Unique Melody UM Mason v3+ and Mentor v3+

Sound Analysis.

I analyzed v3+ models sound performance paired up with LPGT while playing a variety of test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, Dua Lipa “Love again”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.

For the sound analysis I will be doing something different here.  The intent of this review was to focus on v3+ models and their tuning, thus you are not going to see my usual multiple comparisons and pair ups.  Instead, I dissected each v3+ model to give you a detailed analysis of their sound performance and other sound-shaping variables (eartips, DB-GO, dual-tone and upgrade cables).

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Mason v3+

I hear Mason v3+ to have a more balanced signature with a natural detailed tonality.  The soundstage is wide and deep, but not on holographic level.  As a matter of fact, I hear its soundstage to have a more intimate feeling which makes imaging more focused by bringing sounds/vocals closer together.  I hear good dynamics of vertical peaks and a decent level of layering and separation of the sounds.

Bass sounds a little north of neutral, where sub-bass could be boosted to add a little rumble using DB-GO module.  Mids are natural, detailed, and have accurate organic tonality.  Treble is a little peaky around 6kHz but not too exaggerated or harsh, adding more clarity and sparkle to the sound.  During my listening, I found Mason v3+ to sound more natural at lower listening volume since treble was less accentuated.

DB-GO module adjustment was noticeable.  When turning both knobs forward, I hear the increase in sub-bass rumble.  When turning both knobs back, sub-bass became more neutral.  Just have to keep in mind that both knobs need to be turned at the same time.

Dual-Tone cable switch yielded difference in sound as well, though I know cable discussion is always a sensitive subject. With UM label on the right (copper side), I hear a more natural fuller body mids, while with UM label on the left (silver side), I hear a brighter and more revealing mids and treble.  Call it a micro-tuning sound adjustment, but it is noticeable to my ears.

Switch to EA Phanes cable is where I hear a more noticeable refinement of the sound.  With EA label on outside (alloy wires), I hear mids/vocals a little more forward, making them a touch smoother, and also a noticeable improvement in lower treble, sounding more natural and less peaky while still keeping the same level of sparkle and high frequency energy.  When switching to UM label on outside (palladium plated silver wires), I hear a different change where mids have a little more clarity while treble is a bit smoother.

Next, I switched between foam tips and silicone tips.  Going with foam tips takes away from resolution since it affected treble and also made mids a bit too shouty for my taste.

For Mason v3+, my favorite combo was with DB-GO turned to add more sub-bass rumble, and EA Phanes cable with UM label facing outside (palladium plated silver) while using stock silicone tips.  This combo gave me the best balance of resolution and natural tonality.

As a bonus, since I have original Mason v3, in comparison the new V3+ has smoother, more natural mids and treble.  It’s a small refinement, not exactly night and day, but it does make a noticeable fine-tuning difference.

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Mentor v3+

I hear Mentor v3+ to have a slightly more mid-forward sound presentation (especially in upper mids) with a more revealing tonality which brings the sound signature closer to V-shaped.  Sound is more micro-detailed in comparison to Mason v3+, and has more overall energy.  Soundstage is also wide and deep, having a more holographic expansion in comparison to Mason v3+, including a better imaging since instruments and vocals are more spread apart.  The sound is still as dynamic and layered.

Bass is more neutral here, having a linear tuning with a nice balance between sub-bass and mid-bass.  I preferred to keep DB-GO turned on to boost sub-bass, giving a little more weight to low end.  Mids are more neutral, even a little leaner and a bit more forward, especially in upper mids, but still sound natural to my ears, while Mason v3+ mids are more organic with a fuller body.  Treble tuning is different compared to Mason v3+ as well, with lower treble peak shifting from around 6kHz to 7kHz and also being attenuated down, making it sound more natural and less harsh.  Plus, there is a higher peak around 12kHz, adding more air to the sound of Mentor v3+ when compared to Mason v3+.

DB-GO module adjustment here was noticeable as well, and had the same effect.  When you turn both knobs forward, I hear the increase in sub-bass rumble.  When you turn both knobs back, sub-bass sounds more neutral.  And again, keep in mind to adjust both controls simultaneously.

Dual-Tone cable switch yielded difference in sound as well, at least based on what I’m hearing.  With UM label on the right (copper), I hear a warmer fuller body mids.  With UM label on the left (silver), I’m hearing a brighter more revealing mids and treble.

Switch to EA Phanes cable is where I also hear a more noticeable refinement of the sound.  With EA label on outside (alloy wires), I hear more sparkle and more focus on the treble while pushing mids presentation a little back.  Switching to UM label on outside (palladium plated silver wires) brings focus back to mids with a more natural revealing tonality, making treble sound more natural as well, and actually making the sound signature more balanced.

Next, I switched between foam tips and silicone tips.  Going with foam tips added a little more body to lower mids and tamed some treble sparkle, making the overall sound signature even more balanced (less v-shaped).

For Mentor v3+, my favorite combo was also with DB-GO boosting the sub-bass and Phanes cable with palladium plated silver (UM label out) wires.  But a stock cable makes a great pair up in here as well, except I liked to switch it to a silver side, giving mids more transparency.  Foam eartips took the edge off treble peaks, making it sound more natural.

Since I don’t have the original Mentor v3 anymore, only had it on loan when reviewed it, I wasn’t able to do a direct a/b comparison between v3 and v3+.  And I don’t like to speculate about the sound difference by memory since I heard it a while ago.

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Conclusion.

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to review original versions of Mason v3 and Mentor v3.  After spending time with each one, analyzing and comparing it, I found Mason v3 to hit closer to my sound tuning preference.  So, I expected the same to hold true when I approached v3+ models, but came to a different conclusion.  Even considering the updated v3+ tuning, Mason is still balanced and resolving, but its 6kHz peak could be a little harsh if you are sensitive to lower treble, but I’m sure treble-heads will love it.  On the other hand, Mentor remained v-shaped due to its leaner lower mids, and I found its 7kHz peak to be more tolerable and less fatigue.

When you start finetuning the sound by switching to foam eartips, both have their lower treble peaks tamed down, but for Mason it caused the resolution to be lower, while for Mentor it made the sound signature more balanced.  Using DB-GO to add more sub-bass gave the low end more weight, and then switching to Phanes cable, specifically palladium plated silver wires side, refined the sound further, to the point where I actually preferred Mentor v3+ over Mason v3+.

The bottom line, manufacturers do tune IEMs based on their own vision of how it should sound.  But we also get a chance to customize and to finetune the sound further to our own liking.  With an exception of optional Phanes cable, these v3+ models give you access to different eartips, 2 sides of the stock dual-tone cable with different wire material, and adjustable DB-GO tuning port.  And if you want to scale up the performance, I would recommend looking into EA Phanes cable upgrade when ordering v3+, since I noticed its upgrade price (on MusicTeck) to be much lower than buying it by itself.

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