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In-Ear item created by crabdog, Mar 17, 2017
Pros - Excellent Isolation - Weighty, visceral bass - Fun!
Cons - Microphonics - Recessed mid-range - Weak imaging and soundstage
Today we are going to take a quick look at the MEMT X5, a punchy little micro-driver that's been gaining some popularity as of late.
I'm a big fan of micro-drivers and am always on the lookout for something new and exciting in the field. When the X5 cropped up and was gathering steam I hummed and hawed about picking up a pair. Luckily, @Rvtrav was nice enough to lend me his pair for a couple weeks. I'm very thankful he did because while I think the X5 is worth the money and a good earphone for those that enjoy a powerful, v-shaped signature, I don't quite feel they live up to the hype. Let's look at why.
I do not own the MEMT X5. I simply borrowed a pair for two weeks to satisfy my curiosity and to write this review. Big thanks to @RvTrav for the loaner. The thoughts within this review do not represent anyone but myself.
Spoiler: My Gear and I:
I'm a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI's multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don't do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I'll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was an HTC One M8, an XDuoo X3 (w/ Rockbox update), a Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Creative SoundBlaster Recon3D usb amp. A Shanling M1 was recently added to the crew. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures, I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. My favorite in-ear, the Echobox Finder X1[i[ is a fantastic example of this with their grey filters installed.
Packaging and Accessories:
The X5 comes is a very solid, sky blue package with a small viewing window showing off the compact, attractive earpieces. Flipping open the magnetically sealed front panel reveals the large X5 logo on a small cardboard box and earpieces embedded, all covered by a plastic sheet. It's a very neat and tidy presentation. The included accessories are pretty barren, limited to three sets of oddly petite bi-flange tips in s/m/l sizes, and a handy velcro strap.
Overall a pretty basic unboxing experience.
Build, Design, Comfort, and Isolation:
Earphones with tiny drivers tend to be pretty tiny themselves. The X5 is small, but not quite as compact as some of the smaller micro-driver based earphones I've got, like the MusicMaker TW1 or ToneKing Light V.2. It's positively massive compared to the AAW Q, but that statement applies to pretty much everything. The X5 also feels quite dense and weighty, something I attribute to the magnets added to the housings.
Material quality is excellent but fit and finish needs some work, especially around the nozzles where things don't fit in place as cleanly as I would prefer. The Xiaomi Piston 3rd gen has clearly been put together with greater care and precision.
The cable is made up of four intertwined strands covered in a somewhat stiff, durable sheath. It's a nice cable, but isn't overly flexible. Worn cable over-ear to help deal with the overly invasive microphonics, it constantly tries to pop up over your ear. Strain relief at the excellent 90 degree jack is well implemented, and is decent leading into the earpieces. There is no strain relief around the y-split or in-line mic.
Comfort and ergonomics are quite nice once you find a set of tips that fit the smaller than average nozzle. No complaints here.
The X5 isolates better than most other dynamic driver based earphones I've used. When paired with my Piston 2 triple flange tips, they blocked out a good 80% (a guess of course) of external noise when walking out and about. If you want to shut yourself out from the outside world, these will surely do it for you.
Overall they X5 is a decently well-constructed and comfortable earphone. The cable could definitely benefit from replacement with something more flexible and less microphonic.
Tips: The X5 is extremely sensitive to tip selection and placement. Combine that with the smaller than average nozzle size which limits tip options, it was a bit annoying. I found that the closer the driver was to you ear, the clearer and more detailed they sounded. Unfortunately, this also increased the bass incrementally. Eventually I settled on Piston 2 triple flange tips which gave me the best balance of bass quantity and technical performance.
The X5 has been lauded for excellent sound quality, wowing many with their powerful presentation. While I certainly think they're an enjoyable earphone and offer up a fun and capable v-shaped signature, they are not without their flaws.
The X5's presents you with a non-fatiguing and fairly naturally toned sound. Their powerful presentation comes with a strong sensation of weight behind the sound it outputs. This lead to me hear them as thick, heavy, and fairly sluggish, which on the other hand gave their bass some real authority; it's a very bass-driven earphone to my ears.
Their treble presentation is clean and crisp but lacks upper end extension putting more of it's focus on the lower treble regions. It's not an earphone that displays sparkling, shimmery sounds overly well, but at least this means their treble is non-fatiguing. I also found the upper ranges lacking in airiness and detail, especially compared to other similarly priced micro-driver units like the SOMiC V4 and VJJB K2S.
The mid-range is my least favorite aspect of the X5, sitting much too far back in the mix. It is isn't as much of an issue with rock, but genres with more reliance on a robust low end (EDM and Hip Hop for example) see a fair bit of bleed from the abundant mid-bass; vocals, especially female, start to feel like an afterthought even if the track is supposed to be vocally driven. This presentation really hurts on pop tracks like Jessie J's "Bang Bang".
Bass on the X5 is their most impressive aspect, by far. It has an undeniably strong presence that impresses with a powerful and impactful delivery. Extension for a micro-driver is excellent, giving you a visceral rumble rarely felt in drivers of this size. Mid-bass is still the most prominent and is overly prominent and bloated at times, such as on Gorillaz's "Kids With Guns". The weighty, somewhat sluggish nature of the driver tends to get in the way on quicker, more complex tracks. On Skrillex's "Scary Monster and Nice Sprites (Dirtyphonics Remix)", DnB elements are introduced during the last half. The rapid drumming combined with slow heavy basslines trips up the X5 and they get a bit muddy.
The X5's imaging and soundstage qualities I found, well, severely lacking. Compared to the similarly priced SOMiC V4, they feel overly confined and just don't move sound around much. On Aesop Rock's "Sabbatical With Options", background vocals are constantly shifting from channel to channel in the background. On the V4 they seems to swirl around in a circle around your head, extending out past your shoulders. On the X5, it's ear to ear on a flat plain. The difference is night and day.
I found the X5 most enjoyable with uncomplicated and simplistic tracks. They present listeners with an undeniably fun and entertaining listen, and as long as you listen for entertainment and not critically, it's pretty easy to overlook the sub-par imaging and mid-range recession.
MusicMaker TW1 (~20 USD): The worst thing about the X5 is the existence of TW1. It's tuned virtually the same, but with a smoother, more liquid presentation. They still hit harder than most micro-drivers, but lack the weight the X5 puts behind every hit of bass. Treble is a little smoother with more detail. The extra presence in the upper ranges gives them some sparkle sorely missing from the X5. Their mid-range is also more forward in the mix, less effected by their somewhat excessive mid-bass hump. Imaging and soundstage are significantly improved on the TW1, letting songs breathe in a way the X5 simply can't.
The TW1 is also better built using similarly durable materials but with better fit and finish. The cable is less microphonic, more flexible, and holds less memory. It's also lighter and ever so slightly more comfortable.
The TW1 straight up comes across to me as the better built, more balanced, and technically competent bass-focused micro-driver. When I got mine they sold for around 16 USD. While they're selling closer to 20 USD now, that extra couple bucks is worth it over the X5 in my opinion.
I went into the X5 with pretty lofty expectations, fair considering the amount of hype they're getting at the moment. While I wouldn't buy a set for myself after experiencing them over the last couple weeks, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to someone that wants a fun, well-tuned, v-shaped earphone under 20 bucks.
The X5 looks and feels great, they isolate supremely well, and their bass hits harder than pretty much any micro-driver I've heard. Heck, they hit harder than most budget earphones period. Despite all it's sonic flaws the X5 remains a very enjoyable listen.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Aesop Rock - Saturn Missles
Aesop Rock - Sabbatical With Options
BT - The Antikythera Mechanism
Daft Punk - Touch
Gramatik - Bluestep (Album Version)
Incubus - 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey
Infected Mushroom - Deeply Disturbed
Infected Mushroom - The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Jessie J - Bang Bang
Kiesza - Hideaway
King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black
Pink Floyd - Money
Run The Jewels - Oh My Darling (Don't Cry)
Skrillex - Scary Monster and Nice Sprites (Dirtyphonics Remix)
Supertramp - Rudy
The Prodigy - Get Your Fight On
Pros - Clean and clear sound. Ample but solid bass. Great build quality
Cons - Microphonics
It seems like almost every day there's another previously unknown Chinese IEM manufacturer popping up from out of the blue. Some of them disappear just as quickly as they arrive. Some quickly become well established and respected names among the community. Enter MEMT, otherwise known as the Department of sound electro-acoustic Technology (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd. MEMT was founded in 2014 but until recently was unknown to most on Head-Fi until people got wind of their X5 IEM and that's what we'll be looking at today.
This sample was sent to me for the purpose of an honest review. All opinions and observations here are my own, based on my personal experience with the product. I'd like to thank HotFi Earphone&Headphone for the opportunity to test the MEMT X5.
The X5 retails for around $18 and can be purchased from:
Wire control: Yes
Speaker outer diameter: 6mm
Frequency range: 20Hz-10000Hz
Impedance: 16Ω ± 15%
Sensitivity: 100dB ± 3dB
Maximum output power: 3mW
Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.5% at 20Hz-20000Hz
Wire length: 120cm ± 2.5cm
Packaging and accessories
The IEM comes in an attractive sky blue box with a large X5 in silver print on the front. At the bottom is a small window that gives you a view of the earphones inside. It's an above average quality box for something in this price segment. The front flap of the box is secured magnetically and when opened reveals the earphones secured in a sheet of black foam and covered with a sheet of clear, frosted plastic. Sitting above the earphones is another small box containing spare silicone tips and strangely, some spare covers for the plug. The included tips are bi-flange and decent quality but they're all very small. As a result I ended up using some large Spinfit tips to get a proper seal. So the complete package consists of:
3 pairs of bi-flange silicone tips
3 protective plug covers
Velcro cable tie
So there's not much in the way of accessories but this is reasonable considering the low price of the X5.
Build, comfort and isolation
The X5 is available in 3 colors: gold, silver and rose gold/pink. The housings are CNC machined metal and are very small and lightweight. The shape is spherical with a cutout section on the rear left and right sides. There's an angled nozzle for a better fit which tapers down at the point where the ear tips are placed.
These have a quite neat added feature of magnets inside the housing that allow the two sides to stick together which is useful for a couple of reasons. First of all it helps to prevent the cable from getting tangled when not in use. Secondly when you're not using the earphones you can put them behind your neck where they will sit securely so there's no need to keep them in your pocket or bag while you aren't listening. They seem to always connect the right way even if you just slap them together. It's a very clever aspect of the design. Edges are rounded and smooth and the overall appearance and feel is what you'd expect from a more expensive product.
The cable consists of twisted white wires with a clear rubberized coating. It looks pretty classy and feels very durable, even above the Y-split. Strain reliefs at the housings are basic but seem sturdy enough. There are L and R markers on the reliefs but they're very difficult to see even in bright light but this isn't really a problem as the angled nozzles indicate which way they go in your ears. There is a better strain relief on the plug but none present at the Y-split but it's nothing to cause concern regarding durability. On the right side is a single button control and microphone. The inline control worked perfectly for me on my Android phone for navigating next and previous tracks as well as pause and play. The quality of the microphone is quite good and people had no trouble hearing me during calls. There's the MEMT branding laser etched onto the rear of the inline control and X5 similarly etched on the Y-splitter. The cable terminates in a right angled, gold plated metal plug. Microphonics are a little harsh but can be negated partially by wearing the cable over-ear.
Comfort is excellent due to the IEM's small size, light weight and smooth edges. I can wear the X5 for hours without any discomfort.
Isolation is quite good despite the small size but of course will be largely determined by the quality of seal you get and type of ear-tips used. I get a perfect seal with the large Spinfit tips so for me isolation is decent. These are perfectly suitable for use in noisy environments and in transit though obviously won't isolate as well as a UIEM or CIEM.
Sources used for testing:
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Acoustic Research M20 (ARM20)
PC/MusicBee > Micca OriGen+ (low gain)
PC/MusicBee > Audinst HUD-MX2 > phatlab Audio Sassy2 (low gain)
Spoiler: Music used for testing
Ramin Djawadi - "Bridge of Faith" The Great Wall OST
Loreena McKinnett - "An Ancient Muse" The Gates of Istanbul
Katatonia - "Residual" The Fall of Hearts
Hilltop Hoods - "The Underground" Drinking From the Sun
Ludovico Einaudi - "Indaco" Islands (2CD)
Nora Jones - "Don't Know Why" Come Away with M
The X5 sounds great from basic smartphones and budget DAPs so amplification is not a necessity. Having said that though, these little gems respond really well when you throw some power at them. From a good DAP or headphone amplifier the bass gains a little extra body and fullness and as you add even more power these things stand their ground without distorting.
When I think about the sound of the X5 certain words come to mind: clarity, impact and refinement. It seems a little strange to me when I read that and think of the $18 price tag attached to these IEMs but these are my honest impressions. I'd describe the overall sound as somewhat L-shaped with elevated bass and closer to neutral mids and treble.
I find the bass to be similarly tuned to several other budget IEMs but it's more defined and controlled. It's punchy, fast and impactful. It is certainly elevated but maintains a good balance in the music and I couldn't detect any bleed into the lower midrange. Extension is great and the sub-bass can really rumble when called upon, especially when amped. Even at high volume there's no distortion in the bass (or anywhere else). In Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why" the bass strikes a perfect balance in the song, having a noticeable presence but still letting the vocals come to the forefront. There's a bit of a mid-bass bump that drops off fairly quickly on the way up and doesn't carry over to the lower mids so it sounds tight with sufficient weight with no muddiness in the upper bass notes. These aren't for bassheads but suitable for those who like some extra weight in the low end. It doesn't have the sharpest attack but there is a clean decay. I was able to detect the sub-bass as low as 19hz with a steady incline up to about 100hz before it started tapering off.
The X5's midrange is exceptionally clear and clean or uncolored but at the same time it's forgiving and musical. It can be a little too thin and clean at times making vocals feel less rich. This is probably the only area where I feel the X5 doesn't shine. Just a hint more warmth or fullness would be welcome to my ears. Instrument separation and spacing are very good here with clear, well defined edges. In "The Gates of Istanbul" by Loreena McKennitt each instrument is distinct and layered rather than just a wall of sound. Tonality isn't the most natural but going back to the price again it's a valiant effort.
Treble has a smooth presentation that sounds crisp but not strident or edgy. Cymbals and hi-hats have an airiness to them that lifts the sound and there aren't any noticeable peaks to be found. The X5 should be fine for the treble sensitive. If anything it would be the upper mids that can get a little on edge but the treble is a well balanced section of the frequency range and resolves with dexterity. In all it sounds light but doesn't become brittle or piercing.
Soundstage is impressive for a micro driver, especially in a housing that's decidedly closed and has very little sound leakage. It's not the most vast but is capable of presenting sounds outside of the headspace and there's a fair amount of depth as well as width. Imaging is also on par giving precise directional and spatial cues.
(From left to right) Brainwavz Jive, MEMT X5, VJJB K4
MEMT X5 vs VJJB K4 ($18 USD):
The K4 is priced at practically the exact same price point as the X5 so this makes for an interesting match up. The K4 really impressed with with its overall package and has a very well rounded bundle of accessories including several pairs of tips in 2 different styles and bore sizes and a carrying/storage pouch and a Velcro cable tie. Both are well built and very comfortable with the K4 having better strain reliefs and chin slider. The cable on the K4 is more supple and suffers less from microphonics but is more prone to tangling. The two have a similar level of bass but the X5 is more refined while the K4 tends to be a little boomy. The K4's bass also carries over further into the lower mids giving it a warmer and richer sound but as a result it becomes less resolving and at times congested. They both have their merits and both punch above their price in my opinion.
MEMT X5 vs Brainwavz Jive ($28 USD):
Yes, the Jive is back again for yet another comparison. The reason is that it's still still a top contender in the sub $30 price range in terms of the complete package and sound. The Jive has a better accessory set with several pairs of silicone tips, shirt clip, Velcro cable tie and excellent carry case. When it comes to build quality I'd say they're similar but in terms of overall finish well there's very few that can come close to the Jive. The X5 has a fuller bass and deeper sub-bass than the Jive and in the mids and treble they're quite similarly tuned. They're both overachievers but personally I like the impact from the extra bass of the X5.
For a relative newcomer in the market MEMT looks to be going in the right direction. If they keep bringing out more products like the X5 they'll be a real contender in the budget segment. My only real complaint with the X5 is the cable and microphonics. I'd like to see something a little more supple and perhaps better strain reliefs on the housing to reduce cable noise. The X5 has a clear and energetic sound with a level of refinement not often seen in a sub $20 IEM. In fact I'm having a hard time trying to think of another IEM in the price range that I enjoy as much. I know that MEMT have some new products coming soon to market and I'm quite excited to see what they can do. I believe you should be too.