The UE5 Pro is a solid bass and treble performer but steers away from being classed as a V-shaped courtesy of some clear and smooth vocal performances.
There is some really above-average clarity here through the mids that I was not expecting despite some elements of the FR sitting back just a shade relative to the lows and highs.
If you have a keen ear you can pick out the obvious crossover point in the response curve in the mids and where that smaller BA kicks in. The dual BA timbre has some contrast as a result but unlike some competing triple driver combos, Ultimate Ears has kept a decent balance between the warmth and the ‘fizz’.
The UE5 Pro will not slam quite like a dynamic driver but the bass response is impressive nevertheless giving the entire sound signature a high level of PRaT and an engaging fundamental.
The only kicker is in the upper mids and lower treble where there is a little bit of peaking around the 7k marker that can introduce some heat and sibilance to percussion and the odd high pitching vocal performance.
However, it is EQ’able by a few dB, or alternatively, some aftermarket pure copper IPX cables, (8-wire 4.4mm preferred), can improve the harmonic balance and dynamics.
Overall, a very engaging entry-level CIEM but one I find very suitable for synthwave, EDM, and clear vocals. If you want something more mid-centric and liquid in tone there are other competing models out there that are more suited.
The UE5 Pro has a fairly extended bass shelf from 20hz up to around 200Hz but it’s fairly linear despite its obvious high dB tuning. It only starts to dip post 200hz and here it’s a relatively slow dive to 1k bringing with it some warmth but not as much bloom as you would expect.
Upper-mids are slightly behind lower-mids with the 1-3k slightly above the 3-5k range but not by a huge amount, maybe 1-2db at the most. Lower pitching male vocals have some decent presence and slight warmth whereas high pitching vocals might sit back a little for me but have some enhanced clarity from an elevated mid-treble.
The smaller BA driver is tuned with a fairly lively treble around the 7-10k marker. It does a nice job in terms of bringing some sparkle as well as a perception of height to the presentation but it can also provide some heat in higher pitching percussion.
Brighter sources will tease this out a bit more but throw in some decent quality power and a reference tuning from something like the Mojo 2 and it seems to hold a good balance between lively and edgy.
A coloration of contrasts with a deep-sounding and warmish low-end BA driver providing a smoother counter to the much leaner and hotter treble-focused smaller BA driver.
In a way, they do balance each other, especially through the mids where you get an up-tick in upper harmonics that prevent the UE5 Pro from ever sounding dark or lacking in clarity. The only time you might reach for a bit of 7k PMEQ is if your source is too bright or the tracks have a very strong higher pitching percussion focus.
On the low-end, this is one of the better woofer BA drivers at this price point. Not quite as much slam as a full-on dynamic driver but it is punchier and tighter for decay than older two-driver BA combinations such as the Custom Art FIBAE 2 and definitely a lot more depth and power compared to 3-driver competitors such as the Avara AV3.
Midrange timbre is split between smoothness and clean and crisp with that longish bass shelf injecting a bit of warmth into the lower mids and male vocals. Higher pitching vocals pick up a bit more of that treble overtone from the smaller BA driver so they can sound a bit more vibrant.
High pitching percussion is where it gets topical. I find with the stock SPC cable they can be a bit harder edged with more contrast when mixed with clean sources.
A few things can change that dynamic though. For example, a smoother wider gauge IPX aftermarket cable such as the Null Audio Symphonym-Hakone or a bit of power from a reference device such as the Mojo 2. Both changeups brought a slightly more balanced and forgiving leading edge to the UE5 Pro’s higher-pitching notes.
Staging & Dynamics
The UE5 Pro is more about good depth with an above-average BA woofer performance and a long bass shelf right up to the lower mids. Perhaps more than anything your ear is going to get drawn to the forward and punchy bass performance of the UE5 Pro.
Height is also quite good with an amplified mid-to-high treble tuning creating a bit of sparkle and clarity. You could argue the balance between both extremes is quite good but overall, it’s more intimate than expansive.
Midrange width and air vary a bit for me depending on source and cable. It can sound a little bit narrow, front and centered with the stock cable on a neutral source using a low-powered SE output. However, dynamics and stereo imaging improve with better power, either balanced or simply a stronger SE output.
For example, switching to an 8-wire IPX cable smoothed out the highs a little, improved the dynamic range a lot, and produced a generally smoother more holographic staging quality with reduced lows/highs contrast.
A good example of improved stereo imaging performance was the Mojo 2. The pairing with the UE5 Pro kept the tonal signature quite clean but pushed the imaging out a lot wider as well as introduced a big improvement in clarity and dynamic range.
The Ultimate Ears UE5 Pro is rated at 21Ω and 199dB SPL so a fairly easy monitor to drive from most sources, including dongles. Testing with 4 DAPs and 2 dongles both balanced, (3rd party 8-wire cable), and unbalanced, (stock cable) we found no evidence of background hiss, even on high gain turbo mode from the HiBy R8.
That’s actually a bit of a contrast to something like the Avara AV3 custom which offered a bit of hiss on the same high gain R8 4.4mm output yet it is rated with a higher impedance and similar SPL on the official specs. I suspect the selection of drivers for the UE5 Pro might be a little less sensitive to noise.
In any event, low gain on a 3.5mm line out with the stock cable will work just fine on most decent DAPs. If you happen to have a balanced IPX cable, for example, Effect Audio’s ConX system then I would recommend switching to a 4.4mm balanced cable just to get that additional dynamic range and snap in the performance which can make a bit of a difference.
Clean or Warm?
Given the fairly clean treble response on the UE5 Pro, I initially came to the testing thinking a smooth or warm sounding source or DAP would do the trick if you are treble sensitive. However, in actual fact, after a few rounds, I still opted for more of a reference and punchy pairing over the smoother combos.
For example, the iBasso DX240 with AMP11 MKIII will not shy away from emphasizing the contrast between those two BA drivers with a punchy low-end and a clean and sparkling high easily evident. But what it also does is keep the mids very clean and clear and allow vocals to come through clearly which for a relatively flat midrange is a good thing in my book.
In contrast, I felt the HiBy RS6 was a bit too warm with the UE5 Pro, with a slight bit of bloat on the lows, and a midrange that didn’t really feel as open or as precise. Of the two the DX240 did better at opening up the staging and bringing in some much need air for the mids to breathe.
One DAP that did shine really well with the UE5 Pro despite me thinking it might be too smooth was the iBasso DX320 with AMP13. This is a sweet-sounding analog tube amp coloration but also one with a lot of staging capability.
Go with the low voltage output 3.5mm output if you want to emphasize the male vocal performances a bit more and switch to the maximized output 3.5mm alternative if you want to keep the low-end punchy with this combo.
Both outputs have some nice treble sweetness that dulls down that propensity for the UE5 Pro to sound a little sharp on the upper mids and reduces the potential for vocal sibilance.
Perhaps my favorite combo was with the Chord Electronics Mojo 2. Of all the tested devices the bass response from the UE5 Pro dug the deepest with the strongest fundamental. No doubt that 600mW 3.5mm output rating and the Mojo 2’s excellent dynamic range play a role here.
It is not just the stellar depth and slam but also the staging width and imaging accuracy with the Mojo2/UE5 Pro pairing which yielded the best stereo imaging performance of the tested sources.
If you find the stock neutral tone of the Mojo 2 injecting a bit too much treble liveliness you can always dip into its EQ system and drop the treble shelf by a few dB to soften it. Personally, I never found the combo to overcook or thin out the treble from the UE5 Pro using the stock SuperBaX cable.