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In-Ear item created by hardbop, Jul 13, 2014
Pros - Sumptuously astoundingly good. A truly beauteous and smooth presentation.
Cons - Its treble and bass are not “enhanced” in the way some would want.
Audiofly AF180 Quick Review
Thanks to www.hifiheadphones.co.uk for the loaner.
Full Review found at http://www.head-fi.org/t/737480/audiofly-af180-review-by-mark2410
Brief: Looks so meh, sounds so Wow!
Price: £370 or about US$594
Specification: Driver Type4x BA’s, Frequency Range15-25kHz, Cable Length1.6m / 64”, Plug Type3.5mm gold plated, right-angle, Impedance18Ω, Sensitivity108dB at 1kHz
Accessories: 3 Comply Foam Tips (S/M/L), 3 Single-flange silicon eartips (S/M/L), 3 Tri-flange silicon eartips (S/M/L), Audioflex SL twisted audio cable, Storage wallet, 6.35mm Jack adaptor, Flight adaptor, Shirt clip, Cleaning tool
Build Quality: It would seem to be quite excellent.
Isolation: Very good. It’s an all BA IEM so it isolates just like you expect. Very easily enough to make you a road stain or that 300 hour flight to New Zealand.
Comfort/Fit: Comfort was excellent. Fit was mostly pretty good. I can’t say I loved the ear guides but they mostly didn’t get in the way. These did seem to give a bit of an issue in the right ear but nothing major.
Aesthetics: Visually these are so astoundingly meh. Look at them, as high end IEM’s go these have got to be the least visually interesting. Not that they are terrible, just all of the boring. Cable looks kinda nice though.
Sound: This is the bit that matters and these sound just as excellent as their price tag suggests they should. They are a quite balanced with a bit of a slant to the bassy/middy side. The bass is refined, smooth, uninteresting until you command it not to be. You slap on some big assed thumping bass and it will roar to life. Sure is not a big dynamic but the quantity is sizable and its tonality and agility are all BA, it moves like lightning on steroids. Its articulation is epically skilled. Its mids are slightly skewed to the sumptuous and liquidy side. Again though its quality, tonality and its nuance are supremely detailed. Sure it’s not hurling the detain in your face but oh god its excellent. The treble is a hair on the muted side. It’s slightly softened to be gentle on the ear but once more it’s the detail level that save it. Everything is in there and the level of treble refinement, that delicate detail and ability to shimmer are phenomenally good. Sure sound would like the detail more in your face and the bass while epic isn’t going to explode like a big dynamic can, of course if that is what your looking for. If you want a monitor esq, fractionally tonally warm monitor then oh god this it.
Value: It costs a heap but in return it sounds amazing. If you want the best you have to pay for it.
Pro’s: Sumptuously astoundingly good. A truly beauteous and smooth presentation.
Con’s: Its treble and bass are not “enhanced” in the way some would want.
Pros - Comfort, Natural Sound
Cons - None
Audiofly has made the most comfortable IEMs that I've placed in my ears. They are probably the easiest to insert as well. I was ready to plunk down the cash and go the custom route, but these have changed my mind. The manufacturer was kind enough to include Comply brand tips in their packaging, which certainly entirely alleviates feeling of having foreign bodies in my in my ears. I've easily listened to them for 40 hours in the week since I received them and there has been zero discomfort. I've had them in my ears when I went to sleep and awoken without realizing that they were still in place. I started to get up, until I felt the cord tug, then turned the music back on and continued enjoying.
They are also designed very ergonomically, too. The driver housing fits perfectly in my ear and the stems are at a perfect angle. The over ear cables are moldable and the connector locks into place on the driver housing with a couple of matched bumps. This mechanism keeps the cable from flopping around, but allows for easy adjustment to the up or down configuration. I am able to compress the foam tips and get them in place quick and effortlessly enough than I can hear and feel them slowly close off sound from the outside world.
The twisted rubber cable that exits the moldable section is slightly microphonic and the contact it has with my ear or neck is often the only indication (besides the music) that I still have them in my ears. They meet at a wide rubber splitter, after passing through a clear adjustable tube.
The rest of the cable is wrapped in "CORDURA® fabric" and is not at all microphonic. It's quite sturdy, yet flexible, and gives the impression that it is the toughest part of the operation. The 90 degree 3.5mm jack tapers down to the plug, which looks like it could fit a variety of phone cases.
Audiofly settled for a simple "a" logo on the jack, instead of their complete name. And a lower case "a" at that.
Spoiler: AF180 Jack vs. Shure SE535 Jack
Speaking of plugging it into a phone, the AF180's are pretty forgiving of sources. There is still a marked reduction in sound qaulity from a good source, but they remain an enjoyable listen while piping MP3's from the internet.
I put in almost all of my listening time with standard and high resolution FLAC files from my FiiO X5. I connected them to desktop amps and while there was an expected improvement, my purpose for these is portability.
Bass full and has surprising impact. Fingers on strings can be felt just as well as pedals on drum heads. Often the impacts persist through all kinds of business going on in the treble. It never gets truly booming, but it is believable and is separate enough to discern alongside the higher frequencies. Lower frequencies are fast and warm, which is a continuing trend for the IEMs sound signature.
Mids are warm and usually without fuzziness. They can be syrupy when playing the mid-centric music that has norm for recent recordings, but their speed usually keeps things from becoming muddy. On well recorded tracks, vocals are dry and clear and very pleasant. Instruments are believable and balanced. Mids don't overpower other frequencies nor are they ever really overpowered either. The midrange also packs plenty of punchiness. Toms, snares and synths can find their attacks impactful right next to the bass. Pianos are euphonic and lifelike and decay naturally.
Highs are always sparkly. The AF180's have great extension, too. Adding the fourth armature to achieve their "15Hz -25KHz" range seems to have worked, since most instruments feel like they can achieve those high frequency harmonics that make them sound more natural and less hollow.
The high treble has plenty of brightness without harshness. They are, of course, the fastest part of the spectrum, but they don't sacrifice much of their warmth, either. Cymbal attacks are fast and have great decay. Likewise, other high-pitched synths and percussion are always audible over the heavier parts of the music. It not as airy nor separated as I would have preferred, but that's really only in comparison to my LCD-2's. The
Surprisingly, these IEMs manage to show a fair bit of soundstage. There are plenty of instruments whose placement occurs outside of the headspace. My ears have twitched several times in response to sounds that came from inside my ear canal, which is a rare thing among my many in-ear headphones.
The packaging is just as impressive. No expense appears to have been spared on the box or its contents. There are plenty of tips and accessories, but the real highlight is the carrying case. It has plenty of space, easy access and extra holding compartments in the back. It's all wrapped in aged, distressed leather with a soft elastic band to keep it closed. Look at this handsome guy:
The only problem I had with these IEMs was an intermittent loss of sound in the left channel. I contacted Audiofly about it, but I hadn't received a reply, yet. The issue hasn't reoccurred in several days and I only recalled it when I was trying to come up with something negative to say.
The Audiofly AF180 is a complete and natural sounding headphone. It trades a slight bit of analytical detail to reproduce realistic music. It is a step or two on the warm side of neutral, but has plenty of brightness and clarity. It's a versatile headphone, as well, scaling well with most every genre, source and at all listening levels.
I was looking for a portable counterpart for my Audeze LCD-2's and I believe I have found that in the Audiofly AF180's. They are both are extremely comfortable, versatile and fun to listen to.
Spoiler: Notes on detailed listening with specific song examples
X5, no amp
Listening to Neil Cowley Trio's "Kneel Down" 24/96k and the drums, piano and bass sound remarkably like they did when I heard them from the stage. These IEMs reproduce instruments quite realistically. All that's missing is the sensation of of the sound waves on my skin.
Norah Jones "Don't Know Why" 24b/192k FLAC
AF180: Highs are bright and well detailed, with a touch of warmth. Mids and bass are even and detailed. Piano sounds realistic.
Baroness "Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)" 16b/44.1k FLAC
AF180: Lows are deep and ominous. Highs are crisp. Impact is felt well into the mids. Vocals are a little strained and veiled. Timing is precise despite the distorted vocals
Pixies "Dig for Fire" 16b/44.1k FLAC
AF180: Opening percussion is very twinkly, guitars and drums are fast and transparent, vocals are laid back.
Goat Rodeo Sessions "Quarter Chicken Dark" 24b/88.2k FLAC
AF180: Instruments are dry and snappy, very engaging. Double bass doesn't overpower the mandolin or vice versa, very balanced throughout. Back up instrumentation are still very detailed behind solos and duets, while instrumentation in the main focus is still well detailed and finely textured. Slight bloat in the midrange warmth. Good attack and release in the instruments.
Chet Baker "Easy Living" 24b/192k FLAC
AF180: Just enough warmth and evenly detailed throughout spectrum. Baker's breath on the microphone is felt. Flute is bright and effortless, even over the low saxes and heavy bass notes.
Project 86 "The Spy Hunter" 16b/44.1k FLAC
AF180: Guitars are appropriately heavy and remain fast. drums and bass are impactful. Vocals are detailed. Every growly noise can be heard in the throat. Cymbals are ever present above everything, but not very bright.
St. Vincent "Black Rainbow" 16b/44.1k FLAC
AF180: Clark's voice is sweet and warm. Bass sounds synthesized and has plenty of impact and texture. High details are quick and bright, no harshness in any frequency. Many sounds appear outside of headspace. Bassoon is deep and clear. The ending crescendo section is busy, but all details seem present. The constant bass remains impactful and it tickles the ear. The ending decay is still high without too much shrillness
Horace Silver "Song for My Father" 24b/192k FLAC
AF180: Sax and trumpet are punchy and slightly warm. Cymbals have good attack and decay, rides well over the rest of the music. Good texture all around. The snare rolls are absolutely stunning. Piano is smooth. Sax solo slightly laid back, but natural, drums and cymbals still won't let go of the song, bass is slightly punchy.
And through weaker sources:
Sansa Zip Clip 16/44.1 FLAC
AF180 are warm, but there's bloat in the mid treble with female vocals on certain recordings.
Note 3, Ampless, 320kbps MP3 streaming, 16/44.1 FLAC
AF180 Cymbals are twinkly and extend, mids and bass are impactful and textured, less separation than the Shures. Highs are warm and detailed. Overall resolution is slightly lacking across the board.