Unique Melody Mini MEST

General Information

MINI MEST

Tubeless Open Air Balanced Armature Drivers X Bone Conduction Driver HIFI IEMs​



Technology

Bone Conduction Sonic Engine

Mini MEST succeed the bone conduction technology in the original MEST to embellish the mid and vocal performance.

Unlike the traditional tuning approach, bone conduction technology is able to transfer certain sound frequencies directly to your inner ears through the bones of the skull, processed by the inner shell vibration. The sonic path like this: Sonic signal—Bone conduction vibrator—bones of the skull—cochlea-- auditory nerve.

Knowles Custom-made Tubeless Open-air Balanced Armature Drivers

Mini MEST applied the custom-made tubeless open-air balanced armature drivers that are made by Knowles. These BA drivers have widely open front cavities which allow them to deliver sound without the inner tunnel. The sound signature of open-air BA drivers is similar to dynamic drivers. It sounds more natural and forgiving than traditional BA drivers.

Exterior

High precision DLP shell printing: We applied dark blue resin shells on Mini MEST which make Mini MEST aesthetically beautiful and practically comfortable.

Two color handmade carbon fiber faceplates: We used the classic carbon fiber faceplates on Mini MEST that were used on our flagships Mason V3+, Mentor V3+, and the original MEST.

Suitable Genres

We made some tuning adjustments on Mini MEST according to the customers' reviews of the original MEST. Mini MEST suits best for the following genres:

ACG/OST

Pop/Soul/Jazz/Blues/Rock

Acoustic/Classic

Specifications

Driver Counts: 4

Frequency Response: 20Hz~20KHz

Impedance: 23Ω

Sensitivity: 113dB@1KHz

Driver Combination: Open-air BA Drivers + Bone Conduction Driver

Driver Configuration: 1 Bass + 1 Mid + 1 Treble + 1 Bone Conduction

Accessories:

Headphones: Mini MEST one pair

Cable: 4 cords silver-plated copper cable

External Package: UM classic black case

Carrying Case: Custom-made blue leather case, manufactured by Dignis

Warranty: Mini MEST warranty card

Ear tips: S/M/L

Others: Premium grey scouring pad

Latest reviews

Layman1

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: technical performance, cohesive, DD-like bass, extension, richness and body
Cons: none, for my tastes
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...um-universal-mini-mest?variant=32140775850046

This link also has photos and explanations of the tech that features in these IEMs (Bone Conduction Drivers anyone?) :D

The MEST retails at USD $599 at the time of writing.

So, a while back this year, I reviewed Unique Melody’s stunning new IEM, the MEST.

For me, it was a hugely innovative and remarkable quad-hybrid (quad-brid?) IEM, featuring DD, BA, EST and the aforementioned new in-house-developed Bone Conduction Driver, which – whilst a superb piece of technology – is something of a mouthful to speak or write.
A read of the MEST thread on Head-Fi will highlight your ever-humble reviewer Layman1’s trailblazing development of the convenient acronym ‘BCD’ which later spread like wildfire on the thread* and which I will be gainfully employing through the rest of this review.
*to be precise, at least one other Head-Fi member used the term in subsequent posts

The mini-MEST, as its name implies, is a stripped-down version of its illustrious elder brother, featuring 3 BA’s (1 for lows, 1 for mids, 1 for treble) and that mystical BCD :D

Furthermore - to shamelessly quote from the comprehensive description on MusicTeck’s website - it uses not just any old off-the-shelf riff-raff of a BA driver (my words, not MusicTecks!) but rather “Knowles Custom-Made Open-Air Balanced Armature Drivers”!
(Perhaps time for Layman1 to introduce another acronym? KCMOABAD? Hmm. Perhaps not) :sweat_smile:
These custom drivers “have widely open front cavities which allow them to deliver sound without an inner tunnel. The sound signature of open-air BA drivers is similar to that of dynamic drivers. It sounds more natural and forgiving than traditional BA drivers” (MusicTeck’s words, not Layman1’s) :)

Now, as my regular readers will know (there are some, aren’t there? Hello? Anyone?!), Layman1 is an unabashed fan of all things DD-based, so this news only serves to further fill me with joy unabated :)

My sincere thanks to the team at UM, for providing me with a review unit to keep in exchange for an honest review.

The mini-MEST feature a carbon-fibre style design, much like the MEST that came before them, and are similarly very well-engineered, with no noticeable blemishes or faults of any kind. With such tantalising teasers in place, let us journey with bated breath into the salacious section known only as “Photos” :)

Photos:
01.jpg
02.jpg
03.jpg
04.jpg

Unboxing, packaging and accessories:

They come with a 0.78mm 2-pin cable, which can be terminated with a choice of 3.5mm SE or 2.5mm balanced plugs at present (I believe UM are currently looking for a new supplier so that they can again offer the 4.4mm termination option on their products).

The cable itself – whilst not quite as nice in appearance and feel as that which came on the original MEST - is still soft and supple whilst still feeling sturdy and robust. It’s a black and silver design, 4-core silver-plated copper cable, for those that like to know such things :)

The mini-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 many people have said they even prefer to the one that came with the much more expensive original MEST.

The Fit:

They have an ideal insertion depth for me personally; I find them to be smaller in size and closer-fitting than the MEST.

All in all, they are extremely comfortable and I have been able to wear them for extended sessions with no discomfort or fatigue, and no loss of seal. Hurrah.

The Sound:

I’m using a Sony WM1A DAP for testing (with some mods) and the stock cable, and a playlist that gracefully spans the genres much like the Millennium Bridge spans the River Thames in London :)

Actually, I wanted to use an American bridge and river as an example; however I quickly realised that I knew a few rivers and a few bridges, but not which bridges spanned which rivers.

Note to self: learn more about rivers and bridges. You never know when it might come in handy :sweat_smile:

I know, I know, I could have just gone immediately to Google* and searched, but you know.. effort and stuff.. :laughing:
*other privacy-violating search engines are available

By now, virtually all tracks bar a modest few are in lossless format - Layman1 being a connoisseur of only the finest quality music and all that – and of those lossless tracks, probably at least half or more are now in glorious hi-res HDTracks (or similar) versions :)

So, for those time-poor (but hopefully cash-rich) readers amongst you, I shall dive straight in with a summary of my findings, followed by a comparison with the DUNU SA6 which I also recently reviewed.

Then there is the final conclusion, for those of even shorter attention spans, or those members of a certain age who are prone to forgetting what they've just been reading :)

Following that, for those for whom only the most buttock-clenchingly granular levels of analysis will do, I include as an addendum the key points from my track by track critical listening sessions with the mini-MEST :)

Overall Summary of the Sound Signature and Performance:

I’d describe the mini-MEST as follows:

Low end:
I’ve heard it said of many all-BA IEM’s that they have "a low end that rivals that of a well-implemented dynamic driver", and being a huge fan of the qualities brought by a well-implemented DD, I usually end up being underwhelmed in practice.
However, I have to say, of the all-BA IEMs I’ve heard, the mini-MEST is the one that actually comes closest to fulfilling this description.

It’s capable of astonishing, head-shaking sub-bass extension and mid-bass rumble, where the track provides it (e.g. Italian hip-hop group Poison with their track ‘Dove Sei’), and yet never, ever, does the low end feel loose or bloated, nor does it bleed into the mids in an undesirable way. There’s that BA speed and control to the bass, but the impact, slam and rumble that I’d expect from a good DD, along with a welcome dose of some of that tactility in the timbre.

The mids:
These are a delight for me, never overbearingly thick, but infused with a gorgeous richness, depth and body. They’re fairly warm and yet there’s just so much control. The technical performance is frankly superb, and both male and female vocals are handled remarkably well and with a realistic timbre.

The treble:
It masterfully walks the fine line between being smooth and non-fatiguing and being exquisitely detailed and pin-point accurate. There’s a delightful openness and air in the presentation, and plenty of extension


Technical performance and sound signature:

The soundstage is impressively holographic, very much like its older sibling, the original MEST. Separation, imaging and layering are all simply outstanding.

It takes everything that I love about the neutral-reference sound signature and seamlessly fuses it with everything I love about the warm/rich/full-bodied/organic sound signature (e.g. EE Phantom, Stealth Sonics U4 from my own collection). It’s rare that I come across an IEM that ticks all my boxes, but the mini-MEST has remarkably managed to achieve this.

They’re surprisingly similar to their older brother the original MEST, with the added bonus of having the extra body and richness in the mids that - for my personal preferences - I was missing in the original. Not to mention a price tag approximately half that of the original MEST. Which I just mentioned :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

But they have that same detailed, vivid and immersive sound signature that I love about the original.

The mini-MEST was able to handle well every genre I threw at them (and I threw a lot of them!) :)

Every time I’d give them a test track with some tricky quality or other that can trip up other IEMs, they just steamrolled effortlessly through it without breaking a sweat. I think I even heard them snort dismissively in the process :D

Comparison:

Mini-MEST & DUNU SA6 (with sound signature switches set to ‘on’. Cost $549):
That’s right, the battle of the capitalised earphones :D

I would say that in fairness it’s not really a battle as such, more of a contrast of styles.
They are both excellent IEMs in the mid-range price point and my initial thoughts were that to a certain extent it is really about how far into ‘warm, rich and organic’ territory you want to venture from the safe haven of ‘neutral-reference’.

However, after a fair amount of critical listening, I think the immense strength of the mini-MEST, as I’ve mentioned, is that it combines the best of ‘neutral-reference’ with ‘warm/rich/full-bodied/organic’ and does so seemingly without any of the usual pitfalls of either one.

Now I’d reviewed the SA6 previously and described it as fairly neutral-reference with a tinge of organic warmth. After more listening today alongside the mini-MEST, I’d reiterate that statement. I also said when reviewing the SA6 that for my own personal tastes, I would have preferred a touch more body and richness.

So, I may not be the best qualified person to compare the two IEMs, since the mini-MEST has both overwhelmingly impressed me in pretty much every way, without any caveats, vs the SA6 which I felt was excellent (and excellent value!), but not ideal for my general everyday usage, in accordance with my personal tastes.

I started with listening to some acoustic singer-songwriter material; surprisingly, I feel the DUNU SA6 to sound less bright and open than the mini-MEST; I imagined it might be the other way round. But the real deal-clincher for me was when I switched to my bass test track of choice, ‘Dove Sei’, there’s a pretty clear diversion in sound signature here; the SA6 is very much the ‘neutral-reference with a bit of organic warmth’, delivering a fast and accurate performance that (for my tastes personally) is somewhat underwhelming specifically with regards to the bass on this track.

Conversely, the mini-MEST is staggeringly good in this regard.

I should add, in the interest of fairness that the SA6 is some $150 cheaper than the mini-MEST, so please bear that in mind in this comparison, as that’s quite a significant difference at this price point.

Overall, I’d say that people looking for a more ‘pure neutral-reference’ signature may gravitate more towards the SA6, so it really is just a matter of preference, as usual.

Conclusion:

Combining craftsmanship with innovative technology, the mini-MEST brings a unique and exciting sound signature. Its open-air BA drivers are tight, accurate and with no bloat, yet are also capable of delivering the most DD-like bass impact, slam and rumble I’ve heard.

It has great low low end extension, beautiful rich and organic mids, smooth yet detailed and extended airy treble and an excellent technical performance.

It’s never peaky or fatiguing, but constantly captivating and rewarding. For me, it combines all the things I love about the ‘neutral reference’ and ‘warm and organic’ sound signatures into a delightfully cohesive whole, that for my personal tastes is close to perfect.

More generally, I feel the mini-MEST delivers a great deal of value and I am happy to recommend it. Although with the usual caveats concerning personal preferences and that, listening to it first is advised if at all possible, as always :)

The mini-MEST may perhaps be the finest clone of a trailblazing creation in history, although our concluding image reveals some stiff competition
Mini-Me & Dr Evil.jpg
Thanks for reading, and the very warmest of felicitations to you all :)


Addendum – Bonus track by track analysis:

I begin, as I often have previously, with Chan-Chan from the Buena Vista Social Club album (24-96 HD FLAC). I’m struck by how well the mini-MEST handles this track.
It’s fairly darkly mastered to my ears, with a somewhat intimate feel.
I find that IEMs that have good technical performances with strong separation, a large soundstage and a degree of brightness tend to really make this track shine.

So it was with delight that I heard this track to be rather clear and open on the mini-MEST.

I notice how crisp and clear the acoustic guitar plucking sounds; sharply defined edges and a well-judged speed and decay. There’s a really nice amount of sparkle here, which gives the track that little lift that really makes it come to life.

The bass, which can sound a bit muddy or one-dimensional on some IEMs comes across clearly and and with a realistic texture – not utterly world-class, but certainly very good for its price range (and considering the mini-MEST doesn’t feature dynamic drivers like its elder brother).

The vocals and backing vocals are really well separated and with a very pleasing timbre. Honestly, it’s not often, even with IEM’s twice the price, that I’ve heard the vocals so well presented.

We come to I call the ‘trumpet test’ as I wait to see whether the trumpet solo is going to trigger my sensitivity and make me wince a little (or a lot), but not to fear; the solo is both smooth and deeply musical, tugging at the emotions.

The percussion again is well-separated and distinct, with realistic-sounding timbre.

What also impresses me about the mini-MEST is how, just like the original MEST, it manages to present SO much detail, beautifully separated and positioned, everything defined and clear, but is still able to maintain so much coherence and musicality whilst doing so.

This, I believe, is where the BCD’s come into their own, not so much providing a distinct sound or vibration of their own, but working to bring this beautiful cohesiveness and musicality to the sound signature as a whole.

Next up, are two tracks from Bruce Springsteen’s new 2020 album (‘Letter To You’), namely ‘One Minute You’re Here’, a quiet acoustic number with an intimate vocal performance that swells in a lovely manner with some piano and strings from about mid-way through, and ‘Burnin’ Train’, an altogether more high-paced and joyous affair.

Starting with ‘One Minute You’re Here’, I’m (yet) again delighted by the timbre and immediacy of the way the mini-MEST presents the vocals.

There’ a delightful weight and richness to the mids, but this is effortlessly balanced with plenty of separation and clarity, such that it never becomes syrupy or cloying.

This is also aided by a lift which is provided by the sparkle and shimmer in the treble.

Moving on to Burnin’ Train, I have to say that UM’s comment that the open-air balanced armatures provide a sound more like that of dynamic drivers is true.

It’s not identical, but the slight feeling of ‘lack’ that I usually feel when listening to all-BA IEMs (even flagship ones that I love) is simply not there when I listen to the mini-MEST.

The kick drum here at the beginning has punch and impact, and the drums that follow it have that pleasingly realistic clatter.

The whole song drives along, propelled by the drums, bass, piano and guitar, and the mini-MEST really presents this aspect of the song very well with its musicality.

Next up is a bit of a low-fi gem, ‘K.’ by Cigarettes After Sex.

This is an unusually mastered song, very intimate and even congested-sounding from its deep and densely-mastered bass and thumpy drums, along with the muted-sounding lead electric guitar, alleviated somewhat by the soft sparkle of the acoustic guitar strumming and the soft and intimate – but forward - vocals.

So on some IEMs, the song can sound a bit congested, but as mentioned, the mini-MEST has the technical qualities and tuning to avoid this regrettable outcome, and instead delivers a hugely engaging and emotional rendition of the song.

Next up, a bit of Swedish electronica and pop, with Club 8.

Firstly, ‘Love Dies’, which features a crystalline sound and vocals (which can be sharp on some IEMs) and which is a good test of soundstage size.

The mini-MEST manages to preserve that crystalline quality of the female vocal line, without ever crossing the fine line into sharpness.

Also, as new sounds are introduced in the song at the edge of the existing soundstage, expanding it out by degrees from around 33s to 1m08s, the mini-MEST executes this extremely well, pushing the soundstage out wide and deep.

With their next track ‘Skin’, driven by a synth-based keyboard riff and drum beat, there’s a really engaging crunch and texture to the riff with the mini-MEST and I notice an aspect of it (some detail in the riff) that’s never stood out to me before, so big plus points for that!

A brief switch to another track of theirs, ‘Stop Taking My Time’ which also features a driving synthetic keyboard riff, but at a much faster pace, is so impressive on the mini-MEST, as it infuses such richness and power into the riff, and the sub-bass thumps of the drums under it.

Next up is some straightforward rock; Counting Crows, with ‘Angels of the Silences’.

I find this track to be a bit of a hot mess on some IEMs, with its searing electric guitars, fast pace, and fairly neutrally mastered bass.

I find it very slightly sharp here, but still better than many IEMs, and this is helped by having that richness and warmth in the mids and lows, that help to balance out the highs in this song.

A quick skip to the next track in the album, ‘Daylight Fading’ sees nearly all of that sharpness disappear, and the song sounds really good on the mini-MEST.

I now move to listen to a couple of songs from the excellent soundtrack to the film ‘Drive’.

Infused with an 80’s vibe and hidden gems from that era, I start with ‘Under Your Spell’ by Desire. Going back to Unique Melody’s description of how the open-air balanced armatures provide a sound reminiscent of dynamic drivers, I’m veryimpressed with how the mini-MEST presents the thump of the drum beat of this song. There’s a real sub-bass thump and mid-bass presence to it, with everything else so clear and detailed and cohesive.

Same goes for ‘Nightcall’ by Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx; it’s astonishing to me the amount of impact and rumble this non-DD IEM is producing, without any bloat or bleed.

Switching genres completely now to Hong Kong opera singer Alison Lau’s rendition of Handel’s ‘Lascia la spina’ (24-96 HDTracks FLAC) the intakes of breath of the musicians at the beginning of the song are captured with remarkable clarity and the strings have, for my tastes, an almost perfect amount of body, weight and richness to them with the mini-MEST. Similarly, there’s again an almost perfect amount of sparkle and brightness to the mids and treble on this track. The vocals, which can be uncomfortably piercing on some IEMs, stay (just) this side of the line here, whilst really allowing the timbre of her voice to shine.

Continuing the genre-hopping theme, I switched to Italian hip-hop outfit Poison for their track ‘Dove Sei?’, which I shamelessly exploit for testing low end response in IEMs.

Well, this was the real test I was building up to, in terms of assessing how well the mini-MEST’s low end can perform, and it honestly surprised even me (considering I’ve already been praising it on multiple tracks). The subterranean level of sub-bass extension, mid-bass rumble and overall skull-shaking impact in the way the mini-MEST presents the bass and drums on this track has to be heard to be believed! And yet this is the same IEM that could handle the delicate guitar picking and intimate vocals of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘One Minute You’re Here’ so beautifully. Remarkable.

Next up, a bit of smooth jazz, as I listen to maestro Miles Davis (and his similarly illustrious bandmates) on ‘Blue in Green’, brought to you today in glorious 24-192 HDTracks FLAC :)

With this track, it’s another ‘trumpet test’ for Layman1, along with a bit of critical listening vis-à-vis the cohesiveness of the instruments as a whole.
It may come as little surprise by now to hear it passes the trumpet test with aplomb, not to mention the cohesiveness one (which I just mentioned)

It delivers accurate timbre and detail in spades, imaging and separation are exceptional and the emotion of the track is conveyed beautifully and movingly.

Continuing with the genre-spanning theme, here’s a genre-spanning song; ‘The Coast’ by Paul Simon, again in stunning hi-res FLAC form.

The complex array of percussion that opens this track is a good test for any IEM and again I’m honestly astonished by how well the mini-MEST handles this track.

The array of percussion is presented so well that I actually looked at the cable to check I hadn’t put the original $1499 MEST in my ears by mistake! The timbre of every instrument is captured so vividly; each of them is clearly separated and given its own individual space to shine, and yet the song as a whole is so gorgeously cohesive that I’m torn between focusing my attention like a flittering hummingbird from instrument to instrument or just sinking luxuriously into the enveloping musicality of the song, pulled along by the beautiful shimmer of the guitar line.

Last, but by no means least, one more genre switch to Farhan Saeed & Shreya Goshal’s Bollywood modern classic ‘Thodi Der’.

This song could have been made for the mini-MEST (or vice versa!); there’s a great synergy here with the characteristics of the track and the qualities of the mini-MEST.

It presents both the male and female vocals with a gorgeous richness and depth, is not at all bothered by the sometimes piercingly high female vocals, and enchantingly engaging with the male vocals too.

And thus draws to a graceful close these highlights of my track-by-track analysis.
I think to see your cursor hovering over the 'close' tab or page button.
For those about to click, I salute you :)

Ckro

100+ Head-Fier
The little brother that kepts its cards close to its chest
Pros: - Works well on any kind of music
- No main default that would be deal breaker
- Easily drivable
- Always nice to see brands like UM try new things with the bone conduction driver
- Forgiving iems for bad recordings
- Stock Dignis case is great
- Great price / performance ratio
Cons: - Technical capacities will fall short on demanding tracks
- The position is a bit far from the musicians
- Bone conduction remains a bit of a detail
- Stock cable could have been better
- Will get you to try the MEST and spend more
First of all I would like to thank @UniqueMelody for the loan of the Mini MEST so that I could publish this review. It’s always a pleasure to be able to try new pairs. I would also like to thank @MrLocoLuciano that made this possible. This review is a personal feedback, based on my expectaitons, my own experience in iems and more globally in the hifi world.
This review was first published in French for the forum TellementNomade, available here : http://www.tellementnomade.org/unique-melody-mini-mest-les-petits-mutants-venus-de-chine/


Technical introduction

Specifications

– Universal intra ear monitor (also available in custom version) with 4 drivers : 3 BA (1 for the low frequencies, 1 for the mids and 1 for the high) and 1 bone conduction driver
– Sensibility (100Hz) – 113 dB/mW
– Impedance (100Hz) – 23 Ω
– Socket and stock cable: 2 pins 0,78mm, detachable cable in silver plated copper, jack 2,5 or 3,5 mm upon demand
– Website : https://www.uniquemelody.co/

The most innovative feature of the Mini MEST is the bone conduction driver, which is supposed to bring a little something in the mids/voices/high.
1604355236214.png


Compared to its big brother, the MEST, we lose the Dynamic Drive (DD), the 2 EST and 1 BA. The Mini MEST are then an hybrid IEM, as opposed to a « quadrybrid » for the MEST.

In terms of pricing, the Mini MEST are one of the most affordable pair from Unique Melody, with a RRP of USD599 at the time of this review. This is still quite a budget, but when you see more and more iems above the 3k, these seem quite « reasonable », so to speak.

Bone conduction
This is the brand new feature brought by the MEST family. I could not get my hands on a detailed view of the Mini MEST’s interior but this is the MEST for illustration purposes :

1604355298456.png


As you can see, the bone conduction driver is placed just under the faceplate, and not near the nozzle. So it’s not the nozzle that will vibrate in your ear, but the whole carbon fibre shell that is supposed to transmit infinitely small vibrations to your ear.

1604355321346.png


I’ll be quite frank here: don’t expect to feel the same amount of vibrations that your smartphone would make when you receive a call. The feeling is really thin and the vibrations are invisible or impossible to feel when you place the iems on your hands and star the music. I even tried to place the iems on a tiny plate floating on the water : there were no wave made on the water.

It’s really difficult to make these vibrations visible. You have to put the Mini MEST in your ears to feel this. It remains very discrete but one can feel these waves, like a small vibration that would be located between your eardrum and the top of your jaw. Not unpleasant, but not really pleasant eiether.

Packaging
The Mini MEST come in a very inconspicuous package :

1604355338984.png


Inside, a very classic bundle (tips, warranty card etc.). But we do note a really nice transport box, highly practical and pretty, designed by Dignis (yep, Dignis !):

1604355350489.png


One thing I appreciated in particular is the space divider that you can find inside the box, this is perfect to avoid collisions between the iems and the unwanted marks on the shells:

1604355361259.png


The stock cable is allright. Not the best cable I was given to try but it does the job. I did not like the finishes that much, and I found the braiding a bit loose. I received the 2.5mm version, but you can ask for a 3.5mm version when you place your order.

Mini MEST design
I like the carbon fibre shells of UM iems. So I’m not the most objective person here but with the chose blue color, I found the Mini MEST very nice.

1604355378015.png


The shells are relatively small, which allowed for a very good fit in the hollow of the ear in my case. Note that it is necessary to have a fit allowing a maximum contact area between the shell and the concha for the bone conduction to function fully.

Finally, the connectors are of the “QDC” type, my first experience with this type of connector. I don't have any QDC cables but a standard 2 pin works fine, I had no problem switching cables with the mini MEST.

Test conditions
I thought I would do the whole review on the LPGT. Unfortunately, it went to after-sales service quite quickly. The listening sessions were therefore done mainly on the QLS QA361, then on the DX220Max.

On the cable side, I used the Empire Ears Stormbreaker (similar to a PW Audio 1960 2w) and various KBear cables (silver, copper, hybrid, OCC etc.) alternately. Might as well cut the suspense right away, I didn't feel any particular difference on these iems between the different cables.

For tips, I went on the Whirlwinds. Those which therefore gave for me the best adhesion between the shell and the concha. I tested the Final Audio and the Xelastec but I was losing too much in the contact area, so the bone conduction was nearly inoperative.

Finally for comparisons, the iems that I’ve listened to the most in the recent months: 64 Audio U12T and Jomo Audio Flamenco. They are both significantely more expensive than Mini MEST. I was also able to compare with Campfire Audio Lyra (first version), which are a bit below pricing wise.

Listening sessions
Unique Melody indicates that the Mini MEST are more suited to the following musical categories: OST, Pop / Soul / Jazz / Blues / Rock and Acoustic / Classical.

So I immediately played some rap with the QLS and, first surprise, I wasn't disapointed.

Whether on Dr Dre, Cypress Hill, Mobb Deep or Lil Jon, the Mini MESTs deliver very good bass attacks. There is impact, it's really not bad for BA bass. Decay is a bit long, so the bass is not as surgical as on the U12T. It sometimes gives the impression of having a little fat and slobbery bass when it is not the intention of the songs, but it is still very acceptable.

On the other part of the spectrum, there were no sibilance problem on the treble. It goes quite high but it remains fine without overflowing and without pain. A good surprise here!

Note that for poorly mixed / poor quality sound, the Mini MESTs still do very well. It doesn’t hurt the ears, unlike some other iems who make a killing and are ruthless with bad mixes.

The feelings are the same on contemporary RnB, we dive well into the music. These are not the most exciting iems, but they do more than honorably on this kind of music.
Crinacle measures: Mini MEST (green line) vs. U12T (blue).
1604355410755.png


Okay, let's move on to the target listening of the Mini MEST, with a few selected songs and my feelings during these listenings (selection representative of the different listening results over the last month)

Cannonball Adderley – Autumn Leaves
It's not bad, the tones are correct on the various instruments. You feel like these iems were tuned correctly and that there is no error of appreciation in the engineering. The results of the listening is not monitoring-like, it is a bit pushed on certain frequencies, as shown in the graph above. But for all that, the Mini MEST do not fall for caricature. We get a correct listening with a touch of fat on the brass, just enough to give a little musical character compared to a clinical listening.

The stage is relatively wide, the sax is rendered rather well with a beautiful liveliness and fine treble, never annoying. It goes high when you need to (1min43). In contrast, the bass seems a little shy on the right.

We have a rather good separation of the instruments. It’s not the most technical pair but the performance is very respectable.

Slight downside here for me : I felt a bit far from the stage - unfortunately too much for my taste. It is not contemplative listening but we are not next to musicians as with the Flamenco for example.

Joel Grare – Paris Istanbul Shangai
We find the same character as on the previous track. I felt that the width of the stage is above par but we still feel a little far from the musicians. The reproduction of the different instruments is really good, we have space between the sound sources, we can imagine them and place them well in space, well done UM!

On this type of track, we reach the technical limits on the transcription of details, the touch of the drum is like the breath of a man instead of perceiving the slight grain of the animal skin stretched over the instrument.

By doing a comparative listening with more upscale models I think we are getting very good value for money for these iems. No need to have 20 drivers to satisfy your ears (we already knew that with mono drivers or Sony).

Ali Farka Toure & Ry Cooder – Talking Timbuktu
The strings are well transcribed, especially in the high mids. The tracks are relatively "simple" pieces from a mass orchestral point of view, as they only involve 2 instruments and a voice. However, almost the entire frequency spectrum is used. The listener's attention is therefore focused on the strings, as if zooming in on the hands of the musicians. Listening is pretty good with a good gap space between Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder.

2 aspects were a bit down for my taste:
  1. The infra bass are generally too timid. It should ring in the ears on certain moments with the lowest frequencies, and with the Mini MEST we have a mono BA reproduction that is too shy on this.
  2. More marginally, the listening lacks a little detail and refinement on the sensations of plucking the strings
Various tracks (Eagles, Keb Mo, Amy Winehouse, Etta James etc.)
I really appreciate the voices on the Mini MEST. They know how to be sweet when it is needed, with just a touch of warmth that captivates us on some tracks. Keb's guitar is very good, with the plucking of the strings and the strumming of the strings well reproduced. Etta James isn't yelling in our ears, just what’s need to get us into the music.

At the risk of repeating myself, the only small flaw for me is the distance from the music. Keb seems a little distant, we want him to come closer and whisper in our ears.

I listened to a bit of classical as well (not my favorite genre - no symphony) and I didn't feel a particular lack of Schubert's piano sonatas or Bach's cello suites. Looks like the Mini MEST are comfortable everywhere!

So you're gonna tell me, what about bone conduction? Well, I find the input so minimal that I don't really feel it necessary to talk about it more than that in my review. Truth be told, I would have even thought that the impact of this driver was in the bass and lower midrange, and I rather had the feeling that I felt it very lightly in the upper midrange and treble.

1604355496559.png


Conclusion
If I had to sum up the Mini MEST in one sentence, I would say “unpretentious iems who keep their cards close to their chest ”.

The packaging is basic but really effective (magnificent Dignis pouch), with a nice compact shell and an excellent fit.

Sound wise, I found the Mini MEST to be more universal than the brand's presentation claims. They are driveable very easily, will work on any kind of music correctly and do not require an extravagant cable to work nicely. You have a good wide stage, bass with impact despite a BA, fine and well-sized treble and a decent level of detail. A great success in this price range. However, don't expect to fall out of your chair with bone conduction, the contribution is marginal.

Two small caveats for me, we are on a rather contemplative listening, and on attentive listening, the technical limits are reached if you are used to more high level iems.

If the big brother MEST covers these few gaps, it must undoubtedly come very very close to the TOTL title.

antdroid

Headphoneus Supremus
mini MEST
Pros: Easier to wear than full sized MEST
Multi-BA resolution with more tactility
Coherent
Cons: Somewhat of a generic tuning (good or bad)
Bass can sound blunted at times


The Unique Melody Mini MEST is the new and smaller sibling of the very likeable MEST that I reviewed a few months ago. The Mini MEST is one of the lower priced products from luxury brand Unique Melody. As of right now, I believe the $599 Mini MEST is the lowest price product in their lineup, which will soon introduce a $300 USD triple-dynamic driver IEM in the near future.

This Mini version strips away both the dynamic driver and the two EST drivers from the larger MEST as well as reduced the balanced armatures count to 3. It still retains the signature bone conduction driver, however, making this a 4-driver hybrid (3-BA, 1-BCD).

One thing to point out on this Mini is that the BA drivers are open-air drivers, similar to the Tia driver used by 64 Audio in their Audiophile lineup. These drivers feature tubeless and unrestricted diaphragms that can give a little bit more of a dynamic driver feel to them, while still being very much a BA. In this case, Unique Melody is using 3 of these types of drivers, and I've been told that the distortion is controlled, and co-mingling of the drivers is enhanced by the addition of the bone conduction driver.

This Mini MEST was provided by Unique Melody and MusicTeck (North American distributor) for the purpose of a review. The link below will take you directly to the product page on MusicTeck's site:
https://shop.musicteck.com/products/um-universal-mini-mest



The Mini MEST comes in a small package which contains several tip choices, a cable and case as well as the IEMs. The case is a vibrant blue-themed Dignis brand case that has been custom made by Unique Melody and features their branding on it. Unlike the regular MEST, the Dignis case is made of a canvas-fabric material instead of leather, but is similarly sized.

The cable included is a braided, multi-colored tan/black cable that ends in a 2.5mm balanced connector that can also be optioned with standard 3.5mm and 4.4mm balanced.

For this review, I decided to go with my own set of 4.4mm Kinboofi cables and generic double-flage silicone tips that worked with my ear shape to provide the best seal and response.

In terms of actual shell design and fit, I found the Mini to be, as the name implies, a smaller version of the MEST. It has the same carbon fiber weave look on the faceplate, with blue flakes sprinkled in for contrast and the branding in silver font that shimmers in the light. The shell design is a semi-opaque royal blue color that looks very much solid, though has just enough translucency that you can kind of see the inner workings of the IEM.

The shell, while smaller than the MEST, is similar in depth/thickness and this is a bit more than some other IEMs I've tried in the past. For me, this never came up as a problem. I never have had fit issues with this particular set, nor did I have issues with fit with the larger MEST either.


Sound Impressions
The Mini MEST has almost a V-Shaped sound signature that I want to say is quite generic sounding, but I think that would be a bit too negative sounding for what it is. It's tuning is very safe and is not unlike other gentle V-shaped IEMs with a bass shelf that starts early in the mid-range and a rise from 1KHz up through the treble region. Despite this, I never found the mid-range to sound recessed like a V-shaped IEM would, and so perhaps calling it that is not the best name and rather a balanced-warm focused U-shaped IEM would be a better title. But that's a lot of titles for a thing isn't it?




What makes the Mini MEST stand out from other similarly-tuned IEMs is a natural resonance factor that I recently experienced in the Campfire Andromeda 2020. In that IEM, I quickly noticed a more lively atmosphere when listening to acoustical music genres and I can somewhat sense that here too with the MEST. It is a touch harder to hear these nuances though, because there is a heavier bass response, which sometimes can be overwhelming in some songs, but it's also quite fun too. (This is all relative because some may think my bass preferences are on the lower end of the spectrum than others)

There's a tactility to the bass response on the Mini that I feel is missing on a lot of multi-BA sets out there. Very few can achieve a level of bass decay and tactile punch without having a dynamic driver, and is something I wish my Hidition Viento-B CIEM had more of sometimes. The 64 Audio U12t, for example, has a little bit of decay and punch in it's bass response, and the Mini MEST here does also but to much less extent. I am not going to claim it's as natural as the best dynamics and hybrids out there, but it is a little better than some multi-BA setups in this regard, although I do feel that it can some a little blunted sometimes and missing attack.

The mid-range does not sound as scooped as I would have imagined, and actually has a nice thick and full sound to it. Rock music was my favorite genre to pair with the mini since the general tonality goes well with it. Thicker notes and an exciting treble response make the buzzing guitars and drum hits with more power and emphasis. I found my head bobbing to some Alice and Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins with this set.

I never found the timbre to sound off here. Like the MEST, this isn't exactly the neutral-reference-type sound, and is heavily colored. But somehow, to me, it still retains a natural realistic sound, that is also a little fun and enjoyable, although more boring when compared to the MEST and other IEMs that have more captivating sound signatures.

The technical performance of the Mini is average to above average, and in terms of its price range, I'd say its above average. I think the coherency is quite good with no real disjointed sounds across the 3 BA drivers and whatever the bone conduction driver does, which is impressive given the type of BA drivers they use can lead to a lot of distortion and other issues.

I think the resolution is pretty good, but not on the same level as the larger MEST or other flagships. It has resolution I'd expect from a multi-BA setup that is tuned well, and surprised a bit that some of the nuances stand out still with the heavier bass emphasis that can sometimes become muddy and buried.

It's been a while since I've had a good listen to both the Dunu DK3001 Pro or the Moondrop Blessing 2, but I probably would put it's resolution in between the realms of the Blessing 2 and the more relaxed DK3001 Pro. Both are good IEMs, but I think the Blessing 2 does more technical things than the Dunu hybrid, and I believe the Mini MEST is in-between those two in this aspect.

Soundstage is generally wide but not endless. It's more wide than deep, but provides enough depth to showcase decent imaging capabilities, enough to have proper instrument separation and defined locations in the soundscape. When looking back at the MEST, with its holographic spherical soundstage, this one is very flat in comparison, and has a more traditional left to right stage as opposed to one that engulfs the listener.




Wrap-Up
The Mini MEST is a solid addition to the Unique Melody family, which in my limited experience with them has been a hit or miss lineup. In this set and the larger and costlier MEST, I have a bit of renewed interest in this brand again and their interesting alchemy of driver technology, shell designs, and tuning choices. It's always a something unique with their products, and I think this one is one of the more safer approaches to tuning, while attempting something a little clever with their technology.

The Mini isn't exactly the most exciting sounding IEM out there. It's got a kind of tired and overly done sound signature, but it does do a few things well that make it stand out from the rest, and that's a nice mix of BA signature resolution and transient speed mixed with a little extra resonance and tactility that makes it a little more fun of an IEM than the traditional multi-BA.

I do want to give a quick extra bonus wrap-up shoutout to the really awesome looking and feeling case that this product comes with. I even prefer it to the more luxurious one that the more expensive MEST came with.
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: jwbrent

Comments

Top