I’d like to start this review by thanking Joker for sharing a link to MEE’s site looking for reviewers. I was one of the 10 chosen to review the MEElectronics M9s (Thanks to MEE too!!!). And this review is probably a bit overdue, but I wanted to spend a long time with them before saying anything about them. And enjoy my summer. Haha, oops. And to those of you who read my Copper review, I’ll make it easy on you guys. It won’t be nearly as long and overly detailed. And there won’t be as much humor. Sorry guys, just wanted to get to the point. If you want some humor, support your local comedians. Or not. More often than not they’re not that great… May I have a nice little backstory? So I was out somewhere and randomly checked my email. The first thing in my inbox was an email from Joe at MEE saying I was chosen to review them. I was pretty ecstatic. And the guys almost always answered within 5 minutes. Pretty impressive. Anyways:
Packaging/Accessories: (Oops, forgot to take a picture of the packaging...)
The packaging for these is pretty decent for a budget IEM. The accessories are aplenty, much more than one would expect for $30. The M9’s packaging is a plain (nothing fancy, this isn’t a hipster company that gets customers at first glance with the box) a plastic box with a nice soft-shell case with a cable wrap and airline adapter. Also included are two different kinds of tips. A pair thin, grey double-flanged tips labeled “balanced”, and some thicker black tips labeled “enhanced bass”. The shirt clip is pre-mounted onto the cable, which is nice, because I could never get the blasted things on.
The M9s’ housings are made completely of metal. It’s very nice. Even the nozzle is metal. I’d imagine you could use these as an impromptu weapon if you happen to be assaulted wearing these, should that ever happen. The wires are decent too. The silver M9s have a zebra-like cable covered by (what I can only assume) Teflon. The cables do hold memory (they’re curly when you use the wrap), but they’re soft and flexible.
Strain reliefs are pretty nice. The strain between the cable and earphone is very nice, but strange looking. It’s just too big. Not that I really can complain. More security that the cables won’t fail up there is always nice. It is a bit loose though, most likely because I was futzing with them when I was bored. It would have been nice if they were clear though. Black on silver looks okay though. The plug is the strange (in my opinion. Straight in or in a 90 degree angle for me!) hockey stick 45 degree style plug. The strain on the plug is adequate, and the plug itself seems sturdy enough.
The drivers in these are dynamic drivers, so they need to be vented. The vent on these is pretty, well…obvious. It doesn’t look too bad though. And as far as I know, doesn’t really leak.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t completely impressed by the M9s at first listen. I plugged them into my already warm sounding Sony A726 and played some Muse (Black Holes and Revelations, in fact. I know, bad mastering, but it’s just a fun album). It was decent, not really incredible. The album sounded pretty veiled. The mids seemed a bit recessed, bass was pretty big (I don’t want to say bloated, because it’s controlled to a good degree), and the treble was almost piercing. Soundstage was rather enclosed and timbre and decay was meh. All this in a general sense. Very very good for the price though. So far, easy to recommend to friends at retail.
Now, for the review, I’ll be using my Sony A726 as a source, unamped. I talked to Joe about amping and he said it tended to add more bass, which I didn’t really want. I’ll try to make the review short and sweet by merely outlining the sound instead of specific albums. It was just too time consuming and probably didn’t really help too much. If you have any questions, just ask me. I’d be glad to help.
These are burned in at least 200 hours for your burn in believers. I did hear a decrease in bass, emergence of mids, and the treble is tamed, but I still think it’s just me getting used to the sound. I’m using the balanced tips in the review. I’ll post impressions of the sound with different tips later on.
Albums used (average of 256kbps):
Resistance - Muse
Falling Into Infinity - Dream Theater
He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace The Corners of Our Rooms - A Silver Mt. Zion (long album name ftw!)
Shudder - Bayside (had to do some kind of tween band!)
Fever - Bullet For My Valentine
The Eventually Home - Right Away Great Captain!
Hope - Non Prophets
Monkeys For Nothing and Chimps For Free - Reel Big Fish
Hot - Squirrel Nut Zippers
Somethin’ Else - Cannonball Adderley
The Fall - Norah Jones (Ick. Clippy, but that’s why I chose this album)
Lateralus - Tool
Discovery - Daft Punk
Catch 33 - Meshuggah
From the Yellow Room - Yiruma
Mkay, so a lot of albums right? Onto the review!
Bass: Okay, I’ll do this section first. If you’re looking at these, you like bass. Not really any way around that. Bass on these is pretty substantial. It does have good detail and decent depth though. Decay is decent too. It doesn’t have the boomboom “3P1K” bass that just gives you headaches. In Discovery’s Something About Us, there is a nice amount of impact, not too much, not too little, and decay was quick. It went as deep as the bass went without faltering. In Falling Into Infinity’s Lines in the Sand, the low end rumble is pretty prominent--almost headache inducing. Non-Prophets’ Hope’s Any Port’s (triple possessives!!!!) bass was pretty overpowering and overshadowed a bit of the mids. The bass in Somethin’ Else is rather subdued and blurred. Lateralus’s Schism’s bassline is rather subdued and faded too, yet prominent. Yeah, basically, these are more bass-centric than anything else. Although they don’t really take control of the rest of the spectrum. It’s good bassy bass.
Highs: They are, put simply, kinda harsh, yet smooth. They’re also detailed. I’ve never been great at describing treble, so I’m gonna spitball stuff. The Fall’s Light as a Feather shows, beneath all that clipping, a smooth voice, but at times, sounds a bit peaky and harsh. From the Yellow Room’s Kiss the Rain beautifully conveys the high notes of the piano, but seem somewhat veiled. Very pleasing to listen to though. Somethin’ Else’s One for Daddy-O features Cannonball’s wonderful alto (A King Super 20 with a Meyer 5?) playing. The highest notes seem to have a bit of grain in them, and sound a teeny bit off in general. Still pretty impressive. Basically, pretty good treble, especially at the price. It can be harsh at times, but never upsettingly so. To my ears.
Mids: Why did I put the highs before mids? No clue. Too lazy to move this though. The mids here are a bit too subdued to my liking, but this is a tradeoff for having bass as big and meaty as the M9 has. I hesitate to call it recessed. They certainly aren’t recessed, but they’re a tiny bit overpowered by the bass and treble. If anything, they have a very slight V curve. In certain songs, well a lot of metal (BFMV, Meshuggah, Tool, NIN (Yes, they aren‘t in the list of albums. I cheated. Sawwie) for example, sound congested and slow. The more complex, the more congested, obviously. Not really a metal IEM in my view. Ska performs a bit better. Brass sounds decent on the M9s. Not really “realistic” to a T, but acceptable. They retain nice tone and have nice bite. Strings also sound pretty decent. Sound real enough, and retain emotion. You can’t really complain about the sound at all for the amazing price that these sell for.
Soundstage: As you can see, they are vented, so this allows the M9s to have a rather large soundstage. Not really large per say, but it’s about a foot or so in front, 6 inches to either side. Not really much in between. It’s rather blurred.
Details: These are surprisingly detailed. It has about 90% the detail of the Monster Coppers, which is either impressive for the M9s or sad for the Coppers. It picks up most muttering and finger twacking. Timbre is realistic-ish, could be a lot better though.
Sibilance: None. Plain and simple. If there was any, I didn’t hear it with stock tips.
Isolation: Pretty good. Not amazing though. When mowing the lawn, you can still hear the hum with music playing rather loud. Blocks pretty much anything reasonable though. Triple flanges obviously improve isolation.
I figured that since I have some random tips, I’d try them to see how they change the sound. So here’s some very brief impressions.
Balanced: Thinner silicon. Obviously, the more balanced of the two prepacked tips. Nice soundstage, bass is less prominent compared to the thicker tips.
Enhanced bass: Thicker silicon, irritates the ears pretty quickly. Bass heavy, treble subdued, mids are pushed to the back of the sound. Same soundstage.
Comply: Treble actually less subdued than the EB tips. Soundstage is more compressed, bass is muddier, mids aren’t as recessed as the EB. Complex passages are smeared.
Ultimate Ears tips: AAAAACK! Sibilance! If you can deal with that, you’re rewarded with a larger soundstage, forward mids, and tighter, quicker bass, and more detail. The highs are harsh though.
Monster Foam Supertips: I actually like these on the most. Most balanced sound, and sound about 75% of the Coppers in every way. Kind of unsettling when you consider the retail of M9s is 1/10th of the Coppers’.
Monster Gel Supertips: In my opinion, the worse of the bunch. The mids disappear behind a veil, treble is somewhat sibilant, bass is bloated and uncontrolled. Ick. Although, if you’re weird and like that, get these. Detail is kind of a moot point with these.
Monster Triple Flange: These have a decent soundstage, better decay, although sound more echo-ey. Mids are neutral, as is the treble, but can be shouty at times. Bass is still somewhat big. Never bleeds into the mids though. Detail is not its strong point. More isolation than the other tips, obviously.
Skullcandy silicon: No. Just kidding. Actually, these were better than I thought they’d be. The sound hole’s the biggest of all the tips. Well the ones I have do. I’ve borrowed some friends’ when I had nothing on me (okay, it was once. It was dark, I didn’t know what was going on!) and the hole was a bit more narrow. The sound’s a bit less controlled than the rest of the others, but have a nice soundstage. Not as large as the UE ones or multi-flanged tips. Bass is pretty large, but doesn’t mask the mids. The mids are actually rather forward, surprisingly. Treble is smooth. These are actually halfway decent tips. Although the uncontrolled sound’s a bit of a turnoff. Vocals also have a plastic-ey artificial tone to them with these tips. There’s also a hint of sibilance.
I have a couple headphones/IEMs in the same price range, so I shall compare them to the M9s.
Modded Koss Portapro: So these are about the same price, so I figured it was somewhat fair to include these. The mods I did to the Portas were basically an extreme version of what Kramer did with the KSC75s. Instead of drilling holes in the grill, I just took the sucker off and put a mesh grill in its place with quarter modded pads. The result is a much less bassy sound with more forward mids. The soundstage opens up a bit too. Treble is probably a bit too much for most people, but I really like it. I’m masochistic like that. Anyways, the tightness and quickness of the bass in the Portas is preferable to me. It’s not as deep and impactful though, so it loses out to the M9s with balanced tips in genres that need deep bass. Mids, well the Portas win, no contest. Then again, they are majorly modded. I’m sure the battle would be much closer with both stock. The mids stock weren’t that great stock. I’d assume the M9s win out compared to the stock ones. Treble is a bit of a tossup. It all depends on the user. If one likes a smooth treble, the M9s win. If one likes a forward and engaging treble, Portas are the way to go. Soundstage, Portas win easily, obviously. Detail, the Portapros actually have as much detail as the Coppers, which really isn’t much to brag about, but still commendable. M9s have a good amount of treble, but not as much as the Koss.
Ultimate Ears Super.fi 4: Supposedly, these are the same as the Super.fi 3, assuming more people have heard those than these. These are balanced armature IEMs as opposed to the M9’s dynamic driver. The sound of these is tilted more to the treble/mid side of the spectrum. It has pretty nice treble, mids are pretty good for the price, bass is not very strong, which is a plus in my view, but tight and quick. Soundstage is somewhat compressed. The mids of the SF4 are admittedly a bit better. The mids of the M9s are ever so slightly recessed, and I prefer more mids. Treble is about the same. M9s have a smoother treble though. Bass is a tossup. It all depends on how much bass you want. When I say the SF4 is lean in bass, I mean it. They have only a little more bass than the AKG K271. It makes up for it by being pretty fast and detailed in that department. The M9s have deeper, bigger bass, but with the wrong tips. Can start to creep on the mids. Most people looking for a cheap IEM would prefer the M9s The soundstage on the M9s is much wider, in a comparative sense. Isolation on the M9s is a tiny bit better. The SF4 is too shallow and awkward fitting to have good isolation. Detail is also a tossup. Some subtleties on the M9s weren’t heard on the SF4. And vice versa. The SF4 has a retail of $100, so…yeah. They’re relatively easy to find for $40 though.
Put simply, these are pretty amazing for $30. They do most genres (metal’s a tossup.) really well, have a fun and somewhat engaging sound signature. Bass is big and rather enveloping, while staying in its place more often than not. Mids are a tiny bit turned down, but that’s a consequence of the big bass. Treble is smooth for most songs. Rarely harsh. Detail is very impressive for the price. Soundstage is pretty (have you noticed I like the word pretty?) big for an IEM. Yup. I think that’s pretty much it. BUY ONE. NOW. Seriously, it’s common to find these for under $20, and I think it’s insane how that’s possible. These should be on everyone’s shortlist for a gateway to this hobby, and a cheap gift to corrupt friends (non-believers) with. If it were $50, I’d be more hesitant with so much new competition, but these aren’t anywhere near it. So...yeah. Thanks for reading! Baiiiizzz!
Edited by Ishcabible - 8/19/10 at 7:44am