Reviewed Feb 2011
Details: Ceramic-shelled flagship of Meelec’s ‘clarity’ series
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $79.99); $90 for CC51P with microphone
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16 Ω | Sens: 98 dB | Freq: 18-20k Hz | Cable: 4.3’ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 6mm | Preferred tips: Stock single flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (4/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes) and bi-flange silicone tips, shirt clip, and hard clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The CC51 uses ceramic housings – a first for an earphone readily available in the US (Nakamichi’s ceramics have been available overseas for quite some time). Slightly resembling those of Apple’s dual-driver monitors, the shells of the CC51 are slim and ergonomic. The 6mm driver sits right in the nozzle (as with the JVC and Hippo microdriver earphones) and is protected by a fine mesh filter. Very mild driver flex is present on occasion. The shells have a nice weight to them and the cable is protected by a short strain relief (which has hard-to-see L/R markings stamped into it). The cable is different from the other Meelec earphones and more similar to the one found on the HT-21 headphone. It’s supple and tangle-resistant but thinner than the usual clear-coated Meelec cords. An L-plug completes the picture. Warning: the earphones ship with a shirt clip already on the cord. Extreme care should be taken when it is removed as its sharp edges can shear the cord quite badly
Isolation (3.5/5) – The housings are vented on the side but allow for relatively deep insertion and isolation is quite good overall
Microphonics (4/5) – Decent when worn cable-down but the curved shells are less than ideal for over-the-ear wear so microphonics aren’t as easy to eliminate completely as I would like
Comfort (4/5) – The slim, angled shells are very ergonomic and quite unobtrusive. The 6mm drivers of the earphones do need to be inside the ear canal for the CC51 to sound their best so those with extremely narrow canals may want to give these a pass but for everyone else they should be quite comfortable
Sound (7.7/10) – The CC51 is the pinnacle of Meelec’s new ‘clarity’ series and – judging by the MSRP – of the company’s entire model range. From the get-go the earphones exhibit the type of smooth and well-balanced sound that I found so easy to like with the Xears TD100. The bass is tight but impactful, boasting good depth and speed along with realistic attack and decay times. Impact quantity and bass body beat out the lower-end CW31 but fall a tad behind the ECCI PR401 and Xears TD-III, allowing the CC51 to maintain impressive resolution at the low end without being labeled lean or anemic.
The midrange is warm and very smooth. Like the Xears TD100 and TD-III, the CC51 has a slight thickness of note and generally sounds lush and full-bodied. Though the signature of the earphones may make it seem like the CC51 is a misuse of the ‘clarity’ label on Meelec’s part, the natural clarity of the tiny dynamic drivers is surprisingly good, as it has been with all of the microdriver earphones I’ve tried. Whereas the thickness of the TD100 put its clarity just below competitors from Brainwavz and Hippo, the CC51, despite similar note thickness, ranks just above them. It is also slightly clearer than the entry-level CX21 without sounding nearly as lean – an impressive feat considering that clarity is the CX21’s main focus. Detail and texture are good as well – for a warm-and-smooth earphone the CC51 is quite crisp and resolving. Harshness and sibilance are absent from the upper midrange and lower treble, though with a couple of tracks I felt that they could be pushed over the line at very high volumes. Again reminding me of the Xears TD100, the CC51 is very slightly laid-back at the top – not enough for it to be called recessed or for the overall tone to become dark but enough that the earphone derives no artificial clarity or airiness from the top end.
The presentation of the CC51 is slightly on the intimate side but very enveloping and coherent. Soundstage width and depth are about average but the CC51 can also portray a bit height – something most earphones struggle with. Layering and imaging are not pinpoint-accurate but still quite precise for a mid-range earphone. Instrumental separation is also good and the CC51 never sounds congested. There’s a slight lack of air and openness in the upper registers due to the laid-back nature of the treble but this is only noticeable next to something like the RE-ZERO – on its own the CC51 does not sound stuffy in the least. The timbre and dynamics of the earphones are also worth mentioning as both are above-average for models in the price range and remind me of the Brainwavz M3 or even Panasonic HJE900s. Overall, I feel that the sound signature of theCC51 is a little better than the sum of its parts, being a clear and yet strangely musical experience. As always, I cannot attribute the timbre, dynamics, clarity, or any other aspect of the signature to the ceramic housings (not unless I had an identical earphone made out of plastic to use as a control) but it just so happens that the CC51 is a solid all-around performer regardless.
Value (9/10) – Over the past three years, we have watched the transformation of Meelectronics from a small electronics supplier with a single decent $20 earphone to one of Head-Fi’s favourite budget IEM manufacturers. The company’s new ceramic flagship, priced to compete directly with some very serious mid-fi performers from companies such as HiFiMan, ViSang, and ECCI, aims higher still. Happily, the 6mm microdrivers used in the CC51 are impressive in their own right, offering plenty of clarity and resolution on top of a smooth, warm, and well-balanced sound signature. The ceramic housings are pleasant to touch, sturdy, and quite comfortable, though perhaps not for those with extremely narrow ear canals, and the earphones are generally quite user-friendly. Those who can live with their few minor quirks are sure to be impressed.
Pros: Impactful bass, good natural clarity, smooth & balanced sound signature
Cons: Very mild driver flex; not for those with very narrow ear canals; removing shirt clip may be hazardous to the cable; L/R markings can be hard to see under low light