AFUL Explorer Review – Into the Unknown

AFUL Explorer review featured

In this review, I check out the AFUL Explorer IEM. The Explorer is a hybrid 1DD+2BA IEM with an acoustic bass tube and a special-shaped 3D resonator. It’s priced at $119.

Disclaimer: This sample was provided by HiFiGo for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own, based on my experience with the product.

AFUL Explorer Review – Into the Unknown
Verdict
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Pros
Natural bass tone
Small comfortable shells
Rich engaging midrange
Airy, inoffensive treble
Cons
Detail retrieval could be better
No lip on nozzles
4.5
Our Score

AFUL Explorer

Table of Contents
Specifications

Driver configuration: 1 dynamic driver (DD) + 2 balanced armature (BA)
Impedance: 26Ω ± 10%
Sensitivity: 108dB/mW
Frequency response: 10Hz-30kHz

In the Box
  • AFUL Explorer IEM
  • 0.78mm 2-pin SPC cable
  • 2* sets of silicone eartips (S, M, L)
  • Zipper carrying case
AFUL Explorer design

Design

Explorer has dark blue opaque 3D-printed resin shells. The faceplates have a dark blue gradient with a glittery finish and I have to say, they look fantastic.

Explorer comes with standard 2-pin sockets that are flush with the shell surface. There’s a single pinhole vent at the base of the pointed end of the housings. Interestingly, the nozzles have no mesh cover – a rarity nowadays. Furthermore, the nozzles don’t flare or have a lip, so tip rolling can be hit or miss – I’ve had to dig eartips out of my ears more than once as a result.

The shells are quite small so they should be great for people with smaller ears. I find the IEMs to be extremely comfortable and they fit naturally in my ears. Passive noise isolation is average, so these are fine for commuting and noisy environments.

The included cable is a twisted dual-strand type. It has a thick, smooth TPU sheath that feels robust and is tangle-resistant. The plug, Y-splitter and chin slider are metal and the 2-pin connector housings are clear plastic.

Explorer inner shells

Sound

Gear used for testing includes the FiiO KA17, HiBy R3 II and SMSL DO300EX. Explorer is an efficient IEM and doesn’t require extra amplification.

Explorer has a warm, laid-back sound signature with a lovely tone. It’s tuned for musicality first and foremost with a focus on organic naturalness. This is facilitated largely by its soft treble and rich but restrained bass. This is often referred to as a ‘safe tuning’ in audiophile terms. It’s the kind of sound signature you can listen to for hours at a time without feeling fatigued.

Bass

The bass is tastefully enhanced, spreading warmth throughout the sound spectrum. It’s a full-bodied bass with good control and a natural but swift decay. While it’s not the crispest bass, it’s rich and natural in tone.

The bass has a pleasing presence with decent extension but it’s unlikely to satisfy bassheads or people looking for deep physical impact. The mid-bass has a slightly blunted attack but ample body and punch.

Midrange

Explorer’s midrange is silky smooth but not oversaturated, thanks to the speed of the balanced armatures and the treble extension. There’s an underlying warmth, giving vocals and instruments an organic richness without sounding muddy.

Male vocals have good size and density, adding intimacy and engagement with a fairly forward presentation. Female vocals are sweet and sultry but lack a little vibrancy. It’s a romanticized midrange tuned for emotion and naturalness rather than absolute clarity.

IEMs with stock SPC cable
Treble

The treble is a well-balanced mixture of crispness and warmth. Again, it’s all about a natural tone rather than precision – a recurring theme with Explorer’s sound signature. Despite its softer edges, the treble sits forward in line with the midrange.

As a result of its moderate definition, the treble doesn’t excel in detail retrieval but it’s no slouch in this regard. It’s still present enough to create an airy sensation and add clarity albeit with limited sparkle.

Soundstage & Technicalities

Explorer’s soundstage has average dimensions and is not particularly wide or deep. However, its instrument separation and overall resolution are quite impressive for something in this price range. The IEMs hold up well under pressure without showing any discernible distortion.

Verdict

The AFUL Explorer is an unexpected gem in the entry-level IEM category. It has a lovely design, small comfortable shells and a balanced engaging sound. It comes with a good-quality stock cable and a solid accessory set. There’s really nothing to criticize and that’s almost always a sign of something great. This one gets my recommendation, the gold award and a place on our best IEMs list.

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