The results I found are mixed: The frequency response is pretty well-balanced, so that music is actually quite detailed, but bass is quite loud and distortion strikes when you listen at higher volumes. I also found an imbalance in volume between the left and right speakers, and the noise isolation results are some of the worst I've seen all year.
Plenty of shoppers need headphones to travel with, but not everyone enjoys wearing in-ear listening devices. If you need something to take on the go and you're trying to avoid earbuds, the MEElectronics Atlas Orion on-ear headphones (MSRP $79) are a decent bet, and they won't exhaust your piggy bank. I found this product online for under $50.
The Atlas doesn't deliver premium audio, mind you; these things pile on the bass, and you'll hear distorted notes if you listen at loud volumes. Still, on-ears this comfortable are pretty hard to come by, especially in this price bracket. If you're willing to compromise a bit on sound quality, you might find a friend in the Atlas Orions after all.
A gold star for comfort and portability
In terms of overall design, MEElectronics really nailed it here. The Atlas Orions collapse down into a very portable shape, and they're extremely lightweight as well. Thanks to a flat contour, the I-shaped cable resists tangles, and also packs a mic and remote for added convenience.
The best part is the fit, though. Pop these on and relish the feel: The soft speaker pads sit lightly atop your ears, without extreme pressure from the lightweight headband. Normally, I can't stand wearing on-ear headphones, but these feel terrific—even after extended use.
Many shoppers will love the aesthetic qualities, too. My model sports a cool-gray finish with grids of sleek blue lines that trace each speaker back, but MEElectronics has plenty of other versions to choose from: Black with blue accents, all-white with criss-crossed contours, and even a sea-foam green and white butterfly scheme. MEElectronics even outfitted each pair with scratch-resistant materials via a multi-layer printing process.
Lovers of club music and other bassy genres may love the Atlas Orions, but other listeners will beg to differ. The sound quality here is notably bass heavy, yet the overall balance retains plenty of detail throughout.
Specifically, sub-bass frequencies of 30Hz to 100Hz live around 82dB, while many of the midrange frequencies between 600Hz and 900Hz don't even break 70dB. Middle frequencies are therefore audible, but not as clearly discernable as they could be next to such a big bass response. Upper notes have no such issue, ringing out at volumes as high as 94dB. In short, bass is the main signature of this sound profile.
Don't buy these headphones if you don't love booming bass. The Atlas on-ears really emphasize that bumping low end, overshadowing more delicate notes in the midrange at times.
The emphasis is not such that you're missing entire swaths of notes. One can easily make out soft snare taps, shimmering chimes, and the like, but bass is so prominent that the profile as a whole sounds crowded. High notes and most of the midrange receive plenty of emphasis, however, so things sound fairly detailed, if indelicate.
As to its more serious flaws, the Orion suffers audible distortion if you listen at louder volumes. If you crank up the tunes, unwanted noise will rise along with the volume. I also found that volume favors the right speaker quite a bit in the midrange, so that middle notes sound a bit louder in your right ear—the flaw isn't especially severe, but practiced ears will notice the trait.
Lastly, don't purchase the Atlas if you aspire to block outside noise. These barely hush any outside noise at all. I put the Atlas on in my office and it didn't make a difference—voices and clamor sounded almost exactly the same with or without the headphones on.
We run distortion tests to find out how much unwanted noise clutters a product's response. The Atlas Orions maintain great results to a certain degree. Generally, we don't want to see more than 3% of total harmonic distortion (THD) throughout the bass, middle, and high range, and the Orions keep well below this mark until you turn them up past 93dB. If you listen any louder, that percentage climbs above the 3% threshold, leaving you with audibly clipped harmonics and extra garbage that clutters the background of your music.
An average performer with an A+ fit
To put it simply, the MEElectronics Atlas Orion on-ear headphones (MSRP $79) won't wow anyone in terms of raw performance. While the overall balance retains ample detail across the audible spectrum, bass notes are so eminent that music doesn't sound as refined and intricate as it could. Moreover, the Orions suffer from audible distortion at higher volumes, and they're lousy isolators.
On the other hand, if you're a fan of club music or hip hop, these might be just the ticket. For those in search of ultra-comfortable on-ears that won't exhaust a billfold, take the Atlas for a test drive. Just be sure to browse the competition and weigh your options before going steady with this set.
Noise reduction is not this product's strong suit, so don't cart these headphones onto a plain and expect them to save you from screeching toddler and roaring engines. My test results prove that the Atlas Orions barely block any outside noise at all—it's almost like wearing no headphones at all.
Tracking tests look at how a product balances volume between its left and right speakers. Sometimes, one speaker sounds much louder than the other, for instance, and that's exactly what I found on the Atlas Orions.
While far from extreme, testing revealed an audible flaw that occurs right between 900Hz and 1kHz—or the midrange. At that point along the audible spectrum, volume is about 6dB louder in the right channel. If you have a sensitive ear, this is something that may bother you. Others won't notice at all.
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