AudioFly AF180 MK2 - Reviews
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):



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.



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.



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


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)




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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


Pros: Very lightweight, detachable & nonproprietary cables, incredibly comfortable, musical sounding
Cons: Horn feels weak, no "body" to the mids.


One of the coolest things about being a product reviewer is having the ability to be introduced to companies and products that otherwise is highly likely one wouldn’t have. One of those is the company in which I’m reviewing a product for this week and that’s Audiofly and their AF180mk2 iem. After having them for 2 weeks, I have really found them to be an interesting iem and company with a sound signature that was new to me. But allow me to share my thoughts on that a little more specifically if I may?

A little about me
I would like to say that first and foremost I am NOT an “audiophile” but rather an audio enthusiast. I listen to music to enjoy it. Do I prefer a lossless source? Yes, of course. But I can still be very happy streaming from Pandora or even my YouTube “My Mix” playlist. I also prefer equipment that sounds the best to me personally regardless of what frequency response it has or rather or not it's “sonically accurate” and I always have and shall continue to encourage others to do the same.
I'm a firefighter for both the civilian and military sector and the cliché of wanting to do this since I was born couldn't be more present with me. I've worked hard over the last several years to earn this position and now it's time for me to work even harder to keep it.
I enjoy fishing and relaxing to audio products and then reviewing them to help others decide on what products would work for them. Few things make me as an audio enthusiast/review feel more accomplished than when someone tells me that I helped them find the type of sound they've always been looking for.
Now, the sound signature I personally favor is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice some of that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.
My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have nice extension and detail reveal with a smooth roll off up top as to not become harsh in the least. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are (in no particular order) Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI & Zeus XIV, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics.
Equipment used at least some point during the review
-Sources
-LG V20/HP Pavilion
-Playing Pandora, YouTube, and various format personal music
Disclaimer
I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.
The following is my take on the product being reviewed. It is to be taken “with a grain of salt” per say and as I always tell people, it is YOUR opinion that matters. So regardless of my take or view on said product, I highly recommend you listen to it yourself and gauge your own opinion.


The Opening Experience
Why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience
Please allow me to explain why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience with a product. Maybe it’s due to my southern roots in the hills of eastern Kentucky, but I’ve always been raised under the pretense of when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time you present yourself with confidence, class, character, pride, and competence. You greet the other person with a true warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake. Anything less or short implies to the other person that you either don’t care about them, are too full of yourself, too busy to be bothered by the likes of them, or worse, just generally disrespectful.
As a consumer, I take this same belief to when I open a new product. Why? Because think about it this way. How else can a company introduce themselves to their customers? How do they present their products? Are they packaged with pride and presented in such a way that makes the listener eager to listen to them? Or maybe they’re just wrapped up and placed in an available space. How about the box itself? Is it bogged down with jargon that says look at this, look what I can do. I’m better than anything on the market and here’s why read this and check out that. Or, is the package clean, simplistic and classy? As if saying to the customer ‘Good day, pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please give me a listen and allow me to show you what I can do and allow my actions to speak louder than my words.’
This is why I feel so strongly about the initial presentation of a product, and I feel it’s truly a shame more people don’t. But with all that aside, let’s discuss how this product introduced itself shall we?


Construction

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The build quality of the AF180mk2 is quite normal for an iem within this price point (+/- $370). They’re almost entirely made of plastic with the only metal-like material being that of the MMCX connectors that the detachable cables clip into. The frames themselves utilize a concha style which, IMO, is one of the most comfortable with the horn sharing that of the Westone and Shure style with it being very small. My first, and truthfully only, complaint with the build quality of the AF180mk2 is that the horn just looks and feels really cheap and weak. When I was putting my Comply tips on, I actually had a bit of concern that the horn may break; now, not once did I hear and/or feel any kind of movement/sound that implied it would but just the appearance of it gave me that thought.
The cable is quite impressive IMO. The cable arrives with an unbalanced 3.5mm 90 degree jack and from the jack to the split is shielded inside a cloth wrap and then from the split to the MMCX termination they’re braided. From my couple weeks with them doing everything from mowing the lawn and pressure washing my back deck to simply listening to them for musical enjoyment I never heard any sort of interference from the cable brushing against my clothes and though to disclaim, Audiofly, to my knowledge, doesn’t say these are water/sweat resistance anywhere, I didn’t have any issues from them sliding, falling out, etc… during my physical activities.
So in summary, the Audiofly AF180mk2’s are built to what I would come to expect from a product costing roughly $350. They’re lightweight, can take a beating, minus the horn worries, and from what I can tell should last the user many years to come regardless of the activity or environment you’re listening to them in (within reason of course).

Comfort

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Like most concha style iems, the AF180mk2 is incredibly comfortable. From my larger ears to my wife’s fairly small ones, the AF180mk2’s sat snug and didn’t cause us any discomfort. Now, to disclose upfront, I use, and swear by, Comply memory foam tips. So my entire impressions will be from the vantage of using those tips so if you prefer a different brand or material then YMMV.
Something that I personally do enjoy about iems is their ability to drown out the surrounding assault of noise on my ears and the AF180mk2’s do a very fantastic job at doing just that. The best example I have is when I was mowing my lawn while listening to these. I could still hear the lawnmower I was pushing sure but it was at a very tolerable noise and I could very easily hear, at a comfortable level, the youtube video I was listening to.
All in all, the AF180mk2 is a very well made iem that is not only, for the most part, durable but very comfortable, even during long listening durations. They don’t move around or slide out and do a great job at isolating yourself from the noise around you.

Sound

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Before I start this section. It should go without saying but though I link YouTube videos when I’m giving examples, this is for convenience only. If applicable, I HIGHLY encourage you to listen to the music I’m referencing on as high a quality as possible to experience the fullest sound possible.

Before I go into this section I gotta say that coincidences are some of the funniest things. Just before I began writing this review, a subscriber of mine commented on my unboxing video stating how they owned an Audiofly product and really enjoyed it stating “...they are a unique headphone...the sound signature is different than anything I have. You have to listen to them to understand.” What’s funny is they hit the nail straight on the head. The Audiofly AF180mk2 really does have an interesting sound signature that’s fairly different from what I’ve previously heard for it, to me and my ears, is a musically cold sounding headphone. I’m not saying that they didn’t exist, I just haven’t yet heard one.
For an iem in the AF180mk2’s price range (+/- $370), the technical aspects are truthfully, impressive. While writing this very section I was listening to my “My Mix” YouTube playlist and a trumpet focused piece “Libertango” by Astor Piazzolla and Øivind Westby and had to stop for a second because the AF180mk2 really shines when brass instruments are played through them; with the trumpet being its shining star. When listening to the “Crescent Moon Dance” by Mikadzuki no Mai, the sense of spacing and separation in between each instrument and section is incredible.

Treble

As I pretty much alluded to just a moment ago, Audiofly’s AF180mk2 is definitely colder sounding iem and as such, has a notable treble focus. Listening to pieces like “Tenkyuu” the airiness that the AF180mk2’s have is really showcased. Every Koto can be heard and each has their own space. There’s so much energy and extension that the only fault I can find is a hypothetical situation in which a person who is treble sensitive may find these to be a pit sharp at times. But my goodness, on a personal note I find the treble on the AF180mk2’s absolutely beautiful and listening to instruments such as the koto or trumpet really showcase what I believe these iems are meant for.

Mids

For any of you who have read any of my reviews or follow me at all you likely know how strong of a preference I have for a products midrange. To me, that’s where a piece's “soul” and emotion of the artist is conveyed to the listener which is something that always gives me chills when done correctly. A piece that I’m sure many have listened to is Nathaniel Rateliff’s “S.O.B.” I use this song a lot to talk about male vocals and especially body due to all of the clapping of the hands and snapping of the fingers in this song. Though the vocals are, for the most part, fine for they’re not too deep in pitch there is a lack of body to them. The clapping and snapping, to my ears, sound very unnatural and almost synthesised. Now, speaking in the sense of pure vocals, listening to Disturbed’s “The Sound Of Silence” or Adele’s “Love In The Dark” both of these songs sound very clean and true and accurate to what the artist sounds like. To my ears, when it comes to a person's voice, the AF180mk2 is a very pure and linear iem that can quite confidently be used as a reference material.

Bass

The heartbeat of the audio piece. Bass is what keeps everything together and maintains rhythm and pace. Too hard and it drowns out everything and sounds muddled and unrefined. Too little and your product sounds lights and untechnical. In my opinion, the AF180mk2 teters that line just enough to make the majority of people comfortable and content with whatever they’re listening to. I would still, overall, consider them a bass light iem despite what the graph shows due to the lack of impact and definitely not exaggerated but not tight either, decay. Listening to the song “Unravel” performed by Jonathan Young, this piece has become one of my go to songs to get my pumped for something. There’s a good bit of bass from the guitar and drums that are fantastic for i.e. a preworkout jam. But when played through the AF180mk2 the overall tonality of the piece is notably pushed towards the treble range. Another piece that shares the same sentiment but on the non rock side of music is “Into The Coals” by Buffalo Jones. This song is fairly deep in overall tonality but through the AF180mk2 it doesn’t sound how this piece I know does.

Conclusion

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To summarise my thoughts on the Audiofly AF180mk2, I think that these are definitely geared towards listening to more instrumental music most notably of the higher frequency band such as the koto (generally speaking) and the trumpet (but any brass really). They’re built to an expected degree considering the price they’re marketing them in (sub horn) but they are top class in terms of comfort. On a personal, subjective note, I think that outside of instrumental music and vocal focused music these may struggle with many users. On an objective note, I find the AF180mk2’s a very technically competent iem that regardless of being a colder sound is still wonderfully musical to listen to. When listening to what I found the AF180mk2’s to really excel at these will surprise you with how well they perform considering the respectable price they’re asking.





Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.

Attachments

FullBlownEargasam
FullBlownEargasam
Great report. I fully agree with you. I have the v1 but assume they sound similar. Thank you for such an accurate review including the negatives. I will look into your previous and future reviews.
frix
frix
The mk1 do lack big time in the upper mids section. It's unoffesive sure, but far from a transparent and natural sound. I wonder if it's basically the same sound sig for the mk2?
Pros: Incredible fit and comfort
Perfect, balanced sound signature
MMCX cables
Cons: None that I can think of
Disclaimer: Audiofly provided their AF180 Mk2 to me for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed in this piece are mine and mine alone.

Background: Audiofly is a well-established Australian personal audio company, with a focus on in-ear monitors. The AF180 Mk2 are the second iteration of the popular IEM AF180. They retail for $499 and utilize a quad BA array.

Unboxing: The unboxing experience was very smooth. The earpieces were packaged and displayed in foam in the top half of the box, with a hard carrying case packaged in the bottom half. Within that case were all of the accessories, which included eartips, an airplane adapter, and a cleaning tool.

Build Quality: Build quality is very good, and reminds me of Shure’s offerings, if a little nicer. The earpieces are made of a sturdy-feeling plastic and the MMCX connections (yay!) feel very secure. The cable is fabric-style and feels very comfortable, in addition to being the perfect length for my use. There’s no moldable plastic at the ear, rather a piece that’s been pre-fitted (as on the FiiO FH5) which I prefer, as it saves me from fiddling with the cable every time I place the pieces in my ears.

Comfort & Isolation: These are hands-down the most comfortable in-ear monitors I have ever used. The size of the monitors allows them to sit deep in my ears, and after around an hour of wear, I hardly feel them anymore. As a result of this deep and comfortable fit, isolation is very good, especially with foam tips, and I actually needed to reduce it a little with silicone tips when I used these outside.

Overall Tonality: Balanced, with a little bit of warmth and slightly rolled-off treble. These are now my go-to critical listening IEMs, but they strike such a good balance that they’re still fun to listen to. Respond well to EQ.

Bass: I’ve heard these described as having a little more bass than Etymotic’s ER4s. I can’t verify that, but I can say that, while definitely lighter on bass than most consumer-tuned IEMs, they provide just enough accurate punch to be engaging. You’re not getting a lot of rumble and your ears aren’t shaking. You’re getting just about the amount of bass in the original mix.

Mids: Just incredible. The first thing that struck me while using these is how well they would perform as stage monitors. Mids are forward, making vocals prominent and articulate, and they definitely draw my ear more than anything else in the mix, which I just love. These mids are magical and I keep coming back for more.

Treble: A little recessed, but not by a lot. These are good for folks who are treble sensitive, because the treble is still present, but it isn’t going to blow out your eardrums. It takes a backseat to mids and bass, but you’re not necessarily missing any of it. Just a more conservative presentation of the high-end.

Soundstage: Surprisingly large. I could easily place sounds in front of me, rather than just in my head. This is, of course, subjective, but I found the soundstage to be very nice.

Imaging & Separation: So well done. Each instrument in a mix occupies its own space, and they can be singled out very easily. AF has done a marvelous job with this tuning.

Conclusion: These are great mastering and stage monitors, but also fantastic for everyday listening, if you want your music to be accurate but also enjoyable to listen to.
Pros: Fantastic clarity and details. Bass is not flat!! Balanced with fast and accurate decay speed. Outstanding treble extension and energy. Fits well. Hard case is a welcome improvement over the cloth case of the last gen.
Cons: I do think the cable can be better. Some might find it less juicy.
Audiofly, a brand well known for its precisely tuned BA based earphones might not be making a lot of wave in the market but those who know know that what is does is rarely found in the market. They make a handful of earphones ranging grom single DD to 6 driver earphones and some hybrid earphones in-between. They very recently brought out all their earphones with a revised tuning with MK2 prefix to the names. The subordinate to their latest AF1120 mk2 is the AF180 mk2. Housing 4BA drivers per side the AF180 was their flagship a couple of years ago, before the AF1120 was introduced and was known for it's pinpoint accuracy. Not a lot has changed with the AF180 mk2, just a bit of tuning refinement with slightly smaller shell and universally compatible MMCX port are the only changes made. (more on this at "what it feels like").

Nothing has really changed as far as the earphone is concerned. It looks exactly like the last generation. The driver count is same with 4BA drivers per side. Price is same too at $499 and comes in only black color.

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ACCESSORIES AND PACKAGING:-

What really has changed with the MK2 series is the package. It looks more premium and refined. The unboxing experience still is very exciting. The biggest visual change is the carry case, it used to be a semi hard cloth case, it is now a proper crushproof water resistant carry case, adding more class to the new MK2 generation.

It ships with exactly same type of accessories as the old generation, same 9 pairs of tips. 3 pairs of triple flange, 3 pairs of comply T100 foam tips and another 3 pairs of single flange tips, sums up the list of tips. There is an airplane adapter, a quarter inch adapter and an user manual sums up the list of accessories.

I would have liked a cable clip, but its not a thing for most.
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HOW IS THE CABLE:-

The af180mk2 uses the exactly same cable as the 1st gen. The coredura cable still is in charge of delivering the sound to the ears. It is if very good quality but the market has moved on to more premium cables.

AF180 MK2 comes with their trademark Audioflex cable, the cable is of very good quality, its light weight when compared with cables from other brands and has very little microphonics. It's not bouncy and is 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 this cable guide is one the best one can find on earphones.

The cable is slightly on the thinner side. the past after the cable splitter doesn't look exactly strong when compared to what other brands are shipping with their earphones in this price range. It is not the supplest either. It has some memory but not bothering. Winding the cable is not a pain. There is little amount of microphonics with this cable, it does slightly worse than the Dunu duw-02 and is similar to the Pola symphonium cable.
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HOW DOES IT FEEL:-

Build quality:-
As I mentioned earlier nothing has really changed with the shell and the way the earphone looks, If put side by side one can't tell them apart. The material too is exactly same. It is made out of good quality plastic which can take a hit or two. Use of light weight material like plastic makes the earpieces more stable in the ear as it doesn't try to pop out because of its own weight.

Comfort and ergonomics:- Where the last gen had a notch in its mmcx connector making it inaccessible for aftermarket cables, the MK2 has done away with it.

It still is one of the most comfortable earphones in the market which doesn't have a semi custom type shell. The small form factor helps a lot with fitment, even people with small ears can accommodate it inside their ears without any problem. The long nozzle helps with deep insertion and giving the earphone a very secure feel inside the ear. All the ear tips provided with the AF180mk2 are fairly comfortable.

It is designed to sit effortlessly in the ear. It 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 like the way the supple cable guides do their job, sits firmly and comfortably over the ear holding the ears tightly without any scope of uncomfortable movements, no adjustment required.

SOUND QUALITY:-

The MK2 has exact quad driver configuration as the 1st gen. 2ba drivers for bass, one for mid and one for highs.

The AF180 used to be dead flat with a slightly over emphasized treble presence. It delivered a reference sound with little room for improvements but the mk2 has curbed the treble a bit and have added some bass presence to the mix. Instead of being dead flat it is now livelier. Where the last gen was slightly mid forward the MK2 is more balanced with the rest of the spectrum. It still is a typical BA based earphone with its mind at details only but now with some refinement.

The sound signature is slightly bright and very neutral with tonality and timber.

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Tips Preference:-

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 it becomes taller, conical and shallow.

SPECS TALK AND MATCHABILITY:-

Even when specs suggest an impedance of 16ohm and 104db sensitivity at 1k it's not one of the loudest earphones around. But the good news is you can drive the AF180 out of any portable device, it might not be able bring the best out of it (specially mid and lower end mobile phones) as AF180 demands some power but you will not feel like you are missing out on a lot.

It is one of the rare earphones which sound good with Tempotec V1a. It does lack a bit of treble extension but nothing else is hampered. It is advised to use good daps to enjoy the AF180mk2 fully. It does enjoy some power and feeding it properly opens the sound up with better stage size and more perceived micro details.

BASS:-

I was very impressed with the last gen AF180 but complained specially about the dual BA driver configuration for the lower end doesn't translate into the thump or weight I was expecting from them. The AF180 mk2 as I had mentioned earlier has added some bass body. It now feels slightly meatier and fuller. Don't expect it to blow you away with the bass body or thump, it is a typical BA type sound with snappy decay and less oomph. Bass notes don't just arrive and vanish into thin air but don't precipitate as much as they should. There is good amount of sub-bass extension while delivering good amount of rumble. Mid bass is not exactly meaty or full when compared to earphones like the DK-2001 or IMR R2 aten but compared to accuracy minded earphones like ER-4P and q-jays it manages to deliver some more bass body. Upper bass is nicely controlled with very good accuracy.

The quantity is slightly more than ER-4P and marginally less than Avara AV3. Quality wise it lends in between the Fibae 3 and ER-4P. The AF180 mk2 has a lower end that aims for accuracy and precision while delivering plenty of details and retaining acceptable amount of texture. It does not deliver thumpy bass but manages to keep one engaged.

MID:-

I personally love mid rage and, this is where the magic happens. The only driver assigned for the mid range delivers a lot of details with fantastic clarity and transparency. The mid range is nicely balanced with the rest of the spectrum. The transition from upper bass to lower mid range is the best one can find in this price range. There no loss in energy or details at all.

Vocals sound crisp and clear with natural tonality, the decay is slightly on the faster side giving the notes a sharper feeling. Both male and female vocals sound accurate. Male vocals have slightly slower decay, giving them a nice throaty feel. Female vocals are sharper with accurate notes depth and are a delight with plenty of bite. Vocal notes have very good texture to them with a lot of resolution and transparency. It delivers accurate still enjoyable vocals. Instruments have a lot of attack and bite to them. Notes are sharp and to the point with fantastic precision and accuracy. The upper mind rage is exceptionally clean and vivid. With added brilliance to it, it shines with a lot of details and clarity. The overall experience is nothing short of delightful here.

Layering and separation is of top notch with good amount of air between the instruments. The stage size is bigger than a handful of earphone in this price range like the Shozy Pentacle and Fibae Black. Even when the stage is big it doesn't sound hollow thanks to even distribution of instruments.

HIGHS:-

The AF180 mk2 has only one driver for the treble and it performs delightfully. The transition from upper mid to lower treble is as good as it gets. There is no loss of details or energy. The entire treble region has fantastic energy and clarity. Aided by exceptional transparency it is easy to pick micro details. The lower treble delivers class leading clarity, resolution and details. Notes are fairly sharp, sharpness more than that would have made it uncomfortable.

The AF180 mk2 has fantastic treble extension. It feels endless and the best part is that even when it goes deep into the spectrum notes maintain high amount of energy. If you love treble, this is what you will love.

If you are the kind of person who enjoys top end energy and spark, The 180 mk2 will bring you plenty of satisfaction. It's just fantastic. The amount of details, resolution and energy is class leading. Needless to say that separation and layering is up to the mark with good amount of air and space between instruments. The treble stage is well spread and has very good density to it.

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COMPARISONS:-

VS Fibae 3 (525 euros):-


The 3BA earphone is tuned for a more musical output and less analytical.

Even when it has only one BA for bass it manages to deliver bigger bass body. The sub-bass have similar extension but better rumble and movement of air. The mid bass is similar in size but is slightly slower with decay. None is full with body, Fibae 3 is slightly healthier here. Mid range of the 3 is lush and smooth with a feel good touch, but the AF180 mk2 delivers more details and clarity while picking better amount of micro details. Vocals of the 3 is thick and more pleasing, the mk2 is more precise and tight. Treble of both the earphones have fantastic extension. Where the 3 lacks a bit of lower treble energy and picks up as it goes deeper into the spectrum the 180 mk2 maintains the energy across the whole spectrum. Stage wise the AF180 is bigger, especially with width and hieght while the depth is similar.

The AF180 mk2 is more technical where the Fibae 3 is more musical.

VS DUNU DK-2001 ($299):-

The 2001 has totally different sound signature.

It is bassier with plenty of slam and boom. The sub-bass has similar extension but the 2001 has more air movement and rumble. Mid bass is meatier and fuller with slower decay speed delivering more texture. Mid range is slightly less forward. Notes are not as sharp and fast as the 180. Vocals are smoother with nice texture and throaty feel to them. The overall amount of details is slightly lacking against the highly transparent 180 mk2. Treble has similar extension but the 180 mk2 maintains even amount of energy and notes sharpness across the region. Stage size of the 2001 is more evenly spread. The 180 mk2 has better dpth but 2001 has more rounded width and height.

AF180 mk2 is more detailed and precise.

VS IMR R2 Aten (400 euros):-

The R2 equipped with dynamic driver deliver fuller and meatier bass notes with a wholesome slam. Both have similar sub-bass extension but the rumble is more enjoyable on the R2. The decay speed is slow here but has slightly better texture with the notes. Mid range is fairly balanced but AF180 MK2 deliver better transparency and micro details have slightly better transparency. Vocals sound pleasing on both, it’s a matter of timber, if you like it slightly dry and accurate the MK2 is prefect, if you want it to be a bit juicy the R2 is fantastic. Treble region of the MK2 is mind blowing as it maintains exceptional amount of energy throughout the region. R2 has similar extension but the energy decreases a bit as it goes deeper.

Stage size of the R2 is considerably bigger than the MK2 in every direction. Layering and separation is good here but MK2 has more accurate and pinpoint instrument placement.

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CONCLUSION:-

If you love a lot of details with your music, you will love the AF180 MK2. If you think your current earphone sounds a bit muddy and you are unable to extract the best out of your music the AF180 MK2 will let you do it without breaking a sweat. Just don’t expect it to go boom at your command, it does respond to EQ but still don’t expect it to deliver bassy wooly notes and you are good to go.

I personally love the AF180 MK2 as one of the most neutral and natural sounding earphone which doesn’t make any compromises when it comes to details and audio quality. If you like what you read here you will love what you will get. AF180 MK2 is one of the best $500 IEM for those who love details over other things. Build quality and ergonomics is very good and accompanied with good quality accessories and hard case it delivers a complete package.

Thanks for reading guys!! Have a nice time, Enjoy!!
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LostnAmerica
LostnAmerica
I did enjoy that, excellent review! I have a quick question: Have you had the opportunity to compare these to the AF180mk2 "Pro"? I would appreciate any insight to this question. Thank you.
Cheers
suman134
suman134
Hi @LostnAmerica There is only one AF180 mk2, which belongs to the pro series, there are not two of them. What you are trying to get comparison of are just one IEM.
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