Monday, June 15, 2015

MEE Audio Sport-Fi X7: Gotta Go Fast!

Intro


TL;DR: MEE Audio's (as of this writing) flagship Bluetooth IEM offers an impressive sound quality at its price, but fails in the end due to major connectivity issues.

Before I begin, I would just like to thank Mike at MEE Audio (yep, not MEElectronics anymore) for providing the review sample of the Sport-Fi X7 in this review. Please note that I am neither affiliated with MEE or any of its staff, nor am I being compensated for this review (other than being given the opportunity to keep the review sample). Everything in the following review is strictly my own honest opinion unless otherwise stated, and all pictures are taken and own by me. Also, please take everything stated in the review with a grain of salt. Thanks!

Having had a wonderful impression of the current state of Bluetooth-powered sound with the Brainwavz BLU-100, I felt it was time to take a look at something a bit higher-end. Fast-forward about a couple weeks later, and here I am with the Sport-Fi X7. Will these $80 Bluetooth IEMs catch up to the competition, or will they get left biting the dust? Read on and find out!



== Aesthetics ==

Packaging, Accessories

The Sport-Fi X7 arrives in a nice sleek box reminiscent of a few of Brainwavz’ IEMs (especially the S series). It’s got your general name and picture of the X7s, a list of accessories and specifications on the left and right sides respectively, and some written features on the back. Uncover the front flap, and inside you’ll see a window to the X7s in all its glory.

Inside the box you get the X7s, a detailed instruction manual, two extra sets of eartips, a hard carry case, and a male-to-male, USB to Micro USB charging cable. Overall, it’s not much, but it does have all the essentials you need to get started. So no complaints from me.


Design, Build, Microphonics

The X7s are, in my opinion, probably one of the best-looking Bluetooth earphones I’ve seen yet. With its sharp, streamlined design, they come out on top of quite a lot of Bluetooth earphones looks-wise – including its predecessor, the X6.

However, don’t expect them to only deliver here – MEE’s made sure to not skimp on any details in designing these earphones. First off, you’ve got a nifty LED on the right earpiece, which helps out a lot when you’re setting up the device (though the setup time takes less than a minute, the little detail here is nice to have nonetheless). Next up, you’ve also got a “hidden microphone” which is basically the X7’s microphone being situated again in the right earpiece, in contrast to having the microphone being placed somewhere on the remote like most Bluetooth earphones have. Since the microphone is on the earpieces themselves, they don’t make any contact with shirts (eliminating rubbing noises) and have a consistent position, providing similarly consistent sound quality (we’ll cover this later).

Speaking of details, let’s talk about their build quality now. Let me just say this – the X7’s build is phenomenal. With extremely solid IPX4-rated sweat-resistant plastic housings, a thick but supple cable, and ample amount of strain reliefs pretty much everywhere, you can rest assured the X7s will keep running with you come hell or high water (okay, maybe not high water). But whatever the case, their build is top-notch. As for microphonics, that’s all but dulled down to nothingness thanks to the X7’s excellent fit, which we’ll go over in the next section.



Fit, Comfort, Isolation

Being a sport-oriented earphone, MEE made sure to incorporate a multitude of features to ensure a completely secure fit and maximum comfort. First off, you’ve got the ergonomic housings which fit snugly in the concha. You’ve also got the flexible memory wire that you adjust around your ears. And to top it off, you’ve also got a cable cinch which you adjust to keep cable slack at bay. So, in short, fit and comfort is just about perfect for me. As for isolation, it should do well enough to keep you focused on your music, away from everyday suburban traffic and your fellow gym rats.


Specs


Headphone Type
Closed-back Bluetooth in-ear monitor
Driver Type
6 mm dynamic
Operating Range
Up to 30 feet (10 meters)
Battery Life
4 hours talk/music playback time
180 hours standby time
Bluetooth Features
Bluetooth 4.0 with SBC, AAC, and AptX support
Supports A2DP, HSP, HFP, and AVRCP Bluetooth profiles
Voice/LED prompts
Accessories
3x sets grey silicone single-flange eartips
Micro USB charging cable
Hard carry case
User manual
1 year manufacturer’s warranty

The X7’s listed specs are pretty great, and what you would expect from an $80 current-gen Bluetooth IEM. It’s got just about all the bells and whistles one would be looking for in a Bluetooth IEM, with Bluetooth 4.0, AptX support, voice prompts being just a few of those. And the best part? It works. Because that’s what really matters.


Connectivity

Setting up the X7 should be pretty easy if you've already set up a Bluetooth audio device before. The initial pairing process only takes a few seconds, and connects to my iPod and iPad almost instantaneously. They reach their advertised operating range just fine, but results may vary as the full 10 meter range is only reached in an open space with a direct line of sight to the source device.

I've heard reports from some users of an intermittent or overall really choppy signal on the X7 even at close range. And personally, this also happens on my iPad 3, even with WiFi off. Oftentimes drop-outs on Bluetooth devices are caused by Bluetooth, cellular, or WiFi signals nearby, and that jams up your own Bluetooth signal, causing the aforementioned choppy signal or outright drop-outs. If one turns on cellular and/or WiFi signals, it’s going to be even worse than it already is without them, so I’m honestly pretty disappointed. Not even the Brainwavz BLU-100 was this sensitive. (On the flipside, this never happened on my iPod Touch, so there's that.)


== Sound ==

Equipment, Burn-in

The source equipment I used for this review is my iPad 3 and a 5th-generation iPod Touch. As the X7 is a Bluetooth IEM, there are no amps or DACs in between. The eartips being used in this review are the included stock medium-size silicone eartips. The EQ software being used is TuneShell (a free app) running on the iPad 3. As always, my test tracks are available here, although I will link specific songs in the assessment for a more direct point of reference.

The X7 has been given at least 50 hours of burn-in prior to writing this review. So far, I haven’t noticed any differences in the sound, so without wasting any more time, let’s get right to it!


Sound Quality


Bass:
I'll be honest, I was quite impressed with the X7's bass performance. It's got more than enough punch to satisfy the average consumer, but is surprisingly tight and articulate enough for one to discern individual notes on an electric bass (Daft Punk – Lose Yourself to Dance). It's also got a nice amount of extension – perfect for rap or other electronic genres where oftentimes the bassline goes down deeper than most incapable headphones and earphones can reproduce properly.


Midrange:
The X7's midrange is no slouch, either, which is also very surprising. It's got a lot of clarity and isn't excessively warm or thick. In fact, they actually sound quite thin – a trending characteristic amongst MEE Audio's more consumer-oriented products. But even then, they’re still very clear and are definitely audiophile-grade. Vocals are actually quite forward, contrary to my expectations, and they have a rather sweet tone to them.


Treble:
The X7’s treble really completes the sound signature off with its light, crispy response. It’s lively and a bit bright, but isn’t sibilant at all, which is a huge plus. It really gives instruments the snap that I look for in an IEM’s treble response, and MEE did that in just about the best way possible.


Soundstage/Presentation:
The X7 performs pretty well for a Bluetooth IEM when it comes to soundstage, giving you a good sense of space as you listen to your music. Don’t expect too much out of it, though – they are far from expansive and the imaging feels pretty 2-dimensional.


Genre Proficiency:
The X7s, being a sport-oriented IEM, has a sound that’s designed for techno, EDM, and other bass-heavy music or anything that gets you into your jam on your workout (Hellberg – The Girl). And it’s easy to say they definitely play those genres very well. However, I found them to perform nicely with even acoustic-based music. Fast-paced heavy metal and busier recordings were where the X7 met its match – it simply couldn’t keep up with everything that was going on.


Summary:
To summarize, the X7 sounds great – they have a fun, motivating sound signature that really keeps you pumped throughout your workout – that is, assuming that workout in question lasts about 4 hours. In any case, for a wireless IEM, I’m impressed at how they sound – in fact, I’d actually like a wired version of this just to get rid of the battery life limit.


EQ Response

The X7 responds fairly well to EQ, although personally I don’t really find any good reason to EQ the X7 since it already sounds very good straight out of the box. They perform nicely with bass boosts on both software and hardware, and you can pretty much tweak them to anything within reason. But remember that just like every other headphone and IEM out there, EQ won’t make your $100 gear sound like a $1000 LCD-2.


Value

The MEE Audio X7 retails for about $80 (you can find them on the MEE website here). And for this level of sound quality in a Bluetooth IEM, I’d be hard-pressed to find any better at this price. Even against wired sets the X7 stands their own – we’ll cover this in the next section.


Comparison

Versus MEE M6 PRO ($50):
I’ll be honest, the M6 PRO was good, but their V-shaped sound signature was way too harsh for me, with its bright and grating treble that clawed at my ears whenever I listened to it. And that makes the X7 even more of a shocker since it sounds better than the M6 PRO, but is a Bluetooth IEM. Now, how cool is that? Then again, the M6 PRO does win in other factors being a wired IEM without any extra tech on it, but for me, the X7 wins.


== Conclusion ==


For a Bluetooth IEM I’m quite impressed with the MEE Audio Sport-Fi X7. They feel great, look great, and sound great. But they’re not without their flaws. The X7 has pretty nasty connectivity issues, with occasional to frequent signal chops and high sensitivity to other wireless signals in the vicinity. If this was a wired IEM, this would’ve been pretty amazing. Sadly, it’s not. Nonetheless, the X7 has quite a lot of potential in them and if MEE Audio is capable of fixing them in the future (which I’m sure they are), we might have a very competitive Bluetooth IEM coming around that will most certainly go up against even wired IEMs.

Category
Score
Comment
Packaging, Accessories
7/10
The X7 comes in a nice package that gives you what you need and only what you need. It isn’t overly generous, but hey, it’s not too scant, either.
Design, Build, Microphonics
8/10
MEE paid a very careful attention to detail in creating the X7, creating an IEM that perfectly captures its sport-oriented target market.
Fit, Comfort, Isolation
8/10
Its fit is, for me, just about perfect, with a very secure, very comfortable wear that will run with you to the last mile.
Connectivity
3/10
Unfortunately, that might not be the case as occasional chops and outright drop-outs will hinder one from using the X7 as a primary sport IEM.
Bass
8/10
Their bass is great, though, with ample punch to keep you motivated throughout your workout, but with a nice audiophile twist, with decent speed and a tight kick.
Midrange
7/10
The midrange is not bad, either – it’s a tad thin, but it packs quite a lot of clarity that brings out vocals and instruments much better than your standard fare of sport-oriented IEMs.
Treble
7/10
The X7's treble finishes up the general sound signature of the IEM, with a light, crisp response that adds the needed air and snap to one's music.
Presentation
7/10
The X7’s soundstage is pretty good for a Bluetooth IEM, but don’t expect too much out of it.
EQ Response
7/10
They’re fairly responsive to EQ as well, and should be able to handle more than a little bit of tweaking.
Value
7/10
For $80, it’s hard to find a better-sounding Bluetooth IEM at this price…
Total
6.9/10
…But a lot of little quirks in the actual Bluetooth tech inside the X7 press me to tell you to make careful considerations if you’re ever thinking of buying them.

Suggestions for Improvement

I don’t have much to suggest improvement on, except that:
  • Fix the Bluetooth tech in there.
  • Otherwise, just make a wired version of the X7. The results would be pretty amazing IMO.

Post-Review Stuff

Again, I would just like to thank Mike at MEE Audio for providing the X7 sample you see in this review. It’s been quite an experience getting to hear current-gen Bluetooth audio, and frankly, it’s quite amazing how far we’ve come to reach this point. I mean, I would never have expected this level of clarity and performance from a wireless IEM – to the point where it would actually go up against wired sets without a problem. So I just want to thank Mike for that opportunity.

As always, you can check out the rest of the images I took while reviewing the X7 here. Be sure to check us out on our Facebook page to see updates on all of our headphone reviews. We’ve got lots of cool stuff to review over the coming months, so be sure to leave a Like on the page to keep track of all of them!

This has been thatBeatsguy of DB Headphones; thanks for reading!

About the Company

MEE is home to a group of audio enthusiasts who enjoy hearing music at its absolute best. We spread our passion by crafting innovative high-performance audio gear in order to let music inspire everyone as it inspires us. Where others see a pair of headphones, we see the final step in experiencing music as it was meant to be. This is why we obsess over every detail of how our products look, feel, and sound, bringing you the ultimate listening experience.

Since 2005 we have been committed to crafting headphones and earphones with exceptional audio quality and design, winning acclaim from casual listeners and audiophiles around the world. Specializing in sports, wireless, and high fidelity headphones, MEE is committed to providing the best user experience, performance, and value with every product.

We are MEE, and we deliver Music Enjoyment for Everyone.”

Company website: www.meelec.com

Changelog

1 comment:

  1. Good grview!!!I Also i saw an review on head-fi about another sports headphone called Axgio Sprint which is an great gadget too.http://www.head-fi.org/products/axgio-sprint-sound-isolating-sport-stereo-bluetooth-4-1-headphone-adjustable-memory-wire-security-fit-design-ipx4-sweat-proof-8h-battery-life-apt-x-wireless-earbuds-earphone-earpiece-headset-with-mic-black/reviews/14073

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