one ear and one of the e5c's in the other. Although the sound of the two were remarkably similar -- both are high-end headphones with the Shure E5c using two drivers while these earphones use three -- I think these earphones have a smoother and more realistic sound. I must admit, it would be hard for me to tell the difference in a blind test, but I would have to give the edge to these earphones since they are less costly than their Shure counterparts. 

Ultimate Ears tells us these triple-fi Pro 10 earphones will be first released in two batches of a limited edition series fulfilled on a first come, first served basis, shipping this month (October, 2006) and into November. Priced the identically to the standard editions at $400, each will include the same accessories and be packaged in the custom roadie case, but will be marked and numbered as a collector's item.

Summing up, the Ultimate Ears 10 Pro earphones are not for everybody. Sure, their $400 price might be prohibitive for most listeners. But if you're looking for a sound that will startle you, relax you, surprise you and entertain you all at the same time, these are the earphones for you. Highly recommended. 9.6 out of 10 stars.

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