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Computerized Investing > December 3, 2011

MEElectronics A151 Balanced Armature In-Ear Headphone

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by CI Staff

The MEElectronics A151 Balanced Armature In-Ear Headphones emit clear sound with good isolation. The earbuds are well constructed and comfortable.

As someone who wears earbuds daily, I am concerned about the long-term impact on my hearing. I want earbuds that can be used at moderate volume levels while also providing high-quality sound. Comfort is also of prime importance.

On Wayne Thorp’s suggestion, I decided to look into the MEElectronics line. A rep with the company suggested that the A151s would best fulfill my needs. At a price of $74.99, I expected decent, but not superior, build and sound quality. This said, I knew Wayne was happy with both the MEElectronics SP51P Sound Preference In-Ear Headphones With Microphone and the MEElectronics M9-SL Hi-Fi Sound-Isolating In-Ear Headphones, which he tested for previous installments of Gadget Corner.

Sound Quality

Having gotten used to my Klipsch Image S-4 headphones, which deliver enhanced bass, my first thought when I put on the MEElectronics A151s was that they sounded odd. The A151s are designed to provide a balanced sound. If you are used to hearing heavy bass, you will definitely notice the difference.

That said, the A151s don’t drown out the bass. I played “Spirit of the Radio” by Rush—a song that has both melody and bass—on an HTC Evo 4G with both sets of headphones. Though the bass was more evident with the Klipsch earbuds, all the notes sounded clearer with the MEElectronics earbuds. The same held true when I played Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood” and The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” In fact, the details—including the stereo sound for “A Day in the Life”—were more evident with the A151s.

Sound Isolation

I want headphones that allow me to play music and podcasts at the lowest volume I can get away with while still enjoying the audio. The A151s excel in this area too. The volume on my phone is a few notches below where I had it set for the S-4s. Plus, since the A151s are designed to be noise-isolating, you don’t encounter the background hiss that is prevalent with some noise-canceling earbuds such as those made by Sony.

The A151s do a good job of blocking out low-level noise. I can still hear loud noises such as the intercom on my train, which is a positive, because I want to be aware of my surroundings. The earbuds block out enough noise, however, to allow me to enjoy music and podcasts in relative calm. In my experience, more thorough noise isolation requires over-the-ear headphones, which I don’t find convenient for commuting.

Build Quality and Comfort

The A151’s cables are twisted; MEElectronics says this design cuts down on noise caused by the cable rubbing against clothes. I have never experienced this type of interference with any earbuds, but the design gives the A151s a feeling of being higher-end earbuds.

The A151s appear to be well built and well worth the $74.99 charged for them. (They are an outright bargain at Amazon.com’s price of $49.99.) The cable is solidly attached to the housing. Furthermore, the eartips stay connected to the housing. This may seem like an odd thing to point out, but when I owned Sony earbuds, the eartips constantly fell off and were often lost. As a result, I was forced to buy and carry extra eartips with me.

The A151s come with five sets of eartips: small, medium, large, double flange and large triple flange. I use the large triple flange, even though I have traditionally used medium or small eartips with other earbuds that I have owned. The choice of five eartips means most people will be able to get a comfortable fit.

These earbuds are meant to be worn over the ear with an angled fit. I typically wear them the traditional way, with the cable dropping straight from the ear, but either way is comfortable.

A zip-up case is included. This is a nice touch for storing the earbuds and eartips. I don’t use it, however, preferring to simply carry the earbuds in a small pocket near the front of my Timbuk2 Commute 2.0 bag. (I avoid tangling my earbud cord by inserting the gold-plated connector into the pocket first. This simple trick prevents tangles, no matter how I shove in the rest of the cable and the earbuds.)

Conclusion

These earbuds provide an enjoyable audio experience. The A151s are well built. The sound isolation is very good. At $74.99, these earbuds are a bargain, and MEElectronics could justify charging even more for them.

Pros:

  • Sound quality is good, with melodies and bass clear and easy to detect
  • Five sets of eartips increase the odds of finding a comfortable fit
  • The twisted cord appears to be more durable and is designed to eliminate static from rubbing against clothes

Cons:

  • Balanced sound may not appeal to those who prefer to hear a lot of bass
  • Outside noise is reduced but not eliminated
  • Cord length of 47” may be too short for those who are tall, especially if earbuds are worn looped over the ear

MEElectronics A151 Balanced Armature In-Ear Headphones

http://www.meelec.com/MEElectronics_A151_Balanced_Armature_In_Ear_Headph_p/ep-a151-bk-mee.htm

$74.99 (Currently $49.99 on Amazon.com)

Charles Rotblut, CFA is a vice president at AAII and editor of the AAII Journal. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CharlesRAAII.


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