PMV A-01 Review by mark2410
Thanks to PMV and their distributor, Penon Audio for the sample.
First Impressions: The box would seem to be of rather sturdy construction. Plain black with a silvered PMV on the front, it looks good. Nice to see someone in the Far East recognise the beauty in simplicity. Opening it up, some buds in some black foam, some tips and ear guides. Ooooooh look at that case!!! Okay so it’s soft so maybe not the best protection but its sooooo pretty, with that green inner too, damn its looks awesome. The cable on these things, ooooooh. A great big thick thing, yet softly flexible and with a black weave mesh over it. Tre fancy. The buds, hmm anodised aluminium maybe? They look alright buts it’s just the outer side that’s metal, the inner side is plastic, while I’m sure there are good reasons but they would have looked fantastic all metal.
In the ears, hmm is that an upper mid jolt of enthusiasm I detect? I think it is, these may need to be sensitively paired but otherwise they sound rather good. Bass is a bit polite, maybe some foamy tips will boost that a smidge. Hmm, my head can tell these are excellent but I’m not being captured by them, maybe in just need to play with sources a bit. Burn in time.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and a Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
Lows: The low and is capable but it is just so polite. Fire up some trash bassy heavy song and that bass will just not rise up. It never want to dominate no matter what I did with the tips and frankly were just boring. Strange really, it’s quite capable and its god a rather good ability to hold on while it goes down. There is just now dominance, no bassy hump, no anything. On paper there is not anything it does wrong. It just stays so on paper, articulate, controlled, detailed but it hasn’t a spark of life to. Whipping out my crazy bassy track of choice, The Beautiful South’s “Your Father And I” and while the bass rose up, on paper like it is supposed to. Yet it was a little soulless. Yes it became abundant but there was still something not there, there was no joy, no passion, all on paper perfect but my heart wasn’t stirred.
Quantity wise it’s on paper perfect, bang on what it ought to be. When you push the volume dial though the upper mids start to reach forward and the bass staying the back. It could do with a bumping but hey, what’s a bass boost button for anyway? If you do that they start to get a more rip roaring in quantity. Really rather actually, a little more fun but these will never be IE8’s no matter what you do them.
Mids: Pretty damn good. On paper they are practically flawless in every sense, their tonality, their detail, their well-constructed articulation. So undistorted and lacking any flavouring of their own. On paper purists will be super pleased but while they my may be capable of everything, cold or warm, smooth or gritty, they aren’t soul stirrers. Combined with their proclivity to get a little bit upper mid shouty if you crank the volume. I found that pairing them with warmer sources gave you a more overall pleasing vocal. Dry crisp things nudged the vocals to that upper mid enthusiasm zone that did start in the direction of sibilance. It never got sibilant but if cranked loud it did take a step forward and scream at you a bit. My ears found that rather tiring. Thus I found I was always pairing with the HM-650 or the E9, both a bit on the warmer, softer side. Ahh that bit of smoothness works wonders.
Quantity wise you could call these a bit mid centric, their mids are a touch ahead of the bass and highs. They are super clear too and they have the propensity to yell. If you keep to more genteel and calm vocals then they really can give you a superb rendering. Tori’s “I Don’t Like Mondays” is spot on perfect, just flawless which is a stunning feat for something at this price.
Highs: Practically flawless. On paper, can’t fault them for anything. The detail levels are great, their tone is near bang on, their extensions is alright too. They don’t perhaps have the delicacy of the shimmer and natural decay that I may want but, they are BA’s after all. They do cover up those deficiencies well, the highs aren’t especially prominent and they do their best to tone down their BA hard edge. It’s all pretty good, not quite perfect but on paper it’s really very close. Given their price their instantly forgivable, I mean no BA nails the highs and none extend super high either so it would be wrong I feel to bash the A-01 for something it’s is endemic to the driver type used. The trade in using BA’s for the treble is that you get pin crisp articulation.
Quantity wise it’s a tiny bit behind the mids but more so it’s that they are more abundant in the lower treble ranges and diminish quite linearly. That means by the time you’re getting up towards the top they are toned down. Given the edgy nature of BA treble it’s just how your supposed to do it if you can’t get the most refined and detailed output. The cost of the A-01 prevents it from being at the top of the class in terms of treble, however…….. how much is it again??? Is its current price a temporary intro loss leading price?
Soundstage: Very nice, they arrest particularly huge but they a good sense of space, placement and separation. Acoustically they are very well integrated, which know there it least one crossover in there it is not acoustically apparent. A really great effort. Stage wise they are moderate in distance and everything is pretty much around the same distance but never does it feel closed in. Personally I think a little more intimate would have been nice but hey, these are trying it seems to please everyone and doing a rather fine job of it.
Fit: Great for the most part. They sit a little shallow for my tastes. Though I’m kinda used to that but I did want to keep pushing them back into my ears. That may have been influenced by the rounded foam tips rather than using more straight ones. Still it was mostly all good.
Comfort: Great. You have to wear them up which some out there wouldn’t like but get over it. They were perfectly comfortable to wear for an entire day.
Cable: Oooooh fancy. Post the Y splitter it’s more normal but below that it’s a big, thick one with a black weave mesh over it and ill confess, it looks bloody classy for something at this price. Looks and feels most sturdy too.
Microphonics: Well given you must wear them up, none really. Even tapping on them not a lot was transmitted up to me ears. The larger air cavity in my ears though from them sitting shallow did amplify foot fall a bit though.
Aesthetics: Nice. Normally I’m a total sucker for bare metal but these, well they look nice but nothing all that special I felt. Why I didn’t like them more I don’t know.
Build Quality: For the money, fantastically good. The buds are nice bet nothing amazeballs but that cable……. Yeah it’s pretty damn awesome. The jack feels super sturdy too.
Isolation: Ahh, well these are hybrids and so they have a dynamic driver in there, dynamics need air to move and pretty much always need to be vented. Therefore these have a vent and vents mean isolation takes a great big hit. While I did use these out and about and on a bus they didn’t quite block out things like I’m used to. A proper BA can do so much better. Still you could get by with them okay I’d bet for most people, however if you’re thinking flight to New Zealand or daily Tube commutes then I’m sorry, while better than nothing they aren’t the best. Naturally they block out enough that you could easily get yourself run over if you forget to use your eyes when near traffic.
Accessories: You get an assortment of tips and some ear guides. The stand out thing though is easily that case. Its practicality, well, isn’t so great, I mean the thing is what I believe is some rough felt so its relatively soft and squishy. Squishy means it offers little physical protection, but it looks so good. Then you open the thing, wow!!! I don’t know why but that green looks fantastic, in such utter contrast to the plain and natural looking brown outer, the green is so vibrant. It’s so visually dramatic and eye catching, I love it.
Amped/Unamped: The actual power requirement of the A-01 isn’t particularly high. Thus they ran just fine out of any old source however they were easily at their best out of the E9. Yes that’s right the E9 not the Solo Ultra, the E9 was the more warm, smoothly warm option and the A-01 with its inclination to get shouty in the upper mids was tamed slightly by the warmer amp. The bass did also get a little more solid but it’s so polite anyway…….I can see some wanting a bit of a bass boost button at work. So long as you steer away from colder, harder sources your great. More so than wanting more power what you want is more warmth in my opinion. These are so easy to drive for the most part an amp isn’t particularly needed for the power. So they did work fine out of phone, they did, they really did but of course these are actually good enough so that you begin to see the limitations on what a phone can do. While it doesn’t desperately need power they have the ability to render with a clarity that phones just aren’t built to provide. While they will sound great out of your phone, they aren’t having their legs stretched.
Value: I’ve repeatedly looked at the price and I keep expecting that it will jump up. They cost under £50, I know that’s sans VAT and the delivery companies extortion fee if they catch it but still….. this thing is a triple drivered hybrid IEM. While more drivers in no way mean “better” it’s still a shocking feat. Then you listen to it and you double take. Ignore that it has 3 drivers because it doesn’t matter, what matters is how it sounds and its fantastically good. Not perfect but it’s so cheap, so, so cheap. It might be a little bit source fussy but why hasn’t there been a bigger deal made about this thing? I feel like I must be missing something as to why these haven’t blown up. Acoustically only the RE-400 can match them but the A-01’s are far more lovely built.
Conclusion: These are pretty bloody amazing. A little bit source fuss, they don’t want to paired with anything abrasive of upper mid spikey / cold. Do that and then you get a detail level that’s first rate and will knock spots of everything at its same price. The things I mentally leapt to to compare it were the GR07 and the DN-1000. Though I looked at the price and thought I had to change that to the DN-900. The A-01 hands down beats the DN-900, no question. The GR07 they traide blows near evenly and depending on your preferences / source / musical preferences will determine what’s the “best” one for you. Oh but yeah the GR07 is £68 verses the A-01’s £48. The RE-400 can match their detail and quality but they are even more reduced in the bass and their build is, well, the RE-400 has never been noted for have a premium build quality.
Tonally it’s near perfect and aside from its desire to get a little leapy in the upper mids there is little find fault with. Granted that veering towards sibilance from time to time will get tiring with a cold source. Its easy fixed though, just warm them up a notch or two and then they really begin to sing. You may also want to bump the bass a smidge too. The bass driver is goodly capable it’s just always so held in check, push it up and let it run a little rampant. God I think a little tweaking to the tuning of theses and they could at this price crush all before it. Even as they stand right now there is little that can match them. They are without any doubt one of the best IEM out there for under the psychological US$100 level. The crazy bit is they come in fractionally under US$70.
So should you buy one? Yes. They aren’t perfect but they are bloody close for this sort of money. If you want to get a clear improvement on these you will take a serious wallet bashing. These and a lovely warm source, you’re all set. I can’t think of a thing for the same price that comes anywhere close to them in terms of their audio quality and their build quality. If you can feel free to let me know but in the mean time you may in the meantime want to order a pair because I really can’t see anything best these at their current price.