Pros: Bass, Treble, Looks, Price
First I’d like to thank Mike of Meelectronics for sending me their new Atlas for me to review. Meelectronics started off selling MP3 players, but later decided to move into the headphone industry instead. They have mostly been making products in the more entry to mid-range level and the Atlas is no exception. At $99 MSRP its price range considered a bit higher than entry level headphones like the Zoro. A while ago, I reviewed their A151 IEM and although it took some getting used to, it was nothing short of incredible for the price. After reading more reviews on their products, it seems like their products are generally great sounding at a relatively low price compared to their competitors.
I have talked to Mike quite a bit about the Atlas and this is intended to be a Solo slayer much alike the Noontec Zoro. Admittedly, I don’t think this is very hard to do – the Solo/HDs suck…bad. They just sound plain muddy and bloated and yes, I’ve heard them and owned them at one stage. I feel like the Atlas most definitely succeeds in that, and it does better than the Zoro which is to be expected I guess with it being around double the street price. I do think the Atlas will become a little cheaper on sites like Amazon later on though, probably around the $80 range. Anyway, let’s get on with the review.
**Disclaimer** These were a free review sample sent to me by Meelectronics in return for an unbiased review.
Unboxing & Accessories
Actually, the box is rather nice like the Zoro box, but of course it’s nothing like the fancy Beats boxes. It has a picture of the headphone on the front and has the design name on the left. On the right, it has the Atlas “slogan” “The Next Headphone”; below it, there is a Meelectronics logo. The sides are completely transparent, which allows you to see the Atlas’ sides which BTW look awesome! On the back there is an introduction, the specifications and all the features that the Atlas has. The box has those magnet which is certainly welcome. Inside the box is rather normal; the compartment with the accessories slides out and you are greeted with them.
I was a little let down by the amount of accessories that came with the Atlas, but then again, Meelectronics have never really given us a lot of accessories presumably to keep the costs down. It only came with a cable and bag. The bag is rather plain but it does have the Atlas writing on it and of course, “The Next Headphone” on it. Don’t expect any protection from it though. The cable is nice, but I have a thing against flat cables, I just don’t know why people use flat cables instead of the traditional round one. The volume slider is a nice touch for those who use an android and there is a pause/play and a mic.
Design, Isolation & Comfort
On man, the Atlas looks stunning! If they wanted to create a headphone which the average consumer would look at and say wow, then mission accomplished! I love the design on the headphone and personally, the Orion is my favourite. Now, a big thing about the Atlas is the way that they print the design on the headphones. It’s called IML Printing Technology which certainly looks very interesting, but personally, I don’t quite see any difference between this and normal printing, but supposedly it is scratch resistant and doesn’t fade over time. If so, then this is certainly a great idea. There is a Meelectronics logo on the headband much alike the Solo, but the Atlas really looks nothing like the Solo and in some ways it actually looks better! Oh, and this isn’t a fingerprint magnet like the Beats headphones either, which is a relief.
The isolation is bad, very bad. Next to on ears like the DT1350, it almost seems like the Atlas doesn’t isolate at all. However, I don’t necessarily find low isolation a huge downside. When I walk, I tend to want to be able to hear what’s going around me because I think that is safer and I certainly won’t be taking the DT1350s on a walk or crossing the road with them on. Oh, and there is also some minor sound leakage, but it is not bad at all.
I have never found a pair of on ears comfoirtable because the headphones sit on your ears as opposed to around your ears like circumaurals do. The Atlas is no exception but it is well above average for an on ear. Usually, I have to take on ears off after an hour or so, but with the Atlas I get around 2 hours before my ears start hurting. Comfort is not great, but I don’t expect any on ear to be.
When Meelectronics created the Atlas I think they intended for it to be used with mobile phones and perhaps small players like the Sansa Clip. They are very efficient headphones and really don’t need amping at all and adding an amp doesn’t really improve the sound. I will be conducting this review with the Sansa Clip+ because I don’t think the changes were large enough to warrant using an amp with these. They sound great through anything really.
When I first heard that these were going to be marketed to the mainstream crowd, I must admit, I was expecting these to be very bass heavy and terrible sounding. However, when I got these, I was a little surprised. The entire headphone had a rather V shaped sound signature, and they weren’t dark at all. Actually, they were bordering on sibilant. The sibilance has become better, but it is still noticeable after some burn in.
For me at least, I love the bass on the Atlas and feel like it hits very hard, but it is not slow and bloated at all. It is rather clear when you hear them that they were targeted at the mainstream audience. The bass hits much harder than the Zoro and I feel like it has more sub-bass rumble as well. One thing that I am most impressed by it is how fast it is. I was expecting a little bit of bloat, but there is none at all. The bass guitars are nice as well, although they are not the most detailed headphones overall but they are still rather detailed. If you love a more boosted bass region and use these for just recreational listening, I don’t see how you can be disappointed with the incredible bass these put out.
Here things become very different from both the Zoro and the Solo's warm midrange. Instead of the midrange being warm and a little veiled, the upper midrange seems to be somewhat forward. On some tracks there was a little bit of sibilance and on other tracks I had no issues though. As a whole, the midrange is recessed, but not by a lot and on lower volumes, vocals do take a step back but you don't get a feeling like they are veiled like the Solos. Now more about the upper midrange spike; it’s not a big deal, but a bit annoying. I EQ it down when I use the Atlas on my phone, but it is fine without EQ as well; some may actually prefer the midrange tonality the way it is. At lower volumes there are no problems, but when you start pushing them louder, the sibilance can start to be heard, but it is not nearly as bad as some other things I've heard. Overall, I quite like the midrange and it's colder tonality, but in the future I would love for Meelectronics to pull the upper midrange spike down a little.
The treble is exaggerated as well, perhaps not as raised up as the bass though and I absolutely love it. Those who know me know that I prefer something that is around neutral or a bit of a bumped up treble. The treble of the Atlas is definitely exaggerated, but definitely not as much as some of my other headphones/IEMs. It hit around the sweet spot for me. The treble extends quite well and it has plenty of sparkle. This gives it an impression of being quite detailed and in the treble, it definitely is. Cymbals are clearly the highlight, being very clear and having a very realistic decay. On the Zoro, I felt like the cymbals were just a bit too dull but over here, it’s definitely better.
The presentation is somewhat closed in, which can be both good and bad, depending on what your preference is. The singer is a bit further away but everything is rather up front, but not in your face. The Atlas is pretty good at making things feel out of your head, but the soundstage is lacking but it is not bad for an on ear at this price.
Out of all of my headphones and IEMs I’ve ever owned, the Atlas has to be one of the least flat headphones. As I mentioned before, the bass is very boosted, the mids recessed with the higher mid spike and the treble is elevated. If you are looking for a neutral headphone, stop looking at the Atlas at once. It is very much a fun headphone and not meant for things like analysing music. They are great to listen to though.
Soundstage & Imaging
As I have mentioned before, the soundstage size is definitely not one of the Atlas’ strong suits. The soundstage is a bit crammed in and lacking in both width and height. The fact that I’ve been listening to some HE-500s for a while doesn’t help either…
The imaging is good, but when things get congested it isn't the best at making out where everything is. The Grado SR80i is a bit better, but it is an open headphone so apples to oranges here. These have very nice imaging and it does have an average soundstage. Overall, these are pretty good in these departments for its price.
The separation is actually quite good with the Atlas. It does better than the Zoro for sure and I feel like it is quite a large upgrade. The vocal separation is good, but I really felt that the instrument separation was excellent. I am impressed with the separation, especially the instrument separation.
Ok, I am a detail freak. On the detail front, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the Atlas when I first got it. Now, I don't think that the Atlas is going to beat an SR80i in terms of detail, but it has gotten better with burn in (physical or mental) and I feel it is a good step up from the Zoro. However, I find that when I listen to the Atlas, I don't really listen for the small details, but rather just enjoy the extremely fun sound that these put out.
Let’s start with the looks… Wow! It truly looks awesome; I especially like the Orion and Carbon models, but all of them look absolutely spectacular. It has a very well thought out design, just the isolation isn’t great. The sound really shocks you with just how fun, yet capable it is. It is clearly “mainstream” but the sound is wonderful and can easily challenge other $100 headphones targeted towards “audiophiles” and even come out on top depending on what sound signature you prefer. Well done Meelectronics and thanks again to Mike for making this review possible.
All pics are from Google Images.