First, I’d like to thank the folks at MEElectronics for sending me samples for review.
MEElectronics’ M-series is the longest running lineup of in ear monitors they currently offer. The M9P from the M-Series lineup was among the first earphones I reviewed. Now, a year later, I have before me three new additions to the M-Series, the M16, M21 and M31. Read on for my thoughts on all three of these new earphones.
Packaging and Accessories
All three earphones are packaged identically and feature the same accessories as well. The accessory pack features four sets of eartips in various sizes, a shirt clip already attached to the cable and a clamshell carrying case, definitely above average for their respective price points.
Design and Build Quality
All of these earphones feature metal housings with short, but adequate, rubber strain reliefs extending down from the housings. The cable is identical on each and that is to say it’s fantastic. I’ve always been a fan of MEElectronics’ cable design and these three earphones are no exception, the cable is light, flexible, carries little in the way of microphonics and ends in a well relieved L-plug.
The M16’s housings are the least impressive because of their short, stubby nozzles and lack of a filter of any kind (the M21 and M31 by comparison both have paper/felt filters). The M21s are long and slender and the M31s are the beefiest, being much larger and heavier than the others. On the whole, I don’t have any complaints about the design of these three earphones aside from the large size of the M31s.
Comfort and Isolation
These were the most comfortable of the three in my testing due to their small size, lightness and ease of insert, which made these almost disappear once inserted into my ears. These were more receptive to deeper insertion than either of its siblings but I tended to prefer a more shallow insertion in most cases. Isolation was about average in my testing.
Unlike the M16, these are quite dependent on fit and, though the housings are thin and long prompting me to think they would be well suited for deeper insertion levels, seem to prefer shallow insertion, otherwise, at least for me, they sound muffled and constrained. They are quite comfortable though during my testing and I didn’t have any problems with them for long periods of listening. Isolation was below average with these due to the sizable vent at the rear of the housings.
These feature the biggest housings of the three, by far and are the least comfortable because of that. That’s not to say that they aren’t comfortable though, when used with the right tips. These are very highly fit dependent, and getting a good seal is more difficult than it sounds. The housings are tapered toward the front and does ease obtaining a deeper level of insertion a bit but not substantially and a shallow fit was the best for me. Isolation, like the M21 was below average, also due to a large vent at the rear of the housings.
The M16 has a smooth and well-rounded sound signature. I expected these to sound similar to the M9 but these do not feature the same V-shaped sound signature present in those earphones. The low end is accentuated but not excessively so but lacks a bit in sub bass rumble and overall detail, instead focusing on smoother midbass tones. The midrange is nearly devoid of bass bleed and has a bit of a grainy sort of character in the way it’s presented. Detail is lacking in comparison to the M21 and M31, as expected due to the smoothness inherent into the sound signature. Treble seems to be laid back in comparison to the bass and midrange and lacks in refinement in comparison to its higher end siblings. That’s not to say treble quality is bad because it isn’t. Detail and clarity are decent and makes these a very non-fatiguing listen.
Surprisingly, these are the most detail-oriented and technically capable in the lineup, titles I initially thought would go to the higher priced M31. The most striking aspect of the presentation is that it’s well balanced. Bass is nice and tight, slightly accentuated but well controlled. The midrange is mostly smooth and clear but does lean towards harshness in the upper midrange where some vocals were a bit sibilant to my ears. Treble is mostly presented well, with a fairly even response across the range with good clarity and detail. In terms of presentation, the soundstage is the widest and most open sounding of the three and imaging is good.
Similar to the M11+, the M31’s sound signature is defined by the low end and when I say defined, I mean it. The M31 puts out massive quantities of head-shaking, ear-pounding bass, perhaps the most I’ve ever heard from any earphone and doesn’t shy away from detail and rumble. Bass is surprisingly tight, in the light of how much of it there is but, expectedly, it does bleed into the midrange. The midrange isn’t recessed but the prominence of the low end presence does make it seem that way. Finer details can be hard to make out at times but they are there, though these do lose out in detailing to the M21. The good thing is that the M31 lacks the upper midrange harshness I occasionally heard on the M21. On that note, treble presence, like the midrange, is neither forward nor recessed and is decently clear and defined but rolled off at the highest end. The soundstage and presentation seems decently well spaced but not on the level of the M21.
The M16 retails for $25, the M21 for $35 and the M31 goes for $45 from MEElectronics.com each featuring a wide range of colors and a “P” version which can be used as a headset on newer cellphones and smartphones for $5 more. For the price, the balanced sound signature of the M21 is my favorite, followed by the M31, which is something of a guilty pleasure due to its massive amounts of bass, followed by the M16, which competes well with other earphones in its price range and offers a more balanced sound signature than the similarly priced M9. These are all good earphones and should appeal to many users, be they budget-conscious, bassheads or fans of more detailed, balanced sound signatures.