A stroke of luck made me happen to acquired these phones and seeing how these are highly regarded by many as one of the top budget priced phones it was a perfect time to see if that claim was valid or not as I do own another budget phone in the PL30 which I like very much.
One thing I don't like is audio jargon but that's inevitable here. I know some of you may be new and don't understand some of the terms so this link should make it easier for you and imo is the best audiophile dictionary I have seen.
All my previous gear should be listed in my profile or whatever it's called now. My signature is currently up to date. For those who do not know me my personal bias goes towards the neutral side of things and that kind of signature is what I enjoy. To put into perspective some of my favorite phones in the past have been the Head Direct RE0 and the Audio Technica CK10. Lastly my music preference goes to rock, pop, trance, asian pop and country in no particular order.
Source: Audinst HUD-MX1 , Sansa Clip+, EeePC 1005HA
Phones: MEElectronics Ai-M6
Bitrate: A mix of mp3 to FLAC
Frequency Range: 20-20000 Hz
Sensitivity: 95 dB
Impedence: 16 Ω
Cable: 1.4m cord with included shirt clip
Connector: 3.5mm gold plated 45 degree angle plug
Driver: 9mm driver with neodymium magnets
From the package you could tell that it is a budget line phones but geared to impress. You do not get an over the top packaging such as what the Ortofon e-Q7 likes to do or as simple as my Fischer Audio DBA 02. You get a packaging that is somewhere in between. They come with a rectangular plastic packaging. For some reason I had some difficulty taking opening the plastic packaging since I couldn't figure it out but once I did everything was there. Inside the package are the phones themselves with black biflange tips already on it. You then have 3 silicone tips (s,m,l) with the matching pair inside the semi hard carrying case (similar to the sound magic case but a bit larger, more square in shape and the outside of not as hard as the sound magic case so doesn't protect as well). Also inside that case includes an airline adapter, wire coiling tool and a little strip of paper telling you to go online to find the manual, warranty, etc. My guess is that they do not include actual documents inside to save costs as this is a budget phone and they probably realize that very few people actually read the manual. Also the cable on the phones already have a shirt clip installed.
(sorry for the bad pics but I was in a rush and I never claimed to be a good photographer )
My build standard is the Audio Technica CK10 and will be until I own something better. Although the comparison is unfair since they are both in very different price ranges.
The build is surprisingly good for something at this price range. The cable exceeds many cables I have used including those that cost many times more. The cable is flexible and thin but strong and extremely pretty. Installed on the cable is a shirt clip below the Y split so you can move that up or down. There is also a chin slider you can adjust. There are proper strain reliefs by the housings and the 45 degree angle connector but no strain relief by the Y split but that can be excused due to the very good cable.
Lastly there is a light grayish marking for your L and R. However I do have a minor issue with this. Light gray on silver is not the easiest to make out. Also it is not very easy to make out the left and right in the dark since they are marketed for the masses so they are not designed to go over the ear like Westone phones where the ear tip points towards which ear it goes in.
In short these are definitely at the top in build quality at this price range and in most price ranges imo. I dare you to find a better built earphone at this price range. Oh wait a second...you can't :]
Now this was a surprise! I used to own the Ai-M6 which is a higher class iem than these phones but from the same company. Those came with some pathetic thin crappy single flange tips and one double flange tip which equally sucked. These phones did not suffer the same fate. You have one set of black silicone tips, and one pair of black and gray biflange tips. According to the ziplock bag that is labelled the black tips give you a more bass heavy experience while the gray tip gives you a more balanced experience. Also these tips are not as thin as my previous experience. They are much more stiff as well which makes for a easier fit for me at least.
Other tips that I used were sony hybrids, sound magic biflange tips, monster triflange tips and monster foam hybrid tips. My favorite tips are the monster triflanges (or ebay equivalent) as my ears tend to like triflanges better than any other tips. Those tips are the ones I will be using throughout the entire review.
Note: As typical with many dynamics and even more prevalent among cheap dynamic phones they are suspectible to driver flex. I however do not care for it does not affect SQ and only appears if I push in the driver while it is in my ear.
Microphonics, Isolation and Comfort
The cable of these are microphonic but nothing too horrible. If you wear them straight down then you will experience the microphonic cable but if you wear them over the ear then you should be good to go. The shirt clip and the slider helps as well. Also for some reason this phone has pretty bad bone conduction for me even though the isolation isn't great.
Comfort is fairly good. While they aren't as comfortable as say a CK10 but nowhere near the monstrosity that comes with the TF10. They are somewhere in the middle in terms of comfort. They also are not low profile but not big either so somewhere in the middle here as well.
Isolation is a above average if using triflanges like I am. It was easily suitable for the NYC public transportation system as well as noisy streets and such. The isolation was comparable to my e-Q7 but a notch below it. With stock tips isolation is average and adequate for portable use however I'd look elsewhere if you are doing things like mowing the lawn, operating a jackhammer or being around rock concert level noises.
I will mention briefly in regards to sources. The majority of this review was based on the output from my netbook and my clip+. Some was done on my dac/amp but most of it was not. Now you may be asking why the heck did you not use the dac/amp more? That would be a good question and the reason for that is that I did not have a dac/amp for the majority of the time spent on the review and that MEElectronics is most likely targeting the group of people who use it straight out of a mp3 player (ipods, sony, zune, sansa, etc) and those who plug it straight into their computer and most likely did not upgrade their sound card to something better than stock.
In terms of what sounded better to my ears it should be quite obvious what is first. In order of ranking from first to last of what sounded best it goes from the Audinst HUD-MX1, clip+ and lastly my netbook output. The use of source did not affect my judgment here as I found the same things to be true when I received my dac/amp.
These phones did go through a burn in period of probably 50 hours before forming any kind of judgment on these.
Treble: To those who are not familiar with my sound signature my personal bias is towards the treble. According to a certain member here I am a treble head which I guess is a correct assessment. I am pretty surprised by the capability of the treble here. They have a good amount of detail and extension but definitely should not be spoken in the same sentence as a CK10 or DBA 02 or any good treble phone or any good phone way outside it's price range. I didn't expect much here but I always like good surprises. They do have good extension for this price range but they do lack the extension for all the little intricate details to be shown.
Midrange: I don't have very strict requirements for the midrange like I do with other areas of the spectrum. I do not like recessed mids like the TF10 and forwardness I can handle but not too much of it (an e-Q7 forwardness is near my limit). Ideally they would not be recessed or forward. Luckily for my ears these phones are not overly forward or recessed. They can be called slightly recessed but it is very very slightly recessed. The midrange is quite good however. They sound fairly smooth to my ears while boasting a good amount of midrange detail. Vocals sound great on this phone which is always a good thing.
Bass: The bass is probably the most noticeable thing about these phones. The bass is pretty powerful here but it isn't as much of a bloat monster like a CX300. You have strong impactful bass with a good amount of decay. However there are times that the bass is a bit too much and it gets quite boomy. If the song has something like a fast bass solo you will know what I mean. The way I see it the bass is tailored toward the masses (and honestly MEElectronics would not be wise to do otherwise at this price range) and should satisfy many many people.
Soundstage: The stage here is pretty wide and has good depth. They aren't IE8 kind of soundstage and at this price range I wouldn't expect such as thing. I didn't expect much regarding stage at this price level but they are fairly adequate here and no complaints from me.
Imaging and Separation: Here is where I notice instantly that these are not very expensive phones. You have your left and right on imaging but for the most part is is quite blurry here. Separation is adequate here but nothing mind blowing. For the price they are quite good however.
Timbre: Typically in my experience dynamics have better timbre than their BA counterparts. There are no issues with timbre here. They aren't the best and I wouldn't expect them to be at this price range but their timbre is no better or worse than my PL30.
Final Comments: I need to clarify somethere here. Everything mentioned here is relative to price. In no way does this phone compare to any of my more expensive earphones. With that being said I will mention some last things about sound that didn't fit in any other category. With songs that is more involved and complex these phones do get caught behind. It doesn't do too well when too much is going on.
Note: Typical with dynamic phones they do like a bit more juice so turn it up a bit but not too much.
First off I would have to say that out of all my reviews that I've written which really isn't that many this has been the most difficult. It definitely is no easy task going from mostly top universals where signature matters more going to budget consumer oriented phones. Hopefully I was up to the task and now to my conclusion.
These phones are priced very competitively at around $20 and are built very well. The packaging is not the best at this price range (that title belongs to Sound Magic PL30) but is still very good. These phones sound great, have great cables, a good number of accessories, low pricing and let's not forget the MEElectronics CS which is very good. These would be a good buy for the budget oriented person who wants better than stock bud sound or a good gift earphone.
As always this is all IMO so YMMV. If there are any errors or if you have any questions please let me know.
Edited by rawrster - 9/12/10 at 5:30pm