OBC + DD + 4BA
Unique Melody needs no introduction for anybody who is into the IEM market. It is one of the most influential companies in the game. In 2020 they came up with their hugely successful MEST, our “Best IEM of 2021”, and my personal favorite IEM to date. With its revolutionary bone conduction technology, a quadbrid construction, and a TOTL performance for a very competitive price it is no surprise it has been my nr.1 recommendation ever since I got it.
Unique Melody doesn’t just cut off coupons, they’ve introduced the MEST MK II some time ago, and now they’re back with their newest release – MEXT.
MEXT is said to be a more “easy-going” tuned IEM for people who seek ultimate enjoyment, and it is not meant to be a direct competitor to MEST. It has a more traditional driver setup and the price is slightly lower than its bigger, older brother. Let’s see how it stacks up.
Packaging and cable
The Unique Melody MEXT comes packed in a pretty standard box. Inside you’ll find the IEMs themselves, a brilliant Dignis blue case (the same as the one you’ll be getting with MEST), a pack of SednaEarfit Xelastec eartips which are absolutely brilliant, a pack of stock silicone eartips, a leather cable clip, and a cleaning cloth.
What’s worth mentioning is the cable. Since the original MEST, Unique Melody has stepped up its cable game significantly. The MEXT comes with a PW-Audio cable that feels and sounds great. The finish of the matte-black metal elements is perfect, this is one of the best-built stock cables I’ve seen in IEMs, so you won’t have to change it immediately, or ever if you’re not into spending hundreds or thousands of USD on IEM cables.
Design, Build and Comfort
All of the physical aspects have been changed in comparison to the MEST. The MEXT is a rather large and bulky IEM, but thanks to its ergonomic design it’s actually quite comfortable. I can see them being somewhat problematic with people with small ears/earholes though. This is a big IEM, so definitely have it in mind if you’ll decide to pull the trigger.
I’m not the biggest fan of the design though. The MEXT looks rather minimalistic with its black-ish shells and gold branding on the faceplates, but they somewhat lack character. I believe that in 2022 if you want to go into minimalism in the IEM world, metal shells are the way to go. Basic black acrylic shells look just plain and basic, but I can totally see many people admiring this kind of design. I’m just not one of them, but it’s probably due to the fact, that as a reviewer I get to put my hands on a lot of IEMs, so I’m looking for originality and unique design over the actual basic design.
Apart from the design itself, the build quality is actually very good. The MEXT feels substantial and well-built in the hand. A great feature is that the filters on the nozzles are interchangeable, and you’re getting a spare pair in the box. They just simply unscrew and changing them takes a minute max.
The selling point of the MEXT is its new Bone Conduction technology, called OBC. Here’s what Unique Melody has to tell about it.
Other than the new Bone Conduction driver, the MEXT uses a single dynamic driver and four BA drivers, two for mids and two for treble. This is probably the biggest “downgrade” in comparison to the MEST, which uses EST drivers for ultra-high frequencies. How does it translate to the audio quality? I’ll cover that part in the comparison between the MEXT and the MEST in the “Comparisons” section.
The new Bone Conduction technology is a game-changer though, and let me describe it further in the next paragraph.
So, how does the MEXT sound? The Unique Melody MEST is my favorite IEM and I’ll point it out immediately – these two IEMs are very different from each other. While the MEST is a technical marvel with absolutely spectacular tuning, the MEXT is all about that bass and midrange warmth, with the treble response being the weakest part of the sound, unlike the MEST.
Even though the MEXT is not as technically marvelous as the MEST, it has a different flavor to the sound that will definitely be a fantastic option for a lot of people. This is one of the most, if not THE most fun-sounding IEM that I’ve tried, being my go-to for modern genres from the first day of owning them. Also, my better half felt very emotional while listening to the MEXT, it gave her that sensation that she’s listening to “something else”, and she’s listening to most of the audio devices that arrive here at Ear Fidelity HQ. Let’s dive into it and see what’s the fuzz about.
The bass is undoubtedly the most important aspect of the MEXT. This is the most physical, epic bass response I’ve ever heard in an IEM, nothing really comes close apart from the brand new Fir Audio XE6 CIEM that I just got.
So, the impact and physicality of the bass are just out of this world. This new OBC driver really gets this thing to vibrate in your ear like a high-end subwoofer.
However, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a deep insertion with this IEM. If you won’t put them all the way into your canals, the vibrating part on the shells won’t have enough surface contact with your ears to produce this monstrous bass response. I’ve given the MEXT to try to a few of my friends, and every single one who wasn’t impressed had them sticking out of their ears significantly, so remember that this is crucial.
However, if you insert them properly, you’re going to get a bass that you haven’t heard yet out of an IEM. I’m not stating that this is the most bass-heavy IEM in the game because it’s not. But the sensation of actually “feeling” the bass with your body is so weird and exciting at the same time, that it’s really hard not to be incredibly impressed by it.
I remember when I first got the MEST that I was expecting them to vibrate in my hands while playing music, and it wasn’t the case, as the bone conduction was rather delicate on the MEST. The MEXT, however, is a different story, if you’ll play a bass-heavy song and hold the IEMs with your fingers you’re gonna feel that they are vibrating quite a lot, it almost feels like a haptic engine, this is super cool.
Now let’s get to how does it affect the actual sound. RY X has launched a new single called “Let You Go”, which has some intense bass lines to it. This song sounds so unique with the MEXT that I immediately replayed it over and over again laying in my bed at 2 AM. The bass is absolutely humongous in this track with the MEXT, it gives so much depth and that fun aspect to the sound that it’s actually hard not to listen to it. Yes, the MEST has better detail and especially better separation in this song, but I still prefer to listen to it on the MEXT, it’s that good and flavorful.
The new Bone Conduction driver handles natural bass phenomenally as well. A song called “Long After You’re Gone” by Chris Jones is my benchmark when it comes to the body and bass reverb of the acoustic guitar, and the MEXT reproduces both with exceptional finesse. What’s very, very impressive about it is that even though the bass is huge and very impactful, it sounds very natural when it’s supposed to, with next to no coloration. The main problem with extremely bass-heavy headphones is that they tend to be not really universal when it comes to the music choice. With electronic music, they tend to sound exceptionally fun and big, but the moment you’ll put something with bass guitar or closely mastered acoustic guitar they tend to sound artificially big and unnatural. Luckily, this is not the case with the MEXT at all. This is a type of bass that doesn’t cheat and average every bass line into that huge, bold, and saturated monstrosity. It’s huge when it’s supposed to be, and when the bass is meant to compliment the rest of the audio spectrum, it does just that. This is THE bass response to beat in 2022, especially when it comes to its physicality and impact. Absolutely marvelous.
The midrange is also a strong point of the MEXT. Its tonality is on the warmer side, but it still has a lot of resolution and separation to it. While it is not on the same level as the MEST, Final A8000, or Fir Audio M5, it is still crisp and quite technical. However, vocal presentation on the MEXT is thick, warm, and smooth sounding, without getting too technical or analytical. For absolute clarity and resolution of the sound, you should definitely look elsewhere, but if you like your music sounding pleasant and warm, then the MEXT could be a great proposition for you.
The lower midrange is definitely the thickest and most natural sounding of the entire midrange response here. That huge bass and OBC driver gives the lower-mids that sense of presence and an additional body to them that is especially welcomed when male vocals come into the equation. Male vocalists just sound natural, big, real on the MEXT, but they are definitely on a thicker side when compared to most IEMs on the market. I’m definitely into that, as I really like that way of reproducing my favorite vocalists.
Let’s get the most used and the most frequently mentioned song on Ear Fidelity, “A Thousand Shards Of Heaven” by Lunatic Soul. I will never get over how important and magical Mariusz’s vocal is to me, and I’m happy to report that the MEXT handles it brilliantly. While it lacks definition and resolution just a tiny bit in comparison to some flagships, the amount of body and the natural warmth of the vocal in this song is just made to give you a sense of listening to it live right into your ear. It is intimate and natural, the way it should be.
The treble response is where the MEXT is positioning itself as a worse IEM than the MEST. While the latter has that phenomenal treble extension and a crazy amount of resolution, the MEXT sounds a bit subdued and not as airy in comparison. The same story goes to the transition between upper-mids and lower-treble, where it somewhat lacks a little bit of excitement.
This is not a problem for me at all, as I don’t really like pronounced upper mids, but as a reviewer, I can’t let my personal take overshadow the truth, so here it is. I can see that for some fans of Asian music the MEXT could sound a bit too “safe” and simply too warm to grab their wallets. For most western music though, this is just a very smart decision to tune the MEXT that way by Unique Melody.
See, the MEXT is made to give you a highly musical and pleasant type of experience, no matter what genre you are listening to. Because of that, tuning it that way gives you more freedom with music, as you don’t have to listen only to well-mastered albums.
As an example, the MEXT handles power metal great, even though most of it is just amazingly bad when it comes to mastering. Because of that, you don’t really have to think “if that song is mastered good enough for me to listen to it with this pair of IEM”. It is, don’t worry.
It’s 2022, more and more companies are trying to tune their IEM to flat response, and because of that, flavorful IEMs are starting to be somewhat rare. Having that in mind, it is great to see that Unique Melody decided to go with a more “musical” aspect with the MEXT. They’ve proven they are out there with the best on the market when it comes to pure audio quality with the MEST. They didn’t have to push the MEXT to the absolute top when it comes to neutral and accurate sound reproduction, and they just didn’t. That’s a good thing in my book.
To summarise this somewhat chaotic part of this review. The treble response of the MEXT is good, but not fantastic. The Final A8000, UM MEST, and Fir Audio M5 all offer better detail, more air, and more accurate sound, but the MEXT is not meant to compete with them. This is a fun provider, and providing fun it surely is…really like nothing else on the market.
The MEST crowned Unique Melody as my personal “king” of soundstage, so I was definitely curious how the MEXT will look in this regard. Well…it’s spectacular. It creates that big, spacious soundstage that is unlike most of the IEMs, just like the MEST does. It has that feeling that you’re listening to full-size open-back headphones, not IEMs…and I love it.
While the MEST has more air and separation than the MEXT, the latter is still a magnificent IEM when it comes to its staging. The imaging is superbly accurate, the sense of space around you and the depth are both class-leading, just like the MEST is in the higher price bracket. Let’s talk music. As you’re probably aware by now, I call Pink Floyd the best band ever, and they’ve once created a masterpiece called “Sorrow”. This song is so epic, huge, and spectacular, that it is a good test for the MEXT, and you guessed it…they deliver. The depth, width, imaging…everything creates that epic spectacle just for you that is hard not to get impressed with.
If you like your soundstage to be vast, big, and very accurate, the MEXT should definitely be on your list of IEMs to try.
Unique Melody MEST
I’ve said it already, but I’ll repeat it if you’ve jumped right into the comparison paragraph. The MEST is definitely the more technically impressive IEM, with TOTL level of clarity, detail, and resolution.
On the other side, the MEXT is more fun with its marvelous bass response, warmth to the midrange, and overall more forgiving character. The MEXT isn’t meant to be competing with the MEST, and it just doesn’t. This is a different flavor with some pros and cons when comparing the two. The MEXT is more impactful, warmer, and smoother of the two, while the MEST is more neutral, technical, and just objectively a better IEM.
You simply can’t go wrong with either, or you can actually get both. The MEST for that ultimate level of technical performance, and the MEXT for when you just want to have fun and enjoy the music.
Once again, the A8000 is a more technically impressive and definitely a faster, cleaner-sounding IEM. It has that ultra-fast decay and crispiness to the sound that is hard to beat for any IEM out there. The MEXT is warmer, more physical, and impactful. Also, the tuning around the upper-mid and lower-treble really differentiate the two. The A8000 is highly present and forward sounding in this region, while the MEXT is smoother and more subdued. Whatever suits you.
The bass response is where it’s just hard not to praise the MEXT though. With its unique physicality and texture, it is just more natural and epic sounding than the A8000, which sounds dry and thin in comparison.
Effect Audio Axiom
This is interesting, as both the Axiom and MEXT are bass-heavy IEMs. However, due to the unique technology of the latter, it comes out as being even more impactful and full-sounding in the bass, even though the Axiom is not a thin-sounding IEM by any means. The MEXT has a better texture to the sound and is more detailed of the two, but not by much. The soundstage is rather intimate in the Axiom, while the MEXT creates a huge scene around you, sounding much more “epic” in comparison.
The Axiom is a modular IEM though, so future releases of different modules will probably change the outcome of this comparison, for the sake of the Axiom or not. At this moment, the MEXT is more fun-sounding while providing a slightly better technical performance, but it’s not as neutral and “reference” sounding as the Axiom when it comes to the tuning.
These two are as different as it gets. While the MEXT has that marvelous bass response, the bass of the Fantasy is its weak spot. Having that in mind, the MEXT comes out as much more impactful, physical and natural sounding, completely outclassing the Cayin’s flagship. However, the detail retrieval of the Fantasy is slightly better, giving that crisp and highly textured sound. When it comes to the tuning, we’re comparing a warm, bassy MEXT to a bright, bass-light Fantasy, so this is not a comparison, to be honest. It’s Definitely up to your personal taste, but I would definitely call the MEXT a better deal and overall a better-sounding IEM.
The Unique Melody MEXT is an easy IEM to pair with. It sounds great with everything that I’ve tried, no matter if it was a tube mode on Cayin N3 Pro, or the ESS version of the FiiO M11 Plus.
One observation worth noting, is that they do like power, just like the MEST. When you pair them with a high-power, balanced output you’re really feeding that Bone Conduction driver and it starts to do wonders.
I’ve been listening a lot to the MEXT with the newest Cayin N8ii for the last couple of weeks, and this pairing is simply exceptional. This is an emotional roller-coaster that is just ridiculous at fun providing. However, having the cost of the N8ii in mind, I imagine it won’t be your go-to source for the MEXT. Also, the N8ii + Mest + Erua TAWA pairing is even better…well, actually the best portable setup I’ve ever listened to, as stated in the N8ii review.
The Unique Melody MEXT is a unique sounding IEM with exceptional bass response. While not as technically impressive as its older brother, MEST, it is still a highly detailed IEM that is unmatched at providing an impactful, physical sound that is really fun to listen to. Having the $1099 price in mind, it is my absolute pleasure to highly recommend the Unique Melody MEXT for everybody looking for an exceptionally fun and unique sounding IEM.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Unique Melody MEST, Final A8000, Fir Audio M5 custom, Fir Audio XE6 custom, Effect Audio Axiom, Cayin Fantasy, Campfire Audio Solaris 2020
- Sources– Cayin N8ii, Cayin N3 Pro, FiiO M11 Plus ESS, EarMen Colibri, Earmen Tradutto, Ferrum OOR, SMSL SH-9
Big thanks to Unique Melody for providing the MEXT for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion. Unique Melody hasn’t seen this review before publishing it.