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pete_mac

Review of the Audiofly AF-140 Mk2

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Early in September 2019, Audiofly reached out for reviewers of their range of IEMs. As is the case with many audio nutters, I’m keen to hear and compare as much gear as I possibly can. I have owned a reasonable array of entry and mid-level headphones and IEMs over the years, along with the occasional higher-end model, and wanted to hear what an Australian company could bring to the table. So, an email was sent outlining my audio tastes and mentioning that I also use headphones and IEMs for DJ monitoring from time to time.

 

Audiofly suggested that the $399 AF140 Mk2 would be best suited to my tastes and needs, as the triple hybrid driver design features two balanced armature drivers for the mids and highs, along with a dynamic bass driver for extended bass response which is particularly useful for DJ monitoring purposes.  Sign me up!

 

Details, specs and pricing are available on the Audiofly website: https://audiofly.com/shop/af140-mk2/

 

Packaging, presentation and inclusions

 

The AF140 Mk2s are well-packaged and arrived in perfect condition. Included is an EVA storage case, a variety of tips and adaptors, and a small cleaning tool.

 

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Design and build quality

 

The AF140 Mk2 are the most comfortable ‘universal’ IEMs that I’ve had the pleasure of using – Audiofly have really nailed the ergonomics. They are a cinch to install and are supremely comfortable over long-term use. This is in stark contrast to my Sennheiser IE-80 IEMs which are tricky to fit, don’t sit as comfortably within the ear, and require regular re-adjustment as you move around to ensure that the ear seal is maintained.

 

The build quality is excellent- robust, light-weight and aesthetically appealing. The high quality, user replaceable ‘Cordura’ cable looks and feels great, and I noticed minimal cable microphonics during use.

 

Usage

 

I used the AF140 Mk2s at home and in the office whilst powered by an iPhone 8, at home powered by the headphone output of a Sansui AU-alpha 907MR, and also powered by an Allen and Heath Xone:4D professional DJ mixer.

 

Home and office usage

 

The AF140 Mk2 were ably powered by the iPhone and I appreciated the excellent external noise attenuation offered by these units in conjunction with the included Comply foam tips.

 

Compared to my daily-driver Audio Technica ATH-M50X over-ear headphones and the Sennheiser IE-80 IEMs, I noted slightly less deep sub-bass extension and less sparkle in the treble – less ‘boom’ and less ‘tish’. After further listening, it soon became apparent that the AF-140 Mk2 has a flatter response compared to the V-shaped response of the M50X and IE-80, which resulted in better balance between the midrange and the other frequency extremities. The beautifully clean, warm and smooth midrange really shone through.

 

Switching back to the IE-80s after a solid week with the AF-140 Mk2, it was obvious that the midrange of the Sennheisers was noticeably recessed and less balanced, which made some vocals noticeably thinner than would usually be the case. The IE-80s (along with the M50X!) have a noticeably ‘drier’ overall presentation compared to the AF-140 Mk2s and give the impression of slightly greater resolution and transparency... however there is a greater propensity for listening fatigue to set in. The AF-140 Mk2s are a more relaxed and engaging listen, with greater coherence from top to bottom. They just sound ‘right’.

 

The big Sansui integrated amplifier upped the ante on the sound quality stakes, with greater clarity and punch vs the iPhone, but the same sonic character traits which I’ve noted above held true.

 

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Pro audio/DJ use

 

IEMs have increased in popularity in pro audio and DJ circles because they enable the user to monitor what is happening without needing loud fold-back speakers. This results in lower average SPLs, reduced ear fatigue and damage, and with good quality IEMs it provides a more accurate sonic map of the ‘mix’ regarding levels and sound quality.

 

From a DJing perspective, IEMs are a different way of doing things. In the past, you’d be listening to a blaring fold-back/monitor speaker with one ear, and prep your mix via on-ear or over-ear headphones via the other ear. The actual mix would be undertaken partly via the headphones and partly via the monitor speaker. IEMs require you to beatmatch/prep/cue tracks and perform the mix with both IEMs in place at all times. It’s a different ‘work flow’ and takes time to get used to, but the immediacy offered by IEMs is just so immersive when done well.

 

My Allen and Heath Xone:4D mixer has a powerful headphone stage and dual headphone sockets so I was able to quickly switch between IEMs when comparing their sonic attributes.

 

The Sennheiser IE-80s have been my ‘go-to’ DJ IEM for a while now and I’ve certainly enjoyed their very deep bass response (which is adjustable via little screws on the side of the IEMs) and the top-end clarity that they offer – they ‘boom’ and ‘tish’ quite well indeed. The recessed midrange was audibly obvious, but I was able to live with it for DJing and mixing purposes.

 

Switching over to the AF-140 Mk2’s, the same character traits which I identified during home and office listening immediately stood out. The Sennheisers have the advantage in deep bass response, but the AF-140 Mk2s really weren’t all that far behind and rendered the lower frequencies impressively. Bass fiends should look elsewhere, but those who value bass tonality and texture will be satisfied. The treble of the AF-140 Mk2s was less prominent but clearly distinguishable, and integrated well with the clean mids.

 

Mixing via the AF-140 Mk2s, I realised that I need to give myself time to re-calibrate my expectations and adapt to the superior midrange response on offer. It’s all too easy to become acclimatised to accentuated, crisp treble when beat-matching and mixing, and losing focus of where the magic is... in the midrange! Cutting to the chase... the balanced presentation of the AF-140 Mk2s allowed better quality mixing of tracks, particularly regarding the use of EQs when transitioning in the mix. There was ample detail on-hand and I noticed less listening fatigue during longer sessions. The AF-140 Mk2's response is musical and engaging and they are an absolute joy to mix with. 

 

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Conclusion

 

The AF-140 Mk2 is a clean and coherent-sounding IEM without the pronounced V-shaped response often found on many IEMs and headphones. They provide excellent insight throughout the midrange and sound noticeably smoother than, say, the Sennheiser IE-80 and ATH-M50X, without sacrificing any detail.

 

I’m very impressed with the design and fit of these IEMs – they are the most comfortable IEMs that I’ve used.

 

Without wanting to sound too clichéd, anyone looking for comfortable, accurate and smooth-sounding IEMs with a flatter-than-usual response (less ‘boom’ and ‘tish’) should give consideration to the AF-140 Mk2s.

 

Thanks to Audiofly for the opportunity to listen and reviews these IEMs – it will be a sad day when I have to send them back!

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