A couple of weeks back I got a nice surprise in mail. A full range balanced armature offering from MEElectronics, A161P. What amazes me the most is the musicality and inoffensive highs maintained despite of the lean presentation. It's a nice balance that the engineers at MEElectronics settled down for. I remember that I couldn't resist but listening to the songs for a good number of hours continuously when I first popped these in my ears. Let's get started with the review then.
Packaging and Accessories : The case reminds me of Dunu Hephaes's case, aesthetically pleasing and a touch luxurious feel. Opening the magnetic flap feels exquisite, only to be greeted by the IEMs studded in a velvety harness. A clamshell case is provided for keeping these securely. Three single flanges, one bi-flange and two tri-flanges packed to get the desired seal. One microphone + headphone jack splitter is provided to use these with personal computer and similar devices. Other TRRS cable is for compatibility with select phones. Though I won't be going into its compatibility with other phones.
Build Quality: Jack, with gold plated contacts, is not as beefy as the newer models of HiFiMan RE-0 but the 45 degree angled plug does help in reduced stress at the joint. Strain relief at the jack is in the similar veins. Cable looks sturdy and similar to SoundMagic E30's in thickness but a notch less stiff. Above the y-split thickness decreases considerably compared to SoundMagic E30's. Y-splitter's build quality is similar to JVC FXT90's. Clip provided can be rotated just like FXT90, increasing the usability. Housing is lengthier and diameter is less compared to RE-0. One can get a deeper seal with these, though not to the level of HiSoundAudio Golden Crystal. Nozzles are angled, adding to a good fit. Also, finding left and right pieces is easier without looking at them due to that. Finish on housing is incredibly smooth to touch. Strain relief on housings are pretty limber and gives a confidence that they will withstand a bit of rough handling. Filter on the nozzle is a metallic mesh unlike the paper filter in RE-0 or FXT90. Left and Right markings are engraved on the strain reliefs. Not visible in dark but the angled nozzles give a good tangible cue with round embossed mark on left strain relief. Here is a comparative pic which should give you a brief visual idea about the quality:
RE-0, FXT90, E30, XE200PRO, A161P and e-Q5
RE-0, FXT90, E30, XE200PRO, A161P and e-Q5
Comfort and Isolation: These are pretty light and the housings are small comparatively (smaller in diameter compared to RE-0). Smooth surface of housings is a real comfort compared to Ortofon-eQ5 and RE-0. One can get good seal with these blocking out fair amount of outside ambient sounds. I will be using Sony hybrids (medium) for these as they work better for me.
Lows: Articulate, precise and thicker in body compared to RE-0. RE-0 bass is softer and diffused. Comparable to E30 in magnitude. Texture and speed is better compared to E30. Sub bass rumble is fairly good but don't expect it to send tremors down your globes.
Mids: Lean, warm and smooth. Not as weighty as JVC FXT90 but holds good weight compared to RE272. Not recessed, just at the right place where.
Highs: Extended well without sounding offensive. Lesser so than the Ortofon e-Q5 but listening to e-Q5 for longer times can be fatiguing. However, I could go on listening to A161 for hours.
On a culminating note; lows, mids and highs are balanced really well without any of these overwhelming the spectrum, maintaining the neutrality. It's like RE-0 but with better clarity, tighter bass and the musicality which is lacking in dry sounding RE-0.
Presentation: Balanced and closer sounding. Relaxed presentation with ample musicality (without any artificiality) even in complex passages.
Soundstage: Average soundstage with good width but depth is almost like a flat wall right behind you. I do wish it could have been better in depth.
Instrument Separation: Resolution at complex passages is the forte of this IEM. It is an absolute delight to listen to Mono (16:12) using these.
Imaging: Width wise imaging is good but kind of shallow when it comes to depth.
I find myself listening to these IEMs for hours and appreciating its musicality without adding mid bass hump unlike FXT90. I do wish these to have better depth perception in soundstage. Nonetheless, these are impressive as an all rounder performer.
Songs tested while reviewing
1. A Smaller God - Darling Violetta 320kbps (only a select few IEMs get this track right sounding, this one is among those few)
2. How Can I be Sure - Anomie Belle 320kbps (any more mid bass hump and this track gets outright unbearable, doesn't lose out on clarity with these IEMs)
3. Pure as Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm) - Mono FLAC (perfect combination of highs and lows, music is simply blissful here)
4. Postcard from 1952 - Explosions in The Sky 320kbps (delicate piece which gets complex nearing the end, presented with the intended delicacy and resolution. Tighter bass and good speed. Well extended highs.)
5. All The Way /4 U - Poets of The Fall 320kbps (Not as aggressive but the clarity and musicality didn't let me put them off until I listened to the whole song)
6. Breathing Again - Icicle ft. Proxima 320kbps (test for sub bass, and these do give a audibly convincing performance though not the rumble enough to satisfy bassheads. For me it's ok because I crave for texture, speed and precision.)
7. No Surprise - Radiohead 320kbps (sounds ethereal, almost eargasmic)