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Sunday, November 1, 2009

[REVIEW] MEElectronics' In-Ears

First, I want to say sorry about the delay of the review. it should have been posted a few days earlier, but the combination of sickness and some real life businesses have slow down the writing process considerately. Second, I want to take the chance to thank Martie @ MEElectronics for sending me the samples for review.

(M2 is not in the picture, as it comes as part of MEElec's GrooveMEE II player bundle, which I shall review in the near future).

Spec (for all models)
Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
Impedance: 16 + 15% ohm
Sensitivity: 95 + 3 dB SPL

M2, M6, and M9 use 9mm dynamic driver. M11 uses 7mm dynamic. R1 uses 10mm dynamic.

M2 is retailed at $12, M6 is $40, M9 is $18, M11 is $40 and R1 is $40. All available from MEElectronics.

Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
All MEElec IEM (except M2, which is a bundle) comes in all black paper boxes with silver printing, decent but no something to rave about. They might not be much a looker on the outside, but the included accessories and the build quality are actually quite good.

M2 has the new transparent cable with silver lining inside. The cable itself is flexible and a bit like the rubber hose used in fish tank. One thing that can be said about the M2, and all subsequent models in this review, is MEElec does pay great attention to detail. Not only the cable looks good, it functions well. Microphonics is surprisingly low, mini plug and Y-splitter are all well made, plus they even put an extra rubber tube on the cable exit on the earpiece to provide more strain relief. Since this M2 comes with the GrooveMEE II bundle, all it has is the 3 set of different sized eartips and a shirt clip. If there is one thing I would like to add to the M2, it will be a pair of bi-flanges. Thought MEEelc's eartips is of very good quality, the M2 slightly odd shape (big diameter on the base of the nozzle) really can use some bi-flange love to improve on fitting. Due to the fact that it is open back in design, isolation is slightly worst than average.

M6 is the only over-the-ear model of MEElec line-up. Compared to its previous version, It uses the new transparent cable as the M2, which of course is a welcomed change. The one I received is also the new 'clear' version where you can see the dynamic transducer inside. It actually looks very classy this way. It comes with a shirt clip, cable warp, airline adapter, soft pouch, 3 set of single flange eartips (S, M, L) and a pair of tri-flange. The included tri-flange actually doesn't fit the IEM that well and gives me a poor fit. I end up using the single flange instead. The rather odd nozzle size (5mm diameter) also presents another problem, that it is hard to use typical UE style eartips (for 5.5mm diameter) as replacement. The other minor problem is the memory wire. I am usually pro memory wire on IEM, but the copper wire used is a bit too thick in my opinion, making the memory wire hard to bend thought probably more resistant to breakage. I am quite happy about the M6, but I think there is still room for improvement on the nozzle (should be slightly longer and wider) and eartips selection. Isolation is about average.

M9 uses the old black cable. Thought not as good as the new cable, it is adequate for the job and the asking price but it does have a lot more microphonics in comparison. It comes with a hard case, cable warp, 4 set of single flange eartips and a pair of bi-flanges, plus one airline adapter. The one thing that should have been included is shirt clip, to combat the microphonics. Also, I actually like to see the hard case being included to the M6 while the M9 can have the soft pouch. It makes more sense that way since the memory wire on the M6 makes it harder to store in a soft ouch while M9 has no such problem. Overall, M9's build quality is still very decent. For those who read my Fischer Audio's review and wonder if M9 is the same as FA-999, rest assures that they are not. They might look similar at first, but they are not alike upon close inspection (look at the second picture) - not to mention they have totally different sound signature. For the same reason as M2, isolation is slightly below average.

M11 is one of the latest MEElec models. Equips with the same transparent cable and a new dynamics transducer in a shiny metal housing (I have the silver version), M11 feels a lot more expensive than its elder siblings. It comes with a soft pouch, 3 pair of single flange eartips, a pair of bi-flange, a pair of tri-flanges (which work out better on M11 than M6), cable warp, shirt clip and airline adapter. It also has a 45 degree mini plug instead of the L-shape (90 degree) plug. Isolation is slightly better than average. The smallish earpieces actually make it possible from deep insertion, but personally I like the bi-flange with a shallower fit which tend to have better detail and soundstage.

R1 is mostly made of wood, even on the nozzle portion (which is usually metal on other woody IEM). It uses the same type of transparent cable as other, but has a blackish color to it. It comes with a soft pouch, 3 pair of single flange, cable warp, shirt clip and airline adapter. The wooden housing itself is painted with a clear coat of water proof sealant, but one should probably be best avoiding too much moisture near the housing. The overall build is good but the marking (company logo and left/right channels) gets wiped off too easy, making it hard to tell which side is which. My solution to the problem is simple: clear nail polish. Isolation is about average.

Sound Quality
As always, each model has roughly 50 hours of burn-in (each) before any serious audition. For what it worth, I did not find any major sonic change during or after the process.

M2 is the fairly balanced with slight brightness. Treble has good extension but there is a bit of sibilance. Mid is slightly further away but not really recessed. Bass lacks real depth but still has good control and speed. Soundstage is about average. Overall, M2 has really outperformed its asking price of $12.

M6 shares largely the same sound signature as M2 but warmer with better energy. In comparison, M6's treble is slightly smoother and better presented (there are still a tiny amount of sibilance in the brightest note), mid is more upfront with better texture while bass has better impact and body. Soundstage is pretty good with decent airiness. While getting a good seal (and a good sound) is more difficult with M6, it is still a noticeable improvement over M2 and a very decent sounding IEM in its own right.

M9 also shares the same sound signature as M2 and M6, but not as warm as M6. Treble also has good extension but there is harshness (especially on bi-flange). Mid is slightly recessed in comparison. Bass is not as full as M6 but still has good body and decent depth. Soundstage is better than M6 with good sense of airiness and space. With performance almost as good as M6, M9's much lower price is practically a steal.

M11 has a darker, smoother sound signature compared to that of M2 / M6 / M9. Treble extents quite far but in much smoother, sparkle-less fashion. Mid is slightly recessed but not too far away. Bass has a fairly good body but not as impactful as M6 or M9. Soundstage is decent with a fainted sense of airiness. While M11 might not sound as exciting as M6 or M9 in a direct comparison, its smoother sound signature allows for more relaxing / less fatiguing listening session without losing quality. It will be good for those who don't like brightness yet demand a decent amount of detail.

R1 is warm and full. Treble is decent with a fainted sense of harshness. Mid is a bit distanced and has a sense of hollowness to it, bass is full but can get bloated on bass heavy music. Soundstage is below average due to the excess warmness. While R1 has been blessed with some woodified lushness to its sound, the lack of fine control at the bottom end renders it to be less impressive than it can be, or else it could very well be another great choice for basshead.

In many ways, M2, M6 and M9 share a majority of their sound signature. While I can't confirm it, it does seem like all of them are sharing the same transducer, or at least transducer of very similar build. The difference in sound can be (more or less) explained by the housing design and eartips used - or maybe it is all in my imagination.

I am impressed by MEElectonics' offering, especially on their build quality and the very competitive pricing. That is perhaps their greatest strength: providing great value products to the customer. Coupled with their quick and responsive customer service, I think MEElec has itself a formula for success. For IEM users like us, I think it is always a delight to have a company willing to go the extra miles on meeting the demand. Hopefully we will be able to see ever better IEM from them in the future.

A quick sum-up can be found here.

[EDIT] Given that MEElec has just upgraded their M9 with the new and better transparent cable which improve the overall build quality, I would like to award it with my own personal Sonic Diamond Award™ for being one of the best valued IEM in the market.

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Important: All postings are my own personal opinion only and should not be treated as absolute truth. I do get things wrong just like everyone else. Always do your own research!

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