MEElectronics M11 inner earphone in Review – King of the MEEl!
Cheesy title aside, the M11 really is the king of MEElectronics’ earphone line up. Luxurious in your choice of 2 turned aluminium colours, it hits its price point pointedly, if more politely than the skull-splitting lance which felled King Henry II. For the budget-conscious upgrader, its modest 39.99$ price tag scintillates royalty, and like most of MEEl’s line, is tough, made to last even the most organised of coups at the hands of its careless market.
Driver: 7mm drivers with neodymium magnets
Housing: Aluminum tuned bass-reflex design
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz
Impedance: 16 ohms
Connector: 3.5mm gold plated, right angle connector
Cable: 1.4m cord (4.59 ft) with attached shirt clip
Accessories: 5 sets of eartips (small/medium/large/double-flange/triple-flange), 1 carrying pouch, 1 airplane adapter, 1 wire organizer
Compatible Accessories: Comply T-400 eartips
Fit and Package
MEEl haven’t shaken their no-frills styling; the box is still the plainest of cardboards and the plastic insert still as drab as ever. Digging inside won’t reveal much to the curious: 5 sets of silicon ear tips (3 single flanges in S/M/L sizes, plus one dual and one triple flange set), an airplane adapter, a silly psilk pouch and a cable organiser. Sounds good? It’s okay. Head-Direct have a more impressive fit kit and box than MEEL, but what it gains in looks, MEEl take away in pragmatics. The M11’s ear pieces are rather comfortable and its dual and triple flange tips — the former of which is made for human elephants — can really help to erase the most annoying of background noise. And thanks to the light, miniscule earphone body, the M11 is wearable over a rather long haul, causing very little unwanted friction on the ear.
You can wear the M11 with the cable either over the ear or hanging straight down, but generally, it fits best hanging down from the ear. The reason is that the earphone arm juts out at an angle, so small-eared folk (poor sods really) might find that the cable’s strange angle a tad precarious. Tightening the neck cinch helps a lot, but never shakes the feeling that the M11 isn’t really meant for over-the-ear wear.
Build Quality and Cable
Despite cruising in royal aluminium, MEEl haven’t forgotten their sensible roots – neither their checkered cable nor their shiny earphone housing wave any warning flags – certainly not at the M11’s price. It’s not as if the earphone is perfect, but it is a solidly constructed earphone though never passing too far past, ‘meh’, while stooping just below ‘great’.
The ‘right angl[ed]’ plug is well-fended, but as with most budget earphones, isn’t bonded to the cable. It is thin and should fit into all but the most stubbornly-designed DAP’s and mobile phones. Okay, so its stem is a bit long for pure comfort, but then so too are the reigns of many kings – consider it a trivial affair. Moving upward, the y-split comes in the now-common fender-free hard rubber pill box shape with matching neck cinch and no stress reliefs – to tell you the truth, the cable should suffer few to no problems at the pill box and y-split: there is a fair bit of glue holding them safely in. Finally, at the base of each earphone is a pliable rubber sheath which does an okay job of protecting the cable from cuts and hyperbends. But that’s just it – MEEl’s cable is great. It isn’t prone to crystallise or harden, and after a quick rubdown, dirt falls away. It has to be well-made; when inserting and removing the M11, a lot of strain rests on the cable because the earphone is so tiny. The earphones themselves are hard aluminium, the type which could kill if fired from a revolver. Aluminium picks up scratches, but does a great job of protecting the tiny 7mm speaker from harm. Strangely, the body rotates with a twist, but just won’t come apart no matter how much I yank – shame that.
I think we’re in a small-driver rut here at TMA – last week’s Sleek Audio SA1, a 6mm dynamic driver earphone which is priced nearly double what the M11 costs, sounds good, but demonstrably flatter and less dynamic than its larger-driver cousins. The same is true of the M11. As long as you don’t expect Heaven and Earth to shake, however, it is a good sounding earphone.
Overwhelmingly, I found it best with pop, hard electronic, and hip hop. Consider the following albums good material for the M11:
Ice Cube – Raw Footage
While not as phat as Cube’s Monster Turbine return, this album sings pretty well with the M11. Bass is punchy, but not overbearing and Cube’s low vocals catch the upper end of the earphone’s best frequency: bass.
Markus Schulz – Progression
Nothing can stop one of the most tight trance albums in the last few years. Even its benchmark lowdown, Mainstage, rumbles in small triumph as the M11 cruises energetically through this maiden album. While not as spacey and alluring as with other earphones, it is a good listen with this budget upgrader.
Depeche Mode – Songs of Faith and Devotion
This harder album proves not only that the substance-addicted electronic group can do grain and grit, but that the M11 can pull off rock/electronic/gothic music quite well. There isn’t much lush about the album anyway, so when the M11 barges through melodies like so many warring fiefs, there is no grief.
The M11 has a similarly punchy bass response to the SA1, though overall, is darker with more compressed dynamics. It also may have a few more decibels of power way down low. One of my favourite bass benchmarks, Markus Schulz’ Mainstage, rumbles on with a dose of confidence, but not verbose vigour. Low response certainly, is curtailed in comparison to large driver earphones, but bass impact is large. Hip hop and rap, whose low end duffs in slow, heavy beats is heaps o’ fun. Fast music such as trance, too, hits with speed and low end gusto. There certainly isn’t lack of ‘wham’ with the M11 which favours strength to resolution.
The smaller driver also permits the M11 to recover well from the slam of extremely hard-hitting bass. Bass notes don’t bleed into the rest of the music, clouding the sound. But like the SA1, MEEl’s earphone isn’t that resolving: soft details such as the lingering caress of a finger sliding over a guitar string and deft drum brushes are inaudible, and low-end texture largely fades in the face of impact.
While bass is alive with gusto, mids and highs begin what I will dub, ‘the commonising of the king’. Moving to vocal and jazz, and to a lesser extent, pop, reveals that the M11 retains speed, but loses richness in the mid range. Vocals are clear and succinct, but hardly lush. Throaty voices thin out and so do rich guitars and low-voiced violins. It is like a sudden immersion into a large room where voices disappear. High notes, too lack sparkle, though the M11 extends well.
The M11 foots a decent virtual stage and stereo image, but isn’t as good at presenting distinct instruments. The image it casts is ‘liver’ (as in more live) and grittier than other earphones. This presentation works well for rock and simple genres such as hip hop and rap. But when asked to anoint trance and classical with distinct instruments, the M11 balks.
If you are into fast or punchy music such as trance, electronic and hip/hop, you may really like the M11. It is very much like a budget Monster Beats Tour! It’s punchy low end is striking and powerful, and it kicks out a pretty linear mid and high frequency range. What it doesn’t do is well, however, is details: bass texture, mids and highs are good, but flatly shaded. For the price, however, it is one of the best closed non-MEElectronics earphones on the market. If however, you want even better sound while keeping decent isolation, why not try the M6 or M9?
Out and About
It should be noted that the M11 is a great earphone for out and about. Firstly, the chances that you will break it easily are minimal – its cable and overall good construction quality should keep it in good shape for a long time. Sweat and body oils aren’t THAT hazardous to its ingenious, but cheap cable, and despite a goodly amount of microphonic noise, the M11 is easy to use while out and about. The shirt clip — which reaches well past the nipple — is helpful in keeping the cable secure and to help reduce microphonics a little. Of course, the earphones can be worn with the cable reaching above the ear for a fair zapping of noise, but it isn’t as intuitive to use as some other options because of the angle of the cable arms.
Finally, at 140 centimetres, the M11 reaches deep into pockets and is great for purse/manbag use.
It’s hard to argue with MEEl’s pricing. All of their earphone products are priced to sell and most sound good. The M11 is another argument for that thesis. It is constructed well, embarrassing the otherwise excellent Head-Direct RE2, and as long as MEEl products are removed from comparison, pretty much any other earphone in the price range. I would favour it to the Nuforce NE7M in a joust, if only barely. It should be a sound investment for the budget upgrader, but where it isn’t 100% sound is its audio performance. Bass, mids and highs are clear and certainly better than stock earphones (unless you own a Sony), but lack finesse and texture. I recommend them for listeners who desire bass and listen primarily to modern beat-filled popular music.
|Reviewed Ver:||M11||Min OS Req:||Dynamic (moving coil) 7mm|
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