Thursday, March 19, 2015

MEElectronics M6 PRO: For the Professional

Intro


TL;DRAn upgrade to the Sport-Fi M6 marketed towards professional musicians, the M6 PRO is a remarkably solid package on the surface, but its fiddly fit and piercing treble will turn away quite a few people.

Before I begin, I would like to sincerely thank Mike at MEE Audio for giving me the opportunity to review their recently-released M6 Pro. I would like to stress that I am neither affiliated with MEE Audio, nor am I being paid to write this review. All opinions expressed in the review are strictly my own unless otherwise specified, and as such must be taken with a grain of salt. All photos in the review are taken and owned by me.

So, not too long ago, MEE Audio revealed a handful of brand-new products, amongst them the Air-Fi Touch and Rumble, the Pinnacle P1 (which is still yet to be released later this spring), the 2nd generation of the A151, and the M6 Pro (stylized as M6 PRO). Now, I was given the opportunity to review the latter two products, and this week we’ll be taking a look at the M6 PRO first. As the name suggests, it’s a version of the original Sport-Fi M6, re-tuned and marketed for the professional musician. So, are they worth their weight, or will they be another one to bite the dust? Read on and find out.





~~ Aesthetics ~~

Packaging, Accessories

The M6 PRO arrives in a solid cardboard box adorned in white, black, and gold. A picture of the M6 PRO is printed out on the front, specifications on the left side, features on the back, and an accessories list on the right, situated under a small window showing the M6 PRO set in a foam cut-out. Opening the box (which is actually done from the bottom – I learned this the hard way), you see a tab which, after pulling it out, reveals the inner box housing the foam cut-out and the accessories.

The accessories are laid out very smartly throughout the package, I have to say; the 7 pairs of eartips (one of which is a pair of Comply T-200) are housed in a small section of the box beside the foam cut-out, while the two detachable cables (using a proprietary 2mm input) are contained in yet another box inside the M6 PRO’s gargantuan case. (If you don’t really get what I mean, you can check out the gallery with detailed unboxing images here.) This may not be an accessory, but the M6 PRO also comes with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty and a lifetime replacement policy. What’s this policy, you ask? I’ll just let the manual explain:


The M6 PRO's carrying case can hold a surprisingly large
amount of stuff.
Things don’t always go according to plan in the real world. Whether your headphones get crushed, shredded, fried, or carried off by army ants, we’ve got you covered. Just tell us what happened and we’ll give you a new pair at half price, no questions asked (Note: we reserve the right to ask for more of a great story).

To summarize, the M6 PRO’s replacement policy is pretty amazing and something I have yet to see in another company. Couple that with the M6 PRO’s impressive accessories package and MEE Audio’ generally excellent customer service, and you have an initial package that will blow lots of competitors straight out of the water.


Design, Build, Microphonics



As I examined the M6 in detail, I noticed many of its key build aspects were designed to minimize cable noise and secure the fit as much as possible. From the around-the-ear wear style, to the memory wire ear loops, right down to the shirt clip on each of the cables, you can tell they were aiming for exactly that. And, well, I could say they succeeded there because I get practically zero cable noise on the M6 PRO, even in scenarios where the cable gets shaken up a lot (say, running). Looks-wise I can’t really say much about the M6 PRO, although to be honest they look really cool with their clear plastic housings which allow you to see their inner workings. (Why aren’t there any clear headphones, though?)

Being marketed as an IEM designed for musicians and stage performers, MEE Audio made sure the M6 PRO is an IEM that was built to withstand the knocks of the performer on the road and more. And, well, I’m happy to report that they succeeded there as well with the M6’s rigid housings, strong (albeit rather stiff) cable and overall excellent build quality. I find nothing at fault here and am very impressed with the results.


Fit, Comfort, Isolation


Out of all of these eartips, only 2 of them fit me correctly.
From the multiple impressions I’ve already seen from the M6 PRO discussion thread, I found many people have pretty serious fit issues due to the M6 PRO’s pretty large housings and shallow insertion depth. Most accounts say they’ve tried every eartip included with the M6 PRO and still not get a decent fit; that I can agree on, since the M6 PRO’s form factor is very fiddly and can take a lot of getting used to for the uninitiated (no, it’s not as easy as you make it look like it is, MEE). Eventually I settled on the large single-flange eartips, which were the only ones that fit me okay. Even then, the eartips were flimsier than I’d like and had me worried about breaking the seal; luckily, with the memory wire earloops, that wasn’t the case, so I guess the M6 PRO has that going for them.

Once I got the right fit, though, I found the M6 PRO was also pretty comfortable. Their very light weight allowed them to practically hang from the earloops, exerting no pressure on the concha at all. Their shallow insertion depth also helped a lot with comfort; however, this doesn’t do any good favours for the isolation, which is decent at best on the M6 PRO.


(NOTE: Yes, the M6 PRO does include a remote cable with a microphone, but as I lack experience in that field, I guess I’ll just leave it to the more veteran reviewers on Head-Fi.)

~~ Sound ~~

Specs

Headphone Type
Closed-back in-ear monitor (around-the-ear only)
Driver Type
1x 10mm dynamic
Frequency Response
20 – 20,000 Hz
Max. Input Power
N/A
Sensitivity
100 ± 3 dB (1mW @ 1,000 Hz)
Impedance
16 Ω @ 1,000 Hz
Weight
N/A
Cable
2x 1.3m (4.25’) round removable cable w/ stainless steel memory wire
(1x with remote, 1x without)
Connector
3.5mm (1/8”) gold-plated right-angle connector
(both cables)
Accessories
Carrying case
3x sets clear single-flange silicone eartips (S/M/L)
1x set clear double-flange silicone eartips (M)
1x set clear stubby triple-flange silicone eartips (M)
1x set clear triple-flange silicone eartips (M)
1x set black Comply T-200 premium foam eartips (M)
1x 3.5mm (1’8”) to 6.3mm (1/4”) gold-plated adapter
2x shirt clips
Manufacturer’s warranty (12 months)


Equipment, Burn-in


The MEE Audio M6 PRO was burned in for at least 50 hours prior to the writing of this review, using music, games, movies, and whatever audio data that runs out of them. Over this burn-in period, the M6 PRO really settled down to a much smoother, more enjoyable sound signature. MEE Audio does advise burning-in the M6 PRO for best results, so if you’re going to buy one, it’s best you do that as well.

All my music listening is done on my PC and 5th-generation iPod Touch; media and games usage are spread out across a host of other devices. For the EQ test, I used Electri-Q on the PC via foobar2000 and the EQu app on the iPod. As always, my list of test tracks can be viewed here for reference, although I will mention a few songs in the review for a more specific point of reference. If a link is available, I’ll also link it below. The eartips used on the M6 PRO during the review are the large stock single-flange eartips.

Now, let’s get to it!


Sound Quality



To be honest, I never expected to be blown away with the M6 PROs – my first impressions of them certainly didn’t do that. However, listening in further, I found them much more enjoyable to listen to than I’d first assumed. Let’s take a look.

Bass:
The M6 PRO’s bass is elevated and emphasized – those two bits go without saying. Great extension in the deep end and ample punch make for an IEM the more bass-inclined listeners might like. However, they do sound exceptionally thin in the upper bass region where the bass meets the midrange. This, in most cases, isn’t a problem per se, but when you factor in the midrange…well, I’ll explain in the next section.


Midrange:
The midrange, for me, is a bit of a mixed bag. The midrange is exceptionally clear and has good detail retrieval, but is recessed relative to the rest of the signature, which really draws me away from the M6’s overall sound. A lot of instruments and vocals sound notably distant and pushed back compared to the bass (Link), which sounds pretty up-front in comparison. Intimate instrumental recordings on the M6 PRO push you all the way back to row J instead of row A (Link). And with the thinness in the upper bass that I stated earlier, they combine to become a rather offensive-sounding mix to me. Now, don’t take my word for it; that’s just my opinion, and other listeners will probably call it perfectly fine, but to me, it’s a definite no.


Treble:
The treble is even worse than the midrange. It's bright, it's harsh, and it's edgy. It's a wild animal, clawing and scratching at you with its sharp metaphorical teeth in practically every genre of music I've tested them on. And trust me, I've tested them out on a lot of genres. On the other hand, they do have excellent detail retrieval and extension, which gives the overall sound a more analytical tone than I thought.


Soundstage/Presentation:
I didn’t find the M6 PRO’s soundstage to be lacking in any way – it has good width and layering, and is overall pretty average in every aspect. However, the overall presentation for me is a bit of an issue since the midrange sounds a little too distant for my liking. Otherwise there’s nothing to complain about here.


Summary:
Disregarding its recessed midrange and harsh-out-of-the-box treble, the M6 PRO actually fits its marketing moniker pretty well. It offers stunning clarity and detail for a $50 IEM – much better than many of the other great IEMs I’ve tried at this price. Overall, I’m impressed with the M6 PRO’s performance so far.


Other Media


Games:
I’ll be honest, the M6 PRO works surprisingly well for gaming. Disregard the recessed midrange and harsh treble; the M6 PRO is a beast on the virtual battleground with its terrific clarity, great positional accuracy, and solid overall performance that just works. Top that with its rugged build and you have an IEM that’s built for the pro gamer on the road – or just a regular guy that tosses his IEMs into bags.


Movies:
Movie performance on the M6 PRO is another bit of a low point. Its bass punch is great, sure, but the recessed midrange makes voices get lost in translation (kinda like the Interstellar audio mix in the cinema, but not as bad). I wouldn’t recommend using these for your private cinema, unless you’re into the crappy Interstellar audio mix kinda thing.


EQ Response


I found the M6 PRO to be pretty unresponsive to EQ, requiring more precise tweaks beyond the control of a regular 10-band EQ. I reduced the bass and treble a bit to bring out the midrange that I love so much (like so). It worked, as planned, but for some reason, they don’t really sound that much better than their original tuning. The midrange came forward a bit, but it neither sounded better nor worse. It just…did.


Value


The M6 PRO retails at a cool $50 dollars, which throws them into the pretty crowded budget category. It’s nothing to worry about for them, though, as they will definitely stand out from the crowd with their heavy-duty build, solid accessories pack, and great all-around performance. For $50 you can’t go wrong with the M6 PRO.


Comparison


Versus MEE Audio M9 Classic ($10):
Yep, I know what you’re thinking. “$10 against $50? That’s crazy!” And, to be honest, it kind of is. But if you’ve read any of my ultra-budget IEM reviews, you’ll know some of them sound very, very good. Like this M9 Classic, which sounds about 80% identical to the M6 PRO. Yep, you read that right – they sound pretty darn similar when I compared them. The only differences between the two are than the M6 sounds much more mature and refined, with better clarity, tighter bass, and a slightly smoother treble. Everything else is pretty much the same, so to put it simply, the M6 PRO is a direct upgrade to the M9 Classic in every conceivable way.



~~ Conclusion ~~



“Is the MEE Audio M6 PRO a true musician’s IEM?” I kept asking myself that during the early stages of the review while they were burning-in. Out of the box, I would definitely say “no” to that question, but after spending a lot of time with this IEM, my answer to my question is a resounding “yes.” The M6 PRO is a very well-rounded package perfect for the on-tour stage performer or musician, with a crystal-clear sound signature that’s designed exactly for that purpose. Not the musician type? Not to worry – the M6 PRO’s stunning clarity also works well for the professional (or non-professional) gamer. For my ears (and quite a few others), I found the treble to be more than a nuisance for regular listening, but if treble detail is what you're looking for, I can't think of anything else to recommend.


Category
Score
Comment
Packaging, Accessories
8/10
The box is nothing too fancy, although it certainly has the look of a sophisticated product. The accessories are some of the best packages I’ve seen at $50.
Design, Build, Microphonics
8/10
Don’t let the all-plastic build fool you; the M6 PRO is built to last. Top that with their solid, non-microphonic cables and you’ve got one hell of an IEM package.
Fit, Comfort, Isolation
5/10
The M6 PRO has a very fiddly fit, and you're gonna have to look beyond the included eartips to get a good seal. Once you do, they sit in very securely.
Microphone
N/A

Bass
7.5/10
Tight, punchy, and with a satisfying amount of kick, the M6 PRO’s bass aims to please.
Midrange
7/10
The midrange on the M6 PRO is exceptionally clear, but is thin-sounding and recessed.
Treble
4/10
Bright, edgey, and incredibly harsh, the treble renders the M6 PRO almost unlistenable.
Presentation
7/10
The M6 PRO’s soundstage is pretty average across the board, although the distant midrange is bothering me more than I’d like.
Gaming, Movies
8/10
For gaming, the M6 PRO blows all of my other IEMs out of the water in terms of raw competitive edge. Movies, though, not so much.
EQ Response
7/10
The M6 PRO is pretty resilient to EQ and requires more than just a 10-band EQ to tweak it properly, but even then, they don’t sound much better than how they already are.
Value
7/10
For $50 you can’t really go wrong with the M6 PRO.
Total
6.8/10
A solid build, generous accessory set, and great sound all come together to form one of the best IEM packages in the $50 range. That is, if you don't mind the treble.



Shout-Outs, Gallery

First of all, a HUGE thank-you to Mike and the folks over at MEE Audio for giving me the opportunity to write this review, and also for the patience as I took far too long to write this review. I’m gonna work hard to get the next IEM to (hopefully) make the deadline this time! As always, the rest of the images taken can be viewed here, with captions and descriptions and stuff. A discussion thread on Head-Fi for the M6 PRO can be viewed here, so if you’re a fellow Head-Fi’er, jump in and join the discussions!

This has been thatBeatsguy of DB Headphones; thanks for reading, and see you in the next one!


About MEE Audio

“MEE Audio is home to a group of audio gear enthusiasts who enjoy hearing our music at its absolute best. We believe that high quality headphones don’t have to be expensive and that a great listening experience should be available to everyone at an accessible price. We want to spread our appreciation for music by building quality headphones in hopes that they will let music inspire everyone as it inspires us.

Since 2005 we have been committed to pursuing the ultimate listening experience, winning acclaim from casual listeners and audiophiles around the world. Our expertise and manufacturing capability allow us to develop and market headphones for serious audiophiles and casual consumers, men and women, young and old. We strive to bring our customers exceptional performance at affordable prices through cost-effective marketing and well-managed distribution channels, all accompanied by an unsurpassed customer experience.
Headphones are our passion, and every day we work to provide Music Enjoyment for Everyone.”

Link to site: http://www.meelec.com/

Changelog


4 comments:

  1. Hey man, great review. I was just wondering if you could give more in depth comparisons between this (M6 Pro) and the A151P's (my current IEM). Whilst I love my A151P's for their clarity, speed, texture and isolation (them tri flanges OP), I would also like to have a dynamic IEM for when I want something with more bass punch and an easier laid back listening experience (non fatiguing). Would you recommend the M6 Pros for this purpose as well as general listening duties (say, while commuting, at school, etc). Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that, if you'd actually read my review, you'd probably notice my comments on their treble: "Bright, edgey, and incredibly harsh". I don't think you would need a direct comparison from me to answer your question.

      In short: No, definitely not. You come to the M6 Pro because you want MORE treble.

      Delete
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