Honor AM12 Review

Honor AM12 Review

Thanks to Honor for the sample.

First Impressions:  The little box thing they come in, I rather like it.  It’s weird, weirdly different.  The plastic outer once I got it open, then you encounter the little boat shaped blob of rubber that the IEM’s are wrapped around.  Then on the keel there are the spare tips.  It’s weird but cool weird, I like it.  I don’t like that they don’t have a little case to keep them safe but if you want one eBay can supply one.  Plus I wonder how many people would actually use a case.  “oh I won’t spend more than £20 ‘cause they always break” well if you looked after the damn things they wouldn’t!!!   Anyway overall I’m liking them.  The packaging is funky and the IEM’s themselves look rather attractive.  Im a sucker for bare metal and I’m really liking the look of the translucent tips but with a blue core, so the blue kinda hints through.

In the ears and Susan Wong appears.  Hmm, not terrible, pleasant, for some stock buds that are pretty cheap I’m not being horrified.  Actually these are kinda pleasant.  Hmm, so not only look rather nice, they sound not bad either.  They are quite reasonably balanced too, no giganto bass smothering everything else.  Mids are clean and quite pronounced.  So much cheap stuff is so V shaped vocals just drown but these are quite credible.  So is Honor giving these out with all their phones?  If they aren’t I’m thinking they should.  Anyway, burn in time, let’s see what 100 hours with them can do.

N.B.  They did not like my normally used 3.5mm extension cable.  They didn’t match its internal connections so it’s possible that other things may not work either.  The down side to mic and controls.  They did however work just fine on everything else.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5, Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear, Iphone 5, Lumia 735 and Huawei P8.

Lows:  Nice.  Rather linear, it’s got a bit of a lower bass bump but it’s quite far from the upper mid/bass range.  Given their status as a cheap product I’d have expected much more bass with much more bloat.  They are even more so shunted downward than that of the Piston 3.  These are a little more svelte and articulate.  Speed wise they are close but I want to hand it to the AM12’s being subject to a little less in the way bloom they come to a halt quicker.  For me I personally like the style here a little bit more as the great big follow through oomph that the Pistons plough through with here is a little bit more dance like.  It’s still got lost of darkness but it’s more adept on its feet.  I’m so impressed with how nearing a mature sound these little things are coming.  A more polite, slightly one notey bass that gives you a taste of power but isn’t over shadowing.  It lets you know what’s there but isn’t ramming it down your throat.  I’m not super sure that a mainstream audience will be so pleased with the slight reservation of the bass.  In highly bassy tracks it doesn’t rip your face off.  It doesn’t really even try.  Its more impact and punch orientated but without very much aggression.

Quantitatively it’s only a little elevated.  It never really gives the impression that the bass is going to come roaring out at you and dominating.   Curiously its seems to love a double bass, and anytime a track with polite bass was playing, rich, a little dark yet a little detached.  There but something not quite there.  It never wants to completely fill the space.  I almost feel like there is some bass limiter that is preventing it from ever completely dominating.

Mids:  They are a little distanced back, it’s ever so slightly in a bit of a valley but its distance from the bass means it’s very clear.  A little on the creamy side, breathy hasn’t quite the air or detail levels to pull it off but for a low end products its pulling off an admirable level of maturity.  I found myself drawn to the like of Nora and Susan Wong.  Wong didn’t have the breathy air she should but with her so over distinct recordings seemed to have the pace that the EM12’s wanted to move at.  A little slow, little dark, little bit of cream and with that sense of relaxation.  I just kept finding that I was drawn to well recorded and well mastered stuff tonally.

They have bit of a W shape so the mids are reasonably pronounced compared to most low end stuff.  To stock rubbish they may initially be a bit more middy than many are used to but you get then very nicely clear vocals without them being over focused.  A little hint of reticence adds a bit of width to them and correspondingly a little more fullness.

Highs:  There is a little lower treble / upper mids spike that meant crashes got a bit over energetic.  Never sharp but I did find I was never turning these up too loud.  Indeed I found stylistically I was always drawn to more simplistic, rhythmic, things that didn’t have anything in this band.  There isn’t an edge to it but it still was a bit much for me at times.  Otherwise the treble is rather tame.  It’s not anything like as warm as the Pistons but there is a little bit of warmth as you go up that begins to gloss over things a bit.  It’s a wise move to make.

Soundstage:  Moderate.  Above all the watch words of the AM12’s could be politeness and moderate in all things.  Scale isn’t much one way or the other.  A pleasantly sized room with a fair level of separation and placement.  It’s nicely pleasant.

Fit:  Great.  Not sure I love the stock tips, while they look super and I never had an issue, hmm just that straightish taper made me think they were gonna fall out.  They never did of course but I slapped on Comply’s anyway.  Oh and worn up or down both were problem free.

Comfort:  Great.  Never had any issues and their very mainstream shape should work well for just about everyone.

Aesthetics:  Lush.  I’m a bit of a sucker for transparent / translucent stuff.  The frosted cable and tips then toss in brushed metal buds…. Yeah they are seriously pretty.  I know looks are subjective but come on, for the price these must be the best looking things I know of.  Super pretty.

Microphonics:  It was pretty good, a bit of footfall as they are moderately sealed but no cable noise here.  Oh and unusually for a mic’d IEM no mic catching on my collars.  Some spark of inspiration over at Honor though to combine the Y-splitter and mic / controls into one.  Genius move if you ask me.

Amped/Unamped:  They were pretty good out of anything and while there was a pretty apparent improvement jumping to a way better amp, mostly in separation and upper end clarity it’s not something to kill yourself over.  Still I might be inclined to maybe try a baby FiiO, some would like the bass firming and the bass boost button I suspect.

Phone Use:  Tring first the Lumia 735, everything worked perfectly.  Play/pause/skip and the volume controls too.  The Iphone 5 however the volume controls did not, the PPS button did though.  Lastly seeing as it was an Honor and I have P8 I had to try them together.  Weirdly up popped on the phone that did I want to activate “Smart Headset Control.”  How nifty, it lets you configure the volume buttons to do different things with a double press.  How clever, Huawei really have some clever touches dotted about the place.  Oh and calls were just fine, both ends being clearly heard by the other.

Isolation:  Not bad.  It’s about normal for a dynamic so it’s the typical story.  Fine for out and about or on a bus but likely not your first choice for a Tube commute or flight.  Would do in a pinch but you know.  As ever though my warning, it will be easily enough to make to you not hear that bus that’s about to make you a road stain, so please do try to look with your eyes where you going.  A Darwin award isn’t something you want to be eligible for.

Cable:  Great.  Visually its lovely, texture wise it’s equally so and it’s nicely flexible.  The build quality and its sturdiness to the touch all seem superb.  The jack is a little metal thing and the Y-splitter is too, actually with its metal housing and white strain reliefs it’s rather nice in every way.

Build Quality:  As has been touched on, its top notch.  A cheap product it may be but Huawei are clearly trying to create a brand image for “Honor” and it follows that of its phones.  Solidly constructed, as good as any premium product but with a reduced price tag.  Can’t fault it at all.

Accessories:  Well you get the tips and that’s it.  You might count the rubber cable wrap thing from in the case but if your using that then you’d probably count the case too.  Not sure I’d use it thus but you could if you wanted.

Value:  £16 on Rainforest UK but……over on GearBest (my current fav Cathay based emporium) they are £8 or US$12!!!!  Holy **** that’s even less than the Piston3’s.  How do they even post them for that???? Are Honor maybe selling at a loss as a brand promotion?   At £16 they are still good value but at £8 they are just stupidly good.

Conclusion:  The Honor AM12 are nice.  They aren’t awesome or amazing or excel really at anything in particular.  Well that is until you count their value proposition.  They are acoustically so middling. Tonally, the acoustic ranges, the detail levels, the gently W shaped sound, there is just no where things stand out and grab your attention.  For reviewing them makes for a fairly unexciting read.  They are fairly unexciting earphones.  Not bad by any stretch but they don’t have anything in particular about them to capture the imagination.

However….. then you get to the value of them.  Even when you go head to head with the Piston 3’s, and how can you not put the two head to head, these are arguably as “good” but 20% cheaper.  Even at their UK price of £16 (US$25) they are still exceptionally good value.  They may not be the most amazing sound quality but wow, they sound good not just good enough and then toss in how fantastic they look, how nicely they are put together and that they have a mic and controls including volume controls!!!!!!!  I can’t decide if it’s the sign of things to come that Chinese phone companies are going to get into the earphone market in a big way or if the AM12 is just so Honor have something to bundle with their phones.  If it’s just to have something to bundle then it’s no great game changer but what if they are moving big time to earphones?

The AM12, despite having a completely forgettable name is a little gem.  Nicely tonally balanced, nice clarity and detail levels.  Nicely capable bass.  Nicely clean vocals.  Moderately capable treble.  Looks, that I think are among the nicest out there.  Good solid construction.  Then the price that frankly feels like someone’s made a mistake.  As pleasantly a maturely balanced earphone as this with its looks just feels like it can’t quite be true and while it’s not the most exciting listen in the world it an incredible first attempt.  When Xiaomi did the same some time back its made waves and I if the AM12 is any indication then Honor might be about to come exploding on to the audio world.

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