Over the holidays I had the opportunity to test out UE 18+ CSX custom-molded earbuds from Ultimate Ears. They were nothing short of spectacular—but with a price tag to match. However, the innovative custom approach is now available in the far more affordable UE FITS wireless earbuds.
UE 18+ CSX: Custom Molded
I always seem to have trouble finding earbuds that fit properly. I don’t know what it is about my ears, but very few buds have the right combination of design, tips, and fins to sit securely and comfortably. Among other issues, this challenge also means it’s tough to get the best audio out of most earbuds. Without physically holding them in my ear canal, there is no seal and that means that bass especially suffers.
So I was very intrigued when Ultimate Ears—maker of some of my favorite Bluetooth speakers including the awesome HYPERBOOM—offered up its UE 18+ CSX buds to try out.
The UE CSX-series proposition starts with custom molding for a perfect fit. The company sent me a kit with special flexible buds and a power supply that heats them. A mobile app walks you through the process of positioning the buds correctly, takes some photos (which are sent to UE), then heats the buds in your ears for 60 seconds. When the process is complete, you have molds of both ears. Ship them back in the pre-paid box and the team at Ultimate Ears works with the molds and photos to create a completely customized set of earbuds. Each set requires over four hours of manual labor to perfect, with over 100 touch-points to be perfected.
That sounds like a bit of a process, but having custom-molded earpieces for hearing aides or stage monitors used to require a trip to the audiologist. This is a lot easier.
About a week later, I received the earbuds back from Ultimate Ears, and they fit like a glove. No tips or fins to worry about, just the bare buds. They’re comfortable, they stay in place, and there is a proper seal.
UE 18+ CSX: Easily the Best Earbuds I’ve Ever Tried
The UE 18+ CSX are plain and simple the best earbuds I’ve ever used, by a long shot. They are also the most expensive (go figure), coming in at $1,499. Yes, that’s a steep price tag, but besides being custom-molded, these earbuds are equipped with six drivers in each bud. Six! Most wireless earbuds have a single full-range driver doing all the work… It goes without saying that sound is incredibly detailed and just plain fantastic—made even better by the fact that the perfect fit ensures none of that audio is leaking.
Each bud has an audio jack, and you can plug them into an included Bluetooth module for wireless use or plug them into a standard audio cable for wired a wired connection. This modular approach also means these buds aren’t throw-away once a built-in battery dies, so that’s something to consider in terms of cost-justification. At the time of order, you can pick color options (I went with translucent red) and even upgrades like swappable faceplates. If you want incredible audio from your earbuds and you’re willing to pay for it, I can’t say enough about these.
There are other options in the UE CSX-series that start at $499. They use the same approach but employ two drivers instead of six. As you go up through the line, the price increases, but so do the number of drivers. At the very top of the line, the UE LIVE earbuds have eight drivers to work with and cost $2,199.
However, the custom-molding technology used for the UE CSX-series has made the leap to much more affordable offerings. That’s where things get interesting.
UE FITS: Delivers a Perfect Fit in 60 Seconds
UE FITS are Ultimate Ears’ new wireless earbuds. They deliver what you want from a good pair of true wireless earbuds these days. They feature Bluetooth 5.0, 8-hour battery life (20 hours with the USB-C charging case), compatibility with Siri and Google Assistant, and they are sweat-proof. At $249, they’re inline with the price of other popular wireless earbuds.
These earbuds have a huge advantage over the competition, though. Ultimate Ears has adapted the custom-molding technology from the UE CSX-series earbuds. The company has actually made it much more convenient. The final UE FITS earbuds themselves are made of malleable material. You go through the app-guided fitting process and they cure in your ears for 60 seconds. You’re left with completely customized earbuds that fit perfectly—almost instantly.
I haven’t had the chance to listen to the UE FITS, but they support SBC, AAC, APT-X codecs, and have a rated frequency response of 20 Hz – 20 kHz. Given Ultimate Ears’ track record, I have no doubt that they deliver on the audio front. And with a perfect seal being half the battle in audio performance, these already have a big leg up on the competition.
Most people won’t be in a position to drop $1,499 on a pair of UE 18+ CSX custom earbuds, but for $249, the advantage of custom-molded earbuds has never been more in reach.
Disclosure: Ultimate Ears provided earbuds for evaluation but had no input into this review.