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MEElectronics's A161P In-Ear Headphones are a best buy

R. Matthew Ward | June 6, 2013
MEElectronics’s A161P looks modest, but it offers impressive headphone value at $129 (and even more so at street prices). It’s easy to recommend for just about anyone.

The mc3 (which has a dynamic driver but shares sonic characteristics with the rest of Etymotic's balanced-armature-based line) still sounds great, but as I've continued to use it in the two years since my initial review, I've found myself missing the more-prominent bass response of other headphones, particularly in the low bass. The mc3 has a more lively high end, and it puts up a good fight, but I prefer the A161P's solid bass performance, and I find its sound to be more natural overall. Depending on street prices, the A161P can be had for anywhere from $10 less to $50 more than the mc3--at any of those prices, I think most buyers will find the A161P to be a better overall value.

When I reviewed Velodyne's bass-emphasizing $99 vPulse (4.5 of 5 rating), I noted that "The vPulse is impressive enough that I recommend it to anyone shopping in the $100 price range, unless you're certain that you want more-neutral performance." Since then, some people have asked me the obvious follow-up question: What headphones in this price range do you recommend for a more-neutral sound? The A161P is a compelling answer to that question. Both headphones have similar street prices, and both sound great. The vPulse offers significantly stronger bass performance (and a three-button remote/microphone module), while the A161P is much closer to neutral, with a clearer, more-natural sound for better overall performance.

I didn't have the opportunity to directly compare the A161P to a higher-end set of canalphones, but I previously reviewed Shure's $250 SE315 (4.5 of 5 rating), another single-driver, balanced-armature headphone. Based on my recollection, the A161P comes very close to the SE315's overall performance, and offers a bit more bass output, for a significantly lower price.

Bottom line
MEElectronics's A161P looks modest, but it offers impressive value at $129--and even more so at street prices. I don't think you can find notably better sound without spending more than $200, or maybe even $300. Listeners that want huge bass, need an Apple-style three-button inline remote module, or are willing to pay significantly more for higher performance should shop around, but the A161P offers such impressive performance at its price, with so few drawbacks, that I recommend it for just about anyone.


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