Thursday, August 04, 2016

MEE Audio Pinnacle P1: Top of the World

Intro


TL;DR: They’re no Noble Kaiser 10s, but at this price, they might as well be. They’re the absolute greatest earphones I’ve ever heard so far.

Before I begin, I would like to sincerely thank Mike at for sending me the Pinnacle P1 in exchange for my honest opinion. Please note that I am neither affiliated with or any of its staff, nor am I being paid to write this review. All opinions and photos shown in this review are my own unless otherwise specified. Finally, please take the opinions expressed here with a grain of salt. Thanks!

The MEE Pinnacle P1 is ’s first flagship IEM, born after two and a half years of development. The P1 is the culmination of all the experience has gained over the past several years, and serves as their obra maestra – their masterpiece. I have been chosen as one of the lucky few to be given a sample of said masterpiece, and I will say from the get go that they are truly worth their weight in gold. Yes, they are amazing, but if that's the case, a question arises which I will answer today: just how good is the P1? Read on and find out.



== Aesthetics ==

Packaging, Accessories



Like a lot of things in life, an earphone’s first impressions often make lasting impressions. And what better way to make a powerful first impression than to make the very packaging look and feel as luxurious as the earphones themselves?


You don't need to open the package to know just how amazing it's going to be. All the marketing pitches laid over the box will tell you everything you need to know about what you're going to be dealing with. I mean, just look at it. Slide out the cardboard sheath and you're greeted by an all-black inner box that looks expensive and feels expensive. Open the two magnetically-locked doors and out comes a choir of angels announcing the arrival of the Pinnacle P1 to its new owner. (Okay, no, there won’t be a choir of angels, but you get the idea).

Past the doors are the P1 housings set in a foam cut-out, with smaller boxes housing the eartips and the two braided SPC cables (more on this in the next section). Under the foam cut-out is the 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter and the instruction manual. Oh yeah, and they come with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty in case something goes wrong.


Design, Build, Microphonics


I'm pretty sure that only very few people in this world – if any – will look at the P1 and say it looks unattractive. Because by God, the P1 is by far the most beautiful piece of audio gear I've seen in the flesh. Their die-cast zinc alloy housings are coated with a brushed metallic finish, creating a lustre I more often see in jewellery than in earphones (although in fairness they do look and feel like jewellery for the ears). I could ramble on forever about just how beautiful these IEMs are. My pictures don't do them justice. Not even close.

And if you thought these beauties would break like a sterling silver mirror, that's where you'd be wrong. The Pinnacle P1 is incredibly durable – arguably the most durable IEM I have in my entire collection. From their zinc alloy housings to their heavy-duty Y-split and connectors to their bafflingly tough braided SPC (silver-plated copper cables, they can take on falls, impacts, and cable yanks and come out in better condition than any of the components of your portable rig combined. Oh, and don't get me started on this cable. Not only is it incredibly tough, it also lacks any inclination to tangle and makes near zero cable noise. They're so good that I feel the only IEM cables I've seen that are built better are those from CIEMs and ludicrously-priced cables from companies like Moon Audio or AudioQuest.



Fit, Comfort, Isolation

One of the key selling points of the P1 that was revealed when the P1 was first announced sometime last year was the IEMs’ capability to be worn comfortably and securely in two different ways. So unlike most IEMs which are designed be worn specifically around the ear or straight down, the P1 is designed to be worn either way and still fit comfortably (bringing a fresh spin to the term “universal fit” if I might add). Until release I mostly wondered how MEE would pull it off, but now that I do have it here, let me just say that I’m blown away by the results.

Yes, you can wear them straight down or around the ear. Even now I'm still amazed at how flawlessly they fit however way you wear them. Secure, snug, and comfortable – you really can't have it any other way.



== Sound ==

Specs

Headphone Type
Closed-back in-ear monitor
Driver Type
10mm dynamic, CCAW voice coil
Frequency Response
20 – 20,000 Hz
Max. Input Power
N/A
Sensitivity
96 ± 3 dB (1 mW at 1,000 Hz)
Impedance
50 Ω at 1,000 Hz
Weight
N/A
Cable
1.3m (51”) braided silver-plated copper (SPC) cables
Connectors
MMCX to 3.5mm (1/8”) gold-plated male-to-male connectors
Accessories
1x MMCX-to-3.5mm (1/8") silver-plated copper cable
1x MMCX-to-3.5mm (1/8") headset cable
1x 3.5mm to 6.3mm (1/8" to 1/4") adapter
3x sets single-flange silicone eartips (S/M/L)
2x sets double-flange silicone eartips (S/M)
1x set triple-flage silicone eartips (M)
3x sets Comply T-400 foam eartips (S/M/L)
Shirt clip
Leather carrying case


Equipment, Burn-in

The source equipment used for the majority of this review is my 5th-generation iPod Touch, and a Schiit Fulla hooked up to a laptop for the amp test. The EQ software used in its respective test is TuneShell on iOS and Viper4Windows on PC. As always, my test tracks are available here, although I will link specific songs in the assessment for a more direct point of reference. I've clocked in at least 50 hours of listening time on the P1 to test for any changes through burn-in. No noticeable changes were found.


Sound Quality

Bass:
The Pinnacle P1 is the first IEM I've reviewed in a long time that didn't blow me away. And by “blow me away” I mean make a first impression that consists solely of bass. Instead, what it does leave is a unique combination of smoothness, coherency, and balance that sounds absolutely beautiful. The P1 doesn’t boast incredibly deep extension or incredibly fast decay, but it just presents the low-end so plainly and smoothly that everything simply sounds just as it should be, reproduced to the finest detail. Whether it be the smooth, sublime upright bass of John Robert Matz’s “Electric Fedora” or Haywyre’s fierce, aggressive bass synth in “Sculpted,” the Pinnacle P1 makes short work of both of them, sounding beautifully along the way.


Midrange:
I have reviewed quite a few earphones over the years with exceptional midrange performance, but few were able to reproduce tone and timbre like the Pinnacle P1. I don’t think I’ve heard Sungha Jung’s “Fanoe” played with a tone so delicately precise and detailed until the P1. From the fingers’ contact with the strings to the resonance of each beautiful note – the only experience more realistic and emotionally expressive than this would practically be listening to the song played live right in front of you. The same goes for pianos, synthesisers, vocals, strings, and everything else in the book. Trust me, I took the time to listen to my entire test tracks list, and not one song sounded short of great. Not one. WRLD’s Chase It EP? Amazing. Coeur de Pirate’s Child of Light soundtrack? Fantastic. The Carpenters’ The Ultimate Collection? Absolutely spectacular.


Treble:
I’ll admit, I’ve never really appreciated an IEM for its treble until the Pinnacle P1 arrived. I guess that’s because I’ve never heard treble that extends so smoothly and rings so true until the P1. I don’t think I’ve ever heard cymbals sound so vibrant and crisp while having nary a tinge of sharpness. I’ve seen some users report some sharpness straight out of the box – this is usually because the ears aren’t used to such a treble response. I found the included Comply foam tips to do the trick – that and some time to actually get used to the sound.



Soundstage/Presentation:
The DUNU Titan 1 has the largest soundstage in an IEM that I’ve ever heard – and to this day, it kinda still does. The Pinnacle P1 is more than capable of coming really close in terms of size, though. However, the P1 does take the title of having one of the most realistic presentations of any IEM I’ve ever heard in my entire life, so much that even Daft Punk’s studio-recorded Random Access Memories sound like it was played live.


Genre Proficiency:
It takes skill to make music, but it takes true talent to move someone with it. The same goes for IEMs with balanced signatures – it’s one thing to simply be able to play everything, but making everything sound amazing at the same time is a whole different ball game. What the Pinnacle P1 can do truly is a whole different ball game. I couldn’t really believe my ears when I found myself listening for the fifth straight hour in the middle of the night. I thought the P1 would simply lull me to sleep with its meticulously reproduced melodies, but instead I was captivated more by just how amazing it sounded.


Summary:
Simply put, the Pinnacle P1 is a spectacular IEM. Even with raised expectations, these single 10mm dynamic drivers were more than able to exceed those expectations and then some. I’ve reviewed a few other IEMs that left a similar impression (we’ll cover those in the Comparison section), but when the P1 plays, it performs. When it performs, it impresses. And when it impresses, it blows away.


Other Media

Games:
For gaming performance in audio gear, there are two common sides to the performance scale: fun and competitive, which should be self-descriptive enough. Surprisingly, though, the P1 seems to sit somewhere right in the very middle. Their smooth, natural tonal balance gives them a relaxed yet engagingly fun experience, while their excellent separation and spatial rendering provides the gamer with quite a bit of an edge in the game if used correctly.


Movies:
The cinematic experience is something a lot of IEMs fall short trying to achieve. Most IEMs would usually lack the ability to render a large space or lack bass power. The P1 does neither. I'll admit, it's the second IEM that has truly impressed me in terms of movie experience.


Amp & EQ Response

Despite having a relatively high impedance figure of 50 ohms, the P1 can be driven to high volumes even with low-power sources such as an iPod. Heck, I was even able to use the radio from a Nokia 105 and it sounded just fine. But even so, the P1 does scale up with better source components. I found hooking them up to the Schiit Fulla improved their midrange clarity, refined the bass further, and gave it an overall leaner sound.

The P1 is surprisingly responsive to some EQ tweaks, and will easily handle a bass boost to most software EQs’ distortion limits. And given their already balanced tuning, this allows the P1 to be much more flexible sonically.


Value

The Pinnacle P1 retails for $199 at their official website. Considering the fact that most of my reviews involve IEMs priced equal to or below 100 dollars, doubling that amount is quite a bit of a tall order for anyone looking to buy such an IEM. But let's think about it for a second: is 200 dollars too much for a single-driver masterpiece with silver-plated copper cables, die-cast zinc alloy housings, and a sound so beautiful that it has moved me to complete and utter speechlessness? I don’t think so; in fact, I think it’s an outright bargain.

Comparison

Versus Master & Dynamic ME03 ($160):
The ME03 has remained one of my favourites for a very long time – until now, they have maintained their place in my collection as the one earphone with the perfect balance of form and function. Of course, the key words here are “until now.” Yes, the Pinnacle P1 makes short work of them – I would gladly pay the extra $40 for the luxury, the fit, the sound, and everything that comes with it. Genuine leather case? Machined metal housings? Luxurious presentation? Both earphones have them all, but what about the sound? Both earphones share a similar sound signature, with balanced emphasis throughout the frequency range. But where the ME03 excels in its smoother, more neutral sound, the P1 edges out with better extension on both ends, a crystal-clear midrange, and more detail throughout.

Versus DUNU Titan 1 ($130):

So at this point it's obvious that the P1 is by far the best I've ever heard, but we've one more earphone left that can challenge the P1 and leave a few marks, and this earphone is the DUNU Titan 1. This titanium-armed beast looks good, feels good, and sounds amazing. Where the P1 digs low, the Titan digs lower; where the P1 claps high, the Titan claps higher; but where the Titan’s titanium-coated drivers sound tonally metallic, the P1 just sounds incredibly realistic.

== Conclusion ==



The Pinnacle P1 is like a master symphony – one composed by the likes of Beethoven and played by the greatest orchestra around. Everything about it is just executed so incredibly well. Its design is impeccable; its form luxuriously exquisite; and its sound absolutely fantastic. As I said in the TL;DR, they’re the best earphones I’ve ever heard in my life, and no amount of praise will be able to measure up to its true beauty. They’re an earphone that you have to hear at least once in your life, and an earphone that sounds good enough and lasts long enough to keep for life.

Category
Score
Comment
Packaging, Accessories
10/10
Luxurious packaging and a comprehensive set of accessories make for a perfect complement to an excellent earphone.
Design, Build, Microphonics
10/10
The P1 screams luxury from every angle. Exquisite materials, top-notch construction, and an amazingly-built removable cable make for a stunningly functional package.
Fit, Comfort, Isolation
8.5/10
MEE’s uniquely crafted housings are designed to be worn two different ways – and they pull it off with excellent comfort and monitor-like isolation.
Microphone
N/A

Bass
9/10
The P1’s low end response is like water – free-flowing and flexible, able to be as aggressive or as delicate as the recording demands.
Midrange
10/10
Their midrange is absolutely heavenly – in my almost four years of reviewing, this has got to be one of the best, if not the best, I've ever heard so far.
Treble
9/10
With impeccable extension and a sublime crispness, it's definitely one of the best I've heard from my entire collection.
Presentation
9/10
An expansive soundstage and precise positioning makes for an impressively realistic reproduction that just blows me away.
Gaming, Movies
9/10
I can't have it any better, really. All the ingredients in the P1’s sonic mixture just works so well for everything.
Amp & EQ Response
9/10
The P1 in this regard is like a fine tenderloin steak with all the right flavours – but if you want it, they’ll still taste great with a bit extra spice.
Value
9.5/10
Yes, they cost 200 dollars. But yes, they sound like 200 dollars. Or even more, depending on your expectations.
Total
9.3/10
They’re not the end-all, be-all of my audio journey, but considering that it’ll be a while before I get to hear any better, the Pinnacle P1 might as well be.

Suggestions for Improvement

One does not simply improve upon perfection.

Shout-Outs, Gallery

Again, huge thank-you to Mike and the MEE team for allowing me to review such a beauty. It’s been a crazy past couple of months, and with school in full swing, I wasn’t able to post this review back in June as it should’ve been.



Changelog

4 comments:

  1. Great review. I was comparing between this and the ME03 as well as the ME05. The ME03 is on sale for 99.99 on Amazon, ME05 for 159. Both currently cheaper than the P1 (199.99). What are your thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey there,

      I don't have the ME05 yet so I can't give you a conclusive answer, but from my impressions the ME03 is quite good all on its own. It's noticeably "flatter" sounding in the sense that it lacks the extension on both ends and is more mid-centric in comparison.

      The P1 all in all is a much more all-around package in my opinion and will be the better buy if you have the cash. It's really in a different league sound-wise.

      Delete
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