In-ear monitors have been the standard for many top touring acts for decades now, but Ultimate Ears (UE) is looking to expand that user base by making superior inears available even to musicians operating on a less than “rockstar” budget.
Mike Dias, sales director of Ultimate Ears Pro recently sat down with MMR to discuss innovations at UE and how MI retailers can get in on the action
Briefly, can you discuss the origins of Ultimate Ears and, more specifically, the catalyst behind UE’s Pro line of inear monitors?
Ultimate Ears Pro was founded in 1995 when Van Halen’s touring monitor engineer, created a special, custom modeled earphone for drummer Alex Van Halen after he had difficulty hearing his fellow band members over the noise on stage.
With the introduction of its first custom fit professional earphones, Ultimate Ears Pro created a new market for custom in-ear monitors, which now are used by the majority of the world’s top touring musicians. Setting the standard for more than 20 years, Ultimate Ears Pro’s in-ear monitors have transformed the way music is played, helping musicians move beyond the wedge.
In broad stroke terms how would you summarize the advantages unique to UE Pro monitors?
Whether you’re in the studio, on stage, or somewhere else listening really matters, Ultimate Ears Pro’s inear monitors are custom designed and developed to allow users to hear music the way it was meant to be heard. And, depending on your use case, there is an inear monitor that fits your preference – whether you want more mids, highs or lows, or prefer a flat reference.
And in the last few years, UE has fully digitized its production of UE Pro custom inear monitors. What was once a more time consuming series of steps, including a visit to an audiologist, has been reinvented. This journey started three years ago when the UE Pro team decided to blend its artisancrafted techniques with digital processes, such as digitally detailing physical ear impressions and using 3D printing to build the shell of its custom monitors.
That experience has expanded to include a revolutionary ear laser scanner, the UE 3D Ear Scanner, which has been developed, tested and finetuned for the past six years. With this new device, which anyone can be trained to use, retailers and partners across the world can now take accurate ear impressions of people’s ears in less than 10 minutes, and at no charge. The 3D file generated from a scan is immediately uploaded to a computer and can quickly be shared with UE Pro in Irvine, California To begin production. The result is a quicker and more satisfying overall customer experience.
Right now, we have stores in the U.S. fully equipped with a scanner to take impressions on site, and that number is rapidly growing.
Obviously UE Inear monitors list for more than some other inear systems – for good reason. Can you describe the “typical” UE enduser?
UE Pro actually offers a customfit dual driver inear monitor for $399. This is more economical, in fact, than many of the universal, “one size fits all” options. For the same price or less, any musician can trust and rely on a product to deliver maximum sound and comfort.
The challenge with most universal fit monitors is that as soon as the musician starts moving around and sweating, they lose the seal and then the low-end drops out of the mix. To counteract this concern, musicians are forced to use a larger foam tip than what’s truly comfortable. Two or three songs in, many people feel like their ears are throbbing, hot and itchy.
A custom fit device removes all these challenges. I mention all of this because it helps to answer about the demographic. The people who buy UE custom inear monitors are often previous owners of a universal fit solution who just couldn’t take it any more. They needed an upgrade.
Do MI stores in the U.S. currently stock and sell UE Pro In-ear monitors or is it purely a customcrafted type of order? No MI stores actually stock the custom UE products and that’s the true beauty of the model. These aren’t peg products, they’re made to order. There’s no inventory to carry. There’s no risk. It’s simply a special order product. Ultimate Ears is current ly working with the rep firm Sonic Sales to provide expertise and coverage for the West Coast. We’re currently offering our custom monitors at Pitbull Audio, Jim’s Music, Rat Sound, Solotech, Ametron, Trew Audio, LaserVision World, American Music, Ted Brown Music, Performance Audio, just to name a few.
Given all of the above, how would an MI store market or even partner with UE and connect with potential customers?
This is where our business model is even more exciting. We actually push customers to the MI stores to demo the product. Since the inears are custom made, we offer live demos via simulators in the retail store environment. We create the marketing materials for the stores – both for instore and social, we drive foot traffic, and we help facilitate sales. Then happy musicians tell their friends, and their friends go back and buy directly from their local MI store. We’ve created one big happy circle that solves problems for musicians and earns a new revenue stream for MI stores.
How would interested dealers go about contacting UE about becoming a vendor?
Do you have any message to MI dealers that you’d like to share?
Custom inear monitors are for every musician, not just for toptouring musicians. If anyone is serious about their playing and performing, the best investment that they can make is an in-ear monitoring system. And with the investments that Ultimate Ears has made, selling custom inear monitors in a retail environment is possible.
Finally, are there any product introductions or upcoming developments that you’d like to share? After 20 years of selling inears for toptouring artists all over the globe, we’ve learned just how complex and complicated it has been for musicians to just start using inears. The transition from wedges to inears has been simply too hard in our opinion. We’ve been working on ways to solve that.
“We create the marketing materials for the stores – both for instore and social, we drive foot traffic, and we help facilitate sales.”
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