Today we are going to take a quick look at the MEMT X5, a punchy little micro-driver that’s been gaining some popularity as of late.
I’m a big fan of micro-drivers and am always on the lookout for something new and exciting in the field. When the X5 cropped up and was gathering steam I hummed and hawed about picking up a pair. Luckily, @Rvtrav was nice enough to lend me his pair for a couple weeks. I’m very thankful he did because while I think the X5 is worth the money and a good earphone for those that enjoy a powerful, v-shaped signature, I don’t quite feel they live up to the hype. Let’s look at why.
I do not own the MEMT X5. I simply borrowed a pair for two weeks to satisfy my curiosity and to write this review. Big thanks to RvTrav over on Head-fi for the loaner. The thoughts within this review do not represent anyone but myself.
Packaging and Accessories:
The X5 comes is a very solid, sky blue package with a small viewing window showing off the compact, attractive earpieces. Flipping open the magnetically sealed front panel reveals the large X5 logo on a small cardboard box and earpieces embedded, all covered by a plastic sheet. It’s a very neat and tidy presentation. The included accessories are pretty barren, limited to three sets of oddly petite bi-flange tips in s/m/l sizes, and a handy velcro strap.
Overall a pretty basic unboxing experience.
Build, Design, Comfort, and Isolation:
Earphones with tiny drivers tend to be pretty tiny themselves. The X5 is small, but not quite as compact as some of the smaller micro-driver based earphones I’ve got, like the MusicMaker TW1 or ToneKing Light V.2. It’s positively massive compared to the AAW Q, but that statement applies to pretty much everything. The X5 also feels quite dense and weighty, something I attribute to the magnets added to the housings.
Material quality is excellent but fit and finish needs some work, especially around the nozzles where things don’t fit in place as cleanly as I would prefer. The Xiaomi Piston 3rd gen has clearly been put together with greater care and precision.
The cable is made up of four intertwined strands covered in a somewhat stiff, durable sheath. It’s a nice cable, but isn’t overly flexible. Worn cable over-ear to help deal with the overly invasive microphonics, it constantly tries to pop up over your ear. Strain relief at the excellent 90 degree jack is well implemented, and is decent leading into the earpieces. There is no strain relief around the y-split or in-line mic.
Comfort and ergonomics are quite nice once you find a set of tips that fit the smaller than average nozzle. No complaints here.
The X5 isolates better than most other dynamic driver based earphones I’ve used. When paired with my Piston 2 triple flange tips, they blocked out a good 80% (a guess of course) of external noise when walking out and about. If you want to shut yourself out from the outside world, these will surely do it for you.
Overall they X5 is a decently well-constructed and comfortable earphone. The cable could definitely benefit from replacement with something more flexible and less microphonic.
Tips: The X5 is extremely sensitive to tip selection and placement. Combine that with the smaller than average nozzle size which limits tip options, it was a bit annoying. I found that the closer the driver was to you ear, the clearer and more detailed they sounded. Unfortunately, this also increased the bass incrementally. Eventually I settled on Piston 2 triple flange tips which gave me the best balance of bass quantity and technical performance.
The X5 has been lauded for excellent sound quality, wowing many with their powerful presentation. While I certainly think they’re an enjoyable earphone and offer up a fun and capable v-shaped signature, they are not without their flaws.
The X5’s presents you with a non-fatiguing and fairly naturally toned sound. Their powerful presentation comes with a strong sensation of weight behind the sound it outputs. This lead to me hear them as thick, heavy, and fairly sluggish, which on the other hand gave their bass some real authority; it’s a very bass-driven earphone to my ears.
Their treble presentation is clean and crisp but lacks upper end extension putting more of it’s focus on the lower treble regions. It’s not an earphone that displays sparkling, shimmery sounds overly well, but at least this means their treble is non-fatiguing. I also found the upper ranges lacking in airiness and detail, especially compared to other similarly priced micro-driver units like the SOMiC V4 and VJJB K2S.
The mid-range is my least favorite aspect of the X5, sitting much too far back in the mix. It is isn’t as much of an issue with rock, but genres with more reliance on a robust low end (EDM and Hip Hop for example) see a fair bit of bleed from the abundant mid-bass; vocals, especially female, start to feel like an afterthought even if the track is supposed to be vocally driven. This presentation really hurts on pop tracks like Jessie J’s “Bang Bang”.
Bass on the X5 is their most impressive aspect, by far. It has an undeniably strong presence that impresses with a powerful and impactful delivery. Extension for a micro-driver is excellent, giving you a visceral rumble rarely felt in drivers of this size. Mid-bass is still the most prominent and is overly prominent and bloated at times, such as on Gorillaz’s “Kids With Guns”. The weighty, somewhat sluggish nature of the driver tends to get in the way on quicker, more complex tracks. On Skrillex’s “Scary Monster and Nice Sprites (Dirtyphonics Remix)”, DnB elements are introduced during the last half. The rapid drumming combined with slow heavy basslines trips up the X5 and they get a bit muddy.
The X5’s imaging and soundstage qualities I found, well, severely lacking. Compared to the similarly priced SOMiC V4, they feel overly confined and just don’t move sound around much. On Aesop Rock’s “Sabbatical With Options”, background vocals are constantly shifting from channel to channel in the background. On the V4 they seems to swirl around in a circle around your head, extending out past your shoulders. On the X5, it’s ear to ear on a flat plain. The difference is night and day.
I found the X5 most enjoyable with uncomplicated and simplistic tracks. They present listeners with an undeniably fun and entertaining listen, and as long as you listen for entertainment and not critically, it’s pretty easy to overlook the sub-par imaging and mid-range recession.
MusicMaker TW1 (~20 USD): The worst thing about the X5 is the existence of TW1. It’s tuned virtually the same, but with a smoother, more liquid presentation. They still hit harder than most micro-drivers, but lack the weight the X5 puts behind every hit of bass. Treble is a little smoother with more detail. The extra presence in the upper ranges gives them some sparkle sorely missing from the X5. Their mid-range is also more forward in the mix, less effected by their somewhat excessive mid-bass hump. Imaging and soundstage are significantly improved on the TW1, letting songs breathe in a way the X5 simply can’t.
The TW1 is also better built using similarly durable materials but with better fit and finish. The cable is less microphonic, more flexible, and holds less memory. It’s also lighter and ever so slightly more comfortable.
The TW1 straight up comes across to me as the better built, more balanced, and technically competent bass-focused micro-driver. When I got mine they sold for around 16 USD. While they’re selling closer to 20 USD now, that extra couple bucks is worth it over the X5 in my opinion.
I went into the X5 with pretty lofty expectations, fair considering the amount of hype they’re getting at the moment. While I wouldn’t buy a set for myself after experiencing them over the last couple weeks, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to someone that wants a fun, well-tuned, v-shaped earphone under 20 bucks.
The X5 looks and feels great, they isolate supremely well, and their bass hits harder than pretty much any micro-driver I’ve heard. Heck, they hit harder than most budget earphones period. Despite all it’s sonic flaws the X5 remains a very enjoyable listen.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Aesop Rock – Saturn Missles
Aesop Rock – Sabbatical With Options
BT – The Antikythera Mechanism
Daft Punk – Touch
Gramatik – Bluestep (Album Version)
Incubus – 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey
Infected Mushroom – Deeply Disturbed
Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Jessie J – Bang Bang
Kiesza – Hideaway
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Pink Floyd – Money
Run The Jewels – Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)
Skrillex – Scary Monster and Nice Sprites (Dirtyphonics Remix)
Supertramp – Rudy
The Prodigy – Get Your Fight On