Pros: Many included tips to ensure a good fit, no hints of distortion at all, price to quality ratio is good in the land of bass heavy IEMs.
Cons: 3.5mm jack has 3 stops instead of 2, this means that it has to be carefully placed into a home amp not designed for mic’d IEMs, sounds poor without amping, bass as fulfilling as I would like.
Tonal Balance: Bass oriented with good mid and high presence.
Preferred Genres: Modern pop, club music, vocal oriented music, well-recorded albums.
Amp: Recommended. Out of my iPod Classic these sound lifeless.
Listening Set-up: iTunes -> ODAC -> O2
The M-Duo come packaged in a way that is familiar to the A161p. The M-Duo are packaged in a hard cardboard box with a purple, grey and black colored sleeve. The front of the sleeve shows the IEMs while the back has technical specs and design information. The accessory list is located on the side, allowing for the information on the back to not be crammed into limited space. The sleeve slides off to reveal a sleek black and purple cardboard box that is very minimal in design. The box opens from a magnetic fold on the right side to reveal the IEMs and the carrying case in a plastic housing, while the inside of the opened box defines key-words that Meelectronics wants to be associated with the M-Duo.
Included with the M-Duo is: 6 sets of ear-tips (S/M/L, duo-flanged and two sizes of tri-flanged silicon tips) and a semi-hard shell carrying case.
Build Quality and Design
The M-Duo housings are entirely metal with a black and silver/light blue accent, it’s hard to tell for me. The nozzle of the IEM is wide with a fabric covered nozzle. This inner section is black with ridges while the middle section is a smooth light blue/silver with an Meelectronics logo on top. On the rear is a black metal finish that indicates the left or right ear. The housing is built solidly, so it seems, with more than adequate stress relief leaving the housing. The IEMs have been subjected to extreme heat, unintentionally, but have not come apart. They are definitely built well, or at least hold together well.
On the left cable there is a mic with remote control. I admit I haven’t used the mic control or mic as they aren’t very important in my lifestyle. There is a cable cinch, but it is impeded by the mic, coming up from the y-split. What an odd design as the cable cinch, in my experience, is used to lower microphonics and keep the IEMs in place. The cinch can’t moved past the mic/remote so it’s rather useless in my opinion. I’m guessing that these use the same cable as the A161p as well as they feel very similar, if this is the case than the M-Duo should hold up very well for a while.
The cable terminates into a 90 degree angle 3.5mm plug that has three stops, two are for stereo while the other is for the mic. I’ve had problems using the plug with non-mic’d inputs, namely my O2. I need to leave the plug 75% in to receive the normal sound quality as I receive while the plug is fully inputted into my iPod. A minor inconvenience, but one nonetheless.
I’ve preferred the IEMs worn over ear with the double flanged tips and even so the tips grate on my inner and outer ear making them a bit uncomfortable to wear long term. I’m not sure if Meelectronics has changed their tips, but I’ve never experienced discomfort with their IEMs before. With the double flanged tips I have a hard time wearing these for more than an hour, especially on a hot day. Isolation is good, but the fit is harsh.
I’ve had the M-Duo for about two months now, using them on and off either with my iPod Classic or through my O2/ODAC stack. I have noticed no extreme signs of burn-in, though I highly recommend using an amp with these. Without an amp, directly from my iPod, the M-Duo sound lifeless and a bit muddy. The sound really tightens up and becomes lively.
The M-Duo are designed as a logical upgrade for fans of Meelectronics M series and are meant as a competitor to the Klipsch Image S4. I have not heard the S4 for comparison, but from what they’ve been described in reviews as, I feel the M-Duo are comparable. The M-Duo are an IEM that focuses on the lows while having a great vocal presence without sacrificing the highs.
The lows are a mixed bag, they extend deep with no signs of distortion and no lag period, yet I feel unsatisfied. James Blake’s Limit to Your Love is the standard in which I test bass in a headphone and while the M-Duo faithfully dig deep while responding to the fast moving quavering bass quickly, the sub-bass isn’t satisfying. The bass is certainly there, but it feels thin despite portraying it rather accurately. Even while listening to The xx’s Fantasy the M-Duo feel lacking, the bass is huge from the M-Duo, even giving a mild rumbling sensation, but it feels direct, as if being injected into my ears, instead of filling up the space.
The mid-bass is a different story. The mid-bass is punchy with good weight, bass guitars and kick drums fill up the space nicely, giving a warmth to songs, though sometimes a touch too much. Those who want a thumping kick drum though will love these. The kick drum is punchy, though in songs like Hot Chip’s The Warning it winds up pushing the highs out. When all is said and done though, the mid-bass sounds nice and if listening from home it can easily be EQd down a touch to bring other things into the focus a bit more. I will say that the thump is a welcome addition to today’s modern pop music.
The first thing I thought about when listening to the M-Duo was how intimate and accurate vocals sound. The vocals are actually the highlight of the M-Duo for me. The mid-bass is more prominent than the vocals, causing them to sound a bit hushed at times, but when unencumbered by a bass guitar or kick drum the vocals really shine. Instruments throughout the mids and highs sound natural, though the M-Duo is rather unforgiving about poor recordings. With high quality recordings the M-Duo present every instrument with natural tonation; when dealing with a lower quality recording the M-Duo quickly sound artificial and plasticy. This rings true for sibilance as well, the M-Duo add no sibilance, but with poor recordings where sibilance is rampant the M-Duo do nothing to hide it.
The highs aren’t as prominent, often falling into the background unless the recording has them in the spotlight. When the highs are in the spotlight though they never come off harsh, they are clean and well extended. Trumpets, saxophones, guitars and so forth are all represented faithfully from the saxophone solo in Money by Pink Floyd to Miles Davis’ trumpet throughout the Bitches Brew album.
The M-Duo present the music in a direct way, there’s very little sense of where instrument positioning outside of the basic left and right. The soundstage is also rather shallow, the sound is presented as a flat and somewhat wide canvas. Instrument separation is decent enough for the sound to not come off congested, but at times the music can seem a bit cramped.
I consider myself somewhat of an Meelectronics fanboy, I highly praise the M6 as the best IEM for exercising due to it’s sound quality, build quality, and price. I believe the A161p are lovely detailed IEMs that sing with well-recorded albums. I still listen to my A151 on occasion with joy, though they’ve been taken by my girlfriend now who loves them. Now I’m here with the M-Duo. The M-Duo offer more detail than most in the price range, especially if you consider only the bass heavy IEMs, clarity is excellent, on par with the A161p, and the build is of typical Meelectronic quality (which means they’re built well). On the downside I don’t find the M-Duo engaging, I can’t find a genre I particularly love with these, and the comfort is not at its best.
I may sound harsh on these, I don’t really mean so. The M-Duo are good IEMs that nearly perfectly achieve what I feel a bass oriented IEM should achieve in this price bracket. Many bass oriented IEMs have the problem of having too much bass, or uncontrolled bass. The M-Duo aren’t one of those IEMs. The M-Duo may not be satisfying to my ears, but they are certainly a worthy direct audio quality upgrade from the M6 and the rest of the M series line. If you’re looking for a more detail, better clarity, and an overall better experience than you’re entry level M series Meelectronics IEM can offer, the M-Duo are going to be a great buy for you. The M-Duo are currently $80 through Amazon.
Full picture album available here.
Edited by keanex - 7/30/13 at 9:00pm