The A161P is a new single balanced armature from MEElectronics. Meelec markets their new flagship as:
“Relentlessly accurate to the source, the A161P delivers precisely what is in your music - nothing more and nothing less. High levels of clarity and resolution mean you won’t have to strain to hear the details while excellent handling of spatial cues delivers the ultimate concert-in-your-head experience.”
The A161P is a very competent entry into the world of neutrality but don’t let that word scare you. The A161P is a full bodied, thicker note entry that I find immensely pleasing and easy to recommend.
· Driver: High performance single balanced armature
· Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz
· Sensitivity: 110 dB (1mW @ 1KHz)
· Impedance: 16 ohms
· Microphone: Single button remote
· Connector: 3.5mm gold plated, 45-degree angle connector
· Total cable length: 130 cm / 51.2 in
· 6 pairs of silicone eartips (3pr single flange, 2pr triple flange, 1pr double flange)
· Clamshell carrying case
· Cable earguides
· TRRS adapter cable (for select smartphones)
· Headset to PC adapter
· Shirt Clip
I’d like to thank Joe, at MEElectronics, for the review sample.
Look and Feel:
The presentation of the A161P is definitely worthy of a flagship model. The box they come in is classy and very sturdy and the clamshell case follows those same design cues.
The housings are a two tone plastic. The back is black, leading to very sturdy if a bit large, rubbery strain reliefs and gold on the front of the housing and nozzle. The nozzle is covered by a finely meshed metal protective filter. Once again- very classy looking.
I’ve read a few complaints about the cable used, at least in comparison to previous Meelec cables. Since this is my first Meelec, I can’t compare it to other models but I really do like the cable. It is on the thinner side but is also pretty supple and very flexible. I’m not crazy about the 45 degree connector, as I’d much rather have it 90 degrees but it’s better than a straight one for my usages. The cable includes a Y cinch that works as it should.
The A161P is smart phone compatible and thus has a single button mic on the cable of the right earpiece. In my estimation, the placement of 4.5” below the strain relief is almost perfect, as it disappears, hanging just below the ear instead of flopping around against your neck or chest like many other smartphone compatible mics do. The single mic button can answer and hang up calls, as well as pause, play and skip songs on my iPhone. Call quality on both ends was as good as my home phone with no wind noise or echo.
The A161P is a remarkably good full range armature driver. The notes are full and thick and there is very good extension on both ends. Simply put- it’s a joy to listen to.
The A161P bass is very punchy and tight with very good depth and body. Very pleasing! It is able present proper weight to instruments and voices with convincing texture. In contrast the SM2 hits much harder in the mid bass, however its bass sounds much slower and less articulate due to an exaggerated mid bass and note thickness. Next to the CK10 (which is my benchmark for armature performance), the A161P bass is a little slower with a feeling of extended decay. The A161P has a bit more overall rumble than the CK10 but loses out in articulation and depth. Based on the graph MEElectonics shows on their website (see above), bass response appears to be a couple of decibels over neutral but very linear, which accounts for the surprising rumble and weight, as well as its accuracy.
For me, the midrange is where the A161P really shines. It is aggressive, slightly forward and a little sweet. Distortion guitars sound absolutely fantastic with great bite and vocals are clear and crisp. In this regard, it reminds me somewhat of the JVC FXT90. I just love the vocal placement and aggressiveness, which makes the A161P very energetic and engaging. The A161P frequency response is balanced from the bottom of the midrange through the upper midrange. In contrast the SM2 has much more lower midrange emphasis and misses the ‘presence’ of the A161P in the upper midrange. The mids of the SM2 are lusher, more euphonic but also slower and too rounded, lacking a proper edge. Next to the A161P, the SM2 sounds overly dark and muddy.
The A161P treble is crisp and extended with a hint of sparkle but generally non-fatiguing and never sibilant. To get closer to neutral, there would need to be a bit more treble presence; though next to the SM2’s very laid back treble, the A161 sounds much brighter, if almost on the verge of airy. In comparison to the CK10, you can clearly delineate the difference of a more neutral treble presence, as the CK10 has a lot more air, and as such, is more revealing. Those seeking a more neutral earphone but are worried about too much treble emphasis should look no further than the A161P.
Instrument realism on the A161P is surprisingly very, very good and normally a hallmark quality of a good dynamic driver to my ears. As mentioned earlier, distortion guitars are excellent, rivaling previous favorites like the GR07, FXT90 and HJE900, but also acoustic guitar and drums sound absolutely fantastic and engaging as well. Each piece of kit is easily distinguished with excellent separation and impact and the crisp midrange lets acoustics breath and strings shimmer. Kicks, toms and snares are full of lively impact and are just plain fun and enjoyable. If I have one minor quibble, Pianos could have a bit more weight and reverb on the bottom end but that’s just a nit-pick on a seriously good sounding single armature.
The soundstage ranges from slightly above average in width and about average in depth for universal BA’s; nothing to wow but certainly nothing to disappoint. Imaging is good and I have no issues with location cues. The overall sound is very organic and cohesive. I think a little more treble presence would have helped improve micro-detailing, making it a more revealing earphone but really at this price, who’s complaining?
I’ve read some differing opinions on bass quantity, treble presence and soundstage size/depth. It’s worth noting that I’ve found more neutral IEM’s usually require a bit deeper insertion than most. The A161P will sound its best with moderate to deeper insertion depth. A shallow fit will not allow you to enjoy its full potential, weakening bass response, losing treble detail or flattening soundstage. I can get a great fit with the stock triple flange, single flange and the Jays silicone tips that have been popular with the GR07 and FXT90. Experimentation is recommended to find your best personal fit and sound with the A161P.
The A161P surprised me and changed me the moment I put them in. The sweet, yet aggressive midrange and forward vocal presentation is right up my alley but it also brought about an unexpected change in my overall preferences, which now lean towards neutrality. The A161P has opened my ears to a signature I’ve previously neglected and shied away from. Since receiving them, I have also now acquired the Audio Technica CK10, which is one of the more neutral sets available. The A161P comes off as fun, musical and just a little on the dark side of neutral. Both of these phones have worked their way into my heart and musical passions bringing immense listening pleasure; for this- I thank you A161P!
Edited by shotgunshane - 8/12/12 at 5:58am