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In-Ear item created by svyr, Mar 10, 2014
Pros - Suburb Mid-range refinement, Sound-Stage, Remarkable treble
Cons - Two faced, Maybe uncomfortable, mid bass?
Okay, well let me just start off by saying I'm big fan of Unique Melody, it was actually the UM Miracle that I got a chance to demo which helped me understand how great an earphone can actually sound. This coming from a pair of Skullcandy's (forgive me Head fi) but we all started somewhere.
Getting back to the topic at hand I'm going to typically break down each segment into sections. Untypical, I will be describing the sound in one chapter instead of strictly categorising each element of sound. To make things a little easier to read I will highlight keywords such as midrange, bass, soundstage and treble etc. There is a reason I'm explaining this and it's is because the Mentor had a lot to teach me, sorry couldn't resist, but seriously the sound is something that just needs to be discussed as a whole because it happens to be a little two faced, and hopefully when we get into it you'll understand what I mean.
As a disclaimer this pair of earphones were bought at my expense second hand. I'm independently reviewing them but as always I will try to remain as objective as possible throughout the review.
Inside the box
So if you go to purchase the UM Mentor you can expect to see this beautiful white box with the heart-warming words printed across reading "Handcrafted with Love". A nice touch makes the buyer really feel special.
Typically as standard you will receive an array of ear tips, carrying case and cleaning tools.
The carrying case is made out of solid metal and to the touch feels nigh impossible to break, not that you'd want to. I must say I love this thing as you twist the lid you hear the cry of quality as notes unwind themselves, sophistication emulates itself as you open the case.
Here in lies your prize, your possession, future and Mentor. Honestly if my future wife's into it I'm so using this box for the proposal ring, I kid but good work UM, a carrying case worthy of a paragraph in itself.
Build quality design and comfort
Moving swiftly on, so not unlike UM you will get a well-crafted body no bubbles or unsightly markings. Each earpiece that has been handcrafted and they look fantastic I must admit.
Each earpiece is covered in a slightly translucent blue with a silky black face plate and a sweet silver “UM” logo printed on top. Even down to the nozzle you get this smooth body which then transcends into the silver mesh and silver coloured nozzle you can see pictured below:
The build quality, despite the appraisal of how good these things look, was unfortunately a little compromised as the pair I received has slightly loose connector sockets. Not the end of the world but for the price I would expect a little more from quality control.
I mean if they put half as much work into the build quality of the earphones as they seem to have done with the carrying case I'm sure they would survive an atomic bomb.
The pair of Mentors I own are the universal fit version. Typical of any sort of custom in ear monitor, and the way of most multi balanced amateur driver earphones, the earphones are traditionally worn over the ear. They protrude slightly outwards as It's a fairly big housing unit but, there is 10 drivers to cram into such a small space.
Overall I think they did a good job but it would be nice to see UM creating something as comfortable as Aurisonics offerings and their constant strive for the up most ergonomic design, this isn’t having a dig at UM it just seems to be an issue with a lot of universal fit multi BA driver earphones that have custom counterparts.
With all of that being said the comfort of the earphones is more than acceptable but for someone with smaller ears and narrow ear canals, there might be some discomfort presented. Personally with the right ear tips on I find the fit is quite comfortable and can wear them for up to about 3 hours without any real discomfort.
As a side note I chose to stick with silicone tips rather than my traditional choice of foam due to deeper level of insertion and added treble presence.
Whilst these aren’t especially picky earphones I did notice a subtle change when using sources that use a lower output one of my favourite pairings was actually straight out of my Asus K55V laptop’s HO, but generally not all that dependent on your device. Although I would certainly recommend a higher end source as these step up their performance to match, they upscale particularly well with my AR-M2 playing DSD files it really does take things to a whole new level.
Now I know there will always be two sides to every story regarding the effects of cables however I’ll still put a mention in as I am a believer.
The stock cable provided is pretty much perfect, standard Westone style two pin tightly braided and provided similar sound quality to the upgraded cable I used. I used a pure silver niobium cable manufactured by HPL audio, to me the changes maybe subtle but worth it just enough to keep it plugged in for the remainder of the review. What you can expect is a slightly lifted midrange, cleaner and tonally warmer sound extending the bass a little further.
Now I make no apologies for the critique I use here. But before I get into the bulk of it I want to make it very clear that I am in love with a lot of what the Mentor offer. It's just really unfortunate how immovably stubborn and Jackal and Hyde like these earphones really are!
The first thing that captured me the moment I stuck them in my ears was the incredible soundstage and space. It was an “oh my word moment. What is this sorcery? Don't get me wrong I have been very privileged in hearing a lot of in-ear monitors that are all more than adequate in this department, but hands down I have to say these are probably the widest earphones I've ever listen to. A bold statement to make for sure but the sense of space is certainly awe inspiring. Depth doesn’t fall to short from the tree but is still quite admirable.
Each instrument has its own place on the stage the imaging is really good, it could be a little more precise, dependent more on recording, but if a 3D holographic feel is what you’re after I sincerely doubt you'll be disappointed with the Mentor. This is where some of my praise stops though, only because it seems to be the only damn consistent jaw dropping aspect of the sound.
I really have no idea why UM decided on bringing this out just yet! The Mentor best described is an aged professor teaching at Oxford with tenure and a serious case of bipolar. One minute you'll be enjoying a track like it's your first time of really listening to it, then bam the next track comes on and the nutty professor is at it again. It's my biggest peeve with this incredible but frustrating earphone, so for the next part I will have to describe the sound on a good day and on a bad day, bearing in mind the soundstage stays its lovely spacious self.
The right side of the bed
On a good day you can frolic and dance listening to the Mentor describing tales of joy as a punchy hip hop beat pulsates through your veins. You get an incredibly clear detailed sound with no overpowering frequencies. Treble decides to sparkle and shimmer almost whispering in your ear at times just reminding you it’s there, but you already knew, you feel its twinkle and presence as it tiptoes around the place.
Then we move to that oh so mature mid-range, clear detailed a little relaxed but remarkably happy to tug on the emotions of every vocal you listen to, down to the last detail. Neither forward nor pushed back just ever present when needed. It has been a pleasure listening to something of this refinement as it has set a bench mark for me to listen out for in future earphones.
Now bass my good friend, I'm so glad you’re feeling so jubilant today. It's nice to see you under control and thank you for your speech on texture and presence it was truly wonderful, I certainly wouldn't mind hearing that again. Great decay, speed and punch throughout, with the exception of poorly recorded tracks. Aside from that Mr Bass will most certainly have you tapping your toes irrespective of where you are, on the train, plane, or at work whilst the office stares at you as you revert back to your teenage years imagining you’re at your favourite concert.
The wrong side of the bed
But oh no, what happened! Bad day professor? Okay I see the day has approached, arrived and now I'm uncomfortable.
Treble my friend I can barely hear you, wow you really must have gone through a real ordeal, please eat something. I can hear you but oh so faintly it's everything I came to love about you still retaining that grace but now all that beauty seems a far distant cry away.
Well maybe I'll go play with my good pal mid-range, no not you too! Damn it, words I can't utter enough when I think of how close we use to be. I was so proud of you but now we're so far apart, I used to love you staying close, informing me about every detail in life teaching me so much, but now you remain in the background as a lifeless idol, without body or soul. Fine I'll move on.
Bass buddy at least I can rely on you, can't I? Okay final straw what happened, who got to you, who said you're fat, I assure you’re not and we can work this out. Thankfully a little secret source will fix you up chum I know a good amplifier, he might be able to fix you. Hum back to normal kind of, still it's like there is still something missing oh of course that would be your younger brother mid bass.
Unfortunately the Mentor has this innate ability to change to any track it's given not always in a good way. The sub-bass I've now tested down to the 20 hz range and remains stable with great texture and depth but the mid bass can seem a little too polite on certain tracks almost begging for a little extra attention.
These shortcomings aside I'd like to see the Mentor perform with as much consistency as possible because in my eyes it's brilliant but a little unfinished. With a track of its choice I'm pretty sure I could lean towards using the words end game product. (Ha like there's one of them when you’re still on Head fi). Still there is a unique quality here that's brought my experience and anticipation up a notch. Word of caution, if you’re anything like me you’ll end up lovingly frustrated and infatuated with these earphones. This is mainly because I tend to listen to whatever music I fancy and make the sacrifice of lower bit rate files and yes even streaming on occasion. On the upside however if you are someone who has a set amount of tracks all ripped to perfect quality these are probably an incredibly safe bet.
Truly after having spent some time at CanJam and trying out some of the best of the best, I can say these earphones have pushed the boat of excitement a little further for what we can hopefully expect to see from companies in the future. In the meantime though I am very much considering ordering the custom version as I really like the house sound, regardless of my few grips these have been one of my most favourite earphones to listen to, to date.
If anyone has any questions or would like some brief comparisons against other earphones just post a comment or PM me and I’ll try my best to answer any quires.
Pros - Treble detail, general clarity, good soundstaging, bass texture
Cons - Lacking in accessories, minor issues with finishing
I purchased my Mentors in the first half of September 2014, and actually received them by the end of the same month. In all, it took only 2 weeks from the day my impressions were shipped to the day they arrived in my hands. I didn't pay for a rush order, so someone at UM must like me a lot. Thanks, anyway!
The general build quality of the Mentor is decent. These are my first custom IEMs, so I wasn't sure what I was expecting, and what bars are set for fit and finish.
I ordered my Mentors in Turquoise Blue, and they came back looking exactly as how I envisioned in the "Custom IEM designer" tool. I actually requested to have the letters "UM" printed in black. However, they were printed in silver instead. Nevertheless, they looked pretty good in tandem with the stock silver cable, so I thought nothing of this oversight.
There are minor bubbles in the shell, but nothing too awful as to warrant a replacement.
The fit was perfect. The Mentors never broke seal in general daily activity (normal opening/closing of month, yawning, lip syncing.. yeah, I do that). Consequently, isolation is excellent, and a good insertion helped nullify a lot of background noise.
Comfort is also top notch, and I believe this is true for CIEMs with a good to excellent fit. I can wear these for an hour and a half (my longest run), and not feel any discomfort. This cannot be said of my universal IEMs, which tend to cause soreness in my ears within the hour.
All I received in the box (apart from the IEMs, of course) were -
1) A round ash tray case, similar to the ones shipped with the JH Roxanne universals. Try squeezing your Mentors in there. Yeah, they'll fit, but only just. And no, only with the stock cables. If your replacement cables are any thicker, they won't fit.
2) A cleaning tool. Par for the course, I suppose.
3) A frequency chart.
4) A warranty card.
You would have thought that the Mentors would deserve a grander spread of accessories. Other CIEM manufacturers are shipping their flagships in Otterbox/Pelican-styled cases, so why did I get an ice puck with my Mentors?
It's the default Westone Epic-esque cable. Nothing special about them. They are sufficiently thick and aren't prone to microphonics. They are also quite tangle-free.
In short, the sound of the Mentors are heavenly. Coming from the Mentors, my next best IEM was a Westone 3, so the jump in quality was very apparent. Nevertheless, I have since auditioned a wider variety of excellent IEMs, but the Mentors still hold weight in this competitive arena.
The bass of the Mentors are well extended, with decent sub-bass rumble. Mid-bass quantity was a little lacking, when compared with bassier IEMs, but they will be present when the track calls for it. Beats were punchy and had quick decay. I listen to a lot of dance music, and genres such as Hard Trance and Eurodance sound fantastic on the Mentors.
Overall, the bass presentation of the Mentors is addictive with decent slam, and should satisfy most, with the exception of the extreme bassheads. If there is one aspect of the Mentors that I would change, it would be the amount of mid-bass quantity. A decent boost would lend the Mentors some further bass authority.
The midrange is lush and full-bodied, and are neither forward nor recessed, relative to the bass and treble. Vocals sound fantastic on them. I very much love the way female voices are reproduced - they take a hold on you, and leave you wanting more.
Instruments such as the guitar are also wonderfully presented, and classic rock (e.g. Scorpions, Gun N Roses, Bruce Springsteen), with a plethora of musical equipment used, sound absolutely wonderful. Everything was cohesive and involving.
This is the part of the Mentor's FR range that sounded most impressive to me. Treble was well extended and presented as clear, sparkling highs that were equal parts smooth and controlled. I am quite sensitive to sibilance, so I must add the Mentor's highs steered clear of anything remotely harsh.
I never felt any treble fatigue, which I normally did on my Westone 3, which tended to sound very sibilant with the wrong tips, or the wrong seal.
The soundstage on the Mentor is decently wide and has good depth. Imaging on this stage is excellent, and I could pick out voices and instruments with ease.
I love the Mentors for its generally great sound. They are musical and fun enough to be used with all of my genres of music, which consists of at least 60-70% dance music. A slightly greater mid-bass presence would be preferred, but this can be easily obtained through the use of an EQ or with a bass boost amp.
I listen to my Mentors with the following sources -
1) iPod Classic 7G (160 GB) with an iBasso D6
2) iBasso DX50 with a iBasso D-Zero or a Fiio E11
Pros - Bass Extension, Texture through the Mids and Bass, Tame but detailed treble.
Cons - Price, I found them to sit quite a ways out of my ear, YMMV.
Review to come with some more time with these.
Pros - mids amount and resolution, sub-bass (especially with EQ), Cable (yes, with a C), comfort and fit, EQability for the lows. Soundstage. coherent
Cons - some build and finish qualms,highs tuning to some 'enhanced/refined' feel, no huge foam tips, maybe the default mid-bass quantity,$$$$,maybe isolation
I've had Mentor for nearly a month before selling it and JH16fp (first deciding to sell Mentor, then putting it on hold, then selling JH, then finally selling Mentor) and thought I'd share my experience(s) with the Mentor with you. (more or less a summary of the previous impressions, invalidating the initial ones)
Many photos can be found here:
primary reference point for the pics about build.
There are pics of it here - small one solid-ish black with UM logo side by side with other IEMs
Specs, buying, FR, etc:
and buy them from Stephen Guo here . Like others - I can indeed recommend his services. (but think he can push UMLab on QC a bit more )
For universals, there's no refit, and FS is your second chance option (it's now clearly stated in the returns section of ciem com which is good).
I think UM let you make them into customs for the price difference which is nice if you like customs.
They were shipped quickly as promised.
Please consult UM as above for the current delivery times
just in case
Warranty is 2 years, which is pretty great compared even to some other top tier acrylic IEMs or universals.
I do also like the slightly recessed sockets. To me slightly recessed still means - less likely to short outside (from a stray raindrop, vs a not quite flush, flush socket. This reason may be absurd), or say damage the pins when inserting/removing the cable.
The shell is nice and has very few imperfections and extremely slick buffing.
It's pretty amazing how small Mentor is given the # drivers inside.
I think the semi-recessed sockets are a nice touch.
For the qualms below, I'm sure most people won't care
I didn't like the milling marks on the nozzle (e.g. if you ever get Dita the Answer you'll see what good milling and finishing looks like.
This was not good milling and visible defects on my mentor nozzles) - see the gallery. I don't like the nozzle being smooth either (slipping)
Likewise , I did not at all like my faceplates being semi-transparent instead of fully opaque black and showing the drivers
(on plus side if you tell UM not to do that they'll probably listen.). you can go into the OCD level rant here
I think it's lovely. Thick, woven and has hardly any cable sound, long memory wire. Nicer plug than before People say it sounds great, and I didn't hear much of a difference to a $200+ TWSPC from stock. I wish the memory wire wasn't slightly rusted and the plug fit phone sockets. Importantly the cable doesn't interact with touchscreens like the ones before it.
Fit, tips, isolation:
Tips wise Comply Tx/T/S400 and 500 fit.
I couldn't get a deep enough seal with complys, but the same nozzle size silicons from audiozones slipped off. A lot of the time.
I'm fairly sure even the included tips did on occasion
I don't think the nozzle is long enough. particularly when you've worn them for a few hours or if it's warm or you were walking briskly for a while or if it's humid.
I probably would have preferred a few more to be included of various shapes and sizes and types given it's a flagship.
Granted they've started including foamies since but I think they can still do better.
Unfortunately I have no idea where to get larger memory foam tips. I did ask a few times, and even in the 'general portables' forums before :|
Tx500/T400 are a bit small for me with these. I wouldn't mind if they had a replaceable nozzle on the mentor (filter or longer size) or
if comply made larger 4/500 series tips.
Isolation when seal is ok, is fine, but not amazing, and a deeper and more secure fit would be nicer
(e.g.their former Merline mold with a helix lock. but it's 'less universal'). I could comfortably assist fit with the memory wise on the cable.
(you anchor the IEM inward with the memory wire)
I think in the end- if you get a seal by finding the right tips and it also does the right things to the treble (see below) these are rather comfortable
(especially given they've crammed 10 drivers into one, despite most being dual it is surprisingly small for that)
I do like the new 'spin to open and close' black metal case. In principle. It was a bit small for a custom cable and or dessicant pod though. Not sure how water proof it might be (never needed, until it is), I think someone mentioned it had a rubber seal and some people found it lints (didn't for me, but I didn't use it much)
Sound: (I suspect it would be closer to JH13fp not 16).
extension was probably a bit more on Mentor, but JH16FP maybe had a bit of a peak on some songs that occasionally 'flared up' but it sounded more natural overall in the treble.
The Mentor treble at first sounded harsh to me.
Probably around 6-8k . you can find my first impressions here, they weren't pretty) then I must've figure out how to get proper insertion or the right width silicon tips, (I strongly suspect that was the case for D1000 and Mentor for me)
at which point it sounded 'enhanced and tuned to sound refined' (but not painful). I wouldn't necessarily say with the right insertion that you get a huge amount of 'extra sparkle' along the fun treble bits. (there are bits where it sound relatively tame. which is again why i say 'bands' and 'banded'
I've talked to two other senior members who said they never got over the hot treble or treble peak bits. Some will say, you need an extra 6-8k kick for some instruments.
For me it ended up just occasionally hot on some tracks that have sibilance or hot treble tuning but not that bad.
I don't really adore the treble with either JH16FP or Mentor at the end of it. While I think the extra 6-8k may have added to the perceived sense of space and 'enhanced detail'. I'm fairly sure in the end it was the reason why I sold them. (for the 'banded' feeling, I likened them to a guy in a monocle, perhaps inappropriately).
The amount of 1-2k and 3-5k was done very well, they're maybe a touch less shouty and warm in the mids than some like, but very slightly.
The mids detail are very very good for both lower and upper mids.
Piano, violin, guitar, and vocals- male or female all sound great. There's a bit of a 'refined' mids feeling as well (vs say UM Merlin) but I absolutely loved it.
JH16FP overall sounded slow and honky compared to Mentor when I switched back after a few days.
Interestingly enough sometimes it seems like the overall perception of detail comes from a bit of a treble boost (to me D1000 does that a bit), I think the mids on Mentor can stand very well on their own in this regard.
out of the box without EQ Mentor is definitely less enchanced and more natural (not flat) - but I EQed both JH and UM anyway.
UM seems to be faster and harder hitting with much less fine tuning and bleeds much less into the sound. I think mid-bass amount was somewhat less than I liked, and UM went more for a sub-bass boost.
In any case, the low end was ample (to most) and fast (if you owned multi-CI driver IEMs before you'll feel at home) and nicely textured.
Some would say it's not quite there on impact, VS large DDs in Hybrid IEMs, but I think with a bit of EQ it did an admirable job (a touch more mid bass could be in order, but that's fixable too and a matter of preference). Unlike JH16Fp, I didn't find any tracks when too much bass physicall hurt when switching tracks if you eqed it a tiny bit for particular track and it switched to a bass heavy track . Cello, drums, bass are all good.
Stereo-width/sound stage:It's not really a 'mids shouty' or intimate IEM and it sounded wide, wider than many of my BA IEMs and say T-PEOS H200. I don't think it was excessive to the point of sounding to diffuse at any point. Maybe not as wide as Merlin or Lear BD4.2 or full-size headphones but none-the-less.
What music did I love it with?
classical orchestra + soloist, metal , pop and hip-hop (aside from several too hot track issues, and with EQed up bass). I think Treble feel aside, the overall coherency of the package was very good compared to even JH16fp
Did it change much with sources.Not much for me between Clip Zip, O2 amp and Note3. probably all being low output impedance? I probably preferred it from the note 3 - re soundstage and ease of EQing low-end via the PowerAmp EQ, but I think it wasn't that much of an improvement over the clip. Speaking of cables and Android - I wonder if UM make cables with remotes...
and that is all.