To be perfectly honest, we didn’t exactly jump up and down when Munitio contacted us to offer up its SITi S earphones. We reviewed its special edition Call of Duty: MW3 Billets last October and, frankly, we weren’t huge fans. In fact, had it not been for some unique design points and the specific appeal of its tie-in with the game franchise, the COD: MW3 Billets would have garnered an even lower score. As it is, the review is less than glowing.
Why, then, would Munitio want us to take a stab the SITi S? Gluttons for punishment? Eager for redemption? Perhaps. Or maybe the SITi S actually offer the superior performance that their price tag — more than double that of the Billets — might infer? Read on to find out whether the SITi S make a quantum leap in the right direction or stand to get lost in the mire of ham-handed headphone designs that now plague the personal audio market.
Out of the box
We’ve got to hand it to Munitio: The company clearly puts a lot of thought into its product design — particularly in regard to packaging — and the effort is not lost on us. With the COD: MW3 Billets, the earphones and spare ear tips were all attractively set into a bed of gray foam with precision cutouts to secure the product and accessories while proudly displaying them. In the case (literally) of the SITi S, the approach is a bit different, but the intention of giving the new owner of the earphones a memorable out-of-box experience remains the same.
The SITi S come in a hockey puck-style case. Inside, a layered series of grey foam discs hold the 9mm bullet-style earphones and alternate ear tips. Along with the earphones and ear tips we found a faux leather carrying case and a small Munitio branded polishing cloth.
The initial presentation is quite impressive, especially considering the stunningly bright and shiny finish on the earphones. Our sample came in silver (that would be the S part of SITi S), but the SITi are also available in gold. Take a step up to the “M” series (which includes an inline mic and controls for mobile phones) and color choices include dark gold, dark silver and black.
Unfortunately, the shiny presentation loses a bit of its luster as we discovered that hockey puck case, foam discs and faux-leather pouch don’t stand up well to repeated use. The cardboard case is covered with black paper and stickers which began to separate on us. The foam discs, which are linked together with several small foam knobs, don’t reassemble well after being separated. Two of the foam knobs simply broke off of the discs at one point. Finally, the leather carrying case features a compression-style top which is intended for easy opening, closing and security. However, the metal band sewn into the pouch bent out of shape on us after the first couple of uses and no longer closes all the way. While the earphones aren’t likely to fall out, the malformation makes the pouch feel cheap. Bummer, man.
Features and design
Fortunately Munitio’s otherwise strong design chops are strongly evidenced by the SITi’s exceptional quality of construction. The 9mm bullet-style casing has just the right amount of weight to it. Just holding these earphones in the palm of your hand gives the impression that the SITi are little gems to be cherished.
The silicone ear tips are especially soft and supple. Unlike the Billets we tested, we found these earphones sealed off our ears very well and remained comfortable for long periods of time. The SITi earphone’s cable is also quite different from the Billets in that it is cloth covered and effectively tangle resistant.
Oddly enough, the SITi employ a straight 3.5mm headphone plug as opposed to the right angle-style plug found on the Billets. We prefer a right-angle plug whenever we can get it. Otherwise, things are looking very good for the SITi at this point. Still, the most contentious factor remains: sound quality.
Sonically speaking, the Billets we reviewed last fall simply weren’t our cup of tea. Not even close. However, we recognize that the signature sound Munitio had chosen for the line was deliberate and strategic. The company had its target demographic square in its sights (oh, the pun agony!) and had created a sound that it thought would resonate well. For that reason, we gave the Billets a 7 out of 10, which we have to say (at the risk of sounding self-entitled) we felt was fairly gracious.
The SITi, on the other hand, are an entirely different kind of earphone. We could never — even in our wildest imagination — have anticipated a sound more out of line with what we thought Munitio was going for and, in case you haven’t caught our drift by now, this is a very good thing.
Our expectations weren’t only set up by way of previous experience with Munitio products; we had actually tried to get a sense for what the SITi might sound like by comparing Munitio’s published frequency response graphs for each. This turned out to be a worthless effort, and we don’t think you should bother trying to glean any information that way either. Please believe us when we tell you the frequency response graph for the SITi did not coincide with our real-world experience. Let’s dig into that.
The Billet’s bass response is, well, kind of ridiculous. It pounds your head in a way we didn’t think was possible with an earphone. Granted, we can see a segment of listeners who can really get into that kind of sound but, for us, the bass response was so overwhelming, it got in the way of everything else.
The SITi, on the other hand, are a much more balanced earphone. This was immediately evident because, while bass is still strong, it is also controlled and blends relatively well into the midbass region. In real-life terms, this means you get some hearty low end without getting knocked upside the head.
We test drove the SITi by spending some quality time listening to bass-man Damian Erskine’s release So to Speak. For those not familiar with Erskine’s work, this recording is a feast for the ears. It incorporates snapping percussion, mind-bending work on the drum kit, gorgeous guitar tone, some occasional horn appearances and, of course, Erskine’s prodigious execution on the bass guitar (which, for the uninitiated, can be a jaw dropping experience when heard for the first time). During our listening session, we enjoyed an honest rendering of the recording, with a little extra meat leant to the bottom end and well executed dynamic swings.
For grins, we tested the SITi’s low frequency extension and we were quite impressed with how muscular bass remained right up to 25Hz. Yet, when we played music tracks that are notable lean on bass, the SITi didn’t artificially fatten things up. What a pleasant surprise.
Only because we’re working our way from the bottom up do we now come to our chief gripe with the SITi. There are two points in the midbass zone where we experienced some unnatural bumps in the frequency response. These sonic phenomena are not reflected in the graphs that Munitio has published, but we heard them quite distinctly and with almost all of our test tracks. At around 160Hz and 250Hz things seem unnaturally rich. Interestingly, Munitio describes the SITi’s sound as: “Dark and rich like a 20-year-old scotch”. Perhaps this is where the darkness is meant to come into play. Unfortunately, these bumps serve to make the low end of female vocals and several electronic instruments just a tad muddy. Some in our office commented that they felt like the vocals were recessed just a tad, though not all of us agree with that assessment. Suffice it to say that if you enjoy up-front, in-your-face vocals, the SITi are probably not for you.
Otherwise, we felt that midrange, upper midrange and treble performance was quite good. We particularly enjoyed the way brass instruments were resolved with just a bit of added darkness toward the bottom and plenty of brightness at the very top end. Cymbals also exhibited a pleasantly dry air about them while simultaneously shimmering appropriately.
We are pleased and sufficiently surprised at Munitio’s SITi earphones. While $160 can buy you more accurate in-ears, the SITi come with a specific sonic signature that we think plenty of listeners will enjoy getting into. Add to that the fact that Munitio scoops up gads of style points and you wind up with an earphone that earns itself a solid rating as well as our respect. We’re now interested to see what Munitio comes up with next, which is a far cry from the position we held just a few months ago. It all goes to show that you can’t judge a company based off a single product — a lesson we enjoyed being reminded of as we tested this fun set of earphones.
- Strong, balanced bass
- Controlled treble
- Secure, comfortable fit
- Tangle-resistant cloth cable
- Stylish design
- Some muddy lower midrange, cloudy vocals
- Carrying pouch could use a redesign
- Inline mic/controls not available on this model