Details: Entry-level model from Meelec’s new ‘clarity’ series of IEMs
Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $39.99; $44.99 for CX21P with mic)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: 101 dB | Freq: 15-20k Hz | Cable: 4.4’ 45°-plug
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges, Stock bi-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (4/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes), bi-flange, and triple-flange silicone tips, shirt clip, and zippered carrying case
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The housings of the CX21 are made completely out of plastic and feel a bit cheap next to the older M-series models. The cable is quite nice and completely identical to the one used on the higher-end CW31, down to the low-profile 45°-plug
Isolation (3/5) – Isolation is good with an over-the-ear fit and longer tips
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Nearly absent with over-the-ear wear, low otherwise
Comfort (4/5) – The angled housings of the CX21 resemble old Shure models (of the E3/E4 generation) and fit similarly. With an over-the-ear fit and longer tips the housings actually clear my ears completely and remain comfortable for hours
Sound (6.6/10) – While the consumer-oriented ‘M’-series of Meelec’s lineup is moving closer and closer to basshead heaven with the latest releases, the CX21 represents a move in a different direction. As a part of the new clarity series, the CX21 pursues a brighter, more balanced sound, competing with the likes of the Maximo iM-590 and Brainwavz M1. The CX21 has less bass than any of Meelec’s other dynamics but still narrowly beats the armature-based A151 in impact and depth and delivers more punch than the similarly-priced Brainwavz M1. When it comes to texture and detail the Brainwavz, unburdened by the need to deliver sizeable impact, still win out but the CX21 doesn’t lag far behind.
Expectedly, there is no midrange bleed, which allows the CX21 to stay true to its name and provide impressive clarity across the range. The mids are in good balance with the bass – neither as forward as those of the Brainwavz M1 nor as recessed as those of the Meelec M9 or M6 – and can be characterized as crisp and detailed. The CX21 does sound thinner in the mids than the Brainwavz M1, sacrificing the lush smoothness of the Brainwavz mids for a dryer sound with slightly more upper midrange emphasis. Despite this, the treble of the CX21 is neither harsh nor sibilant unless the track calls for it. It lacks the sparkle of the Maximo iM-590 and the softness of the Brainwavz M1, appearing a bit hard-edged and, at times, lacking fine detail. Top-end extension is good for the asking price – about on-par with the Brainwavz M1 and lagging just a tad behind the iM-590.
In terms of presentation, the CX21 is merely competent – the average-sized soundstage has plenty of air and good separation and positioning, partly due to the excellent clarity, but it doesn’t portray distance as well as the higher-end A151. The timbre is a touch less natural than that of the higher-end CW31 and the Brainwavz M1/M2 and the dynamic range is also a bit poorer than that of the Brainwavz earphones. Tonally, the CX21 is quite neutral, sounding more like the RE-ZERO or Etymotic MC5 than the brighter Maximo iM-590 or darker Meelec A151. Such neutrality is rare among budget IEMs, which makes the CX21 arguably more unique in sound signature than the higher-end CW31 and puts it in good company with sets such as the Apple Dual-Driver in-ears and ECCI PR200.
Value (8/10) – The CX21 is Meelec’s first attempt at a neutral sound signature and, for the money, it hits the nail square on the head. With a slight bit of added bass kick and good presence throughout, the CX21 accompanies the pricier CW31 in filling out the middle third of Meelec’s model range and competes well with the other entry-level all-rounders. The angled housings make the CX21 comfortable for over-the-ear use and microphonics are impressively low, making up for the plasticky construction of the earphones. Those looking for warmth or powerful bass will vastly favor the CW31 (or one of the M-series models) but I quite like the slightly analytical tilt of the lower-end earphone.
Pros: Low microphonics, comfortable, balanced and neutral sound
Cons: Least impressive build quality of all Meelec products