Note: This is my first custom so unfortunately I will not be making any comparisons to other customs as I have not heard them.
I mailed my impressions on December 13 and the Miracle arrived at my doorstep on January 13, a turnaround time of exactly one month. This is impressive considering that I chose the cheapest mailing service possible for my impressions and that my order was processed during the holiday rush when the UM lab was very busy. I would like to thank Stephen Guo from custom-iem.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) for making the whole process very smooth. He was patient and prompt in replying to my numerous questions (this was my first custom after all) and even changed my order midway through because I decided on a different color scheme.
The Miracle comes in a classy box along with standard accessories and paperwork such as a cleaning tool and frequency graph. Although the packaging is nice, the box doesn’t seem very practical. It’s something I leave at home and never bring with me. I would have preferred if a more portable custom IEM case was provided, such as those by JHA and 1964 Ears.
Most owners of a UM custom will tell you the build quality is top-notch and this is no exception. The shells are stunning to look at and pictures don’t really do them justice. There are no flaws in the shell that I can see and the artwork came out great. At the moment, the artwork that UM can do is limited and I had to change my design to fit their restrictions, but I’m happy with the results.
The cable reminds me of Westone cables except that it is even softer. I haven’t used it for long enough to comment on the lifetime of the cable but it feels sturdy and has good strain reliefs. The location of the chin slider is just perfect for me, but I can see how it would be a bit short for someone else.
Luckily, the fit was perfect the first time and so I didn’t have to deal with the hassle of a refit. In terms of isolation, I was shocked by the seal I get. I’ve read that customs give slightly less isolation than deep inserting universals, and that UM customs isolate even less because they are shallower. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the Etymotic level isolation that I get with the Miracle, minus the deep insertion. When I placed my order, I asked Stephen if I should get the shells made slightly larger and deeper than normal because I was concerned about the isolation. He advised against it and I am really glad I chose not to do it.
So now we get to the most important part of this review: how does it sound? I prefer listening with a Hifiman hm-601 but for the purpose of this review, all listening was done with a Nuforce uDac-2 playing flac files. Here are my impressions:
If I had to pick a single word to describe the sound it would be “balance”. I have never heard an IEM represent the lows, mids, and highs so evenly – no range of frequencies overpowers another. For the first time, I do not have to apply an EQ. I’ve tried a bunch of IEMs that are regarded as balanced, only to determine that they really are not (to my ears at least). They either have too much bass, the treble is thrown in your face, or the mids are somewhat laid-back. I’ve been buying and selling IEMs in search for a truly balanced sound and the Miracle has concluded my journey.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much in this department based off of some reviews that mostly praised UM for their mids and highs and didn’t say much about the bass. Because of this, I was shocked by bass quality I’ve never heard before. It definitely extends further than the top-tier IEMs I have tried, and there is no mid-bass hump that creeps into the midrange. Don’t get me wrong though, I still would not recommend it to a bass head. As I said above, bass is in complete harmony with the other frequencies so impact wise it is not thunderous. On that same note, it definitely is not light either.
I listen to a lot of stuff with female vocals so mids are pretty important to me. That being said, the mids did not have that “wow factor” on first listen, probably because I was looking for rich sounding vocals. What the Miracle does instead is present the mids with zero coloration, and I have come to appreciate this more and more with each listen. I guess the wow factor came 2 months late for me. Timbre is perfect, with vocals represented so accurately I feel like the singers’ voices reach me with nothing altering the tone along the way. There are times though when that desire for rich sounding vocals surfaces again, so I like to pair it with the hm-601.
I’ve heard lots about UM’s highs and I finally got to experience them. Somehow they were able to reproduce highs that are sparkly without ever being sibilant. I find that treble can be distracting if it is too upfront, and the Miracle does not have this problem. All the little details are present and the sound is lively, while not detracting from the lows and mids. Tonality and extension are excellent as well.
This is purely my opinion, but this area is where the Miracle excels the most. Soundstage usually took a backseat whenever I was pondering a new purchase, but that has completely changed, if that is any indication as to how well soundstage is conveyed here. It is airy and similar to how I described the midrange, it’s like the sound is completely unobstructed. It has good width and height and unlike many IEMs, good depth as well so it doesn’t seem artificial. Also, I found that the soundstage is suitable for all sorts of music. It can convey both intimacy and the feeling of sitting a few rows back in a concert hall, depending on what the music calls for. I’ve let my friends try out the Miracle, and some of the comments from those who were able to jam it into their ears include: “Why do you need a symphony in your head?” and “It’s like she’s singing to me.” I’m not sure what sorcery UM invoked to achieve such results, but the experience is just magical.
The Miracle was my first step into customs so I had really high expectations, and it did not fail to deliver. A lot of readers are probably wondering if the upgrade from universals to customs is worth the price difference. Well to answer that, if this was 2 months ago and I had to make my decision but this time with my current experience, I would without a doubt do it all over again. The comfort, isolation, and especially sound quality are at a different level from the universal IEMs I have tried. Most importantly, the sound quality leaves nothing to be desired, which was always the reason I had the urge to try something else. I should clarify that when I say this, it only takes into consideration the way I like to hear music. This will not be true for everyone so please be aware of that.
The UM Miracle is a strong contender when it comes to high-end IEMs, and hopefully other owners who have also heard other customs will be able to provide more insight. Finally, I would like to thank MaoDi and project86 for their hard work and contributions. Without them, I would not have found this little gem.
Edited by 7swell - 3/6/11 at 6:02am