MEElectronics SP-51P Review
Thanks to MEElectronics for the samples
First Impressions: A nice but pretty nondescript box, pretty much identical to its siblings that it came with. I still must comment thought that I highly approve of the little case that they come with. Note to all, cases are always worth including. Nothing spectacular to look at here really so other than the additional little packet inside. Yes the little bass port filters. Just why they aren’t called sensible names like low bass or light, then medium bass then heavy or big bass. No we have “natural,” “enhanced” and extreme. Why is it Americans in particular cannot simply call a spade a spade. (Starbucks, looking at you and your menu here) Other than that they do look nice.
Having a little listen I’m instantly greaten with driver flex and air pressure issues. Frankly since I just wrote up the review of their siblings, the CC51P I am in no mood for it as my ears are still feeling rather sensitive and a little sore. So off to burn in they go.
Source 1G iPod Shuffle with a 75 ohm adapter added
Mids: Middling. The mids here are neither too warm nor to cold, to rich and too dry. They may not be wowing me in the way I might wish but I cannot fault anything they do. A good sense of balance ,if perhaps a tiny touch recessed. They offer a very capable level of clarity and remain very clear and distinct throughout. I do feel they slightly prefer a male voice however, they prefer the lower mids rather than the higher end of the vocal range, Beverly Craven sounded a little grey and lifeless. Males tend to come across as simply being richer and fuller. Still for a non mid focused and pretty cheap IEM they are easily capable of dealing with anything you can throw at it.
Highs: Hmm well not great but for their bargain price tag they really are quite good. I did find that they got a little over exuberant with the shuffle (known for being a little excitable in the top end anyway) but if you were to add the 75 ohm adapter it went a very long way to taming that splashyness. Honestly it’s really very good. Quantity wise it’s not vast but it does stand out clearly making this a tiny bit V shaped and the highs are quite focused to give you edge and detail required but doesn’t remain and become over bearing. No IEM in this price is going to nail treble so it’s far better to make the best of what you have and accept if you don’t roll off the upper treble then you’ll grate peoples ears. Well done MEElectronics for getting that tuning so well done.
Lows: Usually I do this first but since these have the 3 different bass ports I wanted to get the other 2 out of the way first.
“Natural” this is the one I instinctively went to and have spent most of the time within. Now I know I moaned that they are called “natural” rather than light or other such descriptive term but natural is actually a fair description. It really isn’t what I would call light, certainly it’s not dominant but it possesses good depth and scale when demanded. It’s good. It isn’t spectacular but I really genuinely can’t find anything I’d call a fault in it.
“Enhanced” right off the bat the difference is apparent. In fact I had to check I’d not put in the black ones by mistake. The bass has the same basic tonality as before but it’s like someone has hit the megabass button. Honestly it’s almost a little disjointed from before. The natural sounded so natural and this sounds really rather boosted. I guess though the market position these are aimed at wouldn’t consider the level of bass here to be too much. Still it’s a good balance of expansion and agility but does err on the side of depth and size side of things. It’s not going to wow with its lightning speed but it’s very full.
“Extreme” I can’t say I was looking forward to it and I think it was deserved. Now I know that many out there will love the bass here and particularly those used to bass monsters like the CX300. The bass on theSP51 with the black filters is huge. Quality wise it’s pretty reasonable and taught but make no mistake, it is huge. That’s what this filter is all about. Massive, gargantuan bass that has vast expansion and a significant amount of power and punch. The highs notably tone it down with the driver clearly emphasising the bottom end. Mids still are clear but dominated and over shadowed by that bass. It is gigantic.
Now for something that size it is very well behaved but its quality really isn’t all that important. Either you want this level of bass or you don’t. I don’t.
Soundstage: Moderate, it’s got quite good positioning but it never feels terribly expansive. It is all quite in the middle, not distant sounding but intimate either, like their playing in your living room rather than on a stage or in your face. Separation is fairly good too but does suffer when too much is going on but that’s par for the course at this price.
Comfort: Absolutely fine once they were in and sat. The air pressure issue and the regular pushing in and sucking out of my ear does tend to make them hurt after a while. Not a problem for everyone but for me it is a bit.
Fit: Much like the comfort once they were in and sat it was fine but getting them there was a bother. Plenty of pushing and pulling trying to get them sitting just right and the air pressure equalised. It’s just what happens when things aren’t vented. I should note that using the black “extreme” ports helped the issue a lot as they are more open. However I just didn’t really ever want all that bass.
Cable: It’s a return to form for MEElectronics as the SP51 has its woven gray with a transparent sheath cable. It is excellent in both looks and feel. You couldn’t really ask for better.
Microphonics: None. If you wear them down, don’t use the shirt clip and really try you can get some but why would you?
Amped/Unamped: They do like amping and particularly if you wanted to tame the upper end add impedance. They really smoothed out with the extra ohm’s which made them sound more refined. It did however make them a little boring sounding. It’s up to you which you prefer but all worth using if you have one to hand. Of course you’d loose the phone abilities though.
Build Quality: Faultless. For something at this price I can’t find even the merest hint of anything other than perfect. It’s all solid with the metal buds and wonderful cable. I really can’t see anyone but the most harsh, abusive and careless individuals managing to wreak this.
Isolation: Pretty good. Not up at BA levels so don’t be buying these for daily commutes on the tube but easily enough to block out most of the world and get you run over if you’re not paying attention.
Accessories: You get the 4 tips, shirt clip, the great little case and the 3 pairs of port filters. Not sure what else you could want.
Phone Use: Plugged in into the Nexus One and it all worked fine. Calls were good and clear and the other party could hear me fine. Play, pause, next track and last track all worked fine too. The button isn’t the easiest to find given the mic/button thingy is round but that’s about it. It’s not like it’s hard to use and it feels of very good quality, spectacular at this price.
Value: MEElectronics have them going for US$60 for the ordinary version and US$70 for the phone one. I can also see that in the UK they can be had for £30 or £45 respectively. Those are pretty damn cheap. Particularly I think for the phone ones as so often companies gouge for adding that little mic and button so it’s nice to see that not happening here. Just on the sound merits its pretty good too, you can find things to better it but none of them will offer the bass port tuning if that appeals to you. Also you’ll be hard pressed to find this build quality too at this price. It’s a very solid value proposition.
Conclusion: Hmm, there really is much to love about the SP51, it’s got a great balanced sound with the “natural” filters and offers a pretty damn good level of clarity and detail to boot. It does have a few issues though, I found the lack of venting and the corresponding driver flex and air pressure issue a pain. It’s not an issue everyone has but I do. Still it’s not like it was unliveable, just annoying. What I do think the SP51 would be really good for however is to wean people off the uber bass heavy sounds they have been used to in a more gentle fashion. You could start off using the black bass cannons then after a bit move down to the gunmetal ones. Then once your ears have adjusted move down to the genuinely good sounding “neutral” ones. It really is the only one I can hand on heart say I really liked. The medium one was really pushing the limits of bass I want and the black was well over it. The “neutral” however was really nicely balanced, everything was clear and distinct, something I think I could use everyday and never find really lacking anywhere.
What I think is especially nice is if you are after the phone element too, it’s a real bargain IEM that is good sounding and you can get the phone bit for very little extra. The other competition in that arena is mostly other MEElectronics products anyway and none offer the bass port swapping. So while I can’t say the SP51 made me fall in love with it but it’s a really solid, quality product with a feature set and a price that is unbeatable. Well worth your money.