Unique Melody Terminator 3DT ($399): UM stabilizes their wares.

Unique Melody Terminator 3DT: UM stabilizes their wares.

Pros: UM Build
UM quality
UM sound-warmer and a richness I really like
Excellent detail response with a clarity worthy of the UM moniker
Price
Gorgeous looks
Excellent cable
Affordable
Really cool case
An immediate leader at this price
Solid sound all around, that does not offend

Cons: Typical UM larger nozzle/sleeve diameter, which can make for a larger fit
Fingerprint magnet
Not much else, maybe a bit more excitement from the sound
I like UM a whole lot? (i.e. slant my reviews? nope)

Unique Melody Terminator 3DT ($399): UM stabilizes their wares. 4.25 stars

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UM 3DT

Material
Selected Stabilized Wood
Special Craft
Pigments and resins are mixed in a specific proportion and filled into the log.
Appearance
Has more coloration layers than traditional resin shells.
Exclusiveness
Exclusive design.


Intro:

I am quite familiar with Unique Melody having owned a few models over the years. I still keep the Maestro V2 on hand as one of my reference models. I did sell my Mentor V3 about a year ago. One of the first things I appreciated about UM was how they constantly innovate. Pushing the design envelope is one thing, but to not be afraid of shaking the design world up is another. Various designs have come and gone with UM; some highly received and some not. Success has been had from the sound first and foremost as the Maestro V2 made Flickernik’s top five at the time. I agree with his assessment as well.

I appreciate the tuning of all the UM’s I have had for being rich and warm without being dull in the clarity department. There is a sense of sound, which fits my bill quite well with any UM I have had. After missing out on the MEST and mini-MEST I saw the advert for the Terminator 3DT, and the stabilized wood piqued my interest. Not only did the model look gorgeous, but from the very early assessments the sound was typical UM.

Contacting Andrew, we reached an agreement for the purchase. I paid for this model at a discounted rate. That will not hinder my review and if anything will make the opinion more honest as a judge of price. All that is asked is an open. Honest review. I would have it no other way.

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Specs:

Specifications
Driver Counts: Three Drivers
SPL: @1KHz 113dB
Impedance: 25.4Ω
FR: 20Hz-20KHz
Driver Type: Three Independent Dynamic Drivers
Driver Configuration: 2 Bass Drivers+1 Mids-Treble Driver



Gear used/compared:

Dunu SA-6 ($499)
Phonic BWD 9.2 ($400)
Phonic BW4 ($580)
Noble Savant II ($499)

Shanling M6 Pro
Cayin N6 mk2ii
HiBy R3 Pro Sabre
MBP/iFi Zen CAN


Songlist:

Dave Matthews
Joey Alexander-Warna album and others
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
twenty one pilots
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World
Mark Knopfler-Down The Road Wherever
Elton John-yep, still good, still cool
Alex Fox
Jesse Cooke
Tidal MQA



Unboxing:



Coming in the familiar plain black box of UM days gone by, I still like the subtlety of it. Laden with the UM glossy logo on top and the web address on the front in gold, the box opens from the front. Inside you are met with a 2-tome blue box with black highlights. This is a move away from the traditional black steel/aluminum alloy hockey puck case of yore. I like those cases, but they are a bit small. As such the new design is hip and up to date. Unzipping the top, you are met with the stabilized wood IEM, cable and tips (in plastic bags). What is interesting is a Velcro diamond insert, which can be moved to accommodate extra tips, the cable, an extra cable, or taken out to make room for a small DAP such as the Shanling M0, M1 or Q1. Also included is a Velcro cable strap, which for me gets tucked away in a corner of the case.

The case itself is sturdy even if a bit large. The added benefit that it is made by Diginis of Smartphone case fame certainly helps. Quality is as expected quite good. You won’t be able to keep it in your pocket, but that is no bother since most of us carry a bag to work/school/etc anyway. I do like the case, and do not mind the size, especially since you can throw a small DAP in there or another cable to take advantage of your multi-jacked DAP. Nicely done.

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Inside technology:

Made with 3 dynamic drivers (3DT) the UM goes against the grain of having multi-BA’s, a nice trend. Two are 7mm compound diaphragm dd’s (bass) and the other a 10mm CNT dd (mids & treble). Much of the inside is 3D printed such as the acoustic tube, making the design precise and light.

The shells are stabilized wood mixed with a high-quality resin, making each poured shell separately giving a unique custom look. There seems to be a large push for this type of shell/pattern/stabilized wood of late and I do like the individual variation this allows. There are some simply gorgeous patterns out there, and when you add in that much of the wood used is reclaimed or recycled you have another benefit. My pattern consists of spotted yellow (think Tuliptree, Liriodendron tulipifera) in blue pigment colored shells. A bit understated, but I like this as I am not a fan of anything too garish. Subtly understated in their elegance, yet still stunning in looks.


Stabilized Wood/Fit/Finish/Build:

As a continued section from above, there is a push for “custom, non-custom” IEM shells using methods such as stabilized wood and the individual patterns, which can result. From the older Audioquest Nighthawk to the UM 3DT and others, there is a real environmental aspect to the use of the wood, and the resin used is as environmentally friendly as one can hope. For the same price as the regular models, you get essentially a custom looking shell as a result. @Niyologist put quite eloquently how his looks, “The deep blue pigment is like staring into sapphire. The light brown color looks more like a light caramel color. It reminds me of looking into a hot cup of coffee that has been stirred with a few teaspoons of coffee creamer.” That’s some good verbiage right there, it is. Mine has more blue than his, but nonetheless, I am reminded of the old blue bottled drinks of yore. A throwback to different colored glass bottles.

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I have yet to experience an UM model, which has subpar or even average build quality. Running from quite good, to spot-on perfect the models have ranged from understanded in their elegance to sheer models of beauty. The 3DT does not disappoint in that department. The shape and glossy color are what get me in trouble with some. The Mason V3 was an excellent unit, but the nozzle was too big to fit into my ear comfortably. Plus, it was a large shell as well. And that glossy color came with a downside as well. Fingerprints. Thankfully, the 3DT’s blue hides most of that, but they are still there. Just a slight downside to me.

With a wide neck base to the nozzle, I do find that while using foam tips the girth of the set makes for some long-term issues. I use the foamies for isolation and bass. Using the included silicon’s open the sound up more and alleviate the added pressures. I prefer the sound coming from the foam but will list both below. And as per usual, you should try multiple tips yourself. With a silver plug on the back, acting as a small vent hole, the only other differentiation from the gorgeous shells is the silver nozzle, laden with a nice mesh filter and a wider lip to hold tips in place. To me, it does not really matter what color the nozzle is. Does it match? Well…with the tips on you cannot see it, so what difference does it make? None.

Seams between the nozzle, shell and faceplate are non-existent, even with the covered poly coating. Sometimes you can see the connecting area between the three, but not here. Clean, clear and melding perfectly with the overall character of the unit. Well built, with excellent finish as well.

Other than the wider base to the nozzle connection, fit is good. I was able to attain a solid seal, which did not change when I moved my head from side to side. Sitting slightly out, this is among the bigger shells I have had, which actually fit well inside my ear. It does take up a lot of space, but using silicon’s, I had no issues with long sessions. For foam, I may have to find one size smaller than the medium I use. I know Comply makes a size between small and medium, called medium-small I believe (go figure…). That would yield good seal and a bit more comfortable fit.

Overall, the fit, finish and build are on par with other offerings at this price.

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Sound:

As per my normal, I listened to insure all was working, then set the 3DT on my Shanling M0 for approximately 75 hours. Not that it necessarily needed it, but because I like hearing what the critter sounds like down the road.

My first critical listen gave rise to good clarity (with a good note of air between notes), but not spectacular. Somewhat subdued maybe, but not to the detriment of the overall character, which is a rich warmer-sided sound. Smooth would be apropos. Alex Fox’s To The Gypsies is a lighter song anyway, and the 3DT represents that lilting sound quite well. Succinct bass, with fast decay aid in the presentation of accuracy, but not analytically clinical. Good reach in the upper bass also give the air of reaching deeper than it actually may (I don’t have a graph handy, and use seat of the pants listening, instead), which gives me a nice selection of tight bass, with a bit of push down low.

To me, many of the highlights from UM models I have had in the past stem from the glorious mids, and the 3DT would not be different. Guitar work is succinct with a touch of warmth or rather mellowness that does not want to override the character. But, at the same time it does not shy from view. Gravedigger from Dave Matthews gives a good result in analyzing those mids. His gravelly voice never sounded buzzy, or middled; but instead clear in representing the passion of the song. I would call it lush, but that denotes sloppiness to me. That is certainly not the case. Maybe passionate would be a better descriptor. Voicing almost dead-center, vocals certainly take the center point of attention, but not in a “look at me” fashion. No, the mids come along highlighting what the song presents. A sad, melancholic song of pain and passion (there’s that word again), which is the way the band intended.

Female vocals such as Bonnie Raitt’s on Thing Called Love highlight not only her own gravelly voice, but how well her guitarwork plays along with the song. The roll of her voice naturally emanates from the 3DT, without effort. I find myself reaching for the “up” volume button on the HiBy R5 Pro Saber on hand. Such a succulent voice she has, and the representation here is of an honest nature you like. I appreciate this presentation.

Songs such as Ottmar Liebert’s Oceanside highlight a very good treble note. One that punctuates the air, but does so without becoming grating, bitey or sibilant. The upper end reaches a good top, much like all of the UM’s I have owned or tried over the years. This has to be one of my all-time favorite treble presentations out there. You completely understand from where the song comes from and proceeds forward but do so on the journey without wincing or grinding your teeth at the harshness up top. Why? Because there isn’t any! To be sure, it is not shy, but more like an effervescence, which makes you a bit tingly, but in a good way. OK, that was way too fruity a definition. Think of the upper presentation as the friend who comes along and does not bug you in the least. Calmly providing guidance to the others to the point where those others do not even know they are being led (in a good way) towards their destination.

That destination is of course, a listening pleasure, which makes you happy. Continuing with Ottmar Liebert’s Nuevo Mexico, there is a top tapping sound, which “that friend” happily brings the other with. A musical destination of which you make the journey the memory as the destination is just the culmination.

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Soundstage/Isolation/Instrumentation/Layering:

I’ve become less reliant upon IEMs/headphones, which come across as spaciously wide in soundstage, but rather appreciate the overall character of the note provided. If you can separate the distinct instruments, then you do not really need a cavernous presentation. Coldplay’s Spies highlights the separation of instruments while also providing a severe test of the upper end. As Chris’ voice starts the song, there is acoustical guitar work going on simultaneously but on a separate plane, which is clearly defined. His voice powerful and defined, a lesser IEM might prevent enjoyment due to an overly centered view up top. Not so here, due to that wonderful presentation.

When the other instruments come in, complicating the song, you still get a very good sense of separation and layering. I can clearly define the instrumentation, even in this complicated mess of a song. I really enjoy the presentation of Coldplay songs as they swing from simplicity and divine vocals to complicated underlying’s of sound, which emanates in all directions. Excellent for defining the soundstage as well, the 3DT is just about cubic to me, measuring a bit higher than deeper and wider. Vocals are a bit upward as well in presentation. This is a good nearly centered presentation. Moving on to Sparks, the separation and succinct nature of the song emotes a distinct listening pleasure that is defined by clarity this time as well as a staccato-like presence of all instruments involved competing, but not overshadowing Martin’s voice. Complimentary they are together, and a tight richness gives a presence to the song, which further defines what I like about UM products. The taut bass line holds it mettle as the other notes pervade your senses making for a cacophony of swirling emotions, or rather notes to the song. Just a fun song is had, and again helps define what the UM sound is to me.

A note about the transients of the 3DT. Much has been made about this aspect of the “listening pleasure” of many IEM’s/headphones. Defined, it is the speed of which something reacts to that sound at the beginning and end of the note. Speed of transient response is often defined as a comparative point in which to judge the “quality” of presentation. Some of the best IEM’s I have heard have been rated low in transient response by others. So, to me, it is but one part of the whole spectrum, and one should not put too much emphasis on that singularity. Coldplay’s Trouble is the perfect point. An almost drippingly mellow song, which seems to drag would be rated as a downer using the 3DT, due to the response within. But here, thanks to the UM’s signature of somewhat laidback but clearly defined character with good air between the notes that song presentation comes across slow, but how it is meant to be. My point? Do not take one singularity of the sound as the defining part or answer. Ultimately it is the sum of those parts, and most of all what you personally get out of the sound.

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Comparisons:

UM 3DT ($399) v Dunu SA-6 ($499):

When I first heard the SA-6, I had the Luna and a couple of other IEM’s in house. The Dunu made such an impression upon me, that I pretty much gave it the seal of approval as the best IEM currently available at the $500 price point. I still feel that way as it is a superb example of a company moving forward and a bit away from their trademark shape and brighter signatured sounds. I like Dunu, but espoused that if this was the new direction of the Dunu line-up, I was in. Wholeheartedly.

I really like the bass presentation as it is strong and vibrant. Tightly controlled, you can tailor it a bit with the switch as well. As luck would have it, I sent it on to @Wiljen to review and he concurs with my findings. It is a superb gem at this price, providing a thoroughly satisfying sound from top to bottom. If there is one complaint, it may be that some wish for more up top. Me? Nah, as it matches the UM quite nicely. They are in fact more similar than different. But the SA-6 hits harder and with better control. The 3DT may emote more due to the more laidback signature, but the Dunu sounds oh so sweet that it may be worth the extra Ben for the price.


UM 3DT ($399) v Phonic BWD 9.2 ($400):

Running a single 9.2mm DD, the BWD 9.2 was the second purchase I made from Kenneth during our COVID lockdown. I have always appreciated units, which have a single DD, and this one is no different. The choice of wood can hinder/help the sound from which comes out the chamber. Trying to choose the wood with the most bass-defined sound, the reclaimed Taiwan Acacia makes for a very nice, pleasing sound. Bass hits a bit harder but loses touch when you move towards the mids. Vocals are sublime in their laidback character, especially when you rely upon one of the filters, which can be easily changed. Running without the filters here, the sound is vastly different than the 3DT. Feeling a bit claustrophobic in comparison to the others, once acclimated back to the sound you realize it is an intimate sound not claustrophobic.

Presentation up top pushes further than the 3DT, highlighted by Charlie Brown and that characteristic clash at the beginning. Coming on strong, and powerful, but not overly brutish, I appreciate that Kenneth really tried to make the BWD a musical experience, not just a purveyor of sound notes. You really must take the BWD as a whole and not singularly. When I try and discern the individualities, the whole is lost for the worse, and that is a shame. Taken as a whole, after reacclimating myself, I remember what I appreciated. Succinct airy note with a bit of bite down low and rumble. A note up top, which makes this V-shaped sound, which is quite different than the 3DT.

If you want cohesive sound, with a character that gives you a more mellow (mature?) sound, the 3DT works here. If you want a bit more fun, with a single DD, then the BWD would be the choice.

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UM 3DT ($399) v Phonic BW4 ($580):

The first of my COVID Phonic purchases, the BW4 represents the TOTL of their line. Utilizing four BA’s this is a more up-front sound than the BWD 9.2 or the 3DT. This one is not for the shy. With an almost in your face sound, the BA’s work in concert to present a more even sound than the single DD BWD. After hearing both, I do like the BW4 more. There is a level of maturity here that is not boring or mellow. It is an airy presentation of good clarity, wrought with a deeper push of bass note than the 3DT. The mids are the star of the show here, and best the 3DT. As stated above with the 9.2, you need to take the whole as opposed to the parts to appreciate the sound. Here though, you relish in the individuality of sound coming out. Those mids and vocals are among the best at this price and are sublimely present in a frontal manner. One in which you do not mind, and not too much in your face to prevent your enjoyment. Think of this as the front row center at an Aerosmith concert and it is well worth the cost.

If you want a more coherent overall presentation, that is more laid-back and mature, then the 3DT would be the choice. If you want a sound, which would pattern itself after a nightclub or front row concert, then the BW4 is the choice.



UM 3DT ($399) v Noble Savant II ($499):


The first Noble I have purchased, the Savant II provides me with a thoroughly enjoying sound, which is mature, has enough grunt to satisfy me, and mids, which are typical of Noble quality; sumptuous and rich. The fit of the Savant is the best of all here. Small and of a kidney bean shape, this is one, which could be worn for hours. Typical Noble push up top has been tamed a bit here (can you sense a pattern of what I like?…), which fits well with the overall character. Bass support and treble of pleasantries, bracketing a thoroughly satisfying mid-section, where vocals. While a bit behind the rest, there is no denying that the vocals are dead center and one of the main focuses, drawing you into the tonality of the sound signature. This is one of my two current favorites at the $500 price. The other is listed in the first comparison.

The 3DT has a bit deeper push, and mids, which are raised and more frontal in attack. Treble of both are on par, so this comes down to whether you want a thoroughly mature sound in the Savant II versus a bit more laid back mid-centric sound. Both follow that path but approach it differently. The 3DT with more direct focus on the mids, while the Savant II has that mid focus, by withdrawing it a bit. Still recognizable and unmistakably present, just not to the forefront like the 3DT. Of all here, these two are probably the most alike, but still different.

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Finale:

The 3DT was a purchase that I do not regret. Andrew and MusicTeck carry fine wares, and the 3DT is another in a long list of quality Unique Melody products. I have sampled many and appreciate and like all that I have tried. It is somewhat of an anomaly that one would like ALL offerings from a manufacturer, but UM is one of those companies who keep innovating to stay ahead of the game. But they do not forget about their entry level models, either. And here is where the 3DT comes into play with fine tuning, that will satisfy most users for it does not offend. It also has the familiar excellent build quality of UM as well. Always top notch, and full of accessories as well, the UM final product is always thorough and thoroughly satisfying.

The 3DT follows that trend as mentioned and has kind of set the followers of UM on fire with desire and passion in which to potentially own. UM are amongst the most devoted fans out there and as such, they can smell a fake from afar. This one is not fake, nor does it stray from the tried UM sound signature of providing an unoffensive, rich sound while providing you with enough detail to appreciate that while there may be more to come from those of higher cost in the family; the 3DT will surely satiate those who appreciate a bargain. And it really is one for you get all of the mentioned attributes above and a sound to back up those gorgeous looks.

I again thank Andrew and Musicteck for the connection. Much of my gear experience has come through Musicteck, and the service has been nothing short of excellent. Top class, and top-class products. Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, I really like the 3DT as well.

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