General Information

AF180 MK2

No stranger to the international stage, the detail oriented AF180 encompasses a perfect balance between bass, mids and highs. Housing four high-resolution balanced armature drivers in a precision-tuned electronic 3-way crossover, this IEM boasts a brightness that cuts through the noise with unparalleled speed.

Driver type: Four balanced armature drivers with 3-way crossover
Driver arrangement: Dual bass, single mid, single high
Frequency range: 15Hz-25kHz
Crossover: Passive 3-way electronic crossover with Butterworth filter
Acoustic tuning: Physical 3-way frequency divider
Impedance: 16Ω
Sensitivity: 104dB at 1kHz
Cable length: 1.2m / 47”
Plug type: 3.5mm gold plated, right angle format

PLEASE NOTE: Audiofly is continually updating and improving its products. As such, these specifications are subject to change without notice.

Latest reviews

macdonjh

Headphoneus Supremus
Audiofly AF180 Mk II
Pros: Small housing and sound pipe make for a comfortable fit, full midrange
Cons: Recessed bass, recessed treble
Audiofly AF180 Mk II
  1. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Audiofly. I received my “loaner” pair of AF180 Mk II IEM as part of a tour sponsored by Audiofly.
  2. Introduction: I saw the announcement of the new IEMs from Audiofly on Head-fi and sent them an e-mail requesting a pair to try. I was sent a pair of AF180 MK II.
  3. Design: According to the Audiofly website, the AF180 has four balanced armature drivers and a three-way crossover. The information on the box says the drivers are grouped two bass, one mid, one tweeter. The housings are plastic, I’ll assume acrylic.AF180 out box.jpg
  4. Packaging: Audiofly packages the AF180 is a fairly compact box. I like the graphics they use.20200903_105015.jpg
  5. What’s in the box? The AF180 kit is fairly complete. The IEMs themselves are nestled in a firm foam block with a cut-out on the underside for the coiled cable. There is a cable with MMCX connectors on the IEM end and a 3.5mm TRS single-ended plug on the other. There is also a balanced cable with a 2.5mm TRRS plug, a 3.5mm x 6.3mm adapter and a two-prong adapter for airplane use. My tour pair had several pairs of tips, details are below. There’s also a brush for cleaning and a large plastic, water-proof case for protecting your IEMs.20200903_105046.jpg20200903_105150.jpg
  6. RTFM: The manual includes nine languages. It includes all the basics: tip selection, inserting the IEMs, removing and installing a cable, care, explanation of the accessories, warnings about listening too loud, and warranty.
  7. Physicals:
    1. Connector: The AF180 Mk II is supplied with two cables, one with a 3.5mm TRS single-ended connector, and one with a 2.5mm TRRS balanced connector. All of the source-end connectors and adapters are gold plated.
    2. Cable: The cables are thin and flexible. The insulation is squishy and rubbery. There are formed hooks at the ear phone ends of the cables- they appear to be heat shrink. They are fairly soft and unobjectionable when worn, even for me and I prefer no memory wire or ear hooks. The cable itself doesn’t have memory so it stays pretty tangle-free.
    3. Cable connector: Audiofly uses MMCX connectors for the AF180 Mk II.20200903_105448.jpg
    4. Tips: Audiofly provides one pair of Comply foamies (I got two pair, small and large), three sets of Dekoni foamies, three sets of FlyTips foamies, three sets of single flange silicone tips. I will admit to not trying many of the tips, partly because I was able to pick the right size right away. I also didn’t want to use a bunch of tips that would then just be thrown away (darn covid).
  8. Fit, Comfort, Isolation: The AF180s are tiny and fit inside my outer ear quite well. The sound pipes are also tiny, as tiny as I remember my Westones being. It is a nice change from the Campfire Audio and 64Audio IEMs I’ve been using; both brands have huge sound pipes. Because of their small size and tiny sound pipes the AF180 nearly disappear in my ears and I hardly notice they are there. So that’s fit and comfort. Isolation is a function of the tips you use and the fit you get. I didn’t try the AF180s on a plane, bus or train, but they isolated well enough for me to shut out office noise in the cubicle-farm I work in. As usual, I found the silicone tips gave me a better seal, but for the first time in a long time I could use foamies and get decent sound. Usually I can’t get foam tips to seal when using “big pipe IEMs”.
  9. What I Listened to: All my listening was done using my Astell&Kern AK70 Mk II DAP. I listened with both the SE and balanced cable. Other than the balanced connection providing a bit more volume, the impressions I have are the same whether listening SE or balanced.
  10. Soundstage: I have to admit right off, I’m not a soundstage afficionado, especially when it comes to IEMs. If I want sound stage, I’ll listen to my stereo. However, listening to symphonic music, paying attention to what a natural soundstage presentation is supposed to be, plucked violins and flutes left, violas and clarinets center, basses and brass right. The sound was squarely between my ears, it didn’t extend past the face plates of the ear phones. There wasn’t any layering or three dimensionality, but like I said, I don’t generally listen for that when I have IEMs in.
  11. Highs: Treble from the AF180 Mk II is smooth and easy to listen to. It’s lower in level when compared to the midrange. These will not let you hear Sennheiser HD-800 level extension and detail, however. Compared to treble stars, the AF180 is a bit splashy and uncontrolled up top. If you’re sensitive to hot treble, though, these may be just the ticket for you.
  12. Mids: Here is where the AF180 shines. It presents a mid-centric sound with vocals well forward and well-articulated. I quite enjoyed Martin Simpson playing “Boots of Spanish Leather” from the album A Nod to Bob. The song is almost entirely vocal and acoustic guitar with a spare bass accompaniment. The leading “pluck” of each guitar note was present. The body of the guitar was audible in the decay of each note. Simpson’s voice was up-front and clear, each word articulated well. Harpsichord, violins, clarinets, vibraphone, piano, all well portrayed by the AF180. Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert was smoothly present and fun to listen to.
  13. Lows: The AF180 Mk II has recessed bass response. There is a rumble under the music, but kick drums and electric bass are more hinted at than heard, let alone felt. When I listened to baroque (Bach, Vivaldi, Monteverdi) I didn’t miss it at all, I enjoyed the midrange. However, when listening to Tool, Steve Vai, various soundtracks, I missed the head-filling, ear drum rattling bass my other IEMs provide.
  14. Comparisons:
    1. AF100: A friend loaned me a pair of Audiofly AF100 he had. The first thing I noticed is the AF100’s dynamic driver provided more bass quantity and hit harder than the AF180 balanced armature drivers. That isn’t surprising. While the low end provides a nice solid foundation for the music to grow from, the AF100 provides one-notey bass. There is some definition, but much of the low end comes across as a rumble rather than differentiated notes. The bass is also muffled sounding rather than clean and dynamic. Mids are at the same general level as the bass, rather than being mid-centric like the AF180. Highs are comparatively recessed and only somewhat extended.
    2. 64Audio Trio: Sorry, the AF100 marks the end of the fair comparisons, it’s the only IEM I had on hand at a sort-of-comparable price. So, what do you get for a lot of extra money? Starting at the bottom, bass from the Trio is big, dynamic and detailed. I can hear strings of an electric bass vibrate, kick drums are sharp thwacks followed by an open decay, the bass of “2049” from the Blade Runner 2049 Soundtrack fills my head. I’ll pick one detail for the mids: Emmylou Harris’ voice was high and thin on Wrecking Ball, just like it’s supposed to be, but there was that undercurrent of wavering, gravelly vibratro, especially in “Deeper Well” that gave her a world-weary sound perfect for that song in particular. I’m a known fanatic for the Trio treble, I find it magically sweet, extended, airy; never harsh, sibilant or analytical sounding. In comparison, the AF180 treble is quieter than its mid-range and not as extended or delicate as what I hear from the Trio.
  15. Gestalt, Zeitgeist, Fahrvergnugen (and other German words meaning “the whole enchilada”): The Audiofly AF180 Mk II is a mid-centric IEM which fits well and is quite comfortable to wear. It isolates well. I think it would be good for separating yourself from office noise, or if you work-on-the-go enabling you to take calls while on a train or bus. The accessories are not extravagant, but rather well thought out. I’ll quibble about the case, it’s too big for my taste and I’d replace it with a smaller case.
  16. Conclusion: Let me tear the Band-Aid off right away, the AF180 Mk II isn’t for me. I enjoy much deeper, harder hitting bass and more treble extension than they offer. If I was addicted to baroque, small group acoustic jazz, folk, bluegrass, chamber music, the AF180 Mk II have a lot to offer. Alternatively, if I wore my IEMs all day and had a mic switch in the cable so I could take business calls while out and about, their comfort, isolation and mid-centric sound would be a treat for a work/ pleasure mix. However, when it came time for rock, electronic soundtracks, symphonic music from classical, romantic or modern era composers, I’d miss the bass of a dynamic driver and the extension other IEMs provide at the top end.
  17. Now, what would happen if Audiofly made the sound pipe of the AF180 just a bit bigger to let more

davidmolliere

Headphoneus Supremus
Bright done right!
Pros: Excellent resolution and detail retrieval
Great overall speed and quick clean note decay
Excellent treble extension and beautiful lower treble with accurate tone
Balanced and articulate mids with accurate timbre
Tight, fast and perfectly controlled bass
Great value for money
Cons: Signature is highly influenced by tip selection
Needs a source with decent power to sound best
Listening notes
I spent approximately 40 hours with the AF180 mk2, listening on the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and PAW S1 with the stock cable and also Dunu Lyre and Hansound Zen 8 wire cable.

Special Thanks
Thanks to Michelle at Audiofly for providing the opportunity of a review unit of the AF180 mk2. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review. The unit has been returned to Audiofly.



Fit, Build & Isolation
The AF180 mk2 comes with a very nice sturdy protective hard case that is worth noting at the price point, also of note is the stock cable which is quite good and the cordura fibre looks sturdy and is very agreeable to wear.

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The AF180 mk2 features a very compact plastic shell with a glossy black piano finish and thus is very lightweight, and you easily forget you’re even wearing them. The stem is long with a narrow bore that reminds me of Westone products and unfortunately I didn’t have Westone Star tips handy but I suspect those who be a great choice for the AF180 mk2.

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Tip selection is key to having a good seal given how compact the shell is. Tips will also have a significant effect on both bass and treble on the AF180 mk2, the stock silicon tips made the AF180 mk2 brighter with a bit less bass presence while the stock comply foams did tame the treble a bit and helped the bass presence. The best experience for me was with Custom Art silicon tips I hade made for the KSE1500 and share almost the same bore size as the AF180 mk2. It was the best bass experience without loosing anything on the top end.


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AF180 mk2 with Custom Art custom silicon tips


Introduction
Audiofly has been developing IEMs and headphones since 2012 in Australia with the aim to achieve clear, accurate sound and superb ergonomics for audio professionals and music lovers alike. It’s a brand I have long heard good things about and never had the occasion to audition, this review is my first opportunity at the lineup.

Among the lineup, the AF180 mk2 is a “detail oriented IEM which encompasses a perfect balance between bass, mids and highs. Housing four high-resolution balanced armature drivers in a precision-tuned electronic 3-way crossover, this IEM boasts a brightness that cuts through the noise with unparalleled speed.”

Let’s see if the AF180 mk2 holds its promises in terms of tuning and performance!

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Sound
Upon the very first minutes listening to the AF180 mk2 it’s very apparent that the tuning is exactly as advertised, a balanced signature with a strong focus on clarity that indeed boast brightness. The soundstage is quite open and wide with a black background and very precise and stable image no matter how complex and fast the track is.

The AF180 mK2 is a bright IEM but it also boast some punchy and clean bass, very balanced and articulate mids and although the well extended upper end is fairly present it’s not harsh by any means provided you have the right tips as mentioned above.

Of note is the unusual lower sensitivity of the AF180 mk2 for a multi BA, 104dB is something more common among dynamic drivers. This means the AF180 mk2 needs a decently powered source to sound its best and some smartphones or lower tier DAPs will struggle. The little PAW S1 dac/amp had more than enough power but my AAW Capri lightning cable struggled a little.

Let’s go back to the AF180 signature and dive deeper!

Bass
The AF180 mk2 bass is definitely not as shy as one might expect from an IEM with a focus on clarity : it’s a very clean bass with very good speed and a snappy note attack and quick decay.

From that standpoint the AF180 mK2 certainly delivers a bass that is in the spirit of the intended signature, the bass features great detail and it perfectly controlled. Its aim is not the fun bass, other models in the lineup can address this, but accurate and detailed bass.

Sub bass extends fairly well but its presence is clearly not the main goal although my usual test tracks like Sohn “Fallen” or Aphex Twins “Ageispolis” or L’impératrice “Erreur 404” certainly deliver a much better presence than I expected with perfect control. It won’t deliver a physical sub bass but few balanced armature manage this anyway so I’d rate the AF180 mk2 quite highly there. Note that this is using my custom silicon tips, the picture is a bit less true with comply or silicon tips. Depending on the tips seal you’ll get a different experience.

Mid bass has less presence comparatively so there clearly is a sub bass tilt. The bass line is definitely articulate and the rythmic message is there but depending on the tracks you might feel the AF180 mk2 is a bit bass shy. This was expected and is coherent with the intended tuning. This leaves me wanting for more body on the double bass for example, but that’s personal preference as the AF180 mk2 definitely doesn’t loose any ability to convey rythm.

Mids
If there is something you can’t fault the AF180 mk2 for is lack of coherence. The AF180 mk2 is a great testimony to this and again it holds its tuning promises delivering a very balanced midrange : timbre is spot on and Audiofly wisely stayed away from a upper mids tilt that could have made the AF180 mk2 go from a bright and clarity focused IEM to a harsh one.

There is no hint of harshness and the AF180 mk2 provide a very open, transparent, very articulate and accurate midrange. Audiofly also smartly didn’t dip the lower mids and while the midrange is not full bodied or thick it isn’t overly thin and artificial sounding (to my taste) like some clarity focused IEMs. This means instruments have satisfying body and notes have sufficient weight.

Speed is also of the essence, with a very short decay that makes for clean and articulate notes. The AF180 mk2 has no problem keeping up with faster and more complex and fast Jazz for example Hank Levy’s “Whiplash” is absolutely brilliantly rendered.

Treble
I expected the AF180 mk2 to feature good treble extension, presence and energy and again it didn’t disappoint. Audiofly has a lot of tuning experience and it shows : the treble have excellent extension and the lower treble energy is superbly done.

There is a more upper than lower treble presence and it shows in terms of resolution and air as well as a safe lower treble region that can sometimes be an issue with this kind of tuning. Ari Ann Wire “My favorite things” or Stan Getz/Laurindo Almeida “Maracatu-Too” are good examples of tracks that really made the AF180 m2 shine.

I was utterly impressed by the resolution out of the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and the AF180 mk2 certainly shines in term of detail retrieval especially at its price point. More importantly to me is how it retrieves detail never feels artificially boosted with the all too easy peaks. It’s natural sounding detail retrieval if that makes sense. The treble tone is spot on.

Coherent accross the whole frequency range, the AF180 mk2 treble is fast with snappy attack and quick decay and has no problem handly anything you decide to throw at it.


Verdict
I always find it interesting to review gear that are not in your personal preferences comfort zone and the AF180 mk2 is not my typical signature of choice. I often have issues with brighter signatures but with the right tips and source I enjoyed the AF180 mk2 very much in fact much more than I expected to be honest. I must say this made me quite curious to hear the other IEMs in the Audiofly range, from the AF140 to the AF160 and definitely the flagship AF1120.

Audiofly certainly did a superb job of tuning a bright but not agressive and never harsh IEM. To me it’s more of a balanced signature foundation with a touch of well tuned brightness. This being said with the wrong tip selection and on some tracks the AF180 mk2 can sound quite brighter so be careful about it and take your time tip rolling. Given my preferences I wouldn’t pair the AF180 mk2 with a bright source either, your mileage may vary. Cable rolling is very interesting with the AF180 mk2, as you can either take it towards even more detail retrieval or a smoother more organic route (typically what I got out of Hansound Zen 8 wire copper cable).

If you’re looking for a fast IEM that can provide superb detail retrieval without sounding analytical thanks to tight bass and balanced mids, then you should consider the AF180 mk2 especially given the price to performance ratio!



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Accessories

  • Audioflex™ SL twisted cable
  • Audioflex™ cable reinforced with CORDURA® fibre technology
  • Noise isolating
  • Protective Hard Case
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Specifications

  • Driver type: Four balanced armature drivers with 3-way crossover
  • Driver arrangement: Dual bass, single mid, single high
  • Frequency range: 15Hz-25kHz
  • Crossover: Passive 3-way electronic crossover with Butterworth filter
  • Acoustic tuning: Physical 3-way frequency divider
  • Impedance: 16Ω
  • Sensitivity: 104dB at 1kHz
  • Cable length: 1.2m / 47”
  • Plug type: 3.5mm gold plated, right angle format

ngoshawk

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Comfortable.
Detachable cable.
Pleasant sound sig with decent detail retrieval.
Nice case.
Good mids.
Cons: Bass & Treble are competent.
This price point may be too competitive for it.
Cable is very average.
Thinner sound overall.
Audiofly AF-180 mk2 ($499):

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AF180 website: https://audiofly.com/shop/af180-mk2/


Over the years, we have had the pleasure to try and audition some quite fine IEM’s, at various price points. Some that came in at $50, which were quite astounding (for that price). Some at the $120 level, which fit the same mold. A benefit from this is that as the sound quality of those went north with the price (as in an increasing price…), the norms and expectations have moved with them. It became an expectation that an IEM of choice at $200 sounded like a million dollars. And many worked (or were close so that the listener was quite happy). Along with that came the expectation that not only should we assume more for our hard-earned dollars, but that the sound would exponentially move towards a higher bracket as well. Sometimes this worked, such as many Fearless or Oriolus models. Some didn’t in my humble opinion, such as the move upscale by HiFiMan in the RE series (sorry, but I’m just not a fan and think they are overpriced). At a certain price, there is the expectation that not only will the critter sound good but look and fit good as well. This is where some fell by the wayside. They might have sounded good, but the fit-n-finish was well below the standards set by other companies.

The problem with this approach (not to us of course, but the manufacturers) is that when a newcomer, or relative newcomer enters the market the expectation is that they follow suit and it immediately must not only sound like the others in order to fit, but must be worthy of more than the price; as in “punches above its weight.” This to me is a lose/lose situation for both the consumer and the manufacturer. Our expectations are often not met, and we bash the product on forums, which does no good. Sometimes, the item in hand should just sound good in isolation, away from others to be successful, without the harm of having to “meet the expectation” that the others have. One would certainly not judge a Mustang GT against a Ferrari 488 Pista only on performance, because it actually may be closer than you think. The person who purchases a Mustang GT much of the time does not aspire for the Ferrari, or is able to afford it; thus, the true beauty of the Mustang GT. The Ferrari owner cares not either way.

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Here is where a company such as Audiofly comes in. They have multiple models at different price points (just like Ford), and often those models are looked at singularly. Some do certainly decide between a Camaro and a Mustang, but that modus operandi is usually set in stone: it is one or the other, not both in consideration. And here, I feel that Audiofly has succeeded. At least in getting this humble reviewer to think of the AF180 mk2 singularly. At least for much of this review.

My initial listen provides me with a sound, which is both enticing and perplexing. With good detail at both ends, succinct enough to discern the finer points of treble and bass; the mids hold a different beast all together. Like looking through a snow globe, which has a flawless winter scene, with complete holography; you are held entranced. You want to look through the globe to see what lies beyond but cannot for the swirling effect of that holography holds you. Entrances you like the first time you watched the Claymation version of Rudolph. You wonder at the animals and movement and the time it took to film such a wonderful Christmas movie (it is March but go with me on this…). While maybe not the clearest look at the holographic middle section of sound, there is enough clarity (as others have stated) to keep your interest. Almost like that holography holds the separates of bass and treble together. For you see without that, to me, the trio would be disjointed. And that would be bad. But thankfully this initial listen makes me liken the AF180’s to the Oriolus Finschi for its wonderful sound characteristics, mixed with the Noble Savant II. All three are different, but share that uniqueness, which binds them together. Wonderful sound wrought from three different signatures.

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Specifications

  • Driver type: Four balanced armature drivers with 3-way crossover
  • Driver arrangement: Dual bass, single mid, single high
  • Frequency range: 15Hz-25kHz
  • Crossover: Passive 3-way electronic crossover with Butterworth filter
  • Acoustic tuning: Physical 3-way frequency divider
  • Impedance: 16Ω
  • Sensitivity: 104dB at 1kHz
  • Cable length: 1.2m / 47”
  • Plug type: 3.5mm gold plated, right-angle format
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Gear used:

MBP/iFi Pro iDSD
Cayin N6ii
Dethonray DTR1
Shanling M2x



Comparisons:

Fearless Audio S6Rui ($429)
Oriolus Finschi ($169)
Noble Savant II ($499)
Hidyzs MS-4 ($269)

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Unboxing:

From the outset, it was obvious that someone else had the unit before me. They had treated it well, and I still received a good unboxing experience. A square matte black box arrived, replete with shiny pictures all over, but not as shiny as some. Tasteful and informative. The back shows an exploded view of the construction process as well as a graph. Also, a “what’s in the box,” plays homage to @ExpatinJapan for his chicanery. With Comply tips included and a Cordura cable, the box came well-appointed with goodies.

Pulling the top off of the box, you are met with the IEM in a QUAD-layered (yes 4!) hard foam insert on top. Arranged like two half hearts, I do believe Audiofly missed an opp for creating a “heart” at the top. A Pelican-like case takes care of the bottom 5/8ths. Inside you will find the tips, airplane adapter, 6.35mm adapter, and cleaning brush; laid in sheepskin-like carpet. Mimicking what Campfire Audio does with their cases, the fuzzy carpet is appreciated. Sturdy as well, it is “water resistant.” An instruction manual lies under, rounding out the accoutrements.


Fit-n-Finish:

Others have stated that this is one of the smallest IEM’s they have tried and as such fits exceptionally well. I would agree mostly. The right tip of course “seals the deal,” and with that the fit and seal are excellent. Bend from the plastic ear-guide is good and hinders my glasses little. Fit is thus quite good. Of note, this has the smallest diameter nozzle of any unit I have tried. So, if you tip roll be aware that the nozzle is really, REALLY narrow. Long but narrow.

Finish is good too, as one would hope. Shells fit together properly, with a fairly even coating of paint. The inside is a matte black, while the outer is glossy black. And interesting twist. The nozzle also has a “cut” area on the end, so the lip is not even. An interesting look and I will admit I am not sure why it is there. Much has been made about the thinness of the cable. I will admit it does not bother me, and microphonics from the part above the y-splitter are not nearly as annoying as some. Quietly decent. An MMCX connector rounds out the package as well as a right-angle jack. I also cannot get past the look of the cable, likening it to my mother’s old iron, which has a woven cloth cord over the plastic-coated wires. It is a bit thin, but to me so what.

The package does exude quality, if not totl quality what with the finish and cable. Completely adequate and better than others at this price.

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Sound:

As spoken above, when taken in isolation, the AF180 mk2 is good. Emitting a pleasantly near-neutral sound, as witnessed by the graph, which is dead flat to 1000hz. Taken as a whole picture, the sound is not quite petite, but thorough. The top and bottom end seem to come along for the ride, with the mids stealing the limelight. Vocals sit lower in the center than I am used to, but aid in that humbleness, which pervades the overall. Nothing really stands out, except maybe that holographic mid of which I mentioned earlier. An interesting twist, but definitely the central focus. Bass is neither too much nor too little. The same with the treble. There is a bit of sparkle, and some enunciated “S’s,” which can come across as sibilant; but it is not. To me the S-sounds are just enunciation. No more.

Bass through the dual-BA’s is good, but not of the thumping deep reaching variety. Call it adequate and having the ability to represent the sound well. With fast decay, it can keep up well on those faster paced songs as well. I would have appreciated more bass reach to help tie down the lower end, but do not feel the lack thereof hinders the overall character of the 180. Just me being selfish. I would add that by staying behind the scene a bit, the bass does not get in the way of the listening pleasure, only makes you wish for more when the song calls for it.

The mids are definitely the highlight of the af180. Coherent, present, and central; the mids enjoy the limelight as can be expected with this set up. By that I mean, once you have heard the 180, you realize that the sound was built around the mids. Some of the better vocal treatment of late is the result. Lyle Lovett’s M-O-N-E-Y shows forth the best of this. His voice can be piercing on some IEM of late. Not here. There is the enunciation as noted, but as part of the fit of sound signature. It plays well with this jazzy-live tune. I found myself turning the volume up with the AF more than others of late as a result. Clear, and crisp would be good definers as well. Not like my CTM Da Vinci X mind you, but for this price a good fit.

Already mentioned a good bit, the treble follows the bass behind the mids. But with a bit of sparkle to keep things more even. Not sibilant, but succinct in the S-sound, the 180 comes across as competent, without artificiality to aid in presentation. Another (much less expensive) in house right now has a definite artificiality to it with regard to cymbal clashes and treble. Very off-putting to me; there is none of that here. Enjoyable without the bite, which can hinder my personal listening experience. I would not call it a bit of roll off, as I am not the one best to judge that, but the 180 is certainly not piercing or overly proud of that top end. Again, a humble nature comes across. Almost polite, but with enough veracity to show its note. A well laid treble, which supports the overall well.

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Because of those mids, the sound stage may seem artificially wide, but not audaciously wide. While it is good, it does not present itself as insanely different than the character of the IEM. Some shout a certain part of their signature forward to showcase that sound. Here, humility seems the case, and the sound stage adds to that by being wide, tall and deep; but not ostentatiously. A pleasant experience. As a result, layering is good but not great. Presence is felt with each instrument as well as placement; but it is more in character with an “over there” as opposed to a precision arrow-point of placement. Again, nothing wrong with that adding to the character. The more I listen, the more I appreciate the route taken by Audiofly, likening it to Dita and the Dream. Until I heard the 64Audio duo, which followed on tour, the Dream was quite wonderful; and still is. Same here. Good of its own merit. No more, no less.


Comparisons:


Audiofly AF180 mk2 ($499) v Fearless Audio S6Rui ($429):

One of the first iterations from Fearless, I quite liked the S6Rui. Providing a W-shape (to me), the bass quantity is more than the 180, but not of any better quality. There seems to be that hint of bass, which only shows sometimes when you really crave more. Not bad mind you, it just fell a bit short to me. When talking about the mids, there is no comparison to me. The 180 is of such good quality that the S6 seems to shout at you. Placed much further forward and a bit higher, it definitely steals the show. To the detriment of the overall sound. It provides very good layering and decent detail, but at the expense of being pushed too far forward. Easier to drive, I had to turn the volume down more than the MS4 listed below. Add in that the upper end seemed biting, and it makes for a much more specific sound taste. Good for commuting due to the isolation and upper push, the S6 is not quite as neutral and I think that is what downgrades it overall. The S6 cannot seem to decide whether it wants to be a quality bass-presenting signature, forward-pushing mid monster or one of adequate treble push and wide of stage. This is what keeps it from becoming truly good in my opinion. It cannot decide which way the signature wants to go. The AF180? It definitely knows.


Audiofly AF180 mk2 ($499) v Oriolus Finschi ($169):

After I reviewed the Finschi, I will openly admit that it became my all-time favorite pretty much under $500. Now this is just one reviewer’s opinion, but the signature fit me so well, that were I only allotted three IEM’s (it’s my call go with it) at various prices, the Finschi would be one of those three. One of the others lies right below this, and the third the Legend X. Were I shipwrecked with unlimited power for DAP’s only, those three would occupy my coveted trio. No others give me as much satisfaction as them. Period. So…how does one judge it against a newer product, since I already have that bias? Pretty easily actually. The bass is of more quantity, but again not as fast in decay, or of good quality. I do not care, but if one does, the 180 while having less, is much better in control.

Mids are reigned in as well. Wherewith the 180, the mids are the star, the bass is on the Finschi to me. Vocals are placed higher in the signature, which can hinder cohesiveness a bit. The treble can be a bit biting when using silicons, hence I use only Comply’s. Even then, the treble can become a bit tiresome and volume lowers. The AF180 has better control up top, even if it takes the backseat to the mids. If you want a steal (to me), like excellent bass quantity without the overwhelmingness like the MS4 below, then definitely look at the Finschi. If you want a better-balanced sound, even with the bass and treble tying the ends together like containing a hot air balloon, which is taking off, then the 180 is a good listen.



Audiofly AF180 mk2 ($499) v Noble Savant II ($499):

One of the other two desert island keepers is the newest to me. The Savant ii. In looking for something in this price range, I wanted good bass, excellent detail retrieval, and a sound signature on the warm side of life. Just like the Finschi, only better. And after consulting another Headfier, he steered me towards this versus the Sage. And I do not regret it one bit. Excellent bass quality and quantity, combined with mids, which are wonderful in clarity make for a stunning (to me) package. With very good reach of treble up top, without being peaky, spikey or piercing; the Savant ii defines my sound character. Although I do wish it had a bit more bass (like the Finschi), I find it eminently listenable for long sessions and reach for it often.

Compared to the 180, the Savant has a much fuller sound signature, blossoming into life while providing a fluid response to the music. The 180’s mids represent themselves well, and a bit humbler in nature. Not as forward as the Savant, I appreciate their presentation. Due to the forward nature of the Savant mids, I do find that I have to turn the volume down more often. Again, if you want an overall excellent warmer sound signature, the Savant is worth a look. If you prefer more neutral, with wonderful mids, the 180 might get the nod.



Audiofly AF180 mk2 ($499) v Hidyzs MS-4 ($269):

Added after talking to @Wiljen, he suggested I compare the two as he would as well when I send the AF on to him. For once, I was ahead of the game with this one. I appreciated its honest presentation, without too many highlights. It performs well and I still like the sound of it. Easier to drive than the 180, it has a brighter sound, with deeper reach of bass as well. In fact, you could call the bass of the MS4 a hammer. It thumps well into your head, almost overwhelming the signature. I like bass, but this bleeds into the mids. There is also a touch of artificiality of those mids. Not quite as coherent as the 180, the MS4 is of a shoutier sort, with higher treble reach as well, and those mids are pushed forward as well. I have to turn the volume down as a result. It still sounds quite good and has one of the more fun signatures I have heard, but it is not as refined as the 180.

The fit and finish are better as well. The all-metal design makes for a polished look. Refined. I’m not really fond of the cable above the y-splitter though. Something, which can be easily changed. Fit versus the 180 is worse as well. Trying for that custom look, the protrusions are in the wrong spot for me. Not bad mind you, just not as effortless as the 180.

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Sources:

This seems to be coming into play more often lately, or maybe I am simply getting better (doubt it…). That said, the 180 does play better with certain DAP’s. Of the ones listed above, I found the DTR1 to suit the 180 the best. About as neutral, as neutral gets, the pair worked in concert together, giving each the benefit of their best. It really was an excellent pairing, and the majority of my time was spent with the Dethonray. Clarity for days, the pair worked across genre to allow the music to show their goods and bads. A positive in my book.

Another fine pairing was the Cayin N6ii. I have found very few, which do not pair well with the N6, and this makes me happy. Combined with the 180 though, I found the Cayin trying to instill its sound signature across the 180. And it just didn’t work as well as the Dethonray. It was still good but trying to warm a signature as neutral as the 180 was not in eithers best interest.

Fitting well in between (maybe call it just right?...) was the Shanling M2x. Since the M5s has left my stable (I do miss it…sigh), the M2x is my go-to Shanling unit. Portable with WiFi for Tidal, it just works. As such it paired well with the 180, adding the right amount of warmth, instead of forcing upon the 180 like the Cayin. Not as vibrant as the DTR1, nonetheless, the Shanling embodied a warm touch across the 180’s bow, giving it that warmth, which benefitted both. This was a pairing of which I could listen for a good long time. And it would be very pleasant.

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The Finale:

The AF180 mk2 shares some characteristics with fairly common Chinese brands. This most likely is not by happenstance. That is not a slam on Audiofly either. It means that Audiofly is aiming for a winning line. A winning proposition. And with the AF180 mk2, they mainly do hit the mark. This is quite a neutral IEM, and one which those who favor neutrality will savor the sound. Not too much bass, good treble with a bit of sparkle, and really good mids highlight a fine overall package. The vocal sound, which emanates from the 180’s is enough to potentially draw customers in. With really good detail of those vocals, and that semi-holographic nature, not unlike having a built-in balanced cable make for a package, which will win many over. Especially those who do like having their sound come out pure, without a push from any end. And in that regard, the 180 would be a fine IEM at which to look.

I thank Audiofly for the loan of the AF180 mk2. It has been an enjoyable time together, with much to like; especially the pairing with the DTR1. The two seemed destined to fit together, and for that I enjoyed the time. Cheers.

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