Precog's IEM Reviews & Impressions

Oriolus Traillii JP Impressions

Do I even need to introduce this IEM? Well, just in case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s the most hyped IEM in recent memory on a certain another forum. To date, there has not been a negative review that I could find about the Traillii. I repeat, not a single, negative review. That’s truly uncanny, and suffice it to say that the Traillii’s reputation precedes it. Of course, we all know that’s no substitute for actually hearing it for one’s self. And while the Traillii’s managed to elude my grasp time and time again, that ends today. No comments on the IEM’s build or packaging (not that there’s much to take about anyways), you know how I roll.

So onto those sound impressions. The bass of the Trailli is characterized by a generous sub-bass curve that falls under the 64 Audio U12t in quantity, but pushes into the mid-bass a hair further to inject more warmth. Not bad on the tuning front; of course, intangibles are another matter entirely. And hey, it’s pretty decent actually. Is it better than the 64 Audio U12t or the Hidition Violet on this front as a whole, though? I don’t think so, hence my use of “decent”. The dynamic range of the Trailli’s bass skews middle to upwards-compressed, and it doesn’t sound as sweet and fluid as my BA bass benchmarks. Anything with a heavy, successive bassline like Dreamcatcher’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind” starts sounding monotonous to me, despite being rendered cleanly and with a little more “oomph” than your average BA monitor. I’d imagine this holds even more true with tracks tokening natural instruments. The Trailli’s bass, then, is something that takes a back seat for me; it’s not the star of the show.

The midrange of the Traillii is interesting. It seems to fall somewhere between a reference tuning and what some might call a more relaxed, “Western” tuning. To this end, you have slightly more warmth in the lower-midrange and less pinna compensation than would qualify a reference tuning, but it’s followed by a small bump at 4kHz so that the presence region with female vocals is actually slightly forward. I couldn’t detect any issues with shout or sibilance, and I think this has been nicely done. Listening to IU’s “Blueming,” the Traillii maintains sufficient note texture without delving into grit or being totally smoothed over in decay, which is a pleasant surprise for my preferences. The Trailli has aptly danced the knife’s edge here too.

Not so pleasant surprises? Well, I hate to say it, but the Traillii’s treble is nothing special. It’s neither a poor EST implementation, nor is it dissimilar to other middling implementations I’ve heard in the past. A quick A/B session with the Elysian Annihilator was enough to tell me that the Traillii is a couple steps behind in the intangible department. Take for example Girls Generation’s “Into the New World” and the percussive hits in the front channel, ever-so-slightly left, from 0:10 to 0:25 seconds in: they sound soft and lack attack incisiveness. That’s probably not helped by the Traillii’s lower-treble recession, but to the point of incisiveness, it’s a matter of speed too. There’s a lot of quick, playful background shimmer and sparkle to the track that the Traillii just seems to blur over. Sheer extension on the Traillii is also not impressive; maybe about par with the Thieaudio Clairvoyance (which is great for $700 in this department) at best. For such a costly IEM with 4 ESTs, in my opinion only, the overall treble response here is disappointing. It demonstrates a lack of understanding of what a true EST - or proper treble production - should sound like.

For technicalities, though, the Trailli is pretty refined. I don’t find it a particularly aggressive transducer; however, there is a good sense of macro-dynamic contrast with which I found myself jacking the volume up-and-down initially. It’s overall resolving ability is near - or at - the top with little nuances being picked up that I generally don’t think too much about. Notes are articulated very crisply, sans the treble. I’ll need more time on this front. It’s very easy to tell if a transducer is good or bad; it’s much more difficult to ascertain how good, and even more so for something like sheer detail retrieval. Either way: impressive stuff.

Imaging on the Trailli is a mixed bag. It shines with stuff panned directly to the left and right, and layering is top-tier. On Sawano Hiroyuki’s “Binary Star” everything has a well-defined location on the stage and the Trailli largely captures the ambiance of the track. To the point of “largely,” vocals still come positionally from the head for me; ergo, there is a lack of depth. Not really surprising on that front, but I do wish the Trailli had more soundstage height too. I certainly don’t get the impression that I’m in a cathedral (at least in the closest sense possible) or listening to 2-channel speakers like I do with the Sony IER-Z1R. Probably my biggest gripe on the front of itangibles would be the transient density, or sense of physicality, with which notes present themselves. The Traillii’s not the worst offender I’ve heard in this department, and I wouldn’t say it sounds particularly plasticky (like, say, the Anole VX), but I think it could be better. Maybe if one enjoys a slightly more “ethereal,” laidback presentation this might appeal to them, but it’s pushing it for me. Coherency is expectedly good with the Trailli carrying itself with a smooth, almost decided ease.

I think that about does it for my sound impressions. But not once have I mentioned the Traillii’s price, so here you go: this IEM will set you back $6000 - oops, scratch that - make it $6600 following a recent price hike from the manufacturer. I could buy a car with that money. Even as an audiophile, I don’t think anyone can reasonably justify this type of purchase.

You can also see that at most every turn, I’ve brought up a comparison with which the Traillii falls short to my ears. You might be thinking, “Well, that’s not fair, some IEMs are specialists”. Well, this thing is $6600: Is it so unreasonable to expect it to blow everything else I’ve heard out of the water? I certainly don’t think so. And you can’t even purchase it without the unwieldy stock cable to offset some of the hefty cost. I imagine that for most listeners, then, the Traillii will be an instance of which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It has to be. But even within that context, I struggle to say the Traillii is truly better, a decided upgrade, over some of the other jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none IEMs on the market.

This is still a great sounding IEM - among the best - but most things about it leave me somewhat perplexed. It also probably helps that I didn’t have to spend $6K just to hear the Traillii. Here, I have to give a shout out to the very generous reader who had it sent out for review. Even if it some stuff hasn’t been to my taste, you’ve continued to send me a ridiculous amount of very expensive IEMs that I would otherwise probably never be able to hear.

Score: 8/10

Critical listening was done with the very expensive and microphonic stock cable, stock tips, and my iBasso DX300. All comparisons made in these impressions were done with direct A/B-ing to the IEMs in question.

13 Likes

Great Impressions @Precogvision. Honesty is always the best policy and I really appreciate that you haven’t been caught up in the hype. It did make me a little suspicious seeing not one negative review about. That price tag is even beyond the pail for me and I own the EE ODIN.

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You may need to hide under one now @Precogvision !

Just kidding, thanks for the honest review of an IEM that I very much doubt I will encounter in the wild.

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Very nice review. You may have not found a negative review of the bird, but I have not seen one saying it is worth the price.

Next one up gotta be the 64 Audio U6t :sunglasses:

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Good honest review - I’m sure you had to think carefully before going against the grain, so I appreciate your candor. Frankly, since I first heard of this IEM it has sounded to me like the sort of thing aimed at those with more money than sense.

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Truth! This hobby is a good example of “you get what you pay for” not applying at all. Price doesn’t always reflect performance when it comes to audio reproduction.

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Hey all, the 64 Audio U6t demo unit arrived today!

Some quick physical thoughts:

  • Very sleek design. Faceplate is reminiscent of the Nio, but in black. Grey blasting to the aluminum shell of the IEM.
  • Expectedly, no issues with fit or comfort. Fatigue is a non-issue thanks to Apex. Isolation tends to be slightly below average for the same reason.
  • Almost cried when I saw it: No memory wire on the cable. I think this is the first 64A IEM where I actually opted to use the stock cable. It’s still not the best cable, but needless to say it’s a major step forward. Props to 64 Audio for listening.

What I hear with the U6t is something of a mix-and-match between the Nio and U12t’s tunings. It’s a warmer, more saturated sound. I think I’d describe this as U12t’s less-refined, more tubby baby brother. The U6t’s bass shelf is warmer, more mid-bass oriented than the U12t’s, falling more along the lines of the Nio. This is really good BA bass even if it doesn’t have the cleanest bass lines. I wouldn’t be surprised if the U6t was using the same Sonion (I believe?) woofers as the U12t. These woofers are some of the most organic BAs I’ve heard with a great sense of texture. They’re slightly soft in transient attack on the U6t, more so than on the U12t. Pop-in the M20 module and decay gets even more elongated - much more than I’ve heard from most BA monitors - whilst maintaining an excellent sense of physicality. The latter is where most BA IEMs with large bass shelves flop hard; generally, they end up sounding overly farty and plasticky. Not the U6t.

Again, I feel like I’m greeting an old friend when it comes to the U6t’s midrange. It’s considerably thicker than the U12t’s midrange, but not to the degree of the Nio in the lower-midrange. I think this is an optimal balance. No sibilance, no shout, just so pleasant on the ears. I also hear decent depth on the U6t. The U12t definitely achieves this, to some extent, with the use of an upper-midrange recession and a more relaxed pinna compensation. By contrast, the U6t’s center image is less defined and larger to my ears.

The treble response of the U6t is not dissimilar to the U12t. You have your bump at 5kHz, then something of a mid-treble suckout - so there’s not much sparkle - followed by a rise to 14kHz which plateaus at 15-16kHz. Mostly works for me, but your mileage might vary as that’s pretty high up. I do feel like the very last fringes of extension can get lost on the U6t, and it doesn’t help that the U6t is more bassy than the U12t too. Perhaps the MX module, or something in between, would rectify this minor complaint.

Technicalities on the U6t are…alright. Honestly, I think they could be better. There’s a lot of sub-kilobuck stuff like the Moondrop S8 and Variations that are on par with the U6t, or ahead, if we’re talking about sheer note definition. Thankfully, 64 Audio’s IEMs have always shined with the more “latent” intangibles and the U6t bears no exception. The U6t has some serious dynamic range; there’s an excellent sense of physicality and pressure that follows each swing from quiet-to-loud and the general cadence of a given track’s backdrop. It never ceases to amaze me how flat other BA IEMs sound by comparison; I don’t know how 64 Audio does it, but it’s something I can’t stop talking about. Timbre on the U6t is also very pleasant. There’s little plasticky-ness to notes and decay is far from being etched. You do lose some micro-dynamics going this route; they’re not particularly flat on the U6t, so much as they are just smoothed over. A small price to pay, at least for my preferences. The U6t’s imaging is decent. It falls more towards the murkiness of the Nio with the M15 module, and clearly lacks the U12t’s next-level layering chops, but I do get the characteristic sense of ambiance that all of the 64 Audio IEMs deliver.

This is definitely a very good IEM. Worth it? That’s harder to say. At a kilobuck, I’d be very happy to give this a straight recommendation. It makes for a nice foil to the Andromeda 2020 and clearly distinguishes itself from the other kilobuck gatekeepers. But $1300 is pushing into used U12t territory, which I’d still take over the U6t for rather obvious reasons. Great IEM for warm-heads on a slightly tighter budget, then.

Score: 7/10

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Awesome write up. I was interested in these but I think I’ll try to find a used u12t. Still would be fun to try tho.

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Same; I have been contemplating the u12t for a long time and hoped this u6t could be it. But I also lean more towards the u12t and probably second hand.

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Sennheiser IE900 Impressions

Phew. I finally got around to hitting up the Sennheiser SF store to hear the IE900, their latest DD flagship IEM. Admittedly, I’ve been avoiding this for a while just because the parking situation and general flow of traffic around that area are terrible. But of course, curiosity got the better of me. I brought along the Sony IER-Z1R for comparison, so that’s what I’ll be using to frame a lot of my thoughts on the IE900. As usual, please take these impressions with a grain of salt as they were done in a more noisy environment where my thoughts tend to be more optimistic. In total, I ended up spending about two hours listening to the IE900.

The IE900 has what I perceive as a V-shaped, perhaps more U-shaped sound signature. Right out the gate, I have to admit: the IE900 caught me off guard. The bass on the IE900…just might be some of the best that I have heard from an IEM. It trades blows with the venerable Sony IER-Z1R, a comparison that - trust me - I do not take lightly. While perhaps not as rotund and muscly as the IER-Z1R’s bass, the dynamic range of the IE900’s bass is clearly more organic to my ears in direct A/B. By comparison, the IER-Z1R’s bass has some upwards-compression, like it’s always on full-tilt. The IE900 also has more bass quantity which makes for one hell of a bass cannon.

The midrange of the IE900 is where things go south. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but none of Sennheiser’s IEMs have proper pinna compensation. Surprisingly, I do not find the IE900’s midrange particularly recessed despite the strong upper-midrange recession; indeed, it’s more along the lines of slightly edgy. I would surmise this is due to the strong contrast to the more elevated treble response. But here, it’s really on the front of imaging with which the IE900 suffers. The center image sounds almost inverted, and I find myself staring (somewhere) into the innards of my brain to pinpoint it. It’s unnerving, and it’s a shame that neither the IER-Z1R nor the IE900 seems to be able to nail a proper midrange. The IER-Z1R’s midrange has a very noticeable dip to ~2.5kHz and more grit to its decay by comparison. Don’t buy either of these IEMs for their midrange.

I had my reservations about the treble on the IE900, but it’s not bad. It’s very much mid-treble oriented, so for listeners desiring sparkle, well, the IE900 has it in spades. Extension, speed, and air are also of no issue; the IE900 has them all. Because I was in the store where there’s a considerable amount of ambient noise, I did find myself jacking up the volume on the IE900. At this point, I found it somewhat fatiguing on some tracks I was using, but the bass response mostly serves to balance out the strong treble emphasis. I’ll even go ahead and call this treble response decent, if only for it’s impressive technical showing.

Like so, this might be the most technically competent single DD IEM that I have heard aside from the Dunu Luna (sheesh, I really need to give that a re-listen). For a sense of punch and macro-dynamics, the IE900 is a strong performer, likely besting the IER-Z1R which, in reality, does not have the best macro-dynamics, perhaps due to the slower speed of its transients and coherency issues. I want to give the IE900 a closer listen for micro-dynamics, but by no means did I find them wanting on initial listen. Now, staging is where there is a considerable gap between these two beasts. The IE900’s staging is just average, and it lacks a lot of the height and width - by extension, ambiance - that the IER-Z1R displays. If one desires that elusive, speaker-like presentation, there is no question in my mind that the IER-Z1R remains top dog.

I also got to hear the previous Sennheiser flagship IEM, the IE800S. It’s just okay. Tonally, while it shares a similar profile with the IE900, the IE800S is more reminiscent of the HD800S in the treble, where it does have more of a lower-treble emphasis and sounds quite thin. There’s really no contest between these two IEM’s treble responses on a technical level; the IE900 is quicker and more incisive. The IE800S’s bass is also somewhat mediocre and it doesn’t really have that “wow” factor to it that the IE900’s does. It sounds more reminiscent of a DD you’d find in the sub-$200 range. The IE800S’s dynamic range leans flatter, less impactful and, particularly for micro-dynamics, it lacks a lot of the vividness I hear on the IE900. Resolution on the IE800S is also clearly a couple steps behind. So, uh, yeah. To say the IE900 is an improvement would be a major understatement. It’s leaps better than any of the Sennheiser IEMs I’ve heard in the past, and I can confidently say it’s the only Sennheiser IEM that I would personally consider owning.

Scores: 4/10 for the IE800S, 7/10 for the IE900

Special thanks to Julius from Sennheiser SF for getting me set up and being very accommodating throughout the whole demo! He was totally down to let me measure it, and even opened up the HE1 room just so I could take the measurement in a more quiet environment. Once I got to listening, they just let me do my thing; I really like that there’s no pressure to make a purchase at the Sennheiser store. Definitely a place I’d recommend hitting up if you have the opportunity.

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Nice impressions! Bass on these are indeed great.

I did have similar findings with you on first listen but after a bunch of tip-rolling, experimentation, and synergy matching I got it to be pretty balanced, albeit sacrificing some stage.

Hopefully you’ll get a chance to do a full dive on these in the future.

Btw, did you perhaps find these more prone to sibilance? I definitely did before all the experimentation.

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Had to take a family photo while I still have all these…

Just to be clear, most of these do not belong to me haha. The (2) Oriolus Isabellaes, Hidition NT6, Hidition Waltz, Hidition Violet, Elysian Annihilator, Vision Ears VE8, qdc Anole VX, Anole V14, Sony IER-Z1R, Oriolus Traillii, and one of the 64A U12ts all belong to a reader. The Dunu SA6, Kiwi Ears Orchestra, and Tanchjim Hana 2021 are MRS’s. The 64A U6t is a headphone.com review unit. The Andromeda 2020, Moondrop B2, and other 64A U12t are mine. For better or worse, I don’t actually own too many IEMs because I’m so picky. Not pictured: UM MEST (TylersEclectic’s), MEST MK2 (Antdroid’s), LX SE (reader’s), and various budget IEMs I have lying around.

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Do you mind if I send you a PM asking where your address is and what times you’ll be out of the house? :joy: kidding of course

Nice collection (even if most aren’t yours)!

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Unique Melody MEST MKII Review

Introduction

The Unique Melody MEST was one of last year’s most hyped IEMs. From its excellent resolution to its out-of-head imaging, it impressed even me. That’s no easy feat, mind you. But 2021 is a new year, and hot off the success of the original MEST, Unique Melody has already opted to release a successor, the MEST MKII ($1500). This is always a tricky thing to approach in the IEM world. After all, how does a brand improve on an already good IEM? Well, it turns out that more often than not…they don’t . Most “Pro”,“MKII”, and “X” models of IEMs I’ve heard just don’t seem to get much further (or even stack up with) their predecessors. That in mind, I approached the MEST MKII cautiously and with one burning question in mind: Is it actually better than the original MEST?

The MEST MKII was provided on loan for review courtesy of Antdroid (AudioDiscourse). The MEST was provided on loan for review courtesy of TylersEcelectic. Thank you! As usual, what follows are my honest thoughts and opinions to the best of my ability.

Source and Drivability

All critical listening was done off of my iBasso DX300 and iPhone X using lossless FLAC files. SpinFit ear tips and the included Azla Xelastec ear tips were used. The MEST IEMs are relatively easy to drive, and you should have no trouble driving them off of portable sources. These are pretty interesting IEMs in that they use a quadbrid driver (the engine of an IEM so to speak) setup. You have all of DD/BA/BC/EST driver types crammed into one IEM.

The Tangibles

The MEST MKII arrives in a black cardboard box with two slots: one for the IEMs and the case on top, and another for the accessories on bottom. Those accessories include the following:

  • Custom Dignis Arca Case
  • Azla Xelastics ss/ms/m
  • Comply Foam tips s/m/l
  • Silicone tips s/m/l
  • Microfiber cloth and placard
  • PW Audio 2-pin 0.78mm Cable (terminated in 2.5/3.5/4.4mm depending on the option you choose)

As usual, I’m not indexing too hard for accessories and presentation, but I do think this is a pretty nifty package - you should have everything you need. The new cable is also a small step up over the original MEST’s cable which I felt was basically unusable. That’s clearly not a high bar, but it’s an improvement nonetheless!

Moving to the MEST MKII itself, it’s sporting a more matte version of the carbon fiber faceplate that inspired the original, this time with gold flakes interspersed throughout. I dig this look. The main physical difference between the MEST MKII and the original MEST, though, is the size. The original MEST was a larger IEM, and Unique Melody has managed to shrink the MEST MKII down into a more lithe form factor that should better suite more ears. Personally, I had no fit issues with the original, so the MEST MKII’s fit also works great for me. A more subtle change here is the use of flush, 2-pin connectors instead of the qdc-style ones that the original MEST used.

Pictured to the left is the MEST MKII; pictured to the right is the original MEST.

Sound Analysis

Twitter summary: The MEST MKII doesn’t stray far from its predecessor, opting for a slightly warmer, thicker interpretation of the original MEST’s sound profile. It sports an emphasized but controlled bass shelf, moderate pinna compensation, and a generally smooth, present treble response.

The measurement above was taken off of an IEC-711 coupler. There is a resonance peak at ~8kHz; as such, measurements after this point should not be considered entirely accurate.

Bass

Ouch. I wasn’t too fond of the original MEST’s bass. Some readers will recall I wrote it was “lacking in transient density - that characteristic richness - which I would attribute to the best bass responses (…) these limitations are most evident on deep, heavy drops”. Unfortunately, the MEST MKII is not an improvement in this department, and I stand by my original comments following the agreement of trusted ears.

Now, the swing of the MEST MKII’s bass is not bad, and it sounds fairly fluid for scaling gradations in bass volume - so sure, it’s dynamic . But it really does not slam as hard as it should. Take for example Wooli’s series of drops at 2:23 on Seven Lions, Trivecta, and Wooli’s “Island”. The MEST MKII’s woofer is competent at distinguishing between the dirty, dark bass hits, but the depth with which it pushes into the drops is lacking. It sounds like it sinks halfway into a drop, and then shoots back up far too quickly for the next drop in the series. The general tactility of the bass itself also leans toward the drier side, thus lending to awkward juxtaposition with its actually decent dynamic range. It throws me off, and in my opinion only , there are BA IEMs with better bass than the MEST MKII.

Midrange

The original MEST sported a leaner midrange with a boost to the presence regions at around 3-4kHz which brought female vocals to the forefront. As a result, it had excellent macro-detail and resolution at the expense of a not-so-natural (perhaps digital or upwards-compressed is a more apt descriptor) sounding midrange presentation.

By comparison, the midrange of the MEST MKII is thicker and more subdued than its predecessor. Most noticeably, the oh-so-sharp transient attack that the original MEST exhibited has been blunted some. A more subtle, positive consequence is that midrange attack matches the bass response more closely and coherency - one of my major gripes with the original MEST - has seen an improvement here. I also feel that some of the MEST’s clean decay has been eschewed for more grit, which may lend to a more natural presentation for some listeners. But on the other hand, midrange resolution is simply not as good on the MEST MKII for obvious reasons. Overall, I’d say I’m pretty agnostic on these changes to the midrange.

Treble

We see a similar trend in the treble region. The original MEST was a more forward listen that demanded attention with its treble response. Personally, I felt that it was surprisingly sharp for an EST implementation - not necessarily a bad thing, mind you - but that, again, it had timbral inconsistencies which made it somewhat jarring to hear. The MEST MKII lowers the 6kHz peak of the original, so percussive hits come across less defined, if not a tad thicker and heavier. This also fixes some of the tinny characteristic that the original MEST exhibited in the treble. Other than that, extension remains equidistant between the MESTs. I still find both to sound a tad compressed, but pretty alright overall. Spoiler alert: Out of all the changes to the MEST? This is the only one that I genuinely feel is a step forward.

Technical Performance

Technicalities on the MEST MKII are solid (even excellent in the grand scheme of things), but they do not match the original for a sense of “wow” factor. This is most apparent on the font of imaging. On first listen, I found the MEST MKII to have fairly good positioning of instruments; however, the sense of space between them - separation - sounded more congested than from my memory of the MEST. Further A/B-ing was required, so I turned to my usual test track Sawano Hiroyuki’s “Cage” which quickly confirmed my suspicions. When the cymbals drop at 0:10, they decay biased slightly towards the left. On the MEST MKII, it sounds like these frequencies run into a pseudo “wall” and they mesh into the triangles being played in the backdrop. By comparison, the original MEST seems to have the triangles positioned slightly higher and wrapped around my head more, thus circumventing this collision. If you’re asking me, the MEST MKII still has good imaging, but it’s a long way off holographic now.

There are other small discrepancies between the two IEMs. As I alluded to earlier, the midrange and treble response of the MEST MK2 lean softer than its predecessor. The MEST walks away with the edge (metaphorically and sonically) in terms of clarity between the two IEMs. As for improvements , the MEST MKII generally touches up on the coherency issues I criticized the original MEST for. It does so by virtue of a more natural, consistent timbre from the midrange and up. Whether that’s because of the new, full-range bone conduction driver, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I almost feel like if the bone conduction driver is doing anything, it’s more present in the original MEST due to its out-of-head imaging.

The Verdict

Let’s go back to the whole “is the MEST MKII actually better than the MEST?” thing. If it’s not already apparent, the MEST MKII isn’t really an upgrade to my ears. It’s much more closely a side-grade . Listeners who desire a smoother, more natural listen should go for the MEST MKII, while listeners looking for more special sauce would be better suited with the original MEST. As far as my preferences go, though, the MEST MKII puts me in the tricky spot of “I prefer the tonality of this more, but the technicalities clearly aren’t as good, so I don’t love this as much as I should”. This is still a good IEM; scratch that, it’s still a great IEM. But anyone can say something is good, great, or whatever they want, really, without context. I’m not in the business of doing that. Stack on a $500 price differential (at the time of this publication, $1000 for the MEST vs. $1500 for the MEST MKII) between the two models, and I think you know which one I have to recommend.

Reference Tracks

  • Aimer - Hakuchuumu
  • David Nail - Let It Rain
  • Everglow - DUN DUN
  • Girls’ Generation - Galaxy Supernova
  • Illenium - Broken Ones
  • Joe Nichols - Sunny and 75
  • Keith Urban - Defying Gravity (2009)
  • Keiichi Okabe - Weight of the World (NieR:Automata Original Soundtrack)
  • Sabai - Million Days
  • Sawano Hiroyuki - Best of Vocal Works Remastered (2020)
  • Taeyeon - My Voice (2017)
  • Tiffany - I Just Wanna Dance
11 Likes

In my ignorance I was thinking bone conduction was some kind of a gimmick. Until, that is, I tried a pair of Aftershokz recently at a Best Buy. I was surprised; they didn’t sound bad at all. So yeah, I believe bone conduction is for real.

3 Likes

A very solid and great review as always, but the first review, where we don’t agree :wink:

I have not heard the OG Mest, but to me the MKII is the best IEM I got and even the Oracle and the S8 are to my ears second to the MKII. I got a good deal buying this (brand new), so I am close to the price of the OG Mest, which is always good, but for me still a high price.

For me there is a bit of bias, as I WANT it to be good, but as I know the size of the OG could be an issue (why I have the Oracle and not the Clairvoyance), I am happy about the MKII. It gives me a level of detail I really enjoy and still I have the bass and the treble close to what I prefer. And for the only second time, I have an IEM where I use the OG cable.

But it is hard to see my favourite IEM being thrashed a bit, but we have different ears, so I forgive you :grin:

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So Z1R > MEST I > MESTII?

Z1R is only for the blessed ears :wink:

Mest is for everyone else.

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And U12t are for the " I want to be precog’s padawan "

… even if I use m15

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iFi Audio IEMatch+ Impressions

This unit was kindly provided by @SebastienChiu of iFi Audio at my request.

I don’t really care to cover the unboxing or the tech specifications too closely. So what better way to frame my impressions of the IEMatch+ than within the context of one of my favorite IEMs, the Campfire Audio Andro 2020? It’s notoriously picky and known for being something of a diva when it comes to synergy. This is largely due to its ridiculously high sensitivity which begets background hissing on every source that I’ve tried. And believe me, I’ve tried a few! The DX160, DX300, SE180, SE200, SP1000M, Cayin N3 Pro, Apple Lightning/USB-C dongle, Sony NW-A105, and the Plenue R2; I hear hissing off of the Andro 2020 with every single one of these sources.

But no longer. The Andro 2020 has finally met its match , so to speak, with the iFi IEMatch+. Hissing begone! Even just the High setting on the IEMatch+ is enough to kill any hissing I heard previously. That said, the Andro 2020’s impedance curve is pretty notorious as well. With lower OI sources, it is more bassy and treble light; vice versa with higher OI sources. Below is the Andro 2020 graphed off of the Apple USB-C dongle versus with the Apple USB-C dongle > IEMatch+ (High). You can see it makes a pretty noticeable difference.

Now subjectively, I think this is a great pairing. The IEMatch+ lowers the bass and brings forward the treble, so the Andro 2020 eschews some of the warm haziness it can exhibit from the “stock” pairing with the Apple dongle. The Andro 2020 effectively has a more forward, brighter, slightly leaner sound with the IEMatch+. Micro-dynamic contrast sees a decent jump by virtue of a completely dark background, and I hear a lot more subtle detail that I just couldn’t hear with the Apple dongle and other sources. This perception is no doubt aided by the treble also being brought forward more. The one criticism I have is that the IEMatch+ shifts around the Andro 2020’s center image by pushing it up to a higher plane (when I try and visualize vocals tokening the center image in my head); consequently, the Andro 2020’s perceived depth suffers. Again, this is likely baked into frequency response, as the recession to the Andro 2020’s upper-midrange is also brought up by the IEMatch+.

The Ultra setting of the IEMatch+ has lower impedance than the High setting. In practice, this results in a very slight difference of about ~1dB. I was barely able to pick it up playing between the settings.

I’ve seen some talk about the IEMatch+ neutering dynamics. To test this, I turned to my 64 Audio U12t. This is for two reasons: 1) the U12t has excellent dynamic range for an IEM to my ears, and 2) it has a nearly flat impedance curve. But honestly? Accounting for the volume differential, I couldn’t discern a difference using Sawano Hiroyuki’s “e of s” from the 2VALK album. The dip in volume to the vocalist at 2:49 and the subsequent explosion to loudness are scaled identically; the U12t sounds the same to me directly out of the jack of my DX300 versus the DX300 > IEMatch+. Perhaps having to turn up the volume while using the IEMatch+ gives some listeners the impression that the sound is being compressed, but I’d wager this perception falls more along the lines of placebo. Obligatory disclaimer that I’m not an expert on this; I can only attest confidently that I do not hear a difference subjectively.

Overall, I think this is a solid product for anyone who’s using a pair of super-sensitive IEMs. It’s still on the pricier side, but it gets the job done well. Don’t bother purchasing this if you’re using headphones, as most headphones are not at all sensitive, and you’ll just be making more work for yourself (and your source) when you jack up the volume.

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