At present, UE Personal Reference Tuning Station facilities are set up in four nationwide locations (New York, NY; Nashville, TN; Los Angeles, CA; and the UE headquarters in Irvine, CA). UE expects to add tuning station locations in Europe and the Pacific Rim later on.
The build-time for a set of PRMs is about a week (though at extra cost UE can provide a quick turnaround, next-day service, if necessary). UE has specialized expertise in building finished PRMs that precisely match the sound achieved by the test PRM at the tuning station—a construction process that involves substituting various component values in the PRM crossovers and also performing internal mechanical adjustments to make sure your PRMs produce the desired response curves within very tight tolerances.
While the PRMs are in the manufacturing queue, the personal service specialist maintains contact with the customer via email and, in some cases, phone calls, staying in touch up through and beyond the point at which the PRMs ship from the factory. UE is determined that everything about the PRM purchase and ownership experience will be first rate, and they appear willing and able to go to great lengths to make sure PRM buyers are satisfied. This review will attempt to give readers a sense for what the PRM ownership and listening experiences are like.
Consider this custom-fit in-ear monitor if:
• You have always wanted a monitor that could be voiced exactly the way you wanted it to be voiced.
• You have a clear cut idea of what your ideal sound would be, but have not been able to find a standard model that fully meets your needs.
• You want a monitor that offers the ultimate in personalization—both in terms of fit and sound.
Look further if:
• $1999.99 is too rich for your blood. The PRM is very costly, to be sure, but for the right buyer it is well worth the money.
• You want in-ear monitors whose earpieces are made of soft-gel silicone material (in which case you’ll want to check out options from ACS Custom and Sensaphonics).
Ratings (compared to similarly-priced in-ear headphones)
• Tonal Balance: 10 (note: the whole idea behind the PRM is that you dial in its response until it is, for you, a perfect “10”).
• Clarity: 10
• Dynamics: 10 (your ears will cry “Uncle!” long before the PRMs do).
• Comfort/Fit: 9.5
• Sensitivity: 10
• Value: 9
• Custom-fit, earpieces feature outer shells molded from solid acrylic. Note: as with the Ultimate Ears IERMs and UE 18 Pros, the fit of the PRM is significantly better than the norm in this field, which is saying a lot (almost all custom-fit monitors fit reasonably well, but some are better than others). The excellence of the UE fit is not, in our experience, attributable to any one factor, but rather involves UE getting a number of small, fit-related variables right. As a result, UE earpieces are comparatively easy to insert and seem almost to “snap” into place, yielding a firm (but not unpleasantly tight) fit that offers excellent noise isolation and long-term wearer comfort. (I’ve worn my PRMs for listening sessions lasting several hours without discomfort, although one does becomes aware of some in-ear perspiration after an hour or so).
• As a signature detail touch unique to the PRM, this model’s earpieces are molded in clear acrylic and offered with ID plates made of the user’s choice of four exotic hardwoods (options include Cherry, Carpathian Burled Elm, Purple Heart, and Burled Walnut). PRM owners belong to a very exclusive “club,” and those PRM-only wood ID plates are, in a sense, the club’s “secret handshake.”
• “Rugged, low-profile, low-distortion” signal cable fitted with a gold-plated mini-jack.
• Passive three-way crossover, with settings customized to suit the listener’s voicing preferences.
• Five high-quality “proprietary” miniature balanced-armature type drivers.
• Claimed frequency response is 20Hz – 18kHz.
• Impedance is rated at 21 Ohms at 1k Hz
• Sensitivity is rated at 110.6 dB at 1kHz, 50mV and “Efficiency” at 115.6 dB at 1mW —the same as for the firm’s very sensitive UE 18 Pro monitor.
• UE has gone all-out in the packaging for the Personal Reference Monitors, which arrive in a beautiful black presentation case beneath whose flip-open lid you’ll find the user’s manual, plus a padded chamber that protects the road case and the in-ear monitors within.
• The hard shell road case, in turn, features a padded interior with one chamber for the monitors with an adjoining chamber for the signal cable and accessories. As a very cool detail touch, the owner’s name is engraved on the outside of the case.
• As a first from UE, the PRM case comes prominently marked with a RewardTag, which indicates to anyone who might find a lost set of PRMs that a no-questions-asked reward will be paid to and finder who returns the PRMs to the UE factory. (The reward, as I understand it, will likely take the form of a generous UE gift certificate).
• Accessories include a cleaning tool (for removing ear wax, etc. from the monitor’s bore tubes).