Unique Melody ME1 CIEM - The Journey from Universal to Custom Planar IEMs
BackgroundI had purchased the Unique Melody ME.1 (used) as a universal fit IEM a while back. It was a direct replacement for the Audeze iSine 10, which I absolutely adored. The ME.1 provided a much more attractive and cleaner finish, with improved sound quality (unequalized), and didn't require messing around with ear hooks and ear locks.
That said, the ME1 still had issues. Fit-wise, they were a bit heavy compared to the iSine 10, and the large metal grill does add some weight to the IEM that can make fit a little challenging. The IEM could be uncomfortable to use over a lengthy period of time of continuous use.
Sound-wise, the ME1 had a much thicker, fuller sound than the iSine, while still having good detail and better bass quality & quantity. It, however had some weird mid-range shoutiness in the 1KHz region with elevated volume. In addition, the sound was slightly darker than neutral, with occasional treble peaks. It really didn't bother me too much, besides the shouty mids, but I could tame it down with EQ easily and it would sound excellent.
Custom IEM ProcessBut I got curious about CIEMs and I figured one day I would ask Unique Melody if it was even possible to convert the shell to customs. I was surprised to hear that the cost was only $140, especially considering that the added conversion cost to the MSRP of the universal was well below the cost of getting the ME1 Custom brand new.
So I jumped on it. I went out and found a local audiologist and got impressions made. I took a leap of faith and went with the cheapest audiologist around (not saying this is a good thing to do). This guy only charged me $20 for both ears. That was less than half the price of what every audiologist was quoting me for just one ear. But the guy I went to had over 50 years of audiology experience so I figured, he probably knows what he was doing.
Getting the impressions took about 15 minutes total. I was in and out very quickly. They used Westone impressions. Soon after, I sent in my impressions along with my ME1 to Unique Melody over in China. USPS International Priority was about $30 and they arrived within 5 business days.
After exchanging several more emails about color choices and timelines, I got a notification that my conversion was completed about 4 weeks later. I was then asked to pick a shipping speed and chose to use FedEx for fast delivery. They asked me to PayPal the cost of the service + shipping and within a couple days, they arrived at my house.
The ResultsI've had them for a little less than a week now and I'm mostly happy with them. Immediately after putting them on, I noticed that the fit was a lot better and that isolation improved ten-fold. Despite being an open-back design, isolation is very good on these. I can hardly hear anything with low volume music on.
The CIEM fit is very good on my left ear. Excellent even. The right ear still has a single pain point around the notch of my ear. I read that CIEMs can take up to a week to get your ears adjusted to any minor pain or discomfort so I'll give it a few more days. The notch area can probably be lightly sanded down. Just touching that area -- it does feel like the corner can be rounded down a little bit more so it doesn't push into my ear as much. But I'll wait and see how it feels in a couple days. I've noticed improvement in discomfort every day.
For those wondering what the notch portion I am talking about is -- if you look at the photo of the CIEM, take a look at the left side. There is a slightly raised part of the acrylic shell sticking up at around 11 o'clock behind the grill. That's the part that I feel is giving me some slight pressure pain on my right ear.
Sound wise, the ME1 sound quite good now. The sonic improvement is noticeable. The 1KHz shout is pretty much absent since the conversion, and the sound is more balanced overall. The IEMs are just south of neutral, leaning slightly dark, but I've increased treble slightly to bring brightness up and I am loving the sound now. I've also given the low end a small bump though it's not necessary.
As shown in my EQ screenshot below, I've also dropped the upper mids slightly only because I prefer my mids to be a tad more recessed than they are stock. The ME1 are do have a mid-forward and intimate sound, and bringing them back helps improve the width and depth for me.
Overall, I am hoping that the slight discomfort in my right ear goes away. If not I'll have to either take it to a local audiologist to get adjusted or try to lightly sand down the area of concern with a very fine abrasive microfiber. In terms of sound quality, I like the improvements. They are a little darker than my preferred signature, but I have used it with and without EQ without much hesitation.
For reference, I have primarily been using the Pioneer XDP-300R digital audio player directly to the ME1 or playing the DAP line-out to the Monolith Cavalli Liquid Spark to the CIEMs. With the DAP, I have EQ turned on when playing local media files using the Pioneer stock player, but when I use Spotify for streaming, the EQ is not active. I also use the iFi IEMatch 2.5mm occasionally, though the ME1 is not affected by OI.