The Unique Melody Merlin was provided for a period of a few weeks for the purpose of this review.
I hit up Unique Melody with a request to try out their Merlin IEM. Hybrids, I explained, are strange to me, and I wished to familiarize myself with a few. Since I spent a little time with Miracle, and quite fancied the sound, UM was the first company I turned to for a taste of this bizarre alchemy.
Lawrance Lee got in touch. He’s… well, f**k. I’m not rightly sure. He seems to be a nexus point for the whole of the audio industry. Lawrance works with Unique Melody, iFi, and has an account with Musicteck. That’s just what I know about. The full reach of this man’s ambition is a mystery to all but an intimate few, who are sworn to absolute secrecy. If you inquire about him in the wrong darkened doorway… I don’t think I need to tell you what will happen.
Anyway, he had Andrew of Musicteck ship me a pair of Merlin V2 so I could dip my toe in the Hybrid Pool for a few weeks.
I gotta say, they are pretty things.
Lamentably, they aren’t as kind in the ear as they are on the eye. Unique Melody makes some f**ked up universal shells. They’re a queer melding of custom and universal shapes. And if you’re Asian, these ought to fit you like a glove, since they were designed with that crowd in mind. For a burly Caucasian atavist, however… pain. After about an hour of wear, pain… and despair.
I experienced the same thing with Miracle. Ungainly. They are just not made for a wide range of ears like most universals. Not only are they shaped weird, they are FAR bigger than they have any need to be. There is a lack of regard for concepts like efficient use of space, and my ears pay the consequence.
Merlin comes with a full array of accessories, including a decent selection of tips, cleaning tool, and highly protective carry case. Of course, I’ve been in this game long enough, that I don’t even bother trying the included ear tips anymore. On go my JVC Spiral Dots, and I never look back. Both M and ML work well for my ears, but M allows for a more comfortable orientation.
Now, as for sound…
Unique Melody has a house sound, based on my limited experience with Merlin and Miracle, of smooth, airy, and neutral-warm tuning. Merlin is relaxed, with a slow and easy take on music, and it comes off ever so soothing because of it.
Merlin’s treble stays well out of the spotlight. It never wants you to know it’s a part of the show. Modest, to the extreme. While it doesn’t shine or sparkle much, if at all, you can feel its presence due to how much air infuses the stage. There’s enough of it to keep things out of Dark territory. Merlin’s highs are just a little too recessed for a natural classification, but they are clean of any harshness or ugly peaks. It’s the kind of upper range that’s always pleasant to listen to.
Vocals are the heart of Merlin. I know what you’re thinking. The Dynamic Driver is in the low-end crossover, so how the hell could the vocals be the showstopper? I ask myself that same question every time I put these IEMs in. The short answer is, the bass is underutilized here, but the mids are on full display. They are put right on Frontstreet, lush and smooth. Note weight is moderate, neither thick nor thin, just somewhere in between. You get more of that wonderful UM airiness here in the mids, allowing for good transparency. Merlin renders a fine degree of detail for such a lush presentation, managing delightful texture and articulation.
You would be forgiven to assume a hybrid, where the DD is used for bass, might possess a low-end of profound import. You’d be forgiven that, but in this case, you’d be wrong. The bass on Merlin is… unimpressive. Yes, okay, it’s emphasized a bit, giving the mix its warm, lush tone, but I can’t shake the image of a giant tiger turned into a housecat. There is so much potential here, if only the leashes were off. Nonetheless, the lows are rich, weighty, and very smooth. Sub-bass extends deep and can produce a little rumble when called for. Indeed, there is a lot to love about the bass. Pinky merely wants more of it. But I’m a fiend, and should be taken with weary skepticism.
Merlin’s soundstage is average for TOTL tier. It’s certainly not small. And it’s aided by that UM airy quality I keep blathering about, which makes it feel bigger than it is. Imaging and separation is also average for this price-range, meaning it’s very good, but not the absolute best.