Pros: Clean and clear sound. Ample but solid bass. Great build quality
It seems like almost every day there's another previously unknown Chinese IEM manufacturer popping up from out of the blue. Some of them disappear just as quickly as they arrive. Some quickly become well established and respected names among the community. Enter MEMT, otherwise known as the Department of sound electro-acoustic Technology (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd. MEMT was founded in 2014 but until recently was unknown to most on Head-Fi until people got wind of their X5 IEM and that's what we'll be looking at today.
This sample was sent to me for the purpose of an honest review. All opinions and observations here are my own, based on my personal experience with the product. I'd like to thank HotFi Earphone&Headphone for the opportunity to test the MEMT X5.
The X5 retails for around $18 and can be purchased from:
- Brand: MEMT
- Model: X5
- Wire control: Yes
- Speaker outer diameter: 6mm
- Frequency range: 20Hz-10000Hz
- Impedance: 16Ω ± 15%
- Sensitivity: 100dB ± 3dB
- Maximum output power: 3mW
- Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.5% at 20Hz-20000Hz
- Wire length: 120cm ± 2.5cm
- Plug: 3.5mm
- Weight: 15g
Packaging and accessories
The IEM comes in an attractive sky blue box with a large X5 in silver print on the front. At the bottom is a small window that gives you a view of the earphones inside. It's an above average quality box for something in this price segment. The front flap of the box is secured magnetically and when opened reveals the earphones secured in a sheet of black foam and covered with a sheet of clear, frosted plastic. Sitting above the earphones is another small box containing spare silicone tips and strangely, some spare covers for the plug. The included tips are bi-flange and decent quality but they're all very small. As a result I ended up using some large Spinfit tips to get a proper seal. So the complete package consists of:
- X5 earphone
- 3 pairs of bi-flange silicone tips
- 3 protective plug covers
- Velcro cable tie
So there's not much in the way of accessories but this is reasonable considering the low price of the X5.
Build, comfort and isolation
The X5 is available in 3 colors: gold, silver and rose gold/pink. The housings are CNC machined metal and are very small and lightweight. The shape is spherical with a cutout section on the rear left and right sides. There's an angled nozzle for a better fit which tapers down at the point where the ear tips are placed.
These have a quite neat added feature of magnets inside the housing that allow the two sides to stick together which is useful for a couple of reasons. First of all it helps to prevent the cable from getting tangled when not in use. Secondly when you're not using the earphones you can put them behind your neck where they will sit securely so there's no need to keep them in your pocket or bag while you aren't listening. They seem to always connect the right way even if you just slap them together. It's a very clever aspect of the design. Edges are rounded and smooth and the overall appearance and feel is what you'd expect from a more expensive product.
The cable consists of twisted white wires with a clear rubberized coating. It looks pretty classy and feels very durable, even above the Y-split. Strain reliefs at the housings are basic but seem sturdy enough. There are L and R markers on the reliefs but they're very difficult to see even in bright light but this isn't really a problem as the angled nozzles indicate which way they go in your ears. There is a better strain relief on the plug but none present at the Y-split but it's nothing to cause concern regarding durability. On the right side is a single button control and microphone. The inline control worked perfectly for me on my Android phone for navigating next and previous tracks as well as pause and play. The quality of the microphone is quite good and people had no trouble hearing me during calls. There's the MEMT branding laser etched onto the rear of the inline control and X5 similarly etched on the Y-splitter. The cable terminates in a right angled, gold plated metal plug. Microphonics are a little harsh but can be negated partially by wearing the cable over-ear.
Comfort is excellent due to the IEM's small size, light weight and smooth edges. I can wear the X5 for hours without any discomfort.
Isolation is quite good despite the small size but of course will be largely determined by the quality of seal you get and type of ear-tips used. I get a perfect seal with the large Spinfit tips so for me isolation is decent. These are perfectly suitable for use in noisy environments and in transit though obviously won't isolate as well as a UIEM or CIEM.
Sources used for testing:
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5
- Acoustic Research M20 (ARM20)
- Benjie X1
- PC/MusicBee > Micca OriGen+ (low gain)
- PC/MusicBee > Audinst HUD-MX2 > phatlab Audio Sassy2 (low gain)
Music used for testing (Click to show)
- Ramin Djawadi - "Bridge of Faith" The Great Wall OST
- Loreena McKinnett - "An Ancient Muse" The Gates of Istanbul
- Katatonia - "Residual" The Fall of Hearts
- Hilltop Hoods - "The Underground" Drinking From the Sun
- Ludovico Einaudi - "Indaco" Islands (2CD)
- Nora Jones - "Don't Know Why" Come Away with M
The X5 sounds great from basic smartphones and budget DAPs so amplification is not a necessity. Having said that though, these little gems respond really well when you throw some power at them. From a good DAP or headphone amplifier the bass gains a little extra body and fullness and as you add even more power these things stand their ground without distorting.
When I think about the sound of the X5 certain words come to mind: clarity, impact and refinement. It seems a little strange to me when I read that and think of the $18 price tag attached to these IEMs but these are my honest impressions. I'd describe the overall sound as somewhat L-shaped with elevated bass and closer to neutral mids and treble.
I find the bass to be similarly tuned to several other budget IEMs but it's more defined and controlled. It's punchy, fast and impactful. It is certainly elevated but maintains a good balance in the music and I couldn't detect any bleed into the lower midrange. Extension is great and the sub-bass can really rumble when called upon, especially when amped. Even at high volume there's no distortion in the bass (or anywhere else). In Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why" the bass strikes a perfect balance in the song, having a noticeable presence but still letting the vocals come to the forefront. There's a bit of a mid-bass bump that drops off fairly quickly on the way up and doesn't carry over to the lower mids so it sounds tight with sufficient weight with no muddiness in the upper bass notes. These aren't for bassheads but suitable for those who like some extra weight in the low end. It doesn't have the sharpest attack but there is a clean decay. I was able to detect the sub-bass as low as 19hz with a steady incline up to about 100hz before it started tapering off.
The X5's midrange is exceptionally clear and clean or uncolored but at the same time it's forgiving and musical. It can be a little too thin and clean at times making vocals feel less rich. This is probably the only area where I feel the X5 doesn't shine. Just a hint more warmth or fullness would be welcome to my ears. Instrument separation and spacing are very good here with clear, well defined edges. In "The Gates of Istanbul" by Loreena McKennitt each instrument is distinct and layered rather than just a wall of sound. Tonality isn't the most natural but going back to the price again it's a valiant effort.
Treble has a smooth presentation that sounds crisp but not strident or edgy. Cymbals and hi-hats have an airiness to them that lifts the sound and there aren't any noticeable peaks to be found. The X5 should be fine for the treble sensitive. If anything it would be the upper mids that can get a little on edge but the treble is a well balanced section of the frequency range and resolves with dexterity. In all it sounds light but doesn't become brittle or piercing.
Soundstage is impressive for a micro driver, especially in a housing that's decidedly closed and has very little sound leakage. It's not the most vast but is capable of presenting sounds outside of the headspace and there's a fair amount of depth as well as width. Imaging is also on par giving precise directional and spatial cues.
MEMT X5 vs VJJB K4 ($18 USD):
The K4 is priced at practically the exact same price point as the X5 so this makes for an interesting match up. The K4 really impressed with with its overall package and has a very well rounded bundle of accessories including several pairs of tips in 2 different styles and bore sizes and a carrying/storage pouch and a Velcro cable tie. Both are well built and very comfortable with the K4 having better strain reliefs and chin slider. The cable on the K4 is more supple and suffers less from microphonics but is more prone to tangling. The two have a similar level of bass but the X5 is more refined while the K4 tends to be a little boomy. The K4's bass also carries over further into the lower mids giving it a warmer and richer sound but as a result it becomes less resolving and at times congested. They both have their merits and both punch above their price in my opinion.
MEMT X5 vs Brainwavz Jive ($28 USD):
Yes, the Jive is back again for yet another comparison. The reason is that it's still still a top contender in the sub $30 price range in terms of the complete package and sound. The Jive has a better accessory set with several pairs of silicone tips, shirt clip, Velcro cable tie and excellent carry case. When it comes to build quality I'd say they're similar but in terms of overall finish well there's very few that can come close to the Jive. The X5 has a fuller bass and deeper sub-bass than the Jive and in the mids and treble they're quite similarly tuned. They're both overachievers but personally I like the impact from the extra bass of the X5.
For a relative newcomer in the market MEMT looks to be going in the right direction. If they keep bringing out more products like the X5 they'll be a real contender in the budget segment. My only real complaint with the X5 is the cable and microphonics. I'd like to see something a little more supple and perhaps better strain reliefs on the housing to reduce cable noise. The X5 has a clear and energetic sound with a level of refinement not often seen in a sub $20 IEM. In fact I'm having a hard time trying to think of another IEM in the price range that I enjoy as much. I know that MEMT have some new products coming soon to market and I'm quite excited to see what they can do. I believe you should be too.