Ultimate Ears has been a familiar name to musicians and other audio professionals for a decade, but in the past few years, the company has churned out a variety of headphones for several consumer lines that range in affordability. Earphones in its Metro.fi, Super.fi, and Triple.fi lines have gained a reasonable following with mainstream listeners, who have plenty of nice things to say about the company's products (see: Amazon.com). The earbuds that have gained perhaps the most glowing praise are the Triple.fi 10s, a $400 pair that features three balanced armatures in each ear piece. As one might expect, this leads to exceptional audio response; unfortunately, it also means that the ear pieces are huge and will not fit all users comfortably.
The Ultimate Ears Triple.fi 10 earphones have the largest ear pieces we've ever seen on an earbud. Each one measures an inch long and about a half an inch wide, making them nearly twice as large as those found on the Shure SE530 (another triple driver set). The apertures are also significantly larger than those of the Shure set. As a result, achieving a secure and comfortable fit with the Triple.fi 10 can be a challenge--or even impossible--for some users, despite the fact that Ultimate Ears includes a wide array of ear fittings. There are four sets of silicone sleeves in varying sizes, one set of double-flange tips, and a pair of foam fittings. Even with the foam tips, we could never get the earphones to seal with the ear and stay that way. On the plus side, the moldable plastic surrounding the wire closest to the earpieces allowed us to securely loop the cord over the ear, which kept the earphones in place despite the fit issues. All that being said, the main headphone reviewers both have smaller-than-average ears; colleagues with larger ears didn't suffer from the same problem.
Despite their large size, the Triple.fi 10 earphones offer a splash of style. Each earbud is encased in a shimmery blue housing (Ultimate Ears calls it "Gun Metal Blue"). The Y-cable is all black and seems reasonably durable. It measures 46 inches and features a slider at the Y junction to help prevent tangles. Ultimate Ears also includes a nice metal hard case for keeping the wires knot free during storage as well as protecting the ear pieces. Rounding out the accessories are an airplane adapter, a 24-inch extender cable, a quarter-inch plug adapter, and a cleaning tool.
Assuming you can get a proper fit, the Triple.fi 10 earphones will reward you with some stellar sound quality. This is thanks to the multitude of teeny, tiny tech Ultimate Ears has crammed into each earpiece. There are dual-balanced armatures for the low- and mid-range frequencies and a single precision balanced armature for high frequencies. An integrated passive crossover connects each one to the individual speakers dedicated to each frequency. In layman's terms, this means you get tight, thumping bass; rich, encompassing mids; excellent detail; and sparkling highs. Although the audio response is not biased toward any one genre--we listened to rap, folk, pop, hard and classic rock, downtempo, and house--electronic music took us to heaven. Danny Tenaglia's remix of Depeche Mode's "I Feel Loved" sounds out of this world when played through the Triple.fi 10. If you can fit them in your ears, these 'phones are definitely worth the investment.