I’ve had some great experiences with the different audio accessories I’ve tested from MEElectronics. Back in March I reviewed two of its products — the Bluetooth (wireless) set of AF32 headphones and the smaller, in-ear CW31s earbuds. I’m still using the AF32s today — I love going wireless with the AF32s while watching movies with my iPad — and while the CW31s with their integration of a wood component still sound amazing at the gym, I’ve set them aside — more on that in a moment. I’m one of those if-it-works-leave-it-alone kinda guys, so when MEElectronics asked if I’d like to try out its newest Sport-Fi S6 series, I almost passed. But when they told me about the memory wire that helps with keeping the buds in place, I remembered a recent run I took (in the sweltering Atlanta heat) where the CW31s just wouldn’t stay in my ear. A combination of sweat, humidity, and up-and-down jostling during the run made it impossible to enjoy my music.
I’m wearing the S6 right now as I write this in the coffee shop. I’m listening to the Flaming Sideburns and completely amazed at the sound quality these little buds are putting out. I’m not an audio expert… I just like what works. I’ve tried over-the-head, Sony style headphones… I’ve tried the circular plastic loop that’s supposed to hook and stay on your ear (not on mine!)… and I’ve tried to love the Apple buds to no avail. I don’t have the sensitive ears that would allow me to distinguish subtle differences between various headphones. So I just go with what sounds good to me. Sorry, audiophiles.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t tell the difference between good and bad headphones. We’ve all heard those headphones that have a tinny sound… a slight echo or metallic aftertone that highlights the treble and seems to tone down the bass. When I first tried on the S6, I will admit that they didn’t sound tinny… but they didn’t have that deepness I was looking for with some of my music. The instructions mentioned something called burn-in — playing your music for about 50 hours straight — as a possible solution for getting the dynamic driver inside the headphones to improve in its sound quality. It was worth a shot. I have about 80 hours of music and I just plugged in the phones, cranked up the volume to max (wrapping the headphones in a bit of foam and a shirt) and queued up every song on Friday afternoon. On Sunday afternoon, approximately 48 hours later, I pulled them out of the laptop, plugged them into my iPod and dialed in some AC/DC.
BOOM! Solid sound. I really didn’t think the burn-in would have that noticeable of an effect, but it did. Wow. I mean it — immediate improvement and loss of that slight echo-y effect I was hearing before burn-in. A big +1 to MEElectronics for an actual suggestion that sounded a bit bogus… but totally worked.
The S6 kit is also nicely done. Everything it comes with can fit in the small zipper case that is small and easily portable. Inside the case you’ll find an arm band that will easily hold a mobile phone or iPod, but I’ve never liked to use these. Instead, I always run the headphone cable under my shirt down to the iPod that I slip in my pocket. I’d prefer to clip it to my shirt sleeve but the C6 I normally wear has quite a long cable — even with the iPod in my pocket, I find myself creating two small loops with a twist-tie to keep the cable from dropping down and snagging on something. But with the S6, that’s no longer a problem! The S6 comes with a shorter cable (about 18″ is my best guess) that allows me to clip the iPod to my shirt sleeve — just enough distance. But if I need a bit more cable while listening to music on my laptop (the 18″ will not reach unless my face is about 8″ from the screen — yes, I measured it) the S6 kit comes with an extender cable that doubles the length. A shirt clip is on both cables if you need them, and the pressure they apply is good enough it won’t unclip easily.
But let’s get back to the sound. It’s great. Better than the wooden CW31? Absolutely. I never put the CW31 through burn-in but I know I’ve listened to more than 50 hours of music with them at this point, so I don’t think that’s the issue. The S6 set is just better sounding, especially with the bass. And I really like the memory wire — I insert the bud and then mold the wire around the contour of both ears and it stays… period. Turn my head left or right — no pulling or movement of the buds. And the S6 comes with 6 different bud shapes, so you’ll find one that is comfortable — the default set (looks like a small Christmas tree with three levels of rubber) worked better for me than the single, round bud types, but I tried them all before returning to the ones installed at the factory. I just removed both buds and the memory wire kept its shape, allowing me to quickly put them back in… I really like that!
Would you like to try a pair of Sport-Fi S6 out? Maybe for free? Until Aug 31st, MEElectronics is having a contest to give away 100 sets in exchange for a video. Just fill out the form and agree to provide a video about your experiences with the S6. The complete rules are here. The ultimate winner of the best video will also win a new iPad. If you’re in the market for a new pair of great sports headphones, give it a shot!
Update: I’ve been contacted by MEElectronics and informed that the burn-in period should not be done at full volume but mid-range. I got lucky because my MacBook Air at full volume doesn’t really crank out that much volume. As with all electronics, be sure to read the directions — it’s in there. I just glossed over that part.
Note: I’d like to thank Joe at MEElectronics for providing me with an S6 to test. He also emphasized the burn-in period in an email, and he was completely correct… it totally improved the sound.