VP & General Manager of UE, Philippe Depallens and Director of Sales, Mike Dias did a Reddit AMA recently. In case you missed it, we pulled all the juicy bits and have them below for your reading pleasure.
Thanks for doing this. For folks looking at buying CIEMs, what differentiates you from the other choices out there?
Simply put: our turnaround time and customer service. By using digital technology, we’ve made significant progress on our quality and ability to serve the customer faster.
I was hoping you would say “sound quality” :-) Although agree good customer service is key to success in any consumer industry
Sound quality is an obvious one, but it is not enough. We’re known for our sound quality, and decided to focus on other elements of the product’s quality.
I just worked a gig with Michael Murante, he told me about the 3D printing stuff you guys are doing and how it has allowed him to get replacement ear pieces on tour with very little turnaround time. Really cool stuff! He had great things to say about your customer service.
From a business perspective, why do these even matter? Are your consumers more concerned about time than quality or price? It would seem in the high-end IEM industry that quality and comfort would be far more important differentiators.
Remember that this company was founded to service professional musicians. Their IEMs are tools that their livelihood depends on. If one of your earpieces breaks on the road, you need a replacement stat. Being able to whip up a new earpiece in hours and overnight it to an artist’s next tour stop so it’s in their hands with only a day or two of downtime is absolutely huge. Revolutionary even.
With the digital technology, we end up creating a product that is higher quality and comfort PLUS a faster turnaround time, which is actually very important for our customers who are constantly on the go.
Can you describe the process of how you go about developing a new model? I’m curious how you approach developing a new design and getting it out to market, and I’m sure others are too.
We work closely with industry professionals and our customers to listen for their needs. Then, we develop a series of prototypes that are “beta tested” by a select group of users. We never release a product that isn’t first tested by real costumers that can give us objective feedback.
Our intentions are to provide a better sonic experience. We found with 3D technology we have a better overall fit, which in turn leads to better overall sound. (Not to mention, faster turn around time). Jude from Head-Fi put together an awesome video highlighting the advantages of our new process and the cost behind delivering a better product to customers without increasing the overall price. This UltimateEars University article goes more in-depth about the number of drivers vs. sound quality.
What’s the biggest obstacle the company has had to overcome? Whether it be the manufacturing process, marketing, development, etc.
Creating the proper awareness amongst ALL musicians that in-ears are for everyone, not just the top touring musicians.
As someone runs sound for both front of house and monitors on a regular basis, I heartily agree. The less noise there is onstage (which you get by eliminating monitor speakers by using in-ears), the easier it is to get a cleaner mix for the audience. This is also why we’re always asking the guitar player to turn down!
Greetings, I’ve used a lot of the universal fit products that Ultimate Ears and others have made, starting with the Super.Fi 3. Something that has bothered me though is no matter what I do, I get uncontrollable itching while using them. Do you know of anyone that has had similar problems have it alleviated by switching to hard customs?
Yes, many people have complained about different issues with universal tips. This is one of the key advantages of our custom in-ear monitors, which are made from bio-medical grade acrylic vs. silicone or foam. Some people also have allergies to silicone and/or foam which may contribute to the itching sensation. Furthermore, the tips will always push and add pressure, which most people (myself included) experience as heat. When something is custom molded to you, it slips right in and does not push on the walls of your canal.
Do you guys have a product comparison chart? Something that highlights the different characteristics of all the models so I could find the right one for me and my other players? For example, I love IEMs for recording (everyday), but also need something that will work for live situations (occasionally). Also I’m a drummer.
Hi — great question and you have competing needs. For recording, depending on which side of the glass you’re sitting behind, you want something as flat and transparent as possible. That would be the UE-RM (developed with the engineers at Capitol Studios) or the UE-4’s. For live sound, you want something with a bit more umph — either the 7’s or the 11’s. Most drummers prefer the 11 for the extra bass. It really depends on situation. Take a look at this chart and while you’re there, dig around the rest of the UE University and make sure to check out all the posts dedicated to drummers. http://ultimateearsuniversity.com/post/7070625916/which-in-ear-monitor-is-best-for-you
What makes your products better than your competitors who are able to pack more drivers into their CIEMs for the same price point?
For us, it’s not all about the drivers. It’s about the entire experience (cradle to grave) and how we can serve you over the life of the product.
Also, what CIEMs would you recommend that you guys make that has a fun sound signature?
2 points 6 days ago The UE11! With a dedicated sub, it gives you that extra thump when you’re listening to music.
Hi, thanks for doing this AMA! I’m shopping for IEMs and trying to find a balance between cost and number of drivers. Does adding drivers have diminishing returns? As in, does the addition of a second driver make a huge difference but adding a sixth of seventh not so much? Thanks!
At some point there is a diminished return with adding more drivers (product reliability - more drivers = more likelihood for a product to fail). Our approach has been to design the sound signature for your craft.
You guys don’t seem to offer any hearing protection. Is there a reason for that? Is the technology different enough?
We actually do offer hearing protection!http://pro.ultimateears.com/products/hearing-protection The technology is very different - it’s about an ear mold fitting in your ear, with no need for drivers and trying to produce sound through your ear canal.
What do you think is going to be the next big jump in IEM technology?
An all-digital experience from the time an ear mold is taken to the time it’s crafted and sent to the customer. We’ve already implemented 3D printing our IEMs. One day we anticipate a “Star Trek” like scanner that takes your ear impressions onsite so you don’t have to visit an audiologist.
A lot of folks don’t want to consider CIEMs because they’re not familiar with the canal impressions process. I’ve done it before and it’s super easy and painless. What’s the best way to take that on so that more folks can start using CIEMs?
We encourage our customers to share how simple and easy the process is with our social platforms. We love resharing customer pics and experiences of the mold process. #EarMoldSelfies
What other audio gear do you guys have hanging around the office?
Here’s a few pics of the office and gear. Anytime you’re in Irvine feel free to stop by! http://imgur.com/a/5ilPG
You mentioned turnaround time as a large factor in choosing UE. Do you have plans to expand in Canada? Currently there is only 1 dealer in one province and turnaround time is still listed at up to 30 days.
Great question! Regardless of location, our turnaround time is still 7 business days from the time we receive the molds. If there isn’t a dealer near you, any certified audiologist can take your ear impressions.