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Universal Fit item created by svyr, May 20, 2012
Pros - that warm, comfortable sound that grows with you
Cons - cable is crap, finish is par for the MADE IN CHINA course
If you want to read me ramble on more about haptics and finish quality, head to Ω image's review.
I know it is a year on and this earphone is no longer en vogue. However, I reviewed it. Take that world! ARggggh!
Why has it taken so long for me to get this on? Well, because I take a long time. Yes, even if the review is short. And I've sort of changed opinions on a few things, preferring items that guarantee long-term investments. Items that are well-designed (not just for looks) to be comfortable, strong, and that don't get in the way- these are the items I really dig. Really.
The AF78 is okay in this regard. I love its sound. Its build is strong, but its usability isn't as good as a number of options out there. I'm not on the fence, however. In the world of 200$ earphones, there are a lot of wannabes that just do sound or just do style. AF78, while not what I call a handsome earphone, is simple enough and easy to wear. Its sound is good for those that like a bit of a warm, expansive feel to their music and don't mind a soft upper frequency dip.
So I tip back and forth.
Fit and Haptics
Best fit is done with the cable down. You can wear them with the cable draped around the ear, but the neck cinch-less heavy cable turns the earphone around and it the earphone may fall out of your ear. The sound tube is thick, so tiny canalled peeps may find it tight. Some may find it uncomfortable. The cable transfers way too much noise to the ear. Curdura: it's strong. Yay. But this isn't a big headphone and it is meant to be worn out and about. Something light and that mitigates touch/bone noise would be much more welcome. Strong can be all those things. Check the Audio Technica CK10 cable.
A neck cinch is imperative. Alternatively, use a twist-tie. But then you have uglied your fly earphone.
The remote nub works somehat like an iPod shuffle: triple tap to return to the first song of an album/shuffle queue; double goes forward; single to pause/play. It's a workable system but the button is too recessed and the remote small. Triple tapping: if you can do it repeatedly, you are destined to be a brain surgeon. If you are already in your thirties, can do the triple tap, and are not a brain surgeon and rich... better luck next time. Bad design.
I did not like this sound at first. Boring. Dull. "Where's the upper stuff?" I was apt to say in my bathrobe of ripped towel and moth-eaten banana pants. It's there, but it takes time to hear it, especially if you are coming from, you know, Audio Technica's CK10, ER4, or even the ortofon EQ5. But once you uncover it, you uncover a richness that really isn't that common in in-ear earphones. It is a somewhat dark, mostly sumptuous upper frequency. Good 3D space in the uppers and lowers. Mids don't fair as well for space, but the overall impression is good. Bass power is certain, but it doesn't reach really low. It doesn't travel too far up the frequency scale, but it exudes low end warmth. Mids are their own, but slide a bit into upper bass and lower treble.
It's very like an earphone version of the HD650, but maybe slightly warmer. Viz., if you're expecting shimmer and rattle, you may be disappointed, or you may have to wait a while. Definitely wait a while. I did NOT LIKE THESE PHONES at first. Two months later, I have a very hard time putting them down. But it required a LOT of effort on my part. I'm typically an ER4 guy, you know. I'm changing.
And the AF78 really helped me realise that.
Speed isn't overly fast, but it keeps up with today's poppy trance quite well and a lot of 2001-2003 turning-point albums like DJ Tiësto's 'In Search of Sunrise' series. Speed is good enough. Atmosphere is perfect. Perfect. Fast metal tracks with machine gun percussion such as Dyer's Eve isn't maybe the best venue for the AF78 to stretch it's legs. But it works well enough.
These phones are for: The Smiths, Arcade Fire, Nick Cave and so on and forth and all that stuff. And I dig them very much. Just not their fit.
If AudioFly could put this sound into an over-the-ear design with a portable-friendly cable, I'd ride right in on these all the time.
If you want to read me ramble on more about haptics and finish quality, head to Ω image's review.
Pros - Small, sturdy build, deep and ample bass (but not too much) response. Responds well to EQ, low background noise. Sibilance free, enjoyable mids
Cons - potentially isolation and comfort/ergonomics, not the most resolving mids, not the most extended and emphasised(perceiv. detailed) highs, worth $200?
First off, here are some pretty avg pictures:
Some better ones are on the product page: http://www.audiofly.com/products/headphones/af78-detail.html along with the specs.
Audiofly are a new entrant into the IEMs market, and they have a range of products you can read about on http://www.audiofly.com/about-us.html and http://www.audiofly.com/headphones.html
AF78 should be available at the end of May and should come with:
The review package doesn't include most of those, so discussing accessories is outside the scope of the review.
I asked Audiofly whether I can try their new flagship and Luke and Dave were nice enough to send me a unit for local review.
In interest of full disclosure, I asked whether there was an option of purchasing the unit if I liked it, and was told I can keep it (nice of them )
The bottom part of the body seems to be metal, the top - plastic, and I'm not sure what the rim is made of. The rim is slanted/almost triangular/sharp.
I'll come back to what I think about the ergonomics of the body in the fit section
The cable is plastic or rubberized plastic in a nylon sheath.
The plug is metal, straight, with gold plating and purple rings. One of the nicer plugs I've seen to date on IEMs.
I don't like the cable - the plastic twists inside the nylon sleeve and it bends awkwardly into shapes (not quite tangly but irritating and annoying for wearing over the ear. So far it's mild, but the same thing progressively happened with my MPE-933, so I'm hoping it won't with AF78).
It's also very microphonic, and that doesn't go away completely if worn over the ear (which is not easy to do since the cable is stiff and running the cable over your ear might not come easy depending how you place these in your ear and which way your cable is twisting).
The strain relievers on the cable - both the plug and connecting to the IEM body look very durable and supportive.
Overall, build quality wise, these seem like an IEM version of Pioneer Monitor 10 and Senn's HD25 (can't really see how you can accidentally wreck them, except by flooding them).
On a related note - I'm not quite sure whether the grill at the back can let water in, but I certainly wouldn't try it. If you go to http://www.audiofly.com/products/headphones/af78-detail.html and click on the technology tab, it will explain what's in the housing, and also suggest the grill isn't waterproof (the holes are tiny though).
Finally, they seem to have relatively low impedance and high sensitivity (16ohm/108db) but I don't get any background noise like with DBA-02 mk2.
It will not be easy for some people to get a good seal/comfortable fit with these. If they fit you well worn cable down - congratulations. (they fall out of my ears like that even with the largest tips).
You can try wearing these with the cable straight down (the usual way you'd wear IEMs), or by rotating the protruding body around in your ear and putting the cable over the ear (pushing the protruding body into the edge of the ear).
It took me a couple of hours to find a reasonably good seal, but the position of the body was with the cable looking out of the IEM(not up, not down - out). (i.e. the body was rotated 90 degrees to the normal wearing down use case). Unfortunately in this position the metalic grey rim on the IEM body digs into my ear irritating and bruising it. Needless to say I'm not a fan of that. If only Audiofly made the body just a simple 'rounded brick'. (they do look pretty though).
Where you wrap the cable over the top of the ear. (the silver rim on the other side will be directly touching the back or side of your ear going 'owie')
Isolation is OK. As per shallow fit described by many. I also had to use non-stock silicon tips (softer silicone ones - SF-50 from audiozones), since the stock tips felt uncomfortable (stiff). The flipside to shallow fit is that people who get TMJ issues that flare up from IEMs, or can't wear IEMs for a long time if the tips irritate their ear canal may find AF78 a good compromise regarding fit/seal and comfort.
By the way - a fun thing happens with comply tips. (I have the medium size Tx500 bought separately). Wearing AF78 cable down or cable over the ear as above - the soft bit of the Tx500 foam past the plastic core squishes making the hole really small and it sounds muffled and baaad...
Double and triple flange tips (not in the included tips, but I tried DF-10/DF-30/TF-30), were quite ok and people who want a slightly deeper fit might like them.
While we're on fit and comfort - I again want to disapprovingly point out the sharp protruding plastic or metal grey rim at the top of the IEM that could possibly prevent you from finding a comfortable wearing position. (I managed to bruise my ear with it, where it pushes into the back/side of the ear)
Sound leakage is about 40% of what's playing from the nozzle (you will hear them in a quiet room next to someone wearing them, but probably not outside/in public transport unless you really crank them up)
I finally managed to get used to the fit, and got a chance to compare them to a universal version of UM mage, and some other IEMs I've owned.
Generally, I'm a fan of deep impactful bass/forward mids and extended highs (although the latter largely depends on whether I'm listening to classical or heavy/power/prog metal)
AF78's sound signature is - (what most people call) extended but not overbearing bass; impactful but not overly bloated but by no means missing (there are also some people who get TFTA 1V and think there isn't enough bass). Relatively forward mids and somewhat/relatively subdued highs (not overly so for the latter, and that also means AF78 are never sibilant or harsh).
UNEqed, these sound best to me at higher volumes. Amping them with Epiphany's O2, seems to help with the bass roll-off from my Cowon D2 and lowers the perceived highs roll-off. (more a comment on Cowon's D2 issues with low impedance IEMs, I suppose)
I must say, the the lower end on AF78 (mid bass, sub bass), is great (more defined than Mage, better than DBA-02, MPE-933 and SE425). The dynamic driver really makes a difference.
The treble is relatively subdued though (although UM house sound treble is probably too hot for some people).
Mids resolution is ok, somewhere between MPE-933 and SE425. But there is an odd quality to the mids, and I can't quite put my finger on what it is:
As one of the other early reviewers mentioned, there is a slight bass bleed into lower mids. (and it will increase if you boost the bass ) Uneqed it feels like there's a bit too much lower mids in these. (IMO hence why people think they sound odd and maybe slightly nasal).
Try this: eq in a "/" shape starting from about 600hz into 3-5khz. (let's say -3db @500, -2 @ 1khz, +2 @ 2khz, +1.5 @ 3khz).
AF78 responds well to EQ. (in particular cowon's BBE/MACH3BASS - that also dips the lower mids and bring up upper mids and treble a bit http://rmaa.elektrokrishna.com/Comparisons/Cowon%20D2+%20vs.%20S9%20-%20BBE%20Test/fr.png http://rmaa.elektrokrishna.com/Comparisons_%28No_Loads%29/Comparison-D2-FW-BBE-M3B/fr.png).
I think if you're prepared to EQ them a bit, they make excellent 'fun' IEMs. (with near max BBE/MACH3BASS they have near UM Merlin levels of bass - retaining the impact and definition and not becoming flabby).
I do like these as ' "fun" metal and classical music' IEMs (although probably more suitable for heavier music). They're really quite enjoyable, though not the most resolving or analytical IEMs. I still prefer the mids and highs from TWFK the way UM tune it, and I hope audiofly make a version of AF78 (let's call it AF100 ) with a dynamic driver (lows) + TWFK (mids/highs). and a more egonomic body/cable more suitable for wearing over the ear.