Unique Melody ME.1 Pros&Cons

Pros

  • Signature once EQ’d
  • Looks and feels premium
  • Planar magnetic technology

Cons

  • Needs to be EQ’d
  • Comfort can be hit-and-miss

 

Unique Melody ME.1 Specs

  • Impedance: 23.1 Ω
  • Driver configuration: 18.5mm Planar magnetic driver
  • Sensitivity: 109dB @1kHz
  • Cable length: 120cm
  • Weight: 54g incl. cable

me1-box

Packaging

This is one area where Unique Melody deserve major props. The packaging for the ME.1 is absolutely exquisite. Removing the all-black outer-sleeve leaves us with a high quality wooden box which bears nothing more than a blue Unique Melody badge.

me1-wood-box

Lifting up the wooden box’s lid reveals what looks like a business card (which merely contains the Unique Melody logo on the front and the serial number and other warranty-related info on the back), along with a really strange round-shaped silicone object. As it turns out, the strange object actually doubles as both a storage case of sorts for the ME.1, and a cable spool. It’s unconventional, but very interesting nonetheless. It’s not exactly particularly compact, but it does keep things neat and tidy.
Underneath the light-grey coloured foam that surrounds the storage case and warranty card is a somewhat hidden extra accessories. What we have here is yet another case, but this time it contains the ME.1’s additional accessories.

me1-open-boxWhat’s in the box?

  • Unique Melody ME.1
  • Silicone cable spool/storage case
  • Soft carrying/storage case
  • 4 x Pair of silicon eartips
  • 4 x Pair of foam eartips
  • 1/4-inch adapter
  • Aircraft adapter
  • Cleaning tool

me1-accessories

Accessories

Unique Melody actually included quite a few extras with the ME.1. First up we have a pretty interesting rubber/silicone case. What’s great about this specific style of case is that it not only protects the ME.1, but its design also means that the cable is always neatly wrapped up to avoid it getting tangled. A total of 16 eartips are included (4 pairs of foam and 4 pairs of silicon), and both a 1/4-inch and aircraft adapter is thrown in too, as well as a little cleaning tool which is used to remove wax from the bore of the eartips and ME.1’s nozzle. Lastly there is a soft neoprene case which can comfortably hold the ME.1, eartips, cleaning tool and adapters.

 

Design

What we have here is something quite unconventional. You see, the ME.1 not only features a planar magnetic driver, but it’s also a semi-open-back design. This is somewhat similar to what Audeze has done with their iSine 10 and iSine 20, but in a considerably more compact package.


Whilst the ME.1 is also available in both red and blue colour variants, the black demo model we’ve received definitely looks quite understated compared to the others. The most noticeable change from the vast majority of other IEMs out there is of course the open back grille which looks somewhat similar to the open-back grille designs of the likes of Audeze’s full-sized headphones. It’s very intriguing, to say the least.

me1-face
There are 2 areas of slight concern, though. This first being that the ME.1’s nozzle does not have a barb, meaning that some larger-bore eartips may slip off. Thankfully it’s not a narrow-bore nozzle, so the friction alone should be enough to keep the majority of eartips firmly in place. And speaking of the nozzle, Unique Melody have incorporated a really strangle coil-like object into the nozzle. Presumably this affects the tuning of the ME.1, and doesn’t seem like something which has been designed to be removed.
The 2nd area of concern is that the housing’s isn’t ergonomics (and ultimately comfort) is somewhat of a hit-and-miss affair. Whilst some users and reviewers have hailed the ME.1’s design as being one of the most ergonomic designs they’ve come across, I personally just couldn’t seem to gel with it. The housing is rather bulky too. I have larger ears than the vast majority of people, yet I still found myself needing to use some of the smaller eartips in order to get the ME.1 to fit in my ears properly, otherwise they just stuck out too far.

me1-cableThat cable though…WOW! The ME.1 has what is probably the nicest cable I’ve come across. It looks to be a silver and copper hybrid cable, and the pinkish-orangy colour is quite something to behold. It’s pretty darn soft too, which means that cable tangle isn’t really an issue here.
Overall, the ME.1 does feel very well constructed, just not very well designed form an ergonomics perspective.

The ME.1 is also available in a fully custom moulded version, which pushes the cost up by around $300.

 

Sound

OK, first off, planar magnetic technology is kinda all the rage now. However, the ME.1 is one of only maybe a handful of IEMs that actually have a encorporated this type of driver.

Fans of planars usually cite this type of driver as having deep, impactful bass, and just an overall very linear signature. This certainly isn’t the case with the ME.1
Overall it has a rather lean and hollow sound. It’s not that bass is missing, but it just doesn’t have much impact. But, it’s when we move onto vocals that the Me.1 is just rather weird. Females vocals in particular lack presence, and everything just sounds distant and nasally.
However, this seems to be somewhat because of the semi-open-back design. Because, when I brought my fingers up and blocked off the rear vents, vocals instantly became much more enjoyable. They had presence, and their location was clearly defined. This is not to say that this is an inevitable consequence of a semi-open-back design, though, as full-szie open-backed headphones have demonstrated that they can still produce great sound despite the lack of driver isolation. So, perhaps if Unique Melody just didn’t have so much ventilation, the ME.1 would’ve sounded better out of the box.

A couple of users and reviewers have suggested that, in order for the ME.1 to really shine, it needs some EQ work. Here, I couldn’t agree more. Increasing the sliders for the upper mid-range area really does help the ME.1 considerably, and adding a little more in the bass areas helped too. It’s such an improvement that I’m honestly flabbergasted as to why Unique Melody didn’t spend more time to give the ME.1 a better tuning. Clearly the capability is very much there for it to really sound great!

me1-design

So, let’s consider the sound quality once you have applied a little EQ work. Simply put, the ME.1 is pretty remarkable. It’s actually genuinely satisfying to see how well this IEM responds to an EQ.
It’s got a very coherent sound, and the clarity I’d say is on par with considerably more expensive reference-level IEMs like the ProPhile 8 (although that’s going entirely by memory). The only other way I can describe it is like the difference between a work of art hanging behind a clear pane of glass vs hanging behind a frosted or scratched-up pane. Of course, the clear pane makes MUCH more sense.

Read: Fiio F5 In-Ear Headphones Review


Value

This is a really tough one to call. On the one hand I wan’t to say that the ME.1 is probably one of the best IEMs I’ve ever tried, but then I have to force myself to remember that that is only true as long as a relatively simple EQ is applied. As such, taking into consideration the price tag of just under $800, is it really unreasonable to expect a set of IEMs to sound (at the very least) good straight out of the box? To be quite frank (and perhaps a bit harsh), the ME.1’s standard signature makes it a pretty useless product for me personally.  Of course, sound preference is a highly subjective matter, but in standard form the ME.1 just sounds weird.
I can’t help but wonder if Unique Melody spent so much R&D time on implementing the planar magnetic tech into a set of IEMs, that they kinda forgot about tuning the actual sound signature.
It’s quite a saving grace, to say the least, that the ME.1 does respond so incredibly well to an EQ, and perhaps serves as a very good example as to just how powerful an EQ can be as a tool.
Still, I feel that the ME.1’s price doesn’t quite reflect the products value, specifically when taking the default tuning into consideration. Perhaps if they dropped it by around $100 it would make more sense.

 

 Rating

The TECH MERIT rating system is designed to take as many aspects of the device into account as possible. As such, we have a basic rating, as well as a final rating. The basic rating rates the product purely as a high quality portable audio device, and is generally a good indicator of how it stacks up to its rivals in terms of standard features and specs. The final rating, however, grants bonus points for any extra features and specs that aren’t quite as common, and is a great way to judge the product as a complete package.


Packaging
Look and feel: 10 / 10

Included Accessories
More than 3 pairs of eartips included: YES
Protective case: YES

Build
Quality control: 10 / 10
Seems durable: YES
Microphonics: 9 / 10
Comfort: 7 / 10

Sound
Relatively balanced signature: –
Soundstage: 9 / 10
Detail retrieval: 8 / 10
Sibilance: 9 / 10
Instrument separation: 8 / 10
Isolation: 4 / 10
Hiss: 8 / 10


Portability

Small size: 8 / 10
Relatively low power required: 9 / 10
Weight: 9 / 10

Value
Competitive price-point: YES
Relative value:7 / 10

Basic Rating: 8.2

Bonus points
Removable cables: YES
Number of cables included: 1
Premium cables: YES
Pairs of eartips above 3 pairs: 5
How premium the case looks and feels: 4 / 10
Battery life above 8 hours: –
Bluetooth: –
Apt-X: –
Volume/remote controls: –
Metal body: –
Interchangeable filter system: –
Premium look and feel: YES
Use of exotic materials: –
Bluetooth connection quality: –
1/4” adapter included: YES
Cable management: YES
Aircraft adapter: YES

Final Rating: 8.7

 

The Competition:

Westone UM1 In Ear Headphones

Shure SE215 Headphones

 MEE Audio M7 Pro

 

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