Despite having a long history of producing top-notch wired earbuds for professional musicians — known by the more serious label “in-ear monitors” — Ultimate Ears (UE) has never created a set of true wireless earbuds for everyday folks. Until recently.
The $249 UE Fits attempt to solve one of the most frustrating parts of wearing any earbuds: That feeling of having something wedged into your ear.
With special gel-filled silicone eartips that UE claims can be custom-molded to your ears with just a bit of light and heat, the Fits might just be the last set of earbuds you ever buy. I gave them a spin to see how closely they live up to that potential.
The first thing you notice when you open the box is the unusual shape of the UE Fits. They look like tiny plastic batons. If you can make your peace with that shape from an aesthetics point of view, there are several benefits to the design.
The sticklike shape makes them super easy to grab. This helps with getting them in and out of their charging case and, more importantly, in and out of your ears.
Having a stem that protrudes from the bottom places the microphones just a little closer to your mouth, which should, in theory, deliver better call quality. Finally, they offer a larger surface area for tap controls.
The charging case lacks a wireless charging option, but it has a smooth, rounded profile that’s just small enough to be pocketed. There’s no LED indicator on the outside, so you’ll need to open the case or check the UE Fits app to see whether it’s fully charged.
So how about their marquee feature, the customized fit? Let me start by saying that even before I went through the very short process that adapts the eartips, I knew these were going to be super-comfortable earbuds.
Unlike virtually every other set of true wireless earbuds you can buy, the UE Fits don’t rely on a round or oval flared silicone sleeve to seal your ear canal. Instead, their eartips aren’t “tips” at all. They cover the entire portion of the earbud that sits in your ear, effectively sealing your ear canal without exerting any pressure on the ear canal itself.
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live tried a similar approach, but without the use of custom-fit eartips. We didn’t love them.
The customization process — which takes less than a minute — uses heat and light generated by the earbuds themselves to mold the eartips to your ears. They get quite warm during the procedure, but not uncomfortably so.
Once they were fully baked, I found the earbuds exceptionally comfortable. No pressure points, no feeling like I had a small creature burrowing into my ear canal.
The only downside is that the customization process only works once. If the included medium eartips aren’t the right size (or if you accidentally mess up the fit process), you’ll need to buy the small or large tips for $30 each — very pricey for such small chunks of silicone.
Ultimate Ears sent along a set of small and large eartips to try, so I repeated the process with my daughter, whose small ears have always made getting a good fit tricky. The left ear worked out perfectly, but for some reason, the right ear still wasn’t a great fit. UE might need to consider making an even smaller set of eartips.
The UE Fits are pleasingly balanced and offer good bass response. Out of the box, the sound signature is a little on the flat side, but there are lots of EQ presets in the UE Fits app that let you tweak the sound considerably, including the ability to add your own custom EQ adjustments.
With a bit of fiddling, I was able to get a really satisfying and punchy mix that worked well with plenty of music genres, like pop, hip-hop, rap, and even some vocal-centric jazz.
The UE Fits don’t have active noise cancellation, but because of their excellent fit, I found the passive noise isolation was more than enough to keep loud external sounds from interfering with my music and podcasts.
Unfortunately, the Fits don’t have a transparency mode either, so it can be hard to have a conversation unless you pull out an earbud. Likewise, when on phone calls, it can be hard to hear your own voice.
UE claims eight hours per earbud and a total of 20 hours when you include the charging case. That total time might not be much to brag about, but eight hours between charges is very good — much better than the AirPods’ five hours. A 10-minute quick charge will give you an extra hour of playtime.
You get the option of a single- or double-tap for each earbud, and the UE Fits app lets you pick from several options for each of these gestures, including play/pause, track skip forward/back, and volume. You can trigger your phone’s voice assistant, but this is only accessible from the double-tap gesture. You can use each earbud independently if you want.
These tap gestures are my least favorite part of the UE Fits. The earbuds seem to really struggle to recognize the tap sequences consistently. Double-taps were better recognized than singles, which were hardly ever recognized. I reached out to Ultimate Ears to figure out why this was happening, but the company’s reps could only suggest that I should check for the latest firmware (which the Fits were already using).
Calling using the UE Fits was acceptable. They struggled to cancel out loud sounds, but that’s true of a lot of wireless earbuds. As I mentioned above, the lack of transparency or side-tone features was a bigger problem for me than the actual quality of the calls.
At their full regular price of $249, I think the UE Fits are too expensive for what they offer. But they’ve had their price reduced regularly since launch, and at the moment, they’re just $178 if you buy them directly from Ultimate Ears. That’s still a lot of money considering what you can get from similar or lower-priced alternatives from Jabra, Soundcore, or Beats. But if you’ve had trouble getting a decent fit from regular earbuds, the UE Fits might well be worth the extra cash. They are definitely the most comfortable earbuds I have worn so far.