Great post. Oh, and Happy Cake Day too.
FYI - we did a roundtable review podcast of the MEST with @toranku, @Rush, Leneo and myself. UM
s North American rep even listened in to it
Oooooh, imma watch that. Had to put the MEST on hold because Utopia.
Unique Melody and Musicteck sent me a demo unit to try out of the Mini MEST and just did a quick unbox video. No actual impressions in it, just video.
The case is really nice. I love these Dignis cases and the vibrant look of them. From quick memory, I think the mini is just a little bit smaller but still thicker than most IEMs, but it doesnt bother me at all. The front pattern of this unit is the same as the blue/carbon look of the regular MEST except with blue inner shell design.
Initial sound impressions –
Mostly listened to jazz music (EST, Tingvall Trio), electropop (styrofoam, tegan & sara) and some Fleetwood Mac so far:
It’s got a more balanced bass and perhaps a more U shape sound. The bass is down-sloping, so it doesnt have the heavy sub-bass focus of the original MEST. The upper mid-range and the entire main treble region is brighter on Mini as well, so people who may think the MEST didn’t do well with female vocals should be happy with this one. I think it’s perhaps a little too bright in the 6-10K region, so sometimes the cymbals on “Dreams” comes off a little jolting.
I think the bass texture takes a bit of a loss here compared to the MEST thus far. The Mini has plenty of warm bass sounds and can be felt, but I think it does lose a little bit of the natural decay and texturing that I loved on the regular MEST. For not having a DD, it does a very commendable job on the Jazz tracks I’ve heard.
I also think the resolution isn’t on par as MEST, though imaging, depth and coherency is pretty good. But that said, I don’t think this is a bad unit on my first listen. It’s enjoyable to hear and I don’t think it has many dealbreaker flaws for the price, except it shares the same name as one of my fav iems i’ve heard.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Great write up! I also really like the case the Mini-MEST comes in! lol
Great review @antdroid. I really enjoyed reading it as always.
Just posted my MEST review. Obviously thought it’s fantastic. MEST = BEST. Sorry @antdroid for shilling my own review everywhere hahah.
Everything I research somehow lands with you having already reviewed it
I have the Odin incoming (which I know you love). Do you feel have MEST is redundant or adds value for some use cases?
I have the Nio for fun listening. And was thinking Odin to be my flagship for detail etc…
I thought I would mention the 64audio U12t and QDC Anole VX for ultimate detail retrieval. The VX is overall a bit brighter, so it might complement the Nio a bit more imo. They’re both a lot less expensive than the Odin, so that’s good too I have the MEST coming in this week and I also own the Nio, so I will be able to compare them and let you know soon enough !
The UM MEST is my favorite “fun” tuned IEM and something I use when I’m somewhere where I’d rather not have >$3,000 of IEM in my ears.
I really like the mids on the MEST as well. There’s a sort of richness about them, without them becoming congested or thick or tonally shifted, that I don’t get with other IEMs.
I can’t say if it’d be redundant with the Nio … since I’ve not compared them back to back.
Sound wise, I could easily make the Odin my only IEM (dodgy situations notwithstanding).
I just got this in from the Head-fi loaner tour.
To my ear, this is a highly detailed, generally agreeable yet occasionally odd sounding IEM.
Detail - Outstanding treble detail, and good image clarity overall.
Soundstage - Odd stage. Realistic and spacious, yes, but also somewhat disjointed at times. I was listening to a particular sax tone on a track called “Dawn Lit Metropolis” by Ill Considered, and it seemed to move its position from far to intimate. Is this in the mix? This isn’t as noticeable on other headphones… but maybe.
Speed and dynamics - Okay this is a tough one. Compared to similarly priced DD and hybrid IEMs, I find the MEST to be somewhat lacking on the dynamics side of things some of the time. Other times it’s decently engaging. This is one that changes a lot depending on the track for me.
Tonal balance - Mostly innoffensive V shape, without too much on the bass side. It’s also occasionally sibilant around 6khz. I think the main issue is that it lacks midrange body and this makes the emphasized 6khz region stand out a bit much. But for the most part the treble sounds reasonably well balanced with exceptional treble extension as well and importantly it comes down again at the right spot too, so it doesn’t have the dreaded ‘shimmer’ effect (even though yes we’re bypassing that part of the ear anyway hah). I think this one is worth experimenting with tip rolling a lot because when you get it right it’s got really good treble balance, even if occasionally a bit hot on the consonants.
So far I think it’s priced appropriately. If I were to compare it to the Campfire Ara, I prefer the Ara’s treble balance for the most part, but the MEST has more bass presence and a more even - though withdrawn - midrange. They have similar detail with maybe a slight edge to the MEST. Speed and dynamics I’d give to the Ara, but again this may change depending on source, tips and other things.
Great writeup, thanks for sharing!
Very nice writeup. A great read.
Thank you @Titienne ! Would especially love to hear your comparison to the Nio!
Thanks again @Torq !!
Thanks @Resolve! Excellent review. So far your picks (and @taronlissimore 's) have matched for my ear perfectly.
You guys loving the U12t, was a perfect match for me. Then I followed your review for Nio, and also enjoy it tremendously. I picked it over Hero per what you guys suggested. Odin is incoming!!
Since I am using the Nio for a fun listen…I was wondering your take of MEST vs Nio. Does MEST deliver something Nio is missing? Which do you prefer for sound overall? Worth owning both?
Btw… I talked to @taronlissimore about the Cobalt issue with the iPhone and he may have talked to you about it. Thanks to @torq prior testing, I was able to troubleshoot it to the end. It is not great with sensitive, low impedance IEMs like Nio or U12t because of the specs, but…when playing off of another device like laptop, they work great. The only way to make it work on the iPhone is to plug in power into the USB 3 Camera adapter. It needs the juice for some reason. I’ve been trying to get Audioquest support to acknowledge it, but seems like no luck so far. I would love them to fix it. Defeats the purpose of a portable USB stick. Per @torq conclusions:
“It sounds nice, subjectively, even if it underperforms the Red version on a technical and fidelity level. It works okay from a laptop, but it’s barely usable on an iOS device (iPhone or iPad) with IEMs and headphones that the the Red and Black models can handle without issue.”
“lower-power microprocessor (necessary because the new DAC chip is a power-hog) and still wind up needing 50% more power than the Red AND being useless with low-impedance transducers.”
Also, if you ever want to use an iPhone as a source for the Focal Arche…same requirement. Need to power the USB Camera 3 adapter, to charge the iphone, and the Arche will work. Without it, Arche needs a more robust USB source.
Thank you to all three of you…learning so much and thoroughly enjoying music like I never thought possible from the comfort of my home or road.
@Resolve any chance of a MEST V’s Z1R comparison? it would be interesting to hear you thoughts when comparing these two upper mid-tier ‘behemoths’
Old school v’s new kid on the block?
Apologies if I missed this, but following on from @Titienne was mentioning about the VX. I’d love to hear folks thought on the two against each other. I’m a huge VX fan boy. This vs all of the glowing MEST comments sound VERY intriguing.