The Ucotech ES-P1 are one of the top of the line Earbuds that are manufactured and developed completely in Korea. Now this is a 400 US dollar earbud, so it is priced at the higher end, but it really has some unique characteristics that make it stand out, so I am quite excited to check these out.
The unboxing experience with these is very premium, as you would expect at this price.
Inside of a nicely textured red box, you get an international warranty registration card, which includes an omni card, which is a loss prevention device that connects to your smartphone, you can make it ring and vibrate, and it gives you the GPS location if you lose it, so this is a pretty interesting thing to be included with earphones,
you get a manual, then you get a leather carrying bag, inside which you’ll find a removable MMCX cable with an 3.5mm L jack, and then you get some doughnut foams with these, along with some ear wings that should help them stay in your ears better, though, I didn’t find the ear wings to work well in my large ears.
Then you get another more compact carrying case, which is what I use to store these, and inside these, you get another removable MMCX cable with a 4 pin 2.5 inch balanced jack, and you can use this one to get a balanced connection if you have a high end AMP like the xDSD I reviewed.
The ES-P1 are made with a CNC cut brass housing, which feels reassuringly heavy in hand, and they do look extremely well constructed. You can see in these macro shots how precisely cut they are.
The cable that comes with these also feels very premium and strong in hand, and right from the connector jack, to the MMCX connectors, it matches the earphones perfectly.
The cable does have markings for left and right earbuds, even though it isn’t easily visible, but that’s not an issue as the cutouts on these earbuds, which should go towards the back of your ears will let you know which one is for which side.
Ucotech is using a patented double dome diaphragm in these, which should make these sound great, but we’ll talk about the sound in a minute.
These have an impedance of 160ohms, which is rather high for an earbud, and this made me think that they won’t work well with a smartphone, and will need an amplifier. But they work surprisingly well with a OnePlus 6, and even better with an iPad Mini 5, but if your phone has a weak amplifier, like you generally find in budget phones, then it will not be able to drive these to high enough volumes.
These also work very well with even budget amps like Fiio E10K, and the other higher end amps will of course make them sound even better.
The comfort on these is pretty great, as you would expect with earbuds. My ears are 1cm larger than the world average, so it almost feels like they are not there in my ears when I am wearing them, so I can wear them for long periods.
But these earbuds are kind of heavy compared to other plastic earbuds, so some people may feel their weight in their ears after long periods. These also have sharp edges, so if you tilt your head left or right, like when you’re laying in a bed, then the edges will kind of touch the insides of your ears, which doesn’t feel great.
But overall, the comfort on these is pretty good.
EARBUDS VS IEMs
Now finally coming to sound quality, these sound really different than the IEMs that people generally buy at this price point. The difference between these earbuds and IEMs is kind of like the difference between closed and open back headphones, but it is way more magnified due to how these devices are used in your ears.
So unlike an IEM, the earbuds don’t create a seal in your ears and isolate it from outside noises, instead they just sit in your ears. The advantage this gives you is that you don’t get that feeling of the sound playing deep inside your ears that a lot of people don’t like, but it sounds more like a small speaker that you have put in your ears. It also gives a bigger scale to the instruments, so it kind of feels like a middle ground between in ear monitors, and on ear headphones.
The open nature of the sound also makes voices and instruments sound more natural, and comfortable to listen to.
But because of the lack of isolation, it is difficult for earbuds to generate the same kind of bass that IEMs do, and because you don’t get the same isolation, it’s also difficult to hear all the minute details from an earbud if you’re not in a quiet environment. People with different size and shape of the ears will also hear them a little differently, as that affects the position and isolation.
So these earbuds have an ‘open air dynamic sound’ and that means that they provide very little noise isolation. So you ARE going to be hearing outside noise in these, and these actually also leak a lot of sound, so even at the normal listening volume, people close to you will easily be able to hear what’s playing.
So the bass on these is great for an earbud, but because of the lack of isolation and seal, the bass won’t sound great for music that relies on very deep bass to sound great.
The mid bass is audible, so bass guitars in tracks sound nice and natural, and drums have a really great fullness to them, and you feel the thump when they get it, but if you’re listening to something that has artificial bass like in electronic tracks, then that is not going to sound great.
So all the music with natural instruments sounds great, but as the sub-bass isn’t very audible, so purely electronic tracks don’t sound good. Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy is a very popular track that depends a lot on the electronic bassline that it has, and it really doesn’t sound great on these earbuds. Deadmau5 and similar artists also won’t sound great on it, so if you listen to a lot of that kind of music, I don’t think that these will be the best choice.
But for the kind of music that audiophiles generally listen to, these do provide a very nice, open, and natural presentation of bass.
Now coming to the mids, they just sound absolutely phenomenal on these earbuds, and they really exceeded all my expectations, even when considering the price range.
The vocals sound amazingly natural on these, while still retaining all the details, which I just didn’t think was possible.
Even the smallest of the voice modulations by singers are easily audible on these, and it still doesn’t sound even slightly analytical, which is really great. I have been going back to many tracks in my playlist which prominently focus on vocals just because singers sound so great with these.
Even when people are singing in duets, you can easily separate the male and female vocals, which makes it really enjoyable.
Now while they have this magic in the vocals that are recorded naturally, like in tracks of Queen, Celine Dion, and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, if you listen to music which has processed vocals, like lot of the newer pop music, or even some of the BTS Tracks I listened to, it’s not going to have the same magic with those tracks. It still sounds great, but the unprocessed vocals really sound ‘Godlike’ on these.
So the mids on these are their greatest strength, and the majority of tracks obviously have a major focus on the singer, so that really adds to their value.
Now highs on these are a little complicated. So looking at the sound signature, you’ll see that there is a significant roll off in the treble, but listening to them, they don’t sound like the highs are recessed, which is a good thing. This might be due to the fact that they are now shipping these with doughnut foams that have a hole in the center instead of the regular kind of foam, but the overall presentation of highs is really great, it sounds detailed without getting even a little bit fatiguing, and instruments sound really lifelike.
But an issue that I feel with these in the high end, is that while it sounds really good if you have a single, or a few instruments playing, if you’re listening to something that has a lot going on, then that won’t get resolved very well. So while they do sound detailed, they aren’t able to handle the busier parts of tracks very well, and this keeps you from getting that hi fidelity experience that you would expect at this price point, in tracks that have a lot going on.
Now the IEMs manufacturers are shoving 8 balanced armature drivers into their products, that push sound in your ear canal, while also isolating it, so it’s not a fair comparison, but this is something that I feel people buying these will need to know.
A good thing about these is that they have a relaxed nature of sound, so tracks like Tame Impala’s “The less I know the better” sounds really great on these compared to my other gear that is more analytical, and the same goes for other similar music that isn’t recorded or mixed very well, so these are more Forgiving to the bad recordings.
Now the soundstage on these is not exceptional, but it is still very good. So the width of the sound coming to your ears is quite large, but then the positioning of different instruments isn’t much wider than that initial point, so the soundstage goes from wide to very wide, instead of going from inside of your head to a distant point from your ears. But it still sounds very enjoyable, and I like the overall presentation of sound.
And that finally takes us to answering the inevitable question of this review, whether they are worth their $400 dollar price tag. And the answer is not a clear yes or no for everyone, and this really will be the longest conclusion of any video that I have made.
So firstly, If you’re an earbud enthusiast, and you understand the pros and cons of Earbuds, then these will definitely be worth it to you, and you’ll be really happy that someone even bothered to make an earbud of this potential. I really haven’t seen many earbuds, even at the high end that are built nearly as well, and offer removable MMCX cable, which is something that I consider essential for high end audio gear. So people who love earbuds for what they offer will be really pleased by the overall package with the ES-P1.
Then secondly, If you already have a collection of similarly priced audio gear, and you already have great sounding IEMs and headphones, then they will also be a worthy addition to your collection if you can afford to do that, because they’ll do what none of your other audio gear will do, and I know that because I’ll also be using these over my other audio devices for a lot of tracks, and for movies and TV shows, because they do have a presentation of sound that I prefer listening to for that application.
But If you are a person who doesn’t already have high end IEMs, then what you will have to understand is that these are not going to provide the best technical sound quality that you would get by going for an IEM that’s even half of their price. These are not going to sound great with tracks that depend on hard hitting bass, electronic tracks, or tracks that sound great only when you can hear all the micro details in the highs.
Now what they do offer is an open nature of sound, with a scale that you won’t get with IEMs, and they offer a performance in vocals that is really on a next level that will make the unprocessed vocals sound really amazing, but at this price point, whether you go with IEMs, headphones, or with speakers, you will be finding devices that are all rounders, while the ES-P1 don’t sound great with all kinds of music.
So with all of those points into consideration, these are going to be worth it for a lot of people, but not everyone is going to be pleased by them. So you will have to decide what you want from an audio device.
So I hope I was able to describe the strengths and weaknesses of these earbuds. These are available to purchase on Ucotech Website, and on Amazon US, but I’ll try to include more links if I find them.
⭐ Buy on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2T0gpXO