MEElec Air-fi AF32 Bluetooth Headphones
(4.0 star rating)
Bluetooth technology has steadily grown in popularity since its initial release in 1994 and subsequent revisions v2.0 + EDR in 2004 and v2.1+ EDR in 2007. It's easy to see this firsthand as you walk down the street and spot what seems to be dozens of Bluetooth earpieces attached to young and old ears alike. With battery life that compares to cell phones, and ease of use that works equally well with an iPhone/iPad or Android devices, there is no doubt that Bluetooth is here to stay. And with the continued popularity more and more audio manufacturers are taking advantage by releasing their own Bluetooth-enabled headsets.
MEElectronics has joined the fray with their newly released model – the Air-fi AF32 Bluetooth headset. Priced at $79.99, it is designed for those looking for an upgraded level of sound quality over a simple Bluetooth earpiece but not willing to sacrifice a comfortable fit. Let's see how well it delivers.
Similar to the Sport-fi S6 that we recently reviewed , the AF32 sports a two-toned red and black color scheme. Glossy black plastic is used throughout the exterior, with a stainless steel band used for connecting the ear pieces to the head band. Similar to other headphone models, the metal band can be extended to adjust to the best fit for your head size. All of the control buttons – power on/off, volume level and << >> track selection are located on the exterior of the right ear piece.
With a supra-aural on-ear design, the ear pads sit on the ear rather than around them. The red color ear pads, as well as the headband pad, use a soft pleather type material. The AF32 utilizes a closed-back design with ear cup padding is not quite as thick as other portable headphones we have tested, but is comparable to the dB Logic HP-100 in terms of thickness.
The AF32 can also be used as standard set of corded headphones with the included 3.5mm cable. I found this to be a nice feature that broadens their usefulness outside of being a Bluetooth only model. The cable can, of course, be removed when using the headset in Bluetooth mode.
|Air-fi AF32 Box||Accessories|
In the Box
- Air-fi AF32 headset
- Charging cable
- Audio cable with 3.5mm jack
- Carrying pouch
- User manual
- Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth Specification V2.1 + EDR
- Profile: Hands-free Profile (HFP) 1.5, Headset Profile (HSP) 1.1, Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) 1.2, and Audio Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) 1.0
- Operating Range: 10 M
- Standby time:at least 100 hours
- Talk time: 10+ hours
- Music playing time: 12+ hours
- Charging time: 4 hours
- Charging cable: 3.5mm to USB
- Driver: 40 mm high performance drivers with neodymium magnets
- Frequency Response: 18Hz – 20KHz
- Sensitivity: 106 dB (1mW @ 1KHz)
- Impedance: 32 ohms
- Length of cable for wired use: 48 inches
- Weight: 115g
- Warranty: 1 year
Sound Quality Performance Testing
The sound quality performance evaluation of the MEElec Air-fi AF32 headphones was performed by listening to MP3s and FLAC music stored on my HTC Flyer Android tablet, my Blackberry Bold 9900 phone and my Sansa Clip+. I listened to a number MP3s with bit rates of 128kbps and 320kbps, as well as lossless audio tracks in FLAC format. A wide selection of classical, rock, alternative and hip-hop music was used in the evaluation.
After a burn-in period of more than 50 hours, the Air-fi AF32 revealed what I perceived to be a high-energy sound signature that brought out the highs of most tracks. Admittedly, I had a tough time getting a tight seal with the ear cups sitting on my ears and this resulted in a drop in the level of bass impact. Keep this in mind as you read through the rest of the sound quality testing results.
On the low end, the bass produced by the AF32 was quick and not muddy sounding at all. It did not have the same level of impact or authority as other portable sets such as the Sennheiser HD238, but was just as well controlled. Overall the bass was on the lean side, similar to the pricier Phiaton PS320 but with slightly more oomph.
Mids were well balanced and blended well with the upper frequencies. I did not hear any mid-bass bleed, a welcome aspect that many sub-$100 headphones suffer from. The detail level was also quite good for a sub-$100 set and the AF32 compares well with competitors in this respect. Vocals were smooth but were unfortunately distant sounding and occasionally unnatural. The even lower priced MEElec HT-21 we reviewed previously performs better in this respect.
The high frequencies were strong and sharp, and pleasant sounding for the most part. However on quite a few of the tracks there was shrillness in the upper registers, which I suppose is forgivable for a budget-priced Bluetooth headset. Nevertheless, this was a detraction for me.
The soundstage of the AF32 was quite open sounding for a closed-back set of headphones. They don't give you a sense of a wide-open soundstage, but they do a good job presenting both width and depth.
Ease of Use and Portability
The AF32 paired flawlessly with both my Blackberry Bold 9900 phone and my HTC Flyer tablet running Android 3.1 (Honeycomb). I was able to freely roam about my house and my office without experiencing any dropped signals – a real plus for any wireless device.
Voice calls with the hidden microphone worked well. Callers reported they could hear me fine during conversations, with only an occasional bit of background noise. I really appreciated the mic being hidden - there was no need for position adjustment and there's no chance for the mic to rub up against my shoulder or chin while moving around.
The included soft-cover carrying bag works just fine to tote the headset with you wherever you go. The ear cups do not fold flat, which makes them a bit more bulky. They fit easily into a laptop bag or backpack but don't expect to be able to fit them in your pocket.
The AF32 has minimal clamping force, and at 115g (4 oz.) is quite lightweight, which translated into a very comfortable fit. I wore these for multiple 1+ hour listening sessions and found them to be quite cozy on my ears. I did wear them outside for a short time, and found them to be a bit too cozy – my ears got warm within a few minutes of being outside in the 75+ degree heat. Indoor use during spring and summer months would definitely be advised.
Battery life was simply outstanding. With the volume level set at about 50%, I was able to get nearly 14 hours of playback time before needing a recharge. This exceeds even the rated 12-hour playback time given by the manufacturer. A full recharge takes 3-4 hours, which was not an issue for me as I left them plugged in overnight to charge.
MEElec Air-fi AF32 Bluetooth Headphones
MEElec has delivered an easy-to-use, comfortable to wear and quite reasonably priced Bluetooth headset with the AF32. The outstanding battery life is also a big plus that stands out to me – you don't want to drop a call in the middle of a conversation due to a dead battery. The overall package, including the nice set of accessories, is impressive. On the other hand, after many hours of listening I was left with a less than stellar impression of the sound quality. While the lean bass was not off-putting to me, the distant sounding and occasionally shrill highs were.
It's easy to enjoy hours of wireless listening in Bluetooth mode with the AF32, and it certainly works well for this purpose. However, the AF32 won't be a replacement for traditional portable headphones where I don't mind being constrained by a cable.
Pros: Comfortable to wear; outstanding battery life with Bluetooth enabled; easy to use.
Cons: Highs can be shrill; vocals can be distant sounding.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5