Pros: Clean pleasing musical sound. Great build quality.
Cons: Slightly artificial sounding instruments at times.
This review is written from the perspective of the A151 stock, no external amp or DAC, to give readers an idea of what to expect if they buy these without an amp/DAC. I would like to thanks Meelectronic's for the review sample of the A151 as well! They are wonderful people and they make fantastic products.
The A151 came packaged in a black cardboard box with a small window displaying the IEMs. The model is clearly shown in a silver font and the company logo is sitting at the top of the box. On one side of the box the specifications of the A151 are shown such as sensitivity, impedance, cable length and frequency response. On the back some information is told about the IEMs, such as "over ear design" and accessories included. Inside the IEMs are secure in the clear plastic housing used to display them while the rest of the cord is carefully wrapped in a semi-hard clamshell case that contains all of the tips and has the company's logo and website on it.
Inside the clamshell are 5 included black silicon tips. One tri-flange pair, one bi-flange, and 3 pairs of mushroom tips. There is a little mesh section in the clamshell with an elastic opening to hold the tips. The case seems rather durable and won't take up a huge amount of pocket space. I definitely will be carefully wrapping up my IEMs and using this to keep them safe during travel.
Overall the packaging is something I would expect from a more expensive IEM, I'm impressed.
Design and Build Quality:
The first thought that came to mind when I opened these was, "High quality." From the flexible braided cord to the A151 lettering on the straight 3.5mm jack these IEMs feel durable. The IEMs are made of high quality plastic with chrome accents that neither look tacky or cheap. They definitely feel better quality in every way to my HiFi Man RE0 which are made of metal. These are clean looking and look well made. The braided cord feels nice to the touch and very flexible, I have no worries about its durability at all.
These are the first over ear design IEMs I've ever owned so I was concerned with comfort and fit. It took me an attempt or two to get them in properly, once I did they stayed. There are absolutely no microphonics or comfort concerns after 3 hours of wear. This is a very good thing. Every other IEM I've owned has been with the cable hanging down and after a while the cord pressure has made them uncomfortable, even if very slightly. Definitely a hats off to Meelectronics on the build design and quality of these.
As for isolation, these thing do a great job of keeping outside noise out. Using these on a walk and drive I was unable to hear outside noise at a reasonable listening level.
This is something I'm still delving into and by that I mean I'm still listening to a huge variety of music to see how the frequencies play with each other. Overall the sound is a warm, smooth and clear. At times I feel as if I'm in a room with the band and the instruments are being played live in front of me, while other times they have a tendency to sound slightly artificial and flat, though I feel that is more of a problem with the recording itself.
The lows are strong and extend well. They have a warm pleasant sound to them that slightly extends into the mids. The mids I feel are slightly recessed, but not much. There are times where I feel vocals are pushed back slightly in favor of the highs and lows, though only slightly. The mids are definitely smooth though and very clear. The highs extend well and definitely shine, never once did I feel them to be too bright or fatiguing though. The soundstage is typical of an IEM, I don't feel it cluttered, but it's certainly not as spacious as a typical open headphone provides. The instrument separation is great though, I can pick out instruments without a problem.
I feel that fans of the Sennheiser HD555, 595, 558, and 598 series will find these IEMs to be right at home.
I decided to take some tracks to test these on a per track basis:
Brazil - Aventine
I chose this song because of it's excellent instrument separation, range of frequencies and due to the "attack" of the song. Right away the attack of the guitar hits me, the vocals are very present and forward. Once the song kicks in the bass is easily discerned from the guitar, which is easily discerned from the piano, which is easily discerned from the drums. There's a lot going on in this song and these headphones are able to keep up no problem. No frequency seems more prominent than the other and they are able to keep up with the quick pace of this song and able to give the guitars the crunch they have.
James Blake - Limit To Your Love
I chose this song because of the deep head-shaking bass. The A151 definitely reproduce the bass to very low frequencies, but I never felt the bass. I hear the bass, but it's not shaking my head. The A151 definitely can handle low frequencies, but it doesn't make me feel them.
Sufjan Stevens - Size Too Small
I chose this to see how the A151 would handle acoustic singer/songwriter music. Overall it plays back well. The acoustic guitar sounds warm, though slightly "muffled," which may be the recordings fault though. The vocals sound perfect, smooth and hushed as Sufjan sings. The banjo is on perfect level with the guitar and sounds great.
Radiohead - Where I End and You Begin
I chose this because Radiohead uses a lot of background noises in conjunction with its instruments and because of the prominent bass line. The bass sounds wonderful and all of the nuances are easily heard throughout. The vocals sound wonderful and the drums are perfectly balanced in the mix. The little guitar break is clear and sounds wonderful as well.
Kanye West - Dark Fantasy
I chose this not because of its audio fidelity, but mostly to see how these handled hip-hip on a track I'm very familiar with. Right off the bat all of the vocals are completely clear and able to be picked apart from the next. I've honestly never heard them so clear, even over my Ad900. The bass comes in clear, though lacking some impact, the samples in the background are clear and easily heard, but they don't interfere with Kanye's vocals. Overall I have to say, this track sounds pretty killer with these.
For $75 I feel these are a great value. They are comfortable and have a fantastic design. The braided cord is wonderful and something I definitely am a huge fan of now. The sound is warm, without being overly laid back like I found in the HD558. The highs are definitely present, and the mids are smooth. I definitely recommend these for their build quality and sound quality. Fans of the Sennheiser HD5XX line will be right at home. Meelectronic's customer service is one of the best I've ever experienced which should assure anyone of their purchase.