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Unique Melody Mage - Design and Fit

By Edward Chester
Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

8/10

Review Price £575.00

The Unique Melody Mage earphones are incredibly well made, the surface of the plastic being super smooth and the seam between the main body of the earpiece and the cap being essentially invisible. The thickness of plastic also suggests they will endure considerable stress and strain. That said, being made from hard plastic they will crack if put under undue strain. What's more, they're also large and so create a sizable bulge in your pocket, making them more susceptible to knocks.

The quality of the etchings is excellent, as is the presentation of the brushed metal plate. Essentially they look perfect. That said, one can hardly call a pair of customs cool. No matter what finish you choose they do look rather big and ugly in the hand and slightly hearing aid-like when in the ear. Okay, perhaps ugly is too strong a word but the B&W C5s or Klipsch X10is they are not.

Unique Melody Mage 4

Removable cables are used to ensure that a snagged cable won't result in a costly repair, with replacements costing a sensible £25. The way the cables adjoin the mould isn't perhaps the most elegant but it's a simple, effective and sturdy connection.

The cable itself is also surprisingly lightweight. We can take or leave the open twisted design but the thin and light construction keeps microphony to a minimum and makes them easy to manage. The only concern is that they're perhaps a bit too lightweight and thus not that rugged but as they can be replaced this shouldn't concern unless you plan to wear them onstage every night. As is customary for earphones worn with the cable running over the ear, the last inch and a half of the cable incorporates a malleable wire for keeping the cable tucked neatly behind your ear.

You can also get a replacement silver cable, which (after we published the initial review) we were sent to test. This is beautifully crafted from thick pure silver cabling plated together and terminated in a high quality gold plated jack connector - it certainly looks the part. It doesn't incorporate a wire for moulding the cable round your ear but we didn't find this at all problematic, and in fact it proved to us that which we've thought for a while; that you don't really need malleable cables. The thicker nature of the cable did introduce a bit more microphony, though. Of course the proof of the pudding is in the listening and indeed it does seem to improve things. In short, it's a bit like adding a decent headphone amp, providing improved bass response and just generally a bit more presence to the sound. Indeed, as much as anything the 'phones simply seemed a tad louder with this cable attached. We definitely approved. However, with it costing £140 it's not an option we'd recommend going for until you've had some time with the normal cable.

Unique Melody Mage

A pure silver cable upgrade is also available

So far so good then. However, when it came to fitting these IEMs we were initially a bit disappointed. The hard plastic felt rather uncomfortable, particularly as it delves so deep into your ear canal, and sonically they were underwhelming. This is by admission a more trebly set of IEMs than some but we found bass to be almost completely lacking, with us needing to press the earpieces hard into our ears to get any bass response. They also didn't seem to seal out background noise all that well.

Then, after a few weeks use, the penny dropped – they just didn't fit correctly. This is very much the danger with custom IEMs, particularly hard plastic ones - as opposed to the rubbery silicon of the ACS range - as you can't try before you buy, but thankfully Unique Melody has you covered. You get up to a month to decide if the fit is correct and if not you can get new impressions taken and the IEMs remade, which is precisely what we did.

Unique Melody Mage 1

We were also informed that you can ask for the voicing to be tailored slightly to suit your preferences and duly we asked for a little more bass to be squeezed from them.

The resulting pair are like Wee Bear's bed; just right. They fit comfortably, block out noise incredibly effectively and bass response improved massively.

That said, there are still a few comfort and usability issues. As they're both large and rigid they can't be worn when sleeping or resting your head on its side. They're also rather awkward to fit and remove, though you do get the hang of it somewhat. Perhaps of most concern for those looking for a set of IEMs for all purposes, though, is they're not great for exercising and particularly running. Because the plastic is so rigid, once you're hot and sweaty the jolt of running causes the seal against your ear canal to constantly break resulting in an irritating slapping noise. This is one area where a traditional foam or rubber tipped universal IEM has a distinct advantage.

So clearly these aren't the IEMs for every situation but, for general commuting, street wondering and home/work listening use, what's most important is sound quality and that's where the Mage really begin to shine.

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Pbryanw

August 16, 2011, 11:41 pm

Seeing how custom moulds improved these IEMs, it's made me wonder whether buying ACS silicon moulds would be worth the outlay for me?

I would be using them with my Shure SE315s - I'm just wondering whether I would be better off sticking to my foamies, or whether it's only worth buying them for IEMs costing over £400 (like the Mage)?

ryanw

August 17, 2011, 4:08 am

I noticed that Unique Melody also offer a reshelling service for your standard IEMs - by the looks of it, you get all the advantages of customs without the high price. It might be worth looking into: http://uniquemelody.co.uk/products.php#reshelling

Ed

August 17, 2011, 1:31 pm

@Pbryanw:

Difficult one to call actually. My gut instinct is to say not to bother as you'll get a much larger boost in performance buy simply buying a better set of IEMs. But then again you've already put down the cash for your 315s and you wouldn't recoup much of that back by selling them, in which case a custom shell would be a good upgrade. I'd be more encouraging were you getting the flush fit of the T2s, as you can literally sleep in those, but you're unlikely to find the 315s sit quite that comfortably.

@ryanw:
Well, reshelling costs £175 so if you go and buy yourself a decent set of IEMs the total cost wont be dissimilar. Moreover, in the case of the SE315, the reshelling would actually cost more than the original headphone, and that really wouldn't be a sensible upgrade.

Pbryanw

August 17, 2011, 6:57 pm

Thanks to both of you for your help. I was going to get the SE315s for my birthday, so haven't received them yet. From the sounds of it (thanks Ed) the sensible option would be to spend the extra I was going to spend on ACS moulds, towards an upgrade to the SE425s (which received a pretty decent review on TrustedReviews).

Ed

August 17, 2011, 9:52 pm

Yes, moving up to the 425s would definitely be a good move. They're a great set of IEMs.

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