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Review: Altec MZX406

July 30, 2012

Altec MZX406 in-ear monitors

It has been a while since I upgraded anything about audio, including portable stuff. Last year, at the November Hi-Fi show, I found an IEM that I wanted to buy despite the excessively high price of P45,000. It is the AKG K3003, and to me sounded the best for my music preferences.

The reason for looking at a new acquisition is that my favorite IEM got damaged with the nds disconnected to the drivers inside the cup. Anyway, I was able to fix it and was happy until I misplaced it after have our company outing at Caylabne.

After several months and out of the blue, I went to Astrovision at Greenbelt 5 without any plan of purchase when I saw this Altec sitting on a shelf seen on the display window. I didn't bother with it as my interest shifted when I found Japan-pressed pre-owned CDs to my surprise.

After a long while looking for releases that I don't have yet, I ended up with these three-

Before I made payment, I asked the staff to get the Altec and gave it a short listen using my iPhone 4s and HTC Mozart. My initial impression was "not bad."

Until...

I took it home.



Comfort

As with my other IEM purchases, the important aspect is comfort. After using it for hours, I find it to be as comfortable as my CrossRoads Woody One.

It comes with three pairs of tips- small, medium and large, but no flanged tip like my Woody One.


Silicone tips in Large, medium, and small sizes.

Microphonics

I've been running my fingers, pen, and other objects along the wire to find out if noise will be transmitted to the drivers. The is no microphonics transmitted this way. Even if you whip the cord, and as long as the Y-junction is secured, there is no noise.

If you let the cord dangle and do your running or jumping or whatever, then you'll hear noise due to the stress on the ends going to the drivers.

Note that there is no supplied clip to hold the Y-junction in place. I have an old Sony Ericsson IEM no longer in use that came with a clip, and I just transferred it to the Altec.



Efficiency

At 116dB sensitivity and 16 ohms, this is an easy drive for pratically any portable devices. I don't really need to crank up my iPhone 4s to get loud.

Noise Isolation

As with any marketing gimmick, Altec calls their technology SnugFit™ which follows the contours of your ears. Yeah, it is silicone. It does block out noise (don't use this when driving!) effectively, allowing you to truly enjoy the small nuances present in the music.

The Sound

Before considering other audiophile jargons, there's one thing important to me and that's tonality. In fact during the brief audition, it is what made me decide to buy it.

I was somewhat concerned about the "extra bass power" that is printed on the box. However, I know it can be tuned. When other people say that the JVC FX33 "Marshmallow" has too much bass, I didn't believe them.

The MZX406 offers clean top end sparkle. Minute details and nuances are rendered in an airy and open fashion. It does not have any hint of being dry and clinical sounding. Listening to the album Fifty of Chie Ayado suggests delicacy and precense.

Both female and male vocals offer naturalness, without a hint of coloration. It's never too bloated, nor thin. Hayley Westenra enveloped in her music on the Treasure album.

Depth and slam, are two aspects I'd like to experience from an IEM. I might be expecting too much when I say that listening to John Newton Howard's Amuseum almost got me there, but it didn't. Perhaps I'm comparing them to the multi-million Peso setup that graced last year's Hi-Fi show, courtesy of Audio Visual Drivers Inc.

Bite and grunt makes guitars sounds raw and natural, but sometimes the rawness of this instrument becomes veiled with other drivers. The MZX406 does well in this area, as it allowed me to enjoy Yngwie Malmsteen's Inspiration.

Attack and decay are two things which I believe is more obvious rather than PRaT. Lack of attack makes the music boring, and too much decay seems to break the pace. The Altec amazingly handle this very well, as I listen to Sheffied Jazz Experience.

Soundstage and Imaging

I'm not going to fool myself. There is none.

Other Features

Ok, just for kicks, I tried the in-line volume control and microphone. Both works.



Pros
  • Superb sound quality, across the musical range
  • Detailed and articulated, without being harsh nor fatiguing, with the right sources
  • Dynamics and transient handling is very good
  • No microphonics
  • High efficiency requiring less power from portable players
Cons
  • No clip supplied
  • Lack of flanged silicone tip