PMV A-01 MKII Earphone Review by mark2410
Thanks to PMV and their distributor, Penon Audio for the sample.
TLDR? Try here http://www.head-fi.org/t/816957/pmv-a-01-mkii-earphone-review-by-mark2410#post_12783571
First Impressions: Now it’s not every day that something comes in and I pretty much know what it’s going to be like, or at least I think I do. You see these are a MKII version of the PMV A-01 I reviewed a little while back. It was pretty great actually so I’m not exactly sure why they felt the need to make a MKII version of it. I mean they weren’t perfect, nothing really ever is but whatever, they made a new version and this is it. The box it’s changed, inside then, that’s the case, well that is a great big change. We now have a hard case (which I approve of) but it’s really rather big and boring black. I know the previous one wasn’t the most practical case in the world but its brown outer and luminous green inner was so different and appealing. This is more practical, yeah, but it’s more boring too. Anyway inside we have all the bits and I see foam tips too. The last one didn’t come with any if I recall?
In the ears and the first thing I notice, whoa these are sensitive and easy to drive. Oh my god, you could deafen yourself with this by accident with ease. Seriously before you start playing with these in, turn down the volume. Oh my god these are sensitive. Plugged into the Studio V and I’ve got the volume down at 14 and there is so much hiss. I can see this crazy sensitive being an issue going forward. Hmm, burn in time.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Lumia 735 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
Lows: Goodly rotund. You know I said the v1 was uber polite? This not so much. The bass here is considerably more ever present, bigger, warmer, a much more rounded tonality and flavour. Hmm I can understand why but I am sad. This should not be a v2 it should be an alternative, a complimentary product to the v1 rather than a replacement. Now this is going to be the more populist, consumer pleasing kinda bass. Here it is ready at instant to go flying off the handle and thump it out. It very much want to thump out too, big weighty, warm bulbous bass. Where the v1 had no soul I think maybe the v2 has an over abundance. Lol, not that either is better than the other, they are different flavours. So that would make the v1 a plain vanilla and this would be chocolate, chocolate chip. Yeah all those chocolate based terms, insert here. It’s nice, it really is and it can be really quite beautiful. Still its perhaps that little too chocolatey, you know where you’ve eaten just a bit too much and you think, while its really nice, maybe not so much in the future yeah?
Depth is fine, though it wants to be a big rounded hump, a very pleasing lump of bass. It’s not especially hard, perhaps a little too soft so I’d naturally want to use the Studio to clean it up but its hiss monster. The bass is just a little eager to bloom and abound with warm pleasantness. Cleaner colder sources it gains rigidity but its bit and weight in its impacts. It does decline before really getting into the mid-range but there is still a bit of inclination to bleed upward. It’s very pleasant and enjoyable but it feels a little bit less accomplished than v1.
Mids: Where v1 had a slight disposition towards the upper vocal range here its more towards the lower. Thusly male vocals in particular are given a dollop of cream and warmth. Lady vocals, tame a touch and mellow. Depending on what you’re playing it’s very, very well done. Taking into account their price tag and they are really exceedingly joyful and relaxing to listen to. I’m repeatedly drawn to Susan Wong. They do rather suck out all he breathiness but there is so much creamy goodness. It’s not the most light or agile, I’m sure it’s the very same driver as the v1 one but these feel slower. They linger, can draw out a note that is more dynamic like than was with the v1. An element of warmth and dim lighting. In terms of its detail, I believe it extracts as much as the old version but the warmed and creamyier presentation obscures the noticeability of finer points. They are there as best I can tell they are just not so cleanly presented. While this is likely the more popular and the more consumer pleasing sound, well I don’t get why. In the West anyone even ever finding out these exist is like to be more interested in the v1. Maybe they sell tons in China and have a more consumer presence?
It is so very hard to stop just comparing to the v1. If looked on their own then they are really rather good at detail extraction and their price point, these are hitting a high quality level that really is impressive for the money. No ifs no bets in that regard these are tremendously good value.
Highs: They are more in line with own favourites. Though I do miss a bit of the lightness and more readily apparent detail extracted. These are easy on the ear, crowd pleasers. The treble is tamed and polite. I want to go to the cooler sounding Studio but, yeah, but no. Their highs and their wild sensitivity mean that these hiss like a bag of snakes with the tiniest of provocations. The Studio isn’t something I think of as hissy. These hiss a lot, and I mean a hell of a lot. A very serious amount. It’s not so much that they have an overabundance of treble though, they are actually rather warm presentation wise. This extends to the treble, it’s rather good and there is plenty of detail if you listen out for it. However it’s just not so readily apparent an the v1 was. I know it is good but I just cannot seem to stir the soul when it comes to these. They are really nice, but I just am not feeling it, I’m just not going wow, there are amazingly good for this price which is what I should be doing. Oh and make no mistake these are seriously goody good quality for the price, very seriously good. Just it’s so pleasant and easy going it doesn’t stir the heart.
Tonally, there is a warmed feel to the treble. They have detail but its super polite and super rounded at the edge, these have absolutely no abrasiveness of any kind. If you need to listen to something all day long this is the sort you want. It’s so mellow and pleasing, soooooo easy on the ear. So relaxing and genteel. Even firing up some Owl City and while the treble speeds up a great deal, it’s so comparatively muted, there is zero abrasiveness to it. Rounded, gently detailed and just nice to listen, it’s nice and gentle on the ear.
Soundstage: These are somewhat enclosed. They a have quite good cavernous sound. Their rather noticeable instrument separation does lead to bit of lack of integration. You can more readily tell that the different bands sound, different. They just are off that bit in placement. The bass feels closer in than the mids which feels closer in that the treble. It’s a little unusual, interesting but unusual.
Fit: In they went, and that was basically it. The v1 had a hint of driver flex at times but none on this.
Comfort: Just the same as the v1, they do sit relatively shallow for an IEM but they fit me great.
Microphonics: Erm pretty much zero. Due to their design you do have to wear the down, as you should anyway. In use I really got no cable noise coming up, noticeably no neck synch but hey, no need for one.
Aesthetics: Nice. Interestingly they have made the inner side of them different, a dark translucent plastic so you can see the innards just a bit. The other is still that metal painted plastic. The cosmetic change is nicer but it’s only you that’ll see it. Of course looks don’t really matter anyway but on the whole they are quite nice looking. Not anything special but pleasant.
Build Quality: Very nice. The buds are nice but the stand out is that cable.
Cable. The cable is epic. It is thick, flexible and with a cloth weave over it. It feels like crazy quality overkill for a product at this price. Plus its gat a cable Velcro wrap thing attached for when you wrap up them. The cable is super-duper nice.
Isolation: They have changed something, the vent port moved and something but I can’t tell. These isolate a bit better than the v1 so I would be fine for the normal on a bus, out and about stuff. Tube and flights not so much but better than nothing. As ever they do block out enough for you to get yourself run over if you don’t keep your eyes open near traffic.
Accessories: You get a pretty good little bundle. I especially like the Velcro cable wrap thingy on the cable. However what I can’t make my mind up about is the case. You see I know in my head that the new case is better. You see it’s hard for, the A-01’s fit in so easily and won’t be squished. The v1 case was soft and very thin so while keeping them neatly together it didn’t actually offer physical protection. This case is therefore better. It’s a bit big perhaps but it’s the better case. However……I absolutely loved the look of that pouch case thing on the v1. It wasn’t the most practical but that brown felt outer then opening up to that stunningly vibrant green. It looked amazing, so this practical and rather dull new case pales in comparison.
Amped/Unamped: They ran pretty great out of everything. They are very easy to drive to very loud from any source. They are also more pairing happy than the v1, this doesn’t the need to be paired with something or else, these being rather warmer were much more adaptable. Colder sources do the usual, lighten and pull out more detail, as does power. Warm softens them and gently obscures. So on the whole, yeah I would want these amped. You don’t “need” to certainly, they aren’t especially power hungry and your phone will do a pretty reasonable job. However these are pushing into the realms of sufficient quality that your phone just hasn’t got all the detail to offer them that these can extract.
Value: While I sit and hum and haw about hove these changed from the v1 and how they aren’t so much as “better” but different, warmer, richer, more relaxed etc etc. What that fails to include as that these while not being the greatest triple drivered IEM out there and I am in no way saying that more drivers = better, because it doesn’t. These however are good in a way it feels wrong. I mean they’re US$80 or £61 at today’s terrible exchange rate. I mean WTF?!?!?!? Seriously how, how are they doing that, just how? Is it maybe a loss leader or zero margin to try and get PMV a name built up? They aren’t just cheap, wow what great value, they are so cheap I think there must be a mistake somewhere. Basically, these are good value for money in a way that I assume there is a mistake. Not just good value but actually disturbingly good. Seriously I keep checking I’m not looking at the wrong thing. How can these be only US$80??? These are probably the best value IEM you can buy on earth right now.
Conclusion: These are weird. First I’m still thinking I’ve made a mistake about the price second, these should not be a MKII. I hate when companies do that, these aren’t a mark 2 they are a completely differently tuned IEM so make them a different product. To me a version revision means we a made just a little change you’d easily never notice. These are VERY different from the v1. So I just see confusion with buyers reading reviews for the v1 and expecting one sound but the v2 offering something very different, both sound great for sure but it’s like ordering a palate cleansing leman sorbet and getting ice-cream instead. It’s kinda sorta similar but on another level it’s really not.
So these basically beat everything near their price. Well there is the RE-400 of course but these isolate more and are on the whole a more premium feeling product. These are also offer more weight in the bass so I’d see more people liking these considerably more too. Everything else, well I don’t think I can come up with anything that can keep up with them. The DN-900 comes sorta close but they are now at US$130. Price wise it’s the DN-16 that more closely compares and these smash the 16 to bits. These are the most audio quality you can get for your money by a pretty big margin too, so big that I cannot escape the feeling that something is wrong. Have I made some massive stupid error somewhere? I surely must have, I must have.
So should you / would I buy one. Yes. The only reason I can see why this shouldn’t be on everyone’s radar is that they want a completely different sound signature. It is a bit warm, bit too bassy, a little moderate in the treble. It is a rather overall flavoured sound. Maybe you just must have Ety like isolation? While in UK terms their value has dropped a bunch to the exchange rate they are still easily stunningly excellent value. Just how are they managing it? There is so much good stuff around but these are insane, I just don’t see how they can cost so little. If you can, just order a pair, I would be frankly stunned if anyone got a pair of these and wasn’t overjoyed at how good they are for the money. I’m very serious, I don’t believe anyone could be disappointed, not just how good these are. I cannot emphasise enough that they are so completely out of step with their price tag than I’m sure you will agree that it feels like someone’s made a mistake with their pricing. These sound too good to be true, seriously, so good that I despite having them in my ears and the website with their price in front of me I still feel I must have made a mistake. These are beyond epic in their epic, epically good value. Seriously, if you have the cash, order a pair.