Pros: Immaculate details, Awesome clarity, vary good upper mids control. Mind blowing extension. Good stage size, Fantastic balance. Awesome build quality.
Cons: 2BA's for for bass? it doesnt feel like that sadly.
Last year I reviewed a Quad BA master class from an Australian brand, Audiofly. Hailing from Australia. Highly recognized for their multi-driver technology. It's one of the few brands which has a full series of dynamic and BA based earphones. They have a couple of hybrid earphones for the lovers of V shaped sound signature and then they had two BA based earphones, AF160 (triple BA) and AF180 (quad BA), has now come up with an exceptionally equipped earphone, their new flagship the AF1120, available in only clear option ( which I think looks really beautiful) comes equipped with "SIX" balanced armatures per side, priced at $699 going head on with earsonic ES3 and 64 audio U4 to name some.
Audiofly on AF1120 -
"The AF1120 brings a sextet of balanced armature drives into a universal IEM form factor. The six highly tuned armature drivers are arranged in a dual low, mid and high configuration where the 3 way crossover creates a sense of space and clarity that is simply incredible to experience."
I will compare the AF1120 with the DUNU DK-3001, Earsonics ES3 and my personal favorite ER-4P.
PS : I would like to thank Michelle for the Loaner.
Some of you might know me, I have more than 80 reviews here in head-fi. I am an admirer of balanced sounding earphones without much emphasis on bass and specially mid-bass, and if it has mid bass, decay has to be snappy.
I have been called a mid-head, was ridiculed for it, but man, for me all the magic happens here. For some mids are not a big deal, they don’t listen to much vocals but I am more of a person who likes a good balance between vocals and instruments.
I like my highs with good amount of spark and energy, its better if it has good extension. An early roll off is a no no. But then the price of the earphone comes into play. One can't ask an sub $50 earphone to have fantastic extension and that is understandable. You get what you pay for.
I listen to all kind of music, specially soft, alt and pop-rock, some pop (no K-pop, sorry) with good vocals and instruments, I don’t care about the artist, he should make some sense with his words and should not be a bit too cheesy.
ACCESSORIES & PACKAGING:-
AF1120 comes with plenty of accessories. upon opening the box first thing that greets you are the beautiful looking earpieces and the Waxed canvas storage wallet, in other words, the carry case, I have to say it's one of the best looking carry cases around, not strong like the DUNU cases, but this one looks good. The good thing is it has a softer padding over a harder protective layer under it giving it the required amount of solidity. Audiofly are generous with the size too, outer dimension of 6in by 4in with a depth of one inch means you can easily carry your portable player in it.
You can find 3 pairs are comply T100 tips, 3 pair of single flange tips and 3 pairs of triple flange tips in the box. There is an airplane adapter, a quarter inch adapter and a user manual sums up the list of accessories.
the AF1120 comes with white cable which is an Audioflex™ cable reinforced with CORDURA® fiber technology.
I would have liked a cable clip out of the box but its fine without it.
BUILD AND CABLE:-
AF1120 is totally made out of plastic still the build quality is good, not as good as the ODS-1 or the 64audio U3 but feels better than the ER4-P.
AF1120 comes with their trademark Audioflex cable ( most of their earphone do), the cable is one of the best when it comes quality, it's really light weight compared with cables from other brands and doesn’t have any microphonics to complain about. It's not bouncy at all and nicely supple. The Audioflex cable is reinforced with CORDURA fiber technology, a layer of fiber that covers the cable from the 3.5mm jack to the cable splitter, protecting it from any kind of mishap. I have to admit that these cable guides are some of the best one can find on earphones.
3.5mm jack has a really small profile to it, it's not really stress relieved but it has the layer of CORDURA fiber protecting it, which is good enough.
There are L/R markings on the front side of the earpieces which is kind of hard to see thanks to the white ink used on a clear shell, Audiofly.. Please go with black ink next time. Still you don't really need to look because wrong earpiece won't fit the wrong ear.
Audiofly is really generous with the cable and its long.. really long .. It's like 170cm which is really long even for a 8 feet tall guy.
COMFORT AND SEAL :-
AF1120 is really comfortable, ergonomically speaking its far better than many earphones out in the market, its designed to sit effortlessly in the ear even when its slightly longer than the AF180. The AF1120 sits plush in my ears without sticking out, easy on ears and comfortable to say the least, the longer and narrow nozzle plays a good part here. I love the way the supple cable guides do their job, it sits firmly and comfortably over the ear holding the ears tightly without any scope of uncomfortable movements, no adjustment required. If AF180 was good, AF1120 is equally good when it comes to comfort, unless you have smaller ears.
Isolation with foam tips is better than many and one doesn’t have to worry about passive noise while enjoying their music. Silicone tips are good too. Triple flanges are above average with isolation but are slightly uncomfortable.
CAUTION:- don’t use earphones where you have to be aware of your surroundings like driving and walking on the road, stay home and enjoy your music or at gym.
the AF1120 has 6 BAs to handle the work load with 3 way crossover, 2 for low, mid range and highs, one sad thing is with two BAs bass could have had slightly more rumble, but the AF1120 is tuned towards flatter sound signature with a slightly more emphasized upper mid range and superbly energetic highs.
One of the most neutral sounding earphones with a slight brightness thanks to the boosted mid range.. or it would have been a benchmark in this scenario.
It has some of the best details, we will talk about it soon.
I advice to use foam tips as they give a better sense of space and sounds more out of the head where as triple flange and single flange silicone tips produce more in the head type of stage. With foam tips sound stage is slightly better than average with decent depth and width with good height. With silicone tips its becomes taller, conical and shallow.
Use silicone tips if you want sharper tonality and slightly more bass in expense of stage.
TECHNICALITY AND MATCHABILITY:-
Just like the specs suggest, with an impedance of 10ohm and 110db sensitivity at 1k AF1120 is really easy to drive. Using an amplifier helps with stage and makes the bass slightly more present.
You can drive the AF1120 out of any portable device, it will not be able bring the best out of it (specially mid and lower end mobile phones) as AF1120 demands power.
Sounds perfect out of my cowon plenue D. It sounds slightly darker out of the J3 but it's not a problem. Overall matchability is average.
AF1120 as I said earlier has two dedicated BAs for bass, but that doesn’t make it bassy by any means, it has slightly more bass emphasis than the ER-4P as mids and highs take the center stage. Bass is the least emphasized part of the spectrum with the AF1120. Try EQ if you want more bass as the AF1120 responds well to EQ.
It doesn’t move much air, doesn’t have the slam or body either and is on the leaner side with some of the best decay speed one can find on an earphone. I am one of those guys who is a fan of faster bass decay, it should hit and vanish and this decay is faster than ER-4P. Thankfully the bass is more focused towards lower bass with no mid bass emphasis which lets the lower-bass revel itself better. The bass isn't as deep as other earphones in this price, it lacks with sub-bass reach but as I said the lower-bass region gives it a well rounded presentation saving it from being a bit too linear.
Thanks to the faster decay and lacks of any mid bass hump AF1120 has outstanding control over bass notes. Transparency and clarity too is of top class. Nothing in this price can come close to its control and accuracy leading to class leading resolution and details.
If it was not clear enough, let me make it clear that AF1120 is not an earphone for you if you want airy, impactful bass with body, its nor ruler flat but won't make a bass lover happy either, and the bass stage is the smaller than competition.
Those who thought ER-4 was really flat and would like a bit more life with the bass will love the AF1120. Good quality bass I must say. I just sit back and admire the way it keeps up with fast paced music without being too analytical or too flat.
The magic begins here, as I mentioned earlier, mid range is a bit more forward when compared to the bass, the transaction from upper bass to lower mid is class leading, after all the blabbering about the decay and lack of mid-bass I don’t need to tell you that AF1120 has not even a trace of bass bleed.
If the bass was accurate, welcomes to mid range with pinpoint accuracy and details.
There is fantastic amount of details with vocals and, female vocals are really enjoyable, male vocals sound slightly sharper than usual but that’s not a new thing for BA based earphones. Vocal notes are presented with slightly above average depth and sharpness with a beautiful texture, resolution and transparency, it aims for accuracy instead of trying to be pleasing, that added notes depth. AF180 is tuned to give a really tight and controlled vocal presentation. Other earphones in this price tend to sound a bit more thicker and in that process lose some notes depth. It’s the details and resolution which makes the experience more enjoyable.
AF1120 has slightly better tonality with vocals, where the AF180 slightly sounded tinny.
Just like the AF180, the AF1120 holds up the upper mid range like a boss, where other earphones struggle to keep the energy and spectrum in level AF1120 does that effortlessly, every instrument maintains its clarity and have plenty of instrumental attacks, if you are used to V shaped sound signature or like relaxed or smoother upper mid range this will be slightly hard to swallow.
Let it be layering or separation or spacing between the instruments, AF1120 beats the likes of ES3 and 64 audio U3 with its clearer and more vivid presentation. It’s the shear amount of resolution and details which gets the AF1120 critical acclamation. Most of the earphones produce really clear center acts but struggle to portray the background sounds with equally impressively the audiofly does it with ease.
Only complain of can make here is that and I agree with it, I doesn’t sound as organic as ES3 or dunu DK-3001.
Highs are perfectly balanced with the mids, there is a small bump around the lower treble region giving the extra sense of resolution. Where others tend to tune it down, AF1120 has that nicely covered.
First thing that catches the attention is the amount of extension it has, it's as deep as it gets, just like the AF180, AF180 was slightly sharper than usual but the AF1120 is slightly more forgiving, it doesn’t bite hard, but bites with enough force to leave an impression. In other words it isn't overly aggressive, cutting the sibilance out with ease. It's not as smooth as the ES3 or 64audio U3 though.
Let it be pianos, trumpets or cymbals the sharpness and the finishing of the note along with the presentation is up to the mark.
If you are the kind of person who enjoys top end energy and spark, AF1120 will shake your senses up. It's just spectacular, for the price the amount of details, resolution and energy is up to the mark.
Let it be the layering, separation or presentation AF1120 is fantastic. With plenty of air and nicely spaced instruments it’s a delight. The only drawback is its slightly narrower stage.
AGAINST THE ODDS:- (source - plenue R)
VS earsonics ES3:-
ES3 is an unique sounding earphone, for a BA based earphones its bassy and Vshaped in comparison. It lacks the urgency all these typical BA earphones strive for.
Has bigger and better body, more slam, air and extension too. Has slightly more texture to it with equal amount of details. Sub-bass impact is best of the lot. Has the best texture and finishing too.
Mid range of the ES3 is slightly recessed and sounds more thicker and natural against the sharper AF1120. ES3 struggles to maintain the lower mid energy where AF1120 is flawless. AF1120 has an extra layer of details with equally good imaging.
Highs are where there are some similarities, both have good extension, ES3 is more smooth with good amount of energy. Both have equally good separation and layering but AF1120 has more details and smaller stage sadly.
VS 64audio U3:-
The U3 bass has to lead the class with its impact and details, its slightly faster decay than the ES3 helps big time. Has better body, air, impact and sounds fuller with more sub-bass and mid-bass presence. AF1120 is close with details but cant attain the texture and fullness.
Mids are slightly V shaped, Has plenty of details but lesser than AF1120. Sounds thicker, has slightly better timber. Separation is good but AF1120 is better. Mid range stage is small.
Highs don’t bite like the AF1120, its more gentle with slightly more energy than the ES3, sadly lacks extension. Has better texture and bigger stage height but lacks stage depth.
VS audbos P4 :-
This is what I am currently working on. Houses 4BAs, from china but has the quality to bring the U3 down. Against the AF1120 it has bigger bass, better sub-bass presence, a bit of mid-bass presence too. Has equal amount of details. Not sharp like the AF1120 or thick like U3, it hits a middle ground with everything, let it be impact, body air or fullness.
This too is a mid forward earphone, and it beats the competition fairly with its more accurate tonality and notes sharpness, AF1120 by a hair, thanks to its more natural thickness with the vocal notes and slightly better spaced instrument thanks to its bigger than competition mid range stage size ( ruled by DUNU DK-3001, you just can't beat it, I dare you). Details wise AF1120 is ahead with a small margin. After all P4 is priced at $200 only.
Highs are similar to the U3 but has slightly more sharpness. Sounds closer to my liking. Lacks extension and bite of the AF1120. Layering and separation is better than U3 but not up to the mark of AF1120.
If you are buying stuffs like me, give this a try. Thank me later.
Smaller bass impact, better extension into the spectrum, mids are more balanced, more natural with pinpoint accuracy with its notes depth and thickness. Has slightly less amount of details. Highs are slightly less sharp, AF1120 has better treble extension and bite.
I don’t feel the need to say that AF1120 is one of the best earphone in its price range. For around 700 us dollars, if it is not the one to set the benchmark, it is the one to beat for sure. Let it be the balance or accuracy or its ability to maintain lower mid and upper mid energy, AF1120 is nothing short of excellent.
If you are in the market for a TOTL earphone, give this a try.
Pros: Sound quality is superb, comfort, price in comparison to other Flagship IEM's
Cons: Build could be more durable, it is still an expensive hobby
I have been involved with this hobby for the past 6 years, and I have tried various DAC's, headphone amplifiers, full size headphones, In ear monitors, and other said accessories. Now I am by far not the writing this review for measurement tests and frequency response graphs and comparisons, and it is not because I do not think those are unhelpful but I also know that they are usually done by more than one reviewer and I do not have the proper testing setup and or gear. I will be giving my opinion from start to finish, and if you are looking for an objective review then you should probably look elsewhere for that.
To those that are in the market looking at something of this level or in this price range... I apologize this review should of been posted months ago, but alas I went through a serious health scare, hospitalization, broken pc, end of an engagement, temporary homelessness, still broken pc, to working pc but constantly overheating, and to now where I am okay and starting over. But without further delay let me start this off.
Audiofly is located in Australia, and make stage monitor's, consumer market universal in-ear monitors, headphones, and other said accessories in the audio field. The AF-180 which was a mid tier IEM(In ear monitor for those who were unaware) which received many praise in both the audio community and consumer market(such as online stores and such). They were very competitive in the 500$ and lower price bracket, and had a detailed, balanced, impressive sound with a smoother highs that people really seemed to enjoy. Now I have never owned them but I have listened to them and I have to say next to the Earsonics SM64 and the Nuforce Primo 8 they are some of my favorites for universal IEM's under 500$. This factor is what pushed me in the deeper water and larger price bracket with the AF-1120 6 BA driver IEM's. Which when I purchased these in ears I was informed that this was their flagship model for the consumer market and the measurements and sound characteristics would be different from the well received AF180 quad driver IEM.
I took a chance with the AF-1120 and I have to say I was not entirely sure on how I would like this in ear, but after receiving and doing both critical listening and just using it for my own enjoyment what I can say is that if you are looking for neutral, very balanced, detailed, and leaning a bit towards smooth in ear then this could definitely be for you. I will break down the some of the impressions I had, as well as the gear used, and the genres listened too while reviewing this IEM.
Gear used with the AF-1120:
DAC's used: Fiio x5 iii, Denfrips Ares R2R DAC, ALO Pan AM.
Amps used: Fiio x5iii integrated amplifier, ALO Pan AM, Meier stepdance 2, iBasso PB2, Meier Concerto
Headphones/IEM's for comparison: ZMF Ori's, Monolith M1060, Nuforce primo 8's, Earsonics SM64's
Sources: All files were flac 44khz 16bit all the way up too dsd. I did use some mp3's to see if it played nice with lower bit rate and or quality format or if it is more picky.
Paul SImon, 2Cellos, the Piano Guys, Adele, Fleetwood Mac, Rush, Eagles, Glass Animals, Bon Iver, Hans Zimmer, Ramin Djawadi, Sufjan Stevens, the Cure, Alkaline Trio, At the Drive In, Mars Volta, Radiohead, Coldplay, Almond Brothers, Iron and Wine, Nora Jones, the Smith, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, Florence + the Machines, Billy Holiday, Johny Cash, Black Sabbath, Metallica Tom Gabel, AFI, Against Me, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jeremy Soule, Aesop Rock, Gnarles Barkley, Notorious BIG, Wutang, Howard Shore, Hozier, Jeff Buckley, Bright Eyes, Burial, Bob Dylan, Coheed, the Clash, Daughter, etc.( it goes on for a while longer let us just that I tried to include most of the different genre types that I have on my 3TB hard drive. I Listen to a lot of alternative, indie-rock, instrumental, prog-rock, cinematic pieces and scores, but I listen to everything as long as I like it.)
AF-1120 Sound quality and characteristics/signature
As far sonic capabilities go I believe the AF-1120 definitely very capable and definitely undervalued and under appreciated. It is a balanced and flat IEM in terms of both sound and measurements, it is both wide and detailed, but because of the consumer market many in ears/headphones have elevated bass or low end response. This being so it may be considered bass light in comparison, and due to BA drivers it is a bit light when it comes to 'slam' in the low end. It is not fatiguing through out the frequencies to my ears and it is well defined in the treble(more so than the younger brother the AF-180). It does retain some of the smoothness of the 180's signature but not too the same extent due to the flatter response most likely.
Separation, Sound stage, Imaging-
All three of these attributes are really defined on the AF1120, it was probably the first thing I noticed from upgrading from the SM64, and the difference what pretty white and black due to the SM64 having an average stage and perhaps above average separation and imaging. The AF1120 on the other hand i felt a much more 3d environment and the placement of each and every instrument was much easier to pinpoint and notice. Now, it was less right and left channel and more of a sphere around me, a more natural surround sound so to speak, and it makes the very flat and neutral AF1120 more engaging and enticing to listen to when you hear music layered and spaced just right for an in ear I was impressed to say the least. Width and separation is very good as well, and this could be a mixture of the level of clarity(which is fantastic) and the solid sound stage it already has.
Bass, Midrange, and Treble-
This is a balanced in ear to my ears, and what I am trying say is that no one particular frequency sticks out or is too elevated to my hearing. The bass is tight and controlled and doesn't sound boomy or muddy in the more bass heavy genres. I would say Comply ear tips are a good choice with this model because it helps with bass prat and allows it to have a bit more bass slam. The midrange is detailed with great separation and space, maybe slightly forward or if not then just right to my ears. The slightly smooth presentation makes the treble and upper midrange very easy to listen too and I believe they did the right thing with this IEM. Mainly I feel depending on the source or DAC that if there was no smoothness to this IEM it may of been a little fatiguing and dull otherwise. Stringed instrumentals sound awesome with this in ear and vocals stay very present and clear which I truly enjoy. Highs are just about as detailed as the mid range with no siblence or harshness to my ears.
Listening to 2Cellos cover of " Now We Are Free" sounds amazing on this in ear, the texture you feel and hear from the instruments makes you really appreciate what they offer.
If I had to compare these to a full size headphone I would say they are a cross between the ZMF Ori's and HE-560's, and here is why: the low end response and emphasis reminds me a bit like the modded HE-560s with that tight, quick, and controlled bass. In the same regard if you were blend the smoother Ori's with it's great imaging and resolution and combine it with the flatter He-560's I think it would be similar in signature to the AF-1120. Now, not to say the AF-1120 punches with close to 1 grand full size headphones, but signature and characteristics of both can be found in this small in ear, and it does do very well for it's price point to deliver exceptional sound quality.
I am sure there are some that like more treble, bass, or even midrange for their own preference and there are better in ears out there that have more emphasis in one of those frequencies, like the SM64 has a rolled of treble nice low end for a BA driver and very enjoyable sound signature, but the detail retrieval, imaging, staging, separation and clarity are weaker than this model. If you want more of a reference sound with a higher level of resolution and clarity from your music then the AF-1120 will deliver, it is a very good predecessor to the AF-180. Though it is it's own IEM where the Af-180 would be perhaps more enjoyable to some with different preferences but at the loss of clarity, resolution, and detail.
The AF-1120 was pretty neutral so in that regard if you liked your DAC and amp's pairing normally then chances are you would enjoy them with the AF-1120. The ALO Pan AM as an amp sounded great with the 1120, and that is with both Vokshad and GE green tubes. One brought out some more bass emphasis and treble sparkle and the other extended further onto the already nice midrange. What I did find a little surprising was how good the Meier Audio Concerto sounded with this IEM. It had awesome clarity and prat, and as well as very good tonality.
Build and Comfort-
Build was the one thing that was upsetting for me, and this is due to the fact that my model cracked on the seam of the shell. and a small piece is now missing which I didn't even drop these because I kept them in the protective case when not listening at my desktop. Now, I do not know if I just had faulty earpiece perhaps, but I will edit once I get a hold of Audiofly about this and see if the earpiece is either replaceable or repairable.
Comfort is the best I have experienced in terms of fit, weight, and the design. It is completely concealed in my ear you would have to look at the side to notice the in ear itself.
This is a gem that has not been noticed by many and I want to bring it to other's attention so that they may experience, own, or at least sample these IEM's and put their name out there because they deserve it.
No one paid me for this review, and I am giving my honest opinion about this product.