Established 2005 in southern California, MEELectronics focus on providing customers with quality products and services at the best prices possible. MEElectronics’ products are aimed at iPod and iPhone owners, offering a multitude of earphones and portable speakers. Today, we have their top-tier earphones with us, the Ai-M6 and the Ai-M9. Both house the same driver, same specifications, and the same sound. The difference you ask? The Ai-M6 is a $39.99 “over the ear” style inner earphone and the Ai-M9 is a $19.99 “straight down cable” style inner earphone that has a mic’d brother for only $10 more.
In the quest for the ultimate headphone, TMA has bumped into some great low-priced options as well ubiquitous top-tier earphones. Head-Direct, American distributor for fine Chinese headphone equipment, began production of its own headphone line in 2008: the RE series. The current top spot is domineered by the RE0, a headphone that only a year ago cost about double, but now happily resides at 99$. Today, the RE2 which last year cost 99$ is on table at TMA and ready to purchase at Head-Direct for only 39 bones.
Phiaton, a brand new company that branched from Cresyn Audio introduced itself to our Industry last year, is a stylish, quality manufacturer that focuses on insane-looking products and superior sound quality. Here with us today is the Phiaton Primal Series 200 Earphones which house dual balanced armature drivers with an Integrated 2-Way Crossover and a price tag of $249.99.
Needless to say, once the package arrived, I was expectantly ripping the plastic off of these “Mini Jet Engines” which stun even from the first glance.
After Jays released its dual micro balanced armature Q-Jays at $180 in late 2007, there was a big party. For the next few months everyone raved on and on about their unique design and sweet, neutral sound signature. About a year later, and in response to the Q-jays, Ultimate Ears released the UE700 that house, you’ve guessed it right … dual micro balanced armature drivers. The bottle shaped plastic UE phones come at a $50 premium to the q-Jays at $229.99, but how do they stack up the the cheaper Swedish earphones?
Ultimate Ears are one of the most influential custom earphone company’s out there, catering to bands like the Killers, Billy Idol, Van Halen, Metallica and John Mayer among many others. Frankly put, they are masters of the high-end domain.
But like all high-end companies, Ultimate Ears also produce consumer-oriented gear that compares well with the market in terms of price and performance. We will be looking at several of the iconic company’s products in the next few months, but today, the MetroFi 220vi will sit in the hot seat.
Westone’s UM3x is clearly a professional product. Where hitherto, our headphone reviews have focused on the casual and audiophile listener’s tastes; and in the case of the Sleek CT6 Custom, the musician; the UM3X is designed for stage performers. It’s sturdy, unadorned housing and well-relieved stress points clearly illustrate this fact. Despite Westone’s intended professional market, many users are clamouring to buy this unit for personal use. How does it fare when compared and contrasted with other personal earphones? Let’s take a look.
Jays – Design and Quality
The Q-Jays represent our 3rd Balanced Armature earphone review. This time, Sweden’s Jays’ top product, the Q-Jay are on the table. They are also the smallest dual armature earphones in the world. And tiny they are – the body could fit two or three times into a Monster Turbine shell!
If you haven’t heard of Sennheiser in your sojourn in the audio world, you have probably been living under a rock. If, however, you are new to the world of headphones, then you are forgiven, but need to be informed. Sennheiser have set many landmarks in the world of personal hi-fidelity audio including manufacturing the HE90 Orpheus which is the most expensive production headphone to date. They remain among the largest manufacturers on the planet with a resume that would embarrass Stephen Hawking and boast an impressively expanding portable line-up.
Sleek Audio: Company
Sleek Audio is a father and son partnership. Since their release of the SA6 Inner Ear monitor, they have been making waves in audio circles for uniquely designed phones that excel in audio performance despite their lower cost. The Sleek Audio Custom IEM is their finest work to date and a truly audiophile product despite costing hundreds less than many of its competitors.
Phonak – Swiss Precision
Who are Phonak?
“Headquartered in Stäfa, Switzerland, Phonak has been developing, producing and selling technologically advanced hearing and radio systems for more than 50 years. At Phonak, we use our extensive knowledge of hearing technology and acoustics to improve the hearing capacity, speech recognition and quality of life for the hearing-impaired. This know-how has now been used to develop Audéo Perfect Fit Earphones (PFE).”
PFE models have been stirring up the portable headphone forum at headfi which is usually stopped up by the big names: Sennheiser, Shure, Westone, Ultimate Ears and Etymotic. Since we have tried three newcomers to inner ear earphones in our previous reviews, we felt that Phonak’s offering would fit right in! In this review, we look at the PFE 112 and 121 which are our first reviewed balanced armature earphones and promise not to be our last! Feel free to discuss this review of the Phonak Audeo 121 and 112 in our forums.