As much as I love venturing to all the different nooks and crannies of the vast world of audio, my first love was with IEMs and I am by far most experienced with them over all else audio related. In terms of custom fit monitors and the more expensive models, I have covered most of them and if I don’t own a particular brand, then I have likely demoed it at the very least. But of the big name brands the one that has eluded me the longest was UM… Unique Melody. This Chinese brand have been one of the biggest hitters in the custom terrain for as long as I have been around, so a good 5 years! There is a UK website but it hasn’t been updated in a while, so it isn’t particularly useful! They seem to have got their international act together along with some new US distribution in MusicTeck. It seems like finally you can get some Unique Melody goodies wherever your are in the world and without stress… phew! Just to show my luck, after years going to shows and visiting CIEM dealers all over the world, I actually bumped into some UM earphones in Munich on the weekend just gone by, maybe its just a good sign for them penetrating the Europe scene!
So the product I have in for review is their most packed inside featuring 12 balanced armature drivers. Labeled the Maestro (UM have a thing for using the letter M), I have the universal incarnation. While it is not out of the ordinary for a CIEM to now have a universal offering, I remember when it was a bit more unheard of and Unique Melody were known for letting people buy universal demo units, fortunately it is now a staple option for them. The universal is a bit cheaper than the custom version running for $1,449!
Coming in a small and slogan branded cube, the packaging is simplistic nearing the level of Campfire Audio. On opening the box you get a yet another smaller cardboard square and a metal UM branded tin. The second box homes the range of accessories you get included, specifically a cleaning cloth, 1/4 inch adapter, cleaning tool and selection of tip sizes for both silicone and foam varieties. That leaves the metal tub to contain the earphones. This is more of a storage case being quite heavy and it reminds me of a less blingy version of what Lear provide. For portable use, the Maestro’s also come with a little drawstring pouch!
Considering that Unique Melody are first and foremost a CIEM company with an elaborate range of exciting designs, I think what they chose to go with for their standard universal design is quite bland. It looks fine, don’t get me wrong, a solid black shell with a carbon fibre faceplate but I find it a little disappointing that they choose to opt for this same shell design for all their universal models. They actually have four possible colour designs for their universals, the one I have, an aluminium faceplate or an all white/black shell with the UM logo on it. However a distributor normally only stocks one and most choose the one I have, so the others are a possibility, but location dependent. I am not 100% sure if sizes are different but I would like an obvious identifier between the different models, hence I got confused and thought that the Martian was a Maestro when I came across it in Munich! It would be nice for some more premium faceplates as the models get more expensive or at the very least a different colour UM font to differentiate models. I know the Martian is going to have its own special design so they do seem to be heading in the right direction!
Looking further at the product we have on hand it is a big “universal” fit earphone. The whole point of a universal fit model is that it is accessible to everyone and anyone. I mentioned this in the Heir IEM 10.0 review but with the growing number of balanced armature in earphones today, universals are getting a lot bigger, with JH Audio leading the charge in stupid sizes. While the faceplate profile is not strange for this over the ear style of monitor, it is the depth that is just crazy. Josh’s small ears did seal with it fine but looking at him while wearing was quite hilarious! They completely hang out of the bowls of his ear.
Personally though I find them pretty comfy. The depth of the shells does stop them wandering too deep down your ear canal and isolation could consequently be a little better but they aren’t intrusive. The fully acrylic shells are also very light which is also ideal and they are know worse built than any other brand of this style IEM. The cable is also a pretty standard ordeal but I found it to tangle way too easily.
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