I purchased a pair of Audiofly AF78's recently on sale from Best Buy Canada. I am using them with my FiiO X3, and have tried them on my daughters i-Pod touch 5G and my wife's Creative Zen. I had been using Hifiman RE-400's since August and I really did like them. They have virtually universally positive reviews.
I read a lot of glowing reviews on the AF78's and thought for the sale price they were worth a shot. I have to tell you that I have really fallen for the sound of these. When I switch back to my RE-400's now they sound congested, bass shy, lacking in both dynamics,and high frequency extension, and just generally dull and veiled sounding in comparison to the Audiofly IEM's.
I know the retail price of the AF78's is almost double that of the RE-400's which makes the comparison a little unfair perhaps, or does it? Consider this. The Hifiman RE-400 has received almost unanimous praise worldwide from the audio press and private users alike and have been referred to as giant killers that sound better than a lot of other IEM's that cost considerably more, including it's own four times more expensive brand-mate sibling the RE-600, so is it really that unfair to compare them to the AF78's directly? Also when you take into account that the sale price of the AF78's was less than what I paid for my RE-400's the picture becomes much clearer.
Now I know a lot of this comes down to personal preference, musical genre choices and the playback device being used and I am not saying the RE-400's are a bad set of IEM's, quite the contrary, but for me the AF78's are just more my preferred sound signature. They have a more spacious soundstage than the RE-400's, superior detail retrieval without sounding etched, better bass extension, with admittedly slightly less natural sounding bass than the 400's, far superior dynamic capabilities, which i find accounts for a large portion of what gives reproduced music that closer to live sound, less warmth overall, but without any artificial or added brightness and most importantly there is just a difficult to describe or quantify inherent rightness to the overall sound and presentation to the AF-78's. I find the midrange of the RE-400's to be slightly better overall, but i do not hear the crossover point of the AF78's as some have mentioned. I am not crazy about the fit or comfort and isolation in comparison to the RE-400's but i am willing to look past these issues for what I feel is genuinely superior sound quality.
The RE-400's have been often called a neutral IEM, which is damning it with faint praise I really feel and it really seems that neutral sound has recently become a synonym for dull lifeless unexciting sound which I don't think has anything to do with accuracy. If this is truly the definition of what neutral sound is supposed to be then give me coloured sound any day. Upon further reflection it occurs to me now that the Hifiman RE-400's are a bit of a fence sitter. They really don't do anything extremely well and they really don't do anything really wrong. I know a lot of head-fiers would consider this a well balanced design, but i think it would more accurately be described as an uninspired design that is unwilling to really try to make a true statement in the marketplace. I know this will probably ruffle a lot of peoples feathers but it's how i see it. To add just a little more perspective, I also really like the highly controversial Cardas Ear Speakers but was not willing to spend that much.
The one positive of all of this is that considering the reputation of the RE-400's I shouldn't have any trouble selling them on the second hand market if i decide to part with them.
Flame away, but please keep it constructive, civilized, and mature.
Edited by good sound - 1/5/14 at 1:11pm