A while ago, when I was in a dilemma (mind you, it was a good dilemma) of choosing what CIEM to get, I read many reviews on the UM Miracle, JH13, ES5, JH16 and the Rooth LS8. Of those, I narrowed it down to the Miracles, JH13 and LS8 since I was after a more balanced sound signature. I then eliminated the Rooth since there were no local dealers in Australia and they seemed a bit too treble heavy for me. The JH13 and UM Miracle both looked like exceptional CIEMs and there were certainly very much hype surrounding those two, especially the JH13, many people claiming it as the best CIEM that you could buy. However, neither average_joe nor ljokerl had a review up of the JH13 and ljokerl had the UM Miracles and gave them a full 10/10. Eventually, I gave in and got the Miracles and got my impressions and took them down to UM’s Melbourne office.
Note that my listening was carried out via my HDP-R10 (Japanese DX100), SanDisk Clip+ and my Samsung Galaxy S3
**Disclaimer** I am in no way affiliated nor against Unique Melody in any way. I will try to give my unbiased opinions on the UM Miracle. I purchased them myself for the RRP of $980.
Things To Consider
Before you get a custom, you have to decide if a custom is really for you. Do you want to be completely isolated from your surroundings? Are you willing to make the commitment, knowing that if you don’t like them, you will have to sell them off at a large loss? Are you more comfortable with acrylic shoved up your ears or some silicone or foam? If you are from the latter group, you may be better off with going for a top tier universal IEM such as the AKG K3003, FitEar ToGo 334, Tralucent 1plus2, Sennheiser IE800 and the like. They take a while to make and you have to add the cost of an audiologist (around $50) and you may have to send them back for a refit if the fit is not optimal. To me, I found that I wanted more isolation, the comfort levels of a custom that everyone was talking about and didn’t mind waiting for a while, so I jumped the bandwagon.
The Miracles are a 6 balanced armature (BA) driver 3 way IEM. 2 drivers produce the bass, 2 make the midrange and has 2 drivers for the treble. Having the same amount of drivers for every frequency, they are supposed to produce a neutral, balanced sound. Unique melody says “Offering six balanced armature drivers per side, the Miracle offers astounding detail and clarity from high to low, with just the right amount of fun. Don’t expect any noticeable bumps throughout the frequency range though, the Miracle represents the epitome of the epitome of the Unique Melody house sound. Clarity, accuracy, liveliness and detail.” Here are the specifications:
· Frequency Range: 18 Hz – 19kHz
· Impedance: 15.9 ohms
· Sensitivity: 114 dB SPL
· Driver Tech: 6 Balanced Armatures
· Crossover: 3 Way Passive Crossover
· Driver Configuration: 2xHigh, 2xMid, 2xHigh
To order any pair of CIEMs, you just about follow the same steps. Basically, first I contacted UM to get the order form for your order.
This is a relatively large decision as if you change your design midway through before your IEMs are made, you have to start your wait again from scratch, as I learned the hard way. You have to decide what colour you want for the faceplate, shell, tips and what artwork you want on the faceplate. You can browse the web for CIEM designs and pick one of your liking, or if you are good with Photoshop, you can make your own design. Now I think that custom-iem.com has a program where you chose the colours and they will show you about what the CIEMs will look like. Again, this is an important decision because once they are built, there is no way to change the colours unless you rebuild them from scratch.
Next, you should go to an audiologist, preferably an experienced one so that they don’t mess up your impressions. I personally went to Melbourne Audiology Centre and they messed up my impressions the first time, but the second time I had a more experienced person do it and it was fine, but my right ear impression was taken 4 times. Here is a quote from Loquah’s review on what to do when getting your impressions taken:
“When having your impressions taken, be sure to stay completely still and looking straight ahead (you might want to choose a spot on the wall to stare at for the whole time). Different companies recommend different mouth positions (i.e. open, closed, wide open, open & closed) so you may find variation in the instructions. Many audiologists will have bite blocks you can use to hold your mouth still in an open position. I found for the Miracles that a bit block around 1.5cm thick worked best. Importantly, the audiologist may forget to instruct you thoroughly so make sure you remind yourself of the steps provided by your CIEM company and stick to them or it could be a painful wait as you send your brand new CIEMs back to be redone.”
Send Them In
You then send your impressions in to the UM office in Melbourne or straight to UM labs. From what others have said, dealing directly with UM labs may result in you getting your CIEMs back quicker. Next, you just wait and try to forget that you ordered them or even heard of Unique Melody. If you get good impressions, then you shouldn’t need a refit and the wait time is 5-7 weeks normally.
After what seems like a whole year, you will get them. You will probably rip open the packaging as fast as you can an open the box. The unboxing experience is nothing too special and there is a glass paperweight, case, manuals, cloths, a warranty card, a pair of tips, IEM cleaner and a case, which when you open are greeted with the Miracles.
· When you first try to put them in your ears, they will feel weird and uncomfortable, as if the tip of the CIEM is poking your eardrum, but don’t worry, it’s not.
· You will probably fiddle with them and get them in to your ears finally after around 5 minutes if this is your first CIEM. At first, it will be really hard to put in and take out the Miracles (or any CIEM), but after about a week, you eventually get used to it.
· At first, you may not get the perfect seal. This does not mean that they don’t fit properly and you require a refit. Wriggle them around your ears for a while and see if it gets better. When you smile, the seal will break; this happens to most people.
Hopefully, the fit is fine, but if you are positive that after you move it around and after a few days, you still find that it doesn’t have a good seal, then maybe it is time for you to take another trip to the audiologist. When they fit properly, you will be able to tell from the way that they fit snugly against your ear and the sound quality. If it doesn’t fit, there is no bass and everything sounds hollow and terrible. Trust me, you’ll know if they don’t fit. When I first got them, they seemed really uncomfortable, but now that I’ve gotten used to them, they fit extremely well and are just as comfortable, if not better, than any universal. When I’m wearing them, I sometimes forget that they are on at all! However, it is quite uncomfortable and at certain times, even painful to put them in and take them out.
So how is the build quality on these? Unique Melody is known as one of the companies with the best build quality, ahead of JH Audio and on par with Heir Audio, but with less design options. There are a few tiny bubbles that you won’t notice unless you are looking specifically for them. Other than that, the build of these are impeccable.
As you can see from the picture included, I opted to have translucent grey faceplates, tips and bright blue body with large Unique Melody inserts. There is absolutely no point in getting light coloured tips and all it does it show if you have earwax there or not. After a while, it doesn’t look nice and you have to clean it more often for it to not look disgusting.
If you, like me, decide to choose light colours, you will be able to see the 6 drivers in there, which I think is actually quite cool. There are 4 drivers in the middle, which I think are the high and midrange drivers, but I could be wrong and there are 2 others that are closer to the sound bores that could be the 2 bass drivers.
A pic of my Miracles.
This is the standard cable that comes with CIEM from most companies like JH Audio, Ultimate Ears etc. I quite like the right angled jack, but it could be a problem for some phone cases. The cable itself is nice and flexible and it very easy to use. It seems pretty well built, but the braids will probably loosen up over time.
To me at least, service is very important with anything, but especially something expensive like this. To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t bad either. They didn’t have a phone number that you can call, but instead, they have a call back option. At times, UM or Actustoms as they have merged into one company could answer one of my emails in an hour or so, but other times, it would take them 2 or 3 business days to answer and email. UM labs were much more responsive, answering all my emails mostly in less than 10 minutes when the time was reasonable. It is truly a bit of a shame that the overall experience had to be let down by this. UM did still maintain a professional attitude when I was bugging them about where my CIEMs were toward the end. What happened was that Um labs said that my Miracles were already sent out, but UM Aus said that they were still at UM labs. It really is a shame that the customer service isn’t great, because, as you will see later on, the Miracle is a truly exceptional product and when paying almost a grand, I expect to have faster customer service.
Being an acrylic custom moulded IEM, the isolation is great, but naturally, it will be bested by silicone CIEMs such as the Spiral Ears SE5. However, you need not worry about isolation with any CIEM because the isolation on my pair is already great and sometimes I actually wish that I had a bit less isolation in order to hear what others are saying. When there is no music playing, you have to sort of lean towards someone to hear what they are saying if they are talking at a normal volume. To sum up, there is a lot of isolation and it is completely enough, but if you feel like, for some reason, require even more isolation, you should go with a silicone based CIEM.
Finally, we are at the sound section after a long time. From what I read, I certainly had high hopes for this custom and it didn’t disappoint. Initially, they were nothing special and they were a bit muddy and lacking detail. After 50 hours, the sound settled down and after 100 hours, I don’t think that it will change any more (or my brain has fully adapted to it if you don’t believe in BAs burning in.
The Miracles are often praised for their nice and natural presentation and after I got accustomed to them, I now see what it is really about.
The soundstage, while not massive, is very respectable and I am continuing to be surprised at what an in ear moniter can actually do. Every single note played in beautifully portrayed and pianos and guitars sound like a live performance.
Extremely accurate and never congested, the Miracles have a heap of detail, but doesn’t hit you in the face with it. While they may not wow you upon the first listen, I am appreciating them more and more with every song that I listen to with these jewels.
The sound is very neutral and the mids are a bit recessed. By recessed, I don’t mean that they are recessed until the music is a bit unenjoyable (cough cough TF-10 cough) but it is more a “neutral V” sound if that makes sense. The bass it a bit north of neutral and the treble has a good amount of sparkle from it, but I wished that it had a little more.
The bass is very neutral, albeit a bit heavy. At no time do I feel like it is overpowering any section of the spectrum though. It is just right and is certainly very fast and makes other IEMs that I have heard such as the Earsonics SM3 v2 sound muddy, bloated and very un-neutral. The bass detail is great and you can hear the texture from every drum beat or every string of a bass guitar plucked. Bass heavy IEMs such as the Sennheiser IE8 seem like they are lacking resolution and speed. For mainstream music though, I do wish that there was a bit more midbass whilst staying just as fast. The Miracles get top marks in the bass department for quality, but not quantity. If you are a basshead, look into something else like the JH16 or the UM Merlin.
Even though the midrange is a bit recessed, it still sounds great and not by any means really distant like the ATH-M50 or the TF-10. It is only a tiny bit recessed and the detail level in the midrange is still great. I actually prefer this sort of midrange to a forward, in your face midrange. It strikes an excellent balance between thick and thin and vocals sound like you are at a live performance. It may take a while for you to get used to this kind of midrange if you come from something like a mid forward Earsonics SM3 v2, but from a neutral midrange IEM like the Brainwavz B2 I had no problems adapting. Vocal sibilance will be there if it is present in the track. Great midrange, but if you like a forward midrange, look into Westone’s line of customs.
At first, I thought that these were a bit dull and the highs were a bit rolled off, but that is understandable because the B2s are an extreme treblehead IEM. From my standpoint now, the treble is excellent and just like UM said, just enough fun. It isn’t like those bass heavier IEMs with rolled off trebles where the cymbals just don’t come alive. In this, the cymbals have just enough sparkle to not become sibilant and harsh, but still have great extension. The cymbals decay is realistic, but I feel like it is just a bit too fast. If you have heard a live performance, you will know that the cymbals have quite a slow decay. However, other instruments are very realistic and the details are all there if you listen closely.
By accuracy, I mean how well the instrument is produced and how much it sounds like as if it is just out in front of you. Of course, IEMs of any kind will probably never be able to match flagship headphones at producing instruments realistically. I feel like the Miracles reproduce instruments very well and realistically, especially with high quality classical tracks such as Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”. The instruments really came alive and sounded very believable and there wasn’t much colouration to the song. Playing nice piano pieces on a high quality source also makes it very much like the piano is just right in front of you. It strikes an excellent balance between thin and thick and as a result, the UM Miracle has great accuracy and instruments are portrayed excellently.
Imaging & Soundstage
IEMs in general are not known to have a huge soundstage and great imaging. The soundstage on the Miracles is big, but not bigger than say a $400 Sennheiser HD600. Open headphones generally have the biggest soundstages (HD800, SR-009 etc.) and the UM Miracle simply cannot compete against them. Most people praise the Sennheiser IE8/IE80 for their soundstage and I feel like the soundstage on these is just a bit smaller. The soundstage is not really in front of you, but the Miracles create a sort of surround felling, immersing you in the music, which I actually prefer to the stage in front of you. Overall soundstage is very large for a non-vented IEM.
Imaging is actually one of the best that I have ever heard on an IEM. Universals such as the IE8 which has a large soundstage simply cannot match the Miracles in terms of imaging. Listening to quality music, you can hear and point out where each instrument is placed very easily. Very good imaging from not only an IEM, but it challenges many higher end headphones as well.
In nothing that I have heard so far am I struggling to make out what is behind another instrument. Maybe it is because there are 2 drivers per ear for each frequency and each driver has to produce less than other (C)IEMs that have say 3 drivers per ear, one handling each frequency. For example, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” is a pretty well recorded track which I happen to like a lot, doesn’t have much congestion anywhere, and I thought that other IEMs which I had listened to the song on were just fine and everything was great, but other IEMs just seem to be lacking separation compared to the Miracles and this song really isn’t a very congested track. As for vocal separation, I used Fun.’s “Some Nights”. At the start, you can easily distinguish between their voices with no congestion whatsoever and they don’t sound like it is just one person singing.
This is certainly a detailed custom, but the way that it presents its details is different from other IEMs. Instead of instantly “wowing” you with in your face details, but instead letting them sink in. Initially, I thought that they were actually lacking details, but after a while, I have really learnt how to appreciate them and know that their detail level is actually exceptional. I actually feel like on some tracks, especially mainstream music (which I listen to a lot of), even FLAC tracks sound harsh. For example, “Hall Of Fame” By The Script Ft. Will.I.Am sounds really bad because the recording itself is mastered badly and the Miracles really reveal jut how sub-par the recording is. It is definitely detailed, but it is a bit unforgiving.
Clarity, Transparency and Lushness
Upon the first listen, I realised that I could see no veil that plagues many IEMs. I think that it is extremely easy to “look” (or rather hear) through and see the performers and the instruments. It is very easy to place where they are and the detail and air surrounding them is just amazing.
The Miracles are definitely very clear, but other top IEMs have definitely bested it. Vocals are lacking that tiny bit of clarity that I find other treble heavier IEMs possess.
I feel like this strikes a nice balance between fun and analytical and it is lush without being overly lush. The note decay is very fast, perhaps a tad bit too fast for my taste, but as usual, YMMV.
For almost $1000, I did have extremely high expectations for these and needless to say. I was most definitely not let down by these. There was no real flaw to me and everything was very balanced, with a very slight bass boost and recessed mids. These are really just an exceptional pair of customs and I am happy that my first foray into the world of customs was a positive one.
Big thank you to Jaben Australia for letting me demo their AKG K3003. Tested with the reference filters.
The AKG K3003 has been very highly regarded as one of the best universals that you can buy. Compared to the Miracles, the bass is very nice and hits around the same, but maybe a bit harder than the Miracles but stays around as fast. Mids were definitely more present than the slightly recessed mids of the Miracles, but they were thin and didn’t sound as natural as the rather lush midrange of the Miracles. The mids were also brighter, which made them seem like they had a bit more detail over the Miracles, but I also found them a bit more sibilant than the Miracles. As for treble, they definitely have more sparkle to them, but whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, that’s up to you. Personally, I liked the treble somewhere in between the Miracles and the K3003s, but if I had to choose what treble I preferred, I would have to pick the Miracle’s treble over the AKG’s since I find the K3003 treble slightly too bright and a tad bit metallic. The detail levels of the treble in both IEMs are about the same, but the Miracle’s details are more laid back while the AKG’s are more forward, which makes them very unforgiving of badly recorded tracks. From what I’ve written above, you might be thinking that technically, the AKG K3003 are pretty much on par with the Miracles and you’d be right in saying that. They are the best universals that I have heard to date and when you reach this level of performance, there is no clear winner, but it is instead what you prefer. However, I think that the presentation of the Miracles are much better than the AKGs and I think that many would agree with me. The soundstage is bigger and on the AKGs, instrument placement is just not on par with the Miracles. The instrument separation wasn’t as good as the Miracles, maybe due to their 3 drivers and sometimes there was just that tiny bit of congestion. As for transparency and imaging, these really excelled, but weren’t better than the Miracles. They were around the same standard. Isolation is not even close. The AKG’s housing isn’t designed to go in deep and they didn’t. The isolation fell short of my B2s. The AKG K3003 are certainly a top IEM, but I just wasn’t blown away by them and I feel like they fall just short of the Miracles. Having a $1300 price tag, I really can’t recommend them over the $980 UM Miracles.
Thanks this time to Addicted To Audio for kindly allowing me to demo the FI-BA-SS, Sennheiser HD600, 650 and the Audez’e LCD-3s.
I think that many, including me, didn’t really regard the FI-BA-SSs as one of the top universals because of ljokerl’s 9.3 rating on his huge multi IEM review which has helped me so much that I can’t think him enough. To be honest, I’m not quite so sure where I stand on these yet. They seem to be a nice and detailed IEM and is proficient in many areas, but when I listen to it, I just feel like there is something missing, not as in micro details, but something with the presentation is odd. Bass is very nice, has good impact and is fast, actually a bit faster than the Miracles. Detail levels are good, but just not on par with the Miracles, but I actually prefer the bass quantity and speed over that of the Miracles. Midrange, again, is liquid, but not nearly as lush as the UM Miracles and even though they are not, they sometimes come across as a bit thin on vocal reproduction. Midrange clarity is better than the Miracles, but gets sibilant more easily. As for treble, it is presented in a very nice way indeed. Not too sparkly, but has more sparkle than the Miracles. To be perfectly honest, I actually really like the treble of the FI-BA-SS and I consider it on par with the UM Miracles. Now on to presentation. This is where the FI-BA-SS is not so good. The separation is not nearly as good as the Miracles and on some tracks, it sounds a bit congested. Imaging is also a few steps behind. Soundstage is good, but also cannot compete with the Miracles. However, the biggest deal breaker for me was the cable. It was thin, non detachable (I think) and there was no real strain relief. I find that this is completely unacceptable for a $1350 IEM. I really did like the sound, almost as much as the AKG K3003. I do feel like they should be a 9.5 or 9.6 on ljokerl’s list, but being more expensive than the both the AKGs and the Miracles, I would rather get the 3003s than these.
Yes, a headphone and IEM comparison, just as a benchmark since many people have listened to this headphone. The Sennheiser HD600 is an old classic, but still regarded as a great headphone and perhaps the most neutral headphone in the world. Yes, it is a great headphone, but it has one terrible flaw – the veil that everyone is all so familiar with. Now, I can’t speak for you since some people can and some people can’t hear the veil, but I am one of those who can. Everything is pretty much on par, but I can hear more details with the Miracle and I prefer their presentation over the HD600s, however, I do feel like at $500 in Australia, half the price of the Miracles, the HD600’s get to 85% of the Miracles without breaking the bank.
Rhapsodio RDB v1
First, I would like to thank Rhapsodio for sending out a review sample for me. Wow it is a good IEM for $650! To be perfectly honest, I found that this is the best universal IEM that I have ever heard and I'm quite an IEM guy. It really gives the Miracles a run for the money. Charles from Rhapsodio is also one of the friendliest guys that I know and he answers emails in a few minutes provided that the time isn't ridiculous. The bass is exceptional on both. The Miracles have more mid bass quantity and more reverb, but I feel like the RDB v1's mid bass is cleaner and detail levels are about the same. The RDB v1 has a lot of sub bass rumble This is a draw. As for the mids, both IEMs are recessed, but the Miracles have better separation and more realistic, but the v1 mids are still exceptional, not only for a $650 IEM, but even as a $1000 IEM. There is no annoying peak in the higher mids that causes sibilance, but I think that the higher mids are actually the most recessed! For the treble, this is perhaps the hardest part to choose. the highs are about the same quantity, but the v1 has slightly more. Cymbals sound better on the v1s, however, other parts of the treble sound just as good on the Miracles as they do on the RDB v1. I find myself slightly preferring the Rhapsodio's treble most of the time. Now to presentation, the soundstage is smaller on the RDB v1 by a bit and things seem to be in front of you like it's on a stage rather than surrounding you like on the Miracles. Detail is won by the Miracles since the bass is in general smaller and has less rumble, therefore, not drowning out micro details. This is a killer IEM for $650 and should be on everyone's list if you are looking for an IEM in that price range. I honestly thing that they can compete - and win against 1 grand IEMs like the FI-BA-SS and the AKG K3003. I am going to buy one. Sorry, Sennheiser, the HD650 has to wait. Also, for what it means to you, the Rhapsodio RDB v1 also is said to have the same drivers as the really hyped up 1plus2. For an analytical sound, I always reach for the Miracles, but the RDB v1 is just so damn fun!
Rhapsodio RDB 2v1
I don't like this at all! It is simply just bad. There is no comparison between these and the Miracles. Here's what I wrote on the RDB 2v1 tour thread:
The Miracles are simply better in every way and everything in the music is just more coherentSimply put, these are the worst IEMs I have heard over $100.
I don’t want to somehow turn this thread into an argument as to whether aftermarket cables make a difference or not. I believe that they do and I’m just writing what I think.
Toxic Cables 8-Wire Hybrid Silver/Copper Cable (Currently around $500)
A and b-ing cables has an obvious element of pointlessness because you will always know what cable is what due to the weight, etc. After using the stock cable for a week, going to the super expensive 8-wire hybrid, I immediately noticed than the 8-wire was much better sounding and flowed a lot better. The details were much easier to hear and the mids got pushed forward a bit. The mid bass quantity stayed just about the same, but the details and texture in drum hits were a lot more apparent. The sub bass actually increased quite a bit in quantity and quality. The Miracles have slightly recessed mids, but I feel like this problem has been rectified with the 8-wire. The mids were slightly lacking detail, but now, they are great and much more enjoyable. As for highs, there really isn’t much change. There may just be a tiny bit more extension and the cymbals sound a bit more lively, but that is just it. Separation is what shocked me most of all. Everything sounded so clear, building on the already great separation of the Miracles. This is built like a tank and I have no gripes about build quality and I love the absence of memory wire that is there on all stock CIEM cables. However, it is quite thick, having 8 wires, and if you, like me, go around a lot, than this cable may not be a good choice for you. To sum up, the Miracles are an excellent pair of CIEMs, but this cable really shows me what the UM Miracles are capable of.
I tried this cable out today at the Melbourne meet and I was very impressed. The build quality was excellent, though the braids themselves were not as tight as the Toxic Cables cables that I've seen. This looks like a hybrid since it is multi-coloured, but it is actually a pure litz copper cable, meaning that it will not turn green like ordinary copper cables. From the stock cable to the DHC cable, I noticed a difference in the first 10 seconds of a song. It had some micro details that I could not hear on the Miracles with the lower quality stock cable. Bass went lower and it was a tiny bit more impactful. Mids were brought out a little and had some more detail as well. The treble stayed about the same, the cymbals having a slightly longer decay. Soundstage was increased a bit as well. Very good cable indeed, but a the price might suggest, the detail levels, soundstage size and other things just weren't on par with the Toxic Cables 8-wire.
Edited by lin0003 - 8/2/13 at 5:50pm