Unique Melody MEST

Zortven

New Head-Fier
Pros: Price/quality ratio
A musical and engaging signature
Easy to pair with
Insanely good build quality
TOTL soundstage, details, and resolution
UIEM and CIEM possible
The stock cable of great quality
Cons: Delicately boring design for me
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KuroKitsu

Headphoneus Supremus
BE BEST , MEST BEST
As First Lady Melania Trump says: BE BEST , MEST BEST (Well maybe not the second part).

Full disclaimer here that QDC and UM are sending me checks to shill the DMagic and MEST (They're not, I just think they're swell). We all know Rush is the one QDC pays anyways.

Preamble:
I've been aware of UM since my entry into the hobby and have considered them many times, but was driven away by the price. They're the Chifi equivalent of the Lamborghini's of IEMs you could say. Similar to QDC, they have a number of CPop artists that use their gear on a professional basis, so that's a big enough endorsment for me (Similar to 64 and Empire being used by artists here) but reviews have always been a mixed result. So when the MEST was announced as a quad-brid, my interest was piqued with the price seem reasonable but the question was how that would translate into bang for your buck. That settled for a while until the mini MEST was announced, between all of us, many a times was spent on Musicteck's sitetrying to make up my mind. I almost got the Mini-MEST due to budget constraints (As well as having bought the DMagic), the fit issue with the u12t led to opening up funds and the mini became the full size MEST, good time too because shortly after, the "prepetual" sale on the MEST was gone. I really hoped that the MEST would live up to it's price, even if the bone conduction driver turned out to be a dud, the other 3 types of drivers, if done well could be a way of getting a tribrid without breaking the bank.

Design:
So the shells, I really liked the Carbon Fibre composite shells and they do catch the light in interesting ways. Thickness is to be expected given the driver count and estats, It's actually about the same as the DMagic per the shot I posted earlier in this same thread. They're rather light and the nozzles are slightly angled, but not so much as other universals tend to be and I got a snug fit on my left ear, with the stock silicone tips in full, no falling out at all.

Testing thoughts and so on:
There have been multiple iterations of this review off the 789 and my 1A as I tested some of the more recent TOTL releases. As I stated a bit earlier today, I also noticed the sound of the DD changing slightly overtime, so I'm a bit in the burn in camp for DDs now. Additionally, trying to get the same volume each time with a volume knob is kinda dificult so I settled on the 1A for consistency's sake and just noted the differences until they were consistent. This ended up in at least 3 different sessions with the MEST to produce these impressions. Listening done with the 1A off the 4.4 at 55 in low gain.

Bass:
The bass is probably the first thing I noticed when I put the MEST in my ears for the first time. Subbass extension was solid, mid bass slam and impact were present overall the bass was authoritative. While not basshead levels, this was no neutral bass and more than capable of meeting the majority of listeners. Best of all? No bleed at all! Sweet sweet authoritative bass that had no bleed into the mids? MEST was off to a good start. It's worth noting that bass also felt more guttural out of box, over time it seems to have tightened up and became more controlled. Mind you the bass is still authoritative and makes you wave those devil horns in the air, but maybe less of the "Hell yeah!" mood. The midbass benefits the most as it's also the area where I have the most problems with, I had no fatigue from that all either.

Mids:
Mids are the most interesting part of the implementation. Most Tribrid configurations out there have gone with BAs for the mids and highs, both UM said nope, we're gonna shove open hat drivers in there. You all know my love affairs with open hat BAs.Normal BA mids are one thing, but open hat BA mids are another thing. UM seems to have done really well with this tuning. I found vocals not overly forward and bodied or to recessed on thin. This seems to be more of a just right approach that depends on the placement of vocals on the track itself. MEST does a really good job in letting the track dictated the placements rather than imposing a specific position that might not work for all tracks.An interesting point of note is that the upper mids could be defined as recessed looking at the graph, but it certainly doesn't sound like it. In fact it seems to be what allows for the treble peaks without going into sibilance territory.

Treble:
My experience with the early estat models was that it required a bit of juice, so I really appreciate that this wasn't the case for the MEST. This seems to be a trend among newer models with estats, which mean more lonegvity for my 1A! Treble on the MEST seems plain like all other EST treble implemenations, good extension and no sibalance at all regardless of what I threw at it (I mean it took Galaxy Supernova full on and I'm still alive, Soooooo). Interestingly enough, looking at the graph, per my comment about the relatively recessed upper mids, you would expect some sibilance with the treble peaks. But you don't, instead you get air,detail and resolution in spades. No shimmer, but it doesn't need that. Ain't need shimmer when it sounds this good.

Conclusion:
Overall, I found the MEST to be a somewhat mild w shaped signature and a very unique tuning. It really has no business having a 3D soundstage combined with such resolution and detail (Keep in mind that this is cheaper than the Solaris). Fairly lively and muscial (though that can be more of a taste. An apt example I found was that the MEST was like strapping on the 1950/Cardas Clear to my u12t: Capable of effortless shifting between what is currently the most prominent in a track and putting that emphasis there. It also handles emphasis on multiple fronts but that reflects on a slight reduction in focus of each part. Man what a year, we got a pandemic, but also the release of some IEMs shaking my ranking list up. My initial impression on the MEST was that the Z1R was chuckling like Ralph Wiggum that it was in danger, and I was really hesitant to post my impressions until I had a lot more time. It's safe to say that for the price and performance, this is solidly over the Z1R by a small margin. knocking the latter out of third and into fourth spot. The MEST is living up to it's rather delayed hype, but worth having in your stable if price is an issue and even if it isn't. It's worth adding that I originally preferred the MEST over the Trio due to the similarities that I've heard and the price difference, with the Trio having dropped in price since this was originally posted in Flickenick's thread, the Trio is a worthy alternative if you're willing to pay a slight bit more.
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szore
szore
I owned and sold the MEST and regret it, I really miss it. I'm thinking of just ordering a custom version!
KuroKitsu
KuroKitsu
There's something unique about the presentation that sets it apart and makes it worth owning!

rev92

100+ Head-Fier
Unique Melody MEST - Musicality redefined
Pros: Exceptional value in Summit-Fi market
TOTL level of details
One of the best staging in the game
Wonderful DD bass
Resolution
Fun
Engaging
Good stock cable
Great case included
Easy to pair with
For me: comfortable
Flawless build quality
Revolutionary
Universal or custom version
Fantastic customer service
Cons: Nitpicking:
The design is just okay for me
p8440514c-1.jpg


Unique Melody MEST is the first hybrid IEM that uses four different types of drivers – bone conduction, EST, balanced armature, and dynamic. It is priced at $1399 for a universal version, and $1699 for custom.


Sound quality for the price
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Rating: 10 out of 10.

Build quality and design
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Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Value
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Rating: 10 out of 10.



Packaging

The outer box is pretty okay, nothing extraordinary.

Starting from the unboxing experience, you’ll see a specific approach from Unique Melody. The outer box is nowhere close to as pretty and eye-catching as the ones offered by Campfire Audio, MMR or Kinera for example. Luckily, as soon as you open the lid, you’re welcomed by some nice goodies.

First of all – the specially designed Dignis case is one of the best IEM cases I’ve ever used. While its design is not my favorite, there’s plenty of room inside, and it provides good protection. Also, thanks to the clever inner construction, your IEMs are separated from the cable which provides a scratch-free experience while carrying around.

Next to that, you’ll find four pairs of silicone eartips, of which one pair is already installed on the IEMs. These are actually a great offering, being well-made and comfortable. If you’re not into silicone tips though, Unique Melody got you covered by including 3 pairs of Comply TSX-500.

Lastly, included is a nice looking warranty card and a microfiber cloth. On the photo below you can also see 2 adapters: 2.5mm -> 3.5mm and 2.5mm -> 4.4mm, but as far as I know, these are not included in the retail packaging.

The content inside on the other hand – you’re getting a great carrying case and a generous set of eartips.
Note : the 3.5mm and 4.4mm adapters aren’t included in the retail packaging, this is a reviewers-only gift.


Cable

The cable included is very good, but I still recommend getting a great aftermarket cable from one of many well-known cable manufacturers.

The cable included is made of high quality materials, but I’ve got some notes.
First of all, it’s quite thick and chunky, but it doesn’t actually affect the comfort, which is great. The cable is tangle-free, well-made, and comfortable to use.
It uses a rather specific type of 2-pin connectors, because of the extruded sockets in the IEMs.
Ordering the MEST, you can choose between 2.5mm, 3,5mm, and 4.4mm termination, but 2.5mm is the “default” one. It is 2021 already, 4.4mm really dominated the market (and for a reason), and I’m kinda confused about that choice. It’s not a problem for me, as I’ve gotten the adapters mentioned earlier, but without them… I’d simply have to use a different cable right from the start. Who uses 2.5mm balanced nowadays?

On top of that, if you’d like to order the cable separately, it’ll cost you about $400. It’s a good stock cable, but I can’t even imagine paying for it that much money. You’d be much better of buying something from Effect Audio, Eletech, Satin Audio, Pw Audio….well, you get the point.

Build quality and design

Carbon fiber shells, black and blue color scheme – it’s simple to love the look of the MEST.

The overall build quality is pretty much flawless. It’s well-executed, sturdy and reliable. What’s really impressive is the acrylic coating that is very smooth and almost glass-like. The extruded 2-pin sockets provide more grip to the cable and you won’t be risking breaking the connector or the socket itself as much as with the standard 2-pin sockets.
The nozzle is made of metal, which is also a great choice. Just look at the Vision Ears Elysium, which costs about 2x more than the MEST. It has an acrylic nozzle which is an obvious weak point. No worries here though, these won’t break anytime soon.

The design on the other hand is well…good. This is hugely subjective, but I quite like the look of this pair of IEMs. In terms of looks, I’d still prefer metal like with Campfire Audio or MMR offerings, but metal tends to scratch and is quite heavy. With the MEST you don’t have to worry about the shells scratching each other everytime you put them out of your ear, and they are not cold to the touch in winter. Overall, I cannot rate it as 10/10 just because it’s not as impressively designed as for example Campfire Audio Ara or the MMR Homunculus, but there’s absolutely nothing bad or mediocre about it.

Comfort

There have been some reports about a problematic fit throughout the community, but for me, these are very comfortable.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve seen many complains about the comfort of the MEST. It worried me a bit before getting them, but luckily these are very comfortable…at least for me.
The shells are rather big, but they fit into my ear canals perfectly and provide a fatigue-free experience even for hours. After using the MEST for about 5 hours, I haven’t had any problems with the fit.

Take it more as a personal observation though, it is definitely recommended to try them before making an order if it’s possible.

Tech

MEST uses four different types of drivers, with an icing on the cake being the bone conduction driver – never seen in an IEM before.

Okay, now we’re getting into some really interesting stuff. The Unique Melody MEST uses four different driver types, one of which has never been used before in in-ear monitors. IEMs using three different types of drivers are called “Tribrids”, so how should we call this one? “Quadbrids”? Well, that sounds ridiculous, any ideas?

Back to the topic though – MEST uses the 10mm dynamic driver for low-end, four balanced-armatures for mids and highs, 2EST for ultra highs, and…a bone conduction driver.

As the rest is pretty self-explanatory, let’s dive into this bone conduction driver and see what it’s really about.

What is a bone conduction driver?
– Basically, it’s a construction with metal pieces covered by piezoelectric ceramics, which then bend the metal pieces to create vibrations. These vibrations are then transferred onto the carbon-fiber shells and then, by touching your ears, these vibrations are transferred into your inner ear, creating the sound.

Can you actually feel it? Well…it’s hard to tell. I’ve tried touching the faceplates with my fingers to feel any vibrations. Sometimes I thought I felt something, but it may have been a placebo. However, there are two things that make me think that this technology really works.

First of all – MEST requires a deep fit to sound the best. They have to go all the way into your ear canal and the shells have to touch your ear as much as possible.
Secondly, the vocals and instruments often have this…physicality to them. It’s kind of hard to describe, but some parts of the sound are so saturated and well…physical, that you really have a feeling that you can reach out and grab them. I’ve never heard that kind of revelation while listening to a pair of IEMs, and I believe that it’s that whole “Bone conduction magic”. Spectacular.

Sound

Musicality redefined.

Let’s get into the sound, as this is probably what you’ve been waiting for. I’ll put that as simple as it gets – the MEST is a world-class, Summit-Fi IEM both in terms of technical performance and its tuning.

Starting from the bass response, it represents all the best aspects of a properly implemented dynamic driver. It is physical, punchy, and exceptionally defined. I really think that the time of BA bass in IEMs has passed, as it simply cannot match the DD driver.
The low-end of the MEST is spectacular. It’s big, well-controlled and very fun to listen to.
Post Malone tracks are filled with this deep, rumbling bass and MEST gives you exactly that – thick, punchy, and forward low-end that has an exceptional physicality.
Hell Freezes Over by The Eagles shows that the bass is also very well-defined and controlled, providing a fantastic insight into the drums and bass guitars. On top of that, the low frequencies are fantastically defined throughout the whole soundstage, circling around your head in a very natural manner. It’s not overpowering, it doesn’t overshadow the rest of the frequencies, it’s not overdone. This is just an exceptionally tuned bass that’ll give you the perfect combination of detail and fun.

The midrange might be the least impressive thing about the MEST in terms of timbre, but if the technicalities are your thing…then yeah, you’re gonna absolutely love it.
It is wonderfully transparent, neutral and the amount of details is just ridiculous. If you’re a fan of thick, mellow vocals then you won’t find it in the MEST, but that doesn’t mean that the timbre is inaccurate. Everything sounds natural, crispy, and very open, the only thing that is a little bit missing is some sweetness, which would have resulted in more full-bodied sounding vocals and instruments.
There’s one exception though – female vocals. Both Melody Gardot and Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac sound wonderful, charming, and captivating. That is because this kind of vocalists rely on openness and airiness more than warmth and lushness.

The MEST can easily compete with some 3-4k $ competitors…and they can actually beat them.

The treble is a similar story to the midrange, being focused on that freshness and neutrality. I have to admit, that this is one of the best EST implementations on the current market. The whole treble region is very consistent and mature. It’s not the edgiest sounding IEM, being somewhat smooth in the lower-treble region. Don’t get me wrong though – it’s not a mellow, smooth-sounding IEM in the high frequencies. It’s just about that spectacular resolution and definition, that you’re never going to experience any harshness or over-saturation.

Let’s take one specific music genre for example – metal. You’re getting the best of both worlds, energetic, airy, and spicy treble which at the same time is very well controlled, detailed, and doesn’t have any unpleasant spikes to it. Sony IER-Z1R provides a better bling-bling factor and overall more juicy and sparkly treble presentation – thanks to its fantastic DD driver(s). MEST on the other hand focuses more on being more even, smooth and elegant. You’re gonna hear every single thing. When it comes to overall detail retrieval, the MEST is a TOTL product offering one of the best resolution and detail on the market, regardless of the price.

The soundstage is probably the most impressive thing about the MEST, even though I’ve spent the last three paragraphs praising these babies to the skies. How could I not call the soundstage as the best element of the MEST, when it’s (together with Vision Ears Elysium) the best staging I’ve ever heard in an IEM.
First things first – the soundstage is massive, if you’re looking for an IEM version of Sennheiser HD800 or Hifiman Arya – well, I think you’ve just found it.
At the same time, it never seems too big, or unnaturally spacious. When you’re listening to the tracks recorded in a small studio or a live concert in a small – medium-sized avenue, you’re gonna get just that. Put on a huge live concert though or some symphonic music, and you’re going to hear sounds coming like 100 yards away from you – that experience will probably leave you quite speechless.

What’s even more impressive, the imaging is simply put the most accurate I’ve heard in an IEM period. Every single instrument is recreated in such an outstanding way that I went “What” many times during my listening sessions. You’re never getting the sound from inside your head, every sound source has its own place and it’s perfectly separated from everything else. I put that soundstage on pair with the market best, the Elysium by Vision Ears, but it’s a somewhat different approach. The VE is more charming, ethereal, and well…magical in terms of recreating the soundstage. MEST on the other hand is more realistic, has bigger instruments, and an absolutely ridiculous separation and imaging.

Pairs with just about everything, but give them some power and run them balanced.

VS Vision Ears Elysium

I will go as far, as calling the MEST and Elysium “the same league”. While the Elysium is much lighter, fresher, and magical sounding, the MEST is more full-bodied, dynamic, and well…epic.
The Elysium has a slightly better midrange, thanks to its wonderful timbre and that “magical” aspect to the vocals, but it’s a rather close call.
The bass, on the other hand, is nowhere close, as MEST has a much, much better bass response than the Elysium. It’s heavier, but it doesn’t mean it’s less natural. I actually think that the slightly elevated bass response in MEST is more natural and true sounding than this somewhat thin and unimpressive bass found in the Elysium. The difference between staging has been mentioned in the paragraph above.

VS Campfire Audio Dorado 2020

These are two very fun sounding IEMs. While the Dorado 2020 is even more powerful, fun, and crazy-sounding of the two, it’s nowhere close in regard to technical capabilities to the MEST. Dorado 2020 has more elevated bass and a more sparkly, energetic treble region, while the midrange is quite similar between the two. MEST takes the lead in terms of detail retrieval, staging, and an overall open-sounding though.
I must admit, that while I’m listening to some modern pop, rap, or metal – I’m still in absolute love with the Dorado. I’m yet to find more fun and crazy sounding IEM.
On the other hand, when I’m listening to classical rock, prog rock, jazz etc – I’m choosing the MEST, for its absolutely unmatched technicalities.

VS Campfire Audio ARA

These two IEMs are very different from each other. While the CFA Ara is all about that flatness, neutrality, and a cold insight into the music, MEST does it with an elevated bass response and an overall more punchy sound. This is as simple as it gets – if you’re into a very neutral and flat sounding IEM with fantastic detail – get the Ara. If you’re into fun and musicality, but you still want to get a huge amount of information – the MEST is for you, definitely.

VS Lime Ears Aether R

I’ll start by saying, that the Aether R has this weird “loving” aspect to them, which is created by an interesting midrange timbre and somewhat sweet-sounding treble. It’s not a match for the MEST though, loosing in every single aspect by quite a margin. The bass goes deeper and has better impact and body in the MEST, the midrange is more neutral and has much more information, and the treble is just more mature, detailed and refined. Speaking about the soundstage, while the Aether R is praised for its great staging capabilities, the MEST still wipes the floor with it, providing much better imaging, separation, and the overall size of the soundstage. Oh yeah, and the bass is just miles ahead in the MEST.

VS Noble Audio Khan

These two IEMs share some similarities – both are a supercars in terms of detail and resolution, but I’m giving an edge to the MEST for more fun factor, better staging and the bass response. While the Khan offers a bloody-fast and accurate low frequencies, the MEST is more spectacular and overall better extended and detailed of the two. Yet again, the soundstage of the UM offers a better imaging and separation than the Noble’s ex-flagship.
When listening to these two side by side, I’d call the Khan a flawed supercar focusing mainly on speed. The MEST on the other hand is a whole package, not even a tad slower, with just about everything else better.

MESTmerizing.

Pairing

The MEST pairs well with many devices, but you have to remember to provide them as good quality source as possible. They also like power, which is quite easy to notice on my Cayin N3Pro. I usually use the triode or the ultralinear mode with just about every pair of IEMs I own, but I prefer listening to the MEST using the balanced output. The whole sound just became cleaner, more texturized, and better controlled.

They do pair exceptionally well with the Lotoo Paw Gold Touch, resulting in a sound that is as accurate and detailed as it gets. It’s definitely not a setup for folks going for a warm and lush sound, but if you’re all about the detail and transparency – this pairing will be really hard to beat, in any budget.

I can also recommend using the Cayin N6ii with both A01 and E01 modules. The first will give you a tremendous bass response and it’ll give you more warmth in the mid section. The E01 on the other hand will be better in terms of staging and detail.

Summary

Unique Melody MEST is a true gem of the Hi-End IEM market.

Unique Melody MEST is an outstanding IEM that can compete with just about everything on the market, often costing a fraction of the price of its competitor. With its revolutionary driver configuration, supported by years of experience, Unique Melody created a true pinnacle of Hi-End IEM market. I can’t think of any better way to spend $1399 for a pair of in-ear monitors. I’m as impressed as I can be.

Highly recommended.





Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
  • Headphones – Campfire Audio Dorado 2020, Vega 2020, Andromeda, Lime Ears Aether R, Vision Ears EVE20, Elysium, Meze Rai Penta, Audeze LCD3, Campfire Audio Ara, Final D8000, Noble Audio Khan
  • Sources– Cayin N3Pro, Lotoo Paw Gold Touch, Cayin N5ii, Fiio M15, Cayin N6ii, Cayin N8, JDSLabs Atom stack, SMSL SU-9
CT007
CT007
"4.4mm really dominated the market (and for a reason)". What was this reason? I'm a 3.5/6.25mm desktop guy. No use for 2.5 or 4.4.
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garcsa
garcsa
nice! (cool photos!) :thumbsup:
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rev92
rev92

bgpolyhistor

Head-Fier
Unique Melody MEST
Pros: *Excellent* sound
Versatile
Nice case included
Cons: -Cheap packaging
-Mediocre cable
-Tip dependent
-Mediocre fit
I am not an experienced or skilled reviewer but I have enjoyed and benefitted from Head-Fi reviews and wanted to contribute my thoughts on these IEM's. I bought these without being able to hear them first, and this is about as much as I would spend blind buying. The only IEM's I own or have tested in this price range ($1400) are Campfire Audio's Andromeda 2020 edition, so I'm by no means an expert.

I did not break these in- I have tested them on Rock, dubstep, hip hop, acoustic, blues, ska, and bluegrass.

Unboxing- the packaging is pretty cheap. The product is protected, but the cable was separately taped to the box. I ordered the 3.5mm cable which is cheap looking and mediocre at best. It's a bit too stiff and the split is protected with a small length of clear vinyl tubing. There is an additional piece of tubing to tighten/adjust the cable under your chin. It isn't nearly as nice or polished in appearance/feel as the smoky litz cable that accompanied my CA Polaris II's for example. It certainly doesn't compare well with the 2.5mm cable which came with my Empire Ears Bravados. The cable is priced over $400 if purchased separately, which I consider to be dubious, and that’s putting it gently. The way it looks is tasteful, and I actually really appreciate the way that termination looks and feels, It’s just underwhelming to include this particular cable at this particular price point. (As a point of reference-both of those units cost half or less what I paid for the MEST. I'm not at all saying this a garbage cable- I'm just speaking relative to its price point). The box included two different types of ear tips in two different sizes each- some generic wide bore silicone tips and some comply foam tips (comfort). I ended up using some comply tips I had on hand in size medium- these achieved acceptable comfort and isolation. I have many more tips on the way because the MEST seems very tip dependent. The included silicone tips did not fit my ears well at all and made the MEST sound thin and wispy with weak bass. The included leather zip case is like a box- it’s made by Dignis and looks great, but also seems pointlessly large. I can't see myself carrying it in a pocket.

Fit: Not great, not terrible. The nozzle is long enough to overcome the slightly large body of each IEM. They don't sit in my ear quite as well as others, but once I had the right tips I did not notice discomfort over long listening sessions. I don't think the fit will be an issue for the vast majority of users, but I don't consider it particularly refined or comfortable either. Not a deal breaker, but you won't exactly forget that you're wearing the universal MEST.

Sound Impressions- Now we're talking. In short, these sound amazing. They have a "W" shaped sound signature which nearly presents itself as relatively flat to my ears, but with a slight (and for me, welcome) emphasis on bass. In general, the sound is extremely clear, tight and controlled. Mids and highs are present and wonderfully focused but never harsh with good recordings, and I am fairly sensitive to higher frequencies. Within the context of my relatively meager collection, the MEST is both fun and versatile in that it delivers exactly what the song calls for. It strikes a balance- I can hear awesome detail retrieval and clarity on acoustic songs by Jim Croce for example- but queue up "Quick Musical Doodles" by Two Feet and you discover that MEST has plenty of slam and rumble. It does not quite match the bass quantity of the CA Polaris II or the EE Bravado, both basshead hybrids, but it has better quality. The MEST is not what I would consider a basshead IEM, but it's dynamic drivers definitely bump enough to satisfy this basshead. It probably achieves the best tonal balance that I have heard of any IEM while striking a great balance between being fun and being flat or analytical. You won't miss out on details, but you won't be bored either. To hear something with this sort of clarity and precision that also happens to have extremely tight, punchy bass was very exciting for me.

Hardware Tested: Klipsch Heritage DAC/AMP (balanced and unbalanced) using multiple FLAC, DSD and MP3's. Astell & Kern Kann (balanced) and Cayin N3 Pro (unbalanced). I switched between the stock 3.5mm cable and the Effect Audio Ares II which I borrowed from my EE bravados. I did not experience hiss or sibilance on any combination. I did not use the EQ on either of the DAP's or on JRiver Media. The MEST performed equally well on each of my mid-fi sources and was not overly sensitive or difficult to drive. These iems should play nice with just about anything.

Comparisons- My collection is limited. The CA Polaris II and EE Bravado's are dual hybrids, very bassy, and in the $400-$500 range. I don't see much point in comparing them.

AKG N40- these retailed in the $400-$500 range years ago, I bought mine on ebay for $220. They are tuned to the Harmon Target. Also dual hybrids. Also probably a fairly pointless comparison- however- there are some similarities. The N40's were the first IEM's that allowed me to hear things I'd never heard with familiar recordings. They also, like the MEST, can deliver whatever a song calls for- they have good bass but are source dependent and can sound fairly boring- sort of how the MEST can sound with poor fit/the wrong tips. When the N40 is properly paired and sounding its best, it simply can't match the MEST in detail retrieval, dynamics, clarity or particularly soundstage/imaging. Given the price difference and very different tuning, no surprise here.

CA Andromeda 2020's- it has been pointed out to me that this is a poor comparison due to the different tuning and driver configurations. Whereas the MEST is a quadbrid and the Andro has 5 BA's, the Solaris would make a more appropriate comparison. Unfortunately I don't own the CA Solaris and haven't listened to them. Both the Andromeda 2020 and the MEST are however in a similar price bracket, both have made an impact on the industry and are surrounded by plenty of hype, both are highly regarded, both are in my collection, so here we go: the MEST makes the Andromeda sound slightly hazy almost- as if one is hearing through a blanket. The Andromeda 2020 have a slightly warmer tone, with less clarity and precision in the bass. They definitely can't slam and rumble like MEST (BA vs DD, no surprise). Mids are slightly more forward and pronounced on the Andromeda's. MEST takes a slight lead in sparkle, but probably not compared to older versions of the Andromeda. Overall, the MEST feels clearer and more precise all around to me, even though the bass is elevated slightly. Finally and importantly, the imaging on MEST is the best I've heard for IEM's. Perhaps it's the bone conduction driver, but on some songs certain instruments or vocals seem to come from a different position at different points, as if the music is both inside and around your head- at the same time everything is always clearly separated and never melts together.

Summary: There simply isn't anything MEST does poorly in my opinion. They are probably the most "fun" sounding IEM i've heard without sacrificing detail retrieval- and compared to my collection, they still have a fairly accurate tuning. I hesitate to even call them "fun," but for all the enjoyment I've had listening to them. The tuning is extremely coherent in my opinion. I would give them 5/5 on sound quality, obvs the most important aspect, but I'm rating them a 4.5 overall because they're simply too expensive to have cheap packaging and a cheap cable. Having experienced premium packaging from brands like Empire Ears and Campfire Audio, there's a level of expectation beyond mere sound quality once you get into the $500+ range, and Unique Melody didn't meet that level with the MEST.

I would say if you can easily afford them new and you want them, you won't be disappointed. If you want them and can't afford new, buying used might be an even better value. Either way, I think the MEST will be around for a while.
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Layman1
Layman1
Highnight
Highnight
Extension is how far into the Frequency range on either end of the spectrum. So if it can produce sub bass all the way down, then it's bass extension is a lot. It's basically how far can the IEM extend into the lower or upper regions of the frequency response graph. If a headphone/IEM rolls off in the sub bass early on, then it doesn't have good bass extension. That's how I understand it at least.
bgpolyhistor
bgpolyhistor
I understand how the term is defined. I’ve read glossaries of audiophile terms. I just think it’s a somewhat pointless concept to convey. None of us are agreeing on a particular note-we only have the lowest sound played in our collection. Based on my observations the majority of headphones above a certain price point exceed the limits of human hearing anyway.

So as far as bass extension and treble extension, calling them “great” based on my music and compared to my other IEM’s just doesn’t actually tell you guys much.
Saying “extension is great” just seems like a buzzword to me for guys on YouTube who think everything they review sounds “stunning.” All of my headphones have enough extension to play every song at an acceptable volume.

crazyhank

New Head-Fier
UM Mest - prepare to say WOW with every listen!
Pros: Clarity, clarity, clarity. Fun, fun, fun. Highs, mids, and lows all come together beautifully.
Cons: For this package, none.
This is a review on the most stunning and surprising IEM of 2020. This is an IEM that costs $1399, but sounds like it cost $4,000 easy. The clarity, the clarity, the clarity. This thing has to be one of the most transparent IEMs on the market, while simultaneously sounding FUN, thanks to its very unique (excuse the repeated pun) bone conduction drive technology. The entire driver package creates just about the most holographic sounding experience I have ever heard in an IEM. Every time I put the MEST on, my jaw drops. This is just the most addicting IEM I have ever used. Even with my Focal Utopia and Stellia next to me, sometimes I just want to listen to my MEST. It delivers something even flagships cans cannot. I give my compliments to Unique Melody. They nail the highs, mids and lows, while delivering such an all around beautiful package. And again, I still can't believe the price. I would honestly pay double at this point...it sounds that good.

I never even considered Unique Melody, but Andrew from MusicTeck assured me this is one IEM worth my time. I took a chance and I am so grateful to him for it. Just WOW...imagine listening to something that makes you say that every single time. This is the experience of the MEST. You will reconsider your entire IEM collection. It will show you things you never knew possible in an IEM and you'll have the best time and pleasure from your music unlike ever before. It's a promise! This is not just a subjective opinion...I haven't heard one person doubt their love for this pair.

You have to go to https://www.musicteck.com/ and connect with Andrew. He is honest, helpful and truly cares about getting what will make you happy, and not upsell.

Happy listening and enjoy :)

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DJ Core
DJ Core
Loving my MEST as well. It presents music in a new way...must be that bone conductor at work. Was watching the Witcher on NETFLIX using MEST and even that is more enjoyable.
max1236
max1236
Mest is really special, unique melody really did they're research and it shows. Looking forward to what's possible with bone conduction.
S
Shiziticus
Mine are on the way! Saved me a LOT of $$$ compared to what I had thought I would need to spend.

skedra

Head-Fier
Pros: Exceptional technical performance
Holographic staging
Very good tuning
Excellent price
Cons: Sound is fit and tip dependent and requires a deep fit
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Overview
In the world filled with IEMs and new releases happening almost weekly, it seems like novelty is something that rarely happens anymore. Unique Melody did just that. Not only the MEST is a “quadbrid” design, but it also incorporates something completely new to the IEM world, a bone conduction driver which vibrates the shell of the IEM. The rest of the drivers are a dynamic driver for the bass, 2 balanced armatures for the midrange, 2 balanced armatures for the highs and 2 EST drivers for the ultra highs.

In the box
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  • IEMs
  • 2.5mm 1.2m cable
  • 3 Sets of foam tips
  • 3 Sets of silicone tips
  • Warranty card
  • Case
  • Cleaning cloth


Build quality and accessories
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The IEMs are built very well, the shell is smooth and very well finished. The 2 pin socket, is quite tight which makes the cable hold very well and doesn’t feel like it will wear out quickly. The nozzle is well designed and having a notch it prevents the tips from falling off easily.

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The cable is quite stiff but has a quality feel to it and by being clear shows how much conductor is inside. The split is done with an adhesive heat-shrink, I’d have preferred a light aluminium one which would add to the quality factor but I also understand that it would add extra weight to an already quite heavy wire so I can’t hold this against UM. The chin slider works but is quite hard to adjust and I’m a bit worried it will eventually damage the cable if I keep moving it.

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The case is very good, made by Dignis (a high-end case manufacturer for audio products) it adds to the premium feel of the whole package. The internal design of the case is one I like the most, where the IEMs themselves are separate from one another and the cable which prevents them scratching and bumping into each other and potentially getting damaged. My only small gripe is the fact the red version of MEST still comes with a blue case, it would’ve been great if that colour was matched to the IEMs themselves.

In general, the accessories are good, I kind of wish for a second cable or adapters at this price range or a slightly more premium unboxing experience but at the same time the performance of MEST compensates for this, but more on this later.

Fit and comfort
I think the main issue of MEST is the fit, and it’s not that it fits badly per se, it’s the fact it needs a deep fit with as much of the shell contacting the ear as possible for the bone conduction driver to do its work. With stock silicone tips I couldn’t get a good fit, they were too stiff and the sizing wasn’t great for me, small would be too small and medium would be too big. However with either final E or xelastec tips that wasn’t a problem anymore and I was able to get them very comfortable and used them for 6+h at a time without issues.
I do feel like Unique melody could have designed the shells a bit better.
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I think they could’ve opted for a more “pseudo-custom” shell which would ensure a bigger area of contact between the IEM and the ear for better effect of the bone conduction driver.

Sound
Here’s where things get interesting. If you look at the graph of MEST it looks like a V or U shaped IEM, however, upon hearing them with a good fit it sounds much more like a tasteful W signature to me. Very lively and engaging while never sharp or shouty.

Bass

Bass is fast, textured, punchy and extremely well-tuned. Listening to my trusty bass test track “Trentemøller – Evil Dub” the MEST presents all the detail and punches you when asked for it. While it doesn’t have the dynamics of something like a Final A8000 it’s still very good. The extension is fantastic and the subbass digs extremely deep and punches hard. Due to the way the tuning is done it never bleeds into the midrange, not only that it also allows the lower midrange to shine much better than a lot of the IEMs with a longer bass shelf.

Midrange
The midrange of the MEST is something quite unexpected, especially if you’ve seen the graph before hearing it. Not only it has an amazing detail retrieval but also a textural quality that’s hard to describe. Listening to instruments gives you this odd ability to actually “feel” them in a way which is not something any other IEM I’ve heard can do, think of it as if you felt the texture of each note physically. Vocals are a bit forward but due to the well-tuned and never harsh nature of them, this to me is a plus and it balances the whole presentation really well. Listening to things like “Fleetwood Mac – The Chain” or “Iron Maiden – Trooper” is pure joy, with guitars, vocals and instruments having a sort of liveliness to them that’s hard to achieve.

Treble
Again, a fantastic performance here. The detail is up there with the super high-end flagships like the U18T, Anole VX etc. As someone who’s sensitive to 5-6kHz, I never found the MEST harsh or unpleasant even with very badly recorded and sibilant tracks. It always had a sense of smoothness and ease to them but still have enough bite to present the cymbals in a true to life fashion. There was plenty of air between the instruments and really good high-end extension.

Imaging and Soundstage
Here’s another place the MEST shines, it can “disappear”, what I mean by that is you don’t feel like you’re listening to a transducer but rather listening to the music itself. This takes a bit of time to get used to, hearing MEST for the first couple songs may be a bit odd but then the stage opens up and the imaging becomes extremely good and precise while definitely not being limited to the headspace and expanding well past it.

Conclusion
If you haven’t realised this by now, I absolutely love the MEST and can recommend it with ease. From the tuning to the technical performance it delivers on the highest degree, with only downsides being a possibly finicky fit to achieve the best sound and just ok accessories. I’m still amazed at the value the MEST presents in the high-end market and how this “novelty” IEM has struck such a great balance in the first go of implementing something new.
DJ Core
DJ Core
Got mine 2 weeks ago.Endgame type sound for me personally.Excellent pairing with ZX505/7 walkman. This is the first IEM where I can clearly hear sound behind my head, must be that bone conductor. It's very audible with 100% copper cables.
skedra
skedra
Definitely an awesome IEM, the end game for the vast majority of people. I haven't gotten to cable rolling as of yet but will try my god-knows-how-many cables on it when I have some time :D

tma6

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: - Top tier resolution
- End to end extension
- Fantastic texture across every frequency range
- Addictive, fun, and musical tuning with no compromises
- Natural and realistic timbre
- Soundstage that extends in three dimensions
- Has a distinctive quality to the sound that sets it apart from the crowd
Cons: - Potential fit issues, and the effect of fit / insertion depth on sound
- Tuning is balanced, but might not be for those looking for a flat sound signature
- Vocals may feel a bit too forward at times
Introduction:

I've had a bit of a hard time writing this review. In part due to the fact that describing the sound of the MESTs is no easy task given their various sonic idiosyncrasies and downright strange driver setup. It was also a bit tough since $1400 is a lot of money for most people and I didn't want to unjustifiably shill another overpriced IEM - which seem to be a dime a dozen these days. Making matters worse, these things house a bone conduction driver that has "gimmick" written all over it. That being said, I don't care anymore. The MESTs are damn good and you should just sell everything you have and get them. Oh wait you have those new...! No one cares, MEST is better. In fact, screw it, MEST = BEST.

In all seriousness, let's get into the full breakdown of these things, starting with what you get in the box.

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Cable and Accessories:

The unboxing experience here is pretty bare-bones actually, particularly when compared with that of other IEMs around the same price point. However, you do get a really nice leather Dignis carrying case, three sets of ultra-soft Comply foam tips, three sets of silicone tips, a nice cleaning cloth, and a fancy looking warranty card.

You also get a really high quality cable, with your choice of 2.5mm balanced, 3.5mm, and 4.4mm balanced output, which is apparently worth a staggering $424 USD. While I don't think the cable is worth its weight in gold, I do have to admit it's a really solid and robust cable. It's pretty comfortable, tangle resistant, and has a sturdy feel to it without too much heft. So I guess.. why not? I'll take it.

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Build Quality and Driver Configuration:

The build quality on these things is excellent. They're made out of carbon fiber and look sleek. The only thing is that they might be a bit big for some ears. Tip rolling was necessary to find the right fit for me, and there were some slight changes in the sound quality depending on insertion depth. I ended up landing on Final Audio E tips. Honestly kind of comfy now, but that was not my initial impression.

I also just wanted to mention the driver configuration quickly, since it's at least notable that the MESTs are a quad-brid IEM. That is, there are four different driver types used here - a dynamic driver for the lows, 4 balanced armatures for the mids and highs, two electrostatic tweeters for the ultra-highs, and one bone conduction driver for the.. mids? I think? I literally have no way of verifying the impact of the bone conduction driver here. If I'm being honest I'm a bit skeptical about the whole thing, but at the end of the day it does not matter at all. Whatever Unique Melody did here, they managed to pull off something special. My bones feel very conducted...
Anyway, on to the sound.

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Sound:

All listening was done using an iBasso Dx160 on the 4.4mm balanced output.

Even though the MESTs graph as somewhat V or U shaped, I actually hear them as more of a W shape, with mids pushed a bit more forward than it would appear. It's got a really refined tuning, very smooth with no crazy sharp spikes or dips. It also exudes balance and control while adding an authoritative but still tasteful subbass emphasis, and providing treble for days. This tuning permits musicality and addictiveness, while also maintaining the capacity for reference level detail retrieval. There's also a hint of warmth to the bass and mids, though I do feel that there is a dryness to the overall presentation, most likely due to the overall speed and precision of the treble response. This does not even really begin to describe how they sound though. I'll try to explain.

The bass is rumbly, resonant, textured, and fast all at the same time. The subbass emphasis is done so well here. It maintains tonality and musical accuracy down to the absolute lowest reaches, with bass notes that you feel as much as you hear them. This is not instrument dependent - everything that touches the subbass region maintains its full character and distinctive textural qualities. It also does a nice job of varying its weight in accordance with the needs of different types of music, though can sometimes come off a tad strong on certain tracks. Still, the bass is incredibly versatile across a variety of genres, including those that require precise and delicate bass representation. I also do not hear any infringement upon the mids. There's a very slight looseness, but this is actually preferable to me, particularly here where speed is not noticeably sacrificed at all. The only thing of note here for me is that on certain songs there is a bit of softness to the mid-bass impact. Then again, there's no real lack of impact either, and I'll take this over a bloated mid-bass any day.

Moving to the mids, the MESTs present with a forwardness that actually caught me off guard initially. Once I calmed down though, and engaged full bone conduction mode, I came away very impressed. The sheer resolution by itself is pretty phenomenal, even when compared to other solid technical performers like the Sony IER M9s. Moreover, the same textural qualities that I heard in the bass extended throughout the midrange. Every instrument just has a tangible tactility to it that I've never really heard before in an IEM, at least not to this extent. Adding to this experience is the fact that the timbre is as natural and realistic as I've heard in an audio product, period. It's likely the combination of resolution and texture that help to achieve this effect, but whatever it is it's truly remarkable. The only way I can think of describing it is that each and every tiny element of each and every individual instrument is captured and reproduced with tonal accuracy. The one thing to note here though is that vocals are decidedly forward. I actually have a preference for this type of tuning, but I know some might like a more laid back presentation. Even so, vocals are so rich and musical that I think even the most ardent V-shaped fanatics can grow to appreciate what the MESTs have to offer.

The highs are honestly the best I've ever heard and it's not really even that close. Every single nuance and detail is rendered with absolute precision. Cymbal and percussion variation is clearly discernible on even the most busy tracks. The dip at around 4k is not dramatic and actually takes just enough edge off certain particularly harsh percussive impacts to render pretty much everything listenable at moderate to high volumes. The re-up at 6k also does a great job at providing air and sparkle while somehow refraining from any sort of harshness or sibilance. There's a slight roll off towards the very top end of the treble spectrum, but the true extension of the treble is not affected at all. I can't stress enough how much detail is packed into the highs, and it's done so effortlessly. Nothing feels like it's being forced upon you, it comes across as natural and a part of the music. There's also a really nice smoothness to the treble that is difficult to describe. It's not smooth in the sense of lacking crispness or air, or rolling off to a great extent, but more in the sense of an easy going listening experience that allows for great presence without fatigue. Overall, the treble is really what one would expect when paying for a top of the line product. I have nothing else to say here.

Soundstage and imaging are where things start to get interesting. At the start of pretty much every song, the MESTs begin by creating a very strong center image that seems to exist a little bit in front of the middle of my brain. The center image is usually concentrated around melodic mid range tones. For instance, this means that in vocal music, the center image very clearly consists of the singer's voice. This could potentially lead to a more intimate sense of staging, except that outside of this center image it feels like all bets are off, and I mean this in the best way possible. While sounds that are meant to be on the left or right are certainly heard on the correct side, it is impossible to predict where exactly they will be placed. It could be a bit forward or behind your head, above or below, around the back, top-right-diagonal.. you get the picture. I don't like to use the terms "3-D" or "hololgraphic" since these feel like buzz words to me, but the fact of the matter is that the stage does extend in three dimensions so I'm not sure what else to call it. At the same time, the imaging does not feel disjointed. If anything, it feels rather precise as each instrument is very clearly separated and nothing ever becomes congested. It's really hard to describe, but the staging on the MESTs is truly distinctive and just plain fun to listen to.

Overall, the sound of the MESTs is pretty fantastic. I really didn't expect to be saying this, but this is one of the few top of the line IEMs I've tried that I feel justifies its gaudy price tag. It pretty much nails the presentation of every frequency range, adds a special textural quality to every instrument, presents with a peculiar and fun staging, and possesses a tuning that works for pretty much every genre of music. Now, if you're looking for a purely flat or laid back sound signature then I'm not sure you should go for the MESTs. They definitely have a bass boost, and mids and vocals are often placed very much in front of you. That said, the tonal balance is excellent and nothing is sacrificed even with music that requires a precise and delicate touch. This is my favorite IEM to date and will probably maintain that top spot for a long time to come.

To round this off, let's get through some quick comparisons.

Comparisons:

The only A/B comparisons I was able to make at this time were with the Sony IER M9 and the Meze Rai Pentas. I have auditioned the IER Z1Rs and the Campfire Andromedas (v1) in the past, but did not want to try to do a full comparison just relying on memory. I can say that regarding the Z1Rs, I was honestly blown away by the sound, but could not deal with the fit at all; and I actually did not love the first gen Andromedas primarily due to what I found to be some weird timbre issues and a bit of a soft low end, though the staging was top notch.

MEST vs. Sony IER M9: I loved my M9s, and actually still do. They're just so comfortable and easy to listen to. That being said, I'm probably selling them soon because of the MESTs. The M9s to me are still excellent though. Their resolution is close but not quite as good as the MESTs; and they have no crazy BA timbre issues, though they're not nearly as realistic as the MESTs. The M9s do have a much more laid back presentation though, which can sometimes be a bit more comforting than what the MESTs bring to the table. The M9s are definitely a bit warmer and smoother, but lack the feeling of absolute precision of the MESTs. I do think the M9s posses slightly more accurate imaging, but the overall staging is just not as fun as the MESTs "holographic" capabilities. At the end of the day, while I would still recommend the M9s to most people, I do find that they just feel lacking in energy and fun-factor when I A/B with the MESTs.

MEST vs. Meze Rai Penta: This is not really a fair comparison. The MESTs are objectively a much better performing IEM than the Pentas. I do like the Pentas comfort, look, timbre and overall smooth and sweet midrange, but the resolution, staging, and end to end extension is just not on par at all. It's kind of weird that these two IEMs are even in the same price bracket. The MESTs just blow the Pentas out of the water and make them sound kind of dull. It's unfortunate, but true. I don't think I need to get too into the weeds about it, just get the MESTs and call it a day.

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DJ Core
DJ Core
I just want to know how you got a 4.4 cable. When I ordered, all they had was 3.5 or 2.5 with 4.4 adapter. I had to order a 4.4 L plug and DIY termination to 4.4. Otherwise, I get so lost in the music with MEST. Love this thing.
T
tma6
DJ Core
DJ Core
"While sounds that are meant to be on the left or right are certainly heard on the correct side, it is impossible to predict where exactly they will be placed. It could be a bit forward or behind your head, above or below, around the back, top-right-diagonal..." This right here is the Bone conductor at work...Bone conducting headphones tend to give that 4D sound, The louder you play, the more you'll hear the sounds at the top, bottom,left-right, back of the head, and in front. Thriller Album, Eagles Hotel California has never sounded this realistic

antdroid

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Excellent resolution, imaging and holographic soundstage
Nice shell design/artwork and fit
Relatively inexpensive for how it sounds
Cons: 6K treble bump may be deal breaker for some
Bass can be muddy at times, but seems to vary depending on tip and seal.
Tip dependent
P1040176.JPG


Unique Melody’s brand name has always been what I’d call appropriate. They’ve always never been shy of thinking well outside the box and coming up with very unique in-ear monitor ideas, from crazy design choices, to using unique drivers, such as the planar driver in the ME1, which I own, and to using additive manufacturing to produce a crazy web of titanium for a custom IEM shell.

UM’s latest model, the MEST, is yet another product that shows they aren’t afraid of trying something fresh and new. This IEM is features 4 separate driver technologies in a single unit. The IEM includes a single dynamic driver, 4 balance armatures, 2 electrostatic tweeters, and a bone conductor driver. Yes, I am not making that up. They added bone conduction to this foray.

Let me just quickly thank Unique Melody themselves for allowing me to participate in this MEST tour. I was able to listen to this IEM for a week’s time before shipping it to the next user on the Head-Fi Loaner tour.

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Now back to this interesting setup. I’ve only tried a few bone conducting earphones in the past with my experience primarily around the Aftershokz. This popular bone conducting earphone seems to be pretty popular with the bicycle commuter crowd, as everyone I’ve met that owns them is bicyclist of some sort. They earphones themselves do work, and whatever voodoo it does actually produces music in my head, and that’s pretty rad. They aren’t really great for audiophiles though, as you do lose quite a bit of resolution and some technical performance, and my experience equates them to somewhat mediocre to poor audio performance, but it still produces music that is listenable and not terrible.

I was most interested in how UM was going to implement this driver, while at the same time pack in the others as well. The EST drivers for example, have been rather poorly used in most all IEMs that have featured them outside of a few very niche products that cost well over $3K USD (The Vision Ears Elysium and Elysian Audio Annihilator). What surprised me while reading the promotion pieces on the bone conductor driver was that UM targets this driver to handle the upper mid-range and lower treble duties, which wasn’t at all what I was expecting. But remembering how Aftershokz sound, it does make some sense.

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Accessories

Before I get too deep into the whole sound thing, I do want to quickly mention the package the UM MEST comes with. The small package box was a lot smaller than my previous UM IEM packaging, which was a large wooden box – this time Unique Melody ships in a smaller cardboard box that’s sleek and elegant. Inside, the IEM comes with a leather blue and black zippered case that looks quite attractive and neatly has the UM branding on it, though looks far from distasteful. Included is a braided cable that does feel a little thick, but I didn’t find it too heavy in actual usage. The cable is terminated in 2.5mm balanced, but also came with 4.4mm and 3.5mm attachments, which may be exclusive for this tour unit. I believe users will get to choose the termination of their choice if ordered.




Sound

When I first popped on the Unique Melody MEST, my first thoughts were that it sounded slightly W-shaped with a raised low end and some sort of peak in the lower treble, although it sounded semi-neutral, but colored in some ways. Generally, I found the signature unique, and fits somewhere between a balanced U-shape and a more fun V-shaped sound.

One thing to point out is that I found the MEST to be highly tip dependent on first tests. With certain tips, perhaps something to do with seal, I found that the MEST was very bright and lacked low end bass, while with other tips, the bass can actually be rather overwhelming.

After listening to it for a few days now, I think the MEST to be a unique yet very fun and well-resolving IEM. It’s hard to really pin point exactly how it truly sounds because it sounds very unique.

Unique Melody MEST.png


The bass has a lot of textures, though can come off sometimes smeared and overdone. It’s definitely more elevated, but focuses on subbass lift, with a bass curve that is quite similar to 64 Audio’s U12t in both measurements and in actual listening. When I listened to various songs, say GoGo Penguin’s Version 2.0’s record, I can find the double bass guitar’s power to be a tad overbearing and drowning out some of the other parts of the song at times on the U12t and at times on the MEST. That said the MEST has a nice bass line with good slammy nature and impact that I sometimes do miss when using multi-BA sets.

The resolution of the MEST is actually fantastic. I am surprised at how much details come out of songs and perhaps the lift at 6KHz brings out a bit more of the harmonics in certain instruments in specific tracks, but I always feel like I am hearing more things that I normally would in most IEMs, outside of my very best. I think it can compete in the realms of the best I’ve tried, as I’ve been playing it side by side with the qdc Anole VX this week and I think it can trade blows well, while to me, sounding a little more accurate at the same time.

Another thing I found nice and perhaps strange is the imaging and the soundstage. There were many times where I felt like the MEST was intimate and closed-in with instruments feeling very forward, yet the imaging and separation didn’t feel lacking at all. In my typical bluegrass tunes, I was able to hear each instrument across a small band across my head with no problem despite feeling less wide AT TIMES. Then some other instrument, say a drum will hit, and it’ll feel like it’s totally coming from the farthest part of my left ear, and I’m left puzzled. Is this IEM closed-in and intimate, or does it have good width? It’s weird, but I enjoy this game.

In similar vein, depending on the music genre and what instruments are playing, I found depth to vary just as much as width. This all goes back to an interesting experience listening to the MEST and really makes the presentation of songs I am familiar with stand out in almost a different light, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Perhaps this is another one of those holographic soundstage types – the kind of staging and imaging that I felt when I listened to the Campfire Solaris, with music coming in more of a half-spherical illusion in front of you, rather than one that is just left to right and forward and back. One song where I find this quite noticeable is Tingvall Trio’s Vulkanen, a nu-jazz treat where at the beginning the piano sounds like its coming in your head, but the drums and cymbals are off to either side of you, while the bow’d strings are doing their thing straight in front of you, so much that I thought it was coming out of my speakers at first.

Where I do find the MEST may affect some, and may not others, is how it approaches the upper-mid range and the lower treble regions. The upper mid-range has a nice rise, but then it plateaus just prior to another sharp rise up in the lower treble range which makes some of that exciting detail come forward, and is typical of a V-Shape-style sound signature. I think the treble rise hovers at the warning track, where just a little more could be rather fatiguing and potentially could cause people ringing and maybe sibilance depending on sensitivity. For me, I find this rise just below my threshold. I never found it sibilant nor too harsh. I think it does accentuate certain things a bit more than they should, though not to the point where I find timbre to be totally off either. I think UM strikes a nice balance here.


P1040172.JPG


Final Thoughts

Listening to so many different genres, I feel like the MEST works pretty well as an all-arounder IEM. Just remember that the IEM itself isn’t what I would call neutral, it has got its own flavor with an emphasis in the lower treble region, as well as a bass lift. That said, it’s got some addictiveness to it that I was a bit shocked to really enjoy.

While I don’t know how much the bone conduction driver actually contributes to the overall sound, if any, at least in a universal form-factor, I still think the mid-range is really solid and this is a good overall IEM that I am now happy to recommend at least trying out. It has some qualities that make it look like a solid deal to a bargain at it’s asking price of $1399, since its resolution is very good, it’s got excellent imaging and one of the rare multi-driver IEM setups that I don’t find has any major flaws.
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M
MrGetDown
You mentioned the Campfire Solaris. How do they compare and if you could only have one which would it be?
antdroid
antdroid
@MrGetDown The Solaris and MEST both share the 3D soundstage that people coin as "holographic." I think the MEST has significantly better bass texturing and resolution as well as imaging compared to the original solaris. I am currently demoing the 2020 model of the Solaris and I think its actually a step down from the original one.
redrol
redrol
Awesome review Ant! I notice this as well:
"There were many times where I felt like the MEST was intimate and closed-in with instruments feeling very forward, yet the imaging and separation didn’t feel lacking at all. "

The more I test the MEST the more this confuses me. I think what I am hearing is very accurate soundstage replay. So if the song has an intimate feel, you get all of that.. but also some outside the head information. It's odd and awesome at the same time.

Layman1

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Stunningly detailed, technically excellent, holographic soundstage, musical, balanced
Cons: sound signature might not be for everyone (see main review)
The One And Only - A review of the Unique Melody MEST IEM


Introduction:


Unique Melody will by now need little introduction from me, having already become well established as prolific purveyors of premium products in the IEM world.

IEM details from the MusicTeck (authorised dealer’s) website:

https://shop.musicteck.com/collecti...ucts/um-universal-mest?variant=31563592663102

This link also has photos and explanations of the considerable amount of tech that features in these IEMs.

The MEST retails at USD $1’399 (I believe MusicTeck have a sale on them at present).

The MEST is a hybridIEM. Perhaps this now increasingly common term fails to give them the credit due; specifically, they are to the best of my knowledge:

The World’s First Quad-brid-Hybrid-IEM-Type-Product (!!) :hushed: :sweat_smile:

Here we have a combination of a single Dynamic Driver (DD) with 4 Balanced Armatures (BA), 2 Electrostatic drivers (EST) and if that wasn’t enough to quite literally blow you away, they’ve only gone and innovated a bone conduction driver thingy (to use the technical term lol) and whacked one of those in too!

I picture a scene at UM HQ, where after cramming all the drivers inside the shell, someone had to strain to hold down the lid whilst the other one welded it into place :)

Which admirably demonstrates both my vivid psychedelic imagination as well as an embarrassing ignorance of modern manufacturing techniques :)

Well, this plethora of drivers has been arranged for your delight in the following configuration:

1 x Low (DD)

2 x Mid (BA)

2 x High (BA)

2 x Ultra High (EST)

1 x Bone Conduction driver for the mids and highs.

I know what you’re thinking; “pics or it didn’t happen!”.

So without any further ado, here are some photos of the MEST upon which you may feel free to feast your eyes forthwith :)


Photos:

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Build Quality and accessories:

The MEST are solidly built with no visible blemishes or flaws of any kind.

They come in a contemporary design, with carbon fibre appearance and are available in any colour you like, so long as it’s black (with red, or blue).

I chose the red ones, and I am very happy with their appearance.

They come with a 0.78mm 2-pin cable, which can be terminated with your choice of plugs.

The cable itself deserves praise for being very soft and supple whilst still feeling sturdy and robust. It’s a grey and silver design, 4-core 6N SPC 26AWG. Hot damn, I love acronyms! :ksc75smile:
The plastic slider and lack of branding on the cable hardware is a slight negative, especially at this price point where some manufacturers are now bundling premium branded cables from Eletech, Effect Audio and the like.
However as we will see later, the sonic performance of the cable is clearly where the money has gone and that's not left me with any disappointment overall.

The MEST came with a pretty impressive array of complimentary accessories, as can be seen in the photos, including premium Comply eartips, 2 free adaptors for my 2.5mm cable (4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm single-ended adaptors), a ‘thank you’ note and, as if that all wasn’t enough, a Dignis leather case that I’m absolutely in love with :)

With many manufacturers of higher-end IEMs these days offering a metal case of some kind, it was a really refreshing change to see UM going with a leather case, and not just any leather case but one by premium Korean artisans Dignis. This is the kind of case that will make you feel better about the money you spent on the IEMs.
Note that the IEMs themselves should also make you feel good about your investment :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


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 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, with a few DSD56 tracks sneaking their way in too.
For the purposes of this review, I used the Sony WM1Z DAP.

Of course, you may just want to flick through, pausing only when you see a song that you know well, or one that belongs in a genre you favour.

Morcheeba – Big Calm (16-44 FLAC)

Immediate impressions:

This was the song with which I ‘christened’ my new MEST.

The first song on them (coming from a session with the EE Nemesis earlier in the day).

Firstly the MEST seem surprisingly easy to drive. Volume was on 72 at the loudest this morning (listening to rock and pop on high gain, Sony WM1Z), whereas I’m feeling the MEST to be equally loud on a volume of 55.

The song opens with notes, distortion, effects, before the music starts to creep in.

I’m instantly struck by the clarity and how spatially open and airy the MEST sounds.

The details are all standing out to me much more than they did this morning with the Nemesis.

There’s what I can only describe as a really good feeling of texture across the whole spectrum, from lows to highs. I feel things more physically as well as hearing them.

This is a mark to me of a well-implemented dynamic driver, but I would imagine that this is also an effect of the Bone Conduction driver coming into its own here.
Let's investigate the low-end.

Ohh, I can breathe a sigh of relief..

I’ve gotten quite addicted to the bass of the EE Nemesis.

For those that don’t know, the Nemesis features a dynamic driver designed specially by Empire Ears, and it features not the usual one per side, but TWO.

So frankly, pretty much every IEM in my collection now seems to vary from “a bit less than I’d like” to “frankly anaemic sounding” in the low end in comparison, with the exception of the EE Phantom and the Stealth Sonics U4, although they are BA-only IEMs, so I don’t really judge them by the same criteria :)

But when the drums kick in on ‘Big Calm’ a smile spreads across my cherubic features (ahem), along with an involuntary whoop of relief and joy :sweat_smile:

I notice the male vocals also benefit from the texture and detail that MEST brings to the presentation of timbre.


Dropkick Murphys – Fields of Athenry (16-44 FLAC)

Again, I’m really impressed by the levels of detail I’m hearing. It’s TOTL stuff.

I find my attention drawn the to the tactility of the strumming of the acoustic guitar in the background (not very noticeable on most IEMs), then to the crunch and texture of the electric guitar riff on the opposite side of the soundstage.

Then to the vocals, again very rich and accurate in timbre.

I can see how some people have commented that the sound signature could possibly be slightly fatiguing at times. It’s not that they have sharp treble; I am quite treble-sensitive, so I would notice this straight away.

Rather that they present so much detail, so engagingly, that once the song is in the chorus and every cylinder is firing on ten (metaphorically speaking) it reminds me of the Star Wars scene (from Return of the Jedi) where they’re attacking the Imperial fleet and there’s TIE Fighters swarming around them everywhere and the Rebel pilot utters the immortal words “There’s too many of them!”

There’s just details and engaging content coming at you from everywhere at some points.

It’s an exhilarating rollercoaster ride, that’s for sure :)



Club 8 – Love Dies (16-44 FLAC)

This is a song I use for testing soundstage. From around 40 seconds to 1m06s, the song adds more sounds and you can hear the soundstage unfolding out like a blossoming flower in the latter stages of this section, as more sounds come in outside the pre-existing perceived outer edge of the soundstage. The MEST executes this part to perfection, displaying a wide and holographic soundstage. It also captures perfectly this crystalline and beautiful song, never once sounding shrill or sharp (as some other IEMs I’ve tried have with this song).


Electric Light Orchestra – Sweet Talking Woman (16-44 FLAC from the ‘Wembley or Bust’ live album)

Again, I’m just so impressed by the detail and accuracy here.

It starts with audience noise, which quickly swells to roars and cheers as the signature line from the solo violin begins the song.

But the audience sound is so real and immersive, not a wall of noise but the real feeling of hearing a multitude of individual voices interacting together.

Separation, layering and imaging are truly excellent on the MEST.


Hip Hop – Dead Prez (16-44 FLAC)

The synthetic beats here are presented very well; there’s depth and power to the low end, along with a wonderful physical impact, but it’s tight and controlled. Fairly fast transients, and certainly not boomy or bloated in any way.

Again, there’s just a musicality and engagement that has me nodding my head whilst waving my arms around and making complex hand signs like a true OG :sunglasses:


Keane – Everybody’s Changing (16-44 FLAC)

Yet again, I’m immediately struck by how musical and engaging the MEST is.

And yet again, the technical performance is absolutely top class.
You really can have your cake and eat it.

On a side-note, where did that ridiculous phrase “you can’t have your cake and eat it!” come from? I make a point of physically disproving it whenever the opportunity presents itself :sunglasses:


Park Ji Yoon – 성인식 Sunginshik (Coming-of-age ceremony) (320k mp3 – only because I can’t find it in FLAC or on CD anywhere! Help!)

This is a sultry, driving, grown-up piece of K-pop.

Wow! That bassline! It goes SO deep on the MEST. We’re talking subterranean here. Seriously, people Down Under are probably hiding under tables right now.

Good grief, the song is just embarrassingly engaging with this IEM. It’s all I can do to stop myself from casting the laptop aside and leaping up to strut my funky stuff.

Oh, the sacrifices I make for my loyal readers (and all the other people who just clicked this link by mistake) :p


Counting Crows – Angels of the Silences (16-44 FLAC)

I came to this track having just listened to it with the £2000 Final Audio 8000 IEMs.

Now, that’s a great pair of IEMs (see my review – and others – for details), but a slight weakness in my humble opinion is that the low end is not particularly powerful. It works fine on songs where the bass and drums are mastered with a decent level of power (or are altogether absent), but on rock songs such as this one, where the bass and drums are mastered relatively neutrally, it just sounded a bit tinny and anaemic when combined with the splashy cymbals and rather high pitched guitar lines on this track.

Conversely, the MEST handled the track with great authority, imbuing the low end with the much-needed extra power and presence required to balance the song and drive it along.

Simply, it sounded terrific on the MEST.


Counting Crows – Miami (16-44 FLAC)

Another ‘Crows track, this is one of my ‘go-to’ tracks for critical listening.

It’s very complex, with a great variety of instruments that get steadily added into the mix before all going full-bore in the last minute or two.

Straight off the bat, the MEST impresses hugely.

The timbre of the instruments, even in the first 10 seconds is magical!

There’s drums, a kind of swirly keyboard effect (sounds slightly like accordion too; not quite sure what this one is) and an energetically-strummed guitar line that sound stunningly life-like and vivid. The same with the vocal, sounding like it’s just behind my head, singing into my ear. When the second guitar and more instruments come in from around 58 seconds, again, the timbre is just astonishingly good. Every guitar crunch and strum is tactile, the transients are extremely well-handled, everything just sounds vivid, life-like and just ‘right’ :)


Bear in mind that this is one of my all-time favourite songs, that I’ve heard literally hundreds of times, including with pretty much every item of audio gear I’ve ever owned, reviewed or demoed. Then appreciate what it takes for me to be able to say that I’ve noticed at least 3 new details in this song that I’ve never noticed before. Stunning.

Make that 5! Holy smokes.. I’ve never been able to clearly distinguish the “Ooh..Ahh” backing vocals from 3m37s onwards (not to be confused with the more prominent “Ooh..Ahh” female vocal that occurs just before these ones, haha).

It also is separating out things somehow; not with wide spatial separation, but it just makes every instrument, effect and vocal clearly distinguishable from each other.

It’s the first time I’ve been able to really hear Adam Duritz’s vocal from 4m18s onwards with such clarity and be able to hear so clearly his individual timbre and vocal inflections in this part of the song, where all instruments are maxed out. Wow.


Hanson: Change in my Life (16/44 FLAC)

This is an acapella song, featuring harmonising of the excellent voices of 3 brothers who’ve been singing and performing together for about 30 years.

This is a useful test track for testing midrange and seeing how well the IEM can handle the 3 voices, individually and as a group.

Immediately noticeable were the size of the soundstage, and the top-class separation and imaging. However, the star of the show here is the timbre.

I was able to effortlessly pick out the separate voices as they harmonised and accurately hear the timbre of each, simultaneously. It’s possibly the best presentation I’ve ever heard for this song on any IEM. If vocals are your thing, this is your IEM :)


Alison Lau – Handel’s ‘Lascia la spina’ (HDTracks 26/96 FLAC):

A staggeringly tranquil and beautiful piece of opera.

The singer, Alison Lau from Hong Kong, has a terrific and versatile voice, able to swoop lower than a lowballing vendor in a flea market and higher than a circa 1990’s investment banker on bonus day. The song also features string arrangements which are useful for testing the timbre of IEMs (as well as being glorious to listen to, I ought to mention!).

Well, I suppose by now it may come as little surprise to know that the MEST performed superlatively yet again (and indeed caused me to run out of superlatives).

The voice never became too sharp for me to bear (which has happened with other IEMs), but again captured the vocals superbly, and to my delight also presented the strings outstandingly well. I was wondering how the MEST would fare here, because it doesn’t strike me as a noticeably warm IEM. It’s certainly not neutral or lacking in warmth, let’s be clear. But compared for example to my Stealth Sonics U4 (which is extremely warm and presents the strings on this song outstandingly well) I would probably describe the MEST as being averagely warm.

However, in addition to that small amount of warmth, they have an exceptional technical performance. I really do suspect this is some dark magic bought about by the bone conduction driver, but the presentation of timbre on the MEST is outstanding.


Well, I’m going to stop here. I’d normally include more songs and more impressions, but to do so here would be to risk sounding like a broken record, to borrow an audiophile vinyl-lovers reference. I’ve listened to jazz, blues, classical, pop, rock, metal, EDM, folk..

Everything sounds superb, and the same comments on timbre and detail and engaging musicality keep coming up again and again.


IEM Comparisons:


I’ll be comparing the MEST against the Itsfit Fusion and the Empire Ears Nemesis, along with a few 'from memory' impressions against the EE Valkyrie.

Of the IEMs in my collection, those first two are the ones that have the greatest similarities to the (admittedly pretty unique) MEST; they are both hybrid IEMs, both at least vaguely in the same ballpark in terms of pricing and both having tunings that bear a degree of resemblance with the MEST.


Itsfit Fusion & UM MEST:

So, first up, the Itsfit Fusion (USD $950):

https://itsfitlab.com/fusion/
1 Magnetostatic driver – highs
2 Balanced Armature drivers: high-mids & mids
1 Electro-dynamic: lows



Trying them with “New Routine” by Fountains of Wayne, an excellent piece of pop-rock storytelling. I try the Fusion first, and notice how well it presents the crunch of the electric guitar in my right ear in the opening 15 seconds; I can really hear and feel the texture and bite of that guitar and everything sounds balanced.

Moving to the MEST, the separation is excellent but that guitar doesn’t sound quite so distinct, although it’s just as detailed.

What I do notice immediately is that the MEST sounds just more musical and cohesive and fleshed-out. The beat of the song was fairly neutral with the Fusion; it had impact but I didn’t notice any bass tone to it. But with the MEST, whilst everything is still balanced nicely, the beat now has some bass, some feel, some driving force behind it. Nothing remotely excessive or unbalanced, just presenting what’s there in the song at its most engaging.

I think the effect of this overall is that whilst that guitar I referred to at the beginning is still as detailed and the timbre with which it is presented is still just as faithful, there’s more depth, warmth and musicality with the MEST overall, so that the guitar is no longer so prominent in the more sparse and tight presentation of the Fusion.



Eric Clapton – Lonely Stranger (unplugged) 16-44 FLAC:
The MEST sounds more rich and full bodied with greater note thickness and weight.

Increased separation, a little larger soundstage. The thump sound (could be a foot tap or a bump of the hand against the guitar body) has more depth and impact on the MEST, is much more tactile.

Fusion sounds a little bit brighter in comparison (although I’d never describe the MEST as dark!); I think this is coming from the notes sounding less thick and full-bodied than with the MEST.

I feel the MEST seems to sound as if everything is placed on a blacker background than the Fusion, and everything has slightly increased definition and presence as a result.


Marit Larsen – Faith and Science
MEST: big thump and impact and a rich timbre from that opening drum beat
Piano chords have a lovely shimmer, resonance and decay. They are separated out more than with the Fusion

Fusion: opening drum beat has impact but less depth and body
Piano doesn’t seem separated out so well

Madeleine Peyroux – Ophelia (24-96 HDTracks FLAC)
Both perform outstandingly well on vocals with no great noticeable differences.

The hi-hats seem a little more sharp and distinct on the Fusion, but decay more naturally on the MEST.
The MEST presents background details with greater clarity and definition


Fusion & MEST - Summary:

I’d say the Fusion seems to sound a bit less full-bodied and rich than the MEST, although they are both equally vivid and energetic.

They both have expansive soundstages, excellent separation, layering and imaging, but I’d probably give the edge to the MEST in these areas, although its certainly not a night and day difference. MEST has a bit more thump and depth in the low end and a bit more shimmer to the mids and treble.


EE Nemesis & UM MEST:

Next up, the Empire Ears Nemesis (USD $1599):

5 Proprietary Drivers

2 W9 Subwoofers

3x BA: 1 Mid, 1 High, 1 Super High

8-Way synX Crossover System


Madeleine Peyroux – Ophelia (24-96 HDTracks FLAC)

Switching to the Nemesis, the overall sound signature immediately sounds darker and more intimate in a way that reminds me of the EE Phantom (another outstanding IEM).

There seems to be a touch less clarity than with the MEST, and the soundstage feels a bit more intimate. The low end on the Nemesis sounds warmer and more congested – unsurprising given the twin WeaponX dynamic drivers the Nemesis is packing on each side.

Note that I wouldn’t generally describe the low end of the Nemesis as being congested; I think this impression is an artefact of going from the MEST suddenly to the bass-cannon Nemesis. However, with extended listening sessions with the Nemesis, I find the bass to have excellent control and the sound signature to enjoy good separation and clarity overall.

The hi-hat percussion is somewhere in the middle (tonally speaking) between the Fusion and the MEST; it has the clarity of the Fusion and the natural decay of the MEST.

I think the vocals on the MEST sound a little more engaging and realistic, with a touch more warmth and clarity and a beautiful timbre.

The guitar on the Nemesis seems to stand out a little more in the mix, with a lovely timbre.

Back to the MEST.
Immediately, it sounds more wide open, spacious, clear.
Greater separation, improved technical performance.

Back to the Nemesis, and this time back to Marit Larsen – Faith & Science (16-44 FLAC):

Funnily enough, this was the test track I used when deciding which IEM to buy when I was on a mission to buy an ‘audiophile bass-cannon’; specifically, the IEM with the greatest bass impact and slam, although this had to be matched by its audiophile qualities too.

The Nemesis won overall and this track reminds me why.

That opening drum beat is just magnificent on the Nemesis.

For bass impact, slam and rumble, it left even the mighty Legend X trailing.

It may lack the bone conduction driver of the MEST, but I can feel that drum beat in my skull, no joke :)

It doesn’t sound bloated, excessive or anything. Just magnificent.

The piano chords have a good level of shimmer and an engaging tonality.

The vocals aren’t as forward or clear in the mix as with the MEST, but are still presented well.

Haha, coming from the Nemesis on this particular track, the MEST sounds almost tinny for a moment, until my brain adjusts :)

But it adjusts quickly, and I can say that whilst the MEST isn’t on the same level as the Nemesis in terms of bass impact, slam and rumble (and in fairness, I don’t know any other IEM on the planet that is; the Legend X would be its closest competitor), still the MEST has a meaty, satisfying low end. It’s never excessive, intrusive or uncontrolled, but it’s got the good stuff I need, oh yes baby :)


Overall, the Nemesis serves a specific purpose for me of being the IEM I turn to when I’m in need of thunderous low-end impact, when I want to feelthe music as much as hear it.

I use it primarily for rock, pop and hip hop, and it does exactly what I require of it, and does it very well. Having said that, when I listen to Alison Lau (Hong Kong soprano) singing Handel’s “Lascia la spina” over an arrangement of strings, I feel the low end of the Nemesis injects a wonderful warmth and richness into the strings, without compromising on the technical details.

However, whilst its technical performance is certainly very good, in my opinion it’s not quite in the same league as the Legend X, or the MEST.

Nemesis & MEST - Summary:

They are not very similar and so a direct comparison is difficult.

I’d say the MEST, by virtue of its less hardcore bass is able to work well with any song or genre. Mostly, the Nemesis can too, but there’s occasional times when ‘dat bass’ becomes a bit too much.

Conversely, give the Nemesis a track like Marit Larsen’s “Faith & Science” and it absolutely mauls it, and I mean that in only a positive way :)

It makes any other IEM seem wimpy in comparison; it steals their lunch money, spanks them and sends them running home crying for their mummies :)

Overall though, I’d have to say that with the MEST, everything is just a bit more vivid, clear, defined, open, spacious, separated, but still cohesive and balanced.

Quick bonus – EE Valkyrie & MEST:

Ok, disclaimer time. I heard the Valkyrie at CanJam last year for about 10-15mins in total.

So please take these brief impressions as what they are – potentially fallible memories, but added here just to try to give some basic ideas to those who have no chance to demo either.

I feel the MEST is overall a little bit more rich and with greater note weight and thickness.

I think the Valkyrie is more V-shaped in tuning and has perhaps a brighter and more expansive treble. I’d guess they’re about even in the low end, and I’d probably guess that the MEST would have the edge when it comes to the mids.

They’ve got more in common than they have dividing them, and they both impressed me upon first listen. I’m hesitant to say much more because I’d rather wait until I have the chance to listen to both side by side, but I merely wanted to throw in a comparison with what I personally feel may be one of the closest IEMs to the MEST right now in terms of the whole package of price, technology inside, tuning, packaging and so forth.


Cable swaps:

Going to do a quick bit of cable swapping here too, to see what I can see.
Or, rather, see what I can hear :)
I'll be using the Ares II+ and the Eletech Prudence, both with 4.4mm Pentaconn plugs.

Ares II+

Not a great difference. The differences I describe below are very subtle and took a bit of effort to pick out.

A touch more warmth, thickness to the low end although surprisingly I feel the impact has decreased slightly.

Slightly more cohesive and smooth overall, as it seems to tame down the energy of the IEM a little bit.



Eletech Prudence

I noticed an immediate slight increase in sub-bass extension, and overall low-end impact along with a slight increase in clarity and soundstage size; not night and day, but I felt it was definitely present.


Cable swapping summary:

It’s quite a testament to the stock cable that the differences I noticed were fairly subtle.

The tuning of the IEM itself will be a factor in this too of course.

I recall demo’ing the EE Valkyrie at CanJam.

I recall there that switching to the Ares II+ with the Valkyrie had a very big and noticeable effect on the sound signature, adding meat and impact to the low end, but taming that sense of spaciousness and air, but that wasn’t really the case here with the MEST.
The Prudence has a noticeable (positive) effect on pretty much every IEM I've tried it with, but again here, the effect was minimal.



Overall summary:

The MEST is a pretty spectacular and innovative IEM.

It performs like a top-of-the-line flagship, at a price that – these days – is near the bottom of the TOTL price range.

Not only that, it’s employing bone driver technology that no one else is using, not even UM themselves in their own flagships as yet! I do feel it is a definite factor in the unique qualities of the MEST, and salute UM for making it available to us all at a price that – comparatively speaking – is approachable without being stratospheric.

Add to that an exquisite Dignis artisan leather carrying case and it just really impresses me what Unique Melody have been able to offer at this price.

The MEST has a black background that serves to present each note and sound in a stunningly vivid way. There’s excellent clarity, superb detail retrieval and the technical performance is similarly outstanding. The low end is never overbearing. It’s controlled, but with wonderful impact and depth.

I’ve heard people wonder if these IEMs are fatiguing or lack cohesiveness.

Now, I definitely have a known sensitivity to some things in the upper mids and treble of some IEMs I’ve listened to, but I didn’t get that with this.

What I will say is that you’re being exposed to a lot of detail that’s all being presented with great vividness and clarity. As such you’re probably going to require a bit of time to get used to this sound signature, especially if you’re coming from an IEM with a rather different one.

But that patience will pay dividends. Listening to Madeleine Peyroux’s “Ophelia” in 24-96 HDTracks was just pure bliss and I could physically feel myself relaxing deeply as I did so.

Pretty much the polar opposite of fatiguing. If I listen to hours of hard rock on pretty much any IEM then I’d get fatigued, so it’s also a question of what you’re subjecting your brain to, I suppose :)

Overall, I’ve had a terrific time reviewing these IEMs and they are getting a significant proportion of my listening time. I can wholeheartedly recommend these IEMs, for being innovative, hugely enjoyable – and at times breathtaking - to listen to and overall a hugely competitive IEM that’s laid a new marker down for the rest of the market.
Darkestred
Darkestred
I feel like these are a baby LegendX. The caveat being their treble extension is better and the bass isnt really close. But, thats how i always felt when listening to the mest. Like you mentioned, they have that same beautiful black background. Real solid iem.
holsen
holsen
Really appreciate the review. I've got the Fusions so that comparison was particulary helpful for me. Looks like MEST will be added to the Stable.
holsen
holsen
Would you mind making a few comments about the fit? I'm assuming you got the Universals. How do they sit in ear? How's the isolation? And how flush do they fit or rather how far do they protrude out? I had the Fusion universals and they were positively huge. I sold them and replaced them with CIEMS. How do the MEST compare in size to the Fusion? Thanks!

szore

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Wide, deep, tall soundstage. Rich, layered bass. Detailed, extended, smooth highs. Comfortable fit. Accurate timbre, rich texture and tone. Big, bold sound with tons of detail, layering and slam. Rich, detailed, layered mids.
Cons: Highs need to be tamed, stock cable is lacking. VERY dependent on cable and tips. Need to be comfortable with W sound signature, tho brain burn may win you over! Mids can 'possibly' be too forward. Need top quality recordings for it to really shine, tho mediocre recordings fare well too.
I was at Canjam NYC this past February, when I found myself in front of the Musik Tek table. The gentleman at the table eagerly asked if I would like to try a new hybrid IEM with “Bone Conduction” technology. In the sensory overload environment of the show, I misunderstood his description, and thought the bone conduction was a “sub-woofer” technology. I put them on, using my A&K SE100 DAP, and while they sounded good (I remember liking the bass), I couldn’t really discern any ‘tapping’ sensation in the bass. It all sounded gimmicky to me anyway. Looking at the literature, I noticed all these drivers: EST, bone conduction, dynamic, mid-high, high, ultra high…it was confusing. After a few moments, I decided that I basically liked them, but wasn’t too convinced of this “Sub-bass bone conduction thing.” They were expensive. I smiled, handed them back, and moved on to other things.

Fast forward to Spring, and I saw the ad in Head-Fi for the MEST review tour. I have a policy of basically applying for any and all review tours; after all, it’s free, and if it’s free, it’s for me! To my delight, I was chosen and found myself second on the list. In between Canjam, and being accepted for the tour, I sold my SE100, and bought the SP2000 copper. Once ‘the virus’ set in, everything became uncertain and I decided that caution was the better part of valor, and returned the 2000, (it was too heavy, anyway, but it sounded great). I asked Andrew if he could bounce me to the end of the list, because I found myself without a DAP, and I was stuck using my Fiio BTR3 as a backup, which I deemed insufficient for the task of a review.

In the interim, I was reading good things about the BTR3 successor, the BTR5, which I ordered off Amazon for $109. WOW, this BTR5 is a gem! A dap killer, this thing sounds fantastic! My palms grew itchy for the MEST. I emailed Andrew and told him I was ready to review, and to my delight, I found the MEST in my mailbox a few weeks later (Thank you Andrew!) I eagerly opened the box, threw on my favorite tips, the yellow Spinfits, grabbed my cell phone, fired up the 5, plugged them in, and…was disappointed. There was a graininess and incoherence to the sound. But I liked the bass. Oh, well. I packed it up and let it sit in my closet.

After 2 or 3 days, my curiosity got the better of me, and I broke them out again. Nope, don’t like them. The individual elements were OK; the mids were a bit forward, definitely a ‘W’ presentation (which I am not fond of). The bass was good, the treble was hot but detailed. The soundstage, layering, high end extension, sub-bass rumble, and mids-detail were all there. I liked the individual elements, but when you put it all together, it lacked coherency: it sounded ‘ham-fisted’. I figured the cable was a copper, SPC hybrid, but didn’t know. SPC cables always sound harsh to me, so I put on my EROS II silver/copper hybrid from my EE custom Valkyries, and WOW! MUCH better! The highs were smoother, but they still sounded too ‘busy’ to me, too fatiguing. I replaced the EROS II with my PWAudio Limited pure copper, and BAM! suddenly these things came alive! Yet even in the face of all this, the treble still seemed a teeny bit too hot, and the mids a bit too forward. My Head-fi pal Cr3ativ3 suggested I replace the Spinfits with the Type E, which certainly is known to tame the treble. Well, once I had this kit together, The MEST won my heart. I had them on while grocery shopping, and I had to laugh out loud and admit that these things won me over! So, I spent some quality time with them, put together a playlist, made some notes, and I’m ready to write up a proper review. Lets jump in!

I will spare a description of the technicalities of the MEST, it’s rather well documented, and focus on sound impressions. Below is the playlist I used for my analyses.

The following track list provides song name, artist, and album. All files are flac format. All tracks are 44,100KHz, except Black Dog and 9th Symphony (96,000).



Numb, Andy Stott, Luxury Problems

Edyocat, Andy Stott, Merciless

Dominion Day, Gary Numan, Exile

Los Ageless, St. Vincent, Masseducation

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Deep Blue Something, 11th Song

Visions of You, Jah Wobble (feat. Sinead O’Conner), Rising Above Bedlam

You’ve Got Another Thing Coming, Judas Priest, Screaming For Vengeance

Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life

Spinning Wheel, Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

First Light, Harold Budd, Brian Eno, The Plateux of Mirror

Delta Rain Dream, Jon Hassell, Brian Eno, Fourth World Vol. 1 Possible Musics

Pride and Joy, Albert King w/ Stevie Ray Vaughn, In Session

Black Dog, C.C. Colletti, Rock: Reimagined

Journey to the Center, Journey to the Center, A Night of Chesky Jazz Live at Town Hall

The Second Part, The Hillard Ensamble, English and Italian Medieval Madrigals

Suite No. 1 in G BWV 1007, M. Rostropovitch, The Complete EMI Recordings

Toccata & Fugue in D minor, Christopher Herrick, Bach: The Complete Organ Music

Idomeneo, re di Creta, K.366, Mozart Opera Arias, Anna Netrebko

Symphony No.9 in D minor, Barenboim, Beethoven for All





When I set the volume, I like to put the vocals at a comfortable distance in front of me, and let the bass and high end fall where they may. With my Valkyries and CL2, this works great, but with the MEST, on some tracks, this puts the bass and treble too far in the rear. In order to get the full effect of the bass, I had to turn the volume up, putting the mids a little too forward of what I am used to. This is not true on all tracks, tho, so lets break it down!

Numb, Andy Stott: This song is an example where the forward vocals are most welcome. Alison Skidmore’s vocals exhibit hyper detail with rich, beautiful tonality and elegant layering. The menacing bass tones emerge out of a primal blackness contrasting the vocals with rich layers and detail. That is going to be buzz-word in this review: Detail. The sound stage is wide, high and deep and the vocals remain comfortable in their own space. At the same time, infinite layers of bass tones breath and pulse in there own reality. Stunning.

Edyocat, Andy Stott: I decided to go with another Stott song to illustrate the sub-bass rumble, which is absolutely fabulous. The synthesizer’s buzzes and beeps occupy their own space and tonality yet again, while the bass yet again exhibits a rich, detailed, layered presentation with tons of impact and slam. It is not the fastest bass, nor should it be. There is a relaxed, yet accurate presentation, with just the right amount of attack and decay. The sub-bass reaches low and will rattle your teeth, while the high end is polished and smooth, accentuated with just the right amount of sizzle, while not being exhausting or sibilant in the least. Well done.

Dominion Day, Gary Numan: We move on to one of my favorite albums in recent years. This is a tricky track because the bass is so multifaceted and can sound over-whelming and muddy to lesser IEM’s. If there is any song I know that could sound like a muddled mess, it is this one. Over the years I have spent a lot of time finding a flac recording of this album, just to try and get this song to sound the way I feel it should sound. Whenever I buy a new IEM, or cable, or DAP, this is usually one of the first song I try. It is an avalanche of bass, sub-bass, layers, vocals, effects and synthesizers. As I sit here listening to it now, my eyes are tearing up. It sounds spectacular! I crank up the volume, forward mids be damned, and revel in the avalanche of sounds lashing my ears. Gary’s vocals, which are usually buried in the Malmstrom, sing out, filled with agony and rage at the injustice of the deity. The sound stage is vast and layered, and the detailed layers extend out to infinity. Finally, I can enjoy this song and album the way Gary intended.

Los Ageless, St. Vincent: Going to another favorite, we see an example of where the mids are not served as kindly. The vocals are far too forward, and the guitars and synthesizers are rather incoherent and fatiguing. Perhaps it’s the mix, but the bass seems to overwhelm and drown out St. Vincent’s vocals. Ah, too bad. Still rich with detail and slam, the sound stage sounds a bit too closed in. I had originally planned to review a Sheryl Crow song, Run, Baby Run, and found it suffered the same fate as St. Vincent. Is it the recording? Is it “female vocals”? Is it the pop genre? Let’s forge on and find out…

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Deep Blue Something: Staying with pop, for the moment, let’s see if the MEST is genre specific. The guitar intro is clean and breezy sounding with lots of detail and air. The vocals are cool and tamed. The sound stage and presentation is roomy, airy, filled with richness and ‘pop’ (no pun intended). The electric guitar chords ring out with authority and musicality; they have a rich layering with perfect ‘note’ and tone. There is a richness there. The drums are in the back where they belong, and I can hear the high hats and cymbals crashing and sizzling with perfect effect, Each instrument and element sits in its own space with layering and tonality. The bass is, again, filled with detailed and emotion. Fantastic!

Jah Wobble, Visions of You: This track is actually from an album of remixes of the song Visions of You off the Rising Above Bedlam album. It features Sinead O’Conner on background vocals. Jah Wobble is by far my favorite bassist and one of my favorite artists. He is prolific, and vastly under-rated. I chose this particular mix because of Jah’s synthesized bass. It is, again, rich with detail and tone. Sinead’s ethereal, other-worldly vocals surge teasingly in and out of the forefront, poking in and out of the background blackness. Jah’s vocals are smooth and rich, and every element of the song lives in it’s own layer and space. The composition of elements show fantastic coherency, and once again the MEST interprets all these musical elements effortlessly. The sitar solo bounces up and down, left and right, warbling in the sound stage with a 3-d holographic effect. Beautiful.

You’ve Got Another Thing Coming, Judas Priest: A guilty pleasure. I’m not a big ‘metal’ guy (tho I love my Zeppelin, if they can be considered ‘metal’) but I love this song. Let’s crank it up and see what we see. Right off, the bass and bass drum sound like they are slamming in my throat. The cymbal crashes sizzle with smooth extension, not hot or sibilant in the least. Rob’s vocals are smooth and fantastic: If I close my eyes, I can easily visualize him standing there, posing and screaming, his voice perfectly removed from the incessant guitar riffs. It’s a clean, big, bold, slamming, beautiful sound. Wonderful!

Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder: Let’s return to pop for a moment, and try a few songs known for their complexity and musicality. Wow, those horns on the intro come in with authority, and you can discern each individual element. Stevie’s organ, the drums, the horns, the vocals, drums, cymbals, all yet again are filled with richness and detail. The timbre and tone is spot on, and the soundstage is detailed, uncluttered, and each instrument occupies it’s own space. If I had to criticize one thing, it’s possible the bass may be a BIT too much if you are a treble head. If you love your bass the way I do, I think you will love these IEMs.

Spinning Wheel, Blood, Sweat and Tears: Staying with pop for just one more song, I wanted to see if the wonderful horns of Sir Duke carried over to a band whose horn section I have always admired. This song sounds amazing. Timbre, tonality, and tone is spot on. Nuff’ said.

First Light, Harold Budd, Brian Eno: Switching gears and genres, lets go minimalist and see what the MEST can do, where subtlety is required over slam and impact. Turning the volume WAYYY down for this ambient masterpiece, Budd’s haunting piano chords ring and chime out of an ethereal haze. If you ever wanted to find a song that acts like a musical version of an abstract expressionist work from Rothko, this is it. There is no “bass” here, no rumble, no slam, no sizzle, no ‘timbre or tone’ (well, maybe tone): but there are ‘effects’; lots and lots of effects, and ‘treatments’. It’s one of the things the Father of Ambient, Brian Eno, is known for. With the high, mid high, and ultra high drivers of the MEST, these ethereal, subtle expressions, as fine as gossamer threads, theoretically should be brilliantly captured, and they are! The MEST is showing amazing range and adaptability here. Bravo.

Delta Rain Dream, Jon Hassell, Brian Eno: Staying with Eno and ambient, I wanted to take a look at this song, because it has all the subtlety and nuance of First Light, but adds what sounds like African bongo drums. The synthesized background contrasts the drums marvelously. Jon’s synthesized trumpet, the drums, and the synthesizers create a vast, layered, detailed soundscape which has all the extension and vastness of the sky. Or the ocean. Or space, even. The drums… you can almost see the palms and fingers smacking the skins…

Pride and Joy, Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn: Moving to the blues… Well, what is there left to say. The vocals and mids are perfectly presented. The drums, cymbals, high hat, and guitars all sound perfect and effortlessly rendered. In the middle of all this, the tickled piano keys float in mid-air occupying there own space.

Black Dog, C.C. Colletti: Going high end here with a Chesky recording taken off an audiophile sampler. I wanted to get to the bottom of this “forward mids” claim I have been making. It seems to come and go. C.C.’s vocal, singing a Zeppelin cover, are not forward at all. The band surrounds her; if anything, the vocals are a tad recessed! The recording is amazing, and I am running out of adjectives. Micro detail. This sounds perfect. The vocals are velvety smooth and beautiful. The bass, drums and acoustic guitar sounds like it is in the room with me. What more is there to say?

Journey to the Center, Journey to the Center: Giving a nod to the Jazz genre; yet another Chesky recording, and I guess at this point you know what I am going to say…. Well, here, If I had to make one criticism, the bass could be a teeny bit thick… Then the smattering of applause ripple like waves, and the trumpet solo begins, and all I can do is smile…

The Second Part, The Hillard Ensamble: I wanted to focus on vocals, so what better than medieval polyphonic. The performers sound like they are singing in a cathedral, and all the subtlety, harmonics, and atmosphere is brilliantly rendered. There is a richness here… The voices sound natural, musical, articulate and beautiful.

Bach Cello Suite #1 in G, Rostropovitch: The next 2 tracks are designed to explore this dynamic bass driver. Mstislav’s cello is filled with, you guessed it, richness, timbre, tone and microdetails. You can almost taste the resin.

Toccata and Fugue in D, Herrick: No music will disseminate an IEM's bass performance like some good ol’ pipe organ music, and what better than Bach’s Toccata and Fugue? Harmonic overtones are astonishing and perfectly rendered and the cacophony of notes effortlessly portrayed. Magnificent.

Idomeneo, re di Creta, K.366 - Act 1 - 'Quando avran fine omai' - 'Padre, germani, addio!', Anna Netrebko: One last examination of the mids and female vocals: what better than a Mozart aria? The contrast of the bass and cello and harpsichord against Anna’s vocal is mesmerizing. The orchestral passages are rendered with air and ease: The vocal soars above the orchestra majestically.

Finally.

I was taught many, many years ago by my audiophile mentor, Nick, (may he rest in peace), that if you truly wanted to understand the ability of a sound system, an audiophile sound system, you HAD to listen to a symphony. Only by accurately rendering the complexities of a proper symphonic piece with all it’s majesty could a system or a piece of equipment TRULY be called AUDIOPHILE. Audiophile is a word that is far too easily thrown around now a days. Popular, modern music is fine, I love a good techno dub as much as the next person, but if you really wanted to see what’s what, you have to render a proper symphonic work. And if you really want to go there, why not throw in a good chorale passage section or two to boot. So for the last work, I will analyze the grand daddy of them all, the 4th movement of Beethoven's beloved 9th Symphony. I hear the stirrings of strings, and the brooding, pulsing ebb of bassoons and oboes. Shhh…they have already begun. Let’s sneak in past the usher and find a seat center aisle, 1/3 back from the stage…

Symphony No.9 in D minor, Op.125 - "Choral": 4. Finale (Presto - Allegro assai), Daniel Barenboim: First impression from the opening salvo of the tympanis, strings and horns is that of grandeur; it sounds like the onslaught of a thunder storm, then the strings come in playing the main melody, and there is yet again, a richness and detailed tonality. The bass and cellos rumble. Each section occupies it’s own space. The sound stage is easily discerned. The woodwinds, to the right, the strings to the left. I can hear the players sucking in breath. Within the strings, the violins, bass and cello are easily distinguished. Like Numan’s Dominion Day, the MEST handles this complexity with aplomb. In the quiet string section, where the violins are placidly playing the main melody, I can hear the microdetail of the bows changing directions on the strings. Then, as the woodwinds come in, the stage is perfectly rendered as each melody and part delicately occupy its own location. As more and more instruments pick up the melody, tears are filling my eyes. It is so emotional and musical! There is a swelling and I know any second all hell is going to break loose, and indeed, it is glorious. The horn and brass have taken up the melody, and they sit above and behind the strings. The soundstage is marvelous! Once again, if I had to make a criticism, it would be the bass could be a 'little’ thick. But I also know that if I put on my yellow Spinfits, there will be a tad more treble energy injected to counterbalance the bass… lets see…Yes…more air… The chorus has come in, and the height and width of the soundstage is apparent! The chorus clearly sit above and behind the symphony. The soloists are now singing, and they are down front where they belong. I’m sure if I was using a proper dap, the strings would come alive with more richness and detail. But as it stands now, they sound great. The chorus is at crescendo, and the harmonics are fantastic. There is a modulating effect between the voices which I know is no accident; these performers practice for hours to get it just so at the conductors command, and with maestro Barenboim at the helm, the effect is captured perfectly. Now the triangle is ringing out in the middle of the full maelstrom, and the high end extension and rendering is perfect! The chorus is singing Ode to Joy at full volume, and yet the symphony sits in front and below in their own space, each section clearly discerned… That is impressive! At the climax, the cymbals, chorus, and yes, even the triangle are all perfectly rendered. Very, very impressive! Well done Unique Melody!



Conclusion

Phew! What a ride! My original plan was to compare and contrast the MEST with different tips and cables, then do A/B compare against the Valkyries and CL2. To be honest, I don’t think it is necessary, and I don’t think I have it in me! This review ended up being a lot longer than I originally intended, but I think the MEST deserved it. I am listening to the playlist again with my custom Valkyries, and suddenly, where I didn’t like W presentations, I find myself suddenly missing the mids! I know brain burn is real, (yeah, it’s a thing) and after a day or so I will be back in happy land with my customs. Cr3ativ3 asked me if I was going to buy a pair of MEST and the question rather stunned me. Would I? No, my Valkyries are my babies, but now, I’m not so sure. I can’t help but wonder how the MEST would sound as a custom… hmmm… I truly don’t know, but now I’m thinking I may start saving my pennies….

I took off half a star because of the stock cable, but with the right cable and tips, the MEST is a 5 star winner!
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Adnan Firoze
Adnan Firoze
Great review but I have a question. You mentioned you replaced your Valkyrie's cables with the MEST but the EE IEMs use 0.78mm pins whereas the MEST uses the 0.75 QDC C-pin style pins. Is it safe to make a swap? I have plenty of Ares and Eros lying around for my Legend X etc. but I never thought I could plus them to the MEST. Would really appreciate your reply. Thanks.
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szore
szore
Adnan, I use the EA cables with the MEST no problem. Wasn't even aware they were different sizes, but I never have an issue!
F
forna
fun read, i know all those pieces bar 1. I would say since you are not so sure dont tempt it. i tend to only get stuff i have tried only when it calls to my soul :smile:
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