Clean and transparent mids, Balanced and airy highs
Punchy and fast bass, Expansive soundstage
Bass could have used some more volume
A bit more energy in highs
Slightly more depth
I have only been acquainted with Unique Melody’s one work so far, the Mirage, a 3 BA offering. And I have to say, I was completely convinced about UM’s reputability. The Mirage is an incredible piece of work that I love dearly.
Because of that love, when I saw UM was releasing another quite unique offering, 3D-Terminator (3DT in short), a 3 dynamic driver IEM, for just $399 (current price – $349), I was intrigued! I had some spare cash, and since all other IEMs of mine are either full BA or hybrid, I was longing for a full DD set. There was a good offer going on for them, so got it for slightly cheaper. Received it quite late for some logistical issues, though. But when I put them in my ear, I found out…
Unique Melody does stay true to their name with their every offering!
And honestly, and I cannot stress this enough, each of those unique melodies that their offerings sing out is equally enjoyable. At least that is the case for me with Mirage and 3DT!
It’s pretty evident from the specification that it is fairly easy to drive, and that is exactly how it is. I drove it through my phone, Cayin N3 and N3 pro, Fiio Q5; in all the cases it was very much easy to drive.
Build and Fit:
3DT is perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing IEM I own. The colour combination of royal blue and stabilised wood looks very premium. There is a glossy finish over the shell that adds to that aspect even more. When held between fingers, the IEM feels really solid and capable of withstanding a beating.
Fit can be an issue, however. The IEM is thick. Well, housing three DD can be demanding, and I believe Unique Melody has put their best effort here to optimise the space accumulated. Still, the earpieces are quite bulky, the most in all my collection. So people with smaller ears may face difficulty. I can manage them, but let’s just say they are not the most comfortable among the rest of my collection. However, the sound more than compensates for it, so I do not complain.
Cayin N3 Pro
Now, the most important part – How It Sounds.
Honestly, it has become quite a while since I have listened to all DD IEM. I tend to prefer BA mids and Highs much more than DD ones – more distinct note definition, better separation, better imaging. I think the last full DD IEM I used was Simgot EN700 Pro, which I did not hate. But after that, only BA or Hybrids.
So, I was quite waiting in anticipation as to how it will sound. Well, let’s just say I was sufficiently pleased!
My unit has around 150+ hours of burn-in period accumulated, so suffice to say they are almost at their peak performance. I have been using them with Azla SednaEarFit Light Short M tips.
Two 7 mm DD are at play here, and Unique Melody confirmed that both plays the full Low frequency, not like one is for mid-bass one is for sub-bass. I believe that is the real trick behind how the Bass sound full-bodied yet controlled and fast. It scratched the itch of Bass very well! Fast, punchy, weighty, textured, controlled, and detailed – these are the key attributes.
Subbass has very good rumble and body, overall a very distinct presence that can be easily felt, but not overwhelming. It has a very nice physicality to it. Extends deep, decays fast. Textures are accurately reproduced. There is absolutely no place for discontent here.
Midbass has a very satisfactory punch and very good speed, which gives it a very nicely controlled presence. The midbass thumps have good weight but due to the good speed, it never overwhelms the other spectrums. Like sub-bass, midbass textures are also reproduced very distinctly.
Fast, textured but weighty – this is how 3DT can be termed as. 3DT exhibits excellent control on the bass, such that it stays completely out of the mids.
In Steven Wilson – Pariah and Muse – Showbiz the basslines sound quite right with satisfactory note weight and presence, yet it never becomes overwhelming.
In Battlestar Galactica Season 2 OST – Prelude To War the bass drums are one of the best I have ever heard. They sound full and rumble very nice, decay naturally, and stop right before being overwhelming. The result is extremely satisfactory.
In The Dark Knight OST – Why So Serious? from 03:25, the sub-bass reaches very deep, and 3DT represents it on an almost physical level. The feeling gives goosebumps!
This is where I fell in love with 3DT even more. The best way to term the mids will be natural. No warm touch, no coldness, neither too thick nor too thin. It can almost be termed as neutral, but at the same time, it definitely is not dry or sterile. Mids here has very good weight, very good details, are extremely musical and engaging. Notes have very good transparency and layering, although I have to say it is slightly behind the level of BA driver mids in those aspects. But then, 3DT has the musical factor and engaging characteristic which BA drivers often fail to provide. 3DT mids strike a brilliant balance between crispness and sharpness: the notes are crisp enough to exhibit very good separation and retain the energy, and yet they never cross the threshold into shoutyness or harshness.
The sound signature of 3DT is slightly V-shaped, which effectively puts the mids slightly behind in the stage. But that helps to improve the perceived depth of stage only, the mids presence are not at all affected. Everything is reproduced very coherently, nothing overshadows others.
Lower mids are extremely natural and musical. Male vocals are quite emotional with the right amount of weight. The same can be said for string instruments like guitar, cello, violin etc. Textures are reproduced effortlessly.
Upper mids are no slouch either. Female vocals scale-up brilliantly without being harsh or piercing on the ears while displaying all the sizzles and energy in full grandeur.
In Battlestar Galactica Season 2 OST – Prelude To War the snare drum roll takes a slight backseat (compared to BA mids), but the crispness and details are still very much present in the mix. The only takeaway here is that the BA notes have more depth, whereas here the note depths are a bit less.
In Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah, his voice reaches to the very depth of the baritone effortlessly, producing all the textures, and yet keeping it perfectly natural without becoming overly thick. Gave goosebumps… heard the same while playing Poets Of The Fall – The Ballad of Jeremiah Peacekeeper. Mike Saaresto’s voice was brought out in its full grunt, conveying the underlying emotion in full bloom.
When I hit play on Yao Si Ting – Scarborough Fair, I was not prepared for what was coming. I never heard her voice sound so musical, energetic, and yet so not piercing!! The underlying sizzles were very much present, yet easy on ears!! I was entranced, to say the least!
In Silversun Pickups – The Royal We, Muse – Showbiz, and Nine Inch Nails – Get Down Make Love, there are a lot of harsh-sounding electric guitars, cymbal crashes, and sharp metallic vocals. 3DT manages to reproduce them brilliantly, with all the energy, but as I mentioned, never becomes unbearably sharp or harsh on the ear. Instead, manages to churn out the soul of the music in its full brilliance.
Unique is the term that can be associated with 3DT’s highs. First, let me tell you, that if you come from BA or Hybrid IEMs with highly energetic and forward highs, 3DT will sound slightly muted before them, but not at all dull. Then, give it a little bit of time, and you will find the most natural, brilliant, crisp, balanced, airy and energetic highs. I took a liking, and with burn-in, my love kept growing.
Highs are in perfect balance with the rest of the spectrum here. They are not in your face, they are not far in the back that they will get missed at times. Highs have a very well-tuned presence here, just at the right position where the energy is at the right level, notes are crisp and well defined, plenty of air among the notes, and absolutely no harshness or unnatural/piercing peaks (peaks are there, but never crosses the threshold into discomfort.) There is zero listening fatigue, null!
The lower treble has relatively more energy than the upper treble, but the upper treble is not muted at all. The shimmers can be easily picked up without feeling the slightest bit of discomfort. The lower treble has the brilliance to satisfy my cravings for energetic treble while not piercing my eardrums. Cymbal and hi-hat crashes sound quite alive.
In Muse – Showbiz the background ride cymbal rolls can be easily picked out. This track is an incredibly busy track and the ride cymbal rolls are easily drowned often, but 3DT manages to pull them out as much as possible with zero fatigue.
Metallica – The Four Horsemen is another track with plenty of cymbals and hi-hats crashing throughout the track. 3DT represents them beautifully with perfect balance.
Soundstage, Separation, and Imaging:
The music 3DT produces extends well in a moderately expansive stage. It is not as vast as Andromeda, of course. But at this price range, it is mighty impressive. The stage has very good extension in width and depth, and nice height. Imaging is quite impressive: I wasn’t expecting this level of imaging from a single mid-high DD. Even on the busiest tracks nothing ever feels congested – such is the separation 3DT exhibits. Every different instrument and vocal has its own distinct position inside the headspace 3DT creates, and all of them are clearly distinguishable. Plenty of air is there among the different sounds. The width of the stage is slightly more than the depth, but the overall presentation has the holographic feel to it nonetheless. The background is sparkling clean. All put together, the experience 3DT provides is an expansive, airy and very clean stage. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Vs. Fiio FD5 –
Fiio has made a stupendous comeback with FD5. With one single DD, they have managed to produce a sound which in some aspects outshine 3DT even though the latter having 2 separate DD for bass! But 3DT has its own trump cards too. Let’s get more into it: FD5 has a more voluminous bass than 3DT. 3DT bass has good punch, good speed, and a slightly leaner body compared to FD5. FD5 has more volume, more thump, slightly less speed, and a fuller presence. Different flavours, one might say. I liked both, on different music. Mids is where the difference is also evident. FD5 has a warmer tonality than 3DT that is immediately noticeable. While it isn’t bad, I found 3DT mids to be more suited to my taste. The transparency level and note depth are very similar. Although, 3DT mids appeared to have a tiny bit more clarity, I am really nitpicking here. Highs do not have glaring difference either. FD5 has may be slightly more treble extension and energy, but only if listening very critically, and 3DT in no way sounds duller either. Soundstage wise both are very similar, FD5 a tiny bit deeper, 3DT a tiny bit wider. Both have very expansive presentation nonetheless. Separation, imaging – no difference detected to my ear. Honestly speaking, apart from the bass volume and midrange tonality, FD5 and 3DT are more alike than different. Both will cater to different tastes, but both are great in what they do. But I am way more impressed with FD5 from a technical point of view, as FD5 performs on a similar level with 3DT while having just one DD, whereas 3DT boasts three DD. I have to give the mantle of superior tuning to Fiio, as clearly they have managed to pull out a similar performance from one single DD which UM managed to produce with three DD. What’s more, I honestly expected 3DT to have more voluminous bass than FD5, having dedicated two 7 mm DD for Bass. So I was sufficiently surprised when I put in the FD5 and was greeted with a more voluminous bass which also does not compromise the rest of the spectrum either, and all with a single DD!
Vs. Audiosense T800 – Apples and oranges, 3 DD and 8 BA, I know, but still both belong in the same price range, and thereby deserves a comparison.
T800 is an incredible iem. I was nothing short of amazed at it. Why I will get to that later. But first, let’s be done with the one single negative aspect of T800 which has prohibited me from getting one for myself: T800 is extremely source sensitive, at par with Andromeda. In case it is not paired with the right source, it will either sound screeching harsh, or boomy bassy. Only when it was paired with a good source with around 1-ohm output impedance, it was sounding right. And boy was it amazing!
Let’s get one thing straight: DD notes can never compete with good quality BA notes in terms of depth, body, and transparency. Even though the details may match, BA notes always have much more body and a much more realistic presentation than DD. BA notes have more depth. And hence, T800 mids and highs sound more alive than 3DT. They have generally more energy also, more transparency, and slightly edgier. T800 has unquestionably more technical prowess here.
And what’s more, T800 does not suffer from the dreaded BA bass. No, the bass here has more volume, and thump than 3DT’s 2 DD (looking at you, UM, again -_-). Bass sounds totally natural, a very good extension is sub-bass as well. I was more than surprised, suffice to say.
Stage wise I would say T800 has more depth, whereas the width is similar.
So where does 3DT pull ahead? Musicality. 3DT has excellent musical reproduction that engulfs the listener. T800 grabs the listener’s attention to each and every minute details and notes but fails to provide that enveloping experience.
Vs. Sennheiser IE300 – This is a review item I got, and the review is still in progress. However, I was able to note down some differences while A/B-ing between this and 3DT.
First, I swapped the stock filter attached ear tips, as they compromised some clarity. Used a pair of New Bee M size ear tips.
Again, with just a single 7 mm micro DD, IE300 puts out more volumes of bass and more thumps (again, looking at you, UM, eyes are straining now…) Bass is noticeably slower than 3DT, which may provide either satisfaction or irritation, depending on tracks.
IE300 is generally a dark sounding IEM, with a V signature. Mids are pushed further into the back, which gives rise to soundstage depth at the cost of transparency. 3DT mids are more forward and sound more transparent and engaging. I think IE300 has that dreaded Sennheiser veil. Vocals sound strained and lacking air.
Ironically, IE300 has a more emphasised and sharper treble reproduction, which sounds slightly off balance. Treble has noticeably more energy and sharpness than 3DT, which helped to add some air to IE300’s sound.
Soundstage wise IE300 had slightly more depth, but 3DT has more height. 3DT has a much cleaner representation compared to IE300 and sounds generally more engaging.
Vs. BGVP DM8 –(Copied from BGVP DM8 Review) UM 3DT is my current daily driver, and I am sufficiently smitten by it, to say the least. Fundamentally, 3DT and DM8 are vastly different: 3DT houses 3 DD, two for bass and one for mids and highs. Whereas DM8 houses 8 BA drivers to take care of the whole spectrum. Understandably, the sound signature differs too.
DM8 has slightly more pronounced microdetails or microdynamics. 3DT also reproduces all of the microdetails quite effortlessly, just not as prominent as DM8.
In terms of bass, 3DT trumps DM8, hands down! I am yet to experience the sweet, highly satisfactory, and yet controlled bass that 3DT gives out. DM8’s bass, while pretty good for BA, does not hold a candle to 3DT’s bass.
The midrange is another story. DM8’s midrange is more forward than 3DT, has a slightly warmer tonality. Whereas, 3DT has a slightly more v-shaped signature in terms of mids. Mids of 3DT has neutral-cold tonality, which, to my ear, sounds extremely pleasing. Not so cold that sounds unnatural, not so warm that it sounds thick. Transparency of notes is more or less similar on both, whereas note definition is better on DM8 by a hair’s breadth.
3DT has slightly more energy in highs. The extension is similar on both, not much difference. Here also the notes have a similar neutral cold tonality as compared to DM8, but DM8 also does not sound unnatural – very balanced.
3DT has a more expansive and more airy stage than DM8, it extends more in height and width. But DM8 has a deeper stage – the instruments are stacked very well from forward to backward.
Although, DM8 takes the cake in imaging. The placement of different instruments inside the headspace is a touch better on DM8.
In short, 3DT draws you more into the music, whereas DM8 presents all the fine details effortlessly. Different modus operandi altogether, and both excel equally in their respective fields.
3DT has this unique aspect of presenting the music in the entirety, rather than overwhelming the listener with details. 3DT excels in this in spades. It draws you into the music effortlessly and envelops you from all sides. Even with the most harsh-sounding ruthless tracks, 3DT manages
to play them in such a way that none of the brilliance is lost, while making sure zero fatigue is induced. All of the unwanted harshnesses is eliminated while retaining the energy…I cannot marvel enough at this. This is the unique trait of Unique Melody’s tuning that never ceases to amaze me. Yes, 3DT has drawbacks – bass could have been better, slightly more depth would have been appreciated. But in spite of that, that unique musicality is something I haven’t come across very often. And just for that, 3DT is gonna stay with me for life.