Unique Melody Mirage In-Ear Monitor Review
While IEM makers like JH Audio, Campfire Audio and Ultimate Ears receive heaps of (well-deserved) attention and praise, Chinese manufacturer Unique Melody is one of those audio companies that seem to fly under the radar pretty easily. I'll admit, my own experience with their in-ears was fairly limited, but their stunning new designs, Maven ($1999) and Mirage ($1099) definitely caught my attention.
After reading some initial impressions on the prototypes and a bit of discussion with Unique Melody rep, Lawrance Lee, Mirage seemed like the model that would align more closely with my listening preferences. At $1099, Mirage is designed to be a mid-priced all-rounder; and enters into a hot $999 to $1299 price-point that puts it up against the likes of the ever-popular Campfire Andromeda ($1099), Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered ($999) and JH Audio JH13V2 Pro $1299) IEMs, and soon the extremely promising Meze Rai Penta ($1099).
It's a tough price point, with dead serious competition. But after about 10 seconds with the Mirage, I can tell you, Unique Melody isn't playing around.
The way the Mirage looks, feels and sounds is absolutely next level. The shells are a beautiful geometric shape, 3D printed with an ultra-thin and ultra-light titanium housing. They are solid and sturdy, with a brilliantly-crafted, ergonomic universal-fit that slips easily into the ear and stays secure with zero hassle. Unlike many other IEMs, getting a quick and easy fitment with optimal nozzle angle requires absolutely zero fidgeting our adjustment. They slip right into place and stay there, and they actually look great when they are in your ears, as well.
The Mirage is designed with three balanced armature drivers and a three-way crossover network. The midrange driver is especially unique, with a custom open design that gives the sound that easy, undistorted feel you get from an open headphone, and gives Mirage a particularly wide soundscape.
But the unique design is just the tip of the iceberg.
There's A Party In Your Ears...
Starting with the bass, Mirage's low end is absolutely explosive. I have never heard such explosive bass out of a single balanced armature. Never! The sub-bass frequencies slam and rumble with authority, showcasing great extension a very good clarity. Listening to "Hello Danger" opening track from the excellent Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse soundtrack, the Mirage put on one of the most visceral, dynamic bass performances I've ever heard from an IEM. Just for the heck of it, I flipped on the bass boost on the iDSD Black Label, and my jaw absolutely hit the floor with the level of slam a single BA could achieve!
The midbass was just as good, with unbelievable performance in terms of sheer physicality. The Mirage is absolutely visceral. Kicks pop with the kind of violent authority that only the top one or two percent of IEMs can muster, if that. This should be the benchmark every other manufacturer aims for in terms of physical dynamism. Mirage will have you absolutely rocking out, dancing in your chair and banging your head in no time flat.
Pacing from the bass is very good. Speedy enough to hang, though not what you'd call "electrostatic fast". It really had the feel of a dynamic driver, with its presence, punch and pacing. The bass does a good job of staying off the other frequencies and the decay is long enough to give the sound powerful weight, but not so long that it drags the PRAT. I feel like Mirage's bass is really in a sweet spot, especially for rock, metal and EDM.
The midrange is also absolutely phenomenal. One of the great advantages of an open design is just how much "easier" the midrange usually sounds. There is less strain, and in turn, usually less listener fatigue. This holds true for the Mirage's custom open BA midrange driver, as well. The sound is extremely musical and non-fatiguing, with great tone and balance throughout. The upper midrange was just a hair more relaxed when compared to the Campfire Andromeda's crispy sound, while the Mirage's lower mids had a bit more meat and body.
Both male and female vocals do very well on the Mirage, which delivered them with lots of weight and emotional gravitas. Some higher range female vocals may start to sound just a tad distant due to the slightly recessed upper mids, but I didn't find it troublesome enough in my listening to negatively impact my feelings about the IEMs. For people who have stronger feelings about strict neutrality, the elevated bass and relaxed upper midrange might be a deal breaker. Personally, I find the tuning to align perfectly with the current macro trends in tonal balance - it is "fun" but not so "V-shaped" as "fun" tunings were a few short years ago.
Treble is very good, with just the right amount of sparkle. The Mirage struck the difficult balance of never sounding dull and never sounding bright or spitty. It hung safely in the sweet spot the entire time, which made the earphones easy to listen to for long sessions. If you need an IEM you can listen to all day, for hours on end, Mirage will definitely fill the bill. Provided you can resist the temptation to crank up the volume.
The soundscape is also top notch, reaching out about as wide as any IEM I have heard. The depth and imaging are very good too, but not quite as exceptional as the expansive width, which really stands out as phenomenal. I always enjoy hearing how a piece of equipment responds to songs like Fiona Apple's "Sleep to Dream", from her 1996 debut album, Tidal and Beck's "Paper Tiger", from his 2002 album, Sea Change. Both songs start fairly centered on the vocal, drums (and bass on "Paper Tiger"), and then expand out wide with orchestration once the chorus hits. They provide a good measuring stick for stage dimensions. In both cases, the Mirage performed impressively, with instruments seemingly coming from far outside the dimensions of the IEM and filling the stage in grand fashion.
The one bit of a knock on the Mirage, is that it doesn't really have that last extra bit of resolution and transparency. Don't get me wrong, the Mirage is very, very resolving and absolutely delivers what you would expect for the price, but it doesn't quite fully disappear the way a slightly more linear and resolving IEM can. Comparing against the Campfire Andromeda, I came away feeling like the Campfire was a more transparent and disappeared a little better off my ears, putting me in the music, whereas the Mirage was a bit more fun and hard rocking. I found myself equally engaged, but in two different ways. With the Andromeda, I was lost and absorbed in the music. With the Mirage, I was constantly nodding my head and dancing in my chair.
If your tastes veer more toward classical and jazz, you'd probably prefer the Andromeda's lighter touch. If you tend to like rock, hip-hop, R&B, EDM and/or heavy metal, you'll most likely prefer the Mirage. For their $1099 price points, I felt they were both dead even overall, representing the very best of their price class.
The Bear Dressed Like A Ballerina
The Unique Melody Mirage was smartly designed and smartly tuned to be a true all-rounder. Unlike many other products that have tried a "fun" coloration, the Mirage smartly stays close enough to neutral that it will keep all but the most hardline neutralheads happy. In 2019, I feel like the Mirage is very much "the sound of now" in the personal audio space. It strikes the perfect balance between the more fun, high-octane sound that appeals to the masses and the more nuanced, sophisticated sound of a high-performance audiophile IEM.
If I had to pick one IEM to be stuck on a desert island with, the Mirage would be a no-brainer.
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