The Dandy MEElectronics A161P and Fischer Audio SBA-03

Separated at Birth: Fischer Audio SBA-03 ($119) & MEElectronics A161P ($99)
As is the case with most consumer electronics, earphones and headphones are typically built by large OEMs located in China. While these OEMs can build to spec, they also offer internally-developed models for their customers to rebrand. This sometimes results in the same product appearing in the lineups of competitors. Case in point---the following four headphones, all of which are a shared OEM design from Yoga Electronics Co., Ltd..


This photo shows four headphones from a variety of brands that are all manufactured by OEM maker Yoga: Fischer FA-004; Brainwavz HM3; Maxell Retro DJ; and Incipio Forte F38.

This sort of thing is not exactly a secret in the audio world but it's still interesting to see how different manufacturers present the same basic product, which is why we picked up the MEElectronics A161P and Fischer Audio SBA-03 for this review. Of course, it didn't hurt that these mid-range Balanced Armature IEMs perform well enough to compete with established audiophile favorites.

MEElectronics and Fischer Audio are two relatively young audio brands from opposite corners of the globe. Headquartered in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Fischer Audio has been in the headphone business since 2006 but wasn't known to audio enthusiasts in the US until this 2009 Head-Fi review. MEElectronics caught the community's attention a bit earlier with their value-priced but surprisingly decent-sounding earphones and headsets. Chances are neither brand is familiar to the average consumer, but the SoCal-based MEElectronics differs from Fischer on one key point---availability. MEElectronics products are sold on Amazon and can even be found at some brick and mortar retailers while fans of Fischer Audio are stuck importing the product via eBay or ordering from one of a few small international distributors.

So, let's see where the differences lie.

The Fischer Audio SBA-03 is packaged in a large, plain-looking box with 3 pairs of single-flange tips, a soft carrying pouch, and a faux-leather cable organizer. The MEElectronics box is smaller and packed with more accessories; most importantly---3 more pairs of eartips and a protective clamshell carrying case. The additional eartips---two sizes of triple-flanges and a bi-flange---give me a better seal than the Fischer tips and the clamshell case is a must-have for reasons I'll get to in a moment.

The A161P also includes a set of silicone cable guides, designed to aid in over-the-ear wear, an adapter for Nokia, Sony, and Samsung smartphones, and a PC adapter that separates the TRRS headset plug into conventional stereo audio + mic plugs for use with a computer.

In terms of actual design, the two earphones use identical housings and look pretty much the same. The slim shells are made of plastic and feature shallowly angled nozzles. The strain reliefs are long but flexible, and again very similar between the two units.

The cable is the only major difference and happens to be where both earphones fall flat. It really is a case of picking the lesser of two evils. The cable chosen by Fischer is hard, thin, and rubbery. It feels more durable and wouldn't bother me too much if not for the cable noise that travels through it while running, walking, or just breathing. Worse still, you are left on your own when it comes to mitigating the microphonics---there is no cable cinch and no shirt clip included.

The MEElectronics cable is different---soft to the touch but still thin and only slightly less microphonic. A cable cinch is included but its usefulness is limited by the inline mic/remote unit located at the right earpiece. A shirt clip is included as well, and does help mitigate noise, but I would still think long and hard about using the A161P during any activity more strenuous than walking. Not only is the cable still noisy but its thickness also fails to inspire a whole lot of confidence, making the protective carrying case a very welcome inclusion.

To sum up: the A161P has an inline mic, a more fleshed-out accessory pack, and a different, but equally mediocre, cable. Of real value are the extra eartips, protective case, and cable management features of the A161P---everything else I could take or leave.

The sound is a different story, however.


mward's picture

I concur with the review—really impressed by these (at least the MEElec, which is the version I have) so far. 

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Filas's picture

Wondering how those two pairs are gonna compare - or to be more exact how do A161P's stand against PFE012's on grey filters.

Frankkie143's picture

I think MEElectronics A161P and Fischer Audio are both have a good quality with a very affordable price. Dandy electronics is really good in terms of quality and durability. I hope I could have one of their products.
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ljokerl's picture

Probably closer than it should be considering the price difference. All other things equal I'd still take the Phonaks for the wider soundstage and slightly smoother and more refined sound. If you're one of those who found the Phonaks a touch lacking in bass punch, then the A161P could be a better option with more bass impact without the veiling that occurs with the green-filtered Phonaks. 

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Crap!! Thats all I have to say

MarcoGV's picture

What are the differences between the A161P and the older (and still shown as a new model at A151 except for the absence of a microphone on the A151?  (They do look slightly different in photographs.)

ljokerl's picture

The A151 uses a lower-end SR (Siren) armature from Knowles. It's the same type of armature you'll find in most sub-$80 BA earphones including the Soundmagic PL50, Fischer Audio SBA-01, JAYS s-JAYS, and so on. The SR is known for having a warmer sound that is rather light on treble for a BA. Compared to the A161P, the A151 lacks some bass depth and lots of treble extension, has poorer clarity, less treble energy, and 'duller', less punchy bass. The ED series armature used in the A161P is more of a 'full range' driver and produces a flatter and more accurate sound. I believe ED-series armatures are also used in Etymotic HF/ER series earphones and a number of multi-BA setups. 


And yes, the A151 has qutie a few physical differences as well - twisted cable, over-the-ear fit, straight plug, and lack of microphone/remote would be the major ones off the top of my head.

melvin's picture

Hmm.. Maybe I should give Meelec a try again. I bought the cheap M6 and totally did not like it. It sounded very shrill, harsh and thin. I also had fitting issues with it. I know its a 20 bucks headphone but since some people are pretty positive with it, I thought it would sound good for the most part. oh well.

I'd love if the A161 makes use of the braided cord the A151 has.

ljokerl's picture

Fitting issues usually result in a light-on-bass, heavy-on-treble sound balance so I'm not surprised a poorly-fitted M6 sounded harsh and shrill. When properly sealed (I use aftermarket Sony or Comply tips personally) it's a bass-heavy earphone, though still not very refined. Not worth complaining about for $20 but it's not in the same league as the A161P or the discontinued CC51. If you must have a low-end (<$30) MEElec in-ear I think the CW31 blows the rest of them away. 

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I love the MEElectronics box because it's smaller and packed with more accessories; most importantly---3 more pairs of eartips and a protective clamshell carrying case.

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