Unique Melody Mason V3

Rating:
4.54545/5,
  1. negura
    Mason V3
    Written by negura
    Published Aug 12, 2018 at 12:25 PM
    4.5/5,
    mason_v3.jpg

    Mason V3 Review

    This pair has been with me for two weeks part of a tour demo.
    I have used these IEMs with the below system(s):
    Leckerton portable amplifier/MSB DAC V
    DX200
    Other IEMs: JH16v2pro, Etymotic ER4-SR

    Introduction, Personal bias:
    My personal TOTL collection includes the modded early version HE-6, Focal Clear, and "kiss" modded HD650s. From the stat world I really like both the SR-009 and SR-007 MK1, both of which I owned for a long time, before sticking with dynamic for the convenience of better amplification available to me. As such I enjoy a tonality range of relative neutrality/slightly bright to a bit warm from neutral.

    While I have owned or heard at home most open headphone TOTLs, in the IEM world I've been playing catching-up, hence my interest in hearing these, and the IEMs I owned at the time of these review were the Etymotic ER4-SR and JH16v2pro.

    There are plenty of reviews dealing with the exterior aspect, features and specs. I was more than happy with the build quality during the time I had these, so saying that I will move straight to the sound impressions.

    Cables:
    I really liked the dual material options provided by the stock cable, but not long after checking both options I firmly settled with using the silver option, which complements perfectly the slightly warm/smooth tonality giving then the best sound balance for my preference. I did check the copper again at a later time, only to go back to silver again. I thought the results of changing the cable setting was noticeable and in line with my experience on using these materials from other IEMs. For a fuller/denser/richer sound with more bass oomph go copper, for better balance, more energy and more precise imaging, go silver.

    Tonality:
    Like many TOTL IEMs I have heard recently the Mason V3 have a subtle V-shaped tonality. The bass is very well controlled but a bit boosted, even at minimum setting. The midrange is present, and I would say slightly further in the stage compared to the Etymotic ER4-SR, but less so than JH16.
    Treble is airy, smooth, and detailed, but perhaps not the most linear. While not particularly linear, these IEMs have great coherence. The overall tonal presentation can be described as a combination of 15% added fun, 85% accurate/linear/neutral and a bit on the warm/smooth/creamy side of neutral.

    Bass: The sub-bass is present and well controlled and I would say these have a relatively linearly decreasing bass boost, even at the lowest setting. They sound powerful but not overpowering in this FR region. The bass response on the minimum control setting is already at the top of my preference for quantity so I have never felt the need to use the boosted bass other than for confirming it works and it works well. While the bass boost control is sturdier than with other IEMs, it's relatively easy to become adjusted by mistake, while handling the IEMs.
    On the mimimum dbGO setting they are less bassy than my JH16v2 and this is why I use the latter strictly for added "fun" to genres like electronica/rock/metal.

    Midrange: For headphones to gain my full interest the midrange has to be present and engaging. I was glad to note from the first few seconds of listening to the Mason V3 they have a very engaging midrange presentation and tonality. It can be described as slightly creamy and full bodied, well detailed and certainly not forward, but not too withdrawn in the stage either. The way the midrange is presented falls right between the Ety that have a more present midrange when well driven, and JH16 were the midrange is more withdrawn in the stage and the latter require a few minutes of accomodation with their sound.

    Treble: The treble is airy and well detailed and it contributes to an atmospheric 3d soundstage. The Mason V3 do not have not the most detailed, sparkly or airy treble presentation I have heard in IEMs, but the level of detail, separation and openness are excellent. In terms of linearity, just like with the bass there may be a smooth increase in treble in the high treble. The Ety have more a sparkly/airy treble presentation, but then again I think they are boosted in the treble range and can sound slightly bright, particularly on some D/S DACs like my DX200. As the overall treble response is quite smooth, I found the Mason paired well my Sabre based DX200, and even more so with my desktop DAC.

    Transient response: The transient hit is strong, but less so than the JH16v2. The latter have more energy on the attack. The Mason V3 decay is on the melodic side, but still fast and natural sounding.

    Transparency: To be fair none of the IEMs I have or heard are as transparent as the best TOTL open headphones I have. All of them are less linear too. So it wouldn't be entirely fair to judge the Mason against open headphones. However versus the IEMs I have they are more transparent sounding than my JH16 and about similar to my Ety.

    Soundstage: This is where the Mason V3 are quite a bit better than both the IEMs I own. The soundstage is bigger than both the other IEMs I have, more open with a better sense of 3D. The JH16v2 stage is the least wide, but it has great depth (V-shape helps that). The Ety come closer with regards to the stage presentation proportions.

    Conclusion: I rate the Mason V3s very highly, preferring them to both the IEMs I owned at the time. The sound is technical enough, while having a certain euphonic quality and some added bass fun. From all the headphones I owned at the time of the review, only my HE-6 and Focal Clear exceed the Masons at this combination of being simultaneously technically profficient and provide musical enjoyment.
      snellemin and Cotnijoe like this.
  2. rantng
    Two sides of the same coin
    Written by rantng
    Published Jul 30, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Resolving, balanced sound
    2-in-1 cable
    Build quality
    Cons - Price, heavy cable
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    Stock photo from MusicTeck

    I received these as part of the Unique Melody U.S. Tour. Many thanks to Unique Melody & @Cotnijoe for arranging this. The only requirement in my participation on the tour was my own honest review. This is my first ever review. With that said this will read more like a TLDR article than a full on review.

    I'm going to skip all the usual pre-emptives of specs, packaging, included accessories, etc. as I feel these have all been covered extensively at this point. Besides, once these jewels are in your ears, the box & miscellaneous items will be relegated to some dark corner of a desk drawer. I will touch on the included titanium case at the end as I do believe it warrants some mention. On that note, please excuse the lack of photos; I was enjoying these so much it wasn't until after I was just about to ship them out to the next tour participant did I realize I had forgotten to take any photos. I managed to snap a few photos next to my UE 18+ Pro v2 universal as those were the IEMs I happened to have with me. During my time with them I enjoyed these so much aurally that I also forgot to enjoy the beautifully crafted Dreamweaver shells. Onto the review.

    Sound
    Let's be clear on this, this is a TOTL IEM. Unique Melody has been in the industry for some time now & has earned their reputation in the industry that you can pretty much assume that for $2k+ they're not mucking about. The Mason offers everything you'd expect of a TOTL IEM. Resolution is top-notch with excellent detail retrieval. Soundstage is fairly wide, though not as wide as I remember on the JH Roxanne. Mason V3 has a natural & smooth sound with excellent cohesion from its 16 drivers. Bassheads need not apply here. This is BA bass, articulate and with a fairly short decay. The db-Go module does allow you to dial in the sub-bass, but the effect is subtle. The Mason V3 offers a neutral tonal balance. Vocals are clear though slightly laid-back, not too airy or intimate, but again natural and fairly neutral. Treble is crisp and clear, with no harshness or sibilance. Excellent instrument separation & placement. More wider than tall.

    Regarding the cable
    Oftentimes you’ll read reviews which involve cable swapping. This subject comes with some controversy. Personally, I do believe cables can bring out nuances, but I don’t purchase a cable in the hopes it will change the sound signature or add bass to an otherwise bass-light IEM. Purchase an IEM which most matches your preferred sound signature and maybe a cable which can enhance certain areas of the sound. If I'm already spending $1k+ on an IEM, I don't feel like I should have to spend hundreds (or thousands!) to get the most out of it. I feel that spending $1k+ on a cable is further evidence that as an audiophile, you are probably never going to be truly satisfied until you have the absolute best, which in itself is an unobtainable goal. The great advantage I see in the included cable, at least in regards to these review tours, is we're all using the same cable. I don’t have to read about how a $1k cable can bring the Mason V3 to even higher levels of auditory bliss. Of course everyone still hears sound differently so with any reviews, YMMV so always take what you read with a grain of salt. Then there's the issue of sources used such as DAPs, DACs, FLAC, DSD, etc.With that said, my main source was a Sony ZX-2 w/sound enhancements off, as well as the FiiO X7 MKii, playing 320kbps mp3 & some FLAC files. Here is the basic gist of I hear with the included dual-cable:

    Copper
    Smoother, natural sounding with good body. Slows everything down just a bit, but without sacrificing the overall signature of the Mason V3.

    Silver
    Slightly wider stage. Top end sparkle. Crisper, excellent detail retrieval. For the more analytical listener.

    Not a night and day difference. Subtle, which is to be expected. Whether or not you believe in cable swapping, for me the difference is perceptible and further adds to the value.

    Regarding on-the-go use, I do most of my listening during my commute. Isolation is good as per other custom-type universals. This can of course be dependent on ear tips, ear size/shape, etc., but I found it to be no worse than universals from other manufacturers. With that said, the NYC subway can be pretty noisy so I’d say isolation is quite good.
    The dual cable though, with its thick braid is less commute friendly. It is somewhat heavy and though somewhat pliant, I wished for a softer & slightly thinner gauge running over the ears. In regards to the pre-molded ear guides and memory wire, I do believe the hard plastic molded ear guides are necessary due to the robust double cable configuration, but I do feel it detracts from the comfort.

    dB-go module
    Same story with the dB-Go module. Will not completely change sound. More evident in bass-heavy tracks. Allows user to dial in more sub-bass. Once again, the change is subtle. On Kanye West - Mercy for instance, I had to listen closely to notice the difference. And while this is a bass heavy track, dialing in more sub-bass didn’t muddy the (bass) waters as it were. The change is almost imperceptible in bass-light tracks, whereas the module only really enhances low end on bassy tracks. For the most part I left the modules on full 'go', occasionally dialing it back. Again, the modules only seem to affect the sub-bass with little to no bleed into other frequency ranges.

    In regards to fit/shell size
    I apparently have smaller ears so I often have fit issues with many universal multi-driver IEMs. With its 16 drivers, size is comparable to my 6-driver UE 18+ Pro Universal. I no longer have my JH Audio Roxanne universal, but with its 12 drivers, it was actually larger than the Mason V3 and I could never get it to fit properly. I loved the sound of the JH Angie FMJ, but even with its "scant" 8 drivers, I wasn’t able to get it to fit properly, as much as I tried. The universal Mason V3 is designed more in line with the custom-type universal shell that thankfully, more manufacturers are implementing. Amazingly, the CIEM version of Mason V3 goes for the same price as the universal version, regardless of shell, faceplate & custom options; going this route would vastly improve ergonomics.

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    As you can see, Mason V3 w/16 drivers is comparable in size to the UE 18+ Pro V2 w/6 drivers. I did wish for a slightly thinner stem as I found I wasn't able to insert it as deeply as the UE.

    Regarding the storage case
    This is one solid case with some serious heft. It's up there with JH's hockey puck case. It's thick & lined w/a velvety material. Just before shipping these out to the next tour participant I decided to weigh it on my office's postal scale. I think the numbers speak for themselves.
    IEMs 0.6oz - 17 grams
    Cable 0.9oz - 25.5 grams
    Case 9.2oz - 260.8 grams - 0.57 lbs

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    Cliff's Notes version of my TLDR review

    Balanced and neutral tonality with excellent imaging and detail retrieval.
    Wide spacious soundstage w/excellent instrument placement.
    Aided by ability to swap cable materials. Silver offers brighter presentation and transparency. Copper, smoother, natural. The key word is neutral and balanced. Nothing really jumps out which makes for an easy non-fatiguing sound. With that said though, some may not find the Mason V3 to be the most engaging IEM. Bass isn’t booming or visceral, but with the aid of the dB-Go module, sub-bass presence is felt on tracks that call for it. It may seem strange to call the Mason V3 a good value given its pricetag, but factor in the dual-cable & its technical merits and you'll find it lives up to its TOTL status. Merriam-Webster defines a mason as a skilled worker who builds by laying units of substantial material. I think this applies to both the beautiful Dreamweaver shell as well as the sound of Mason V3.

    Mason V3 is available for $2699 from MusicTeck (https://shop.musicteck.com/collections/um), Unique Melody's official US dealer.

    Thanks for reading!
      snellemin and jinxy245 like this.
  3. ngoshawk
    Moving onward with soul
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published Jul 9, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Superb sound, with enough bass to keep you listening.
    Details, details, details.
    Very good fit
    True TOTL
    Mids are among the best I have heard.
    Excellent build
    "Multi-cable" included.
    Bass tuning port
    Cons - Proprietary cable...you are stuck with it (thankfully it is really good)
    Stiff cable
    Price (but if you are looking, this doen't matter)
    Titanium case need 1/2" more so you don't have to unscrew IEM's constantly
    Possibly weak point could be the threads where cable screws in (constant on/off could wear them out...)
    Unique Melody Mason V3 ($2699): UM website: http://en.uniquemelody.org. Can be purchased through the US distributor, Musicteck: http://www.musicteck.com/mentor-v3 (trust me, that link will take you to the Mason V3)


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    There comes a time in all reviews, where you pretty much nail down the sound signature of its own accord. Without the taint of other such items, the reviewer draws a clear response of what the critter in Q actually is. For the Mason V3, that dear reader came yesterday on a mountain bike ride. You see, I am lucky enough to be spending the week as close to Lake Superior (and in!!) as one can get. Gloriously cool and gorgeous, the seminal moment for the Mason came not while looking at Gitche Gumme, no it was during that aforementioned ride. A converted Rails-to-Trails corridor was that moment of “epiphany.”



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    For it was told ages ago that this area of the US was sacred to the natives (and still is), and to the earliest explorers such as Marquette and others. And having lived close while also born up here, I felt that reverence for the “big lake.” Smooth one day, rough and vicious the next, it was this draw of different “moods,” which drew the natives and explorers. One of the harshest places in the lower 48 (and beyond) with which to withstand winter, Superior’s “mentality” cannot be underestimated. But as stated, that moment of clarity came on a ride. Converting old rail lines to trails is a win-win in my book, and one in which we take full advantage when possible. As such, I am often in the mind of some deep thinking (or so I hope…). My thoughts ran deep of the area, the spirits of those gone before me, the Sandhill Crane pair I scared off their nest (thankfully they did not give chase…), and of the Mason V3. Unique Melody (UM) is known for a pleasing sound, while not really harboring a grudge to those who might prefer a “more vibrant” sound. As such, the “Mason V2,” erstwhile known as the Maestro V2 placed in the top five in the recent seminal shootout. The Mason does not disappoint in regard to that vibrant sound.



    While not on par with what I personally call the “sparkle” of the 64Audio Forte, there is no shyness here for that top end. What I like most about my Maestro is that it does pretty much everything well and does so without fuss (except for a seemingly small lack of bass to me). This seems to be the UM mantra… “No fuss, just listen.” And that continues with the V3. But with added twists to raise the level of sound which can come forth. Adding a proprietary dual-tone cable, one need not carry a spare…simply switch sides to go from a more transparent sound to one, which has a bit more sub bass presence, as @Twister6 so thoughtfully mentioned.



    No, what struck me was how yet again UM had raised THEIR game to match what they wanted to regarding sound. Often companies are fraught with providing what they think customers want in the latest vein…and I do disapprove. Here though, UM has done what they think should be the next “bar raising” of their already excellent TOTL. While the 64Audio pair (U18 genre and current U12 pairing) provide a simply exquisite sound, the Mason goes about business focusing on what can be an individual improvement of their TOTL. 64Audio filled in quite well below their TOTL. UM raised their TOTL. And I consider this a worthy addition to any TOTL discussion.



    I was struck by the thoughts of how well the Mason provides the listener with on-the-fly tuning options (dB-go bass port tuning). It was almost like when Mel Gibson in Mad Max pushes the Nitro button…you had better hold on. But, this is not that dramatic. Here, a switch of that screw-in cable will provide a bit more bass (which I appreciate) or transparency as mentioned. And if that isn’t enough, the ports on the back are tunable to fully closed (more sub bass, turn BOTH forward as in the way you are looking), or fully open (more “breathability” and hence less sub bass, turn BOTH towards your back). I could even tell a bit of depth difference between closed (more) and open (less). I thought about how this trickery might not be appreciated by some, and well thought of by others. Count me in for the later, except that I cannot use some of my other excellent cables as a result.



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    So, as I rode the miles, I fostered an appreciation of the forested ride. While occasionally hearing Superior in the background, I also understood that this path was the UM path. One of choices along the side, from bog to river, to wetland to forest…but not of differing quality. Only of differing characteristics. I appreciated UM’s want to upgrade an already stellar unit, with what they thought would be improvements. And, it has been an improvement.



    Specs:





    Gear used/compared:

    UM Mentor V3
    UM Maestro V2
    64Audio U8
    Campfire Audio Jupiter

    Thebit Opus #2
    Macbook Pro/iFi xDSD
    iBasso PB3
    Burson Play
    Shanling M3s
    Shanling M5



    Songs used:

    Damien Marley-Everybody Wants Somebody
    Mark Knopfler-Laughs and Jokes and Drinks and Smokes
    Mark Knopfler-Basil + others
    Roger Daltry-As Long As I Have You + others
    Coldplay-A Message + others
    Twentyonepilots-Car Radio, Guns With Hands + others



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    Unboxing:



    Presented in a larger than other UM box, the Mason V3 still holds to a minimalistic-type of presentation. And the more I think about it, I don’t fault a company either way…Open the box though and you are presented with the familiar circular UM-logoed case. This time in silver, or brushed titanium though. Thankfully the tightness of which the lid screws on has been alleviated somewhat. I had the darndest time with my Martian and a bit less so with the Maestro. That said, if one will continuously use this case be prepared to wrap the cable/IEM VERY deliberately unless you unscrew the IEM each time. I appreciate the padding on top but would prefer it have more depth as it most certainly rubs against either the cable or IEM itself. Often it is the adjustable vent nozzle in which there is contact. UM, please change this, or you will be feeding Pelican money as owners purchase a 1010 case…

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    Upon arrival, the IEM’s were in fact disconnected and looked quite like two eggs in a nest lined with soft grasses. As I unwound the cable, I quickly realized that this cable had HEFT. Stiffer than I would like, and less pliable even with the memory wire, it took me almost a full day if finagling to find the right over-ear fit and placement. When one purchases the Mason V3, you may order any of three jacked-cables: 2.5 balanced, 3.5 SE or 4.4bal. Thankfully all three were included, so I could judge two of them (2.5/3.5) against each other. Both worked well I might add, other than the fit and heft. While it is nice than one can fine tune the sound simply by switching sides to allow the copper or silver to take precedence, I would almost rather a choice…or make the cable (except the memory wire) suppler. It is a VERY nice cable, but that fit is all but unacceptable. I did get a fit and it is OK, but…


    Included accessories are of typical UM fare: several sets of Comply and UM’s own proprietary foam tips, an interesting warranty card, which looks like a credit card but flips a USB connection out FOR the manual, cleaning cloth and cleaning pick. Sparse, but I have found that they include just enough. Many listeners at this level tip roll anyway. That said, I find myself using either the UM foams or Comply’s exclusively on most of my IEM’s.


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    Fit and finish of the Mason is as I hoped of an UM product…exemplary and darn near perfect. The transparent red (with accented lines) is not prone to fingerprints, unlike black colors, and the 3D printing of the IEM is pretty much flawless. While the nozzle itself is of a larger size, and longer in length than I am accustomed to, once one adjusts the overall fit is very good. Not the best in my mind, like 64Audio to me, but very good. Throw in that many here might go the custom route so the point becomes moot. I could also see the aluminum threads being a weak point with repeated on/off of the cable, because in order to store the IEM in that fabulous titanium case, it is best to disconnect the cable so…over and over repeated screwing of the cable to the IEM could produce quickly worn threads…I have not experienced that but do see the first sign of wear…Make a slightly larger diameter case or screw-on lid, and the issue again becomes moot.

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    Further:



    Lately I have been listening to “new for me” music, such as Mark Knopfler’s excellent 2015 Tracker album, as well as Damien Marley’s superb Stony Hill. As such, there is a diversity of music present in which to keep my ears occupied, as well as my mind in deciphering the sound characteristics. Take for example Damien’s So A Child May Follow. An excellent guitar line lays down a mid sound, which begs to be played over and over (and it is/was). The piano at the beginning is supported by the electronics and bass guitar quite well. Running into Marley’s mid-to-upper mid vocals, the sensation is of completeness. No sound is want for attention, nor forgotten. As the bass guitar plays through the vocals and acoustic guitar, the piano comes in at the right time, and in the right place to tie the whole song and sound together. This is sound worthy of a long listening session, as well as repeats of your favorite songs.

    Instrumentation is in all the right places. One would hope this be the case, and one would not be disappointed. Separation as a result is quite good and easy to pick out. Accuracy is a verb, which comes to mind here. Sound stage is indeed very acceptable. Wider than high there is good depth to accompany the other dimensions. While not a fantastically huge sound stage, one would certainly not call it intimate. I call it above average wide. Good height dos accompany that width, and I consider it higher than average. This is covered though by the width. As such, the height aides in instrument layering. Clear and concise, that layering is easy to pick out.



    Bass quality: Of the Unique Melody IEM’s I have heard, not one could be called either a “bass monster” or of that bass depth equivalent to the 64Audio U18t, dedicated bass-slant u8 or other bass-oriented IEM.. While the bass does fall behind 64Audio’s interpretation it is not unacceptably weak. Coming on when needed, retreating to the back when not, it is a solid sub bass-oriented sound, especially when the port is fully closed. With the port open, I do hear more air between the sounds and to me can be construed as having “less” bass. Running the port closed for the majority of time, I found the bass very adequate, tying nicely to the mids above. This is the first time I can say that about an UM product…This is good.

    Mids: This is always the most daunting set of sounds for me to quantify. But when listening to songs such as Damien Marley’s Perfect Picture, my job is easier. Vocals here from Damien and Stephen Marley are easily distinguishable from the lower bass notes and treble clash of snare and cymbals. Clear and precise the mids present a solid mold of what one might consider the UM “house sound.” To me, a musical and presentable mid-forward sound typifies the UM sound. Not overly bright, but still forward the mids present a picture of taking the lead in a solid manner and not relinquishing it as they guide one down the UM musical path. The pluck of string falls behind in support, as it should most certainly guided by those forward-based mids. One would be silly to think that this is a mid-forward based IEM, though. No, here the mids simply present the path on which the rest follow. This is not a forward-in-your-face IEM. No, it is one of presentation quality. One where there is a natural or organic sound to the mids. This is not an IEM where there is an artificiality. It is honest, slightly warm and natural. This pretty much defines my type of sound and my top quality in a mid-sound from said IEM.

    Treble: Some recently reviewed IEM’s have a definite sparkle to them, and some are overly harsh in that sparkle. IEM’s such as the 64Audio U12T and tia Trio present that sparkle almost as well as their big brothers the U18T/Forte. The latter pairing having the best sparkle of treble in anything I have had the honor of auditioning. It is of a magical quality that beckons at the right moment. There isn’t anything that I have heard, which can match that. But, as for the Mason V3, the treble sounds again present an honest open sound. I would not call it rolled off as some recent listening’s would be. No, there is an uplifting sound to be heard in the treble sound. One that just sounds right to me. The treble goes high enough to enjoy most genre of music, but not so high as to be sibilant or have too much sparkle. I would consider the treble of the Mason as the unsung hero. It hasn’t been said too often that an UM product has the best treble representation around (at least in my experience). But, the Mason V3 comes close to my perfect treble content. Enough push to keep me engaged, while not too much to drive me away. Again, like the opposite bass, there is enough there to keep me interested, but not too much, which can become tedious in longer sessions. Just...about…perfect…

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    Comparisons:



    Much is made when another TOTL comes out…many (most?) want an immediate, “which is better and why” response. To me this kind of comparison only feeds the frenzy of ever increasing driver count and cost. Within the last two years alone what could be considered TOTL has pretty much doubled in price. This has even occurred for UM as the Maestro V2 ($1699) and Mason V3 ($2699) fall into that category. While maybe not officially recognized as a replacement for the Maestro (it actually is…), it is an obvious one due to the reference of the Maestro being the Mason in numerous communique as well as the UM website. As such, the cost has indeed increased markedly. What one gets, though is more drivers, “better” tuning, and adaptability (due to the cable/connection and bass port). Whether this warrants one to replace their TOTL or not is purely a personal decision and should be taken seriously.



    UM Mason V3 ($2700) vs 64Audio U18T/Forte ($3000/$3600): From memory, the 64 pair are still to date the best IEM’s I have had the honor of listening to…until now. Both 64’s have that sparkle of treble, which is phenomenal. Adding the right amount of treble at the right time, this to me set the 64 pair apart from everything else I heard. Add to that, the precise nature of the clarity and you had an exceptional representation of a company’s flagship. The clarity of sound was like nothing I had heard and to me defined 64’s sounds. Where the Mason draws level or even ahead is in that presentation of a natural sound. Inviting would be a good adjective to represent this sound. If I had to choose between the two, I would be hard pressed, as both have positives and negatives. That said, I might opt for the U18t simply because it wowed me from the first listen. I did in fact like it better than the Forte due to that presentation of sound…I might…



    UM Mason V3 vs 64Audio U12T/tia Trio ($2000/$2300): Again, from memory, this is an almost less than fair comparison, since the “new” U12T/tia Trio pairing is more in tune with the Mentor V3 (hint, hint…that comparison will come…). But when one gets into this vaunted territory, one likes to know at what point (price and sound) at which they should stop. This is a case where I liked the more expensive tia Trio (as opposed to the “less expensive” U18T v Forte…). The bass presentation of the tia was simply superb. Tight, semi-hard hitting and of good punch it was not to be taken lightly. Add in that this is the next step below the TOTL, and 64Audio is to be commended, they really are. With a very good sound stage the 64Audio pair are almost on par with the Mason V3, but not quite. Taller and a bit deeper, the spatial recognition presented by the Mason gives one a sense of better volume; and it does have more volume of sound. The Mason provides more clarity, too. There is no hiding a subpar recording, or source. The term “crystal clear” is thrown about a bit, and I am loath to even mention that term, but clear and transparent would be an apt description for the Mason versus the 64-pairing. While I still really like that pair, here is where the Mason separates itself. There is no hiding that the harmonica of Charlie Musselwhite supports Ben Harper perfectly on their combined No Mercy in This Land album. A superb album of two musicians from different generations; but of one soul. Harkening back to a simpler day, this album represents a bridge between two worlds old and new; and here is where the Mason is that bridge to the future technology UM would like to put forward.

    The 64-pair while quite excellent, are like the little brothers who get the “hand me down” technology from the older sibling(s). And you know what? That in itself is very, VERY good, but not really the direction (at least I think so) I believe 64Audio is going in the future…They provide a new critter to a lineup stock full of excellent pairings (I do so love my U8), where the Mason provides the roadmap on which UM will build. And it is good, very, very good. So, in this regard one must decide whether you want the next step up from the “older” 64Audio pairings, using the tech from above; or the whole new ballgame. Personally, I would take either as I love both brands sound; but here the Mason clearly separates itself with that clear crisp sound. And don’t get me wrong…it can rumble the blues with the best. Ben & Charlie would agree.



    Unique Melody Mason V3 v UM Mentor V3 ($2100): While I will compare here, the real meat and potatoes will be in the Mentor V3 review. In talking with Lawrance, he mentioned how with the pair, UM really did try and go different directions. If the Mason could (and is to me) be considered of reference material, the Mentor is the party animal, that likes to give the party that fun, energetic sound. And boy oh boy it did not disappoint. Deeper reaching bass, with more mid energy, this is not a shy IEM. Not don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t SHOUT at you, but rather let you know “the party can begin, I am here!” And when one goes to a party there is that one guest who just brightens the room with their presence, while providing the energy of that party. This would be the Mentor. They brought the tunes to the party, and even if you don’t like that kind of music, you find yourself dancing anyway. To me, this takes the best part(s) of the Maestro V2 and 64Audio U8, melds them together and gets the best of both. The energized sound of the Maestro tied to that incredible bass of the U8, without that hint of veil, and you get the Mentor. It is that good, and that worthy of being talked about in the same sentence as the Mason/Forte/U18T in my mind. I REALLY liked the sound from the deep reaching bass (fully closed vents), to the synergy of mids/treble presented with just enough “frontal” to meld with that bass. But, as I said you will need to wait for the rest…Oh man, they are both really good…

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Source comparos:



    I will admit that the “best sound” for me came from the Opus #2/Mason pairing. It is my reference and will be until…well for a good long time. Superb detail retrieval highlighted the transparent sound wrought by the combo. While slightly thin to me, this is the sound of which I imagine reference material consists. The singing of angels, indeed. With enough bass to keep one interested, the sound was sublime in presentation and one of very little error. No coloration, no “Ooohhh! This sounds WARMY!” No analytical sound, it just sounded right. This would be the baseline by which other sound is judged, and in that vein, it is good, nay excellent.



    As for the Shanling M5/Mason pair, all I can say is holy buckets. If the above was reference, then this pair kicked that sound to the curb and gave it a soul lesson. As the Shanling is warm (not, oooh!!! Warmy!) by nature, that added to the Mason giving what was lacked some added verve. With more energy and taming that reference sound to more of what I liked, this was absolutely my favorite pairing. I have come home to the M5 as of recently, and regret that it had fallen so far down my order…it really is still a superb player. This pair would be that perfectly complimentary pairing where each “shortcoming” is lifted up by the other. Adding transparency to the M5 wroughts the missing detail (really there isn’t that much missing). Adding to the Mason that missing grit of bass, heightens my appreciation. A fabulous combination of which neither should be ashamed.



    In that same regard, the Shanling M3s/Mason provided an “up to date” sound from Shanling. Little brother wants to play in the big leagues, and here is where the Mason brings up the “lesser” DAP. Again, that added warmth of the M3s is very welcomed, while detail retrieval is much appreciated. The M3s is my go to workout DAP, and as such I do not mind its shortcomings. Throw on the Mason and those shortcomings are not missed. Although one would be silly to workout with the Mason (no…I didn’t do it, either…).



    The pairing, which saw the most use was the MBP/Burson Play/iFi xDSD/Mason combination. Bypassing the lackluster DAC of the MBP, both the Play and the xDSD were welcome additions to the party. While still not on par with the Opus, this was an excellent set up for studying/writing/etc and I can’t think of a better partner to which has been had through the three. The Burson is warm (to me with the Classic Op-Amp), the iFi versatile (with sound behind the Burson) and switching between provided me with more tuning ability. A better fit for this combination would have been the iFi Black Label, but time and travel did not afford such a listen. That said, the Play and xDSD were well worthy of listening. The Burson is also an upcoming review, so there will be more listed there…


    [​IMG]


    Le Grand Finale:



    Since this is a World Cup year, we always get surprises…Russia knocking off Spain, the stellar goalkeeping in the Croatia v Denmark round of 16 match, and sublime goals/passes/saves all throughout. I love Futbol (soccer), and I love the fact that I have had the honor of listening to some simply outstanding IEM’s over the last year. Each seemed worthy of inclusion into my humble abode on their own and OF their own. But, it also seemed that each time the bar was raised (and price…egad…). More drivers, different materials, higher price (did I mention price?...) and other such items as replaceable cables as the UM pairing is equipped. I get why they did it…kill two birds with one stone...simply switch sides and you go from clear transparent airy sound, to better bass, with a little less control of the mids and treble (OK in my book). Throw in that you can then adjust the vent on the fly and you are left with four distinct possibilities for sound. Need more air? Rotate the vents towards your back for an open sound (I just did it on the aforementioned Charlie/Ben album and the sound opened up to that bar-like blues sound. Closed, and you move closer to the stage and the bass...the late at night “last call” sound. Almost mournful, but soulful at the same time, and you are getting to the roots. Roots of our musical soul, and what Unique Melody are trying to accomplish.

    I don’t get to listen to my Maestro’s very much due to other obligations, but when I do I can clearly see and feel the tie between them and the Mason. Comparing the three (Mentor, too) is a rare treat of seeing the lineage firsthand. I am looking at the black and white photo of the Maestro and the digital selfie on Snapchat of the other two. That soulfulness is still there, though. The Maestro would be the grandfather who taught the kid how to play the dobro. The kids would be the Mason, and not only has better talent (good genes) but does so in that most respectful manner of harkening back to grandfather and his soul. The Mentor would be the slightly untamed one, or so you think. Then you hear it, and know it was a cover of the biggest ruse.

    While I still have reservations about switching the cable often (and pretty much every time you need to store them in the titanium case) to change the sound, something can be said for not having to purchase other cables (albeit for the plug). This is ingenuity UM-style. Add in the bass tuning port, and I do see where they are going. I personally like the bass port tunability more. I am slightly cautious about repeated activity with the cable. Add in that it isn’t the supplest of cables and you have the downfall. As mentioned earlier the fit took me a good day-and-a-half to get right. But once one gets into this “vaunted” range of TOTL most opt for the custom (not me, I like the universal varieties) one usually puts up with a couple of peculiarities. Think Jaguar XK series, or Lamborghini Countach and how bloody hot the cars ran with an AC which was laughable at best, and you get it.

    So, would I purchase the Mason V3 if funds were afforded? Well…that is a question best left for the conclusion of the Mentor review. Needless to say, I would recommend a deep long listen with many genres for the Mason. I finish this listening through my MBP and the excellent Burson Play of many, many blues songs. And it is good.

    I want to thank @cotineyejoe and @UniqueMelody for the tremendous opportunity in doing this tour. It is through generous offers such as these that we may not otherwise audition such fine wares…and they are truly exceptional.

    [​IMG]
      Moonstar, Cotnijoe and B9Scrambler like this.
  4. betula
    Unique Melody Mason V3: one of the best IEMs
    Written by betula
    Published Jun 16, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - full bodied, balanced, musical sound, extreme durability
    Cons - universal fit is uncomfortable, expensive
    First of all I would like to say thank you to Unique Melody for lending me the Mason V3 for two weeks. This is exceptional audio gear with its 16x2 balanced armature drivers and $2699 starting price. Not something we average audio enthusiasts come across every day.

    IMG_20180608_183731113_HDR.jpg

    To put my review in context, I have to say a couple of words about myself. I prefer full sized headphones and was never really much into IEMs. IEMs for me were an emergency solution for traveling. I owned the IE80, Cardas A8 and Flare Audio R2Pro as my better IEMs.

    I owned mostly full sized open headphones like the Fidelio X2, NightHawk, LCD2C, Aeon Flow and my latest purchase the Focal Clear among many other sub £1000 opened backs.

    IMG_20180613_173751541_HDR.jpg

    Unfortunately I won’t be able to compare the Mason V3 to other high-end IEMs, but I will reflect on their overall quality from my previously described perspective.

    Unique Melody:

    Since I did not know much about this company (although I knew the name), I did a quick research which I would like to share. Unique Melody is a Chinese company, one of the first companies on the market of professional high-end IEMs.
    They started about ten years ago, which does not sound much, but in the ever changing and quickly evolving technical world it is quite a significant amount of time. They obviously gathered a good amount of experience, as putting an IEM like the Mason V3 on market with 16 balanced armature drivers seems to be a routine exercise for them. They are about to release astonishingly beautiful IEMs with triple dynamic drivers and IEMs with planar magnetic drivers too.
    35180985_2089062218030346_4194704900837343232_n.jpg
    (The new 3DD IEMs, picture from the UM website)

    Putting the best balanced armature IEMs on the table is done therefore they are looking for new challenges. What an awesome attitude in our audio world.

    Package:

    IMG_20180616_105043317_HDR.jpg


    The Mason V3 comes in a relatively average box. Does not look too fancy, but feels quality enough. Unique Melody gave us three different cables for the tour: a 2.5mm balanced, a 4.4mm balanced and a usual 3.5mm single ended cable. You can take your pick when you order your IEMs from them.

    IMG_20180616_105255718_HDR.jpg

    There are quite a good amount of tips included in the box, however I warn you now, don’t order these IEMs with universal fit and silicon/foam tips. Go for custom, and you will thank me later.

    IMG_20180616_105433823_HDR.jpg

    Apart from the tips and cables the box includes the most massive carrying case I have ever seen. If the third world war or an atomic cloud was threatening me, this is the case where I would want to hide my precious in ear monitors.

    IMG_20180616_105452581_HDR.jpg

    Magical cables:

    These cables are worth a separate paragraph. Let me lead you through my personal experience.
    As most of us would, when first opening the box I was looking for a L/R sign on the cables to figure out how to connect these beauties. No signs whatsoever. After connecting them random and doing a channel check, I decided to google what the matter is with these. It has turned out you can’t connect the wires improperly. The channels are always right (I mean left and right), regardless how you connect them. These cables are actually dual cables: silver and a high quality copper cable in one. By swapping them, you are changing the silver/copper cables not the channels. The connection is a 4 pin connection, but only two pins are active depending on your choice of cables.
    The cable itself is the highest quality and lightest IEM cable I have ever come across. Knowing it is actually a dual cable makes it even more amazing. Never tangling, always light, durable. Perfect for the purpose. My only complaint is the part around the ears. It is a bit stiff and not always easy to adjust and make it sit comfortably.

    IMG_20180613_173801638_HDR.jpg

    Cable differences, copper vs. silver:

    I am not a big cable believer, but I did hear subtle differences between the silver and the copper cables of the Mason V3.

    Silver:
    Slightly more neutral, slightly more opened. More analytical, a colder sound. This would be my choice for studio or stage monitoring. Slightly less bass quantity, more opened and less ’romantic’ mids and treble.

    Copper:
    This would be my choice for enjoying music. A slightly warmer sound, more musical, more engaging. Perhaps less detailed, but has more bass and more musical enjoyment even though the mids and the treble are not as clean and clear as they are on the silver cables.

    The differences between the cables are subtle. Probably I wouldn’t be able to tell which one I hear, if I just put the IEMs on from the box. After A/B comparison however the differences do pop out, although I wouldn’t say they make more than 5% of a change in sound.

    Bass enhancement module:

    The Mason V3 does have adjustable bass modules. For many of us this might be familiar from other IEMs like the Sennheiser IE80s. Let me tell you now, these are nothing like the bass tuning modules on the IE80s.
    First of all you don’t need a separate tool to adjust the bass, you can turn the knobs with your fingers. Secondly the change is much more subtle.
    With the IE80s bass knob you had the freedom to completely destroy the sound signature. This is not the case with the Mason V3, the change is subtle. Only 4dB between 20 and 100Hz. Most of our music hardly ever goes under 100Hz, therefore adjusting the bass knob makes no change on the Mason V3. When it becomes exciting are the bass heavy genres with sub-bass notes. When the bass module is turned on, the Mason V3 gives you the slight extra oomph you would expect from bass heavy music. It doesn’t really matter whether you have the bass enhancement fully on with the Mason V3 as it will only work when necessary. Otherwise it has hardly any influence on the sound.
    I do have one complaint regarding these modules, and that is the way how easily they turn. It is enough to gently touch them and they turn. Each time you put the IEMs in your ears, you will have to check where your bass settings are. This can be a bit annoying.

    IMG_20180616_105610340_HDR.jpg

    Build quality:

    Build quality is exceptional. I won’t waste too much time here, you can google the hand made layer by layer process how they make the shells or the spider web design how they strengthen these shells to quite an extreme level. Simply outstanding. Nothing will damage these, even if you drop them on the floor and walk over them. Quite reassuring, when you pay almost three grand.

    Comfort:

    Don’t order these as universal fit. You will curse yourself why you didn’t go customs. I couldn’t find a comfortable fit with any of the universal tips. (I did use my previous IEMs with custom ACS sleeves.) Pay that little extra and go for customs. It is well worth the money. Comfort is as important as sound quality. You will never enjoy these IEMs fully with silicon or foam tips. Go for customs. This is not a question to think about.

    IMG_20180616_105842507_HDR.jpg

    Sound quality:

    I could try to give you a detailed description of bass, mids and treble, however at this level it doesn’t make much sense anymore.
    I have learnt this recently, when I had a chance to try over £1000 headphones and eventually purchase one of them, the Focal Clears.
    After you leave the £1000 mark, there is no such thing as bad sound or fault in the sound signature. Everything has high resolution and a lot of details. Bass extends deep and is detailed, layered and controlled. Mids are lifelike and full, treble is full, detailed but never harsh or piercing.
    Beyond £1000 you reach the territory of perfectly balanced and detailed sound which is very close to live performance. Closer than you would have ever imagined before. Beyond this price point whether we talk about full sized headphones or IEMs it really comes down to personal preference and taste. A slightly warmer or colder sound. Slightly bigger soundstage or more intimate presentation, or hunting for the last 10% of resolution and details. A little more dynamic sound or a little more laid back presentation.
    Of course, apart from the sound there are other differences too: packaging, accessories, build quality, synergy, but you know what I am trying to say here. Nothing will sound bad above £1000. It comes down to personal preference.

    IMG_20180616_105915582_HDR.jpg

    The Mason V3 is one of the best IEMs you can currently buy on Earth. When I was listening to them, even though I prefer full sized headphones, I put aside all my headphones under £1000. None of them sounded satisfying enough right after the Mason V3. Some of them were more comfortable, sounded more spacious or more natural, but none of them sounded so right, so perfectly balanced with such a good body to the sound. I was ready to take and accept the ’closed in’ feeling and degraded comfort of an IEM over the freedom of a good opened back headphone to experience this full and satisfying sound of the Mason V3.
    Only my Focal Clears give me better sound and better experience. Both the Aeon Flow and the LCD2C sound flat and boring right after the V3s. After adjusting to the sound of the Aeons or LCD2Cs I was able to appreciate their sound again, however this A/B comparison shows where the Mason V3 competes regarding full sized headphones. I know, it is not really fair and perhaps does not make much sense to compare IEMs to full sized headphones, but to many people this might give an idea. With IEMs you pay for the tiny size too. Not just for the amazing sound.
    The Mason V3 obviously destroys every IEM I owned before, so I am not even mentioning those.

    IMG_20180616_105950557_HDR.jpg

    The 16x2 drivers do a more than decent job. You can hear every detail. The sound is very well balanced.
    To my ears these IEMs are neutral, but still a bit on the warm side. While they are perfectly usable for stage monitoring, they are closer to musical enjoyment. The slightly warm sound (still neutral) offers an easy listening. The great 3D placing of instruments makes them a great in ear monitor for stage.
    By neutral sound I don’t mean boring at all. High quality neutral headphones/IEMs like the Mason V3 or the Focal Clear do not sound boring at all. They just take away the coloration of lower quality equipment and let the music shine through. There are no attributes of the bass to talk about. Doesn’t make sense to talk about vocal presentation or treble signature.
    Everything just sounds right. With low quality IEMs/headphones ’neutral’ means boring and lifeless. With high quality neutral IEMs/headphones it means as close to music as possible. As close to the original performance as possible.
    Forgetting the presentation of your gear brings you as close to the soul of the music as possible. You don’t think anymore whether the bass is enough or too much. Whether it is detailed and controlled enough. You do not think anymore whether the mids, vocals are lifelike enough. Whether they sound too close or too far. Whether the treble is too artificial, piercing or too laid back and lush.
    Everything is perfect and comes in a perfect amount. You don’t have to be concerned about these things anymore, just have to choose what you like, what your taste is. This is the fine-dining scene of audio world.

    IMG_20180616_110009591_HDR.jpg

    The Mason V3 is neutral but musical with a hint of warmth. The musical and slightly warm side of the perfect sound from a pair of IEMs: the best way I can put it.
    In many regards the Mason V3 reminded me to the Chord Hugo2. It just delivers music in its perfection and leaves not much to talk about. It is worth mentioning though, these IEMs do reveal poor recordings and poor bitrate in a pretty cruel way. You have to feed quality fuel to quality machines I guess. I have got 90% of my library in FLAC, the rest is 320kbps MP3 and DSD. Lower bitrate just sounds a bit off with these high-end IEMs.

    IMG_20180616_110057809_HDR.jpg

    Finishing words:

    The price is more than most of us can afford. This is the only real drawback I can find with the Mason V3s (and the comfort issues of the universal fit, but there is no surprise here). Unfortunately I don’t know how close $1000-2000 IEMs come to the V3, but even without knowing that I am sure this is pretty much the best you can get from an IEM. According to my experience with full sized headphones above $1500, better sound does exist. Full sized open headphones sound more airy and are more natural by design for the same price. But if you need an IEM, this is pretty much the best you can get.
      Cotnijoe likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. betula
      Thanks, I will edit that part accordingly.
      betula, Jun 17, 2018
      NaiveSound likes this.
    3. Ancipital
      "After you leave the £1000 mark, there is no such thing as bad sound or fault in the sound signature." - I hope that this is intended to be a high-larious joke?
      Ancipital, Jun 20, 2018
    4. betula
      @Ancipital, which £1000+ headphone sounds particularly bad and unlistenable? I am talking about a general and theoretical approach here and not personal taste and preference.
      betula, Jun 21, 2018
  5. Layman1
    Building the perfect beast: the Mason v3 reviewed
    Written by Layman1
    Published Jun 4, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Build Quality and aesthetics, beautiful neutral balanced sound with an enchanting subtle musicality, holographic soundstage, excellent bass tuning and presentation.
    Cons - Cable and bass port innovations are decent but could be better executed.
    Introduction:


    The Mason v3 by Unique Melody is a TOTL IEM and was released in 2018.

    NB: for anyone reading who might not be familiar with the ‘lingo’, TOTL = Top Of The Line; a flagship model, usually with a correspondingly high price tag attached.

    I am reviewing this IEM as part of a UK/EU review tour.

    I would like to begin by thanking Unique Melody, @cotnijoe and @glassmonkey for arranging this tour and being gracious enough to include me in it :)



    The thread for discussion of this (and other Unique Melody IEM’s) may be found here:

    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/unique-melody-announcements-impressions-more.870684/


    Details from Unique Melody’s website:

    “The Mason v3 is a 16 driver, 4-way, 5-bore design with 4 sound tubes and 1 bore designated for our tuning module. The module provides acoustic dampening, pressure attenuation and real-time low frequency adjustment. Each bore is reinforced with a rigid metal tube to ensure structural stability and faithful sound reproduction. With a newly designed acrylic shell, the shell is not only sturdier and more comfortable than ever, but also features our beautiful, handcrafted ‘Dreamweaver’ fibre design. Our brand new and unique ‘Dual-Tone’ cable design also allows you to achieve two distinct sound signatures from the same cable – A pure copper sound or a pure silver sound gives you even more control and customization over the sound signature.”



    Pricing at the time of writing was $2’699. That’s in the very upper echelons of IEM pricing at this time. I shall leave the debates over TOTL IEM prices for those who wish to discuss such things. It is what it is.

    As German Finance Minister Reinhardt once said, “I don’t like it, but I’ll have to go along with it” :p


    Photos:

    Unboxing:
    IMG_4359.JPG IMG_4365.JPG

    Seriously, this case is gorgeous. It could also double as a murder weapon in Cluedo, or be hurled into the emission duct of an alien mothership, thus disabling it and saving the human race.
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    In the words of Voice of the Beehive, "you are beauty to my eyes" :)
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    And below, the Mason v3, caught quivering and naked in its natural state, enjoying conjugal relations with a DX200 :)
    IMG_4416.JPG IMG_4423.JPG


    Appearance and build:

    The metal case they come in has the feeling of titanium and is exceptionally well made and attractive.
    It's probably a touch on the heavy side for daily portable use, but perfect for home.

    The appearance of these IEM’s certainly doesn’t disappoint, matching up well with their TOTL price point. They came in a beautiful semi opaque slightly turquoise blue colour, with criss-crossing gossamer silvery lines looking like they are etched into the surface. They are very pleasantly small and light for such substantial ordinance payload :p

    You can see the drivers through the shells, packed in to bursting point like true Beliebers in the front row of a cheesy pop concert.


    Regarding tip selection, for me the included globe-shaped memory foam tips provided an outstanding fit and seal. I usually favour Symbio tips, which tend to increase soundstage and airiness, but I found my usual Large size Symbio’s to be uncomfortably large with the wider nozzles of this IEM.


    The cable and the 4-pin connector with screw-in metal sleeve look and feel very sturdy.

    As explained in other reviews and pages, both on Head-Fi and on UM’s website, these IEM’s feature some innovations which set them apart from the herd.


    They have a small adjustable port on the face plate of each IEM, which allows you to adjust the sound – in particular the bass response and, I assume, the soundstage.

    In practicality, the amount of twisting movement afforded by the ports pretty much leave you with only two clearly defined options – fully open or fully closed.

    I detected a slight increase in sub bass presence and rumble with the ports closed.

    In my opinion, it’s a good idea, but I think this is a classic case of ‘go hard or go home’; make it a more significant change or it’s not really worth it.

    As it was, I left them in the closed setting after my initial trial.

    I feel the venting/tuning port design could have been executed in a manner which produced a significantly more appreciable response.
    Where have I seen something like the kind of implementation to which I am referring?
    On IEM's which use ADEL modules, or equivalent homegrown/3rd party tech.
    They also have the additional benefit of the hearing protection functionality, which is a big selling point for me and quite a few others I imagine.

    I note that other companies have worked with ADEL, but still gone on to develop and implement a similar technology of their own.
    I feel that since UM have already started down the path of including a port which offers increased venting or a way to tune the sound of the Mason, why not go further with interchangeable modules which offer more significant options in terms of tweaking the sound signature, along with technology to help protect the hearing and hence help to ensure long-term enjoyment of the IEM's :)

    I can only see this as a win-win and a way to increase the attractiveness of these IEM's to a wider audience.


    Also, they have a cable that is effectively a silver cable and a separate copper cable, entwined incestuously together like (insert simile of choice).


    The way in which one plugs in the cable (the pin orientation), will influence which particular cable is being used, so you have a choice between silver and copper cables.

    I really think this design could have benefitted from much more prominent labelling to make cable selection a walk in the park as opposed to a somnambulist fumbling in the dark.


    Whilst I applaud Unique Melody for their efforts to innovate and add value with the adjustable sound ports and the swappable cable, I reach the following conclusions:


    They were not executed distinctively enough nor with enough user-friendliness to really make them stand out. People who can afford a TOTL IEM are less likely to be averse to cable swapping, and realistically, the dual-cable solution here offers little tangible advance in convenience compared with just carrying an extra cable and swapping it over (were the Mason to have regular 2-pin or MMCX connectors).


    I think it’s an historical mistake that keeps repeating itself; a manufacturer (lacking the size and influence of a giant like Apple) adopting a proprietary connector or technology.

    Even if the connector in question is a superior design (and it is), I just don’t think this is an approach that is destined to reap a whole lot of success and is more likely to serve as a stumbling block to potential customers.


    If Unique Melody are interested in my feedback, I strongly suggest that for a future Mason v4, switch the adjustable ports to ADEL or equivalent modules (perhaps with 3 choices of module).

    This could provide an equal (or much improved) ability to modify the sound signature, along with all the aural health benefits that come with this technology and a correspondingly stronger selling point for the IEM’s.


    Similarly, ditch the dual cable and proprietary connectors and focus on adding value with a quality cable with great ergonomics that will delight those unwilling or unable to buy others, whilst giving flexibility of choice to those that prefer such an option.


    I did try the cable swapping trick. It’s not a seismic change, but I perceived a touch more warmth with the copper cable and a bit more openness and clarity with the silver.

    I was pressed for time so I couldn’t really investigate further, although I would surely love the opportunity to do so :)





    The Sound:


    As ever, my preferred method of testing is to try out the product(s) in question with a selection of songs from various genres and to let that process draw out the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each product, with a tl;dr summary at the end for those who lack my infinite saintly patience :wink:

    I have a few tracks which I’ve only found available on MP3; the rest are FLAC or WAV in 16/44 or 24/192.
    For the purposes of this review, I used the iBasso DX200 (with AMP1 – balanced mode).
    Ok, on with some song-by-song impressions for your exquisite delight and general entertainment :)


    Red Hot Chilli Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magik album (HDTracks 24/96 FLAC).


    I woke up with a sudden urge to revisit this seminal album that I had not listened to for a while.

    This was my first critical listening session with the Mason v3.

    Well, for all my quibbles about the cable and adjustable ports, there is no doubt that we are now in serious TOTL audio territory.


    Listening to these songs (that I know like the back of my hand) was like hearing some of them for the first time.

    Crazy amounts of detail were jumping out at me; a whole host of little details that I either hadn’t noticed before or had not heard with such clarity and resolution.

    Every instrument (and vocal) is presented beautifully and each has a serious presence and weight, without any sacrifice in clarity and separation

    Like an intrepid Asian Palm Civet, feeding good quality input to this audiophile beast will result in the finest of outputs :)


    The Darkness - Black Shuck, Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman, Givin' Up (16/44 FLAC):


    Now then. I’m autistic (but fortunately was blessed with extreme attractiveness to compensate), and this seems to come with a sensitivity to certain sounds and frequencies.

    I love rock, and I love these songs, but I’ve mostly found them difficult to listen to, due to the dense and noisy nature of the song, the joyful bashing of cymbals, occasionally piercing falsetto and so on.

    Also, these (and other old school rock) tracks really benefit from a powerful low end (doesn’t need to be one that is not balanced with the rest of the sound signature, just not an anaemic or lacking one!).


    I would say that, for me, the Mason v3 performed a good standard with these songs.

    When I listen to this type of track (Poison - Fallen Angel, for example), to some extent, I’m looking for an IEM that can ADD bass to tracks where the bass is fairly neutral in the mix.

    The fact that the Mason v3 doesn’t do that very much is in no way a negative thing.

    Equally, I would probably not enjoy such an IEM with most of the other genres of music that I listen too. It’s a specific niche, but I mention it here for completeness and for the benefit of any fellow hair-rock-geeks that feel as I do :p


    Note also that a change of DAP/AMP (or even AMP unit) could probably enable the Mason to deliver more of what I’m looking for here. Something like the W1MZ, Mojo, or DX150 perhaps?



    Ray Lamontagne - A Falling Through (16/44 FLAC):


    This track features a gorgeous drum beat in the background, a delightful deep thump with significant bass weight and presence, that still doesn’t dominate the song but increases its emotion. Along with this, the strumming of the acoustic guitar is a great test for an IEM’s faithful representation of timbre.

    However, the track is mastered in such a way as to sound quite closed-in, warm and intimate.

    With IEM’s of a similar sound signature, it can be a bit much and take away from the track to some extent.


    No such problems here. Without totally sacrificing the intimate and warm feel, the Mason separates everything out sufficiently to let each instrument to shine.


    Good grief, the vocals sound stunning! Every vocal nuance of his gorgeous voice, the timbre of every note is presented just forward of centre; no recessed mids here. This is a joy.


    The tactile sound of the guitar strumming is strongly presented here, the sound is quite balanced but still capturing the intimacy of the track. Nicely musical and detailed, good clarity. The cymbals in the chorus are present and clearly discernible, without being a distraction or making it noisy.



    Club 8 - Love Dies (from the excellent 2015 album ‘Pleasure’, 16/44 FLAC):


    My goodness, this song is astonishing. The first time I heard it, my jaw dropped.

    It’s extremely crystalline, clear, beautiful. It takes a good combo of equipment to display this to perfection without letting the highs become piercing or strident in occasional places.


    The track starts slowly, and from about 50s in to 1:07, you can hear a progression of sounds being introduced at the edge of the soundstage, giving the impression of the soundstage opening out like a blossoming flower.


    The Mason v3 handles this track with aplomb.

    It serves notice that everything it can do with good male vocals, it can do just as well with female vocals. Again, forward, present, crystalline and beautiful without any hint of sharpness or sibilance.



    Hobotalk – ‘Walks With Me’ and ‘When They Call Us In’ (from Beauty in Madness, 16/44 FLAC):


    These songs, by a relatively obscure Scottish band, are a couple of my all-time favourite songs. A piece of pure bliss; warm and wistful, slightly melancholic without being cold or depressing, beautiful and peaceful in equal measure.


    Again, there is a delightful weight and thickness to the notes.

    The soundstage opens wide, tall, deep. The Mason is has a touch of musicality and sounds beautiful on these tracks.



    Dire Straits – Sultans Of Swing (16/44 FLAC):


    One of my go-to test tracks for testing (and just listening), and I know several other reviewers on here share this point of view!

    A terrific song, with lots of things to get analytical over; percussion, timbre, guitar fretboard wizardry etc.


    The vocals seem less forward on this track but still bring out the gravel and texture in his voice that really does it justice. This is another song where the Mason v3 manages to bring out an enchanting kind of musicality, a shimmer and cohesiveness to the instruments and vocals that made me get so lost in the music I had to rewind to do the critical listening again!


    Anberlin – The Art Of War (16/44 FLAC):


    This is a staggering track. There’s so much going on in it and so many things to zone in on when listening. There’s powerful percussion and bass, a driving rhythm, synths and sound effects and over all this, great vocals, searing lyrics and simply majestic rock!


    In terms of analysis of detail retrieval, on this track, around 9 seconds in, there’s a sudden sense of space opening up in the upper-central zone of the soundstage, along with a faint, almost imperceptible hum.

    I don’t know much about music production, but I’m guessing this is the ‘channel’ being switched on that the bass guitar is linked up to (as indeed the bass comes in at the same spatial location a second or two later).


    Now then. For those of you who might have been a touch deflated at my comments on how this IEM handles relatively bass-light 80’s rock, allow me to provide a healing balm of assurance.

    This is a modern style of rock, dynamic and rich in the mastering.

    The Mason v3 sounds utterly assured and majestic on this song; wonderfully open and not congested at all (a hazard with this song).

    The bassline rumbles, shudders and kicks like a mule having a seizure with a tuba strapped to its mouth* and the driving notes are thick but each strum and pluck is effortlessly discernible.
    *no animals were harmed in the making of this review :)


    The small detail of the channel opening up for the bass at 9 seconds in is captured noticeably and adds to the atmosphere of the song.


    Honestly, I feel the Mason v3 reached its apotheosis on this track. It is rampant with controlled swagger, mastery and muscle. It is staggering and sublime.

    “Kiddest thou moi?” I hear you cry pretentiously.

    Verily, I say unto thee: I do not :)



    Comparisons:

    Only had access to a couple of comparable TOTL IEM's at time of writing, but as ever, feel free to bestow gifts upon me such that this frankly unacceptable state of affairs will not continue :wink:


    Mason v3 vs Noble Audio Katana

    Mason has significantly larger and more holographic soundstage and separation.

    It also has a slight edge in note weight and thickness, and vocal presentation. It is overall more neutral and analytical, but it proves very much capable of musicality on certain tracks.

    Katana is more intimate, warm, organic and musical overall.

    I’d say Katana is possibly more of an all-rounder, in that the performance of the Mason v3 was definitely variable depending on the song and the mastering used.


    Mason v3 vs Rhapsodio Zombie:

    Rather like comparing chalk and cheese.

    The drastic increase in bass emphasis with the Zombie was immediately noticeable.

    Interestingly, on the Red Hot Chilli Peppers song ‘The Power of Equality’, there’s a section of music at the beginning which occurs before the bass and main percussion kick in.

    On this segment, the Zombie proved itself to be eminently capable of delivering a soundstage, separation, micro-detail and delicacy approaching (but not attaining) that of the Mason v3.


    However, as soon as the song got going and ‘DAT BASS :-O (TM)’ on the Zombie kicked in, the mids muddied up somewhat and the whole sound signature seemed to be more congested and heavy.
    It's not by any means bad, it is just a matter of taste, and there are those for whom it fits the bill perfectly :)


    Bear in mind however, that due to cable issues, I’m having to compare them on the DX200 with AMP1, with Zombie on the inferior single-ended output and Mason v3 on the balanced.

    Plus I’m making this comparison after an extended session with the very different sound signature of the Mason v3.



    Summary of the sound signature:


    The low end really surprised me. It is more powerful and present than I recall on the EE Zeus or Noble Katana, yet never, ever out of balance with the rest of the signature.


    Despite this, it could exhibit breathtaking power and accuracy when called upon and is the most superbly executed bass I’ve yet come across on an exclusively balanced armature IEM.

    It seems to have strength and depth across the bass spectrum with great extension, but with emphasis slightly more on the mid-bass region and this works really well in keeping everything clean and increasing separation.


    The mids are refreshingly balanced, neither too forward nor recessed. There is liquidity, a smooth transition between the frequencies. Vocals are presented extremely well, with great timbre and richness.


    The treble to me shimmers more than sparkles; it strikes a masterful balance between clarity, detail and smoothness. It never once became too sharp or sibilant, nor did it ever feel congested.

    There’s the perfect amount of air and extension, but never at the expense of emotion or musicality.


    There was an impressive amount of micro-detail available, combined with expansive separation, tangible layering and accurate placement. Every instrument and vocal had its own space, yet with considerable weight and presence.

    The very large and holographic soundstage formed a perfect canvas on which the Mason could paint sonic pictures of astonishing beauty and emotion.

    It combines naturalness/neutrality with just the right amount of musicality, power and weight with detail and accuracy.


    I have sent it on to the next reviewer, and I still can’t stop thinking about it.

    I must have it. I must possess it, my preciousss :)



    Conclusion:


    Surprisingly small and light for the driver count; eminently comfortable and wearable for extended periods.


    In one sense, I might regard the Mason v3 as something of a missed opportunity, due to what I feel were somewhat controversial or anaemic design decisions.

    However, in the case of this IEM, I would have to say that such criticism, whilst valid, becomes a minor quibble in terms of what they have achieved overall.


    This is, in every sense, a world class flagship IEM. Let there be no doubt about this.

    It has a very special signature, and therein lies both its Achilles’ heel and its crowning glory.


    There are a few songs on which it sounds merely excellent (rock music where the bass is mastered in a rather neutral and anaemic way). Also, its clarity, placement and separation are so good that it brings out micro-details very well. However, on poorly mastered tracks, this could lead to them sounding slightly unforgiving or harsh.

    Since I could obviously never even contemplate listening to anything less than 64/512 octa-supra-blu-ray DSD, this issue is clearly only of concern to mere mortals :p

    In seriousness though, I would imagine that the kind of person who will buy this IEM will have at best the tiniest fraction of their music collection at anything less than 320k MP3, so I doubt it’s ever going to be an issue.


    However, on pretty much everything else, this IEM represents a crowning achievement.

    For those looking for a TOTL IEM, especially one with this style of signature, I can thoroughly recommend this generally as an outstanding performer, and on certain tracks, it goes above and beyond even that by adding in an enchanting cohesiveness and musicality, balancing shimmer, detail and smoothness beautifully in an expansive holographic arena.


    I’ve listened to other well-known flagships such as the Empire Ears Zeus, 64 Audio Tia Fourte, KSE1500, Beats by Dr. Dre (The Chronic: Flatulence edition)*, Campfire Audio Andromeda, Noble Audio Katana.
    *humour
    True, in most cases it was not a lengthy audition, nor did I have the Mason v3 at hand then to compare.

    However, based on memory and my own subjective audiophile discernment (which for the sake of my wallet I am glad to humbly report seems to be improving incrementally year on year), I feel that the Mason v3 can hold its metaphorical head high amongst the finest of them and would rank none of them explicitly above it (subject to further critical listening, which I very much hope to have!).

    At this level, after all, it is merely a question of one’s preferred sound signature and I find the Mason v3 to very much tick my boxes.


    It may not be that something for everyone, but for that someone it may be everything.

    I welcome the Mason v3 into the pantheon of audio nirvana and long may she endure.

    Indeed, as Shakespeare once wrote:

    “Age cannot wither her, nor staleness customise her variable infinity” :p


    I thank you for reading and bid you a fond farewell.
    1. glassmonkey
      Nice review. I wouldn't judge UM for not working with Asius (makers of ADEL), two companies have stopped working with them already.
      glassmonkey, Jun 16, 2018
    2. Layman1
      Tried to reply here, but 'computer said no'. Too long apparently. Have edited my post to better reflect my (non-judgemental) opinion. Cheers for the heads-up :)
      Layman1, Jun 17, 2018
  6. jinxy245
    Neutral Doesn’t Always Mean Bland
    Written by jinxy245
    Published May 10, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Utterly Entrancing Sound
    Excellent Build Quality
    Small for 16 Drivers
    Dual Tone Cable
    DB-Go Modules
    Cons - Unwieldy Headphone Jack
    Huge Storage Case
    Dual Tone Cable?
    That Price
    Let me start by sincerely thanking Unique Melody and Lawrence (cotnijoe) for organizing this tour. I have (gratefully) been selected to participate in this Headphone Tour, during which I am able to listen to the Mason V3 for 2 weeks then ship them off to the next lucky participant. The only requirement is to post the review which you see here. Having the opportunity to sample TOTL equipment in the comfort of my own home, with my own source and music, is an absolute joy for which I am truly grateful. Personally I’ve been gravitating away from IEM usage as of late. This offering from Unique Melody has done a lot to re-pique my interest. The Mason V3 can be bought from MusicTeck for $2699 (USD).

    From the Unique Melody website:

    “In 2016, Unique Melody introduced the Mason V2. This year, we’re stepping it up with the launch of the Mason V3. We didn’t simply increase the number of drivers and called it V3. With the new generation, the Mason V3 is equipped with a wide range of features such as “dB-Go” bass enhancement module, titanium sound tubes, newly designed shell for optimal comfort, and “Dual-Tone” cable technology. The Mason V3 emphasizes resolution, tonal balance, clear vocals, and an expansive soundstage. Find a dealer near you to try it for yourself!”

    https://shop.musicteck.com/products/um-ciem-mason-v3-16-drivers?variant=482151104526

    http://en.uniquemelody.org/focusdetail_85.html

    [​IMG]

    Build Quality Comfort and Accessories

    Build quality is, by my estimation, excellent overall. Unique Melody has created a very light and compact IEM, which is no small achievement considering that it houses 16 drivers per side (4 Low + 4 Lower Midrange + 4 Upper Midrange + 4 High). To be clear, it is an achievement to make a 16 driver IEM that small, but the achievement isn’t small, the housing is.

    [​IMG]

    To spite being of diminutive size, the Mason V3 is not the most comfortable IEM I’ve used. It does protrude from the ear a bit and the size of the nozzle (relatively short but wide) does make its presence known.

    [​IMG]

    That being said, it should be noted that although it didn’t disappear in the ear, neither can it be said that it caused any discomfort.

    Accessories seem to be a toss-up. Mason comes with a good assortment of eartips, what seems to be a painstakingly designed titanium (?!?!?) case, a leather ‘fob’ presumably for holding the coiled cable, a cleaning cloth & user manual stored on a USB drive (cleverly attached to a credit card sized…well, card).

    I maintain it’s a toss-up because of a couple of issues, and I think the interpretation can go either way.

    I haven’t confirmed that the case is titanium, but it’s a large solid hunk of machined metal and it doesn’t weigh a ton. The problem I found is that size of the case is at the same time too cumbersome for pocketing, yet rather snug for storage. I found if I arranged the cable & IEMs just so I could fit them into the case with the cables still attached. However no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t also have the tips still attached.

    [​IMG]

    You could say that the premium design & materials are only fitting of a product in this price bracket. You could also argue that although we have no idea how much the case costs to manufacture, it could only increase the price of what is already a premium IEM. I honestly see both sides as being somewhat valid.

    The only other issue is the cable which is nothing if not unique, and may be the most polarizing aspect of the Mason V3. Let’s start with what the MusicTeck website has to say: “The brand new and unique "Dual-Tone" cable design also allows you to achieve two distinct sound signatures from the same cable - A pure copper sound or a pure silver sound gives you even more control and customization over the sound signature.” It doesn’t seem possible, or it seems at the very least not prudent to review the Mason V3 without diving into the attributes of the cable.

    [​IMG]

    Full disclosure: I am a cable agnostic. I enjoy cable rolling for aesthetic purposes, to achieve a desired length, or maybe to reduce what is often called microphonics. I have never had an epiphanistic experience when switching cables. I do hear subtle differences, but nothing so grand that I couldn’t attribute it to other factors. It may be possible that I haven’t compared the ‘right’ cables, or maybe I haven’t compared the cables the right way. Whichever reason it was, I also didn’t hear an appreciable difference between the different configurations of the Dual-Tone cable.

    The Dual Tone is to my knowledge the only cable that attempts to utilize two separate cable configurations in one strand of cable (one copper and one silver), and it employs a proprietary screw on 4 pin connection to achieve this design. There are no ‘L’ or ‘R’ markings to be found on the cable or the driver housing. This makes a certain amount of sense since the housings can only be inserted in the ear one way. There is a small notch on the connector which allows the cable to be connected only one way as well. What happens when you swap the cable from the right and left drivers is you wind up switching from the copper to the silver cabling and/or vice versa. Of the 4 pins, only 2 transmit the audio signal at any one time. Ergonomically, I found the orientation pin difficult to see without glasses, and for the life of me I could not differentiate between the silver & copper cable configurations by sight.

    [​IMG]

    The cable appears to be of high quality and feels very robust; however I did find it to be somewhat stiff, kind of bulky and it transmitted a fair amount of noise while moving about. The quality of the cable itself seems obvious to me, but it does seem best suited for desktop use.

    [​IMG]

    Once again I feel Unique Melody has created something that can be looked at as either a boon or a bane. The workmanship and novelty of the Dual Tone cable is readily apparent. If you enjoy the sonic variety that using different wire material can bring, this may be the cable of your dreams. If you are someone that likes to have the ability to try different cables, finding an aftermarket replacement will likely be challenging at best.

    Sound

    Before I offer my listening impressions, I’ll start with a little about myself. I’m 50 and have less than perfect hearing. I’ve been a music lover for as long as I can remember, and I learned to listen a little more critically during the few years I sold audio equipment (and the more I listen, the more I learn). My fascination/infatuation with headphones began about 5 years ago, and has only gotten stronger. The majority of my listening was done listening to FLAC, WAV & various MP3s through my HP all in one PC (Feeding a Schiit Gungnir D/S & ifi iCan Pro) or with my Shanling M2/ Fiio x3 (1st gen.). I wasn’t able to pair them with my Samsung Galaxy S7, as the robust cable connection wouldn’t connect through the protective case I have.

    [​IMG]

    My listening centered on classic rock, folk, jazz, classical and various genres of EDM. Since these have already been played for (at least) a few hundred hours on this tour, I did not burn them in prior to critical listening, nor did I hear any notable difference throughout my evaluation.



    While not as efficient as some BA driver IEMs, I found that I could achieve good volume with any source I tried. No matter the source or amp, these IEMs never sounded strained to my ears. Because of pervasive tinnitus I’m not particularly good at detecting hiss, and there was none to report on the lowest impedance on my ifi, nor either of my DAPs. If I bumped the impedance or the volume, some hiss was present, but not obtrusive. Obviously YMMV.

    I achieved a good seal and great performance with the stock Comply tips, so I did all my listening with them, and the isolation that combination provided was among the best I’ve heard from any IEM. I did not partake in any tip rolling during my time with the Mason V3.



    Whereas I felt the accessories were somewhat questionable, I found the overall tonal balance to be another matter altogether. The sound from the Mason V3 was entirely captivating for me, drawing me into the music like no other IEM I’ve heard. Tonality is spot on, with each instrument sounding as it should. It’s easy to distinguish electric & acoustic bass, upright & grand piano, viola & cello. Breaking the sound into the usual categories, I’ll work from the bottom up.

    Sub bass is present, but not overly accentuated. Roll off sounded like it was in the area of 30Hz, which is more than adequate for 99% of the music I have. While I wouldn’t consider this a candidate for Bassheads, EDM was well represented and thoroughly enjoyable, having good authority when called for if not the last degree of slam and impact. I’ll note here the inclusion of the DB-Go modules since these modules are said to affect the sub-bass most.

    [​IMG]

    In my experience using the modules the change was subtle at best; I could barely discern any difference at all with the ports fully open or closed. Since my preference is for a more robust bass response I did all my listening with the port knobs adjusted forward.

    Mid bass was tight and solid, dancing squarely along the line of ‘just enough’. Although my personal preference is for a touch more in quantity, I can’t say I ever felt short changed. Bass lines were always fairly full yet nowhere near bleeding into the mids. Although very recording and source dependent (so again, YMMV), I was overall satisfied in the bass department. Again, even though these might not be the 1st choice for EDM, Rap etc., I still felt that these IEMs handled everything I threw at them well.

    Moving into the midrange I’d have to say this is where this earphone shines. During my time with the Mason V3, I was treated to the singular experience of having loads of detail without experiencing pain or listening fatigue. I felt the lower mids were smoother in character, with a few minor peaks in the upper midrange, but this played to my particular tastes. Vocals and strings sounded heavenly bringing out nuances without feeling unnatural or pushed.

    The highs were absolutely perfect to my ears, having the right amount of sparkle & shimmer without straying into exaggeration or overemphasis. Cymbals, string overtones, ambient cues in various tracks were easy to hear, yet not ’in your face’. Once again I was treated to the experience of hearing a high level of detail without it becoming bothersome. I imagine with a dryer/brighter audio chain, the detail could be too much of a good thing, but that was never my experience. Once again I find the Mason V3 to dance along a line. This time the line was between enough and too much, and again I found these IEMs on the right side of the line.

    The headstage was pleasantly wide with a good amount of depth, and a bit less height. I have never experienced an IEM with this level of isolation and a headstage this good. It’s not HD800 good, which is recognized as being almost artificial in its grandeur, but it casts a coherent believable image that is a pleasure to listen to. Sonically it seems to me that Unique Melody knocked it out of the park with this IEM. It’s neutral in the very best possible way.

    Conclusion

    My thanks again go to Unique Melody & Lawrence without whom I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to enjoy my time with the Mason V3. Although I question the value of some of the accessories, if you put together all the sonic observations above you get a one way ticket into Audiophile Cliché-Speak. All the tired & worn out phrases actually do apply. In particularly, I constantly got lost in the music & gradually stopped listening critically. The sound was so beguiling it was almost impossible not to listen for pleasure. In the end that is the highest praise you can give to an IEM, and it’s exactly what I hope for when listening to music.

    [​IMG]
      bidn likes this.
  7. Deezel177
    Unique Melody Mason V3 - The Age of Indulgence
    Written by Deezel177
    Published May 2, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Class-leading spaciousness, headroom and scale
    - Impressive linearity, solidity and balance
    - Excellent detail retrieval, separation and finesse
    - Beautiful build and presentation
    - Innovative customisability
    Cons - Charm, note size and intimacy are somewhat sacrificed for scale
    - A slightly dry touch
    - Memory wire
    - Price
    DISCLAIMER: Unique Melody loaned me this Mason V3 universal demo in return for my honest opinion. I will send the unit back following the review. I am not personally affiliated with the company in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. The review is as follows.

    Unique Melody is an undoubted veteran within the in-ear monitoring industry. First making waves with their six-driver Miracle (which I still own to this day), the Chinese company have showcased excellence in both longevity and innovation. Four years ago, they were reshell specialists who even offered installing additional drivers for superior performance. And today, they’re an engineering powerhouse capable of developing their very own planar magnetic in-ears, metal-shelled hybrid IEMs, and a slew of new technologies including dB-Go modules, Dual-Tone cables and the Dreamweaver shell. The culmination of all this is their sixteen-driver flagship: The Mason V3. Equipped with one of the highest – and priciest – driver counts in the industry today, can the Mason V3 and its bag of tricks justify the luxurious price tag?

    MasonV3-20.jpg

    Unique Melody Mason V3
    • Driver count: Sixteen balanced-armature drivers
    • Impedance: 24Ω
    • Sensitivity: 104dB @ 1kHz
    • Key feature(s) (if any): Dual-Tone cable; dB-Go modules; Dreamweaver shell
    • Available form factor(s): Universal and custom acrylic IEM
    • Price: $2699
    • Website: en.uniquemelody.org
    Build and Accessories

    The Mason V3 comes in a black, textured box with the company name embossed on top. Lifting off the top cover reveals a foam-lined interior with precision-cut depressions to secure the owner’s card, a satchel of multi-sized tips and a round metal case. The card comes embedded with a USB stick which supposedly contains photos of the in-ear throughout different stages of production, but since this was a loaner unit, I chose not to tempt the possible risk of breaking it. The puck-like case is not dissimilar from the ones offered by JHAudio, and they do a brilliant job of keeping the IEMs safe. Accessories aren’t plenty at this price range, but Unique Melody win big in presentation. This is a visually-stunning package that exudes class, even if the addition of a cleaning cloth or a carabiner-clad carrying case wouldn’t have hurt.

    MasonV3-7.jpg

    As far as build quality is concerned, Unique Melody have absolutely hit it out of the park. Externally, the Mason V3 is one of the most solid IEMs I’ve ever encountered. They aren’t heavy at all (especially in the ear), but they have immense density. And, I must attribute that to their Dreamweaver shells. While other companies cure liquid resin until enough of it solidifies to form a single wall around the perimeter of the shell, Unique Melody have employed a novel method where acrylic is painted and cured onto the IEM layer-by-layer. This essentially produces multiple walls around the shell to further bolster its strength. Unique Melody also offer a design where strands of a wool-like material are placed between each layer to form a spider-web-like effect, as seen on my unit. Cosmetically, the IEMs have also been finished with a flawless layer of lacquer, and the monitor’s internals have been tactfully arranged to maximise finesse.

    Dual-Tone Cable

    Unique Melody developed the Dual-Tone cable to further increase the Mason V3’s sonic customisability, as well as to simplify cable-rolling on the go. The Mason V3 (and the Mentor V3, for that matter) comes equipped with a screw-in, 4-pin connector not unlike the ones on JHAudio’s Siren Series monitors. But – where the latter uses the four pins to separate bass, mids, treble and ground – only two of the four pins on Unique Melody’s IEMs are ever active at all times. The conductor connected to these two active pins will be the one carrying the audio signal from your source to the IEM, while the other remains inactive. This is designed such that when you swap the cables left and right, you’ll be using a different conductor material to listen. Sonic comparisons between the two will be on the last page of the review.

    MasonV3-18.jpg

    Ergonomically, Unique Melody’s option is light enough for daily use. Flexibility is okay, but it understandably can’t compete with standards set by the likes of PlusSound or Effect Audio. However, these are but minor gripes when compared to the cable’s memory wire. Unpleasant and stiff, it would actively prevent me from listening to the IEM on the go for any longer than 30-minute stretches. Although the cable’s flexibility and weight are pleasant enough to not warrant any immediate changes, I’d love for Unique Melody to ditch the memory wire completely. Companies like Han Sound Audio don’t even bother pre-shaping ear bends and they work just fine, so this is an option I’d love to see offered on all Dual-Tone cables from now on. The screw-on sockets do need casual re-tightening, but considering my unit is a review loaner that’s been passed around multiple individuals, some wear-and-tear is expected.

    dB-Go Modules

    MasonV3-1.jpg

    The Mason V3 also comes with what Unique Melody are calling dB-Go modules. They take the form of dials protruding from the faceplate, visually akin to Asius Technologies’ ADEL MAMs (Manually-Adjusted Modules). According to Unique Melody, they relieve pressure from within the ear canal – for a less fatiguing listening experience – whilst simultaneously functioning as a sub-bass adjuster. In practice, the adjustment aspect of the modules only allow for two realistic scenarios: Full up or full down. This is because the dials only ever tighten on either extreme, and any setting in-between can’t be maintained because of how sensitive the dial is to the touch when unfastened. Sonically speaking, though, appreciable changes can be heard on either setting, affecting – as advertised – the sub-bass and the sub-bass only. Certain instruments gain a a greater sense of growl down low, This aids musicality on EDM tracks especially, adding a necessary sense of cadence to bass drops and climaxes. Again, it’s a nifty gadget that bolsters the Mason V3’s customisability, and I don’t think it’d be unrealistic to expect more variants on this module some time down the line.

    Presentation

    The Unique Melody Mason V3 is defined by its clean, roomy and tactile sonic palate. Brilliant bidirectional extension and admirable linearity give the Mason its wide, spacious and well-resolved stage – excelling particularly in organisation, stability and headroom. There’s a clear sense of geography to the Mason’s soundscape that makes it an absolute joy to explore. It presents ensemble pieces with a balance of mathematical precision and musical cohesion – skilfully defined, sufficiently textured, yet never awkward. Every instrument has a place of their own, and picturing the soundstage – with all its intricate little pieces – becomes dead easy. It’s a combination of volume and separation that gives the Mason V3 its sense of boundlessness. And yet, that’s made all the more impressive considering the IEM’s resolution.

    MasonV3-10.jpg

    In all its forms, the Mason carries a sense of note weight that’s unique in the current crop of flagship IEMs. Unique Melody have intelligently paired an expansive, airy stage with dense, hefty and well-textured notes. A resonant upper-bass and a well controlled lower-midrange allow instruments to deftly convey realistic palpability. Whether its vocals or guitars or drums, the Mason excels in balancing roundedness and separation. As a result, each individual element sounds complete without the veil or congestion that plague less capable monitors. Although full realism is hampered by the Mason’s upper-midrange – carrying slightly too much energy – it manages an acceptable midpoint between dry contrast and rich euphony. Mating expansiveness with solidity, the Mason is all about being big and bold. It still is clean and articulative in nature, but it brings about great physicality in an impressively coherent manner.

    Bass

    The Mason’s bass – again – shows balance between body and technical ability. It’s a low-end defined by the mid-and-upper-bass; bringing about a more melodious and musical response, rather than one guttural or bellowing. Despite a calmer sub-bass, the Mason is no slouch when it comes to extension. Impressive technical achievements have bolstered the V3 with admirable layering and above-average separation. An upper-treble peak introduces slight dryness down low, but it’s also instrumental in controlling bloom – allowing the bass to retain both its warmth and its definition. With the copper conductors and the dB-Go module turned up, the Mason’s low-end feeds some body into the lower-midrange. Vocals become chestier as a result, but a greater contrast exists between the lower registers and the upper-midrange. The silver conductors introduce superior control and coherence – aiding overall headroom – at the cost of body.

    However, little is affected when it comes to tone and impact. In either setting, the Mason V3 has decent mid-bass punch, manifesting themselves as fist-like jabs that complement the IEM’s thicker note structure. Those slams make themselves known, but they remain finely concentrated around centre stage. Again, sub-bass isn’t the most visceral you’ll find, but it shows great, clean presence in tracks and sources that emphasise this particular region. Turning up the dB-Go module adds greater presence here, maxing just above neutral. Tonally, the Mason’s low-end leans toward neutral, but there’s sufficient weight to compensate for this lack of warmth. Regardless, I would’ve loved to hear more wetness in the sub-and-mid-bass for a smoother and more natural response. The Mason V3’s low-end is a technical achiever. Its attempts to balance separation, clarity and organicity are admirable, even if it succeeds at some more than others. Despite a less-than-natural tone, it’s an engaging low-end that proves crucial in the Mason’s weighty overall signature.

    Midrange

    Despite the Mason’s heftier presentation, it consistently maintains a neutrally-placed midrange. Vocals are individually well-resolved and deftly textured, but a lack of forwardness and size may hurt its appeal to certain crowds. A more natural response would entail greater intimacy. And, dryness from the upper-treble – again – rears its ugly head with ill-produced tracks. However, this is exactly why the Mason is exceptional in its portrayal of transparency and space. Laid-backed-ness inherently boosts depth, creating its grand and theatre-like ambience. Instruments materialise out of thin air into fully physical objects – impressively audible as they decay organically into the depths of its pitch-black background. An upper-midrange bump aids articulation and clarity, and I would’ve loved to hear a bit more bloom from the upper-bass and the lower-midrange to counterbalance that energy. Regardless, through sheer resolve alone, the Mason concocts an engaging midrange – even if its penchant for space has it tip-toeing on the edge of recession.

    MasonV3-9.jpg

    Tonally, though, the Mason performs impressively. Despite a touch of grit, the Unique Melody flagship sports a neutral-natural timbre. Organicity is maintained through lower-midrange control and upper-treble extension – drawing chestiness and finesse, respectively. But, the upper-midrange is where I find it most conflicting. It provides excellent clarity and dynamism, yet its energy borders on incoherence. As a result, the Mason isn’t the most forgiving monitor in the world. It’s neither sibilant nor harsh, but ill-produced records will have you reaching in for the vocals at times. This aberration is why I enjoy the Mason most in its warmest configuration, but it isn’t a deal-breaker; it’s but a minor nitpick in an otherwise smooth and engaging signature. The Mason V3’s midrange is a mix of ideologies. It attempts to juggle the engaging maestro, the crystal-clear surgeon and the epic concert hall all at the same time. But, truly, it’s a circus act that – for a good stretch – works. A tad more intimacy and a touch less exuberance would truly make it a winner, but it’s a great achievement regardless. A balance of many that – by some miracle – stands on its own two feet. Good effort.

    Treble

    The Mason relies on a technically-competent treble to truly manifest its signature. Thankfully, Unique Melody have tuned themselves a very capable top-end. The Mason emits excellent extension, outstanding headroom and admirable linearity. A slight aberration in the lower-treble – carried over from the upper-midrange prior to a dip – is the only thorn in its side. Vocals can sound too articulative given the wrong material, especially when compared proportionally to low-end warmth. However, the clear winners here are clarity and micro-dynamic energy. The Mason is capable of creating impressive contrasts from note to note, enhancing the transparency and spaciousness of its voluminous soundstage. An attenuated middle-treble and an almost linear upper-treble is responsible for the Mason’s headroom. Never is the top-end harsh, sibilant or brittle; only constantly energetic, consistently solid and exceptionally natural in its decay.

    In terms of balance – the Mason’s top-end fares pretty well. Its illusion of coherence (despite slight aberrations throughout) is impressively convincing. Hi-hats, ride cymbals and crashes ring through with gorgeous solidity, remaining inoffensive at all times. In fact, the Mason is one of the most forgiving IEMs I’ve heard – ironically – with percussion. From jazz, to prog rock, to pop, the Mason is consistently convincing in its portrayal of the drum kit; a virtue of the low-mid-treble dip that gifts generous headroom. Though, where it slightly falters is in tone. The Mason’s upper-treble peak is the cause of its inherently neutral timbre. More crucially, it’s what births the Mason’s drier touch. Because of this, despite its generous body, the Mason struggles to properly emote. Although the music it portrays is vast, dynamic and grandiose, there’s a side to it that’s rather matter-of-fact. It’s a lack of overall wetness, intimacy and organicity that – to some – will be its Achilles’ Heel, while – to others – will be but an insignificant bug in their grand theatre experience.

    Select Comparisons

    Silver-Tone vs. Copper-Tone

    MasonV3-13.jpg


    Sonically, the Dual-Tone cable does provide alterations in sound, albeit ones that are incremental in nature. The shifts in tonality aren’t the largest I’ve experienced, but it allows the user to maintain the inherent signature of the IEM whilst fine-tuning for different genres, mixes or listening scenarios. My unit came with a choice between pure silver and pure copper conductors. On the copper cores, the Mason V3 assumes a warmer response, because of a chestier lower-midrange and a richer bass response. Impact does not increase from this change, but more warmth does emanate from the low-end into the vocal region. Both male and female singers gain depth, almost as if they sang from their diaphragm rather than their throat. Though, on some tracks where this region is already emphasised, vocals become slightly nasal-y and incoherent. The overall atmosphere of the stage also gains some warmth, but only by a slight margin.

    Shifting to the silver cores, the Mason V3 instantly becomes more precise and dynamic, due to a greater contrast between the treble and the low-end. Bass impact is now more jab-like without the buttery sense of weight, and this affects the lower-midrange considerably as well. That rich chestiness is now leaner, more controlled and more linear according to the Mason V3’s energetic upper-midrange. Notes lose slight amounts of density and solidity, but it’s more agreeable to subpar tracks, because vocals no longer run the risk of sounding throat-y when oddly mixed. This setting, however, is less resolving than the copper-equipped one, especially when taking into account harmonic detail. The slip in note weight combined with the Mason V3’s inherently neutral vocals also cause slightly quicker fatigue. But, this pairing is the one to pick if you’re looking to maximise the Mason V3’s laser focus with a leaner, crisper and airier presentation.

    Verdict

    The Unique Melody Mason V3 is an instant gateway to the world’s most exclusive opera-house experience. Showcasing a marvellous knack for spaciousness, imaging and stability, the 16-driver flagship complements its strong detail retrieval with admirable coherence and proper linearity. However, all of its technical achievements come at price. The Mason V3 is one of the most expensive IEMs I’ve ever heard, and its modest versatility will undoubtedly limit its audience. Fans of immense soundscapes and classical music will fall head-over-heels for the Mason V3’s theatrical presentation, while audiophiles searching for large notes, intimate vocals and gobs of emotional resonance will find themselves reaching into the soundstage, yearning to get to the front row. But, with that said, the Dual-Tone cable and the dB-Go modules do add impressive value to the overall package, which will only improve as more options hit the market.

    Overall, the Unique Melody Mason V3 is a technical powerhouse – sometimes to its own detriment – that honestly justifies its price with a spacious presentation and strong resolution. It may lack the musical verve that invites and allures the listener into a silky arrest, but its precision, expansion and separation is on a league of its own. It’s a level of finesse that many only strive to achieve, and it’s a testament to how far Unique Melody have come in a few, short years.

    MasonV3-4.jpg
      natemact and Wyville like this.
  8. justrest
    Splendid Sound
    Written by justrest
    Published Apr 22, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Transparent and detailed sound signature, shell design, package content, superb dual-tone cables,
    Cons - Price, loose DB-GO module,
    Before starting this review, I would like to share technical aspects and package details.

    Also, I would like to thank Jody and Unique Melody for the review tour.

    [​IMG]

    Specifications:

    Frequency Response Range: 20-25kHz
    Sensitivity: 104dB
    Impedance: 24 ohms
    Driver Count: 16 Balanced Armature
    Crossover: 4-way Passive
    Driver Configuration: 4 low+4 lower mid+4 upper range+4 high

    [​IMG]

    Package Details:

    3 Separate 8-Core 6N Single-Crystal Copper and Silver “Dual-Tone” cable. (2.5mm – 3.5mm – 4.5mm)
    Titanium Matte or Gloss Storage Case
    Warranty Card
    Comply Eartips : S/M/L
    Silicone Eartips : S/M/L/XL
    Magnetic Earphone Clip (MEC)
    Cleaning Kit

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Test Equipment:

    Lotoo Paw Gold

    Opus #1

    Astell & Kern AK120

    [​IMG]



    Package, Design & Isolation;

    Mason V3 package content is very rich. In the package, there are 3 kinds of dual tone cables which are 4.4mm, 2.5mm and 3.5mm. I don’t remember any earphone that includes rich cable options. I would like to mention that it would be a reference for expensive totl earphones that have cheap stock cables. There are lots of tips in the package. Also carry case is extremely strong and its quality is good.

    The Mason V3 is very ergonomic and it has a small body that can be considered as small even though it has 16 drivers. The quality of material is really high. However, I will not be able to say the same things for the DB-GO module on the body. Both sides DB-GO modules are quite loose, actually I am not sure if it is a common issue or is due to the demo product I have the setting can change even with the slightest touch, as it plays in the nest within 360 degrees. This is a situation that you do not want to see on an earphone with this price tag. Apart from that, there is no defect in the body. I also liked the red body color.

    The Mason V3 uses a 4-pin-like socket type like JH Audio instead of the traditional 2-pin socket. This highly secure and stable system also has Dual-Tone cable technology developed by Unique Melody. It is possible to change the tone of the sound by inserting the silver and copper parts onto the cable.

    Isolation is quite successful. It is good to block out the voice, but there is a little outsourcing situation while listening to the music in quiet environment. I think the reason is about the sound module. It has a very good isolation with silicone tips.

    [​IMG]

    Sound:

    I really like the cables of Mason V3. It’s soft and tangle-free structured, but it would be better without memory wire. Another great thing about the cable is Unique Melody’s patented dual tone feature. Two different sound characters in one cable is a pretty good idea. When I tried both silver and copper options, I liked the copper one more of Mason V3. The reason is the copper is more dominant and made the trebles a bit more relaxed and smooth. I found the silver one a bit tiring on long listening but it has high-level detail of the trebles. However, it depends on your source, but I would like to mention that I found the listening to copper way easier to listen.

    The detail and the resolution level of the upper frequencies are extremely good. The sparkle and the extension are quite high. Compare to S-EM9, it has amazing clarity and sparkle in the upper frequencies, I found Mason V3 better than S-EM9 in terms of both quantity and separation. The trebles are airy and spacious structured, which makes the positioning of the instrument very easy. I have not come across any sibilance, even though I listened with my LPG. The trebles are also in good control. I never noticed any uncontrolled tones in the fast passages and multi instrument parts.

    Mid frequency’s level of detail is high as the upper frequencies. If I would like to give an example from the S-EM9 again, the mid frequencies are a little bit tighter and more transparent. The instrument’s tonality is more accurate and it plays from thinner tone. However, compare to S-EM9, it is a bit thinner because S-EM9 is a bit thicker and more colorated. I have also found it very successful in terms of separation. The middle frequencies that provide pretty good separation of the instruments, make vocals listening quite enjoyable. Both female and male vocals are clear and textured.

    The bass is not dominated but it has authority in overall presentation and it has sufficient quantity, but this is not for bass-head lovers, that’s for sure. The sub-bass does not go deep, but it is quite tight and strong. It mostly hits from the mid bass area. If you close DB-GO module, bass can hit little bit deeper but don’t expect too much bass. Then again, when I compare with S-EM9 bass feels somewhat slow, but it’s extremely controlled.

    I am really impressed by the soundstage. Perhaps it is not an ultra wide and deep soundstage, but spaciousness and airiness provide a comfortable listening. Mason V3 has another characteristic that I really like, it is the black background. You can hear every single detail, vocals instruments distinguishably.

    With DB-GO module, you can expand the soundstage and you can reduce bass or vice versa. Yes, it affects the sound but it is hard to say that the effect is radical.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Verdict:

    When I do not consider the money, the Mason V3 is a pretty good earphone. It has the richest and the highest quality box content I have ever seen, and it is an earphone that I really like for some innovative technologies. The quality and the workmanship of the material are fascinating. The sound character is modular and can be changed by different cables. I just wish a more stable and rigid DB-GO module. The Mason V3, which I can not find any other defect, is definitely a good earphone I would like to have one day.
      natemact likes this.
  9. twister6
    The Unique Mason!
    Written by twister6
    Published Apr 19, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - a coherent tuning of 16BAs with a balanced sound sig and a transparent neutral tonality, dual-tone cable which can be switched between silver and copper wires, dB-Go bass adjustment module, quality accessories.
    Cons - proprietary cable connector due to dual-tone design, price.


    The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with my readers on head-fi.

    Manufacturer website: Unique Melody, available on MusicTeck.


    Intro.

    Mage, Miracle, Merlin, Mentor, Maestro, Mason, ME.1 - what do these names have in common, besides starting with a letter M? They are all from Unique Melody (UM) which considered to be one of the first and longest-established IEM manufacturers in China. Founded in 2007, although the UM name was officially adopted 10 years ago in 2008, they have been at forefront of many multi-BA and hybrid releases, and continue making the news with their flagships despite a fierce competition. Today's IEM market is not the same as it was a decade ago, and you need more tricks up your sleeve to stand out from the crowd.

    Don't get me wrong, the sound tuning is still #1 priority, but with IEM prices going up and other flagships pushing above 12 drivers, you need more to get audio enthusiasts attention. And that's exactly what UM Mason V3 (MS3) delivers, besides its impressive 16-BA driver config. It’s also packed with interesting tech bonuses, from sound tuning module to shell design and cable design, and original accessories, some of which I haven't even seen before. After spending the last 3 weeks listening and analyzing MS3, now I’m ready to share about my findings.

    Unboxing.

    MS3 arrived in a giftbox quality all black textured cardboard box with a glossy "UM unique melody" dark print on top of it. It's a bit plain, and would have been cool to have maybe a teaser artwork with a 4pin cable connector and maybe a crown of the tuning module. Obviously, makes no sense to put a picture on the cover of the box since both Custom and Universal shells are customizable. Other than that, unboxing experience is very basic, and under the cover you will find a dense foam insert with cutout pockets for storage case (with IEMs inside) and the rest of the accessories – everything packed very securely inside.

    um_mason_v3_01.jpg um_mason_v3_02.jpg um_mason_v3_03.jpg

    Accessories.

    The included accessories are carefully selected and not saturated with fillers. I even discovered a few surprises.

    Considering my pair of IEMs was universal, it should include 2 sets of eartips: S/M/L genuine brand name Comply eartips. Also, it should come with S/M/L/XL silicone eartips, though my review package didn't have it. Furthermore, you will find a piece of cleaning cloth, I guess to remove any fingerprints off the shells. The rest of the accessories will be common between universal and custom models.

    The plastic warranty card (the size of a credit card), has a printed S/N, website address, and a service email. But if you look closer you will find a hidden flat usb stick that flips open. UM put a separate pdf file with pictures of my IEM sample, product features overview, warranty info, and even a color guide for different shell options. The funny part, I discovered this usb stick by accident, when I dropped the card and it flipped open.

    um_mason_v3_04.jpg um_mason_v3_05.jpg um_mason_v3_06.jpg

    The storage case is a hefty titanium matte puck with a threaded secure cover and a soft felt lining to protect IEMs inside. While similar shape puck cases are starting to become more common, those are usually lightweight and have a pop-up cover where the content ends up flying out when you pop it open. This one was a more "luxurious" high quality storage case that will make a great paper weight on any desk. Though great for storage, it's not very practical as a travel case, so you will have to get another one, more pocket friendly.

    um_mason_v3_11.jpg um_mason_v3_12.jpg

    Cable is part of the accessories, but I will describe it separately in the follow up section of the review. The other remaining accessory is a unique Magnetic Earphone Clip (MEC) which you can use both for cable storage and as a shirt clip. Made from of soft leather material, there is a strong magnet to hold it together, and you can use it magnetically "clipped" to a shirt (sideways) or secured at the neckline of a t-shirt (pointing down). A little metal loop attached to MEC is where you put the cable through to secure its attachment to a shirt or a t-shirt. You can also use it on a wrapped cable to organize it for a storage. Maybe not a big deal for some, but it's very different and unique, compared to other shirt-clips I have seen. Perhaps UM can offer it as a separate accessory for sale.

    um_mason_v3_07.jpg um_mason_v3_08.jpg um_mason_v3_09.jpg um_mason_v3_10.jpg

    Cable.

    At the first glance, the cable looks like it has a regular braided 4 conductor design with flexible dual color shielded wires. Upon closer examination, you'll notice a proprietary 4pin metal socket with a securing bolt (apparently, smaller than JH type of socket). When you read the included instructions on usb-stick, you realize this is not an ordinary cable, but a Dual-Tone cable with a separate 8-core 6N purity single-crystal copper and silver wires. Make no mistake, this is not a hybrid silver/copper cable, you have 2 separate cables inside of one.

    In more details, Dual-Tone is a 4-conductor braided soft cable which contains two cables that you switch by flipping L/R sides. This is a very clever mechanism where you have 4pin threaded female connector at the cable side, with 4 wires attached to each pin, while the male side of the connector (in the shell) only has 2 pins connected to internal drivers. As you flip between L/R sides, you are switching between either left side or right side of 4pin connector of the cable to engage with 2pin connector on the shell. To keep track of which side is which, 90deg housing mold has 1-dot and 2-dot ID bumps: 1-dot left and 2-dot right is silver side, 2-dot left and 1-dot right is copper side.

    Cable itself is very soft, not too heavy, with 4 separate conductors: 2 with silver wires in a clear jacket and 2 with copper wires in a brownish jacket. You have a choice of 2.5mm, 3.5mm, or 4.4mm termination when ordering, and I picked 2.5mm TRRS balanced one. The gold-plated plug has a nice short custom metal housing, different from other popular brand name connectors I have seen in the past. Also, there is a clear heatshrink strain relief. Y-splitter is a piece of heatshrink transparent tube, and so does the chin-slider. You can't even see these, creating a continuous visual of Dual-Tone wires. Above y-splitter, wires are twisted. At the plug, you have 90-deg transparent plastic connector mold and a memory wire. I'm not a fan of memory wires, and together with 90-deg connector they limit a bend radius around your ear. I removed memory wire right away, which in my case improved the comfort during extended listening. Cable does have some microphonics, so the included magnetic shirt clip comes in handy when you walk around with your IEMs. Also, with a right eartips selection, sound isolation was excellent.

    Removing memory wire:

    um_mason_v3_29.jpg um_mason_v3_30.jpg um_mason_v3_31.jpg

    Regarding the sound difference, the change is not as drastic as you would expect with some separate pure silver and pure copper cables. I do hear a similar bass and treble response and presentation, while the biggest change to my ears is in lower mids where copper cable gives you more body, more weight, a little extra thickness with slightly above neutral tonality. With silver cable, lower mids are neutral which gives more room for upper mids to come forward and give the sound a little more clarity and a perception of wider staging expansion. As a result, I do hear some improvements in detail retrieval when using silver side of the cable, while copper cable gives the sound more musicality with a smoother and more organic tonality.

    Conveniently, you don't have to carry multiple cables, and can judge for yourself if you do or don't hear a difference in sound between two different types of wires. The only drawback here is a proprietary connector which means you are stuck with Dual-Tone wires cable and can't try other cables, unless aftermarket manufacturers get a hold of this new 4pin threaded connector.

    um_mason_v3_14.jpg um_mason_v3_15.jpg um_mason_v3_16.jpg um_mason_v3_17.jpg um_mason_v3_18.jpg

    Design.

    The Mason V3 model I received for review is UM current TOTL flagship featuring 16 Balanced Armature drivers, with a 4-way crossover and a driver partitioning of 4 lows, 4 lower mids, 4 upper mids, and 4 highs. The CIEM shells have a 5-bore design with 4 sound tubes per each group of drivers, and 5th bore allocated specifically for dB-Go tuning module. Each bore is reinforced with a metal tube for an improved structural stability. In case of Universal shell, as the one I received, the tip of the nozzle is all metal with a wax guard screen covering the internal bore openings which are not exposed like in CIEM.

    But regardless of custom or universal, in theory each one is approached like a custom design except you will need to provide your ear impressions from audiologist for CIEM. UM has a very friendly on-line IEM Designer tool where you can customize the shell color, the faceplate color, the canal color, add custom faceplate art, logos, etc. There are dozens of different color and finish selections, and every change gets reflected in real time in IEM Designer tool GUI. In there, you can also customize the termination of the cable and even pick the finish of the titanium storage case.

    The shells itself feature UM new acrylic design, created using the layered technique to strengthen the build. I was told that UM invested in a very high-end 3D printer that allows them to print a very thin shell, especially useful for consistency between universal IEMs. Then, they add layers of finish by hand, including optional Dreamweaver fiber design where the actual strings of fibers are included, resulting in a nearly handmade customized product, even for universal shell. I can only judge MS3 based on universal shell I received, and found it to be very compact considering arrangement of 16 drivers and dB-Go module.

    According to UM, the module (dB-Go) provides acoustic dampening with a pressure attenuation and a real-time low frequency adjustment between 20Hz and 100Hz which I confirmed in my FR measurements and found to affect only the quantity of the sub-bass rumble. The effect is not subtle, but quite noticeable where sub-bass rumble goes from neutral (when both dials are open, turned toward you) to more present, boosted rumble (when both dials are closed, turned away from you). What impressed me the most is how precise this tuning it. I heard no effect on mids or treble. I don't even hear too much effect on mid-bass, the focus is mostly on sub-bass.

    Regarding the effective range of the tuning, the crown of the dial is surprisingly small, yet has a good grip and easy to turn. The only problem, turning range is only 180deg, half a full rotation. With a small diameter dial wheel this is on a level of a micro-tuning which going to drive anybody with OCD crazy. For me personally, I settled on either fully closed or open, like an on/off switch of sub-bass boost. I think this is the most practical use of this dial. Though there is some resistance, it has a continuous turning without any click action to indicate the exact position. Also, once you are placing shells in your ears, it's quite possible to bump the dial if it's somewhere in the middle. Turning the dial either closed or open is the easiest way to have a consistent control of the bass between left/right sides.

    um_mason_v3_19.jpg um_mason_v3_20.jpg um_mason_v3_21.jpg um_mason_v3_22.jpg um_mason_v3_23.jpg um_mason_v3_24.jpg

    The fit.

    um_mason_v3_27.jpg

    Sound Analysis.

    Between Dual-Tone cable and dB-Go module, your MS3 has 4 distinct sound tunings when you switch between silver and copper wires and dial in sub-bass boost.

    In my sound analysis I decided to use a silver wire side of the cable with dB-Go module set to full sub-bass boost enabled. I find this combination to yield the most transparent, resolving, and still balanced tonality among 4 sound combination. It's great to have choices to fine tune the sound to your personal preference. Plus, going with universal version gives you tip rolling option to tighten or to relax the seal which also going to affect the sound. Of course, any sound description is a matter of subjective opinion.

    I found MS3 to have a nicely balanced sound signature with a neutral, natural tonality, great transparency without any coloring, and excellent retrieval of details. Thanks to its dual-tone cable and dB-Go module you can tilt that scale toward a more transparent brighter side (w/silver cable) or a fuller body more natural side (w/copper cable). Plus, dB-Go sub-bass boost can shift the perception of sound from balanced (when fully on), to a little more mid-forward (when off). Regardless of ones believe or disbelieve in cables, just think of it as a fine-tuning mechanism where you are in control of tonal micro-adjustment.

    The sound has a nice resolution, not exactly on micro-detail level but close to it. It has a mild level of smoothness, taking an edge off and giving the sound a more natural resolution. The coherence of driver tuning along with its balanced signature gives the sound a natural transition from low end, to mids, and through the highs, with all drivers working in a perfect unison.

    Soundstage has a wide expansion, above the average for sure. The depth of soundstage is not too close/intimate and not too far out of your head, just think of it as sitting 3-4 rows in-front of the stage. MS3 has a natural oval expansion which gives a good sense of instrument and vocal placement with a relatively accurate positioning of sound, making it easy to pin-point everything. Bottom line, imaging felt natural and not exaggerated.

    The layering and separation is pretty good, you can easily distinguish every sound. You do get a good sense of air between the layers and the sound is far from being congested or veil, but in my opinion, it’s still a little reserved due to its natural smoothness.

    With the bass, I prefer dB-Go dial always closed to bring up that extra sub-bass rumble which adds a layer of texture with extra weight under the fast punch of mid-bass. With sub-bass off, bass sounds more neutral and more typical of BA performance, while dialing it up gives the bass a more analog dynamic feeling with a little slower attack, while decay is still short and tight. Bass is very articulate and well controlled. Just keep in mind, we are not talking about basshead level boost. So, if you prefer more low-end impact and warmer tonality, MS3 might not be for you.

    Lower mids are neutral, but as I mentioned before, you have some level of control when switching between the cables, where to my surprise that's where I hear the most change, going from more neutral and transparent with silver cable to fuller with more body using copper cable. Upper mids are clear, detailed, revealing but not harsh or analytical. What I find interesting, I typically associate natural with a warmer tonality, while here the tonality is more neutral, yet I still hear the sound as being more natural and realistic, especially when it comes to vocals.

    Treble is crisp and well defined, but not with too much crunch or too much airiness. I usually associate more air with extra “padding” in layering and separation, while here it's just natural, without any exaggeration. MS3 has a very good treble extension, and it sounds very neutral and accurate, not harsh or sibilant, without too much exaggeration considering presence of a slightly elevated 6k peak and a little attenuated 12k peak. One interesting observation, regardless of cable selection or dB-Go dial, treble always remained nearly the same between all these micro adjustments of tonality.

    um_mason_v3_28.jpg

    Comparison.

    As I mentioned already, for all sound evaluation, comparison, and pair up testing, I kept MS3 with silver side of the cable and sub-bass full engaged using dB-Go module. The volume was matched in every comparison. I also noted which cable, if aftermarket one was used.

    MS3 vs 64 Audio U18t w/Horus - Soundstage width is very similar, while U18t extends a little bit further, one extra row in staging depth. With dB-Go on, MS3 has a little deeper and beefier sub-bass in comparison to U18t, but when off – it’s more neutral than U18t. U18t mid-bass punch is a little stronger and feels a little faster in comparison to MS3, though I suspect here the presence of extra sub-bass is slowing down the attack of MS3. Lower mids in U18t are a little more neutral in comparison to MS3 which has a touch more body in comparison. Upper mids of U18t are brighter and more revealing in comparison to a little smoother and more natural upper mids of MS3. The same with treble, where TIA driver of U18t gives the sound more crunch and more air. In comparison, MS3 treble is still crisp and well defined, but under more control, though with a little better extension as I hear it. In this comparison, the main difference is in upper mids/lower treble where MS3 is a little smoother and more natural in tonality while U18t is more revealing and crisper.

    MS3 vs 64 Audio Fourte w/Redcore - In this comparison Fourte has a wider and deeper soundstage, more holographic expansion, while MS3 is wide (a little less in comparison to Fourte) and gives you a feeling of being closer to the stage. Fourte sub-bass goes deep, even deeper than MS3, but it has less quantity than MS3. MS3 also has a bit stronger and faster mid-bass in comparison to Fourte. Fourte lower mids are south of neutral, while MS3 is the opposite way, with a little more body in a relative comparison. And again, upper mids and treble is where you will hear the biggest difference in sound, with MS3 being smoother, more natural, still very detailed, while Fourte is more analytical, brighter, and even more forward in comparison. MS3 treble is under more control and less harsh in comparison to a brighter and crisper treble of Fourte which also has more airiness. In both cases, with U18t and Fourte, if you want a more revealing, a more micro-detailed upper frequency sound with more emphasis around 6k and 12k peaks, 64 Audio is a better choice but if you want a more natural, smoother, and more neutral sound tuning, MS3 is the way to go.

    MS3 vs UM Maestro w/Tri-copper - Both have a very similar soundstage depth, while MS3 is a little wider. In this comparison I hear Maestro bass having a little more sub-bass quantity while mid-bass quantity is similar, though MS3 bass is faster and tighter. Lower mids is where I hear the most difference where MS3 is more transparent and with a better retrieval of details in comparison to a thicker fuller body lower mids in Maestro which, relatively speaking, makes vocals sound a touch more congested. Upper mids are more neutral and more transparent in MS3, while Maestro is smoother and warmer. Treble tonality and presentation is very similar, well defined and under control, though MS3 feels like it extends further. Here, the transparency and thickness of notes in mids is what stands out the most to my ears, where I personally prefer MS3.

    MS3 vs Noble K10UA - Here MS3 has a little wider soundstage while the staging depth is nearly identical. With bass, both have a similar balance between sub- and mid-bass and the same overall speed, but K10UA has a little stronger punch, while MS3 is a little more neutral in comparison. Both have a tight articulate bass. Lower mids have a lot of similarities as well, being neutral and transparent, while there is more difference in upper mids and treble. K10UA is brighter and a little more analytical in comparison to a smoother and more natural upper mids of MS3. With treble, K10UA has more crunch and a little more airiness, while MS3 has a little more control with a little less sparkle. Overall, MS3 tuning is more balanced with a more natural tonality while compared to K10UA, that one adds more "fun" in the lower and the upper end of the spectrum.

    MS3 vs Sennheiser IE800S - IE800S soundstage has a little more width and depth, making it more holographic in comparison to MS3 which is still wide but doesn't have the same out-of-your-head soundstage experience. With bass, IE800S goes deeper with more elevated sub-bass and stronger mid-bass punch, which makes MS3 bass to sound a little more neutral in comparison. MS3 bass is faster, tighter, more articulate, and better controlled though. IE800S lower mids have a little more body in comparison to a more neutral MS3 lower mids. Upper mids here really set them apart with MS3 being smoother, more natural and still detailed, while IE800S is brighter, thinner, and even more revealing in comparison. Also, MS3 mids are presented a little more forward in comparison to IE800S. With treble, IE800S will be brighter, crisper, and a little harsher in comparison to a more controlled yet still well-defined MS3 treble. This is another example where upper mids/lower treble sets these two pairs apart.

    MS3 vs Ultimate Ears UERR - MS3 soundstage has a little more width, but the depth is very similar. MS3 has an upper hand with bass presentation where you have more sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass punch, while UERR has a similar balance between sub-/mid-bass, but the quantity is more neutral. Lower mids have some similarities, though MS3 is still a little more neutral while UERR has a little more body. Upper mids in MS3 are more forward, more revealing, with better retrieval of details and transparency, while UERR is smoother and warmer and more neutral in tonality. Treble is nearly identical between both, with a very good definition and nicely controlled crunch and airiness. While I can sense some resemblance, and you can tune MS3 closer to UERR by attenuating sub-bass and switching to copper cable to make sound fuller and smoother, I feel like going back to silver cable and turning the bass on, scales up the MS3 performance beyond UERR tuning.

    um_mason_v3_13.jpg

    Pair up.

    Wit 24-ohm impedance these IEMs are very easy to drive, though with 104 dB sensitivity I had to turn the volume a few clicks higher. Here is how MS3 pairs up with various audio sources. I will also note if I hear any hissing.

    Cowon Plenue 2 mk2 - expanded balanced sound with a revealing natural tonality. The sound is very dynamic and has a good sense of natural smoothness without affecting retrieval of details.

    Sony WM1Z - wide soundstage with a little more staging depth. Balanced revealing sound, though in this pair up I hear a little more sub-bass texture and stronger mid-bass impact. Mids are revealing but a little smoother and treble is a little brighter and with more crunch.

    A&K SP1000 SS - expanded balanced sound with a more revealing transparent tonality. I hear mids in this pair up to be a little more forward and maybe a touch brighter. The same with treble, a little more crunch. Another noticeable improvement is better layering and separation of the sound.

    Lotoo PAW Gold - just a touch of hissing, wide soundstage with a little more depth, balanced revealing sound. Bass is tight, articulate, with a little more mid-bass impact. Mids are a little more forward, great retrieval of details, treble has a little more crunch.

    iBasso DX200 w/amp4 - very wide soundstage with a balanced revealing tonality. Great sub-bass rumble and punchy mid-bass impact. Mids are more revealing and a little more forward. Treble is crisp and airy, well under control.

    FiiO X7ii - just a touch of hissing, very wide soundstage with a balanced revealing tonality. Excellent sub-bass rumble and punchy mid-bass, the bass is tight and articulate. Mids are very transparent, layered, with an excellent retrieval of details. Treble is crunchy and airy, extended and under control.

    FiiO X5iii - noticeable hissing, sound is balanced but dynamics is flatter, and layering not as good. Bass is also not as articulate, though fast. Mids are a little more forward, clear and detailed. Treble is brighter and even has a hint of sibilance. Wasn't too crazy about this pair up at all.

    Hiby R6 - wide expanded soundstage, balanced revealing tonality, very good sound dynamics. Nicely textured sub-bass rumble with a punchy mid-bass. Transparent, layered mids with a hint of natural smoothness and excellent retrieval of details. Very well defined crunchy extended treble. One of my favorite pair up. Excellent sound, doesn't need iEMatch. With iEMatch, upper mids are a little bit forward, but I still like the pair up directly from R6.

    theBit Opus#2 - expanded balanced sound with a little more forward mids. Bass has a little more sub-bass rumble; mid-bass is tight with a nice fast punch. Mids are clear, detailed, slightly forward. Treble is crunchy, airy, and under control.

    iFi Micro iDSD BL - wide expanded balanced sound. Deep sub-bass rumble with a fast, punchy mid-bass, tight articulate bass. Very transparent, layered mids with a touch of smooth tonality and excellent retrieval of details. Crunchy, airy extended treble with an excellent control. In this pair up bass hits a little harder.

    Smartphone, Samsung Note 4 - slightly narrower soundstage, though still above the average, bass hits a little harder, mids are clear and detailed, but have a bit less transparency (I hear a little coloring), and I hear mids being a touch forward, treble is crisp, airy, extended.

    um_mason_v3_25.jpg um_mason_v3_26.jpg

    Conclusion.

    When it comes to flagship IEMs, it’s hard to find bad ones since every manufacturer puts their best effort into design and tuning. Usually it comes down to a preference of sound signature and being able to afford the asking price. And speaking of price, which usually comes up in all flagship discussions, when you factor in how much money people spend combined on various flagships and cables to get to their ideal sound, sometimes it worth investing extra to hit that sweet spot you’ve been looking for.

    UM Mason V3 is not tuned for those seeking an enhanced low-end impact or an extra treble energy. This IEM is focused on delivering an accurate uncolored natural neutral tonality, and its transparent resolving balanced sound is enhanced with dB-Go bass module to give you more tuning flexibility at sub-bass level and a very unique Dual-Tone cable design to fine tune the tonality of mids. When it comes to flagship releases, every manufacturer is focused to stand out from the crowd, and in my opinion Unique Melody did accomplish that successfully with Mason V3.
      natemact, emptymt, ryanjsoo and 4 others like this.
  10. jbr1971
    My Mason V3 Demo Tour Experience...
    Written by jbr1971
    Published Mar 13, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Excellent build quality, balance, dynamics, and presence
    Cons - Pricey; DB-GO modules could be reworked; no "Single-Tone" cable options
    Lucky me, I was the first to receive the Mason V3 on the demo tour Lawrance at Unique Melody generously put together. His only ask in return was for me to post a review about my experience.

    As this is my first attempt at a review please bear with me as I do not have a lot of gear for comparisons, etc. However, I will do my best to hopefully provide something useful for you.

    When I received the Mason V3 I was impressed by the packaging, as well as the contents. Plenty of variously sized silicone and Comply tips; 3 different cables accommodating various single-ended and balanced connectors; and a heavy metal “puck” (this thing could do some damage) storing the Masons.

    My portable rig consists of a LG X-Power smartphone (all services and antennae possible turned off) running USB Audio Player Pro, connected to a LH Labs GO2Pro Signature Edition via a custom silver OTG cable. The phone is only used as a music transport.

    I also have a Galaxy S8+ work phone with UAPP installed for commuting, or when I do not want to carry the rig around.

    My head/earphones consist of Fostex T50rp’s that I modded, including new connectors to accept XLR terminated cables, as well as custom IEM’s that I built myself. I am hoping to replace both sometime this year.

    The Masons are beautifully built, and the Dreamweaver finish really complimented the look (they also nicely matched the color of my phone case and the GO2Pro). While they stick out of my ears quite a bit compared to my CIEM’s (3 times as many drivers will do that), after a few days I had gotten used to the different fit.

    While there are plenty of ear tips included with the Masons, I had to use large SpinFit CP240’s to get a good seal. My ear canals are big, and I have to fight with normal large ear tips to hope for a decent seal. Given that, I cannot provide any info/comparisons for the included tips.

    MasonV3Rev-01.jpg MasonV3Rev-02.jpg
    When I first switched from my CIEM’s to the Masons I was hearing a pronounced mid bump that I was not used to. After a few days of listening to allow for brain burn-in that mid bump mostly disappeared. I had the DB-GO modules fully engaged, with EQ dropping the mids slightly with most albums.

    MasonV3Rev-03.jpg
    The DB-GO modules are a great feature which bring the sub-bass to a level which is perfect for my listening preferences. My only issues with the modules is that they have very little resistance to them, so they turn easily when stored away (I quickly got into the habit of checking/adjusting them upon every insertion); and the markers on the posts are not consistent on both sides, so I was not able to match them with a satisfactory level of confidence. Luckily, having them fully engaged 99% of the time worked well for me.

    While multiple cables are included, unfortunately none of them is a 3.5mm balanced, so I was not able to test the Masons balanced from my GO2Pro. However, they still sounded great single-ended, with a black background no matter the volume of the amp.

    When I first saw the announcement about the Dual-Tone cable I thought it was a great idea (and still do). In the limited time I had to listen at RMAF I settled in on the silver side as I found the copper side colored the sound too much for my preference. The silver had a nice clear tone which I like, without being overly “bright”, while the copper had an overly mid-centric/warm sound to my ears.

    All of my evaluation listening was done with the silver side after a quick listen to the copper to confirm my RMAF listening.

    The cables are very well made with just enough heft to them to keep from being microphonic. However, given the extra wires and braiding required for the Dual-Tone functionality, I found them difficult to wear for extended listening sessions. It took a few days to really get used to the extra size and weight over the top of my ears.

    MasonV3Rev-04.jpg MasonV3Rev-05.jpg

    If UM were to offer options for silver-only and copper-only cables for people that know they would not switch the Dual-Tone at all, I think that would really help round out their cable offerings. I would definitely grab a silver-only as I believe it would make longer listening sessions much easier/more enjoyable.

    With regard to sound, UM have done an incredible job of tuning all of those drivers to work together with amazing balance.

    The low-end/sub-bass are clear and articulate without being overpowering or muddy sounding. There were a few tracks where I heard sub-bass elements I have not heard before. Again, the DB-GO modules do a great job of helping tune to individual preference in that regard.

    Mids are very well balanced without stomping over the lows or highs, but as I said, I did find them to have a bit of extra presence that needed to be toned down just a bit.

    The highs extend very nicely with a great airy/shimmering quality, without being sibilant. I heard quite a few tracks with a lot of cymbals, and while they could be very bright, they were never out of control.

    Overall, I very much enjoyed listening to the Masons. They have a great, wide soundstage, and instruments were separated quite nicely. I was also hearing background details in tracks I had not heard before.

    Compared to my CIEM’s, there was an increased presence to the instruments. They were not just louder overall, I found them to be more dynamic and natural sounding. Male and female vocals were excellent and natural sounding; and acoustic guitar, piano, and drums had a great natural ringing quality in addition to great decay.

    The Masons respond very well to a good amp. While their impedance allows them to be driven loud enough by the Galaxy S8+ and sound pretty good (very good I think for commuting standards), the GO2Pro took them to an entirely different level for presence and dynamics.

    I listened to a lot of music in the 2 weeks I had the Masons, and tried to include a large variety of artists and types to really get a good feel for the Masons capabilities. I was very impressed by the musical presentation no matter what I decided to throw at them.

    I highly recommend the Mason V3’s if you have the money to put out, with just a few nit picks mentioned earlier. Those nit picks are definitely not enough to keep me from wanting a pair. It was very difficult to have to pack them up and send to the next person in line, and I am already trying to figure out when I will be able to pick up a pair of customs.

    Going back to my CIEM's was a bit "painful" in that what I thought sounded pretty good beforehand, now sounds anemic and leaving me wanting for more. Time to start saving.