Surfing With The Alien: The Unique Melody Martian

Unique Melody just recently announced the newest edition to its lineup, the Martian- a dual dynamic hybrid, and our friends at MusicTeck have graciously loaned us a sample for this review. Rather than rehashing all the details on the accessories and packaging that come with UM universals, you can check out our previous review of the Miracle and Maestro, as they are pretty much the same. The differences brought to the Martian are in shell size, nozzle bore construction, and the cable/connectors.

Specifications
Drivers: 2 6.8mm Dynamic drivers Low, 1 BA driver Mid, 1 BA driver High
Crossover: 3 way
Frequency response: 10Hz – 18,000Hz
Sensitivity (at 1kHz): 110dB spl
Impedance: 28.1 ohm
Noise isolation: -26dB
Note: Unique Melody does not offer reshell services for getting the Martian into customs.

The Martian is designed to be exclusively sold as a universal, and as such, some slight refinements have been made to the shell size and ergonomics. The size, while definitely smaller in thickness than the Miracle and Maestro, is still large in comparison to many universals on the market; However, comfort remains top-notch. In addition to the shells, the nozzles have also been refined by filling in acrylic around the Martian’s quad bores. The end result is a more polished looking final product.

Martian Quad Bores
Martian Quad Bores

In addition to those changes, the two pin cable connectors are now extruded and the cable uses shrouded pins, much like Ultimate Ears cables. UM still retains the memory wire section, which is now black instead of clear. The cable is terminated in an updated right angle plug that appears to be much more smartphone case friendly than the previous cables.

Martian cable

Sound

The overall signature of the Martian can be described as mildly mid-centric. While not a strongly colored signature, the W-shaped response is more noticeable when comparing against known neutral sets. The Martian bass has a tilt towards deep bass but is far from inordinately boosted and is actually rather gentlemanly. It can certainly rumble when the song calls for it but also doesn’t stray too far from the more neutral roots of it’s heritage in the Maestro and Miracle. The midrange is extremely focused and centered. Lower and upper mids take a slight back seat to the boosted middle of the midrange. Instead of placing vocals in your face, they simply sound super centered, clear and very focused. Both male and female vocals equally engage with superb emotion. Treble is a bit on the polite side but still very articulate and crisp, staying true to the UM house sound.

Martian dual front lg

Comparisons

Martian vs Maestro

The Maestro bass is more reserved when compared to the Martian. Overall its bass sounds more linear with equal parts rumble and impact. Next to the Maestro, it is easier to hear the Martian’s tilt towards deeper bass. Texturing is excellent on both and the Martian, while not quite as fast as the balanced armature bass of the Maestro, doesn’t give up much in terms of speed. While I prefer the more balanced bass of the Maestro, the Martian more than holds its own against it’s more expensive sibling.

The midrange of the Maestro sounds more even and balanced in direct comparison, bringing out the slightly W-shaped presentation of the Martian. Both male and female vocals sound larger and more upfront, whereas with the Martian’s emphasis on the middle of the midrange, the effect is less vocal richness for male vocals and less energy for female vocals; However, it seems to isolate the vocal performance more, drawing the listener in for a more intimate performance, even though not as forward overall.

Treble on the Maestro is very similar to the Martian in it’s crisp and articulate presentation. The most obvious difference is the Maestro is slightly brighter overall across it’s treble response, with most of that emphasis coming in lower treble. The greater treble presence of the Maestro not only brings more balance to it’s signature, making or a more neutral presentation, but also gives it a more open feeling than the Martian. However, due to the lower treble emphasis on the Maestro, some may find the more laid back Martian treble easier to get along with.

While both have an excellently deep presentation the Maestro’s more open signature sounds all around wider, taller and airier next to the more reserved Martian. However the Martian doesn’t give anything up in layering and imaging to the much more expensive Maestro.

The housings of the Maestro are on the large side but are ergonomically designed and remain comfortable over the long haul. The Martian improves upon this housing design by being less thick and slightly more contoured for an even more comfortable fit.

Maestro and Martian shells
Maestro and Martian shells

 

Martian vs Oriolus mk2

Bass notes are much thicker on the Oriolus with greater weight. The Oriolus bass is a much slower bass with extended decay and lots of reverberation. In contrast, the Martian is faster and more nimble in busy passages. The Martian’s tighter bass better delineates bass guitar and bass drum textures. The Oriolus has much greater bass quantity throughout the spectrum but particularly in upper bass, whereas the Martian has much less boost with a tilt towards deep bass emphasis.

The Oriolus midrange is lush, rich and inviting. Male and female vocals carry lots of weight for a brooding presentation. In comparison, the Martian midrange is leaner, clearer and more transparent. Vocals don’t have the weight or lushness of the Oriolus but are more forward and engaging, demanding more direct attention.

Treble on the Oriolus is laid back and easy-going. It never causes fatigue, yet somehow still remains articulate with realistic weight, although somewhat lacking in sparkle. Next to the Oriolus, the Martian is a bit airier and crisper with some sparkle. Overall it’s a bit brighter but still remains slightly laid-back and fatigue free.

On one hand, the slightly brighter Martian sounds more open than the Oriolus and gives a wider stereo presentation. On the other hand, the fuller, richer Oriolus sounds taller with a bit more depth. Overall the Oriolus is a total ‘chill’ earphone for mellowing out and just letting the music wash over you, while not necessarily being directly engaged. The Martian certainly demands more attention and engagement.

The housings of the Oriolus are much larger, even compared to the slightly bulky Martian. While not uncomfortable, they are nowhere near as ergonomically shaped and cannot touch the extra comfort of the more contoured Martian housing.

 

Martian vs Empire Ears Spartan 

While overall bass quantity of the Martian and Spartan are very similar, there are noticeable differences in how the bass is distributed. The Spartan bass is a little warmer and fuller with just a hair more mid and upper bass presence. In comparison the Martian bass seems just a hair leaner with more emphasis in deep bass than the Spartan. Typically dynamic driver bass is tuned to have much longer decay than balanced armature bass, but in this case of this comparison, bass speed and decay are so similar, I’d say it’s too close to call.

In general, the Spartan is considered a slight U-shaped sig; However, the Spartan midrange can be considered full and engaging. Compared to the Martian, the Spartan midrange is brighter, lending itself a little better to female vocals, but can occasionally give emphasis to some sibilance compared to the Martian. At first blush, the Martian midrange might appear more forward but further critical listening reveals a more focused center image, that just raises vocal engagement to the next level. The Martian also gives a feeling of more blackness surrounding vocals, that further isolates the performance, pushing forward more intimacy and emotion.

The Spartan is overall just a hair brighter. The combination of brighter midrange and treble gives the Spartan a wider and more airy presentation. Distortion rock guitars have slightly more bite and crunch. By comparison, the Martian sounds more laid back and easy-going. However, the Martian treble is a bit crisper in presentation, with greater articulation and definition to treble details.

As previously mentioned, the Spartan presents itself wider and airer compared to the Martian and overall is a bit more aggressive and forward in nature. The Martian’s easy-going approach, with more blackness throughout the midrange, lends itself to a deeper, more nuanced staging.

While the Martian housings are extremely comfortable, there is just no comparison to the relatively tiny housings of the Spartan. The Spartan housing sits flush with the ear and would fit the requirements of user wanting something they can sleep with on their sides.

 

Martian vs Dunu DN2002

The 2002 bass is much more present; it hits harder with more noticeable impact and slightly  more rumble. The leaner Martian bass is faster with less decay and less overall warmth but has a more nuanced and defined texture. Whereas the looser and larger 2002 bass lends itself better to hip hop and rap, the Martian’s speedier and tighter bass lends itself better to rock, acoustic and country.Compared to the Martian’s focused center image, the 2002 vocals sound warmer and much more distant. The 2002 is also more prone to emphasizing sibilance. Martian vocals are not only more centered but more separated from the other instruments, for a more resolving performance. Both male and female vocals are more engaging and evocative on the Martian.

Treble on the 2002 is slightly overall brighter but never approaching harshness. The 2002 treble timbre sounds natural with very good resolution. While giving up a just a bit of naturalness to the 2002, the Martian treble is better articulated and separated for slightly improved resolution.

Overall the 2002’s V-shaped signature places it further from the listener than the center image oriented Martian. While the Martian sounds more forward, it also sounds larger in all proportions with noticeably more depth and better pinpoint imaging.

The 2002 housings, while similarly bulky, are much less ergonomic and somewhat difficult to fit comfortably. It cannot be stated strongly enough how much more thought went into the ergonomics and comfort of fit with the Martian.

surfing with the alien
Surfing with the alien

Conclusion

With an asking price of $700, Unique Melody is bringing serious value to the sub 1k in-ear market. It more than holds it’s own against much more expensive sets and I could easily see many preferring the Martian to the competition. The Martian seemingly has it all: natural dynamic bass that doesn’t suffer in speed compared to all armature based sets; engaging vocals that are sublimely centered; crisp, articulate treble that never fatigues; top-of-the-line sound in a comfortable universal form factor. Here’s to hoping the value and power of the Martian doesn’t remain the alien but becomes the adopted native to ever-growing in-ear market.

Advertisements

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sp12er says:

    Now I wonder how it directly compares in sound to the XBA Z5, whether any is a good upgrade to each or is the sound too different?

    Like

    1. shotgunshane says:

      I haven’t heard the X5 but I’ve been told it’s pretty bassy. The Martian isn’t really bass enhanced, so I imagine the two are quite different.

      Like

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s