Massdrop seem to be on a roll now a days. Bringing out the exclusives like the HD6XX, TH-X00, AKG7XX, NuForce EDC and now I give you the Massdrop and MEE Audio collab. The PX. This is my take on the new PX.
Disclaimer. I would first like to thank the hard working folk at Massdrop for taking the initiative to come up with such glorious Drops for us enthusiasts to consider. Deals is the name of the game but in this case more than just a deal. A better P1? I was given the opportunity to review the PX. This review represents how I hear them.
Admittedly I have always been curious about the Pinnacle P1. The reputation of the earphones has had numerous accolades here on Headfi and was certainly a benchmark for MEE Audio but I suppose I am guilty of getting on the hybrid band wagon and started to look elsewhere for hybrids around the price range. Always been curious about them however but never did get a chance to hear them, that is till I heard these PX earphones.
The PX is a rebranding of the P1 but also has some enhancements to them. While they don’t look as shiny as the P1 they have a new scratch resistant PVD finish in dark blue. I can attest to daily using them and winding them up using the 3 finger method and I can hear the shells clanging against each other and I have not seen a single scratch or ding on the finish. This is excellent for daily use and seems very durable.
A new tougher reinforced MMCX connector and a sweat and oil resistant thicker gauge cable. I appreciate that the included cable seems very durable to me and worn over ears gives out zero microphonics. These are excellent for your daily walk or working out as a result. They have the same tough as nails zinc alloy housing. The only MIA part would be their upgraded silver plated copper cable that came with the P1.
Sound impressions was done using my DAPs X1, X3ii, X5iii, Pono, DX90 and IDSD BL.
The very first thing I like to do when I get a review unit of an earphone is to take a listen right a way out of the package with the stock ear tips. What does the manufacturers have in mind with these earphones? Calling them Pinnacle P1s they are Mee Audio’s flagship earphones which was met by fan fare here at Headfi and reviews I have read about them were all favorable.
On first listen it seemed to be a bit bass light for my own preferences but in hind sight it was probably due to being used to the previous earphones I did a review for which was the EDC iems. Those are a more fun sounding earphones with a full bass end. Had to get used to the PX sound profile to really understand their strengths.
This and the fact that the PX is a 50 Ohm earphone. I was using it on low gain. Had to turn on high gain on my X5iii for them to start showing me what they are about. It does well with my LG phone but with a higher volume for good sound level. Vocal clarity for the included micd cable is superb and obviously was thrown in the package to use on your phone device. However the PX does seem to be a bit harder to drive than your more efficient 16-32 Ohm earphones. Much more fuller engaging sound was observed when driven with more power or on an amp. They seem to be much better suited on a dedicated dap more so than a phone but will work just fine using our I device or android phone.
Thanks goes out to Brooko for letting me use his graphs of the Pinnacle P1.
This is what I was hearing from the stock tips. What these earphones are about is not the bass thump or assaulting your ears with any type of sibilant or vocal glare. It is the resolution of the earphones that stand out to me. Detail in your favorite tracks are superb on these earphones. Especially stringed instruments.
Vocals both male and especially female vocals stand out with emotion and vigor of intent and shows these have excellent engagement factor for natural music. They do well enough with electronic and bass driven music but the tuning is a more honest take of sound vs something that is more enhanced to do these genres more justice.
The space of your music seem to stretch outside the shells at times which shows how great they reproduce what the studio has recorded and the proper resolution to portray it is like magic to your ears. Their excellent passive isolation due to the thicker Alloy shells actually helps you hear the little details that can be drowned out by out side noise. In fact it is one of the best isolating phones I have heard actually.
Build is all around excellent, I can clearly tell just how rugged the whole package is. It seems the shells are impervious to daily use. These use MMCX connection which some guys are ok with and some are not. Will depend on your experiences with MMCX connectors. The one positive about MMCX connectors is the numerous aftermarket cables available for them. I had an old balanced cable I have for my Pono I tried with these and I will talk about balanced capabilities of the PX a bit later but for now. The only advice I can give to fellow owners and buyers of the up and coming PX earphones is they need some TLC and attention when connecting a different cable to them. Which goes for all MMCX connectors in general.
The shells themselves are solid 2 blocks of zinc alloy put together in 2 halves and should last the test of time. I do have some nicer cables but decided to use the stock braided one that came with the PX which is a solid thicker twisted cable. No complaints there but I do wish they came with the nicer silver plated copper cable given with the P1. Considering what they are asking for these I can understand the exclusion.
So the days went by and I used the PX as my daily driver since I got them. I appreciated their sonic qualities more and more as I used them every day since I got them for review, however my 12K tracks I got installed on my X5iii is very eclectic and for bass driven music I couldn’t help but think they needed a bit more impact especially in the sub bass. I dug into my tip box. In the end these earphones are sensitive to tip changes.
Tip rolling 101: Tip rolling or changing is a quick way to change up the sound profile of an earphone to sound better for you. What may sound right for me might not always be the same for you so I would definitely try your various tips to see what sounds best for you. For me in general wide bored tips lessen bass and in some cases enhance or open up the treble and more narrow bored tips seem to lessen the treble and enhance bass.
Wider bored tips like the JVC Spiral Dots on the PX seems to make the sound even more spacious but also lighten up the bass end even further. Which was not what I wanted. The relatively narrow bored MH1C tips got me exactly what I was looking for with more impact and sub bass. They now sound a bit like this.
The sound was just as clean. Treble still has sheen and clarity but now with added low end body that I was looking for.
Sound profile: Is a more neutrally balanced tuning with slightly more emphasis and energy in the upper frequencies vs the lows. Tonality is very neutral and is not bright or warm as a result very natural sounding with solid imagery. It has a very nice broad tonal balance with a hint of richness in the mids exhibiting a clean clear treble end that is not overly hyped or metallic in any way. Good extension without being harsh or fatiguing. The PX is one of the better in ears that I have heard that enhance the treble but in a good way. No sibilance or grain was heard during my test time.
What gives these a nice overall sound is their ability to have clear precise stereo separation with vocals, instruments and nuance of the music effects being heard in excellent detail and layering. I read about the sound design for the P1 and it seemed they pulled some tricks to get the treble to be precise with the right amount of extension and energy. However in nit picking on the sound, I wish they did the same thing for the bass end. Bass is in line with the rest of the sound but could use a bit more impact with the real weakness of the PX sound profile for me being the sub bass, or the lack there of. Hope MEE Audio’s newest update to the P1 the P2s will address this. Back to the PX. A bit of tip rolling helps with this regard. The PX being relatively neutral in sound they are easily influenced by a tip change and proper fitment.
Sound stage of the phones exhibit good use and sense of space in your tunes with an average stage width but has a magical quality to the sound in that it expands on well recorded tracks, great resolution is exhibited here which ultimately don’t end up sounding average. Depth and height is done well but has more of a sideways oval stage in how I hear them. They don’t sound closed in at any time and it is that excellent use of the space that also helps with the details and layers of sound. It is safe to say they actually exhibit many traits of much more higher end sound as they were intended.
Comparisons was done using my Pono with dual single ended outs. All other earphones done with this comparison was easier to drive vs the PX.
In comparison the PX has a similar profile to my DN2KJs, and while the bass is easily outclassed by the Dunus. Surprisingly the mids and treble tonally is actually done better on the PX earphones. Dunus has almost too much clarity and has a crazy amount of treble extension but at the cost of being more brighter, sharper in the treble region. Imaging and micro details are done with better precision but tonality is on the brighter side of neutral. Here is where I appreciated the PX tuning. It has lesser treble energy and stays away from crossing the sharp threshold. Mids also exhibit more control and has a bit more richness, slight warmth to the vocals vs a brighter sound signature in the Dunus.
In comparison two the TA Phantom Master 4 quad hybrids. Treble is more controlled on the PX and has a much smoother better tonal balance over the PM4. Again the bass authority is lost to the PM4 but mids and treble is easily better on the PX. I didn’t realize how lacking in coherency the PM4 was until I did a head to head against the PX. PX has no issue with coherency as it is a single driver tuned well but something like a 4 driver PM4 you would figure would out do a single dynamic. This is simply not the case here. More drivers definitely don’t mean better sound here. PX has the better sound quality. It is only when they are matched up against the PM4 revision the Masters is when they are matched up to similar sonic level.
In comparison three was against another well done dynamic the Ecobox Finder X1 being a single dynamic housed in an even tougher titanium shell. These also have a reference style tuning with a U shaped sound profile, the bass has more impact and more sub bass extension. Upper mids have much more brightness emitting some slight sibilance and grain in the lower treble. Imagery and detail is comparable to the PX has a bit more extension in the treble while not as bright sounding as the DN2KJ. These sit right between the Dunus and the PX earphones in tonality. Vocals sound a bit laid back in comparison to the PX. Surprisingly stage is very similar in width but the PX has the better depth and uses space a bit better than the X1.
In comparison four. Against the Philips Fidelio S2. This comparison was a bit surprising as both of these earphones are single dynamics and I thought these would make a good match against the PX. Mid bass on the PX is tighter has the quicker decay vs the S2. S2 has the better sub bass extension and texture. The Fidelio has a slight v curve much like the PX and mids relation to the treble is almost identical. While the other earphones the stage of sound is hovering around average medium width and depth the S2s semi open design has the widest sound of all the earphones compared here. I enjoyed male vocal performance on the S2s a bit more over the PX while I liked female vocals better on the PX. Imagery is a touch more precise in the PX and has a bit more control in the treble regions as well. Admittedly it has been a while since I listened to my S2. I was pleasantly surprised how good they sounded during this comparison. S2 had a touch fuller mid section but was not as tight in mids. Tonality was identical. I like the build quality much more on the PX vs the S2.
In comparison fifth. To a headfi community favorite. The Audio Technica CKR9. It was this comparison that made me realise female vocals on the PX is a touch laid back in relation to male vocals. It does show a dip in the female vocal ranges on the graph but imagery and resolution is so good on the PX vocals absolutely shine regardless and sounds absolutely natural. Audio Technica house sound consists of emphasis on the upper mids region to enhance female vocals. Volume matched against the PX vocal projection is greater on the CKR9. Treble response is comparable to the PX but has a slight metallic tint to the treble due to the aluminum housing it uses. Again not quite as natural sounding as the PX. CKR9 just beats the PX in the bass area all together.
Last in comparison. The one you guys been waiting for. The NuForce EDC vs MEE Audio PX.
See now you guys have to understand. These two are like brothers from another mother. They are the quintessential ying and the yang.
So I have spent about equal time on both earphones and what you got here are two different type of parties. Parties? You might ask?. Yes
PX party. Please dress to impress. PX earphones in comparison to the EDC. Has a more precise sound with greater imagery and detail. Much better treble extension and refinement in the mids treble and has the tighter more neutrally tuned bass end over the EDC. A much more robust build to the PX as well.
Guys will ask themselves. Do I need both? My answer to that is a yes and and yes! It has dawned on me that both of these earphones does what they do so well they actually complement each other better than you would imagine. One is the steak and one is the lobster. I would say for guys that need their bass. I would go with the EDC. For guys that want excellent instrument timbre and vocal clarity go with the PX. If you have eclectic taste in music. Getting both of these cost less than the original retail price of the P1. Win and win some more!
Then there was balanced.
Out of the Pono balanced is more closer to amping than single ended. It does give a larger sound profile to the PX and gives the PX sound more body and fullness over single ended. Balanced performance out of my X5iii sounded similar to the Pono but a bit taller in sound vs wider on the Pono. Bass had more impact and overall sound was like an enhanced version of the PX. However using the PX on the IDSD BL. It brought the PX to yet another level of sound which sounded absolutely stunning for the PX again proving that amping them brings out another level of sound on them.
The gist? These need a bit of power to drive them and their ability to adjust to tips and different cables make them worthy on all levels. Highly recommend a good read of the many Pinnacle P1 reviews here on headfi for more finalities of their sound.
Their strong suits are clarity, a spacious reference tuned sound with a slight tilt toward treble, has crazy good imaging and detail. Average stage and depth they make excellent use of space for sound and will expand accordingly using amps and more power. Treble emphasis will expose harsh recordings at the same time no added sibilance was heard. Female vocals sound euphoric good on them and does instruments with excellent timbre and precision. Bass is tight, accurate, fast and will not influence or color your music in any way. Sure it could use more sub bass emphasis but I have the EDCs for that. They isolate to a degree where I didn’t feel safe using them for my daily drive to work. But in the end that isolation was good for added detail these earphones can produce.
So this came out to be a much longer write than my initial post of them but they kept on getting better and better for me to the point where now I am comparing tonality and vocal performance against them. They simply sound excellent with natural music. I think guys that like a more neutral type tuning will love the sound of these. They are being sold on MD and for the entire package. You guys are getting one heck of a deal. As always happy listening.