Unique Melody MEST Mk 2 Review


A year ago, the Unique Melody MEST was released and it gained quite a following in the audio circles. In my personal take of this quad-brid IEM, I absolutely loved it, giving both the universal and custom models high marks for its balanced sound-signature, excellent resolution, and imaging, and natural sound that featured a unique bone conduction driver, along with the very popularly used Sonion electrostatic tweeter drivers. 

Unique Melody has taken feedback from the community and released an updated Mk II version that is sold to the western audiences. They had already release special versions of the original MEST in Japan and Hong Kong/China, but had not targeted a special version elsewhere until now.

Configuration & Unboxing


The MK II version of the MEST keeps the same driver configuration mostly, except replaces the original bone conduction driver, with a new double-sided version that increases its frequency range that it can play around in. The rest of the driver config remains the same with a single dynamic driver, four balanced armatures, and a pair of electrostatic tweeters. 


Along with the driver swap, the shell design was changed to closer match the models developed to the Asian markets. This meant the large size of the original MEST was shrunk down and is now a much smaller form factor that'll fit more users comfortably and easily. I can attest to this, as the original MEST was pretty large and may not have been the most comfortable IEMs I've tried. This new updated design is very comfortable for me.

Along with the small shape, there are some small little changes with the nozzle, the vents, as well as the design. Gone away are the red or blue flakes inside carbon fabric, but instead, the red or blue flake options are now gold flakes. I prefer this black and gold combo more than the red or blue options of the past. There are also additional green, purple and other design choices now available if one goes with a custom model, however the universal is only available in gold/black.

The big bulky cable that came with the original MEST and Mini MEST has also been replaced. This time, the company partnered with PW Audio and created a custom black braided cable called the Copper M2 cable. This new cable is still on the big side, but its significantly easier to handle, is more supple, and the build quality is fantastic. The connectors and the splitter are well made and feel great, and the overall quality is just better. While I quickly tossed the original MEST cable back into the box, this new PW Cable has stayed attached to the MK II the entire time.



Finally, the other new additions to this package are including a new magnetic clip for storing the cables or buttoning it to your shirt, and including a set of Azla tips. These tips were an extremely popular choice among those in the communities and including it directly in the box is a big win for the company. These were my preferred choice of tips with the original MEST MK1.

Like the previous models, Unique Melody includes their custom collaboration case with Dignis. This bright blue case is a very attractive and wonderful way to store the IEMs and additional accessories in. All in all, it looks like UM really went out of their way to work with premium companies across the board to get the best accessories they could within the price budget here, and provide a very nice and ready for use end item for customers. 

These little upgrades do come with a small price hike though. The MEST MKII comes in at $1499 USD, which is about a $100 USD price increase over the original MEST last year. At this time, I do want to make sure to disclaim that this review sample was provided to me from UM directly, but they do not influence or review the words and thoughts in my writing process here. Thank you Leo and UM for providing this review unit!

Full Unboxing Video



Sound Impressions


The Unique Melody MEST MK 2 spent the majority of my listening time attached to the Lotoo PAW 6000 digital audio player. I used this DAP as both a portable player around the house or in the office, or connected directly to my computer as a USB DAC. Typically when in DAC mode, I used Roon and HQPlayer as the music player, while using the DAP as the DAC/Amp.

In addition to this pairing, I also used the MEST MK2 with the all-new Topping D30 Pro and A30 Pro DAC and Amp stack. This dac/amp pairing is a bit more incisive and forward than the Lotoo. Finally, I also spent a short time with pairing the MEST Mk2 with the Shanling M3X DAP, as well as the Meizu USB-C dongle attached to a Samsung Galaxy S21 phone.




The Unique Melody MEST Mk2 presents a very well-balanced sound signature, with a pleasant bass boost, a relaxed mid-range and a treble region that's generally sweet, but has a little bit of excitement too it, and well extended. In terms of how it compares to the original MEST Mk1, there's a small addition of warmer lower-mids, a punchier bass, and a reduced 6KHz spike, but also just slightly more treble overall, especially in the upper harmonics. This gives the MEST Mk2, a slightly, slightly, more fun sound and one that I am enjoying. Let's go into a little more detail.

The MEST MK2's biggest change is its bone conductor driver, which is now two-sided. While I can't say I felt anything or could hear how it affected the sound in any clear way, there is definitely a tuning difference between the two, though subtle, but welcomed. When the original model came out, I thought it was an interesting and deeply engaging sound, which a unique presentation.

The MK2 model now takes on all the good things about the original, but tidies up the loose ends, and make this set a more refined, but also a more fun and enjoyable one for all music genres to me. The changes are subtle, but its noticeable.

In the low end, the UM bumped the bass quantity ever so slightly by 2-ish dB SPL and this small increase gives the presentation of kick drums and bass guitars are more defined and impactful presentation. Don't get me wrong, the original was plenty bassy for me, but it did have a bigger focus on sub-bass performance than mid-bass. The tuning differences that UM added in this model improve the mid-bass performance to work better with rock music genres where there's a lot more electric bass and kick drums leading the way.

The sub-bass performance does not seem impacted by this. In Massive Attack's "Angel", the sub-bass pounds with might, and the kick drum sounds are punchy with great detail and texture. When I popped on the original MEST CIEM (Custom), it still hits hard, but not quite as much as the MK2 universal. The MK2 slams.

This additional bass quantity really helps add a meatier and engaging mid-range that can sometimes feel a little thin on the original MEST. I wouldn't call the original one thin in general, but there were times when the upper mid-range's peaks could cause the general sound to lack some lushness. With this, I do find the MEST MK2 works better than the original MEST when it comes to male rock vocals. I enjoyed listening to Chris Cornell's wallows, and Chris Stapleton's southern folk rock vocals. 

The upper-mids are really improved on this new MEST MK2 in my opinion. In the original version, there were some benefits to having a peak in the presence range, explained later, but it did have some drawbacks. First, I felt that this did occasionally added sharpness and a little too much bite on guitar plucks and strings, which can make some of my favorite music from bands like popular bluegrass bands Nickel Creek and Alison Krauss have a little too much twang at times. It also affected some higher pitched female vocals like Krauss or someone like Lauren Mayberry, where their vocals sound a tad strained. For the most part though, this wasn't much of an issue, but I can see some people who are sensitive to this region, take some offense to it.


The MK2 tames this peak down, while still retaining the same softness and ease of the upper-midrange that I really liked on the MK1 and reminds me more of how the custom model sounds than the universal version of the MK 1. The three versions have their differences, and so I do find the MK2 is in-between the Custom and Universal MK1 versions in this sense. 

In some ways, the original MEST had the unique presence peak that made imaging and soundstage very holographic and spherical. I don't necessarily find the soundstage to be as bubbly in this case. To me, the MK2 has more of a traditional soundstage presentation, where things come at you left and right, top and bottom, and forward. But it doesn't necessarily encompass me like the original did. So, in this sense the MK2 doesn't compete with the MK1's presentation capabilities, but it still has a solid soundstage that is fairly wide and deep and something that sounds a little more traditional for IEMs and headphones, and less of one that seems like its been fed through a cross-feed manipulator, when compared to the original MEST.

The treble range is, like the original MEST, leans bright, but has a nice smoothness to it that is helped by the EST drivers. The treble range is extended, and I don't feel like I am missing much in the entire range of instrumental harmonics of the music I typically listen to. Cymbal and Hi-Hat splashes are controlled and don't have a fatiguing sound that I can occasionally get with the MEST CIEM, and feels more aligned with how the MEST Universal sounds. 

The imaging and resolution qualities are still intact from the original versions of this product. The MK2 has good instrumental separation, which is on display with an a nice incision and a forward, but wide presentation of "Goodbye is All We Have" from Alison Krauss and Union Station.

Source/Impedance Synergy


One last note before I wrap up this review is that, like the original MEST, the MEST MK2 exhibits similar changes in sound when using different sources due to its sensitivity to source output impedances. The above graph illustrates this with measurements taken at 4 different output impedances (0.5, 2.7, 20, and 75 ohm). 

With increasing source impedance, the MEST MK2 increases its bass quantity, while also dipping down in the mids and upper treble. This gives the overall sound a bassier and slightly darker sound, so if someone felt there wasn't enough low end oomph, the easy way to fix it is to get something like the iFi Ear Buddy or IEMatch and bump up the impedance slightly, or get a a bigger 20 ohm adapter to adjust accordingly. I used the Hiby 4.4mm 20 ohm impedance adapter in this case.

Overall


To me, this is a nice all-rounder overall. I am enjoying it daily with a wide-variety of music and that's typically the type of IEM I reach for most of the time, since my music rotation is pretty eclectic and all over the place. I may go from bluegrass to alternative rock to jazz to hip hop and back to country and on to electropop or new wave. It's a constant rotation of something different, and the MEST MK2 is even better at this than the original version in my eyes.

As some may know, I do put this type of all-rounder capability on a higher pedestal than niche products, but that doesn't mean I don't like one-off guilty pleasures or other genre-specific products if they are executed well. The MEST MK2 does fall into the same type of category and in the summit of my favorites along with other great all-rounders like the 64 Audio U12T and the Sony IER-M9.

This is a nice overall package, from every little detail put into stuffing the box with premium tips, cable, and case, and a welcomed re-design of the already stellar MEST MK1. The new smaller form factor is the biggest change in my eyes that makes it worth it for someone like me with small ears to upgrade. It makes this a very pain-free experience that has the sonic pleasure to go with it.

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Comments

  1. You know you gotta get a ciem now lol

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  2. Lovely review and in fact, the review which made me go out and upgrade my Mk1’s to Mk2’s! Hence I genuinely “thank you”. Completely echo your thoughts now on upper bass and lower mids… lacking for me personally on Mk1. Oh my god! These Mk2’s really slam as you say! I’ve now reached out to all those tricky albums I just “avoided” with the Mk1’s. Exemplary. End game IEM. End of … or at least I hope! Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's great that you found your endgame iem!!

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