Astell&Kern (with JH Audio) Michelle IEMs

Preamble

I stopped looking for new cans since I’ve got the MS1i, which, if you had read my blog, impressed me really well with its bright balance, sweet and forwarding mids, and quick, controlled, punchy bass. With my preference for rock music, be it skate rock or psychedelic, I found MS1i’s sonic characteristics very appealing.

How ever, almost 5 years later, I felt the need to have a good mobile hi-fi rig. Wearing Grados in streets aren’t cool and when topped with its poor noise isolation, prevents me from taking my MS1i with me when I’m outside. That’s how I started to look for another rock-friendly earphones or earbuds, and that’s how I returned to Head-Fi world after having leaving it and enjoying music with what I have for years, and that’s how I found A&K MichelleIMG_6770.JPG

Name, Construction and Design

A&K Michelle took its name from one of the heaviest track from G n’ R from their very first album, Appetite for Destruction. The eponymous song narrates the life of Slash’s girl-friend. A&K Michelle (from now on, Michelle) was launched as the fifth in AK x JH Audio Siren Series of UIEM, and as of April 2017, only available in the said form factor. Its shell is made utilizing 3D-printing technology and thus achieving very good finish and build quality that leads to good seal. There’s no seal signs present across the (less gigantic than other Siren IEMs) bodies, with dark and shiny finishing that’s as good as a car paint. The shells are also very large compared to most competitors, they still stick out of my ears to these days (it’s like Jerry Harvey’s ear canals are freaking big and wide enough to fit these in). This large shell design however, non-comfort wise, makes room for wider soundstage for a closed-back system. Though exteriors seem good, they’re no comfortable at all. I cant stand listening to these more than 2 hours straight which is good so I won’t be unconsciously deafening myself.

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Michelle’s massive size, compared to traditional earbud.

The IEMs came with a leather carry case, with 6 silicone tips of 3 different sizes, and a wax tool. User’s manuals are included of course. The IEMs also came with new twisted silver tinsel cables (one 3.5mm unbalanced and the other is 2.5mm balanced) connected via 2-pin connectors which are absurdly smaller than industry standard.

 

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Michelle and included goodies

Key Features and Important Specs

 

  • Three-way Design with 3 BA Drivers
  • 13-Ohm Impedance with Unspecified Sensitivity (I assume these IEMs are highly efficient and sensitive just like most other multi-BA IEMs)
  • FreqPhase Tech
  • 2-Pin Connectors

 

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Sound

The first thing that had me impressed when compared to MS1i was the powerful, punchy, controlled bass, though a bit bloated and colored. The bass, since it’s more abundant than that of MS1i, has more details than average IEMs. Percussions feel alive and very detailed, I could easily tell the differences between each drum. The next thing that impressed me was the detailed mids especially in the higher regions. With the isolation, the details are easy to capture. With bloated bass, the overall tonal balance is brought to darker shade which make Michelle different than most conventionally-rock sounding IEMs or headphones that are usually bright like Grados or UEs. The mids especially upper mids are where Michelle starts to shine. The mids and vocals, though not very forwarding or flat like those of SE535, is not colored that much, giving realistic vocal presentation. The mids are positioned at center, not at backward nor forward, which is novel for me since the MS1i has already forwarding mids and vocals. The higher mids are tuned very well for rock and metal music. I really love how electronic guitars sound from Michelle. It’s detailed, fun, or simply rocker’s dreams. The separation is also average for three-driver IEMs with every region being separated. There’s no muddling present for the highs and mids though the bloated bass sometimes blurs the lows. The treble extension and details are also acceptable for me, albeit not very impressive for the price. The soundstage has more depth than width and is suitable for rock and metal music. Any wider width for soundstage and the band shape is ruined. The depths are also very vertically arranged as the highs are positioned above then followed by the mids and the lows. Timbres are well present and easily audible. Acoustic guitar strings feel vivid and lively from Michelle.

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In conclusion, for a $499 or 19900THB price tag (which is an entry level for JH Audio lineup), this is one of the most rock-sounding IEMs with very different approaches to the sound from the rest Rock-oriented cans( not-so-bright and not-so-flat sonic qualities). The mids aren’t as bright and the highs are not harsh like Grado’s, yet Michelle is still able to make your head move and your toes tap with its powerful bass. Michelle is fun IEMs and should not be used as monitors as its name suggests, it is a pair musical instruments meant to be used when you need some energy. In conclusion, this is a love-it or hate-it pair of earphones. I still don’t understand how this strange sounding earphones (compared to my said preference for Grados and Alessandros) sound so good to my ears, but I do understand why many have suggested it when I asked on my local headphone forum.

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