Inside every set of wireless earbuds or wired earbuds — sometimes known as in-ear monitors or IEMs — is a driver. It’s effectively a tiny little speaker which produces the sound you hear. Some earbuds use multiple drivers — three drivers like the kind used by the Status Audio Between 3ANC are becoming more common — while audiophile-targeted IEMs have been known, on rare occasions, to feature as many as 18 drivers.
And as insane as that sounds, Ultimate Ears just announced its first set of IEMs with 21 drivers. To be clear, we’re talking about 21 drivers per earbud, or 42 drivers in total. The wired earbuds are known as the UE Premiere and they are sold by UE Pro, the Ultimate Ears sub-brand for audio pros and enthusiasts, for $2,999.
As you can probably imagine, these IEMs aren’t your standard off-the-shelf fare. They’re custom-made to match the shape of your ears, so you’ll need to send UE Pro a 3D scan or have the company send you a custom fit kit that can take an impression of your ear, which you then return to the company. After that, there’s an almost month-long wait time while the earbuds are being built and shipped.
Inside each earbud are — let’s just say it again — 21 drivers, comprising:
Two UE Pro-designed dual sub-low drivers in parallel with four dual mid-low drivers. That description is like a high school math problem — “two dual sub-low drivers” (that’s four drivers) and “four dual mid-low drivers” (that’s another eight drivers) — so we’re already up to 12 drivers and we’ve only accounted for the lowest frequencies.
Then there’s a quad-mid driver (four more drivers, total now 16), a Knowles’ proprietary Quad Super Tweeter (four more, we’re now at 20), and for the Blackjack cherry on top, a UE Pro proprietary True Tone driver.
But wait, there’s more. Something needs to allocate your audio signal to these drivers so that the right frequencies go to the right places. Packed in with all of those drivers is a five-way passive crossover, giving the UE Premier a frequency response that goes way beyond the limits of normal human hearing: 5Hz on the low end, all the way up to 40kHz on the high end. To appreciate bass in the 5Hz region, you’d have to be a Sumatran rhino. To say these IEMs are hi-res audio compatible is an understatement.
The UE Premier comes with a 50-inch, 2.5mm balanced IPX cable, but if you’re prepared to add another $199 to your order, you can also pick from up to three swappable UE Switch faceplate designs that come in their own separate travel case.
At this point, the only question is — how long until we see the first set of 22-driver IEMs?
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