A bit of backstory: This particular Miracle was a gift to me from the Head-Fi community. Frequenters of the portable forum may have seen the original thread started by 12345142. At his suggestion, a fund was created to purchase a high-end custom in-ear for yours truly. Though the JH13Pro won the public poll, those who actually contributed to the fund settled on the Unique Melody Miracle. Much credit is due to rawrster, who did most of the footwork, to Stephen Guo of custom-iem.com for the discount he was able to provide, and of course to everyone who contributed. An earphone of this caliber is far, far outside of my budget and I never would have experienced it had it not been for the community.
Details: Three-way, sextuple-driver custom from Unique Melody (manufacturer page)
Base Price: $1049 from MusicTeck
Specs: Driver: 6-BA / 3-way crossover | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 114 dB | Freq: 18-19k Hz | Cable: 4.2’ L-plug
Wear Style: Over-the-ear
Accessories (3/5) – Cleaning tool and fancy oversize storage case
Build Quality (5/5) – The molding quality of the Miracle is phenomenal. The shells are perfectly clear – no bubbles, no cracks, no opaque areas – and the finish is superb. The stock Miracle cable is just as good as the Westone Elite Series cord found on so many other high-end earphones. The cable connectors are recessed by default but UM will make them flush on request
Isolation (4.5/5) – My Miracle has longer nozzles and fits deeper than most of my other full-shell customs. The isolation is on par with the very best universals and just behind silicone-shelled customs
Microphonics (5/5) – Pretty much nonexistent
Comfort (5/5) – As with my other acrylic customs, the shells are hard but not uncomfortable – I often forget they’re in my ears at all. Normally, a well-fitting custom can be worn for hours on end with no fatigue, and the Miracle is certainly no exception. Obviously fit will always depend on the quality of the initial impressions, the skill of the technician making the earphones, and maybe a bit of luck. Naturally, UM will do refits if the fit is less than perfect
Sound (9.8/10) – It can be argued that I would have been better off going straight for a top-tier custom instead exploring the 200-some universal monitors I’ve had my hands on over the years. However, I feel that moving up the hierarchy as slowly as I’ve done has allowed me to appreciate the Miracle that much more – there is simply no substitute for experience when it comes to putting things in perspective. Admittedly, the Miracle is not my first custom IEM – that honor went to the 1964EARS 1964-T – but again owning the 1964-T makes the performance of the Miracle that much more striking. The 1964-T has been invaluable in showcasing what customs may be able to offer over similarly-priced universals but, as I’ve said before, really didn’t offer an increase in sound quality over the best universals I’ve tried. The Miracle, however – does – and I can say that with confidence having owned – or auditioned – nearly every top-tier universal monitor on the market at the time of this writing.
Though the UM Miracle is a “mere” 3-way system with dual drivers set up to handle each portion of the spectrum, its response is amazingly coherent and its presentation – entirely effortless. The low end extends without flinching to the limits of my hearing, performing beautifully right down to the extremes. In terms of quantity, the bass presents as quite flat, with no discernable mid-bass hump, but offers more presence across the range compared to the usual “level bass” suspects such as the Audio-Technica CK10 and Etymotic ER4. Bass detail and texture are the best I’ve heard from any headphone, portable or full-size. The bass is well-defined and articulate down to the lowest of lows, in stark contrast to the Shure SE535 I reviewed recently. The SE535, being a two-way system, has less-than-stellar performance at the limits and tends to sound a bit vague and dull below 40Hz. The Miracle, on the other hand, retains the ability to distinguish and texture notes all the way down.
The tight, punchy bass of the Miracle makes the Earsonics SM3 sound bloated and muddy. Compared, on the other hand, to TWFK-based earphones such as the CK10, the Miracle offers up significantly more body and more realistic note sustainment. As with the Klipsch Custom 3, Ortofon e-Q7, and a number of other high-end universals, the bass of the Miracle occupies a happy medium, appearing neither thick and bloated nor overly quick and thin. It is still armature-type bass, replete with immense resolution and clarity, but there is a sensation of vast power reserve behind every kick. One side effect of the highly detailed and yet punchy bass is superb low-volume performance. The Miracle is the best earphone I’ve used for listening at minimal levels to date, with around 10-15% of full volume with the Cowon J3 sufficient for relaxed listening and 20-25% plentiful on a busy street.
Like the bass, the midrange of the Miracle stands above all of the other IEMs I’ve heard when it comes to the balancing act of thickness vs. clarity. The mids are smooth and fleshed-out, much like those of the Earsonics SM3, but without the clarity sacrifice that comes with the Earsonics. The Miracle can match the natural clarity of the ATH-CK10 and Sony EX1000 despite being neither bright nor thin-sounding. Balance-wise, the midrange is very nearly on-par with the low end but has a laid back character that causes the bass to sound very slightly more forward overall. The Miracle is extremely detailed but not in the forward, aggressive manner of the CK10 and Ety ER4. Instead, everything sounds natural, dynamic, and effortless, though the detail and texture are certainly still all there. Tonally, the mids are a touch warm but not as much as with the SM3. The SM3 is actually made to sound quite veiled by the clarity and crispness. The 1964-T, similarly, sounds both thicker and more grainy, sacrificing a good amount of the smoothness and clarity of the Miracle, and yields in overall detail retrieval as well.
The treble of the Miracle is excellent in its own right, pairing well with the slightly laid-back midrange and bringing a bit of energy and excitement to the sound. Most obvious next the SM3, the treble emphasis of the Miracle balances the earphone out nicely. On the whole, the Miracle sounds neither bright nor dark and the sparkle is well-measured and controlled. Compared to the 1964-T, there is definitely more treble presence but the difference is not night-and-day. I have experienced no listening fatigue with the Miracle although the earphone is very revealing. Sibilance can be problematic if it is present in the recoding but the Miracle does not accentuate such flaws the way the CK10 or Westone 3 might. Top end extension is excellent and the natural tone puts the slightly hot and tizzy treble of the CK10 to shame. Overall, the Miracle sounds crisp yet coherent, with effortlessness of detailing that is simply staggering.
A signature as balanced as that of the Miracle deserves an equally well-rounded presentation, which it has. From the first listen it is obvious that the Miracle was not tuned to be a stage monitor. It lacks the forwardness of the Earsonics SM3 and Westone UM3X and makes the 1964EARS 1964-T sound small and confined. The presentation is enveloping but no to the same extent as that of the SM3. Those who like the clear-cut left side – right side soundstage of Etymotic earphones or the Sony EX1000 would probably be better off staying away but those who found the imaging of the SM3 pleasing, if mildly overdone, will be happy with the Miracle. The Miracle sounds wider than the SM3 and provides a more realistic, slightly distanced feel but still shares the centering ability and three-dimensional feel of the Earsonics. The noticeably greater clarity, along with the larger soundstage and headstage, help provide incredible imaging and positioning. Certain sonic cues take on an out-of-the-head character I’ve only previously heard from semi-open dynamic-driver earphones. Instrumental separation is excellent and dynamics are better than with any other BA earphone I’ve heard so far. The Sony EX1000 was often able to keep up with the Miracle but lower end dynamic-driver sets such as the ATH-CKM99, VSonic GR07, and Sennheiser IE7 were left completely in the dust. On the whole, the presentation of the Miracle really is an immense tuning achievement on the part of Unique Melody, and one that I don’t see myself getting tired of.
Value (9/10) – The jump in sound quality from top universals and entry-level customs to the Miracle is significant, but so is the price gap. The fit and finish of the earphone certainly are as sublime as the price tag indicates, though, and the performance is fantastic as well – the Miracle offers a different sort of sound compared to the 1964EARS 1964-T and stage-destined universals like the UM3X and SM3 but still surpasses them in technical ability. I’ve drawn comparisons to the presentation of the SM3, but the Miracle offers all of the advantages – coherent imaging and great on-center feel for maximum immersion – with none of the drawbacks of the over-enveloping SM3. The signature, too, is extremely pleasing, with surprisingly strong but very controlled bass, clean and detailed midrange, and strong, extended treble. One of the Miracle’s greatest strengths is its ability to remain crisp and retrieve all of the detail without appearing aggressive, even at minimal volume levels. Instead of turning the volume up to get the detail and texture out, the Miracle encourages you to lower the volume, offering up assurances that not a single nuance will be lost.
I have to insert one of my usual disclaimers here – the fact that the Miracle is the most proficient earphone I’ve heard is not necessarily an indication that more drivers mean better sound, nor does it mean that throwing more money at your portable audio rig will result in significant performance gains. All I can say is that having occasion to use the Miracle still puts a smile on my face and I plan to enjoy it for years to come – thanks, of course, to the Head-Fi community.
Pros: Excellent long-term comfort; high isolation; superb finish; fantastic overall sound quality
Cons: Correct insertion takes some getting used to; no portable carrying case included