Details: First armature-based earphone from MEElec
MSRP: $74.99 (manufacturer’s page) / $79.99 for A151P with mic & 1-button remote (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $45 from amazon.com for A151; $50 for A151P
Specs: Driver: BA | Imp: 27Ω | Sens: 111 dB | Freq: 15-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 3mm | Preferred tips: Stock bi-flange, stock tri-flange, Sony Hybrids
Wear Style: Over-the-ear or straight down
Accessories (4/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes), bi-flange, and tri-flange silicone tips and zippered clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – The housings are plastic but seem quite sturdy. A short sleeve protects the braided cable, which is by far the best thing about the earphones. The cord soft, flexible, and very light – a pleasure to use while out and about. The straight plug is quite generic but has adequate strain relief
Isolation (3.5/5) – The nozzles are thinner than those of the other Meelec earphones and despite the bulbous housings, the A151 can be inserted pretty deeply. Isolation is very impressive with the bi- and tri-flange tips
Microphonics (5/5) – The flexible braided cable carries very little noise when worn cord-down and none with over-the-ear wear
Comfort (4.5/5) – Though the A151 was designed for comfortable over-the-ear wear, it can be worn cable-down as well. Either way the nozzles are angled and of adequate length and the housings are rounded at the front for comfortable insertion. The light and unobtrusive cables helps make the A151 a pleasure to wear
Sound (7.4/10) – The mid-range IEM market has undergone some drastic changes in the past year and half, not the least of which has been the rapid influx of high-performance dynamic-driver earphones. Back when the <150 segment was dominated by the likes of the Westone UM1, Shure E3, UE SuperFi 3, and Ety ER6, single-armature was the de-facto standard in the price range. Despite the relatively high cost and some inherent limitations of single-armature designs, there is still much to like about such setups. Armature-based earphones are rarely lacking in control or clarity and have some practical advantages, such as the ability to function in a fully sealed chamber. All this can be said about the new A151 from MEElectronics, a single-armature design priced to compete with the likes of the Soundmagic PL50, Westone 1, and Ultimate Ears SuperFi 5.
Starting at the low end, the A151 immediately takes on typical armature characteristics – speed, control, and clarity to match the best earphones in the price bracket. Bass impact is just ahead of the Head-Direct RE0 and on-par with the Sunrise Xcape. Bass depth and extension aren’t competitive with bass-heavy dynamics like the Eterna, Nuforce NE-700X, or MEElec’s own CC51 but control and texture are very impressive. As with most single armatures, the driver struggles to remain detailed at the limit of its sub-bass response but, as with the pricier Westone 1, there is a bit of added mid-bass punch compared to the Soundmagic PL50 or UE SuperFi 5. The slight bit of added punch makes the A151 somewhat warm for an armature and there is a slight lower-midrange bias. Despite this, the A151 sounds very accurate and carries good detail and texture through both the bass and the midrange. The mids are fairly well-balanced – not too forward, but definitely not recessed. Clarity is similar to the Head-Direct earphones but the A151 lacks the brightness of the HiFiMan RE0 and RE-ZERO. It is also a touch less crisp, producing smoother but slightly less transparent notes.
The treble transition is smooth and neither harshness nor sibilance is present. The treble is clean, clear, laid-back, and low on sparkle. The detail is there but it presented in a very non-fatiguing way. Compared to the brighter RE-ZERO, the darker A151 is less airy but also less fatiguing. Treble extension is mediocre and treble emphasis is no match for higher-end balanced armature-based sets such as the Ety HF3. On the whole, the A151 is rather soft-spoken for an armature-based earphone. The soundstage is similar in size to the Sunrise Xcape and Head-Direct RE-ZERO – not large but well-rounded and coherent. Instrumental separation and positioning are similarly good without being unnaturally exaggerated. Looking at the entire hierarchy of BA-based IEMs, the A151 reminds me most of the Klipsch Custom 3 – both have that slightly thick, dry, and full-bodied sound with an aversion to brightness and listening fatigue and a well-balanced presentation.
Value (9/10) – MEElec’s first armature-based earphone, the A151 may not break any new sonic ground with its dry and accurate sound signature, but it delivers a very wholesome package of sound quality and functionality at a very reasonable price. The cable may just be the best I’ve seen on a sub-$100 earphone and the isolation, microphonics, and comfort all make the A151 a direct competitor of the much-pricier but similarly well-designed Westone 1. Fans of bassy, trebly, v-shaped, or mid-forward sound signatures would probably want to pick something else as the A151 is none of those things but if accuracy and low listening fatigue are priorities, the A151 competes with some of the better earphones in its price range.
Pros: High isolation, very comfortable with the right tips, excellent cable, solid sonic characteristics