Review: Unique Melody Mason V3 – Groot!

Silver

 

With the silver option, my absolute favorite, you get a tighter and faster Mason V3, with more energy, precision and increased dynamics. The clarity level is very high and every little detail is audible. Sound stage wise this combo also is wider and it’s more spacious sounding with more precise separation. You don’t have the romantic treats the copper delivers, but instead you get a more neutral, yet natural sound with excellent precision.

Bass has a good presence and is tight and fast. You get a very good level of detail, clarity and precision. Bass reaches down deep and show excellent layering. Bass is just above neutral but not too shy either, especially with the DB-GO module activated. This is the perfect definition of high level bass for me.

The mids section has great clarity, detail and precision. Top level dynamics and energy are what you’ll find here but it’ll always sound natural. The detail level is high and everything is spot on, delivered in a fast, tight and at the same time, musical way. The upper mids and especially the treble is very clear and energetic. Treble is extended, lively and has a lot of detail without ever sounding harsh or without giving the impression it’s all too much.

No matter if you prefer copper or silver, the Mason V3 is playing at a very high level. Perfection? It’s always dangerous to say so as technologic development never stands still, but yes, it’s really close to it.

7. Competitors/Comparisons

The original Maestro V1 has always been one of my favorite customs. It’s fast, clean and very clear with bass that has good impact but isn’t the absolute tightest. The V3 version is better in everything tough: it’s more precise, more natural, richer, wider, deeper, more extended and it has better decay. At the same time I really still dig its sound but the Mason V3 is just miles ahead compared to the original. Of course the original only had one sound signature, unlike the Mason V3 which has 4 with the help of the cable and DB-Go  module. When I go back to the to the V1 I’m always pleasantly surprised with the intensity, speed and excellent layering it (still) offers but the Mason V3’s technicalities surpass those of its oldest brother. There’s no shame in that really as technology has evolved a lot over the years. But don’t go thinking the V1 is “passé” now, I’ll still happily listen to it all day long.

The Jomo Audio Flamenco is another top contender and like the Mason V3 you can change the sound signature, here with the help of the treble and bass switches. Both monitors perform at very high level but to me the Mason V3 is more precise, more spacious and it has better decay. The Mason V3 is the more energetic but the Flamenco certainly is the smoother and more musical one. Both of course have a high level of detail, good depth and great layering. The Mason V3 does sound a tad more spacious, airier and wider. The Flamenco might not be at the same technical level as the V3 is but it makes up for that in enthusiasm, musicality and a smooth delivery.

Another sublime and award winning CIEM is the Vision Ears VE8. Compared to the Mason V3 it’s a bit slower, warmer and thicker sounding. Bass and mids have more body compared to the Mason V3, but that last one is more spacious and has better extension. The Mason V3 has better clarity and presents the sound in a cleaner way where the focus is on detail. The VE8’s delivery is musical and smoother but it’s incredibly good. A lot of people nowadays are saying the VE8, Mason V3 and 64 A18t are the top 3 monitors on the market and they certainly all are up there with the very best. Again, the Mason V3 kicks the VE8’s ass on technicalities and precision, but the VE8 will be very attractive to a lot of listeners because of the thicker mids, bigger hitting bass and high musicality factor.

Noble’s Kaiser Encore has a very clear signature with a looser kind of bass, body wise it’s lighter than say the VE8’s. The mids especially are a little thinner in the Noble but you get great clarity, precision, layering and detail. Focus here is on the bass and treble section, where the Mason V3 doesn’t make a choice. What the Kaiser Encore does, it does perfectly so but not everyone will like it’s typical more v-shaped character. It’s not as easy to listen to as the Mason V3 is. Mason V3 sounds richer, better layered and more spacious. Mason’s presentation is more effortless while the KE is really energetic and fast in the upper regions.

The Earsonics ES10 is very different from the Mason V3. The bass is not as tight and in control and from bass to treble you get a very airy and liquid presentation. The ES10 has this dark and airy something about them and they remind me of an improved model of the Rhines 5-series. The level of detail and layering is good but it‘s not close to that of the Mason V3. The top end also is a lot softer and darker but it’s a very musical monitor with a high head bang factor, more so than it’s precise.

8. Driveability & Sources

All the combinations explained below are with Mason V3 using the silver cable and the DB-GO module set to the +4 boost. That also means in single ended mode, as the special cable is terminated with a 3.5mm plug. A high end monitor deserves a high end source and so we’re only describing the synergy with the very best and hot sources of the moment.

The Astell&Kern SP1000 is my favorite DAP when it comes to multiple BA driver configurations, for some reason it gives them more energy and seeing the Mason V3 has 16 of them, that’s a whole lot of energy! In all seriousness though, the Mason V3 sounds energetic and dynamic when hooked up to the AK and you get a very controlled, detailed, layered and fast sound. The SP1000 is fully in control and bass, mids and treble sound tight and in balance. Bass is fast, tight, well layered and never too much. Bass is perfectly separated from the mids. The mids are very rich and energetic and as the SP1000 is known for preferring the upper mids and treble region, this clearly is noticeable here. Treble is clear, precise and extended without ever going overboard. The combination to my ears is divine. Think detail, richness, clarity and extension, and all that while maintaining a high musicality and energy factor. A high end top quality setup, one of the very very best I have had the pleasure to listen to, and that means a lot looking at the stuff I’ve heard over the years.

The TOTL Sony WM1Z is very different from the SP1000, and often it appeals to the audiophiles not liking the AK SP1000 sound. The Sony is more mellow, warmer and a bit slower but it has great richness and musicality. These characteristics are audible when listening to the Mason V3 as well. A slower but very rich sound with really good layering. You get a smooth, warm and musical approach that’s easier on the ear. The focus here is on the bass and lower mids but treble certainly still is detailed and extended. It’s not as energetic and extended compared to the SP1000 however. If you like your bass you’ll love this combo for sure. Bass has bigger body and comes delivered with bigger impact. It has great layering, detail and depth but it isn’t the tightest or fastest bass. The mids are smooth, musical and rich. They’re a tad slower and smooth but they’re so rich, deep and spacious they’re hard not to like. While treble is detailed, layered and extended, it’s not as fast or precise as the SP1000’s. It’s a softer approach which makes it easier on the ear but it’s still very rich. This combination is extremely pleasing to the ear and it’s really nice to just chill with. For my personal taste it’s missing some speed, clarity, tightness and energy but I’m sure a lot of people would give a kidney for the Sony and Mason V3 combo.

With the Luxury & Precision L6 you get the best of both worlds: the smoothness, musicality and bass of the Sony with the precision, energy and treble of the SP1000. IF you don’t care about the UI, the 6K file limit and just focus on sound, then the L&P L6 is one of the very best sources on the market. Bass body and impact are more like that of the Sony but they’re tighter and faster like the SP1000. Bass here logically has good body, excellent layering and good depth. Bass impact is really nice and bass is tight and dynamic. The rich are a little smoother with great richness, depth and spaciousness. Mids are musical and easy on the ear, but they’re livelier than on the Sony. The treble section is extended and energetic with good layering and precision. At the same time they are easy on the ear just like the bass and mids. Like I said, if musicality, richness, extension and dynamics are all you care about, you’ve found your perfect setup right here.

The Chord Hugo 2 is detailed, fast, wide, energetic and dynamic. The Mason V3 sounds fast, precise and tight. You get a sound closer to that of the SP1000 but without the focus on upper mids and treble. You get a balanced and linear presentation with tight and fast bass. Bass isn’t the biggest in body and impact, it’s a more neutral kind of bass but with good layering and detail. Personally I still prefer the SP1000s bass over the H2 bass, but that’s me. Mason’s mids are very energetic and fast with top notch precision and clarity, this with a neutral presentation. The treble is energetic and precise but to me a little less musical . Another top quality combo with its own strengths. I wouldn’t specifically buy the Hugo 2 to drive the Mason V3, but if you have one around, you’ll find it’s a great “source” for the Mason V3.

The Chord Mojo seems to be everyone’s friend with a pleasing, detailed and faster sound signature. The bass body and impact here is just above neutral and it to me hits right. Great detail and speed, combined with the right weight, it’s head bang quality. The mids share the exact same characteristic: rich, fast and precise. I do feel the mids are a little softer but it makes them very easy to listen to. In terms of spaciousness and sound stage the Mojo isn’t the strongest in this list, it is audible but it doesn’t prohibit me from really enjoying this combo. Personally I even prefer the Mojo over the Hugo 2 with the Mason V3 in mind. Normally it’s the other way round but with the Mason V3, I would recommend getting the Mojo just for this CIEM.

With all of these sources the UM Mason V3 really sounded exceptional. I have used many more sources and AMPs with the Mason V3 but I can’t say I didn’t like a single one with it.

Conclusion

What an exquisite custom monitor the Unique Melody Mason V3 is. My hopes were very high as I love the Maestro V1 and even gave the ME1 the 2017 award, but it’s safe to say the Mason V3 exceeded them all.

The Mason V3 plays well with all the sources I used it with and it certainly is one of the very best CIEMs on the market at this point. A top quality monitor with these high end qualities doesn’t come cheap, but what you get in return is one of the very best customs out there.

You know what that means right? The UM Mason V3 immediately goes on our recommended CIEM list. HFN approved, and then some.

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

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