Well, Joker was kind enough to comment on a M9 review give away that MEElectronics was doing. I signed up and got a pair to try out. MEElectonics is not a company I've ever really looked at. I knew they existed, but I just never really payed attention to their products much. I know some models were well liked, and they were some good budget level products. Free pair, I figured why not give the brand a try.
I intend to cover this in a few sections. I want to comment on some initial impressions and my take on the earphone from a general standpoint. I will then start comparing how it stacks up to some other earphones I have lying around. Right now I have a few other earphones sitting around like the Denon C700, Sleek Audio SA6, Yuin OK1, and Klipsch Custom 3. I'm going to do some back to back listening with these and see where they excel and lack. Singular impressions are one thing, but comparative impressions tend to show key traits more definitively.
I want to start out by saying that I had no clue what these earphones cost at first. Getting the original packaging, the nice carrying case, the slew of tips, and the earphone itself, I thought this was a decent $60 to $80 earphone with a good excess of tips. I later found out this can commonly be had for around $20 which to me is just nutty.
The below impressions are with this earphone amped off my Meier 2Move and EQed flat. These are broken in. I am using a Comply T-500 tip. I've toyed with a number of MEElectronics provided tips. Many work, and they do offer a variety of differences in response and presentation. The T-500 tip is one I've used for a number of eaprhones, and I like the comfort of them. They do soak up some of the upper treble, and I am aware of this. This earphone is slightly bright on the top end, so this type of tip isn't a bad idea. Make note that different tips do influence frequency response some and the overall presentation some.
Initial listening is mixed. This earphone is a dynamic, and during break in it was obvious these needed a considerable amount of break in effort. While the driver doesn't sound constrained out of the box like some earphones (ex. IE8), its presentation and dynamic range sound very limited before sounding rough. The driver does seem to loosen up a bit as it breaks in and the dynamic range increases. Sound is effortless within the functional range, so increasing this during break in does let you get more output from it without getting funky. After break in, I do confirm what I thought earlier. The driver's output capability while loud is limited to a relatively mild amount of output that it can do cleanly. It is sort of like the Denon C700 in this regard. These just don't seem to have the clean throw of some higher dollar IEMs, by higher dollar I mean $200 plus, so don't get me wrong here. Within the clean range of output, these are beautiful sounding earphones. Yes, you can get a decent amount of unclean output from these. They just messy up some. If you stay to medium to low volumes, you'll be quite happy. If you go louder, you're just asking for unclean sound. That's all there is to it. Amping isn't a factor here. It's not a power issue. In fact, these are plenty easy to drive. I am powering them with my Corda 2Move, but these are a piece of cake to drive. Sensitivity is in the middle. I would say the output capability is something you will find common among budget level products. You just don't really see a high output driver in budget products. I know I'm starting to make the M9 sound kind of bad, but really you shouldn't think this way. For what it lacks in dynamic range and shear output, it does make up for with quality of sound.
Frequency response is excellent and well extended on both ends. It's slightly bright on the top end and has a slight emphasis on the low end. There is a slight dip around 600Hz that tends to lean out the lower mids and makes the bass sound a little more pronounced than it really is. I EQ everything I run, so I do try and make an effort to learn the response and gauge its influence. The response is actually well balanced with only slight and smooth dips and peaks that give a little enhancement to the lower bass and upper treble which is commonly desirable.
Sound stage is quite good. Sounds come across well placed. It might be slightly intimate in presence but has a good sense of depth. It's better than I'd expect for such a low priced earphone, a lot better in fact. Transparency isn't 100% which is its only major shortcoming when trying to create a believable sound stage. Some of it is physically feeling the earphone vibrate, but most of it is distortion. Transparency is proportional to the output level. Again this isn't surprising for a budget level product, but critical listening will create a very good end sound and presentation that's certainly above average.
So what about general listening?
The treble is nice with good detail and edge. There's a good amount of detail, and it's just nice to listen to and has that bite that makes treble bits fun to listen to. Mids don't particular stand out outside of that slight dip in the lower mids.. Bass on these is fun and go deep. Despite these lacking clean output, these do output bass with solid authority and depth. It does brighten as you increase output, but I am surprised by the extension and good control these do offer at low to medium volumes. It's above what I'd expect from a $60 earphone and a surprisingly good experience from what's only $20 on the street. These to me are not $20 earphones. The sound isn't $20. The packaging and accessories are not $20. It's a good $60 value and $80 retail wouldn't be bad for them. MEElectronics retails these at $30, and I have to applaud them for offering so much in such an affordable package. They just perform a lot better. I'm impressed by the frequency response and balance. I'm impressed by the quality of treble and the quality of bass (at reasonable output levels). I'm impressed that it gives a good sense of sound stage placement and layering. There's good separation and cleanliness, and they handle noisy tracks well. The output limitations are to me expected side-effects of building on a budget. You simply won't have a high output driver at this price point. The quality of sound scales completely with the output level. You can get a very good critical listening earphone with these. If you want to crank up the sound, I would lean towards other options. These will just suffer more and more as you go louder. If you are a low volume listener, these can provide a pretty outstanding experience for the price point. Add in decent build and a pile of accessories, it's just a great overall product.
Next up...some comparison listening.
(See Post #16 for comparison)
Edited by mvw2 - 7/15/10 at 7:48pm