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REVIEW: Unique Melody Merlin - hybrid dynamic/balanced armature custom IEM - Page 4post #46 of 9439/15/11 at 7:34pm
Gear mentioned in this thread:post #47 of 9439/15/11 at 8:11pmpost #48 of 9439/15/11 at 11:26pm
Mine arrived today too :) .. altho I think i ordered mine a lil bit earlier (late july) than you guys.... So far I think I like the merlin better than my Miracle.... Merlin is just like the Miracle (mids/highs) with extra 'duff duff' on lowspost #49 of 9439/17/11 at 3:07pmThread StarterQuote:
Someone who owns both? Cool! I'd love to hear more about your impressions once you log some hours on the Merlins. I also found them very similar but each with their own distinct focus, even in the mids and highs.post #50 of 9439/17/11 at 8:18pm
Could you please do an in-depth comparison, if and when time permits? I, and many others here I'm sure, would greatly appreciate it.post #51 of 9439/18/11 at 12:26ampost #52 of 9439/18/11 at 8:30am
Well, I've given my Merlins the weekend, several sources and a couple of amps to play and I think I can write up some kind of review - go easy, this is my first "real" one!
First and foremost, I have to say that the Merlin sound is NOT what I was expecting. It is (I guess) marketed as a "basshead" IEM, with the promo catalog describing the sound signature as "fun" - which is often a euphemism for "inaccurate". Not really the case here at all, in fact I found the Merlins to have a much higher level of what I perceived to be "true" sound than anything else I own - of course the price point is almost twice that of my next most expensive IEM (Westone 4) so I would have been disappointed with anything less.
OK, I take a reasonably guilty pleasure in being a basshead. Well, maybe not a basshead but more a lover of deep cavernous resonant frequencies (I tell myself this to ease the shame). Do Merlins have the bass they claim? Yes. Do they have excessive bass? On a flat EQ, definitely not. I'm no stranger to a hybrid driver IEM, having extensively used the UE SuperFi 5EB which was/is notorious for having huge unrefined midbass pounding from the 13.5mm dynamic - that would routinely overpower the single balanced armature for mids and highs irrespective of EQ setting. UM have addressed this deficiency twofold: first by doubling up on mids/highs with twin dual-BAs, and second by reducing the size of the dynamic driver to 10mm with a "less is more" ethos. The result is a virtually bottomless sub-bass response with virtually zero bleed into mids and no midbass hump that I could discern. This allows for a highly 3-dimensional presentation with exceptional separation of frequencies, pushing the bass into a position where it is an ominous wall of rumble behind the rest of the instrumentation rather than being the primary focus of the soundscape as is frequently the case with the SF5EB. I used several bass-prominent tracks across 3 different players (iPhone 4, iPod Classic 7th gen, Sansa Clip+ - the latter two both with and without amps) to gauge the adaptability of the phones, and found the Merlins to be largely unaffected by the different formats. The tracks I used specifically for bass performance are as follows:
Autechre: Perlence Subrange 3 (FLAC)
Last Step: My Home Recordings (320kbps MP3)
Altered:Carbon: Dimi The Twin (320kbps MP3)
How To Destroy Angels: The Space Inbetween (ALAC)
Ochre: Lunar Suburbia (320kbps MP3)
and possibly the most bass-heavy/frequency intense track I have, Meat Beat Manifesto: Hellfire. This track was of particular interest to me because of the unique ability it seems to have in causing driver flex (at my normal listening volume) in every pair of universal IEM I own, including Radius DDM1 and Denon AH-C710. On playing the track for the first time I winced at the point where the first popping would happen, only to be met with the harsh bassline sans-flex.
I don't have an extensive array of amps to sample, but I used a Practical Devices XM5 with the iPod, and a SoundMagic A10 with the Clip+. I used Equalizer and EQu with the iPhone 4 with flat setting and various combinations of enhancement.
I can admit to being ambivalent in the past on the presence and prominence of midrange in the music I listen to, having always liked a V-shaped EQ on most devices I've owned. One thing I found with the Merlins is that despite the huge bass presence, the dual-BA mids are still clearly on show and have pushed so much sound forward in my music that I feel like I need to re-listen to everything to pick up what I've missed! It's contradictory to say that these phones have enhanced bass, enhanced mids and enhanced treble, so I guess the reason for this new clarity again falls down to the highly refined frequency separation, and the competence of the crossovers to achieving that end. The only comparison I can fairly make in this regard is against Westone 4, and while I do find W4 to be a really well-rounded performer with great detail and separation, they are clearly out of their depth against the Merlin (and I would assume all other high-end customs - sorry music_4321) in their ability to deliver clarity without sacrificing either of the extremes on the frequency spectrum.
I don't listen to a lot of rock music, but I gave some time to Faith No More: Angel Dust and Polkadot Cadaver: Purgatory Dance Party and found that the male vocals were delivered clearly and powerfully without any sound encroachment from the distorted guitars or lower pitch keyboards. For a heavier genre again, I listened to Strapping Young Lad: Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing and was pleasantly surprised that it didn't sound like a muddy wall of noise as I expected it would through IEMs.
I generally don't get too picky about treble on the proviso that it sounds natural and is not sibilant. This is why I don't mind when phones such as Klipsch Image X10 are rolled off on the top because I don't really miss the absence of big "sparkle", and find phones that do have a lot of it, such as my JVC HA-FXT90 become fatiguing sooner rather than later. I've also noticed that treble that reproduces a "manufactured" flavour of treble (for mine, Denon AH-C710 makes a cymbal hit sound too flat in timbre as if it is a recording of a recording) is irritating so again I have to applaud the Merlin's ability to get it right - I gave considerable run time to the binaural Explorations In Space And Time album that was publicised here on head-fi and could find no real fault in the presentation of the high end - crash and ride cymbals presented with very clear timbre and natural decay, no sibilance in the attack of the hit and simultaneous hits were still recognisable individually. I also listened to Attrition: Kissing A Virtual Angel for the high quality of solo violin and found the clarity literally breathtaking - searing mournful notes piercing into my brain with so much precision and reproduction that I could swear the soloist was in the room with me.
My motivation for customs was for higher quality sound, naturally. But also because I have had problems achieving a balance between comfort and fit in my left ear - A good fit would be uncomfortable, a comfortable fit would have poor isolation or keep falling out of my ear. Buds are not an option because they just don't sit in my ear structure at all and I don't like wearing headphones outside the house. The audiologist confirmed that my left ear canal is a little bit oddly shaped, and very asymmetrical to the other - it took 3 attempts to get a usable impression. Luckily the returned fit is perfect for both ears, so I would like to think that this is the end of my issues in that respect - I can't see why it would be a problem in the future. The shells themselves are very comfortable, the left earpiece has a couple of tiny airbubbles in the canal mould but given the sound performance and fit quality, I am not in the slightest way concerned about that. The cable does tend to tangle a little easily but I'm considering getting an upgrade with mic and controls anyway so again no big issue.
The only negative thing that I think is worth including in this report is in accessories, specifically an included carry case. I realise that the money paid goes to the custom fit and high quality drivers, but I would gladly trade the ostentatious burgundy desktop case within which the IEMs are packaged, for a crush-proof portable such as the one included with Westone IEMs or even similar to the tin that UE includes with the TripleFi 10. I bought a $4.95 Lexar SD card case and chopped out the pockets for an effective, if not very cramped, crushproof solution. UM's catalog indicates they have a semi-crush proof case available, but does not specify whether it is free or at extra cost. At any rate it is easily remedied.
UM offer various options in terms of customisable design. I considered getting custom artwork but since I really liked the look of the display photos on the site, and did not want buyer's regret with some art that I may not like in the future, I went with the default.
The Merlins are easily the best IEMs I have heard, and are a reason to listen to old music again. They are not cheap by any stretch, and even with 20% discount for a group buy exceeded $700 in total - but after using these IEMs for any length of time I can't even A-B them against my collection of universals without wondering why I didn't get them sooner. Ignorance is bliss I suppose. Hardcore bassheads will get plenty of what they want from Merlins, and may find that the overall presentation inspires them to branch out and appreciate other aspects of music with as much passion as with the bottom end. I am keen to read more opinions on Merlin vs. Miracle as to whether those who choose the Merlin are really missing out on something better, or merely something different but for myself, I think for the forseeable future I have reached the ceiling of what I am looking for in IEMs.
Now, about that Arrow 4G...post #53 of 9439/18/11 at 9:03am
Nice review. Makes me even more enthusiastic to get mine.
As far as a case, most of the other manufacturers are putting them in Pelican cases. They are generic Pelicans with their custom logo printed on them. As an alternative to Pelican, you can also check out Otterbox. They can be had for under $20.post #54 of 9439/18/11 at 11:33amThread Starter
Agreed - very well done. I got a clear sense of everything you were describing, and agree with it based on my experiences with the Merlin. I appreciate the references to the Westone, Radius, and Denon models. I often get asked about comparisons with top universal offerings, but unfortunately I haven't tried many of the newer ones.
By the way - I picked up a GPS case for roughly $7 at Target, and it works very well for storing my Merlins plus a Sansa Clip+. They usually have some type of elastic "hinge" that will require snipping so it can open all the way. I have one just like this:
Edited by project86 - 9/18/11 at 11:34ampost #55 of 9439/18/11 at 12:43pmpost #56 of 9439/18/11 at 5:22pm
I should also have my Merlin's sometime this week. So I've got a few reviews and A/B compares coming up, and sometime around november I'll have the HP-P1 also. Very much so looking forward to hearing your review bajaiman. I'm sure you'll enjoy the Miracle as much as I've enjoyed mine. Hoping that the Merlin will fill in the gaps. :Dpost #57 of 9439/18/11 at 5:32pm
Quote:Originally Posted by Acesi7
I should also have my Merlin's sometime this week. So I've got a few reviews and A/B compares coming up, and sometime around november I'll have the HP-P1 also. Very much so looking forward to hearing your review bajaiman. I'm sure you'll enjoy the Miracle as much as I've enjoyed mine. Hoping that the Merlin will fill in the gaps. :D
Hmm, I'm curious to know. What made you consider the Merlins my friend, having already owned the Miracles?post #58 of 9439/18/11 at 9:25pm
I won’t be able to do an indepth comparison for the life of me as my ears are no way qualified to do those comparisons. So I’ll just write what I think or whatever comes to my mind when comparing the Miracle with Merlin. My choice of music are pop, jazz vocal and a little bit of hip hop and R&B. I don’t listen to classical, rock or heavy metal. I used flac files (about 800-1400 kbps compression) to Audio-GD NFB3 then to Audio-GD C2C amp. If I'm out and about then I'm using Cowon J3.
Like those already said they are suited for different flavours of music and I totally agree with that. I’ve got my Miracles for the last 6 months or so and the Merlin for the last few days and I can tell you that they compliment each other quite well…. When I had just a pair Miracle I was hoping to buy something with different flavor of music at times I wish the miracle would have a lil bit of more low end.
This is my personal view so please take it with a grain of salt… other people may/will have different experiences.
After listening to Miracles for the last 6 months …then switched to Merlin… I was like…’wow…. the bass … theres plenty of those….’ When I heard the Merlin for the first time I thought the Merlin is just like Miracle with extra low end but after listening on it a bit more I noticed that the Merlin makes the music ‘warmer’ or ‘mellower’…..even too warm on SOME songs. It loses some of the ‘clarity’ or ‘brightness’ from the Miracle. Going from Merlin to Miracle the amount bass is definitely reduced but it makes the song brighter/more clarity ….
When I listen the music with Miracle I feel like I’m positioned just a bit further from the performer compared to Merlin....this could just be me imagining things
I think Project86 has the best of both worlds… Miracle balanced sound with a lil bit more of low end compared to normal Miracle… but not as much as the Merlin…. That would be just perfect I think .
If you are on the fence thinking to buy either miracle of merlin…then I think you can’t go wrong on either of them providing that you’re not comparing them side by side as they have different sound signitures. But if someone put a gun on my head and tell me to pick one … then I’ll pick the Miracle. Why?... Now that I know what I’m missing (a bit of clarity/brightness) going from Miracle to Merlin (my copy at least) I could live without the extra bass on the Merlin. I thought I like bass better but I was a bit wrong there…. I bought the Merlin for different flavor of music and as a backup just incase something happen to the Miracle….which certainly fulfill its purpose as a different flavor but I hope I won’t have to face about the backup issue later…
Edited by bajaiman - 9/19/11 at 1:34ampost #59 of 9439/19/11 at 3:20amQuote:
Basically, to bridge the gap. There's some music that I listen to on the train on the way to work. Or when I'm out on a walk/run. That I'm not really doing any 'critical' listening, and I just want that real bass slam to give me the energy to keep running or brighten my day a little. But I don't want that all the time. In fact I will probably only want it in those 2 situations. And given the choice of waiting for something like the JH3A which has adjustable bass (which I am still considering), or having a iPod Classic > HP-P1 with both the Miracle and Merlin. I've got everything I could ask for really. So to me the decision was a no brainer. If what I've heard and read is to be believed. These will be great for that application. All the highs and mids of the Miracle with a little more kick, even if it does lose a little control. I think the 'fun' of it will be my main focus.
Also, and this is more of a stupid thing, but I had an awesome idea for artwork on them, and just couldn't resist putting it on something.Return HomeBack to Forum: Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors
- REVIEW: Unique Melody Merlin - hybrid dynamic/balanced armature custom IEM
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