A Headphones Reviews Blog
Prior to the review, I’d like to thank Luke for providing me with the review unit.
Audiofly is a young Perth, Australia based IEMs company, founded in 2010 by a musician named Dave Thompson. Their flagship, the AF78, which I’ll review today, is a quite unique IEM, because it is one of only a few IEMs that use a hybrid driver configuration, which in the AF78’s case includes one Balanced Armature driver and one 9mm dynamic driver. I was interested in reviewing the AF78s since Audiofly’s appearance at the CES 2012 exhibition, and I finally got the chance to do it, so let’s check out if they’re as good as expected from such an “exotic” drivers configuration. Please not that my sample is a pre-production unit, and therefore, the retail accessories and packaging aren’t included. Because of that, the review’s structure will be a bit different than my regular structure this time, and I’ll only review the product itself.
As always, before moving to the review itself, here are the technical specifications of the Audiofly AF78s:
Driver Type: 9mm Dynamic/Balanced Armature
Magnet Type: Neodymium
Frequency Range: 18-22KHz
Cable Length: 1.2m
Plug Type: 3.5mm gold plated
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Sensitivity: 108dB at 1kHz
the AF78s look absolutely beautiful
Building Quality & Design: The AF78s look absolutely beautiful. The housings are one of the best looking ones that I’ve ever seen. Their face-plate has Audiofly’s logo placed on a plastic grille, which has multiple venting holes on it. The other side of the housing, which is made of sturdy black plastic, is connected to the faceplate with a metal frame, which looks very classy and elegant. The nozzles are quite long and thick, and a metal-mesh is protecting the sound tubes from ear-wax and dirt. I liked the fact that Audiofly chose to put left and right markings also on the protective-mesh, but unfortunately, they got marked off after less than a month of use. At first, I was under the impression that the plastic-silicone-made strain-reliefs were strong and tough enough, but I was mistaken; after about a month of use, the strain-relief of the right earpiece was almost completely torn, while the one of the left earpiece started to get torn too. Moving on, the fabric-coated cable appears to be of very good quality, as it is quite thick and feels strong and tough enough, though it tangles a bit too much and it’s quite stiff too. The Y-split is a very small piece of metal which is surrounded by a metal frame that looks quite similar to the one in the housings and has Audiofly’s logo on one side, while “Audiofly” is written on its other side. The plug is an I-shaped one, coated with a metal piece which has a strain relief that might be a bit too small. I would’ve preferred an L-shaped plug because it is more durable and strong, but the utilized plug feels quite durable too. The rating is 7.5/10.
Comfort & Fit: The comfort of these IEMs is quite good, mainly due to its unusual fit. The majority of the In-Ear-Monitors fit inside your ear-canals, some of them deep, while others are shallower; however, the AF78s’ fit is the shallowest that I’ve ever experienced with an IEM. Their body sits mostly on the external-ear, while the angled nozzle is only slightly inserted to the ear-canal. People that find the fit of regular IEMs a bit “invasive” might prefer these IEMs because of the lack of the “claustrophobic” feeling which sometimes accompanies the insertion of IEMs. The shaping of the housings and the strain reliefs is ergonomic and fits perfectly in the ear’s shape, but due to their shaping, they can only be worn straight-down. The rating is 9.5/10.
Isolation & Microphonics: Due to the small insertion depth of these IEMs, and because of the multiple venting holes in its back, the isolation level cannot really compete with other IEMs. I can easily hear my surroundings when listening to music in my regular volume (about 1/3 of the iPod’s volume), and I had to raise-up the volume in order to be able to concentrate only in my music. Microphonics are as bad as the isolation; as I already mentioned, the cable is cloth-coated, which makes it one of the noisiest cables that I had ever tried. But the problem doesn’t end here; when IEMs have noisy cables, I usually suggest to wear them over the ears, in order to eliminate their noise; this time, because of their design and the cable (which is one of the most stiff cables that I had ever seen), such a wearing method is almost impossible, so the user has to suffer from the annoying cable noise. The ratings are 2.5/5 for the isolation and 1.5/5 for the microphonics.
Sound Quality: Prior to the review, these IEMs were given about 100 hours of burn-in. I noticed some minor improvements, mostly in the bass’ and mids’ clarity and cleanness.
As I already mentioned, these IEMs utilize a hybrid drivers configuration; they have one BA driver and 1 Dynamic driver. On the paper, the benefits of it is that you get the best of both worlds; you get the full and impactful bass which is produced by dynamic drivers and you get the bright, detailed, crisp and clear treble of the BA. In the AF78’s case, the bass and the mids are handled by the dynamic driver, while the treble is handled by the BA; personally I prefer BA mids, so I would’ve liked to have the dynamic to handle only the bass. The sound-signature of these IEMs is warm, fun and quite balanced. A thing that I noticed is that these IEMs do sound better when the volume is higher.
the AF78s utilize a hybrid driver configuration (taken from Audiofly’s website)
The Bass: The 9mm dynamic driver produces a nice quantity of bass, which isn’t bloated or too boomy, it does a good job. The impact is a bit less than the Heaven IVs, while the punch is quite satisfying too. The lows are pretty extended, not to an unusually deep frequency, but still quite deep. It is quite-well textured, while it lacks a bit of detailing and clarity.
The Midrange: The AF78s’ midrange is quite forward, and the vocals have good energy. However, I found the AF78s’ midrange to be rather weird and unnatural. The vocals sound like they’re quite far from you, like they’re being transferred to your ears through a long tube. There might be some people that like their vocals to sound like this, but I myself thought that they sounded too strange in ratio to how they sounded in some of my other IEMs and headphones. Other than that, the midrange is quite detailed, clear and slightly warm too.
The Treble: The highs are produced by a separate driver (a balanced armature), which does its job wonderfully. The clarity is great, quite a bit clearer and cleaner than the bass and the mids. It is slightly overshadowed by the bass, but not to a point which I’d actually call it recessed. It’s pretty detailed, also in the upper extensions. It isn’t the most sparkle-full that I’ve ever heard, but it has enough sparkle to please almost anyone.
Sound-Stage & Imaging: The sound-stage’s size is only average both in depth and wideness, while the height is slightly above average. The imaging is about average too. Instruments separation is good, but slightly better in the treble because of the faster-BA driver that handles it.
The rating for the “Sound Quality” section is 6.5/10. It is given in ratio to the price of the reviewed product at the time of the review.
The AF78s are a good first try for Audiofly. They’re quite good in some of the areas, but they do have some quite major flaws too, such as the way that vocals sound, the isolation, the microphonic cable and the durability of the strain reliefs. These IEMs show how great the potential of a Hybrid driver configuration is, and I believe that we’ll see more and more IEMs using a hybrid design, it is the future, and it looks quite bright. With a better tuned crossover, the AF78s could’ve sounded better; their sound quality is still decent, but I think that there are a lot better sounding IEMs in their price-range. Overall, it seems like Audiofly will have a promising future. The final rating is 7/10.