Melody Of Seduction
- Planar sound at a low price, with some of the intrinsic characteristics that these drivers possess.
- Warm, homogeneous intonation, although more focused in the lower part of the audible range.
- Body and physicality in vocals.
- Excellent ergonomics, fit and very low weight.
- Good cable.
- The sound is somewhat dark, shaded, very controlled and secure in the treble.
- It is not a very technical or detailed sound, it suffers at the micro level and at the resolutive/descriptive level.
- The finish of the capsules is not very polished.
- It does not come with a zippered case or carrying bag.
Link to the Store
In a short time, I’m already on my third Kiwi Ears IEMS review from the brand based in Ireland and Manchester, but manufactured in China. It’s the turn of the Kiwi Ears Melody, the first model with a single planar driver. In this case, its size is 12mm, a far cry from the classic 14.5mm. According to the brand itself, this new model offers the same fast response and high audio resolution as high-end headphones. Its frequency range extends from 5Hz to 40kHz. This new Melody model has been designed for bass enthusiasts, although its emphasis is on full-bodied mid-bass. The mid-highs are smooth, as are the highs. On the other hand, with an impedance of just 18Ω and a sensitivity of 102dB, the Melody is relatively easy to move and is as widely used as more traditional IEMS. As is usual with the best IEMS, the cable is detachable and uses the 2Pin 0.78mm interface. Let’s take a look at what Kiwi Ears has to offer with the Melody.
- Driver Type: 12mm Planar.
- Frequency Response: 5HZ-40KHz
- Sensitivity: 102dB(at 1KHz/mW)
- Impedance: 18 ohms
- THD: < 0.5% (at 1KHz)
- Jack Connector: SE 3.5 gold plated.
- Capsule Connection Type: 2Pin 0.78mm
- Price: $89
The Kiwi Ears Melody come in a small black box with white lettering. Its dimensions are 83x116x32mm. The main side features the brand logo on the top left, the slogan on the top right, an actual image of the capsules in the centre and the model name and driver used on the bottom right. The back is practically empty. At the top are the logos of the certifications it holds. In the centre is the model name, with each syllable on a different line. Underneath are the brand’s contact details. After removing the outer cellophane, the cardboard is pulled upwards, revealing a black box with the brand logo in the centre, written in silver holographic ink. After lifting the lid, the two capsules are revealed inside a first layer of foam covered with black cardboard. Underneath this layer is the cable, the tips and a small user manual. The complete contents are as follows:
- Kiwi Ears Melody capsules.
- One four-strand copper cable with 2Pin 0.78mm interface and SE plug.
- One set of narrow core grey silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- One set of wider core black silicone tips, sizes SxMxL.
- One instruction manual.
There is no carrying bag, let alone a zippered case. Very poor accessories for the price of the product.
Construction and Design
To be honest, the construction of the Kiwi Ears Melody is surprising. Behind a classic, slightly semi-custom, but more rounded shape, the outer face has a triangular silhouette with very rounded corners and sides. On it is a dark grey metal plate with the brand logo in white ink. The 2Pin 0.78mm connection interface is on the edge, recessed in the capsule. It is an oval base that lies on the surface of the capsule with gold-plated connections. Nearby there is a small hole and there is another one at the foot of the nozzles. But, the most striking thing about the construction seems to be that they have been manufactured using 3D printing and that the finishing has been done by hand with sandpaper. On the surface you can see the lines from the sanding. As I say, it looks like the entire inside face is made of the same dark, almost black, resinous material. The inner shape is smooth, rounded, with a small step at the far edge of the mouthpiece and a small valley in the middle, to favour ergonomics. These integral mouthpieces are not very long and have two diameters, one narrower at the base, 5.4mm and the crown of the mouthpiece 6.1mm. Both are protected by a dense metal grille.
The cable consists of four strands of clear PVC coated copper. The connector is a gold-plated 3.5mm SE connector. Its sleeve is a regular black metal cylinder, with a circle inscribed near the jack and two near the cable exit. The splitter piece is a cylinder of the same style but shorter, with two circles inscribed near the cable inlet and outlet. The pin is a black metal disc with two through holes that performs its function relatively well, passable I might say. There are two semi-rigid, transparent over-ear guides. While the sleeves of the 2Pin 0.78mm connectors are two black metal cylinders. This time the two inscribed circles are near the cable entry. The two pins are gold plated and come out of a rectangular base of red plastic for the right channel and translucent white plastic for the left channel. A small blue dot indicates the polarity. The cable is not very stiff, nor is it very thick. For my judgement, I would have used a silver cable to enhance the transparency and warmth of the set. However, the quality of the cable is sufficient to avoid having to change it, unless you are looking for a balanced connection.
On the other hand, the capsules have a somewhat peculiar construction, with a subtly sloppy handmade finish. It gives the impression that a low-cost manufacture has been chosen, where the most expensive part seems to be the driver used.
Adjustment and Ergonomics
From the type of construction one might think that low cost has been a priority. But there is also a good design that offers a great fit and ergonomics. The weight is very light and the inner side is curved and smooth enough to fit gracefully into the pinna. Yes, the design is not trivial at all and you can feel that when you fit the capsules in your ears. The fit is immediate, without rotation, the angle of the nozzles is precise, there is hardly any friction with any external parts and the fit is shallow but quite occlusive, if the corresponding tips are used. The result is an excellent level of ergonomics, minimal weight and a durable, very pleasant fit. The over-ear cable is unobtrusive and the level of microphony is non-existent. Overall, this section scores very high, excellent. So don’t get carried away with the level of finish of the capsule until you’ve assessed its motivation. And I think this is to reduce the cost a lot, but without giving up great ergonomics.
The Kiwik Ears Melody’s profile is close to a tiny V, with one peak in the mid-bass and another at 2.5kHz. There is a good balance, the whole graph moves in a 10dB range, so the peaks are smooth. The bass is not as punchy as the brand claims in its introduction and I don’t think it reaches a Bass-Head level in terms of energy, although the tuning in the lower range is boosted and rounded. On the other hand, the mids are quite present and the central dip is relatively slight, with a gradual but not very pronounced rise towards 2.5kHz. Then, deliberately, there is again a subtle drop in the treble, seeking to iron out the energy demonstrated in previous planar IEMS. The result is a bass-boosted profile, slightly warm, with a spike in transparency/clarity and softness in the high end, but with great extension.
Kiwi Ears say in the introduction to this Melody model that they have moved away from the tonal balance that characterises their other models, to demonstrate that you can produce powerful bass with a planar driver. Well, from my experience with planar IEMS, I have never doubted the power of their bass. But I don’t think the Melody is the model with the most bass either. It is perhaps worth noting that it has a fair amount of mid-bass, something that is not characteristic of other planar IEMS, which seek a greater emphasis on sub-bass. However, the Melody suffers in this respect. Starting from the very low frequency pure tone test, at the low end, the first audible note at 20Hz has very little presence and punch. Its rumble is small but there is a mixture of darkness and faintly coloured BA-style sonority. The notes become more audible but with an average behaviour in that aspect, until the 40hz barrier is reached. It is here that the naturalness returns and the demonstration of power begins. But, all in all, in this test I miss a more sensory perception of the bass and a behaviour more similar to the dynamic drivers, apart from a more extreme tuning. However, the actual performance improves, as usual. But not in terms of punch or energy level. It is true that the bass is predominant, but it is not an overwhelming power that fills my ears. I find a relatively docile bass, with good punch, albeit with a medium body and a physical level that doesn’t surpass the rest of its rivals. Yes, there is a tuning that lengthens the mid-bass, something that rounds out the area and makes it bigger, but not more powerful or punchy. So, for my judgement, these are not fully bass-heavy IEMS, but they are bassy. And certainly dark. I think the nuance that these Melody’s have over other IEMS is more in the behaviour of the three bands, rather than just the lower range. In terms of behaviour, the Melody presents a smooth texture, with a slight roughness, rounded like its bass curve. The punch is compact, dry and controlled, I don’t find it to be excessive, nor loaded with physical power. It is rather wide, but it suffers from a certain sensory corpulence at the audible limit that it compensates for with a certain degree of pleasant darkness. Its technical behaviour is quite adequate, it has the speed of the planars, smoother on the surface, perhaps even drier and with a slight decay. It is true that it does not behave the same as the other planars and I think the smaller size of the driver has something to say, in relation to the amount of power, viscerality, physicality and density of the bass response. All of these characteristics are minor. Kiwi Ears have wanted to fill the bass with a more mid-bass focused tuning, lengthening and rounding out the lower range. But on the physical side it doesn’t reach the level of the other 14.5mm planars. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. There is a different colour, a technical ability that is agile and dynamic, but a behaviour that feels a little more forced on the timbre side and in the response to the lower frequencies, which makes it lose some realism and naturalness, as well as depth. Perhaps I am being a little harsh with the lower range of the Melody. I would say, rather strict.
One thing you feel as soon as you try the Melody is that it is a soft tuning. In this way, the mids are presented with a certain warmth, coming from both the low end and its restraint in the high end. The result is a nuanced midrange, which drags a faint darkness from that lack of sparkle and brightness. However, they get an analogue nuance that makes them pleasant and musical, very suitable for long listening.
The low-mids are relatively sunken, but to a lesser degree than expected. The male vocals are not foregrounded, but they do enjoy a broader physical level that completes their staging, filling a larger space and giving them a kind of distinctive, though not close, presence. In this way a potential balance between distance and width is achieved that favours both the instrumentation of this first part and the male voices. It is in this way that a sense of body prevails over a closer presence, in a way that enriches the mids to sweetly fatten them.
On the other hand, the excitement in the upper-mids does not clash with this mellow sensation. However, it is not enough to provide a perception of transparency or high clarity. Its incidence is rather fair and proportionate, it doesn’t push away the darkness, but it doesn’t bring a pronounced brightness. In this way, the female voices do not feel much more elevated over the male ones, but present a certain homogeneity and parallel behaviour. They are a step closer, they also have a good base, but it is the more accentuated harmonics that raise their prominence, as well as a more visible detail.
As a whole, the mids are not very dense. The Melody doesn’t have that wall-of-sound feel that characterises the S12s. Their staging is lighter, less heavy. The softness in the top end can add a certain sense of opacity between notes. But I think it’s really about the planar homogeneity that keeps the gaps small and the sound full, complete, cohesive, but without feeling as tight as the competition. Perhaps this lightness gives them a degree of freedom that makes them more emotional and enjoyable.
After what could be called the first wave of planar IEMS, all brands have taken note of the treble response offered by this technology. Undoubtedly, planar treble is extended and energetic without the need to create peaks. Their linearity makes them very full, but matching the response expands their power and this seems to become fatiguing. The new planars seem to be trying to cut back on this aspect and the Melody’s are noticeable in this way. So it is that the treble is smooth, controlled and extended, with a great sense of air. They are not characterised by a crisp or piercing sparkle, their expressiveness is restrained, though very well distributed. Perhaps it lacks a little more delicacy, finesse, thinness, bringing more incisive detail and allowing it to be more minuscule, with the intention of extolling micro elements, but this is not the case. Thus, although the harmonics are quite full, their enhancement is limited to technical and descriptive skill, which is not very high. These are not analytical IEMS and this lack of finesse makes them present treble and detail in a more rounded way.
The presentation of the stage is predominantly frontal, with good width and height, but without being very special in depth. There is a good stereo feel, offering good laterality, especially in the bass. The stage does not feel congested, although it is not particularly spacious, nor is it separated. There is not much three-dimensionality, nor much vapour or ethereal feeling, although there is a good amount of air that provides some transparency and distance between elements, but without discernible background clarity.
On a technical level it is not very critical and micro detail feels under-represented, especially in the middle area. It is also not very skilful at rendering layers and appears uniform and homogeneous in this respect. It does a relatively good job of rendering the image, but without much effort to place the elements accurately. I don’t find it particularly resolute, analytical or detailed, remaining at a simplistic macro level.
Tripowin x HBB Kailua
The Tripowin x HBB Kailua are IEMS that cost $10 less than the Kiwi Ears Melody. They use two dynamic drivers (10mm and 6mm) and have a very similar frequency response to the Melody. They are very small and have a very slim oval shape, but I find the ergonomics a little awkward for my ears and finding suitable tips has been problematic. In that respect, the Melody is much better, although the finish of the resin used for their construction is not superior, while the Kailua is metallic and has a very nice surface texture. Another thing is the design, while the special shape of the Kailua seems distinctive, I’ll stick with a more traditional shape, even less flashy, but much more effective, even though they are bigger. I also prefer the Melody’s wire to the stiffer, thinner silver-plated wire of the Kailua.
In terms of sensitivity, the Kailua moves more easily than the Melody, which requires more power to match the volume.
According to the FR, the two are similar, but the Kailua are brighter, compared to the dull, dark and nuanced Melody. Even the detail and level of transparency is more evident in the Kailua.
In the low end, starting with the sub-bass, the Kailua’s behave more realistically, sounding more natural in the pure tone test and also with music. The punch is more concise, tighter and drier, being more agile and faster than the Melody. The result is a more skilful low end, with better layering and stratification. The Melody’s bass is distinctly darker, slightly thicker, a little more rubbery and rounded. Neither stands out for its texture, while the volume occupied is higher in the Melody.
In the middle zone, the greater luminosity and expressiveness of the Kailua brings more sparkle and life than in the Melody. The difference is greater than is apparent in the FR. There is a clear difference in the amount of brightness in the mids. The Melody comes across as more matted, darker, with less dynamics and less distance between elements, offering a more cohesive, even, warm and muted sound. It is clear that the Kiwi is more relaxed, but I miss the lightness of the Kailua and that slightly more explicit and descriptive sound. These aspects improve the visibility of details, they are more eye-catching, even the micro detail is more perceptible, without being analytical or very resolute. But they are clearly better than the Melody.
The highs of the Kailua are more natural to my ears, offering a sonority more in keeping with my habits. They also have more sparkle, brilliance and projection. The high notes are thinner and crisper, compared to the nuanced, flatter and softer notes of the Melody. Timbre-wise, the Kailua’s are more accurate, while the Melody’s are more muted, but also more confident, compared to a Kailua that, by comparison, can seem a little more undisciplined in the high end.
The Kailua has better separation, more distance between elements, more transparency and the background is more discernible, the notes are thinner and the details more visible, even at the micro level. The positioning of the elements is more precise and concise in the Kailua, while its scene appears wider and more volatile, it has a greater sense of movement and dynamics, not as flat and homogeneous as in the Melody. Clearly, the soundstage is wider in the Melody, but only in width, as the cohesion of its sound makes the music more unified and together, tight in depth and with less transparency.
The Kiwi Ears Melody is a commendable choice for making more affordable planar IEMS, using a smaller driver and very comfortable 3D printed capsules. They have excellent ergonomics and weigh very little. The fit is outstanding and the comfort lasts for hours. They have been tuned for powerful bass, although the result is that they focus more on the low-mid range. Tuning is smooth, cohesive, musical, warm, but also somewhat dark and nuanced. The treble is extended but too flat and controlled. It has a timbre with an analogue tendency, resting in its high notes. It is not characterised by a detailed sound, nor too resolute, but it has body in the mids, something that favours the voices, recreating them fuller and more physical. On the other hand, the bass is not as heavy as it might seem and is respectful with the rest of the range. Without a doubt, these are IEMS for those who are looking for secure treble but with good extension, as well as those characteristics that only planar drivers can provide.
Sources Used During the Analysis
- Aune Yuki.
- Aune M1p.
- Hidizs S9 Pro Plus Martha.
- Burson Audio Playmate II.
- Fiio R7.