Fit is one of the most important qualities of a pair of true wireless headphones. Without a good fit, there is no waterproofing and the audio will not live up to expectations. Bass, in particular, will sound thin. There will be a natural tendency to turn up the volume in an attempt to improve the sound of music, which will reduce battery life. Ambient noise will pass through. And without a good fit, the headphones themselves can easily come out. It is not only annoying, it can damage a dropped earphone. Ultimate Ears thinks they have the answer to ill-fitting headphones in the Suitable for EU.
The standard approach has always been to include a handful of different sized ear tips and wings to try and fit the earbuds to suit everyone. It doesn’t always work. I have trouble with the headphones. In almost 15 years of testing (first wired, then wireless) and well over 100 different sets at this point, I have maybe half a dozen headphones that fit right – comfortably, in completely safe and with a good seal for optimal sound.
My first experience with custom molded headphones was with the amazing UE 18+ CSX headphones. You can read my review here, but the bottom line is these are some really amazing headphones with six speakers deliver beautifully nuanced sound and a custom molded fit to ensure you hear every note of that detail. The wrong side? They aren’t exactly wireless (there’s a cable with a battery connecting the two buds), and the price was in mortgage payment territory.
UE FITS adopt a more traditional headphone design, with dynamic 10mm drivers. However, Ultimate Ears has brought the CSX Series custom molding approach to the mainstream market, with Lightform technology built in. These custom molded headphones are priced at a very down-to-earth $ 249.
Lightform custom molding
UE FITS arrive in sealed packaging. Sealed because the included ear tips are light sensitive. Once I opened them I waited a week to go ahead but kept them in the box closed to avoid exposure to light and it had no impact on the process.
Download the UE FITS app, which walks you through the basics of connecting headphones. It’s a pretty straightforward Bluetooth thing. FITS use Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC, AAC, and APT-X support. Once connected, the app will guide you step by step through the personalization process. It takes about 60 seconds. You are shown how to position the headphones for optimal audio performance, and then the built-in LED lights begin to heat the malleable interior material so that the headphones conform to the shape of your ear canal. They heat up a bit, but the app keeps you posted on the progress.
Once the molding is complete, the ear cups contact surfaces are still nice and soft, but they fit perfectly as the inner material has hardened to conform to the shape of your ear canal. No extra spikes or wings needed. I could shake my head and jump all over the place and the UE FITS wouldn’t come out. They are also extremely comfortable to wear. Each bud weighed only 0.25 ounces on my scale.
Ultimate Ears says the included ear tips will suit 95% of users. They’re fine with me, although for review purposes the company sent larger and smaller versions as well. If the included ear tips are too big or too small for your ears, or if you are not happy with the results, Ultimate Ears support advises you that you have 30 days to request replacement ear tips. Casting is a one-off thing, so if you decide to give the heads to someone else later, they’ll have to purchase new tips (which EU says will be sold separately) to repeat the process.
As happy as I was to have wireless headphones that fit so perfectly, listening to music on the UE FITS took the experience to a whole new level.
The fit was so good that an impressive amount of ambient noise is passively blocked. Typing with my mechanical keyboard and music at super low volume, the UE FITS eliminated keyboard click as effectively as other buds that use active noise cancellation.
I wore them while cutting the grass (which I wouldn’t do with these UE 18+ CSX headphones) and couldn’t believe it. The noise from the lawn mower was greatly reduced in the background and I could actually hear the music. I didn’t have to turn it up to maximum volume, and heard details, not just a drone like music in the background. This is a first for me.
Generally speaking, the audio performance reminds me of the sound you will get from an Ultimate Ears portable speaker. There is no attempt to be flat, but there is a lot of energy available and it makes for entertaining listening. With a perfect seal almost guaranteed, there is a lot of thumping in the low frequencies, without overloading the mids and highs. It’s not an audiophile listening experience (if you want some extreme subtlety and nuance, there’s the CSX series), but it makes listening to music an enjoyable experience.
If you want to take personalization a step further, the mobile app includes an equalizer with presets as well as the ability to save your own audio settings.
Not everyone will see this extreme difference – if regular headphones are a good fit for you, then custom molded headphones will be great, but not as dramatic – however, if you’re one of the many headphone owners who have suffered from it. ‘an imperfect fit, the difference is night and day.
Battery life, touch controls and water resistance
The big part of the UE FITS story is the tailor-made fit. However, they are capable wireless headphones in general.
The battery life is very good, with a rating of up to eight hours of continuous listening time per charge. Without ANC to drain the battery and the waterproof seal, which means you don’t need to get the volume as high as you might otherwise, those eight hours are easily achievable. In comparison, Apple’s AirPods Pro (which cost $ 80 more) last up to five hours without ANC and 4.5 hours with ANC on. 10 minutes of fast charging gives you an extra hour of listening, and the total playing time, including the charging case battery, is 20 hours.
The charging case is slightly larger than most (to accommodate the unusual form factor) and charges using USB-C.
UE FITS are equipped with two microphones for voice calls. They also support touch controls, with single and dual touch options. Controls can be configured independently for each bud (using the app), for functions like play / pause, volume control, and calling Siri or Google Assistant.
Ultimate Ears says the FITS are sweat resistant, but their IPX3 water resistance rating isn’t top-of-the-line (the AirPods Pro have an IPX4 rating, for comparison).
EU FITS recommendation
If you’ve had a hard time finding true wireless headphones that fit well, I highly recommend UE FITS – they will not only fit well, but perfectly. The results will be revealing and well worth the price of $ 249.
The only caveat I have is if you watch them for strenuous exercise or wear them in bad weather. As much as the secure fit makes them ideal for exercise, they have a relatively low IPX3 water resistance rating. They are designed to be ‘sweat resistant’, but if you sweat a lot or get caught in the rain, headphones with a higher water resistance rating would be the safest choice.
Suitable for EU are priced at $ 249 and available in Eclipse (Midnight Blue), Dawn (Lilac) or Cloud (Gray).
Disclosure: Ultimate Ears provided UE FITS headphones for review, but did not contribute to this review.