The Sea Was Angry That Day, My Friends – Ultimate Ears, Shure, and Sandwiches.


Technology must be upset with yesterday’s post. In the afternoon we lost all phones and internet at the studio, so we follow local tradition and curse Time Warner. This morning, upon arrival, nothing is working, computers will not start, still no phone, no internet. We all leave to do what we can from home, then return for the afternoon sessions. I’m not complaining, I had a delicious chicken sandwich from the local deli and went to Cafe Pedlar. Is there really any meal better than an amazing chicken sandwich? If there is, I don’t want to know about it. That’s a lie, I totally do. This must have been a magic sandwich, because lo and behold, when I return, it was all working. For some reason an intern set up our phone and internet service…I’m going to blame him. We don’t have a great history with interns. One had to get a talkin’ to because of his flatulence…..but that’s a story for another day.

I’ve been in headphone limbo for a bit. For years, I used the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi’s, first the Pro 5’s, then when those were lost, the Pro 10’s. They sounded wonderful, and likely saved my ears. You could wear them as in ear monitors, they blocked out enough sound to use live or in studio. For everyday commuting, they were perfect. Subway’s are surprisingly loud, its best not to kill your ears when cranking your white earbuds. And I’m just not going to wear some giant studio headphones out and about. They weigh a ton, have too much cable, and don’t really isolate that well. The problem is though, the cable dies every few months, and its $20 to replace. Its like a monthly headphone usage fee. I easily spent the price of the headphones on cables. After some twitter back and forth….they sent me a replacement once, which died in 2 months. After some more customer service ping pong, they claimed to be sending another…which was over 6 weeks ago, they’re back ordered and whatnot. Wait….After checking the website….it looks like that model is discontinued??? If those cables are permanently gone, get ready for some angry tweetin’ (wow, is that the best form of intimidation our generation has?)

These are not real problems. They’re just headphones. But there are so many headphones out there, maybe we can waste a little less time getting new ones. Headphones are also important. In the city, that’s how we listen to the majority of our music or podcasts, no car stereos. Why make it sound all tinny and shit, we all spend enough time commuting.

I’m a big supporter of smaller manufacturers. Most have fantastic customer service. Some that I have had personal experience with are Mastery Bridge, Swart Amps, Analogman, Peterson Tuners, the list goes on. This applies to clothing, home furnishings…whathaveyou.  If a smaller company doesn’t have great service, who wants to deal with that shit. But most of these companies fall into the luxury goods set – the parts they need are not manufactured in mass overseas, and they deal in very small quantities. Something like esoteric headphones, using proprietary parts they have to manufacture in mass….that’s a problem when the cable you need is back ordered. Or what if they no longer make replacements? Go try and find a cable for your DIGI001….have a good time.

The conclusion is, I had to switch to the Shure SE215. They make a similar model, it was well reviewed by friends and the internet in general, and they probably make FAR more of them. There are still issues with the cable, for some reason these headphone cables die quicker than anything else, but they probably produce a lot more of them to have on hand. Also, for the first time in my purchasing history of any product, I bought an extra warranty – through B&H for $20, anything is covered for 2 years. Sometimes you have to support the larger guy. I don’t like it, you don’t like it….we love the underdog. But the underdog can’t always pull it off. Man, that’s depressing. I might eat another chicken sandwich to feel better.

Side Note: I’ll bet Grado could have pulled it off – either making a cable that didn’t die constantly or being able to replace it readily….but they only make one in ear model, and its quite expensive. I do have their SR-80 open headphones, and recommend them to everyone with ears.

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