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Unique Melody Mage - Sound Quality and Verdict

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


The Unique Melody Mage pack in no less than four balanced armature drivers, with two to drive the low end and two for the mid-range and upper frequencies. In contrast, the ACS T2 use two drivers while the Unique Melody Aero and past favourites the Shure SE535 use three.

Despite this mass of drivers the Mage are incredibly sensitive and easy to drive. We regularly found a single press of the volume button (from mute) on an iPhone resulted in too loud a signal for prolonged listening. Instead we'd have to use the volume slider to pick out a point half way between. Indeed, using some headphone amps that introduce some hiss, we had to employ a noise attenuator (inline volume control) so we could crank the volume and drown out the hiss. We do have particularly sensitive ears, though. If you do like to drive your ears to destruction the Mage will happily oblige without distortion, even when amped and cranked, but generally you can get away without extra amplification.

That said, adding a headphone amp into the mix does bring out the Mage's full potential. The bottom end tightens up sounding more precise and punchy while overall articulation is improved. This adds yet more detail and a wider sound stage to what is already an incredibly accurate sounding set of 'phones.

Unique Melody Mage

The graph of our original set of Mages. Comparing to similar readouts for other IEMs, you can see there are clear spikes at around the 3k and 8k points, emphasising the mid-high range bias.

Unique Melody Mage

The graph of our bass-boosted Mages. You can clearly see the extra two or three dB added to the lower (below 1KHz) section of the graph.

Looking at that sound in a bit more detail, this set is primarily sold as a one to appeal to lovers of detailed high-end, rather than booming bass. High frequencies simply sparkle bringing a huge amount of life to recordings of all types, all without sounding sibilant. Combined with the vast overall frequency range this particularly helps to spread the sound stage far and wide, making these one of the most expansive sets or IEMs we've ever used. Instrument separation is also stunning. From picking out the multi-tracking used to add beef to Dimebag Darrell's heavy metal guitar riffing to being able to almost count the number of 1st violins used in the intro to the "Nimrod" movement of Elgar's Enigma variations, no other IEM we've heard can match these.

Mid-range is also exceptional with guitars, piano, vocals and the like all coming through with real vigour and realism. This is somewhat similar to the ever popular Shure range but the Mage add handfuls of brightness as well, thanks to that sparkling top-end.

Unique Melody Mage

What you don't get with this set, though, is a huge thumping bass sound. Despite having the low end bumped up on our review set, these are still a fairly delicate set of IEMs. That's not to say bass isn't there. The range is vast with the lowest rumblings faithfully recreated, but it just doesn't hit you in the face. It sounds pretty close to perfect to our ears, providing bombast when called upon but not colouring the sound when daintiness is what's required. What's more it has an incredibly quick bass response, thanks in part to low-end responsibilities being shared between two drivers, meaning that while the hit from fast trance or heavy metal music isn't quite as hard as some alternatives the accuracy is all there.

Unique Melody Mage

The only complaint we have is that the boost that Unique Melody has applied doesn't appear to be entirely smooth, with it sounding just a little forced sometimes – like when a sub is set at too high a volume and suddenly kicks in when a note within its frequency range pipes up. It's a subtle thing and it certainly wouldn't put us off but it does make us doubly intrigued to hear the Unique Melody Merlin that use four balanced armature drivers and a dynamic driver to naturally provide a more bass-heavy sound.

It's also worth reiterating that we're judging these phones having asked for a bit of a bass bump, so if you want to match this performance you'll have to ask for similar. From our time with the default sound signature – bearing in mind the fit wasn't perfect – we'd suggest they are a little too lacking in bass for heavy metal fans in particular but also anyone that likes a thumping bass line. For classical, jazz and acoustic fans, though, they're excellent.


The Unique Melody Mage are quite simply the most sparklingly detailed set of In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) we've ever tested. Certainly for acoustic and classical music we've heard none better. In there natural state bass response is a bit light but, being a custom set, you can ask for this to be boosted and the result is a great all round sound. Indeed sonically these are among our favourite IEMs. Where they wobble a bit is with their construction. They're beautifully crafted and the choice of finished is astounding but the hard plastic shell, as used by most other custom IEMs, just can't match the comfort of the soft silicon used on the ACS range. For general listening this isn't an issue but if you'd like for your headphones to go with you everywhere, including for jogs round the park and when slumbering, then the ACS T2s may still be your best bet, though sonically they are a step down. We also wish a few more accessories were included in the box.

As to whether to go for custom or regular IEMs, if you get the fit right then nothing compares to the comfort, noise isolation and sound stage of a custom but when you can get the quad driver Westone 4, for instance, for around £300, the £555 required for the Mage is a bit eye watering. Nonetheless these remain one of the most competitively priced custom IEMs on the market in the UK and sonically they totally live up to their billing.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design & Features 9
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Value 8


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)?


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


August 17, 2011, 1:31 pm


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.

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.


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).


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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