Ultimate Ears (UE) has launched the $449 UE Drops, a new set of wireless earbuds that are custom-made and hand-crafted to fit each person’s ears perfectly. They come in three colors — Sapphire, Rose Quartz, and Onyx — and UE has intentionally kept the exterior logo-free.
At $449, the Drops are among the most expensive wireless earbuds you can buy, but for folks who have struggled to find a comfortable set of buds, the Drops might well be worth their lofty price.
Once you order the earbuds from Ultimate Ears, the company ships you a FitKit — it’s a device that connects to your phone over Bluetooth and, with the help of an app, walks you through the process of shaping a set of molds to the inside of your ears. It only takes a few minutes and is totally painless. I used a UE FitKit when the company shipped me a set of Custom UE Pro 5 wired in-ear-monitors, and it was effortless.
Once the molds have been created, you stick them back in the box with the FitKit device and return it all to UE using the provided label. Final delivery of the customized UE drops takes two to four weeks after you send the FitKit back. To ease any concerns about getting a truly comfortable finished product, UE offers a 30-day period after you get your Drops during which you can contact the company if you need to have further adjustments made.
Technology-wise, the Drops appear to be well-equipped. They use 9.2-millimeter dynamic drivers, and have handy features like in-ear sensors for music auto-pause, transparency mode, anda case that supports wireless charging. UE claims battery life at 8 hours per charge, unless you keep transparency mode on, in which case that drops to 5.5 hours. The case holds an additional 14 hours of playtime, for a maximum of 22 hours before you need to plug it in or look for a wireless charger. Codec-wise, the Drops support AAC and aptX.
There’s a companion app for iOS and Android that lets you perform some EQ adjustments and modify your choice of voice controls. They’re also sweat and water resistant. The one big missing feature is active noise cancellation (ANC), however, another benefit to a custom-fit set of earbuds is that they should, in theory, provide excellent passive noise isolation, so in most cases, you may not feel the need for ANC.
This is not the first time UE has experimented with customized wireless earbuds. Its $200 UE Fits use a set of silicone tips that can be heated so they conform to the shape of you ears. It’s not nearly as tailored a fit as you’ll get with the Drops, but they are still some of the most comfortable earbuds you can buy.
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