Huawei AM185 Noise Cancelling Earphone Review by mark2410
Thanks to GearBest for the sample.
TLDR? Try here http://www.head-fi.org/t/825516/huawei-am185-noise-cancelling-earphone-review-by-mark2410#post_13001688
First Impressions: Now right off, I want to ponder something why can’t I see anything about these from Huawei themselves which is just weird. Anyway, looking at the box, it’s all in pictograms so clearly these aren’t being pushed outside china. Though I’m just assuming it is Chinese, it’s not like I could tell you what language it actually is. The box itself is fine, opening it up is a little be odd however. The outer box slides off then we have a flappy lid type then under that we have 3 compartments that are all flaps too. It’s weird. Getting everything out of the box we have the manual which again is all in pictograms. You also get a pouch which is all squishy and a USB adapter thing. I know from my recently having the Elephone Whispers that will be to charge up the noise cancelling bits. You also get just a couple more pairs of tips. They are the same oval stalk as the Whisper had, maybe they are made by the same OEM?
The bundle looks rather funky, I’m not totally sure about the gold, silver would have been nicer but I think they only come in one colour. Ah well. In the ears and they on first glance are awesome. They don’t isolate for toffee but yeah, they sound fantastic, really open and spacious with a really deep, grippy bass. It really likes to rumble deep down low, I know it’s a bit over blown but it’s rather giddy and fun. Hmm I may need to go fire up Jurassic Park and get some T-Rex stomping going on. Weeeeeee!!!
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, Huawei P8 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
Lows: Hmmm these are suspiciously similar to the Whisper from a few weeks back. Me thinks I doth detect the same OEM’s handy work perhaps. I don’t know but these are very similar, remarkably similar. So it’s voluminous and bombastic, full, hearty and vigorous. Especially if you reach down in to the middling and lower bass ranges it rises up and roars. It’s really most entertaining. Ahh the wonders of being able to make an open IEM does allow some fun time playful bass that isn’t oppressive. No sealed, skull / sinus crushing. Thus the most common low, deep bass you’ll find in songs does really get its grove on and become rather more than it ought to be. But….. it’s really fun. Just like the Whisper being open you can do this and not encounter all the problems that closed bring and it can pound away or it can run away, whatever’s called for. It feels so heavy and with a good follow through on a note yet can be light and graceful too when something has very little. Lots in my brain is saying no no, this is all wrong but woooooo, dancy play fun time!!!
Tonality wise it’s really most pleasing. Neither over warmed nor dry. Dancing around the line by being both overly large scaled yet open so you really can have the best of both worlds. Open backed IEM’s really can spit out audio quality that is much harder to do if they are sealed.
Mids: Very good. Just like with the Whisper again you gain so much by being open, it makes so many aspects not be issues at all. Like with the Titan range making open can give you a good leap forward in terms of quality because you don’t have to deal with the issues creating by making them sealed. So vocals can have only a dash of warmth and retain gobs of open spaciousness. A grace and air that is soooooooooo hard to get if sealed and you just don’t see at this sort of price. They are enthusiastic and polite and make the most of what you feed them. Where this starts to differentiate a touch from the Whisper is that these are a smidge less abundant in the upper mid range so these are more equally balanced between suiting male and female vocals. With the bass being mostly focused in the middle bas ranges it doesn’t bleed upward into the mids. It just doesn’t get quite as carried away with girly vocals is all. There is a touch of thickness but the fundamental open structure of them means it’s never creamy or thick. A really fine performance for the price tag.
Quantity wise while they are nicely clean and clear they are a bit behind that big bottom ended bass. You play some Tori and its all loveliness. You slap on something basstastic like will.i.am’s Scream and Shout and the bass line comes rip roaring at you. These are still vocally clean with that bit of space between the lows and mids, really good actually. Still when the bass gets going it is the star of the show, not the mids.
Highs: Well, they are nice in quality terms. The major plus of being open is that you can get a shimmer on with relative ease. So the quality level, I’m really happy with for the price. Not that its unbeatable but I do like their relative balance especially, slightly subdued treble with a good deal of grace and shimmer as it goes is what I like best. Flicking to the Whisper and yeah, these are doing it better. Hmm, well better, these are more diminutive in the treble so it doesn’t highlight that it’s maybe not totally perfect but the detail extraction if you look closely is top notch. Still they are like £60 ish something so I’m fine with it. Hmm the spec say these are a dual driver, with a BA in there so that could be why the treble is a clear step up on the Whisper. Unusual that they wouldn’t whack up the treble quantity then. I’m not complaining though, the treble here is tuned pretty much exactly how I would tune a product at this price. The quality is great for the most part and it gives you what the song needs but doesn’t ramp it up to show you that your mp3 treble is actually scratchy and broken up like would be apparent if you made them treble heavy.
Quantity wise if you want loads of treble this isn’t it. They have enough, you know exactly what’s going on but they aren’t the start of the show. It is the background dancer that turns out to be Mariah Carey. It’s in the back there but there is a heap of talent at work.
Soundstage: Ahh, they are super nice, not as potentially vast as an open IEM could be but…. they are great feeling. The staging is so relaxed and easy going, it’s all just there so casual, so nonchalant. The more relaxed the track they better it work, The Krall Woman’s Wallflower album and John Steven’s Red are both so sumptuously smooth yet not over intimate. Distance is a bit middling but it comes across so naturally. A very nice showing.
Fit: Well with the loop things wearing up wasn’t great. Then I realised that the little loops, they aren’t fixed so a pulled the cable through a bit to make them far smaller. Bingo, fit the ears great.
Comfort: Great. They are a bit shallow fitting and they being so open you don’t get that feeling of them being snugly sealed. They don’t seal. Still once you get that they will sit shallow then I hadn’t any issues, happy to wear for hours even with that big heap of bass.
Aesthetics: Hmm. Yeah they come only in one colour. In picks I saw one that they looked silver in and that looked nice but this “Gold” I well, I am not a fan. They aren’t ugly or anything but that pale gold colour just isn’t doing it for me, at all.
Microphonics: Wearing up not much. Wearing down I did a bit, there is a chin slider to help but hmm, yeah just wear them up. Down it irked me.
Phone Use: They worked well. I mostly used with the P8 as though I didn’t see Huawei state that it would charge from it like the Whisper said it would but…… the little red charging light on the noise cancelling thingy did light up red. Soooo that should mean it was charging. They do state that charging should work on the Mate 8 / Mate S / Mate 7 / Honor 7 / Honor 6 Plus but then they also state that the volume controls only work on the Mate 8 / Mate S / P8. Which seems oddly inconsistent. Calls and the play pause and volume controls all worked fine. I was told I could be heard well even wearing up so the mic was a little high. Good stuff.
Isolation: Practically none.
Noise Cancelling: Ah in exchange for them being so open but to still be usable in the world they have Active Noise Cancelling or ANC for short. I’m not a massive fan of ANC tech because it’s not perfect, you see it works by creating a perfectly out of phase wave form to destructively interact with the external sound waves. It’s great at cancelling out constant sounds, like the computer fan noise or a droning jet engine. That stuff, it does great. The thing is other sounds, like the randomly generated sounds from people and traffic, not so well. So while on a bus it does great with the constant road noise but the passages, not to mention sound leakage it just isn’t so good at. Now if you can’t stand wearing things that seal then this is a lot better than nothing. Particularly if on a long flight, them being so open makes them very easy on the ear. So they do have a use case and they do gain by being open but swings and roundabouts. You gain something somewhere you lose something else elsewhere.
Amped/Unamped: They are really easy to drive but they did improve with a big amp in the mix. They rather liked the E7/E9 combo. Something I did notice was that they increased in volume when you turned on the ANC. Still they are clearly intended to be run off a phone and they did so fine but they can be improve with more power.
Cable: Nice. It’s a bit stiff but the rubberyish texture felt good in the hand. All seemed nicely sturdy too and colour aside I have no complaints. It’s nice that the Y splitter and the ANC / battery bits all in one though, it feels a very natural place for it.
Build Quality: Very nice: everything felt good, firmly solid and jack, Y splitter and buds were all metal. Really very nice.
Accessories: You don’t get that much, 3 pairs of tips, a USB to 3.5mm charging thingy and a pleasant grey pouch. The pouch I had mixed feelings about, while it was attractive I’m not sure it was the most practical thing ever and a little hard case would have been preferable, pretty though.
Value: Very nice. Shocking, a product coming out from China is a good value, you don’t say! While I still have mixed thoughts on ANC and them being so open, they give you a really rather great audio quality, a big nice bassy signature that pulls of an open feel with good detail extraction. The build is really nice and then you get ANC which some people love. A hard case would have been nicer but for your money it’s a very nice bundle.
Conclusion: Ahh well this may be the second Huawei earphone I’ve played with but this a huge leap up over on the what the AM err something was. These aren’t prefect, the ANC tech is what it is and thus while in their advertising they have a chap on a plane with the tag, “Enjoy the silcent time” and while ANC is most suited to flights, yeah, most of my earphone use isn’t on planes. Now you get some really nice audio quality with their openness, so for indoors, at my desk, fine. However on a bus, in the office with others nearby, well, sadly but no. These are open and you get lots of acoustic benefits from doing that but they leak sound. So there are environments where I just wouldn’t feel comfortable using them. It’s that swings and roundabouts thing again.
Isolation aside, they are really nice. I’m really pleased with their audio quality and their acoustic balance, they can do thumping bass lines then follow it up with some Norah and not skip a beat. Easily and effortlessly it can do both and that’s not a trifling feat for something in this price bracket. This is what you gain by sacrificing isolation, audio quality that is very, very nice for the pricing point.
So would I / should you buy one? I think it depends most on where you want to use them. For at home, on your own, great stuff. For on a flight, super. For on a bus commute with people all around you? Na, sorry, not so much. Of course if you can’t wear normal ear sealing IEM’s then they would be far better than nothing with their ANC but be aware it’s a tech that isn’t perfect. They are really otherwise pleasing in their audio quality. That driver has a glorious low end capability and the BA in there can do some fantastic mids and highs for the money. So while the AM185 isn’t perfect given that it only the second earphone I’ve seen come out of Huawei, it really is a company to watch and I think if this keeps up they will be as threatening to mainstream makers as they are becoming in the mobile phone market. A really excellent second offering here from Huawei.