In each comparison I used SP1000 SS as my sources. Also, each pair was volume matched for consistency.
Mell vs Westone ES80 – Mell soundstage is wider, but ES80 has a little more depth pushing sound further out. While I consider both to be neutrally tuned, the biggest and the most noticeable difference here is the sub-bass, where Mell goes deeper and has more rumble while ES80 roll off with a politer sub-bass extension. Mid-bass is similar here, maybe with Mell punching a touch harder, but I think I got that perception based on Mell bass being a little faster and tighter, while ES80 mid-bass is a little more relaxed in comparison. Both have similar neutral lower mids, while Mell upper mids are a little more revealing in comparison to ES80 upper mids being smoother and more organic, but still not too far off. Both exhibit a similar retrieval of details in mid-range. Treble has a lot of similarities as well, having a natural well controlled non-fatigue sparkle. ES80 was a big step for Westone, away from their usual lush signature. Mell tuning is for those who want ES80 with a deeper sub-bass and a little brighter and airier upper frequency tonality.
Mell vs 64 Audio U18t – In this comparison I hear both Mell and U18t having nearly identical soundstage expansion, in both width and depth. Once you start comparing their signature and tonality, you will also notice a lot of similarities in bass with a similar sub-bass extension and mid-bass punch, but U18t bass feels even faster, with a performance more typical of BA drivers, while Mell is somewhere in between of the speed of BA and the full roundness of Dynamic driver. Moving up to the mids, you will hear more difference with U18t lower mids being a little leaner in comparison to a more neutral Mell. Upper mids are brighter and more forward in U18t, while Mell sounds a little smoother and not as forward, but despite the difference in presentation and tonality, both offer a similar level of detail retrieval. Their treble performance pushes them even more apart, with Mell being more natural, smoother, and with a more moderate sparkle, while U18t being brighter, with more sparkle, and more airiness. The choice here will be based on a personal preference of tonality.
Mell vs UM Mason V3 – Both have a very similar soundstage width, maybe with Mell being a tiny bit wider, but overall the width is nearly identical. With depth, I feel like Mell pushes the sound/vocals a little bit further out of your head, while Mason brings it a little closer to you, giving it a more intimate feeling. In bass comparison, Mell bass is closer in sub-bass extension/rumble to Mason (with bass module closed), when Mason port is open, sub-bass attenuates down. In mid-bass, Mason packs a little more punch, while Mell is staying closer to more neutral quantity, but overall the bass is similarly layered and has the same tight control. With an exception of mids presentation, where as I mentioned Mell gives it more space while Mason brings it closer and makes it more intimate, the tonality and the layering of the lower and upper mids are nearly the same. Treble is where I hear more difference with Mell being smoother and more natural, while Mason having more sparkle, being brighter and crisper. But in a summary, these are not too far off in tuning and performance.
Mell vs oBravo ERIB1C – I know some might question, why compare DD/PMD hybrid to 10BA iem? Well, aside from bass, these have a lot more in common. Starting with a soundstage, semi-open design of ERIB1C has nearly the same width as Mell, while ERIB1C depth is more holographic out of your head, even further out then Mell. Despite ERIB1C having a dynamic driver low end, it’s a lot more neutral than Mell, while Mell has a deeper sub-bass extension and stronger mid-bass punch. Mids have a lot of similarities, both having a neutral lower mids and smoother natural upper mids with a very similar level of detail retrieval. The variation in soundstage depth gives mids a little different perception since ERIB1C pushes them further out of your heard, but once you adjust your focus, you quickly realize how similar they are in tonality and transparency, maybe with ERIB1C being just a touch smoother, but not too far off. With treble, while I hear ERIB1C extending further and Mell having more sparkle, they both have a well-controlled natural treble tonality. What strikes me the most here, we are comparing miniature planar magnetic driver to multi-BAs, where I find tuning similarities.
Mell vs Ultimate Ears UERR – Of course, how can I talk about neutrally tuned IEM without bringing up UERR. In this comparison, I find Mell to have a wider soundstage, while both have the same soundstage depth. UERR bass is a lot more neutral, something I consider to be flatter, while Mell has a noticeably deeper sub-bass rumble and a stronger mid-bass punch. Lower mids are similarly neutral, without any additional boost or attenuation, while upper mids slightly vary with Mell sounding more natural and smoother while UERR being a little brighter and sounding a little raw in comparison to Mell. While both have a treble with a similar sparkle and extension, the tonality of Mell is a little smoother and more natural while UERR pushes a little brighter here. I still consider both to be neutrally tuned, just at an opposite spectrum of it, especially when it comes to the low end and the treble.
From Mell spec, it has 36ohm impedance (a perfect average to make it sound great even with higher OI sources), and 109dB sensitivity, a little below average which requires a few extra volume clicks.
A&K SP1000 SS – very wide soundstage expansion, zero hissing, neutral signature with a natural tonality, a little extra sub-bass rumble, neutral lower mids, clear detailed natural mids, well defined treble with a natural sparkle. This is my baseline pair up.
Sony WM1Z – very wide soundstage expansion, zero hissing, neutral signature with natural revealing and slightly brighter tonality in upper mids/treble. In this pair up, sub-bass has a great extension but a little less rumble in comparison to SPK. Mids are a little leaner, and I hear upper mids and treble being slightly more revealing and a little brighter. This pair up wasn’t my favorite since I preferred a more natural tonality of SPK pair up.
Hiby R6 – very wide soundstage expansion, zero hissing, and no effect of 10ohm output impedance since this is 36ohm iem. Signature is more neutral-balanced, with a natural revealing tonality, nice deep sub-bass rumble, punchy mid-bass, natural revealing upper mids, and a nice crisp treble. It takes SPK SS pair up to the next level with an improved retrieval of details, though SPK is a little smoother and more organic in comparison. Really enjoyed this pair up; perhaps high output impedance is good for Mell.
FiiO X5iii – wide soundstage expansion, nearly zero hissing – hard to believe but output is quiet, and I usually use X5iii specifically to check for hissing. Sound sig is more neutral-balanced with a warmer smoother more organic tonality. Sub-bass rumble goes deep, and mid-bass has a little more punch here. Lower mids are neutral, upper mids are detailed, natural, organic, treble has a nice well controlled sparkle. I was surprised with this pair up since many IEMs do hiss with X5iii, while here it was down to minimum, hard to even hear it. In this pair-up Mell don’t have the most detailed sound, instead it’s the smoothest and the most organic.
Lotoo PAW Gold – very wide soundstage expansion, zero hissing. The signature is more neutral-balanced with a natural revealing tonality. Bass is very punchy and tight, but sub-bass extension here is not as deep as in other pair ups. Lower mids are neutral and upper mids are more revealing but in a natural non-analytical way. Treble is very crisp, but not harsh. In this pair-up I actually hear upper mids/treble to be a little brighter in comparison to other ones.
iBasso DX200Ti w/amp8 – very wide soundstage expansion, zero hissing, neutral balanced signature with a natural revealing tonality. Bass has a deep sub-bass extension and nice fast mid-bass punch, neutral lower mids, natural revealing upper mids, and a very nice crisp treble which still maintains a natural tonality. This pair up felt like a more refined version of R6. I think this was probably my favorite Mell pair up, with the best sound transparency.
In the intro of my review I mentioned that I wanted to hear Oriolus Mellianus again, so I can get the sound sig out of my head, but instead I became more addicted to this silver bird. I have heard, tested, and compared a lot of flagship IEMs, and after a while the excitement drains out because every new IEM is just a variation of something you heard before. With Mell, it’s something different, and I feel that it stands out and complements other IEMs I have tested. This IEM is not trying to excel in bass slam or mids micro-details or treble sparkle. It just flows naturally with an even transition across entire frequency range. It’s not flat or fun and not laidback or energetic, it just sounds neutral, natural, balanced, and enjoyable for many hours of non-fatigue listening.
I talked to a few other people who also auditioned both Mellianus and Nerva X and preferred X because they wanted more bass and more treble sparkle. We all have different sound preference and I don’t expect everybody to appreciate Mell the way I do. In my opinion, Mell emphasizes more on quality rather than quantity in everything from the sound tuning to the design. And even so I wasn’t too crazy about cable ergonomics, the pair up with stock pure silver wires is excellent, and with access to so many other premium cables, I still went back to the stock one. If you get a chance to audition this pair of IEMs, don’t miss the opportunity.