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Headphones

The kickass Ultimate Ears 18+ Pro headphone will fit your ears perfectly

Hey, big spenders. If you're craving the ultimate sound, the UE 18+ Pro is the headphone to check out.

Ultimate Ears

Ultimate Ears' Reference Remastered was one of my favorite in-ear headphones of 2016, so I was more than ready to take on UE's refreshed flagship, the UE 18+ Pro.

My UE 18+ Pro sample's earpieces were finished in gloss black, but you can choose from a huge selection of color options or order custom faceplate designs.

The UE 18 Pro

Ultimate Ears

Before we go any further, the UE 18+ Pro and Reference Remastered are "custom" in-ear headphones. Their 3D-printed earpieces are based on exact replicas of your inner and outer ears made from impressions taken by your local audiologist. So each set of UE 18+ Pro and UE Reference Remastered headphones are unique, and fit only your ears.

A side benefit of the custom fit is superior isolation from external noise than you'd get from everyday in-ear headphones. The fit is secure too, these headphones will never accidentally fall out of your ears!

Each UE 18+ Pro earpiece houses six proprietary balanced armature drivers (the Reference Remastered has three) that are divided into four frequency bands. Its impedance is rated at 37.5 ohms, making the UE 18+ Pro easy to drive. It'll sound dandy plugged into your phone.

The UE 18+ Pro comes with a replaceable 48-inch (1.2 meter) standard cable, a 48-inch iOS cable with mic or a 64-inch (1.6 meter) cable. All cables are fitted with a 3.5mm plug. The headphone comes with your choice of a round, square or rectangular storage case.

The impressive list of musicians who use the UE Pro includes the Black Keys, Coldplay, Kanye West, the Rolling Stones and Taylor Swift. They all use UE headphones as on-stage monitors.

Turning it up to 11

The UE 18+ Pro sounded fine when I plugged it into my iPhone 6S, but for maximum fidelity I paired my iPhone 6S with a portable Chord Mojo digital converter and headphone amp.

The UE 18+ Pro is the sort of headphone that begs to be played loud, which isn't usually my preference. I started listening at a more sedate level but kept pushing the volume up and up because the UE 18+ Pro sounded better the louder I played it. Mac Quayle's synth-driven score for "Mr Robot" was a mind-expanding experience. Its soundstage wrapped around my head and highlighted the UE 18+ Pro's bass oomph, which trumped the Reference Remastered.

For acoustic fare I turned to mandolinist Chris Thile and pianist Brad Mehldau's jazzy self-titled album. It amply demonstrated the UE 18+ Pro's finesse and transparency. The sound was clearer when I switched to the Reference Remastered, but the UE 18+ Pro was richer and full-bodied.

The UE 18 Pro, with iPhone 6S and Chord Mojo

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Avant garde composer Moondog's "A New Sound of an Old Instrument" album sounded incredible with the UE 18+ Pro. A church organ is the "old instrument" mentioned in the title, and its low rumbling notes seemed to come from the center of the Earth. They weren't just deep -- the texture and percussive sound quality blew me away.

The UE 18+ Pro also let me rock out without bothering anyone else in the room. I admire the Reference Remastered's neutral tonal balance, but the UE 18+ Pro is more of a rock & roll animal.

The UE 18+ Pro is available worldwide through Ultimate Ears Pro dealers for $1,500. That price roughly converts to £1,190, AU$1,960. Expensive yes, but that's only to be expected for a built-to-order headphone.