MEElectronics CC51 Review - POV of an Amateur Audiophile
Before I start, I'd like to declare myself an amateur audiophile, with not so much prior experience with premium and high end phones. This is pretty much the first time I've got the chance to personally own a mid-high end phone, and tell you what, this is a really exciting time for me. Pretty much this review is aimed at people like me, those who haven't had the luxury of trying out many of the sweet expensive stuff out there.
I've been in the market for a phone around the $80-120 mark, and have been researching for one since alot of months. The trouble with the midrange segment is that you have lots and lots of good options to choose from. There're pretty much truckloads of choices out there, and its possible to find something that matches the characteristics you may absolutely want- leaving it to be one of the 'unpleasant'-decision making shoppers zone. It is absolutely awesome that we have tonnes of competition and so many to choose from, but it does tend to make for some sort of deviation every now and then.
After tonnes of discussions with friends and the folks over at this board, I finally decided on the CC51, an in-ear microdriver based phone developed by a relatively unknown company (to the laymen) known as MEelectronics. For reasons not obvious as of yet, I will explain why I chose this in the end. And like always, this review is purely subjective and based on my findings and experiences. Your opinions, may differ.
Onto the actual review. I received a black, non-mic version of the CC51. Sources included a Sansa Clip+ (rockboxed), a Creative ZVM and a custom built PC based on the Gigabyte x58 UD series motherboards. I never listen to music on my cellphone, so I didn't bother about testing on it at all.
Packaging and Accessories
The CC51s came snuggled on a velvety plastic case inside a typical cardboard box. Nothing too fancy, but it gets the job done, safe and secure. Unfortunately, I couldn't take pics of the case as I left it at home. 4 pairs of tips were bundled (small - medium - large - biflange) along with it. However, what I really loved about the package was the presence of a clamshell protective case. Its strong enough to protect the headphones from fairly rough conditions. It even has that extra space in the form of a net pocket, allowing me to store my Sansa Clip+ snug alongside the CC51 without stressing the case too much. +100 for that. Other than these, there is the usual user guide, and that's pretty much it.
Physique / Build Quality
The first thing that struck was just how small the housings were. From research, I was expecting it to be bigger than my old EP630s, but I was wrong. The housings are made of a certain type of sexy ceramic that is immediately attractive- but I'm not sure these have any effect on the sound quality though. They're strong, have a good amount of weight on them, just as I like it. I'm quite sure these will survive minor drops and falls. They are, however, fingerprint magnets, but that doesn't bother me at all.
The drivers are visible when you remove the tips. They're rather big and I must say, these are bigger drivers than usual and with it sitting on the edge, these will be a uncomfortable for people with small canals. For me, with the medium sized tips, they fit very snugly and are very comfortable.
The stress reliefs on the bottom of the housings are well built a little below a quarter of an inch and sits on firmly without any movement; that is unless that really try to break it.
The 90 degree angled 3.5mm jack is commendably well built, and definitely looks like it will last a long time. I always prefer angled ones over straight jacks. The jack also has a really nice stress relief on it- I'm someone whose very concerned about this and I'm happy to say the overall construction is very solid.
The one issue I would point out, if I were to nitpick, is the cable. Its strictly average and has a very plasticky feel to it. The good thing is that it does not suffer much of 'cable memory' as some of the other phones seen in this price range. I was a little concerned about the durability of this phone's cable but now I that I have it in my hands, I must say it does feel cheap, but it works. Wish Meelec used the braided ones as seen on the A151s.
The spitter is nothing much to write home about, and so is the cable adjusting thingummy. It sits firmly holding both the cables together and is possible to slide up and down, giving you a certain degree of control over it.
Another thing that bothers me is the shirt clip. You probably must've seen the side effect of trying to remove the clip, so I'm not going to try it at all. I do fear that it can damage the cable if it gets stuck somewhere during general use.
Overall, I'm happy with the build quality, and with a little more care than usual this may last quite a long time.
In the ear - Comfort, Microphonics and Isolation
The phones sit very well in my ears when using the medium sized tips. Its comfortable, fatigue-less, and does not hurt under long use at all. Simply put, it fits my ears perfectly well. I was always curious and interested in using bi-flange tips and was under the impression these will go in even deeper than normal allowing the best insertion and experience. I was wrong though- maybe it is me but the bundled bi-flange tips simply suck. Fails to go in deeper and is not comfortable at all. Or maybe its just my ears. Too bad, due to the bigger-than-usual drivers, its a bit difficult to find third party tips this size.
Microphonics are virtually non-existent compared to my old EP630s. I can comfortably walk around with these on and be least worried about the annoying cable noise. The stress relief on the housings play a big part in reducing noise. I used it with and without the shirt clip, and with it on, there's no hint of it at all. It is possible to wear the phones over your ears but due to the way its designed, I doubt if that will be a comfortable not to mention convenient experience. With no music playing and simply placed in your ears, you can hear microphonics- but then again, why would you want to do that?
With the medium tips, the phones gave me the deepest insertion possible and isolation was perfect- never before have I experienced something that deafens me out as much as this does. I used this on a moderately crowded train, and with even music at -11 (rockbox), I couldn't hear a single thing. I will definitely not wear this when I'm walking down the street. Ofcourse, with no source, you can hear a fair bit of the outside world.
I must say there is a fair bit of driver flex going on. I had to play with the phones in my ears a bit to adjust the flex. Its not bad and is something I can live with, but is still an issue. This probably might be due to the drivers being on the extreme ends of the nozzle.
I listened to my favorite tracks mainly on my rockboxed Sansa Clip+. I did use the ZVM with the Bass Boost option enable too, but there was no other difference so I singled it to listening on my Clip+.
The files were a mixture of MP3s varying between 192-320kbps, OGG and FLAC files.
The first thing that I felt about the sound was the warmth. Everything was very warm, and easily toned visuals come flying to your head. Highs are sharp but not overly so; the lows retain the sick detail that sometimes gives me goosebumps; the bodied bass extends to a depth so low that I heard things I've never heard before. Bass is tight and fast, with brilliant attack and decay times such that I felt I was previously listening to the same tracks with latency issues. Its ability to retain detail and quality when reaching the bottom depths is purely stunning. What struck me, unlike all my previous experiences with other phones, was that the bass never drowned out the rest of the spectrum. Everything complimented the other aspect, and that itself is an impressive feat.
The mids are something of mixed opinion though. They hold great clarity and a textured appeal yet being smooth and sweet at the same time. But I did feel it was a little laid back and not much emphasis was given to it. Sometimes, the highs slightly overpowered the mids, and I felt like I missed something.
When I was considering what I wanted to buy, the one thing I was really keen about was the soundstage. I've listened to full blown cans which hold a wide and huge feeling of space, and I was curious on how an in-ear like the CC51 would perform. After listening to it I do feel that my Senn HD 202s have a wider soundstage than this (ofcourse those are cans afterall, everything else is substandard on that). I'm not saying the presentation is weak, rather the opposite. Its easily and enjoyably possible to point out the arrangement and positioning of instruments but the overall spacing is intimate. It feels more like you're sitting next to the musicians than where you would be in a concert. Live perfomances sound great on it, but would've been even better if it had more width. There is a good sensation of distance and height though.
I mostly listen to soft rock, electronic and live performances of the same- drums sound juicy, cymbals sound bright but never tinny, acoustic guitars have a sense of body to them and feel very ambient, screeches fire away like monsters but never overly so.
Something I'm truly happy about with the CC51 is the lack of sibilance and harshness. At times the highs do reach a point of sounding tinny but it is never harsh, and its amazing how the CC51 manages to subdue these otherwise annoying or painful elements of an aural environment.
During the process of experiencing and testing the sound, I tried the track 'Start of Something Beautiful' by Porcupine Tree from the album 'Deadwing'. The reason I'm highlighting this particular song of all the tracks is because I was quite disappointed with it. The song plays perfectly well into the end and is a truly enjoyable experience, but around the 6 minute mark where multiple guitars melt in, I noticed I cannot hear all of them. These guitars were very well present in my cheap MX160s and HD202s, but for some reason, its not audible at all on my CC51s! The midrange is not blunt, but my enthusiasm was really subdued with this track.
Overall, I'm truly impressed with these phones. They sound really great, features a cohesive performance, punchy bass exhibiting a wonderful range all enclosed in an intimate aural environment. Its strong, well built (other than the cable material) and is comfortable to wear. I'm very happy with my purchase and would happily recommend them to anyone interested in phones that puts out a warm, cohesive and enjoyable experience.
A truckload of thanks to forum member esantosh for the wonderful deal
Sansa Clip+4GB+8GB OF, Creative Zen Vision : M 30GB, MEElec CC51 (Review), Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini (Review), Panasonic RP-HJE355 (Review) Asus Nexus 32GB 3G+WiFi, PS Vita WiFi, Samson SR850
Last edited by Agent_milo; 10-08-2011 at 10:29 AM.
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