In the world of audio equipment, the law of diminishing returns is very real. For example, moving from a $50 to a $500 headphone produces MAJOR improvements. But moving from a $500 to a $1,500 headphone usually results in a noticeable, but relatively small improvement. Today we’re talking about a pair of In-Ear Monitors from Unique Melody, a super highly respected Chinese IEM company, and guess what, they’re $1,500. But before you slam on the keyboard yelling “snake oil” as I almost did, these things blew me away, and I’ve really got to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find something not perfect about them. In fact, it’s probably the only high-end audio product that I can recommend without any reservations whatsoever.
Build and Packaging $1,449 calls for an expensive feel
The Maestro are available in a custom or universal fit, my review loaner is the latter, and while they come with a few nice accessories like various eartips, adapters, and this beautiful twist-off, water-sealed aluminum carrying case (like, for real, this thing is legit), the star of the show is the monitors themselves and in the build department, they do NOT disappoint. The housings are black acrylic that is incredibly sturdy with a nice carbon fiber printing and silver Unique Melody logo. The cable is a gorgeous braided design which takes cues from many other IEM and there is a memory wire that helps you fit them around your ear comfortably.
Now, if you’re thinking, holy balls, those things are HUGE! That’s because you’re right. They are. But why? Ah, just because there is 12 drivers in each ear. Yeah, 12 drivers! 4 lows, 4 mins, 2 highs, and 2 super-highs. In each ear. 24 total. 24 drivers. I know. I’m not a sound engineer, so maybe that’s excessive, but what I can tell you is that it works. These things sound frigging remarkable. Before we dive into sound quality, one really cool thing about the Maestro is that they’re so efficient, they even sounded really good plugged into a smartphone. The LG V10 drove the Maestro nearly as well as my AURALiC TAURUS amp and Resonessence Concero HD DAC. That’s unusual, but a very, very good thing.
Sound Well worth the price
The sound signature and detail is (and I’m going on record saying this) more pleasant and articulate than any headphone or IEM I’ve ever tried—and I’ve tried hundreds.
...more pleasant and articulate than any headphone or IEM I’ve ever tried.
Most importantly, soundstage and imaging is impeccable. Resolution and extension has revealed reverb, echoes, breaths, lip smacks, and other sounds I’ve never heard before in songs I love and listen to all the time—even when using my home audio setup which is about $10K worth of gear. Bass presentation is fantastic. It’s not going to rattle your balls off (or, lady balls), but the depth adds a feeling of being there in the room with the drum set and the band.
The midrange is slightly less well-presented than the low-end, but it still sounds great. Vocals are smooth and warm without getting sibilant or too punchy. Last, the treble is awesome. It’s not harsh or ear-piercing, but man, do the cymbals push through hard. All in all, I love the way these things sound and didn’t at all try to mess with the EQ. They’re perfect.
I know most of you would never think to spend $1,500 on a pair of in-ear monitors, but for those looking at high-end over-ear headphones and/or in-ear monitors from competing brands, take a look at Unique Melody—because I think they’re better than just about everything and it breaks my heart that I need to send them back to Musicteck, the US distributor who sells Unique Melody products.