UE 18+ Pro and UE Sound Tap Review
Function: Custom IEM and Personal Monitoring Direct Box
Overview: It’s no secret that Ultimate Ears Pro has made a name for itself in the custom IEM world because of their high-quality products and dedicated customer service, but one thing that often goes unnoticed is their commitment to developing new products to enhance the custom IEM experience, such as the UE Pro Sound Tap. New to the UE Pro lineup this year, the Sound Tap is an innovative, game-changing personal monitoring DI that allows a musician to transform any sound source into a feed for in-ear monitors. Also new to the 2017 lineup is the UE 18+ Pro, a completely re-imagined version of the flagship model of IEM from UE and boy, does it sound good.
Sound Tap: The idea behind Sound Tap is simple: plug the box between the house mixer and the stage wedge to “tap” the sound from the existing signal chain without changing anything for the house engineer. Sound Tap is a steel box the size of a medium-sized guitar pedal (Boss DD-20 comes to mind) and features 2 inputs, (one sets the input gain, and the other sets the volume of your IEM) 2 outputs and a 3.5mm IEM jack. The inputs take sound from the mixer and the outputs send the original signal to the monitor wedge. Powered speakers, unpowered speakers, speakon, ¼”, or XLR connectors can all be connected to Sound Tap with extremely low distortion to your in-ears, and passed as clean, transparent signal to the monitor wedge. To top it off, Sound Tap runs off 2 9V batteries, is small enough to take anywhere and comes with all the cabling you’ll need to hook it up in any situation.
Sound Tap makes your IEM sound amazing due to its impedance matching and also has a protective circuit that cuts off the signal when feedback or audio spikes comes down the monitor line (a similar feature to the UE Pro SoundGuard). To get an in-ear monitor mix with Sound Tap, you replace a handful of hardware and thousands of dollars: a transformer isolated line split, separate monitor mixer, headphone amp, wireless transmitter, wireless receiver, plus UE LineDrive/SoundGuard just to name a few.
UE 18+: The best just keeps getting better! The UE 18+ Pro is a redesigned version of the flagship UE 18 Pro custom IEM. Redesigned with the new True Tone Technology drivers and its proprietary precision tuned sound engine, the UE-18+ offers more detail, air, space, stereo imaging, and transient attack than its predecessor. Remember our review of the UE Reference Remastered we ran a few issues back? (If you don’t remember, we cited it as our favorite IEM ever!) Well, the UE 18+ Pro is giving the UERR a run for its money as the new favorite, as it utilizes the same True Tone drivers but with 6 drivers per ear and a four-way crossover. The True Tone drivers are proprietary balanced armatures that focus on the harmonics and overtones often missing from traditional headphones and IEM, giving the 18+ a warm, natural sound with incredible stereo image and spacing.
It can be somewhat of an overused word when talking about headphones, but UE 18+ can only be described as incredibly warm. The frequency response is incredibly balanced, with the low end powerful and deep, the midrange focused and detailed, especially in the low mids, and a beautiful, airy, top end. When we think of detail and transient attack the words that normally come to mind are “crisp” and “clear”, and don’t get us wrong, the 18+ is all of those things, but these new drivers manage to keep the natural warmth and expression to the sound in a way we’ve never heard. With its best in class detail, stereo image and transient attack, it’s hard to think of a musician who wouldn’t like the UE Pro 18+.