I'd originally planned to add more images, but Snrub did such a good job with his pics that you'd be better off heading over to that review to see what they look like up close 😊
Similar to Snrub, Audiofly provided me a pair of their 2nd best in ear monitors for review after I responded to call out on their sponsor forum – the AUD$649 AF180 Mk2. I’ve been using them for the past month and will be handing them back at the Hifi Show in October.
Audiofly is a relatively young company and many of us would have been introduced to them at the ‘other’ hifi show here in Melbourne many year ago. I remember being impressed by how comfortable and decent the sound quality was for a new outfit. Not that they were blowing away the competition but I would have classed their products as ‘competitive’ for the value-conscious among us.
Fast forward several years and their range now covers everything from the AUD$40 AF33C Mk2 to Bluetooth and true wireless options all the way up to the AUD$850 1120 Mk2 In Ear Monitors – 13 models in all!
The box is nice but unremarkable, matte black with a frequency response graph on the back. Open it up, however, and you’re greeted with a fantastic hard protective case and a range of accessories, including dome silicone, tri-flange silicone and Comply Premium earphone tips. I used the dome silicone exclusively as I’m not a fan of the sound of Comply tips and find multiple-flange buds uncomfortable for long term listening.
There’s also an air plane adaptor, wax cleaner, 3.5mm to 6.3mm Adapter and cable clip. Most definitely a fully featured piece of kit, although that’s expected for the price!
Once out of the box, they feel light but strong in hand. This is great for someone like me, who tends to listen to music for long periods during my work day.
Having tried to love the Campfire Comets for the last six months, these came as a blessing. Where the heft of the stainless steel bodied Comets combined with their enormous nozzle left considerable weight painfully ‘hanging’ off the bottom half of my ear, I found myself forgetting the Audiofly’s were even there. The combination of lightness, over ear by design and a narrow nozzle meant even with my minuscule ear canals I could forget they were there and just enjoy the music.
They don’t have a mic or in-line controls, however the connectors in these Mk 2 variants have been upgraded the to the universal MMCX standard. This means you can purchase any number of third party cables if you see fit, or even the new Mk2 Audiofly Bluetooth cable (AUD$99.99) for a little more convenience.
Note: I’ve created a Spotify playlist (bottom of review) with the music mentioned below as well as some other songs I enjoyed listening to for this review.
Fair warning – I haven’t ever owned head gear in the same league as the Audiofly’s…
· Audio Technica MSR7 (Headphones) – Accurate but not what I would call ‘musical’
· Audio Technica IM50 (IEM) – Great sounding but uncomfortable
· B&O H3 (In Ear Headphone) – Received as a gift. Not a fan at all
· Sony MDR-EX650AP (In Ear Headphone) – Great sounding, comfortable and affordable
· Lypertek Tevi (True Wireless) – Excellent sound (has built in DSP) and comfortable
During my time with the Audiofly’s, I listened to a range of music in quality varying from SoundCloud (64kbps) to Spotify (320kbps) to 96/24 from HD Tracks. This was mostly done via DragonFly Black with DragonTail on a Samsung S8. However, I also swapped in my brothers LG V30 with Quad HiFi DAC for some of the Hi-Res listening.
As the lowest quality variant, SoundCloud sounded surprisingly good. Being close to neutral, my favourite lower-res electronic and hip-hop mixes sounded quite good. These won’t leave you hating your favourite tracks just because it isn’t mastered in a multi-million-dollar studio or in the highest quality format. One point for the ‘Music First Audiophiles’ among us!
Moving up to Spotify, the real strengths of these earbuds start to become apparent. The muddled bass that creeps in as the volume goes up in cheaper buds was nowhere to be found. Turn the volume up…and up…and up…and no matter the complexity of the piece I was hearing everything – imaging was retained along with the full power of the music with no harshness or sibilance.
The drums of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Percussion Concerto: I. Con forza presented a wall of sound that left me emotionally exhausted – in a good way. Classical music took on a more ‘epic’ feel, with each instrument retaining its place in the broad orchestral image regardless of volume. Those drums were loud, deep and taut but the sound was never tiring or fatiguing.
Soul music also left me tapping my toes. Donny Hathaway Live was a great end to end listen. The light chatter from the crowd (low and often heard as intrusive ‘noise’ on lesser setups) comes through softly but clearly, only adding to the live feel of the album. The soundstage presents each musician in their own space and isn’t smeared during more complex passages.
The 96/24 download of Tool’s new Album, Fear Inoculum, is simply stunning. Skip straight to the second track, Pneuma, and each drum hit sits clearly alongside guitars and vocals – all clearly identifiable with each drum hit satisfyingly panning across the stage as required. The Hi-Res mix also sounded noticeably better than the Spotify mix, with the earbuds really taking advantage of the increased resolution (although knowing Tool, there’s every chance they mastered the Spotify mix to sound worse than CD or Hi-Res!). The last ounce of head crushing bass presented by a more V-shaped presentation is missing, but Audiofly is fairly clear these are about ‘a perfect balance between bass, mids and highs’.
The 96/24 version of Sæglópur, from Sigur Rós, has always shown up the shortcomings of any gear. The first section is a light breathy mix of noise, vocals and triangle that loses much of its nuance behind a piano in the foreground – high levels of control and a balanced sound are needed for this. The second part is a ‘wall of sound’ that benefits from strong clear bass and smears the sound stage and buries the vocals on lesser systems.
The Audiofly’s presented, as my brother put it, ‘the best first part I’ve ever heard’. Every bit of soundscape was there and clearly presented behind the piano. My brother didn’t believe the second part was the best he’s heard in terms of bass, but it’s accuracy meant vocals came through clearly and the aural image was more emotional than expected. I personally felt it was the best I’ve heard given my preference for a more open and clean (rather than warm and bassy) sound.
Another bonus for the streetwalkers among us is the very low levels of microphonics – that is, mechanical noise created when you bump or rub the cable. This might sound silly for those who haven’t experienced it, but it can be annoying when you’re walking down the street with the cable rubbing against your shirt. This doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for the Audiofly’s as mechanical noise is kept to a minimum.
I’ve really enjoyed borrowing these and they have me rethinking how much to spend on my next set of earbuds for daily use. Their fantastic sound quality and supreme comfort mean you’d be silly not to put them on the shortlist for your next purchase, regardless of price.
+ Clean, neutral and balanced sound
+ Incredible imaging
+ Retains composure at all volumes
+ Easy to drive
+ Low levels of microphonics
+ Super comfortable
+ Universal MMCX connector
- No mic or in-line controls out of the box
- Some may prefer a more V-shaped sound
· Driver type: Four balanced armature drivers with 3-way crossover
· Driver arrangement: Dual bass, single mid, single high
· Frequency range: 15Hz-25kHz
· Crossover: Passive 3-way electronic crossover with Butterworth filter
· Acoustic tuning: Physical 3-way frequency divider
· Impedance: 16Ω
· Sensitivity: 104dB at 1kHz
· Cable length: 1.2m / 47”
· Plug type: 3.5mm gold plated, right angle format