THAT’S SOME FLY AUDIO
Australian-based headphone company Audiofly is one of very few in-ear manufacturers to have created a balanced armature / dynamic driver hybrid design. I must say that the sound-signature is impressively well-rounded. The Audiofly AF78 is a very interesting pair of earphones. While my overall impression is very positive, I am not without criticism – specifically of the ergonomic design. Now, let me first express that I understand why Audiofly has made the enclosures as large as they are; after all, they have to store a 9mm dynamic driver and a balanced armature driver inside. As a result of the largeness of the design, I experienced a bit of difficulty when inserting the earpieces into my ears. I could not get these earphones to seal quite as well as I normally am able to.
THE FIT AND THE FINISH
The earphones ship with five pairs of differently sized silicone eartips. Although, I don’t typically opt for the biggest size, I did in this case because the eartips do not sit as deep in the ears as I am used to; therefore, I need to use a bigger size tip to ensure that I got a seal. To be quite honest, getting these earphones to seal was a task initially. They do not enter the canal as much as they rest in the conchal-bowl section of the ear, right outside the canal. For this reason, even when I get a seal, I do not experience the same degree of isolation that I do with several other earphones. In terms of comfort, the AF78 are surprisingly on the mark. Despite the rather large enclosure, the earpieces rest at the base of the ear without much added weight or awkwardness.
The cable features a sturdy nylon sleeve that is fairly tangle-resistant. Those who have read other in-ear reviews that I’ve done know that I prefer a behind-the-ear cable style as opposed to a straight-down cable style. In this case, it is impossible to wear the earphones with the cable behind the ear unless you don’t mind reversing the channels.
Now it is worth mentioning that the AF78 comes in two different variations: one is features the earphones without a mic/remote and the other features the earphones with a mic and remote compatible with most smart-phones. In evaluating the call quality, I found that the AF78-1-01 is outstanding – among the best that I’ve tried.
ALL ABOUT THE SOUND...
Overall, I have found that the AF78 is an excellent sound pair of earphones for most listening preferences. It is fairly balanced, though lacking a bit of sparkle up on top.
- Visceral bass response
- Well-balanced tone
- Good for a variety of music including rock, hip hop, jazz, metal, blues, country, acoustic
- Spacious sound
- Above-average imaging ability
- Lacks a little upper-harmonics (treble rolled off)
- Vocals are slightly recessed
- Not ideal for classical music
The sound is quite spacious for an in-ear. Part of this may have to do with the fact that the earpieces do not sit quite as deep in the ear as the typical in-ear. However, another reason for this spacious sonic presentation has to do with the inclusion of the dynamic driver. I have long felt that dynamic drivers added a greater sense of space and impact to the sound of an earphone. However, in the case of the AF78, there is the added resolution of a balanced armature driver. In evaluating the AF78, I had the added benefit of not knowing that the AF78 was a dynamic/balanced-armature hybrid until many hours into my first listen. I was confused whether the AF78 was a balanced armature or a dynamic driver design. When I found out it was both, I understood my own confusion.
For instance, when listening to “Prime Directive” by the Dave Holland Quintet, the very low bass notes have added sense of depth. There is weight here, but also airiness. It is a specific sound that I don’t normally associate with dynamic nor balanced armature drivers. The vibraphone exhibited a tremendous sense of resonance and cut through the mix more noticeably than I am used to. The trombone and the tenor sax occupy separate channels in this song; however the two instruments are not hard-panned (meaning that they are not solely in one channel). The way which the two instruments occupied their sense of space was very realistic; I was able to sense a blending of the two lead instruments in the center.
Listening to Nas’s “New York State of Mind,” I was struck by visceral quality of the bass. In my experience, this sense of impact can only come from a dynamic transducer. The voice was placed a little closer to the background than I would prefer. One interesting aspect regarding the AF78’s sonic presentation is that I find its soundstage to be rather linear as opposed to spherical. The sound is widely spread but does not come forward all that much.
Shifting my attention to rock music, I put on “Alive” by Pearl Jam. The drums and bass sound thick and snappy, just how I like to hear my rock. I don’t like emaciated sounding earphones for rock. The crunch of the guitar was there, but not as present as I may have liked; still I am nitpicking in this regard. I may have preferred a bit more treble here to bring out the upper harmonics of the guitar. I switched to Led Zeppelin’s “Achilles Last Stand” which is mastered quite a bit brighter than the Pearl Jam tune. Listening to Zeppelin, I felt that the earphones were on-point with what I look for in terms of guitar presence.
Upon listening to Sir Georg Solti’s second recording of the Beethoven 3rd Symphony with Chicago Symphony, I felt that there was noticeable lack of air and dynamics. It was not terrible by any stretch, but not enough for me to suggest that these earphones are well-suited for classical music listening.
The AF78 is one of very few in-ear balanced-armature/dynamic driver hybrid designs in the market today. While this type of innovation is not unique to Audio Fly, it is extremely rare at this point to find manufacturers creating such a novel product at such an affordable price. Highly recommended!