Disclaimer: The Unique Melody ME1 was sent to us directly from Unique Melody in exchange for this review.
Everyone knows Unique Melody nowadays but it hasn’t always been like this. There was a time where the Chinese company had a hard time getting in to the European and American markets: they had several websites and social media accounts and things just weren’t clear if you didn’t speak Chinese.
Fast forward to 2017 and UM now is everywhere, they are more structured, have a clear product line up, better communication, website and especially good representation. MusicTeck in the US together with Lawrance Lee really have made it easy for everyone to get familiar with the brand and I want to thank them for all the help given.
Unique Melody has been in the news very regularly lately: first when they launched the ME1 and then later with the launch of the Mason and Mentor V3. The Mason actually is the successor to the Maestro V2 but as that unit had different names depending on the market, UM has now updated the model to the Mason name. Again, another proof of UM getting better structure. My Mason V3 CIEM is being developed at this exact moment in a lab in China and if all goes well, it should be with me before the end of the year.
Long story short: Unique Melody – with their latest models – is one of the most popular players in the market today.
The ME.1 is a planar magnetic inear monitor, it uses the orthodynamic technology which companies such as Hifiman, Fostex and Audeze have been developing and using. The driver inside the ME.1 measures 18.5mm. The most famous planar magnetic IEM probably still is the bigger driver using Audeze iSine, but more on that later. Unique melody has the following to say about (the use of) this technology in their ME.1:
The rise and success of planar magnetic drivers in personal audio doesn’t come as a surprise – the precision in driver control that the technology offers allows for phenomenal audio fidelity. For many years, the challenge has been overcoming the hurdles of scaling the technology down to fit in an earpiece.
Developed from the ground up, the ME.1 came to be after over a year of R&D, multiple revisions and prototypes, as well as constant feedback from supporters and individuals we had the pleasure of meeting at audio expositions around the world. Solidifying those ideas into reality, we’ve created a product that we believe is truly special.
But it doesn’t just stop there, Unique Melody also introduced an acoustic filter in this IEM that attenuates the outside noise at specific frequencies to reduce the potential for hearing damage. What many people don’t know is that UM has quite the experience with hearing aids and hearing protection, and with the ME.1 they combine all their knowledge in to a unique IEM where an acoustic treatment tube helps to normalize the pressure that the planar technology builds up in your ear. It’s actually able to eliminate a significant level of harmonic distortion from the drivers, particularly helping to create a cleaner tone in the upper mid and treble region. Developing the ME.1 wasn’t easy and it took UM a few years to get the ME.1 right. From the shows and the prototypes, a lot of listener feedback was used to get to the final design. And UM certainly succeeded in delivering a high quality universal IEM.
At the same time everyone knew Audeze was also working on their version of a planar IEM and there was some online discussion to who actually was first with this new type of inears. To me it doesn’t really matter as the iSines as well as the ME.1 are really great and different. The unique Melody ME.1 comes in both a universal as well as a custom shell. Our review sample is the universal fit one.
Packaging & Build Quality
When the UM ME.1 arrived we did an unboxing and first look video of it on our Headfonia Video Channel. Check out the video:
As you can see in the video, the ME.1 ones comes in a beautiful wooden box worthy of a flagship model. Inside the two-layered box you find the monitors in a very special rubber UFO case and a whole set of accessories. (see later). While the packaging certainly is impressive, it isn’t the most important. Yet it’s always nice to see a perfectly finished box when you paid good money for something.
The ME.1’s universal version has a 3D-printed shell from medical grade acrylic. The iconic grills, connectors, nozzle and everything is perfectly finished. No glue or sharp edges, but a perfect smooth build quality. On the inside of the nozzles there’s a metal mini spiral to block unwanted dirt and wax from entering the shell. It looks very sturdy yet at the same time you can’t very well clean it that deep in the nozzle. There are no spare spirals either, so I suggest to clean your inears very regularly, especially when you know you have a lot of wax build-up.
Looks, Comfort & Isolation
I love the way the ME.1 was designed as it doesn’t look like anything you’ve ever seen before. The 18.5mm driver is hiding behind a very sexy small grill that makes me think of that beautiful Audeze LCD-grill. When the ME.1’s where on my desk my colleagues actually asked me what they were as they don’t expect an IEM design like this. In that regard the size and grill certainly draw (positive) attention.
The ME.1 isn’t the smallest IEM on the market and it will stick somewhat out of your ear. I have seen several people look at me weird when wearing these in the train. So yes they’re bigger than a “normal” IEM but they’re also a lot smaller than the iSine inears. Both the Audeze as the UM IEM have an open back design and so sound will leak in and out of your IEM. While I never really got to like the iSines on the go, I actually find the ME.1 to perform pretty good outside. Of course people will hear your music when you crank it all open but I suggest you to never listen at levels that loud. Of course sound also leaks it but it doesn’t interfere too much with the music and the sound quality. And the big advantage is that you still hear what’s happening around you. So all in all I really like the design as you always get qualitative sound and you’re safe at the same time
The ME.1 is smaller than the 30mm driver iSine and it is more inside of your ear, where the Audeze float more next to it. The experience and feeling is different and they both are comfortable yet the ME.1 starts hurting my inner ear a little after hours of continuous use, simply because they’re deeper in the ear canal. With normal use however the ME.1 is very comfortable.
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