Huawei Honor AM175: A great first hybrid

Greetings!

Huawei. Mobile device giant out of China. It makes sense that they would design and sell their own earphones.

My first Huawei earphone experience was the Honor Engine AM12. They were a solid little earphone. Awesome build quality, really creative storage case, and decent sound quality though not my cup of tea. They were a good Xiaomi Piston 2 competitor, offering up a more balanced signature and more premium feel.

Huawei has now stepped into the increasingly popular budget hybrid realm with the AM175. It utilizes a Knowles balanced armature (BA) driver solely for treble and a 10mm dynamic driver (DD) with a Daikoku coil and Dupont diaphragm to handle the midrange and bass. This is a slightly different approach than the BA for treble and mids, DD for bass approach that many hybrids seem to take.

Does the AM175 hit the mark or is it simply an honorable attempt at an entry level hybrid? Let’s find out.

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank Alta with Lightinthebox for providing the AM175 in exchange for a fair and impartial review. I am not receiving any financial compensation for this review and all comments and views within are my honest opinions. They are not representative of Lightinthebox, Huawei, or any other entity.

The AM175 currently retails for 45.99 USD/63.93 CAD. You can check it out here on lightinthebox.com.

A Little About Me:

Over the last couple years I decided to dive head first into the world of portable audio. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread and being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own reviews. Fast forward a couple years and I’ve had the opportunity to write about some great products for wonderful companies like RHA, Havi, FiiO, NarMoo, Brainwavz, and Meze. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done.

The gear I use for testing is pretty basic composing of an HTC One M8 cellphone, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Plantronics Rig USB amp. An XDuoo X3 has recently been added to the crew and was used for the majority of my testing. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. When it comes to signature preference I tend to lean towards aggressive and energetic, but I try not to limit myself to one signature only. I also tend to listen at lower than average volumes.

Enough preamble. Let us dive into the good stuff shall we?

Packaging and Accessories:

The AM175 comes in an attractive but simple package. The entire front panel is a clear viewing window displaying the earpieces. The box is coated in a comforting pebbled texture that has Honor printed on the sides and some basic statistics and features printed on the rear. I thought it was neat that soy ink was used in the printing of the package as it is a more environmentally friendly option than more traditional inks.

The viewing window is lifted out using a small tab. The foam pad the earpieces are set into lifts out via a small strip of ribbon. Underneath you find the cable tightly wrapped up and secured in another foam cutout. The spare tips are stored in their own cutouts instead of being placed in a plastic bag as found with most products. Lastly there is a small warranty card, though it was printed entirely in Mandarin. The included tips use a high quality silicone but they are uncommonly small. The large tips are akin to medium with most brands, medium with small, and small with extra small. Luckily the large tips fit my ears fine and enabled a perfect seal.

Overall the unboxing experience is unremarkable but pleasant. It would have been nice to have received a small bag to carry the earphones in, and tips in a more standardized size.

Build, Design, Comfort, Isolation:

The AM175 features a mostly plastic construction with some aluminum trim surrounding the earpiece housing and an aluminum back plate adding some additional flair. The top of the housing sports a layered texture leading from the back plate to the aluminum trip. The fit and finish is impeccable, just as I expected based on the AM12’s build, and the plastic feels very solid and durable. The housings are light, but they have a bit more heft to them than you would expect.

The earpieces are similar in size to VSonic’s AN16/GR06 housing, but take on a trapezoidal shape which I found more ergonomic. The nozzle protrudes at a 50 degree angle which worked very well with their shallow fit design. They’re designed to be worn cable down but can be worn cable up if you swap channels. I found them extremely comfortable in either orientation.

The AM175 uses a flat cable which tend to be hit or miss, but this one has performed admirably. It is very flexible and fairly light, though it does hold minor bends and still hasn’t fully straightened out after weeks of use. At least microphonics are acceptable, especially for a flat cable. My main qualm is the complete absence of any strain relief, though the cable apparently has been tested for 5,000 bends. That’s somewhat reassuring. There is a chin cinch for those that appreciate this feature, but note that travel is limited as a result of the inline remote.

test-results

Given the shallow fit and twin vents on each earpiece, isolation was predictably low. Without music playing I had no issues holding a conversation with someone. With music playing on low volumes, I could still hear a fair bit of ambient noise bleeding through. Toss on some Comply 500 series foams and isolation improves considerably going from below average, to above average,

Overall the AM175 is extremely well built minus the lack of strain relief , and they are very comfortable. Isolation is poor unless using foam eartips.

Microphone and Remote Performance:

Given Huawei’s performance in the mobile device market, you would hope the microphone and remote would be excellent since this product will probably be used quite often for phone calls. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed as the inline remote and mic are quite good.

Microphone performance is up there with some of the better units I’ve tested. During phone calls I come through loud and clear to my callers, wind noise was present but minimal, and tapping the cable produced only a minor thud that hardly intruded and did not overshadow speaking.

The remote worked well with my HTC One M8. It would be used to start/stop tracks and skip through songs, though it wouldn’t allow fast forwarding or rewinding. A minor setback to be honest, but having the ability would be nice.

Sound:

Tips: Since the stock tips worked so well, I didn’t really feel the need to try a variety of tips. The nozzle is 5mm wide, 6mm long, so the majority of tips fit fine. Note that due to the length, short tips like those that come with many JVC earphones will rest very far down on the nozzle. You might be forced to up the tip size due to this combined with the shallow fit. Comply foams paired exceptionally well with the AM175. Since they sat so far down the nozzle, they didn’t absorb treble energy to the extent I was expecting.

Amping: The AM175 is easy enough to drive from your average cellphone, but it does benefit from being hooked up to an amp. I found it produced a much cleaner, more precise sound from my Topping NX1 vs. being plugged directly into my phone or laptop. Treble was more lively, the midrange seemed clearer, bass had more impact and texture, and they sounded lighter and more open. While amping isn’t necessary, you’ll want one to fully experience the AM175’s excellent sound quality.

Budget hybrids have exploded in popularity this year with new models and brands cropping up weekly, or at least that’s how it feels. As a result, the new hotness garners all the attention for a week or two until the next “big thing” appears and the hype train shifts tracks and heads in a new direction. I’m not going to be hyping the AM175, but I will say that it’s a great sounding earphone and worthy of some attention if you’re wanting a hybrid in that 50 USD price bracket.

Given the AM175’s BA is dedicated to handling treble, it surprised me to find that they were fairly reserved up top. It’s presentation is tight and accurate with good clarity and detail, rolling off a touch early so as not to be bright and fatiguing. The AM175 lacks the clarity and raw detail of the JVC HA-FXH30 which uses a single 6mm titanium coated micro-driver, but it’s also less fatiguing. The midrange is where the AM175 excels in my opinion. It brings to mind the Havi B3 Pro 1 and shares the same fluid, natural tone though balance isn’t quite as even with more emphasis found in the lower mids. They’re also a touch dry. Detail and clarity were excellent picking up nuances in recordings fairly well. Mid-bass is where most of the emphasis sits, but it works. You get a fair bit of punch with good speed and decay, enough to keep up with some complicated basslines. Sub-bass extension is just enough to give you some rumble, but I would like to see even greater presence.

Some of my favorite aspects of the AM175 are the soundstage and imaging. They don’t display a cavernous sense of space like some other in-ears, but they do transition sounds throughout it with greater dynamiciscm than many in this price range. You’re not stuck with a simple left/right/centre presentation, instead getting everything in between. Since the drivers come across as light and snappy, effects really zip around with a sense of urgency and accuracy. It can be quite fun and involving.

Overall the AM175 produces a very coherent, slightly mid-focused sound that is quick and engaging. For my preferences I wish the treble was slightly more prevalent and for there to be a bit more umph in the sub-bass regions, but as-is this is one of the most consistent and capable hybrids I’ve heard at this time.

Select Comparisons:

1More C1002 Capsule (~90 USD): The Capsule 1+1 hybrid focuses on providing a rich treble experience with more presence, greater extension, and more impressive clarity and detail. It’s clear the BA driver is the primary focus and as a result the C1002 takes on a less warm presentation. The AM175 has a thicker and more weighty, realistic midrange with greater extension in the bass. The C1002 has a deceptively small soundstage coming across larger than it is, probably due to the thinner presentation. The C1002 is quicker but the lack of bass extension is too noticeable. The cable is also much too noisy and intrusive compared to the AM175s in daily use.

LZ A2S (~70 USD): The A2S 1+1 hybrid is the bass cannon of the bunch, giving listeners a thundering low end that for my tastes puts way too much emphasis on the mid-bass. It has the extension and texture advantage while being just as quick. The AM175 has similar treble presence, but with more energy and sparkle. The A2S’ midrange is just as sweet, if not slightly more so. The AM175 has a similar soundstage as the C1002, falling well behind the AM175. The thick, midbassy presentation is too much and as a result it feels congested and lacks the clarity of Huawei’s offering.

Accutone Pavo (79 USD): Another dual driver, but the only one of the bunch with two dynamics. Oddly enough, it sounds more like a hybrid than either the A2S or AM175. It is similar in overall presentation to the AM175 but slightly thinner, a touch grainy, and with treble extension and detail more on par with the C1002. The midrange is colder, lacking the natural feel of the AM175. Bass extension is good, but falls just short of the AM175 and well short of the A2S. Texture and clarity are on par. Soundstage on the Pavo feels less spacious but deeper than on the AM175. I prefer the Pavo’s PU cable and all-metal build, but the AM175’s design is more refined with better fit and finish.

The AM175 comes across as the most balanced and usable as a daily driver since it does everything well without any glaring flaws or clear strengths.

AM175 Breakaway.jpg

Overall:

The Huawei Honor AM175 surprised me at how well it works as an all-round earphone. The design, build quality, materials, functionality, fit, and comfort make them an easy earphone to pick up, toss in your pocket, and use throughout the day.

Their sound quality is excellent with a forward midrange and a realistic tonality. Treble extends well but is relaxed enough to avoid coming across as sibilant. They have enough bass to thump hard when required, but it’s not overpowering nor lacking. I love that Huawei chose to leave treble duties to the BA alone, as this gives the AM175 a unique midrange when compared to my other hybrids.

Out of the budget hybrids I’ve heard, this is my go-to as it provides the most coherent and flexible sound of the bunch. Huawei did an excellent job engineering the AM175 into a very competent, affordable earphone.

Thanks for reading!

– B9Scrambler

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Test Albums/Tracks

BT – This Binary Universe

Gramatik – The Age of Reason

Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That?

Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Skindred – Roots Rock Riot

Massive Attack – Mezzanine

The Crystal Method – Tweekend

Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass

The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

Jessie J. – Bang Bang

Lyndard Skynard – Free Bird

Peter Frampton – Do You Feel Like I Do (live)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s