One of my contenders for “Niftiest Tech” goes to Ultimate Ears for their new 3-D scanning/printing service.
The way this works is pretty clever — you get an impression of your ear taken, as normal. That is, you go to an audiologist, they shoot your ear canals full of pink goo and you sit there until it firms up enough to remove. Then, instead of mailing them to your custom in-ear monitor maker, you have them scanned in a 3-D scanner (or, you send them in and have UE do that for you). The benefit of having this done remotely is pretty straightforward — speed. UPSP can take a few days to get them to your destination, and then there’s all the concerns about safe delivery and whatnot. Whatever. After the scan takes place, they’re modeled in with CAD-like rendering software, and “adjusted” for irregularities and smoothing out some corners. Then, they’re printed. On a 3-D printer! This is instead of the mold-then-cast (then maybe mold again, followed by another cast) before your product is then finished, filed, polished and sent on. With the 3-D printer, all of that crap — including the filing and polishing — is done at one time. The result? Perfect fit and to your door in less than 2 weeks. Which is exactly how long it took me to get a brand new set of Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors ($999) — and 4 days of that was due to UPS Ground taking their sweet time to get back to the East Coast.
The UE lineup is something relatively familiar to me — it was the same as I explored it last year at Canjam. My personal favorite of the line was and remains the UE18Pro — it’s just a marvelously musical instrument, and I love listening through them. But they’re not exactly neutral — a fact that I freely and happily acknowledge. But when it comes to reviewing a piece of electronics, I felt that another data point on my measuring stick would probably be wise.
Now, all this is not to say that my brand new UERMs are in any way less than fantastic — they are. They’re just voiced differently from the 18Pro. Not a good thing, not a bad thing, just a thing. And now, I have both to work from (and enjoy). More to come on that score.
In the meantime, take your own tour through the UE catalog. Heartily recommended.