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MEElectronics M31: Bombastic Budgeteers
on June 24, 2011
The following review is for the MEElectronics M31. I'd like to thank MEE for providing me with a review sample. The M31 is the top of MEElectronics' revised M line of IEM's. It is advertised with having a fun, bassy sound, with lots of air. Basically, you should believe what MEE says. But I intend to get more in depth than MEE, obviously.
The housing of the M31 is very sturdy feeling two toned metal. They do stick out of my ears more than I'd like, but it's a trivial negative point. The cable is a standard MEE cable, but very attractive for the $45 you'll pay. They do retain some memory though, but it's hardly something to cry about. The plug, unlike previous MEE models, is right angled, instead of the hockey stick 45° type, and feels like it would take a fair amount of abuse.
Knowing that these would be a fun sounding IEM, I first used the M31's with...wait for it--a Lady Gaga album (Fame Monster) for the heck of it, and it's hard to contest that it isn't a fun album. I must say, it's nigh on impossible not to tap my foot to the album, as much as I might not particularly like Gaga, the M31's sure make music involving. They don't have the best mids, best treble, or even tight bass, but they don't try to sound perfect; instead, they focus on, as Rebecca Black has said, "FUNFUNFUNFUN." First impressions are pretty positive. The average consumer would love these.
To review the M31's, I'm using a NaNite N2, a DAP with a class A amp section, so while it isn't as optimal as an actual external amp, it'll do well enough. The N2 is already a warm player, so keep that in mind. Tracks are 320kbps. Tips used are the MEElectronics "Balanced" double flanges. To me, they provide the most bass (which is the M31's main thing) while not overly masking mids and treble in the stock package. I'll include a tip comparison at the end.
Bass: Bass is the hallmark of the M31. It is probably the bassiest IEM I've ever heard, and people that know me would assume I hate that, considering my favorite headphones have "No Bass(tm)," but the M31 manages to be super-bassy without murdering the mids in the process, for the most part. I can hear a bit of bass bleed, but it's rather negligible. It is boomy and uncontrolled, even bordering on tasteless and undetailed, but something about it draws me to it for anything pop or electronic. The CC51 murders the M31 in bass detail, even the lower M21 is more detailed and controlled, but the M31 bass is just fun. I expect a Head-Fi mod burning my lawn, but I don't care--the bass is fun, and I like it. Despite my gushing about the bass, it is mostly midbass. They struggle at 35hz and lower. Then again, this is a $45 IEM, with a 9mm driver at that, so I'll let that slide.
Mids: Now this is where the M31's struggle a bit. Frequency graph of any sound device is akin to a body of water. If there is a rise/wave in the water, some parts of the body have to lower. The same principle applies here. The bass of the M31's is very accentuated, so the mids and treble suffer. The mids are warmed up by the bass, and that's extremely apparent in any track. Instruments are warmed up way too much to be called accurate, and tone of voices is totally off. However, the mids aren't as recessed on the M31's as the M9's.
The treble of the M31's is smooth, but with the wrong tips, can change drastically and be painfully sibilant, to the point where snakes and dolphins can get headaches. With the balanced tips however, it's smooth, but nothing special at all--even veiled. Still, it's one of the tradeoffs for their boomy, bodacious bass.
The soundstage of these is peculiar. The stage is very wide (for an IEM) but not very deep at all. About a foot of depth max, while the width is about 3 feet across.
It's pretty average at best. There's nothing particularly wrong with that, but I'd like a little more. The veiled treble is probably at fault for that. Timbre and tone, as mentioned before, are a bit below average because of the bass bleed.
Rather than state how specific genres sound with the M31 (spoiler alert--electronic, rap/hip hop, pop and indie sound good, while metal and anything involving many instruments or vocals tends to sound smeared and unimpressive.) it'd probably be more beneficial to have another tip comparison.
Stock Single Flange: The mids are a bit more prominent on these than the double flanges, and bass impact is sloppier. Treble can get piercing. Soundstage is more compressed.
Balanced Double Flange: Surprisingly, the sound is less balanced on these. The bass reaches deeper, but the mids are more recessed. Treble smoothens out, and the soundstage grows a bit.
Ultimate Ears Single Flange: The midbass increased, vocals sound digital and wrong, instruments sound plasticky, and treble can get harsh and sibilant. Soundstage is between the MEE tips.
Monster Foam Supertips: Bass is more impactful than all but the Sony's, but the mids are balanced. Treble is smooth. Soundstage is moderate.
Monster Gel Supertips: Bass is less than the Foam tips. Mids are equally balanced, treble is laid back. Soundstage is rather small.
Comply Tips: These are the darkest of the tips I have. The mids are the most recessed, and the treble is rolled off at the cost of some booming bass.
Sony Hybrids: The bass is the most impactful of the tips, and the mids are still balanced, moreso than any of the other tips. The treble is very smooth, but a bit veiled at times.
Conclusion: It's no secret that I like the M31's. I probably like them a bit too much. They're inaccurate, bloated, and headache inducing, but that's exactly why I like them. I don't analyze my music when using them. I just rock out to the music. Sure, they don't do well with complex music, but these love synth and bass centered tracks, and if you're in the market for a bassy IEM under $50, the M31's should be on the top of your list! In a perfect world, these would be sold at any given electronics store, taking any and all business away from Beats if people could actually try them.