Tuesday, 31 May 2011

MEElectronics SP-51P Quick Review

MEElectronics SP-51P Quick Review

Thanks to MEElectronics for the samples

Brief: Bargain priced bass port adjustment.

Price: US$60 or £30 for the normal one or US$70 or £45 for the phone version.

Specification: Driver: 10.0 mm dynamic drivers, Housing: Metal housing with swappable rear tuning ports, Frequency Response: 15Hz – 20KHz, Sensitivity: 100 dB, Impedance: 16 ohms, Maximum Power Input: 40 mW

Accessories: 4 pairs of tips and a nice little case.

Build Quality: Impeccable, there is no way you could possible hope for more given its price. Metal buds and a fantastic cable, it’s about is good as it gets.

Isolation: Depends a little on what filters you use but still it’s a dynamic so it’s not up there at Etymotic challenging levels. More than enough to get you hit with a car though if you aren’t used to looking where you are going.

Comfort/Fit: Hmm, it was fine once they were in and settled but their lack of venting or limited venting anyway was a bit of a bother. It did take a min or so of faffing to get them just so. On the whole it was okay but not something I’d want if I was pulling them out every ten min to speak to someone though.

Aesthetics: Actually I must say these look better in the flesh than in a pic. They aren’t stunners or anything but they look very classy, matte black, tre professional. Pretty much the opposite of the tat apple give out with ipods. I really rather like them.

Sound: Well it depends big time on what filter you use. Black is big and overwhelming in the bottom end. I cannot say I enjoyed it but as bass cannons go it was pretty well composed and controlled. Still it’s a bass cannon. The gunmetal one was rather better and I could see a lot of people liking it. It’s really bassy but not absurdly so and everything else is done well too. The silver one though is where the SP51 shines. It is easily the best balanced, cleanest and clearest of the three options. Bass is still deep and controlled but now it no longer dominates the picture being painted before you. It’s the one you should want. Still it’s nice you have the ability to pick, particularly for those used to low end rubbish. So many are so used to flabby bass monsters that their ears need eased into the higher end world and the bass ports here let you do that and give you a taste of how things really should be. I don’t love the SP51 but I do rather like it.

Pro’s: Can change the sound to suit you, can get the phone version way cheap, great value

Con’s: Driver flex/air pressure issues, the black port is stupidly bassy

MEElectronics SP-51P Review

MEElectronics SP-51P Review

Thanks to MEElectronics for the samples

First Impressions: A nice but pretty nondescript box, pretty much identical to its siblings that it came with. I still must comment thought that I highly approve of the little case that they come with. Note to all, cases are always worth including. Nothing spectacular to look at here really so other than the additional little packet inside. Yes the little bass port filters. Just why they aren’t called sensible names like low bass or light, then medium bass then heavy or big bass. No we have “natural,” “enhanced” and extreme. Why is it Americans in particular cannot simply call a spade a spade. (Starbucks, looking at you and your menu here) Other than that they do look nice.

Having a little listen I’m instantly greaten with driver flex and air pressure issues. Frankly since I just wrote up the review of their siblings, the CC51P I am in no mood for it as my ears are still feeling rather sensitive and a little sore. So off to burn in they go.


Source 1G iPod Shuffle with a 75 ohm adapter added

Mids: Middling. The mids here are neither too warm nor to cold, to rich and too dry. They may not be wowing me in the way I might wish but I cannot fault anything they do. A good sense of balance ,if perhaps a tiny touch recessed. They offer a very capable level of clarity and remain very clear and distinct throughout. I do feel they slightly prefer a male voice however, they prefer the lower mids rather than the higher end of the vocal range, Beverly Craven sounded a little grey and lifeless. Males tend to come across as simply being richer and fuller. Still for a non mid focused and pretty cheap IEM they are easily capable of dealing with anything you can throw at it.

Highs: Hmm well not great but for their bargain price tag they really are quite good. I did find that they got a little over exuberant with the shuffle (known for being a little excitable in the top end anyway) but if you were to add the 75 ohm adapter it went a very long way to taming that splashyness. Honestly it’s really very good. Quantity wise it’s not vast but it does stand out clearly making this a tiny bit V shaped and the highs are quite focused to give you edge and detail required but doesn’t remain and become over bearing. No IEM in this price is going to nail treble so it’s far better to make the best of what you have and accept if you don’t roll off the upper treble then you’ll grate peoples ears. Well done MEElectronics for getting that tuning so well done.


Lows: Usually I do this first but since these have the 3 different bass ports I wanted to get the other 2 out of the way first.

“Natural” this is the one I instinctively went to and have spent most of the time within. Now I know I moaned that they are called “natural” rather than light or other such descriptive term but natural is actually a fair description. It really isn’t what I would call light, certainly it’s not dominant but it possesses good depth and scale when demanded. It’s good. It isn’t spectacular but I really genuinely can’t find anything I’d call a fault in it.

“Enhanced” right off the bat the difference is apparent. In fact I had to check I’d not put in the black ones by mistake. The bass has the same basic tonality as before but it’s like someone has hit the megabass button. Honestly it’s almost a little disjointed from before. The natural sounded so natural and this sounds really rather boosted. I guess though the market position these are aimed at wouldn’t consider the level of bass here to be too much. Still it’s a good balance of expansion and agility but does err on the side of depth and size side of things. It’s not going to wow with its lightning speed but it’s very full.


“Extreme” I can’t say I was looking forward to it and I think it was deserved. Now I know that many out there will love the bass here and particularly those used to bass monsters like the CX300. The bass on theSP51 with the black filters is huge. Quality wise it’s pretty reasonable and taught but make no mistake, it is huge. That’s what this filter is all about. Massive, gargantuan bass that has vast expansion and a significant amount of power and punch. The highs notably tone it down with the driver clearly emphasising the bottom end. Mids still are clear but dominated and over shadowed by that bass. It is gigantic.

Now for something that size it is very well behaved but its quality really isn’t all that important. Either you want this level of bass or you don’t. I don’t.

Soundstage: Moderate, it’s got quite good positioning but it never feels terribly expansive. It is all quite in the middle, not distant sounding but intimate either, like their playing in your living room rather than on a stage or in your face. Separation is fairly good too but does suffer when too much is going on but that’s par for the course at this price.


Comfort: Absolutely fine once they were in and sat. The air pressure issue and the regular pushing in and sucking out of my ear does tend to make them hurt after a while. Not a problem for everyone but for me it is a bit.

Fit: Much like the comfort once they were in and sat it was fine but getting them there was a bother. Plenty of pushing and pulling trying to get them sitting just right and the air pressure equalised. It’s just what happens when things aren’t vented. I should note that using the black “extreme” ports helped the issue a lot as they are more open. However I just didn’t really ever want all that bass.

Cable: It’s a return to form for MEElectronics as the SP51 has its woven gray with a transparent sheath cable. It is excellent in both looks and feel. You couldn’t really ask for better.

Microphonics: None. If you wear them down, don’t use the shirt clip and really try you can get some but why would you?


Amped/Unamped: They do like amping and particularly if you wanted to tame the upper end add impedance. They really smoothed out with the extra ohm’s which made them sound more refined. It did however make them a little boring sounding. It’s up to you which you prefer but all worth using if you have one to hand. Of course you’d loose the phone abilities though.

Build Quality: Faultless. For something at this price I can’t find even the merest hint of anything other than perfect. It’s all solid with the metal buds and wonderful cable. I really can’t see anyone but the most harsh, abusive and careless individuals managing to wreak this.

Isolation: Pretty good. Not up at BA levels so don’t be buying these for daily commutes on the tube but easily enough to block out most of the world and get you run over if you’re not paying attention.


Accessories: You get the 4 tips, shirt clip, the great little case and the 3 pairs of port filters. Not sure what else you could want.

Phone Use: Plugged in into the Nexus One and it all worked fine. Calls were good and clear and the other party could hear me fine. Play, pause, next track and last track all worked fine too. The button isn’t the easiest to find given the mic/button thingy is round but that’s about it. It’s not like it’s hard to use and it feels of very good quality, spectacular at this price.

Value: MEElectronics have them going for US$60 for the ordinary version and US$70 for the phone one. I can also see that in the UK they can be had for £30 or £45 respectively. Those are pretty damn cheap. Particularly I think for the phone ones as so often companies gouge for adding that little mic and button so it’s nice to see that not happening here. Just on the sound merits its pretty good too, you can find things to better it but none of them will offer the bass port tuning if that appeals to you. Also you’ll be hard pressed to find this build quality too at this price. It’s a very solid value proposition.


Conclusion: Hmm, there really is much to love about the SP51, it’s got a great balanced sound with the “natural” filters and offers a pretty damn good level of clarity and detail to boot. It does have a few issues though, I found the lack of venting and the corresponding driver flex and air pressure issue a pain. It’s not an issue everyone has but I do. Still it’s not like it was unliveable, just annoying. What I do think the SP51 would be really good for however is to wean people off the uber bass heavy sounds they have been used to in a more gentle fashion. You could start off using the black bass cannons then after a bit move down to the gunmetal ones. Then once your ears have adjusted move down to the genuinely good sounding “neutral” ones. It really is the only one I can hand on heart say I really liked. The medium one was really pushing the limits of bass I want and the black was well over it. The “neutral” however was really nicely balanced, everything was clear and distinct, something I think I could use everyday and never find really lacking anywhere.

What I think is especially nice is if you are after the phone element too, it’s a real bargain IEM that is good sounding and you can get the phone bit for very little extra. The other competition in that arena is mostly other MEElectronics products anyway and none offer the bass port swapping. So while I can’t say the SP51 made me fall in love with it but it’s a really solid, quality product with a feature set and a price that is unbeatable. Well worth your money.

MEElectronics CC-51P Quick Review

MEElectronics CC-51P Quick Review

Thanks to MEElectronics for the samples

Brief: The new M6.

Price: US$80 or £40 for the normal one, US$90 or £60 for the P version

Specification: Driver: 6.0 mm micro-drivers, Housing: Ceramic housing with aluminium nozzle, Frequency Response: 18Hz – 20KHz, Sensitivity: 98 dB, Impedance: 16 ohms, Maximum Power Input: 5 mW.

Accessories: 4 pairs of tips and a nice little case.

Build Quality: Hmm the nozzle seemed to come off slightly but has been okay since. The rest of the buds seem indestructible though and the cable is pretty reasonable too.

Isolation: Really quite good, easily enough for normal non tube usage. Certainly enough to get you run over.

Comfort/Fit: Meh. Comfort was fine but nothing spectacular and they never really melted away. I suspect that’s down to the huge nozzles and that they must be worn down mean that there was forever tiny movements meaning I was always aware of them. Fit was an irritation too with lots of driver flex and air pressure issues. YMMV but not the best for me.

Aesthetics: The cable is a disappointment given the ones MEElectronics stuff usually have but the buds look great. Ceramic shiny things that are pretty if quite understated. A sort of Gun Metal black, I like it.

Sound: This is what they do best, they have a great and capable low end. A capable and balanced mid range with a crispy and edgy top end. Okay so I found the top end a little bit much for all the time. Like I said repeatedly in the full review it’s very sharp, crisp and I think its timbre and sharp edge is down to the acoustically and physically hard nature of the enclosure. It really reminded me of the hardness I found in the Panasonic HJE-900. It’s really crisp and edgy but not quite as abrasive as I found the Panny to be. The CC51 isn’t so in your face abundant. Its bass too is rather impressive in that it can hold a deep low seemingly out of nowhere like there is a tiny sub hidden in there somewhere. Then when you make it, it can thunder out, super fast, clean and punchy. The low end really does have such vigour and vim which is all the more impressive for not being wholly dominant. When it’s required to behave it does so well that at times it just seems like it couldn’t possible roar like it can but it does. I really do find myself rather liking it even with that edgy treble.

Value: Looking at the prices and what else you can get for the same its right up there with the best. It’s not wining any rounds hand over fist but given how some loved the HJE-900 I can see why some too will love this in much the same way. It’s really very good value for money.

Pro’s: Great mix of drama, excitement and composure, buds must be indestructible, the little case.

Con’s: You can find things better an any frequency range, fit and driver flex, trebly may be too crispy for all day every day.

MEElectronics CC-51P Review

MEElectronics CC-51P Review

Thanks to MEElectronics for the samples

First Impressions: It looks nice in the box but clearly nothing fancy here. Once open the first thing I note is the little case, it’s a pleasure to see MEElectronics went back to including them. The little case is such a bargain item but potentially life and IEM saving, all IEM’s should come with one so kudos to MEElec for including one. Case aside the CC51P’s are kinda pretty looking things, not sure they will sit well over the ear as I like but ho hum, can’t have everything. Pulling the tips off to swap them over I think I may have started pulling off the silvery end of them. That’s not good but a little more judicious action has the tip off and nothing else. Still that’s maybe not the best sign but how often do you change tips?

A little listen and I’m kinda torn. Driver flex in abundance and if there is an air pressure imbalance then the drivers sound rubbish. However a little playing about and whoosh, they come to live big time. I think this could be the spiritual successor to the M6. Yes boys and girls, it really is pretty damn good. Still, burn in time.


Source 1G iPod Shuffle with and without a 75 ohm adapter added

Lows: Honestly sometimes I’d like to get something like in the olden days, something that I could complain about and say its lacking of its too soft and flabby but I really can’t, not here anyway. The lows are really rather composed and really come to life when you get the air pressure just right. For such a dinky 6mm driver they can really do wonders without sounding like the world is being shaken apart (is it the same driver as in the M11+?) Listening to Mika’s “By The Time” is such a soft and gentle song but with a rich and deep low end. The CC51 still says no problem and displays those lows in their entirety. It really sounds like its being pushed to the max but it does it regardless and I must say I’m impressed. It’s like they have sneaked a tiny little sub in there as it just sounds like it shouldn’t be able to do it but it does. At the other end when you ask it to do something far faster and punchier like Owl City’s “Sunburn” all it really does is punch for most of the song and the CC51 just does it. It really is most impressive that so such a dinky little thing to have big powerful bass but be so well controlled and behaved.

Quantity wise though don’t be expecting a bass monster, the bass is pretty in line with the rest and while it can be prominent if the song demands it, it isn’t its default position.


Mids: If anything possibly its least astonishing aspect. They are articulate and detailed but neither particularly liquid nor dry. They do a very admirable job of being all things to all men. What I mean is it doesn’t excel anywhere in particular or have really any failings. If they did have any failings it would be that maybe at times they fall a little behind the bass and treble, a little V shape does sneak out. Not that anything ever gets lost, it’s in there but the mids really aren’t wowing me like the crazy bass does at times. Come on MEElec, do a challenger for the PL-50’s mids. Still I’m being a little bit whiney and picky, there really is nothing to fault, the mids here they just aren’t as good as the bass and treble that’s all.

Highs: I think here I’m a bit torn, they are a little bit abundant for my liking and I do find them a touch tiring after a while, you know there is a but coming don’t you, but they are super crisp and lively. They really are quite spectacular, fast crispy, edgy, and lots of drama. If it’s soft, shimmery delicate stuff you’re after this probably isn’t the one you want. If its liveliness you want the treble here very much delivers. It is super crisp and forthright. As I said earlier it does get a little bit tiring on my ears after a while but I can’t deny that it’s rather accomplished. Honestly given its crispiness I would have expected it to be more abrasive and gritty in the top end but it really isn’t. That’s not to say if you supply it crappy treble (either a crappy master or because your using crappy bit rates) don’t expect the CC51 to do you any favours because it won’t. That crispy edge will shove crappy treble in your face if that’s what you supply it. Is it due to the timbrely hard and physically hard ceramic enclosure? I must say the uber crispy edge to the treble does remind me of the Panasonic HJE-900.

It’s all a bit of an extravaganza.


Soundstage: It’s a fairly intimate sounding IEM most of the time, not very close in but for a dynamic it’s fairly close. Think like a small room. Separation is rather more impressive. Vocals, lows highs are remain particularly distinct and separate, as I mentioned at times it felt there was a tiny sub in there suddenly cranking lows out of seemingly nowhere. The crispy highs too seem somewhat separated at times from the mids and lows. It’s all very good.

Fit: Here I think I’ll have to bash a little. I really never get the thing manufactures have for sealing dynamics in unvented enclosures, I’d far rather they isolated less and didn’t give me any air pressure and driver flex issues. The fit was fine once I got them in and sat right but it was a good few minutes of faffing before that happened and it’s the sort of thing that is a real pain if you have to pull them out for anything. You mileage will vary but it rather bugged me.

Comfort: Well the shape of these pretty much demands your wear them down, you can get them in up but it’s not very elegant. What was a bit of a worry is that the nozzle bore on these are huge, bigger than anything I’ve ever seen before. Actually though it never was much of an issue, naturally I can’t promise you the same but it gave me no problems. I can’t say they ever just melted away though.


Cable: Unusually for MEElec it’s got a black cable. I can’t really say there was anything wrong with it but the shirt clip would at its current position sit about three quarters of the way down my chest. The Y junction too is really rather far down. Neither of these are big deals but while it is a fine cable it’s not the usual top notch MEElectronics fare with its braided black and silvery combos.

Microphonics: Given you pretty much have to wear these down you get quite a bit and the interesting position of the shirt clip really doesn’t help matters. Try not wearing collars.

Amped/Unamped: Some differences but nothing to write home about. The 75 Ohm adapter made a bit of a difference, when added it really softened and added a touch of gentility to the CC51. I can’t say it made it better, just different. Actually I preferred it without it.

Build Quality: Hmmm, silvery bit coming off aside they seem good. The cable is fine and the buds themselves in their ceramic enclosure I think must be pretty indestructible short of an accident with a hammer. The little mic and button too feels very, very sturdy.


Isolation: Easily enough to get you run over because you didn’t hear the 20 ton truck sneak up on you from behind. Probably good enough for a reasonable flight too.

Accessories: Love the little case. Case aside you just get a selection of tips which is par for the course. Still it’s a fab little case and all manufactures should provide one.

Phone use: Given a little try out with the Nexus One and all works as it should. Actually it sounds pretty decent too, not quite all that it could be but the CC51 clearly doesn’t need a whopping great powerful player to drive it. God I miss hardware buttons though, still if you want for phone use then these will do the job admirably.

Value: A cursory glance online and I can see them for US$80 or US$90 for the P version or closer to home £40 or £60 for the P ones (seems a little bit of a jump if you ask me there.) I’ve said it before but this sort of range is hyper competitive so if you don’t cut the mustard then you really have no hope. MEElectronics made its IEM name by dishing out bargain priced stuff that punched well above anything the big brand name boys could do and the CC51 is no different. It’s by no means head and shoulders better than some of what else is out there and probably isn’t going to be the best suited to all in its price range but it certainly is amongst the best value for your money.


Conclusion: There is a lot to really love here but I’m not really feeling the love, the driver flex issue really is a pain for me and it’s largely due to that. Pulling out and pushing back in really is stressing my little ears so I’m going to say if you’re always pulling your IEM’s out for just a second to hear something then maybe this inst the one for you. If that isn’t a problem then things change a lot and these then become a really great proposition. They are a whopping kick ass bass response that is crazy fast and all round crazy good. That little driver must be working its behind off and granted maybe in a vented IEM it wouldn’t be able to manage it. It goes so low and with such vim that for me it’s easily the best bass MEElectronics have produced yet in any of their IEM’s I’ve heard. Yes, it is that good. The mids too really do keep up and the highs as I mentioned are super crisp. It has a bit of a V shape at times and the mids do get that little bit pushed behind but nothing so much it would bother you. I’ve got to say fit issues aside I do rather like the CC51, its fun.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

HiFiMAN HM-601 Review

HiFiMAN HM-601 Review


First Impressions: Nice box. Inside it’s a little Spartan but then so is the 601, I think most people will know that when they ordered it they are buying it not for the overall package but for how it sounds. Time wise it’s when I’ve just received the Sony NWZ-A846 so I think they are going to get their own comparison. (They in fact did, the Sony has gone back but I wrote it up when I still had it, I now don’t.)

Sound wise my first thoughts are that this really has cloned that “Sony sound” I’m sure any one that has heard a Sony knows what I’m talking about. Thick, bassy, a little middy then falling off and a spike in the treble. Still it is impressive. Now whether needed or not a bun in these will go.


Screen: This is undoubtedly one of the first things that you will notice. It’s a colour screen, yes but, erm it’s more functional than it is pretty. Why it’s actually colour I don’t know as it makes no real use of that fact and it’s really a pretty basic screen. It really reminds me a lot of my one time top of the like phones screen. Yep the Ericsson T68 when I first got it had an amazing screen. It came out in 2001. Still like I said the screen is totally functional just don’t think your going to be watching HD films on it, you won’t. Actually you can’t anyway as it doesn’t do video.


Battery Life: This was the first thing a friend wanted to know about when I mentioned I had the 601, she had heard it was just 8 hours and was horrified at the idea. I had to confirm that 8 hours seemed an entirely fair assessment. This is just not a player that you want to last you while you’re away for a week and not have to bring the charger because its battery life is like that of a modern smart phone. Cack. If you use this as your day to day player you will be finding a permanent plug point home for the charger as you’ll be using it every night. For me that wasn’t a problem but I cannot deny that on a couple of occasions I did have the battery on the 601 die on me, something I’ve rarely had on anything else.

UI: Erm, like the screen it uses it’s functional. Honestly as UI’s go I can’t say it’s my favourite in fact there are bits about it I don’t like at all. Like the shuffle function doesn’t seem to pick up all the songs on it so I found it to be unusable personally. Just picking out an album at a time was fine but really why must the on board flash and SD card be listed separately? It’s not like it’s a big problem but it was a niggle. Navigating once you were playing stuff though was fine, actually I quite liked the navigation back and forth and fast forwarding and stuff. It was a little odd using the up and down key to advance or go back and took a few days getting used to. Once I did though it was good. I also really very much liked the volume control wheel on top. If I had any complaints about the wheel it was its sensitivity, it wouldn’t take much of slip when adjusting to make yourself deaf. Overall it’s a very functional UI, simple but it works pretty well.


Volume: As I just mentioned the volume this thing can put out is stupendous. I’ve only ever used it on low gain and I don’t think it’s ever gone above 4 out of 10. Suck it France! If you have something that is a little hard to drive or quiet, like all old pre “Loudness War” stuff is then this will still be able to power out more than deafening levels. Honestly if anything it’s too loud.

Sound Quality: This is the bit your probably most want to read. In a word it’s excellent. I could sit here and moan about the sound signature because personally it wasn’t really perfectly suited to my tastes. It has a flavour or colouration that I am not a fan of in DAP’s and I did find that the treble spike while helping the treble pierce its thickness it annoyed me. It was a little gritty and ill refined that on very treble happy stuff irked me. I want refinement up top much more than I want sparkle. I found this particularly noticeable and unwelcome on HiFiMAN’s excellent RE-0, a notoriously treble happy and abundant IEM. I know it has spectacular treble and it just let me hear a little gritty roughness up top and lacked the truly stratospheric extension I know it has in it. So it sounds like I’m moaning right? Well I kind of am but that’s because I’m a picky, fussy perfectionist and the 601 simply isn’t perfect. What I’m pointing out to you is the bits it doesn’t do perfectly as honestly there isn’t very much. The failings I think it has in sound are down largely to its chosen sound signature which as I said I’m not a fan of. The “Sony sound” is one that I find always irks me up top with that spike and the corresponding fall off above it.


So now we have established I’m not a fan of its sound signature and what it brings in the highs what about elsewhere? Down low there is a great warmth and thickness, I’d perhaps go so far as to describe it a sumptuous and enveloping richness. It’s a very gentle smooth sound that is simply beautiful. When you pair it up to something colder like the RE-0 it gives it a gentility down low it lacked before and when paired with the more gentle RE-ZERO the lows became so smooth and sublime. They are excellent. Granted if you want hard hitting punch then it’s not really what the 601 is inclined to put out, it isn’t flabby in any way but it will ever so slightly soften the edge of the bass impact. If you want hard aggression then this probably isn’t what you should be dead set on. It’s not to say it can’t do punch, but it isn’t as aggressive or as fast as I want when listening to something notorious for it like the UE Triple.Fi 10. Stunning if you’re a big jazz fan though. Such smoothness and articulation out of a DAP is impressive.

Mids are very similar in tone and behaviour the lows, it’s all about the smooth and sultry richness. Marie Digby sounds utterly awesome out of the 601, injecting the tiniest touch of warmth and liquidity to her ever so slightly dry breathy voice. As DAP’s go it’s just excellent and effortless in its richness. For a sound signature that lends it’s to a thick, veiled almost muddy flavour the clarity is stunning. It so rich, emotive and evocative. If you ever want to kick back while on your daily commute and descend into a world a luxury and indulgent decadence then you really, really could listening to these. Actually does anyone remember the old Galaxy adverts? If not youtube is your friend.


If you really do want to play faster stuff then the 601 can do it much better than I thought it would on paper. Listening to a little Owl City on the IE8 it is rather bassy but the bass is quick and extremely well controlled. It impacts well and fades quickly. The treble too is near lightning fast and far more refined than I’d expect. While it may not be its forte the 601 is agile enough to easy keep pace with fast treble and punchy, deep lows. It’s pretty great in fact.

Over all the sound is tonally warm and indulgent but not really overly so. Given this nature it does have stunning clarity and even on something like the IE8 the detail of a song is all there, in fantastic detail if you listen out for it. It isn’t however always instantly apparent, the warmth is a little masking and offers a presentation that’s far more about smooth, relaxing enjoyment than it is about thrusting detail and nuances in your face. If you read my 601 / 846 comparison you’ll find that the 601 spanked the Sony on that front.

One thing I should note is that while the 601 doesn’t have any hiss what it does have is a little capacitor whine. Now it’s not noticeable when music’s playing and even then not with every IEM but it’s the first time I’ve ever come across it. I can’t say I was a fan of the idea but it never actually interfered with anything.


Format Support: Okay, confession time. I didn’t check any bar one, FLAC. Now it’s not just laziness (okay it’s mostly laziness) but I genuinely think anyone buying this isn’t going to want much else. Maybe some will want a 320k something but who isn’t going to be happy to file convert to whatever is required.

In The Hand: Firstly you’ll notice the 601 is pretty damn big. Visually this may be a bit much but actually holding in your hand I found it fit my hand very well. It actually gave me something to hold and the raised buttons made in pocket use absolutely not a problem. Its rounded edges too were a boon making feel very comfortable to hold in the hand. What I did notice while holding it (and I can’t decide if it’s a plus or a negative) is that the 601 doubles as a hand warmer. Oh hell it really does get warm to the touch which when the weather was really cold out I must say I actually really, really liked it. Now that it’s May and the weather has been glorious, not so much. I’ve never seen another player that does this and no idea just which component is doing it but if you use the 601 for a while it will get warm. I have no clue if this could prove to be a problem in very warm countries but it’s got to be a plus in crazy cold places.


Conclusion: I really can’t decide. Part of me loves bits about the 601 mostly its sound quality. Its sound signature is something I’m not a fan of, I personally want DAP’s to be neutral but not everyone does. Sony sells a lot and especially in the Far East a thicker, warmer sound does seem to be far more popular than is common in the West. If you are one of those people then I can tell you this takes that “Sony sound” and is just better. There is no two ways about it, it is just better. Of course you need good headphones to hear that difference. So while the sound quality here is fantastic not everything else is. The UI, screen, are all fine but really cont compare to some big brand stuff if those things matter to you.

One thing I feel deserves special mention is the styling. It’s very, very retro, and honestly it felt like something out of the early 90’s. If this was then I could easily see the 601 with a Sony label on it, oh so very easily. Since it isn’t however the 601 isn’t what I’d call a looker. It really isn’t a device you’re going to get mugged for. Its plastickyness really is a retro throwback too, not that it feels badly made, it doesn’t. It isn’t the weighty solid device that others produce, you may know why you bought this (its sound quality) but your friends will think your mad.

I feel as though I’m being a little negative about the 601 and I guess I am and that’s a shame. It really is a beautiful sounding player that’s designed for audiophiles. In this pursuit it makes a lot of compromises to aim for that perfect sound and for me I just didn’t mesh with its sound signature. This is where I feel I’m being unkind because I’m far more willing to overlook this in the Sony because it’s a mass market device that honestly I expected to not be very good. The HM-601 is a purest device and I can’t help but set the bar for it rather higher. For me it largely come back to that sound signature, it has a flavour and I don’t want any in a DAP, its why I have lots of IEM’s and I don’t want to have lots of DAP’s. If you however do want the sort of flavour the 601 has (ie if you’re a diehard Sony DAP fan) then you really ought to try out the 601. If Sony were to make a DAP and prioritize sound quality over everything else then I’m pretty confident this would be the player they would come up with.

The 601 while not my cup of tea is an excellent player, warmth, thickness, smooth sounding, it’s all there and it’s of a very high quality. I cannot stress that enough; it really is excellent at what it does. It just wasn’t the flavourless, transparent DAP I was hoping it would be.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Vsonic GR07 Quick Review

Vsonic GR07 Quick Review

Brief: Vsonic gets serious, seriously good.

Price: US$155 today that means £94.

Specification: 11mm CCAW high dynamic transducer with multi-layers bio-cellulose diaphragm (how fancy does that sound?) Rated Impedance: 50Ω +/- 10% Sensitivity: ≥105dB (@ 500Hz) Frequency Response: 7Hz—30,000Hz Distortion: <0.2% @ 105dB (20μpa) Channel Imbalance: <1dB (@ 500Hz) / ≤1.5dB (@ 20Hz12.5KHz) Max. Input: 50mW

Accessories: 5 pairs of tips, some ear guides and a case.

Build Quality: Very nice, apparently handmade too. Cable could be a little wore flexible but it feels nice and sturdy.

Isolation: Its reasonable, it’s a dynamic so it’s not flight to New Zealand level of isolation but it’s pretty good and would be fine for day to day. Enough to get you run over if you’re not looking.

Comfort/Fit: It’s weird square shape did give me pause but when I used them they actually were fine. Fit too was fine with their new tips and their adjustable nozzle I would think most people should get on really well with them fit wise. Comfort and that shape may be more variable but was fine for me.

Aesthetics: Pretty, not stand out pretty more of an understated, classical sense of pretty. It’s dark, matte and discreet and I like it.

Sound: Just excellent. It’s got crazy depth and power low down, fantastic articulation in the mids and very good sparkle and detail up top. It’s not a miracle IEM that does everything perfectly and there are a bunch of stuff that can beat it little costs this little and is so adept at everything. The GR07 can do fun just as well as it can do monitor which is no mean feat. I can think of nothing that is so good, so fantastically versatile, so evenly balanced and frankly, so cheap. Its only real failing is it can get a little shouty and sibilant in the upper mid / lower treble range. Even then it’s not something that’s universally present; it depends on the source and as always depends on the track. It also is something that diminishes when you listen more quietly but don’t feel you have to. I really am nitpicking. While I’m at it another nitpick would be that the treble is a little sparkly, a little gritty and doesn’t have the greatest shimmery extension when compared to say the RE-0. Like I said though I really am nitpicking, overall the GR07 is a stunner.

Value: Just excellent. For circa £100 this offers a real taste of the good stuff. The same money just isn’t going to get anything as all round accomplished as the GR07. Yes you can beat it in certain areas if you have very specific requirements or know exactly what you want. If you want something that can do everything then this is it.

Pro’s: Stunning sound from an excellent all rounder.

Con’s: Hard to actually get one, tiny bit sibilant and can be beaten by others in particular areas.