Review: Ultimate Ears 700 Noise-Isolating Earphones

I have oddly shaped ear holes. As a result, in-ear monitors and my listening tubes have simply never jibed, regardless of “sleeve” size or magical conforming material. This mismatch has kept me strictly in the supra-aural headphone camp — a camp that has suited my music listening proclivities just fine.

Well, consider my cochleas converted.

Not only were Ultimate Ears’ new 700s the first IEMs to fit and stay put in my finicky canals, they’re so small and light, I regularly forgot they were crammed in there. They also produced some of the most magnificently nuanced sound I’ve heard come out of two dime-sized capsules.

Much of that pristine fidelity is the result of the headphone’s dual-armature layout, which — as billed — bathes your tympanic membranes in stunningly accurate audio reproduction. The earpiece’s dual drivers also have the added benefit of propping up the typically flaccid base that seems to plague many other in-ear monitors.

Indeed, after spending more than a week scouring through my music collection, I was hard-pressed to find a genre that didn’t spring to life on these tiny earpieces. Be it the crisp punchiness of the Polynesian drums that open Trail of Dead’s “Wasted State of Mind,” or Erik Satie’s delicate piano arrangements, the 700s did sonic justice to just about every type of music that coursed through them.

The only major downside? All that great sound comes at a considerable price — $230 to be precise. For most people, that’s likely to be as much (or more) than you spent on your MP3 player. But as my now neglected Audio Technica’s can attest, in this case, you undoubtedly get what you pay for.

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