Unique Melody reached out to me about a month ago, wanting to send me something for review. As mentioned in my impressions post, after a long discussion about my listening preferences and preferred sound signature, we landed on their newest flagship, the Maestro V2. With 12 drivers per side, it certainly has the specifications to match the likes of Noble Audio, 64Audio, and JH Audio in their flagship products.
Fit and Form
I received the headphones packaged nicely in their machined aluminum puck. With a very sturdy, screw-off lid and a rubber gasket to seal the case, I felt no qualms about carrying these around with me, as the case is extremely hardy. There is only room for the headphones with the cable attached, though, because isn't much internal space that might accommodate extra eartips or a cleaning tool, per se. Speaking of eartips, a pair of nice, foam eartips were included with my package, although no others were. I have to assume that this is not the retail packaging, so I can't comment on the full gamut of accessories that are normally included with the headphones.
The included cable is very nice. It's triple braided from the 2-pin connectors at each earpiece down to the small, but apparently well-made, Y-splitter. From there down to the 1/8" TRS connector, it is sextuple braided. This design is not unravel-able through its construction, thankfully, so I don't foresee any longevity issues here. The auxiliary connector itself is very high-quality, though it is somewhat heavy and a little bit large. Even with its size, I had no issue plugging it into my phone through my case, as the headphones' 20 Ω impedance and 109 dB SPL sensitivity allows them to be used easily with any portable player, including phones.
The cable is noticeably microphonic when no music is playing, but with the restrictor pulled up close to my chin and music playing, that goes away almost entirely. Additionally, there is plastic tubing in the shape of the back of the pinna at the headphone connector-end of the cable that helps the cable stay conformed to the shape of the user's ear, which worked well in my use. These stayed in very well and, with the foam tips inserted properly, I had essentially no issues with them falling out, even when running. Isolation is very good, with very little sound leaking in, and very little sound leaking out.
With all this minutia, I've yet to comment on the actual, physical design of the headphones. I have very small conchas, so the headphones do protrude from my ear a little bit, but I've become accustomed to that with almost all in-ears. The headphones are, however, well-suited to fit in the concha, even if mine simply aren't that deep. Aside from fit, they are very attractive, with a "UM" logo placed tastefully on top of a carbon fiber inlay, that remains relatively subtle until viewed directly. These won't turn heads, but they are very pretty when seen closely, which I think is better than simply being ostentatious eye-candy.
These lay very close to neutral. There is, however, a slight bass emphasis, which I've come to see more and more frequently, particularly in higher-end offerings. If this is the shift that the market is taking, from V-shaped, mid-recessed sound signatures, I'd be very happy, but we'll have to wait and see to tell if this becomes the new trend. This sound signature reminds me, in some ways, of the ZMF Classic, although considerably more refined. Mids are forward and very realistic, with fulfilling and tasteful bass, and easily extended treble.
Soundstage is just about about average for a pair of closed-back IEMs, with image and separation being considerably above average. Tracks feel particularly well-layered, with great cohesion between the individual parts, while still keeping enough distinction between them to be technically appreciable.
Songs used: I Never Woke Up in Handcuffs Before by Hans Zimmer, Three Ralphs by DJ Shadow, and Viol by Gesaffelstein
Slow is absolutely the last word that I'd use to describe the bass that these headphones create. It is completely exacting, but not in an unpleasant or disconcerting way. It simply conveys exactly what the artist initially intended (in electronic music) or, in the case of acoustic music, what the microphones picked up from the instruments and the way that the sound engineer manipulated that. It is extremely well-textured, with the main aspect that stuck out to me being their control. No sloppiness here. Sub-bass extension is great - a little bit more emphasized than on Noble Audio's Kaiser Encore. There's just a little bit more rumble there, without, again, losing control or their sense of touch. These handled everything that I could think to throw at them with grace, in regards to this frequency range.
Key descriptors: satisfying, clean, and controlled
Songs used: Animus Vox by The Glitch Mob, Spain by Jake Shimabukuro, and Summer Dress by July Talk
Just as with the Kaiser Encore, what struck me most about the mids was the realism. The imaging and separation play into the pleasantness of this range, as per usual (in the higher-end market), with every sound coming across not only as tonally accurate, but as positionally correct. I experienced no shoutiness here, which was the only mark I found against the Kaiser Encore. As an aside, please excuse the frequent references to the KE: I am referring to it so frequently because it is a market competitor in this price-range, and I feel that the comparison is warranted.
Beyond imaging and positioning and separation and tonal accuracy, the mids are very engaging. With their forward presentation, vocals, instruments, and electronic sections all came through right the forefront of the image, without leaving me looking for them, in the slightest. If anything, they lean ever-so-slightly towards lush, without sacrificing their sense of micro-detail and control.
Key descriptors: forward, natural, and satiating
Songs used: K.K.P.D. by Christian Scott, First by Cold War Kids, and Morphogene by Machinedrum feat. Ruckazoid
The treble is very detailed, with great extension, likely as a result of Unique Melody's dedication of two drivers to only the highest end of the frequency spectrum. Cymbals have terrific definition and fidelity, and they're an absolute pleasure to hear through these headphones. Overtones and harmonics are correctly emphasized, which is part of what lends the mid-range frequencies their natural sound. Really not much offensive here, aside from one or two bouts with sibilance in particularly upper-mid-emphasized tracks, by their mastering. The treble adds some much needed air to the image, which allows them to be a more engaging listen than otherwise, given their average soundstage.
Key descriptors: extended, airy, and detailed
Minutia and Miscellaneous
Not much to say here, which I've found myself saying more and more frequently in my reviews. Perhaps I'm just migrating what I used to put here into other sections, in parts; perhaps in higher-end products, there just is less to gripe on. But, I will see if this continues to happen in future reviews across price-range and, if so, will just pull the section from my format. If I'm really looking to nitpick, I do think that the auxiliary connector is a bit too heavy for the portable form factor, but at the same time, it does feel particularly premium. In the end, that's up to the user, themselves.
Well, writing this review actually helped me put together my thoughts for this wrap-up. What I think the key difference between the Noble Audio Kaiser Encore (and I know this is not a direct comparison post) and these headphones is that what the KE gains in sheer "wow" factor, it loses in a little bit of upper-mid shoutiness, whereas these headphones remain almost entirely competent, technically speaking, in every range, and that was much more appreciable in deeper analytical listening. Additionally, I will admit that the KE has these beat in terms of soundstage and control of imaging and separation, but only by a little bit. These are an absolutely, phenomenally competent pair of headphones, and are entirely pleasurable on a casual listen, but even more so on an analytical listen. Huge props to Unique Melody for putting this together and for sending it out to me, and I hope to hear more of their offerings in the near future.
These headphones were provided to me for review by Unique Melody. I am not being paid by anyone to write this review, to endorse the product reviewed, or for the content that I put in the review.
These headphones were powered by an Astell&Kern AK Junior, a Google Pixel, a Neurochrome HP-1, an iFi Pro iCan, and by whatever soundcard is in the motherboard of my computer.
I have had these headphones for about three weeks, and I have put about 20 hours of analytical listening through them during that period.