When one company swallows another, it’s common for a slow shift in rebranding and design to occur as the two entities thrash out their roles and relationship. The latest shift in the Logitech-Ultimate Ears story — Logitech purchased UE in 2008 — occured a month or so ago, when Ultimate Ears was rebranded as Logitech UE and launched a suite of high-end, blue-tinged soundware, with a product selection that reached far beyond the in-ear monitors the company has thus far been known for. In fact, out of seven new gadgets, just one new IEM was introduced: the Logitech UE 900 ($400), a quad-armature earphone that now sits at the pinnacle of UE’s non-custom earphone line.
The UE 900 has lineage, of course; we loved the snug fit, solid build and amazing sound of its antecedent, the TripleFi 10. But the TripleFi 10 is gone, and the UE 900 has stepped into its place with new ergonomics, a new sound — and a lot of blue.
You’re an American, and you’ve just watched your athletes come away with a barrel full of gold medals in London. Maybe you’re feeling a little patriotic; maybe a little like you want to go out and train for Rio de Janiero. If so, then Monster has created the perfect earphones for you: A special edition “USA” version of their impressive, washable, iSport IEMs.
Let’s get two big facts out the way right now: Yes, these Scosche IEM856m canalphones ($250) look a little like several of the canalphones in Monster’s lineup (eg. the Beats Tour), mostly because of the flat, ribbon-like cable; no, they’re not anything like any of the Monster earphones they somewhat resemble. In fact, one big detail makes them very different from almost any other IEM on the market.
If you caught our canalphone roundup a few weeks back, you’ve by now come to the accurate realization that there’s no shortage of real alternatives to those awful white buds bundled with each iPhone. But these two are a little different.
Like the five we reviewed that week, these two pairs of IEMs — the MEElectronics CC51 ($90) and the Thinksound ts02+mic ($110)— are higher-end, designed with superior sound quality in mind and cost around $100. But unlike the others, these two are from small, boutique manufacturers; they also both have housings made from exotic materials (the CC51’s is ceramic, while the ts02’s is wood), and eschew the inline volume controls of the pairs of reviewed in the $100 IEM week, instead making do with a single control button on their inline microphones.
Earlier this year, Etymotic began a new program that allows purchasers of pretty much any of their products — earphones, Bluetooth headsets, whatever — to own custom-molded eartips for an extra $100. Etymotic offered to let me try a set of these custom eartips (full disclosure: on their tab) with the hf2s I tested, and off we went.