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Old 03-21-2011, 11:08 AM
cnhardwick cnhardwick is offline
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Default MEElectronics CW31 Review

Introduction



If there is one one word to describe my impression of the MEElectronics CW31 it is “surprise”. Which is fitting because when I entered to get a CW31 review sample I was not expecting to be selected as I have never written an earphone review before. Nevertheless, I have collected quite a few earphones since joining ABi (see signature) and will do my best to review the CW31.

Accessories

The packaging may be the least surprising thing about the CW31. For those of you familiar with MEElectricones packaging it the same design except thicker to accommodated a new case. Speaking of which, as you might guess from the packaging, the new case is slightly thicker than the clamshell case that comes with M series earphones. This is a pleasant surprise as the rounder shape makes it more rigid than the flatter clamshell design. The case is solid black except for the glaring purple zipper which might be an eyesore to some. One other possible downside worth mentioning is that the cable wrap commonly included with MEElectronics’ earphones is too big to fit in the smaller case--which might explain why the cable wrap was omitted from the CW31. Also worth noting is an improved shirt clip design. Not only pivotal for easier attachment, it can easily be removed without worry of damaging the cable--something that was a concern with older models. As far as tips go, the CW31 includes your standard small, medium, large single-flange, a small double-flange, and a small triple-flange. The single-flanges are nothing special, just your average stock tips. The double-flanges are smaller than the double-flanges MEElectronics includes with it some of its other earphones. The triple-flanges are the same as the small triple-flanges that are included with the M6. Accessory-wise, MEElectronics still includes more than many pricier brand name models do.


Left: M Series case; Right: New CW31 Case


Left: New CW31 shirt clip; Right: Old MEElectronics shirt clip




Left: stardard MEElectronics double-flange; Right: new small CW31 double-flange

Build Quality

Build quality is one of the many surprises of this earphone. The CW31 housings are made of wood and plastic which gives the impression of being delicate, but they are actually surprisingly sturdy. Strain reliefs are made of hard rubber and do their job. On the other end of the cable is a new lower-profile 45-degree plug that is big improvement over the old design found on the original M series. The cable is the typical gray MEElectronics cable. It is strong and low on microphonics. However, it can be stiff and is prone to memory problems. Still, it is one of he best cables in its price range. It does seem to be about two inches shorter than the cables of the M6 and M9, but at fifty-three inches should still be plenty long. So long has it is not abused the CW31 should hold up well.




Left: CW31 plug; Right: standard MEElectronics plug

Comfort

Comfort is the biggest surprise of the CW31. This is due in large part to the light weight design, but there are few other design features worth noting. First, the angled nozzles make the CW31 quite comfortable--so long as you wear it cable down. Wearing it over the ear is another story. It is possible, but it is very subjective depending on the size and shape of the ears. Second, the CW31’s nozzles are oval shaped. As a result the normally round tips are stretched to become more oval shaped like those included with Klipsch earphones. This actually proves quite comfortable especially when paired with Sony Hybrids. Of course this, as is all comfort, is going to be different for everyone.


Oval nozzles


Left: Sony Hybrid on oval nozzle of CW31; Right: Sony Hybrid on MEElectronics M9

Sound

The CW31 is part of MEElectronics’ new “Clarity Series” which is a departure from their bass oriented M Series offering a more balanced sound signature. Despite this, the CW31 still packs a decent amount of bass. Nothing brain rattling, but enough to be enjoyable for most music. The bass is surprisingly warm for a model with the “Clarity Series” name. While the bass does not creep up into the midrange, the warmth does carry over. The result is vocals that are very warm and smooth. Unlike the M6 and M9, which have recessed midranges, the midrange of the CW31 is neither forward nor recessed. The treble is pleasant and not at all harsh like the M6 and M9. However, it lacks the sparkle of those earphones. Clarity is good across the spectrum just as the name implies. Sound stage is good, but nothing amazing. In the end, the CW31 does little wrong.

Conclusion

The MEElectronics CW31 retails for $49.99 making it one of the few balanced earphones under $50. The only other balanced earphones that compete with the CW31 in this price range that come to mind are the Brainwavz M1 and the Maximo iM-590. I have never heard the M1, but I do own the iM-590. The biggest difference between the two is the CW31 tends toward the warmer side while the iM-590 is cooler and more analytical. The iM-590 also has a slightly more forward midrange than the CW31. While I would not give either of them a edge in sound quality, the CW31 has the edge is user friendliness thanks to its low microphonics and comfort. My personal preference is the warmer CW31, but if that is not your taste the CW31’s cheaper sister the MEElectronics CX21 might be another good alternative to consider.


So what is the verdict? I have truly fallen in love with the midrange of the CW31. As much as I loved the M6, there were some artists--namely female vocalists--that I could just not bare to listen to. But the warmth of the CW31 has caused me to fall in love with many of these artists all over again. Do not misunderstand me, the CW31 is not for everyone, but someone wanting clarity and balance without the cooler analytical sound, the CW31 is right up your alley. If I have a bone to pick with the CW31 is that the high-end could use a little sparkle. All in all though, the CW31 is quickly becoming one of my personal favorites in my collection--which is a nice surprise.

Pros
  • Improved case design, shirt clip, 45-degree plug
  • Strong and low microphonic cable
  • Stylish wooden housing, but still sturdy
  • Surprisingly comfortable
  • Balanced sound at a low price

Cons
  • Shorter cord
  • No cable wrap
  • Isolation is average at best
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Last edited by cnhardwick; 03-21-2011 at 12:14 PM.
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  #2  
Old 03-21-2011, 11:24 AM
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WalkGood WalkGood is offline
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If the picture below are the one’s you are talking about I’d be amazed that one could wear the cable over the ear as it appears to point outward. But then again I've not tried so I'm only going on the picture. Over all a nice read to your review but lacking pictures and some further discussion on the odd housing shape, btw I mean no offense it’s only commentary.

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Old 03-21-2011, 11:31 AM
cnhardwick cnhardwick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WalkGood View Post
If the picture below are the one’s you are talking about I’d be amazed that one could wear the cable over the ear as it appears to point outward. But then again I've not tried so I'm only going on the picture. Over all a nice read to your review but lacking pictures and some further discussion on the odd housing shape, btw I mean no offense it’s only commentary.

Yes, that is them. I am as mystified by it as you are, especially since |joker| on head-fi said it was not possible. Yet when I tried it they fit. It sort of reminds me of wearing the Klipsch S4 over the ear. I will have to see if I cannot get photo wearing it over the ear. And no offense, this is my first attempt at reviewing earphones, so feedback is welcome.

EDIT:

I took a closer look at the angle of the nozzle and the cone shape of the CW31 and noticed that angle of the nozzle is roughly equal to the angle of the cone. So it looks like:

\_
`V

So when it is inserted in over the ear the angle is actually almost straight out. Very interesting.



Just because it can be done though, does not mean it is advisable.
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Last edited by cnhardwick; 03-21-2011 at 01:23 PM.
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Old 03-21-2011, 11:31 AM
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lestatar lestatar is offline
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Hey cnhardwick, nice review, look forward to your in-person pics. Interesting comments re: comparisons with the Maximo i590s of which I am a fan.

How would you describe the bass level between the 2? Do the Mee CW31s fare well with some EQ tweaking?

thanks man, good stuff, especially for folks looking for decent IEMs in the crowded 50USD range.
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Old 03-21-2011, 12:36 PM
cnhardwick cnhardwick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lestatar View Post
Hey cnhardwick, nice review, look forward to your in-person pics. Interesting comments re: comparisons with the Maximo i590s of which I am a fan.

How would you describe the bass level between the 2? Do the Mee CW31s fare well with some EQ tweaking?

thanks man, good stuff, especially for folks looking for decent IEMs in the crowded 50USD range.
You know, it is hard to say. On the one hand, iM-590 have more impact so they sound like they have slightly more bass than the CW31. But on the other hand, the CW31 does not have the forward midrange of the iM-590 so bass seems more prominent. In the end I would say they are about even in bass quantity.

The real difference lies in the fact that the CW31 has warm bass like that of the Sennheiser CX300--without the muddiness of course--whereas the iM-590 is cooler like--well I do not think I have any other earphones that compare. Personally, I like the colored warmth, probably because that was the sound I got use to back in the day of the CX300 and Creative EP-630. For that reason, I would actually say the CW31 would be a good upgrade from the CX300 so long as the decrease in bass quantity is not a problem.

Speaking of which, the CW31 took really well to EQing just like the iM-590 does. So if a little more bass is needed, EQing is always an option.
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Old 03-24-2011, 10:59 AM
cnhardwick cnhardwick is offline
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FYI, MEElectronics is looking for reviewers for their new M Series models. You can enter to receive a free pair to review here. It is worth a shot as they sent me a pair to review after all. If you are not sure which pair to ask for, the M31 is for bassheads, the M21 is more balanced, and the M16 is the budget model. Oh, and the RX11 which is the stylish model. You have until Sunday to enter.
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Old 03-24-2011, 11:34 AM
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esanthosh esanthosh is offline
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Nice review

So, MEE went from a soft case to a generic Chinese hard case like this?
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Old 03-24-2011, 11:41 AM
cnhardwick cnhardwick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by esanthosh View Post
Nice review

So, MEE went from a soft case to a generic Chinese hard case like this?
Pretty much. It has purple MEElec tag, but it is pretty generic--but then so was clamshell design. Personally, I am not crazy about either. I would much prefer a case that would fit my pocket comfortably.
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Old 03-31-2011, 01:10 PM
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esanthosh esanthosh is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cnhardwick View Post
FYI, MEElectronics is looking for reviewers for their new M Series models. You can enter to receive a free pair to review here. It is worth a shot..
Thanks for that link. It was worth a shot. Hope the IEM they send me is worth it
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