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MEElectronics Air-Fi AF32 Bluetooth Headset (Red/Black) review: MEElectronics Air-Fi AF32 Bluetooth Headset (Red/Black)

MEElectronics Air-Fi AF32 Bluetooth Headset (Red/Black)

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

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Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable e-reader and e-publishing expert. He's also the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks and Nook e-books, as well as audiobooks.

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After I favorably reviewed the Creative WP-350 Bluetooth headphones ($79.99), the folks over at MEElectronics contacted me to tell me that they also had a pair of $79.99 stereo Blueooth headphones, the Air-Fi AF32, claiming better performance than the Creatives.

MEElectronics Air-Fi AF32 Stereo Bluetooth Headphones
7.7

MEElectronics Air-Fi AF32 Bluetooth Headset (Red/Black)

The Good

The <b> MEElectronics Air-Fi AF32 </b> on-ear stereo Bluetooth headphones are comfortable and relatively affordable, offering good sound quality for Bluetooth standards. They have a built-in microphone for making calls, are rated for 12 hours of battery life on a single charge, and can also be used as corded headphones (cable included).

The Bad

They don't fold flat, and the on-ear design makes your ears steamy in warm weather.

The Bottom Line

The MEElectronics Air-Fi AF32 Bluetooth headphones are very solid for the money.

Like Creative, MEElectronics is known for being a value brand that delivers good bang for the buck, so I expected the AF32s to be good -- and they are. They feature a comfortable on-ear design with padded red earpieces and a glossy black finish on the band. They seem pretty well built and the band is nicely padded at the top. One small gripe I had is that while the headphones fold up, they don't fold completely flat so it doesn't sufficiently shrink their footprint when you do break them down. Regardless, a simple canvas carrying case is included for storage.

Aside from that criticism, they do get high marks for comfort level, even more so than the Creative WP-350s. I had no problem wearing them on a 30-minute commute every day to and from work. They feature a similar fit to the Sennheiser HD 238i headphones (a non-Bluetooth model), but they will make your ears a little steamy on warmer days.

I did get a pretty tight seal on my ears, and these headphones do a decent but not great job blocking the outside world. In terms of controls, you get three slim buttons on the right earcup that are all the same size. Once you memorize what each is for (bottom for volume, middle skipping tracks, and top for power and answering/ending calls), you can do everything by touch without taking the headphones off.

It's worth mentioning that these can actually be used as corded headphones, which is a nice bonus because you really get a sense of the difference between listening to music over Bluetooth and over a wired connection. One small irritation: you charge the headphones via that headphone port with an included USB cable to 3.5mm adapter. I prefer it to recharge with a standard Micro-USB connection, because if you lose the AF32's charger, you'll likely need to buy another cable unless you happen to have another one lying around (most people have a Micro-USB cable to charge other electronics).

Like other Bluetooth headphones I've encountered, pairing your smartphone, tablet, or other Bluetooth-enabled device with these guys is easy enough, though you'll run into an occasional snag from time to time. Also, expect to have some drop-outs now and again; that's par for the course for Bluetooth, which has an estimated range of 30 feet.

The AF32s performed well for Bluetooth headphones in this price range. In going wireless with Bluetooth, you have to give up some sound quality because it compresses your music over the wireless signal and has a tendency to flatten sonic detail. You'll get some of that with these headphones, but like the Creative WP-35s, the sound quality holds up pretty well against that of comparably priced wired headphones.

The AF32s offer good clarity and deliver a good amount of bass. They also play loud and work pretty well with all types of music. MEElectronics talks about their openness, and I thought they sounded pretty open ("open" means that they don't sound canned). I did experience some listening fatigue after about 45 minutes, but you can switch to wired mode if you want.

Like the Creative headphones, these are by no means an audiophile-grade set, but I thought they sounded better than a lot of in-ear Bluetooth headphones I've tested and delivered almost as good sound quality as the pricey AKG K830BT headphones (also an on-ear model), which cost significantly more and aren't as comfortable to wear. I also thought they were superior to a pair of Jay Bird Wireless SB2TR Sportsband Bluetooth headphones I had in-house.

The MEElectronics set also performed better than the Creatives for making calls. The microphone is "hidden" in the right earcup so it's a little far from your mouth, but my test caller said my voice sounded pretty clear (especially indoors) and was impressed with the sound quality.

Finally, battery life is rated at 12 hours on a single charge, which is quite good and 2 hours more than the Creative headphones offer. I was able to use them for a full week on my daily commute without having to recharge (my total commute time for the day is around an hour).

Conclusion
The AF32 headphones offer similar sound quality to the identically priced Creative's WP-350 Bluetooth headphones. Both sound very good for sub-$80 Bluetooth headphones, but the AF32 gets the upper hand in comfort and sound quality. In all, these are very solid Bluetooth headphones for the money and I have no problem recommending them at this price.

MEElectronics Air-Fi AF32 Stereo Bluetooth Headphones
7.7

MEElectronics Air-Fi AF32 Bluetooth Headset (Red/Black)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8