Pros: Warm Tuning, Non-fatiguing, Build Quality, Value
Cons: Veiled Upper Mids and Treble
Driver Setup: 10mm Graphene Dynamic Driver
Disclaimer: I purchased the Tripowin Mele with my own money at full price and this review is written of my own accord. Should you find yourself interested in a pair after reading this review, they are available online here.
The Mele is not just any single dynamic driver IEM. There is quite a story behind it, and one might say hype. Hopefully, this review can help you evaluate whether this hype train is one you want to get behind or just pass. For some context, this is a collaboration between “Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews” (HBB/BGGAR), a youtube reviewer, and Tripowin. Tripowin have made quite a number of single dynamic driver IEMs in this price range and achieved relatively good results. The goal of the Mele was to replicate the tuning of the BLON BL-03, but upgrade it a bit while keeping it affordable for the masses.
Accessories and Build Quality (Score: 8.5/10)
The unboxing experience was quite basic but the quality of the accessories are rather decent for the price. It comes with a spacious Tripowin branded zipper pouch, large enough to fit your IEMs, and perhaps your dongle/spare cable/extra tips. The included cable is not exactly premium, but it’s a decently well-made twisted 4-core cable (presumable SPC). It is very soft and flexible and unfortunately tangles quite easily. However, this is miles ahead of the included cable with the BLON BL-03 or more budget IEMs so no complaints.
The buds themselves have an all-metal build that gives them a good amount of weight. The faceplate has some sleek latte-art style patterns that go well with the overall vibe. They come in 2 colours, black or gold. A thing to note is that the metal shells of the buds scratch easily but cosmetic issues aside, these are built like tanks.
Fit (Score: 8.5/10)
These don’t have a very conventional build or shape and I was initially sceptical about how they would fit. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how snugly the shells sat in the ear. Despite their weight, these didn’t feel like they were threatening to fall out at the slightest shake. One thing is that the nozzle is on the shorter side, so longer tips seem to work better to get that seal from the insertion depth.
Sound (Score: 8.3/10)
Frequency Response Graph of the Mele
- Lotoo Paw S1
- Hiby R5
- SMSL M200/Schiit Magnius
Music listened to
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Beethoven Symphony 7
- Boston Symphony Orchestra – The Nutcracker Suite
- The Vamps – Cherry Blossom
- Paul Kim
- The Lumineers – Cleopatra
- Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concertos
The quantity of bass can get a little satiating at times. This is especially with narrow bore tips like the Final E tips. For purists, the emphasis in the lower regions tilts the sound into coloured regions and can be an issue. This additional warmth is done in a relatively pleasing way otherwise, without too much bloating to mar the overall presentation of music. There is decent control and a satisfying subbass rumble as well. The bass emphasis works well especially in classical tracks and helps provide a certain amount of grandeur to the sound.
I got the best results, fit wise and sound wise with JVC’s Spiral Dots tips. Bass was still prominent enough to give that warmth that the Meles are all about, and yet without drowning out the other parts of the music. It also helped to open up the mids a little with more room for vocals, especially female, to shine through.
Vocals and instruments like violins and trumpets are more relaxed and laid back. Significantly less “shouty” and pronounced than on a lot of more Harman curve IEMs. It is good for a non-fatiguing listen, even if it may not be the most natural or accurate.
The lower mids, and up to the male vocals, have a very addictive mellow and luscious quality to them. I especially enjoyed listening to male ballads (Paul Kim/The Lumineers) where everything was just really rich and fluid, without any harshness or shoutiness. It’s a good pair of earphones to take your mind off your worries and relax for a while.
The highs are rather safe and do have quite a pleasing timbre. Some earphones seem to get it almost right but suffer from some quirks in the highs. IEMs like the TRN MT1, TForce Yuan Li, Mooondrop Quarks do have some metallic timbre or hollowness in the upper mid/treble regions despite their relatively good performance. This is, to me, one of the Mele’s strengths, despite its mediocre abilities in detail retrieval and lack of energy in the highs. That said, the dull highs cannot be ignored and really takes away a significant portion of enjoyment from some of the music in my library. Treble is also a little rolled-off.
Detail retrieval is as expected of an IEM in this price range, not exceptional but not exactly lacking either. The Bass is rather well-controlled and doesn’t really go out of control with the bleeding. However, with the coloured manner of tuning, whether this IEM is for you would really depend on your personal tastes and preferences.
VS BLON BL-03
HBB mentioned that his goal when tuning the Mele was to take what was done well in the BLON BL-03 and work on it to present a potential upgrade. With that in mind, I HAD to do a comparison between the two.
For starters, the biggest upgrade I felt was the fit. I would have to give credit to Tripowin for this. That said, there have been images of another IEM sharing a similar shape, so possibly a reused mould. Despite that, all that matters is that the shell fits well and is built well. The next physical improvement would be the cable. The BLONs had a really cheap cable, which was understandable given its price point, and hence the better cable on the Mele helps justifies its higher price.
As you can tell from the graphs, the Mele are VERY similarly tuned to the BL-03s. However, the Mele definitely has a slight but noticeable technical edge over the two, especially in the control of its lower regions. The layering and textures on the Mele are also better nuanced.
I found the Mele a tad darker than the BL-03s. There seemed to be slightly more upper mid energy and presence on the BL-03. Switching to Spiral Dots on the Mele fixed that though. Hence, keep in mind that there are many factors that can affect your listening experience, such as your choice of tips, how these fit in your ears. Achieving a good fit with either of the two earphones is crucial in achieving a good seal and bass response.
Despite their similarities, the Mele is overall a much more reliable earphone between the two in the sense that it was much more comfortable to use and hence offered just a better user experience.
I loved what the BLON BL-03 brought to the table as a 20-dollar earphone and thought they sounded fantastic, but they fit terribly and that made me hesitant recommending them to my non-audiophile friends even though most of them loved the warm and versatile sound they had to offer. The Mele was made to build on what the BL-03s have done, and in that respect, I guess they succeeded. It looks and feels premium, is affordably priced and keeps the same tuning that was so relaxed, non-fatiguing and enjoyable.
Do I recommend you to get it? I don’t see a need for everyone to rush to get one, but if you enjoyed the BLON’s but hated the fit, or want to just go a step up from your BLONs without spending a bomb, perhaps this would be the perfect solution. If you’re a fan of BGGAR/HBB and his music library, this would be a good pickup and possibly support him in his work. If you never were a fan of the BLONs or their tuning, these may be hard to love. Nevertheless, the Mele is a well-performing set for its asking price and would sit as a decent option for its price range, especially for those in the market for a warm sounding set with great timbre.
Overall Grade: B+
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