For most of my life, I’ve always used a monitor wedge on stage to hear the band mix while playing my guitar on a gig. The idea of in-ear monitors seemed out of reach, particularly when it came to the price tag. After all, I’m just a regular ‘ol guitar player, not a pro.
Earlier this year I was able to get my hands on a pair of UE 900 Noise-Isolating Earphones and I’ve spent about two months testing them out in a number of different situations – on stage, on an airplane or on a run. They are a good combination of quality and affordability, and it’s the first time I’ve been able to ditch the on-stage “wedge” for the in-ear monitors.
Perhaps, like me, you’re in the market for some good in-ear monitor earphones but you only have a couple hundred dollars to spend. If that’s the case, I hope that I can share with you enough about my experience to help you decide if the UE 900s are the right fit for you.
Unboxing the UE 900s Earphones
I could easily write a complex UE 900 earphone review with thousands of words to describe my experience, but instead I thought it might be best to let you see them in action:
As you can see in the unboxing, the UE 900s come packaged in a beautiful box that includes the following components:
- 2 detachable earphones with studio quality quad-armature design and three-way crossover.
- 2 headphone wires that include a nice black wire as well as a blue wire with an in-line mic for use with your phone.
- Interchangeable ear tips that come in multiple sizes as well as foam or silicone.
- A hard case and soft pouch to carry your headphones
- Maintenance gel to keep the contact points lubricated when needed
While the presentation is nice, I definitely wouldn’t carry around the whole box wherever I go. I found myself using the soft pouch more than anything and keeping these headphones as one of my many important accessories in my guitar case.
UE 900s Earphone Review | Balance
More important than the presentation, however, is the quality of the earphones themselves. Since this isn’t something I can really demonstrate in a video, I’ll just have to explain my experience using the UE 900s.
First of all, I’d like to make clear that these are noise-isolating earphones, which means that instead of actively separating outside noise from your audio signal, they merely isolate your signal by plugging up your ear. That’s done by using perfectly-fitted ear tips provided with the UE 900s.
The earphone package material boasts “4 proprietary speaker drivers” that cover the full frequency spectrum from 20hz – 20khz. It’s hard to say how much difference this really makes. However, there’s no doubt that the UE 900s are a very clear, balanced earphone.
Even when playing music from my phone, I was surprised I was able to distinguish between each instrument with clarity.
When using the UE 900s as a monitor on stage, the quality of the earphones became clear. I received a good mix of both the high piano frequencies combined with the low bass guitar notes. Instead of being a muddy mess, it was a beautiful, balanced sound.
Mind you, these aren’t the best in-ear monitors I’ve ever tried. However, considering the price tag of only a couple hundred dollars these UE 900s are a good value.
Wearing the UE 900s
In-ear monitors are meant to be heard, not seen. Generally speaking, people shouldn’t be distracted by something sticking out of your ear.
The UE 900s definitely have a low profile that I like. But if you’re hoping for an in-ear mold type of fit you might be disappointed. The earphones stick out from the ear slightly.
The ear loop kept the earphones from pulling down on my ear, making them more comfortable to wear for a longer period of time. Using the supplied clip I was able to attach the wire to the back of my shirt. Then I could have the wire go down the back of my shirt unseen.
The ear tips were comfortable once I finally got the right fit. A tip for those who buy the UE 900s. Try all the ear tips, even if you think you already found your fit. If you’re like me, you may be surprised by the size that feels most comfortable in your ear.
I spent an hour wearing the headphones at one point and didn’t feel like yanking them out of my ears. I’d say that’s a big success!
Conclusion | Worth the Cost?
Before I give my final thoughts, I will acknowledge that a couple hundred dollars for a pair of earphones is not cheap. Especially when you can just plug in $10 ear phones to use as in-ear monitors.
If you really crave a balanced, quality sounds, however, the UE 900s are hard to beat. The UE brand (Ultimate Ears) is a standard for in-ear monitors in the industry.
Personally, I enjoy using the UE 900s as in-ear monitors. I still prefer my regular headphones for use with my phone while running. That’s mainly just because of the noise isolation I mentioned earlier. Some people may prefer those isolations.