Some of you might already be familiar with the sorts of in-ear headphones that MEE Audio offers. That's because MEE Audio used to be known as MEElectronics, and through in-ear headphones such as the M6 Pro and M7P, they've become known for offering low-cost options that punch well above their weight. Not only in their build and amount of accessories that they include, but because of their excellent sound quality - relative to their asking price, of course. Now, the firm is bringing the Pinnacle P1 to market as their first high-end audiophile grade in-ear headphones. At $200, the Pinnacle P1 go against some of the greatest in-ear headphones around, from the likes of Sennheiser, AKG and Shure, to name just a few. With a quality look and feel as well lots of different ear tips, a pair of cables and a promise of a "high-fidelity audiophile level" of sound, can the Pinnacle P1 become MEE Audio's first successful high-end product?
Features and Specs
There's a lot on offer with the Pinnacle P1, and as expected of MEE Audio, there's a hell of a lot inside the box - which looks fantastic and presents the P1 wonderfully, as shown above - so let's cover the laundry list of niceties that MEE Audio include in the box:
- Gunmetal High-fidelity silver-plated Oxygen Free Copper braided audio cable
- Black Oxygen Free Copper braided cable with microphone and remote
- Comply T-200 memory foam eartips (3 pairs)
- Silicone eartips (6 pairs)
- ¼" (6.3mm) stereo adapter for HiFi and Headphone Amp use
- Leather carrying case (with laser-etched serial number)
- Shirt clip
- User manual
All of these included extras are pretty nice - the myriad of eartips especially - this sort of spread isn't out of the ordinary, and has become a MEE Audio trademark at this point. Still, the Comply foam tips are an especially nice inclusion and make noise isolation excellent and are extremely comfy (more on comfort below). What sets the Pinnacle P1 aside from the rest is perhaps in its specifications, instead of using a balanced armature driver or a pair of drivers, the P1 is a dynamic moving-coil driver and one that a higher impedance than others, but for now we'll go over the specifications down below.
- 10mm moving coil (dynamic) with copper-clad aluminum voice coil
- 50 Ohm Impedance
- 96±3 dB (1mW at 1 kHz) Sensitivity
- 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz Frequency Response
- 29g weight with cable, 13g without
Design and Comfort
With their hand-finished gunmetal gray finish, the ear buds of the P1 are good-looking earphones, there's no denying that. While I'm not sure this overall look will appeal to our female audience, they're not exactly designed for men either and they should appeal to most people in terms of looks. The ear buds themselves feel solid, which is to be expected thanks to their metal build and they do have a pleasant shine to them. For me though, the real nice touches are with the cable, which might sound stupid, as a cable is a cable, right? Each of the two included cables have a braided look to them, and it's a tight braid as well, with no worry of this coming undone over time. The "high-fidelity" cable included doesn't include an in-line mic, and is colored to match the ear buds, in that same sort of gunmetal gray. The other cable is just a plain black look, and feels a hell of a lot more durable, but doesn't quite match the ear buds in the same way. Bottom line here is that not only do the Pinnacle P1 look good, they also live up to their price tag, and the sort of build you'd expect from something at this price point.
Focusing on build quality, I do feel that there's a lot MEE Audio have gotten right here, and some things that they haven't. For one, the silver-plated cable doesn't feel all that durable and for another, the connector sticks out a little bit more than I'd like when wearing the P1. Comfort is good overall, but the plug on the connector is a little on the large side. Comfort mostly comes from the negative profile of the ear buds themselves. Rather than just falling out of your ears like a simple earphone, the P1 form to the overall shape of your inner-ear and the deep insertion many of the eartips provides makes isolation very good as well. For me, the Comply tips - in their smallest size - were my favorite. They expand in reaction to the heat in your ear to create a perfect seal, and I was very impressed with the noise isolation. I use a loud and noisy mechanical keyboard, and these are the only earphones that drown out the noise from the clicky keys. With the cable hanging around the back of the ear, the P1 don't feel heavy at all in your ear, and are easily some of the most comfortable in-ear headphones I've ever tried.
It's not all roses however - when is it ever? - and the P1's included cables seem pretty far apart from each other in terms of durability. The silver-plated cable, which is said to offer better sound quality, ended up wearing away and giving me a loose connection in my left ear. MEE Audio of course replaced this nice and quickly, but it makes me question the usefulness of a cable that while good-looking and premium, doesn't appear all that durable. Having said that, the MMCX connector allows users to go out and purchase whichever aftermarket cable they wish, which is a nice freedom to have with a pair of high-end earphones and should ensure a longer life than many others out there.
For a pair of in-ear headphones at this price range, MEE Audio is now going up against the likes of Sennheiser and Shure, and have their work cut out for them. After listening to these for a month or so, I keep thinking that I might have finally figured out what the Pinnacle P1 is all about, and then I'll be surprised once again. The P1 is a strange set, and not because of any poor points, but because they're very, very good,but not in the sense that many would imagine. I'll try to explain as best I can, but it's pretty clear that these are not a pair of headphones for those looking for lots and lots of bass, or even bags of mid-range, but more a pair for those that want to enjoy it all.
The amount of detail here with the P1 is incredible, especially for a pair of in-ear headphones that have just one dynamic driver. The soundstage is wide and detailed, it doesn't sound like a typical pair of earphones that deliver a closed, cramped feeling of everything going on in the very center of your head. There's a wide soundstage and great stereo imaging, these almost sound like a pair of speakers, even if they can never feel like a pair of speakers. For a pair of earphones to exhibit this sort of soundstage is pretty impressive.
Detail is a real joy here, and is part of the allure of these. In the intro to The Wombats' "Greek Tragedy" the opening synth melody sounds totally different than most other pairs I've listened to it with, but it sounds correct. How this intro is reproduced with the P1 is exactly how it sounds on a proper HiFi system, even if it lacks as much punch and warmth as a set of massive speakers. If we take a listen to the Eagles' "Hotel California", the opening intro's layers are all there and the first few bass notes that come through the left ear all sound far away to my left. The opening thuds at the end of the intro are tight and punchy, without getting in the way of the rest of the track, which is rendered beautifully here. For a more mainstream and modern example of detail, Adele's "Hello" sounds as if she's in the room with you. I can hear every breath in between lines and there's a definite texture to her voice, it all sounds very natural and the opening piano is deep and rich, without detracting from the real showcase.
So, we have the detail, but what about the rest of it? Well, after listening to everything from Justin Bieber to Metallica, I can say that these are an excellent compromise between being "reference" and "fun". Often, headphones marketed as reference are either very flat, or sound very clinical and analytical, with a high-end that's often not too pleasing to the modern listener. Here, the P1 are definitely more neutral than most other headphones out there, but the treble and high-end never gets sibilant or tries to pierce your eardrum. The same goes for the bass, it's tight and responsive, but it doesn't bleed out into the rest of a track. I wish the mid-range was a little more forward with these, but vocals sound excellent no matter what. The real high point for the P1 however, is that listening to anything with lots of instruments or more than one vocalist allows every little piece to have its place. Separation of instruments is superb, and you can hear the small notes in the background, a guitar player changing chord shapes and all the sort of subtleties that are often overlooked.
When I first started listening to these, I thought they were fairly treble-forward and had too much accuracy in the high-end, but after listening to a lot of different music, that isn't the case. Sure, the P1 do have a lot of detail in the high-end, and that can be too much at times, but that all depends on the track. These are like a pair of chameleon earphones, they rise to the challenge of any track and do it justice. I like a little of everything, and when listening to Damien Rice, the atmosphere and subtleties on a track like "I Don't Want to Change You" are beautifully represented, with detail and texture in Damien's vocals, without taking over the detail and crispness from the guitar. In the same vane, and perhaps at the opposite end of the spectrum, a track like Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money", the deep and pounding bass notes are just as vicious as you'd want them to be, but the rest of the track is still there. The point is that the Pinnacle P1 can do whatever you need them to do, and they're one of the few pairs of headphones that you can easily plug in to any device and get excellent sound. All of this detail and subtly? Straight from OnePlus 2 and Spotify Premium.
It's rare that a pair of in-ear headphones come along at a price like $200 and not only live up to that price tag, but also offer a lot of value. In the case of the Pinnacle P1, MEE Audio have managed to do both of those things, and it's an impressive feat of engineering. The Pinnacle P1 isn't churned out on a production line like most other earphones, either. They're put together by hand, start-to-finish by only a few skilled workers at MEE Audio itself, and that attention to detail is reflected in all the detail it brings out in my favorite tracks.
We've reviewed a lot of great earphones here at Android Headlines, but the P1 have to be one of the absolute the best. They might not look as shiny or as fancy as the Master & Dynamic ME05s, and they might not be as good value as something like Rock Jaw's Alfa Genus V2. Instead they're a pair that will suit pretty much anyone and everyone looking for a great sound with bags of detail and clarity, no matter what they're listening to. For $200, they're not cheap, but with two included cables, a raft of included eartips and great customer support from MEE Audio, you do get a lot to show for it. For those looking for a long-lasting pair of earphones that will help make their old favorites sound new again, the Pinnacle P1 are genuinely worth considering.