Precog's IEM Reviews & Impressions
Jan 1, 2021 at 1:55 PM Post #301 of 2,729

Precogvision

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Unique Melody MEST Impressions

UM Mest.jpg

I was finally able to get my hands on these for demo thanks to Tyler from Headphones.com! "MEST is BEST” - or so I've been told by a number of individuals who've raved about this IEM to no end. And to that I say the following: The MEST is wonky. Oh yes, wonky, but the type of wonky that somehow works.

The overall tonality of the MEST follows something of a W-shape. The MEST has good - not great - bass. Bass texturing is adequate; however, slam and density seem more middling, and this becomes evident A/B-ing with the tia Trio I have on hand. Hardly a fair comparison, I know! My biggest issue, then, is the way MEST transitions from the lower-midrange into the upper-midrange and treble. The latter is more emphasized, and there is a 6kHz peak which can lend itself to an overly aggressive, forward treble response. It's good treble otherwise, sporting some decent extension, and it's nice to see we're finally getting some proper electret drivers implementations. As for the bone conduction driver, though, honestly I can't tell what it's doing.

Intangibly, the MEST is a strong performer. Its macrodynamic ability, that is the way it scales decibel gradations, is quite good. While it doesn't run alongside the lowest of delineations as closely as the U12t, the way it catches dynamic swings on the “up” surpasses the U12t which I've long crowned king for this characteristic. You might have also heard about MEST's imaging. And I have to agree - it's pretty sweet. It plays with positioning; stuff pops unexpectedly even on tracks I've heard hundreds of times. It certainly seems out-of-head at times; I'd qualify it as holographic, or very close, in this regard. Outside of this, the MEST resolves like an IEM of its caliber should. Macro-detail is quite good in the midrange, unfortunately exhibiting something of an upwards compression; however, largely in the absence of BA timbre otherwise.

The MEST is unmistakably a good IEM. However, I’ve gone back and forth on it several times because I can’t knock the feeling that it’s notably disjoint. It’s not a clash of note textures thing, though, so much as it is “holes” in the frequency spectrum; this was quite noticeable on first listen. Maybe it’s the way it images, maybe it’s the no less than five crossovers at hand, maybe it's the compressed transients in the midrange, who knows? I'll need more ear time. And in this regard, there is a lack of refinement to the MEST that plagues it, and that in my opinion, keeps it from truly playing at the top like its stellar technical ability would otherwise suggest. My preference score will reflect this. Still, I think it's safe to say the MEST has its niche. And as for whether "MEST is best", well, let’s just say it’s the best *wonky* IEM I’ve heard, and it’s not hard to see why it’s won the hearts of many listeners.
 
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Jan 1, 2021 at 5:43 PM Post #302 of 2,729

IEMusic

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Unique Melody MEST Impressions

UM Mest.jpg

I was finally able to get my hands on these for demo thanks to Tyler from Headphones.com! "MEST is BEST” - or so I've been told by a number of individuals who've raved about this IEM to no end. And to that I say the following: The MEST is wonky. Oh yes, wonky, but the type of wonky that somehow works.

The overall tonality of the MEST follows something of a W-shape. The MEST has good - not great - bass. Bass texturing is adequate; however, slam and density seem more middling, and this becomes evident A/B-ing with the tia Trio I have on hand. Hardly a fair comparison, I know! My biggest issue, then, is the way MEST transitions from the lower-midrange into the upper-midrange and treble. The latter is more emphasized, and there is a 6kHz peak which can lend itself to an overly aggressive, forward treble response. It's good treble otherwise, sporting some decent extension, and it's nice to see we're finally getting some proper electret drivers implementations. As for the bone conduction driver, though, honestly I can't tell what it's doing.

Intangibly, the MEST is a strong performer. Its macrodynamic ability, that is the way it scales decibel gradations, is quite good. While it doesn't run alongside the lowest of delineations as closely as the U12t, the way it catches dynamic swings on the “up” surpasses the U12t which I've long crowned king for this characteristic. You might have also heard about MEST's imaging. And I have to agree - it's pretty sweet. It plays with positioning; stuff pops unexpectedly even on tracks I've heard hundreds of times. It certainly seems out-of-head at times; I'd qualify it as holographic, or very close, in this regard. Outside of this, the MEST resolves like an IEM of its caliber should. Macro-detail is quite good in the midrange, unfortunately exhibiting something of an upwards compression; however, largely in the absence of BA timbre otherwise.

The MEST is unmistakably a good IEM. However, I’ve gone back and forth on it several times because I can’t knock the feeling that it’s notably disjoint. It’s not a clash of note textures thing, though, so much as it is “holes” in the frequency spectrum; this was quite noticeable on first listen. Maybe it’s the way it images, maybe it’s the no less than five crossovers at hand, maybe it's the compressed transients in the midrange, who knows? I'll need more ear time. And in this regard, there is a lack of refinement to the MEST that plagues it, and that in my opinion, keeps it from truly playing at the top like its stellar technical ability would otherwise suggest. My preference score will reflect this. Still, I think it's safe to say the MEST has its niche. And as for whether "MEST is best", well, let’s just say it’s the best *wonky* IEM I’ve heard, and it’s not hard to see why it’s won the hearts of many listeners.
Another great review! I think you pretty much nailed it. It has a wonky tuning, that is certainly not the most natural sounding, yet there are some very impressive and unique characteristics. There are a lot of people that love it, myself included, but I imagine there are also a lot of people that admire it a lot, but it just doesn’t sit right with them. So no, this is not a universal easy rec for everyone, IMO.
 
Jan 10, 2021 at 12:53 AM Post #304 of 2,729

Precogvision

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Fiio FH3 Impressions

Fiio FH3.jpg

I get asked about this IEM pretty often, so I might as well jot some thoughts down. Thanks to Super*Review for the hookup as usual. The FH3 is a 1DD/2BA hybrid IEM from Fiio, a company probably better known for their DAPs.

The overall tonality sounds like something of a V-shape. Bass is largely sub-bass oriented, not leveling off until almost 600Hz. Apparently this IEM uses a beryllium DD; frankly, I wouldn't have called it. To my ears, the FH3's bass doesn't hold a candle to the MH755 in direct A/B comparison. Decent texture, but it leaves something to be desired in the transient attack with something of a pillowy-ness, perhaps akin to the Starfield/KXXS with a little more slam and quantity. Crossover to the midrange is decent, mainly by virtue of said blunting. The midrange itself seems uneven; particularly in the upper-mids, it's borderline sibilant and harsh. The FH3's treble is interesting. It does not sound laidback or smooth at all to me, despite some of the descriptions I've read and what the graph above shows. On the contrary, it sounds very much lower-treble oriented with fatiguing amounts of stick impact and a perplexing unevenness to it. Technicalities are pretty average, but I'm not a fan of the FH3's dynamic range; it sounds especially dampened considering this is a hybrid. The end result to my ears is a warm, overly congested presentation that sounds about equal parts fatiguing.

Ultimately, the FH3's tonality is chock-full of minor issues here and there, and the technical performance is middling for the price. I guess what I'm trying to get at, then, is that the FH3 is pretty alright. It doesn't do anything outright horrible, but unfortunately, I'm also not really hearing that special sauce. Just a straight beeline into the ever-growing pit of "other" IEMs I've heard and which I don't think I care too much for. I know some people enjoy this IEM quite a bit, and I see it has something of a cult-following, but...again, I'm just not hearing it.

Score: 3/10

I have the FH5 on-hand as well, but it has a channel imbalance so I don't want to comment too closely. Still, it sounds like a decent, respectable IEM to my ears despite sharing a very similar tonal balance. Campfire Dorado/Vega and Thieaudio Clairvoyance/Monarch/L5 should be showing up next week.
 
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Jan 12, 2021 at 1:08 PM Post #306 of 2,729

Precogvision

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Hey Precog, love your reviews! Was wondering about your thoughts on the A&K SP1000M (and how it compares with the DX160), as I see that you currently use it as a review unit, and I am thinking of picking one up. Thanks!

Thanks! Unfortunately, I'm not much of a source guy. The main reason I have the SP1000M is for the 2.5mm jack and (quite frankly) so I won't have to deal with complaints about having just a mid-fi source like the DX160 haha. I've not directly A/B-d them, but from memory it's a little cleaner, particularly in "darkness" of background (ergo staging) and transient attack; the differences are minute. I think the 2.5mm port might sound a little better than the 3.5mm port on the SP1000M, but that could also just be because it provides more juice.

Software-wise, both DAPs are fairly slow, but I'd say the SP1000M is slightly more consistent because it's using A&K's native (or modified) software. Of course, you also don't have access to apps, the 1080p screen, and typing on it is a PIA compared to the DX160. Ultimately, the sound differences are teeny-tiny, at least for me, and the software performance on both DAPs is fairly middling. I don't really recommend paying that much for a DAP (it's like, what, $2000?!) unless, of course, that small difference in sound merits the extra cost to you. Maybe someone else has more input and a differing view for you, I'm totally open to opinions too! :)
 
Jan 12, 2021 at 8:36 PM Post #307 of 2,729

Precogvision

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Thieaudio Monarch Impressions

Thought about doing the Dorado and Vega 2020, but I'm not too keen on touching those for, uh, obvious reasons. Anyways, here's another hype train that’s long since left the station. I have the Clairvoyance on-hand too, but unfortunately it's DOA, so it'll just be the Monarch for now.

monarch.jpg

Let's see, I think the best words for summarizing the Monarch's presentation go something along the lines of "sterile and segmented". There are very clear delineations throughout its sound, although they're not necessarily a product of incoherency so much as they are the tuning. The bass is surprisingly good. I don't find it to be lacking in texture at all, an issue I know some have mentioned. To my ears, it's more on the dynamic slam and density side of things where it suffers which is a shame given how incisive the bass shelf is. I can't say I'm the biggest fan of the midrange, though. There is a disconnect between the lower-midrange and the upper-midrange. That 2.5-5kHz plateau is likely responsible for the Monarch's resolution, and as result, the midrange is lacking in the coherency that something like the Dusk exhibits. Could've been great, but it ends up being more unnaturally thin in the lower-mids with stringed stuff, and overly forward with upper-midrange vocalists. Treble is well-defined, smooth, if not lacking in the final octaves of extension.

Technicality-wise, the Monarch is a strong performer. Very good resolution and positional accuracy of instruments, head-stage is fairly open. It's the more latent stuff, as usual, where the Monarch begins stumbling. Dynamic range is upward-skewed, and the Monarch just doesn't seem to exhibit particularly good macrodynamic ability in general. Coherency is also simply not on par with something like the EE Odin (obviously not a fair comparison, but hey), helped in no part by the Monarch's tuning itself.

So, how do I put this? The Monarch is definitely a very good IEM - the monarch of its price bracket, if you will - but it's also short more than a few cards of being a top-tier IEM. It has the tuning, the technical chops, and yet it just seems somewhat...again for lack of better word, sterile. A product of the tuning, the intangibles, or both, it doesn't matter. It's just lacking in that je ne sais quoi to my ears, something I'll have to explore more in-depth in the full review. Just a little bummed I can't try the Clairvoyance too as the tonal balance seems like it'd be more my speed.

Score: 6/10
 
Jan 14, 2021 at 8:16 PM Post #309 of 2,729

Precogvision

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I realize this OT for this thread, but how is the imaging of the u12t vs the MEST? Would you say the u12t also has a similar holographic imaging, with really good depth and layering?

I was typing up a reply, then realized I was totally rambling and would rather not derail the Thieaudio thread too haha.

In general, the U12t's staging is more intimate to my ears. When I think of holographic imaging, I'm mostly equating it with soundstage height, and the characteristic with which instruments sort of "float" creating the perception of a "room" around listener. I'd say the MEST does this better, and also has more "space" between layers even if the U12t is more incisive, precise about the actual positioning. Plugging in the M15 module opens up the stage on the U12t some more, but the amount of treble air is fatiguing for me. There's definitely a correlation between pseudo treble air, cutting the bass, and perceived stage size. In a similar vein, for depth or diffusal of the center image, I can't think of an IEM that bests the U12t, but that's also because it cheats by dipping the upper-midrange.

This begs the question, then, does that qualify true "depth"? And I have to say, I think it does, or at least it's an instance of where "your perception is your reality". There are some IEMs that dip the upper-midrange, like the CA Ara, that end up sounding rather sonic-walled to me anyways, and the same goes for a lot of other IEMs I've heard which try to use a similar trick. Anyway, sorry for the rambling! This is something I'd like to learn more about and to describe better. The simple answer is yes and no; needless to say both have well-above average imaging.
 
Jan 15, 2021 at 6:01 PM Post #310 of 2,729

IEMusic

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This begs the question, then, does that qualify true "depth"? And I have to say, I think it does, or at least it's an instance of where "your perception is your reality".
Thanks for the impressions! I personally think it does qualify as “true depth”, since it’s all perception and psychoacoustics anyways.
 
Jan 16, 2021 at 10:31 PM Post #311 of 2,729

Precogvision

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Shure KSE1500 Impressions

Drove out to do a quick demo of this IEM today - much thanks to kdphan for the hook-up! The KSE1500 is quite the interesting IEM. It uses an electrostatic driver (something traditionally reserved for full-size headphones) and requires a separate, transformer pack to provide the necessary juice for the IEM. Listening was done with both a Sony WM1Z and iBasso DX160.

First thing that struck me: This thing is bright. I tried using silicon tips with it very briefly, 10/10 would not recommend. Foam is the way to go. It's really difficult to describe what part of the treble, specifically, is bright though. There's something of a resonance to the way treble instruments decay; triangles, in particular, have a shimmer to them that gets fatiguing quickly. This same quality, to a lesser extent, seems to extend to the upper-midrange with female vocalists sounding, well, simply not quite natural. Thankfully, the lower midrange seems more normal, and bass is a good deal above neutral. It's no DD substitute for bass, particularly when it comes to sheer slam and texture, but the KSE1500's bass is nimble with good extension, a step ahead of BA bass in my book. Imaging is unfortunately subpar to my ears with what sounds like a notable absence of center image incisiveness; staging is likewise fairly sonic-walled.

So, the KSE1500 is finicky, niche by design, and there are clearly some tonal quirks at hand. What's the catch, you ask?

Well, the KSE1500 just might be the most resolving IEM I've heard. Microdynamic ability is present in spades; mind you, this is something that I think most IEMs, even many at the flagship level, simply lack. The qdc Anole VX, the EE Odin, hell, name any other IEM, and I don't think it has anything on the KSE1500 here. All the little details in a track that are there, but sort of glossed over even on stuff like the U12t and Erlkonig - yeah, they're suddenly there, just popping at you. I'm reminded of the first time I tried the HD800S, and I don't think it would be an understatement to say that the KSE1500 can play ball with most headphones in this regard. The macrodynamic ability and positional incision of the KSE1500 are well-above average too. Some have described the electrostatic driver transients as "ethereal" though, and hmm, I'm not so sure. Certainly very quick and clean to say the least, but the KSE1500's transient response also sounds different from memory to the only other electrostatic I've heard, the HE1 (which I also would not describe as ethereal, funnily enough). Maybe I just don't have a good frame of reference, but...

My conclusion after a mere hour or so of listening? The KSE1500 is an IEM that won't be for everyone - I don't think I can personally recommend it - but it's one that should be on your demo shortlist if only for the unique experience it delivers; words don't do justice the sheer amount of detail this IEM possesses. Needless to say there's something beautiful, elegant about TOTL headphone-comparable performance minimized into such a small package.
 
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Jan 17, 2021 at 1:18 AM Post #314 of 2,729

kdphan

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My impression on the first day I brought the KSE1200/1500 home and until today are still the same. HOLY CRAP THE DETAILS.
It was the first moment I listened to it that I decided to do a fire-sell on all most of my non-custom IEMs.
 

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