Audiofly is a company that manufactures pro audio products for music lovers and musicians. Founded in 2012 and based in Perth, Australia, their mission statement is to empower musicians, innovate technology and provide sound quality on all levels. In this review, we’re taking a loot at the Audiofly AF180 MK2 in-ear monitor. The AF180 MK2 has 4 balanced armature drivers and an electronic 3-way crossover. Let’s see how it performs.
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Audiofly AF180 MK2 Review
Ergonomics and comfort
Linear sound signature
Comes with protective carrying case
Sub-bass lacks impact
Package and Accessories
The AF180 MK2 comes in a square-shaped box with a clear image of an earpiece on the front. On the back of the box is a frequency response graph, a list of specifications and box contents. Upon opening, we find the earphones seated in the ubiquitous black foam insert. Beneath the foam is a carrying case which holds the rest of the accessories. Here’s what you get in the box:
Audiofly AF180 MK2 in-ear monitors
3 pairs of dome silicone eartips
3 pairs of tri-flange silicone eartips
3 pairs of Comply foam eartips
Protective hard case
3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter
That is one nicely rounded bundle and not only are the accessories well thought out, they’re also high-quality too. The rigid carrying case is particularly nice – it’s weather-sealed for protection from moisture and dust and has a soft velvet inner lining for added security. On the top is an engraved aluminium plaque with Audiofly branding and on the underside is another metal plaque with laser etched model number and features.
Build Quality and Design
With respect to design, the Audiofly AF180 MK2 doesn’t appear to have strayed much from the original or any of the other models in the Pro lineup. There’s a good reason for that though, as the shells are durable and have excellent ergonomics. But more about the fit later.
The shells resemble the head of a golf club or hockey stick, similar in some ways to Shure and Westone in-ear monitors. There are L or R markings on the inner side of the shells which have a matte black finish. AF180 MK2’s faceplates forgo the matte finish in favour of a glossy piano black which definitely has an understated elegance. There are no other visual adornments apart from a silver-coloured Audiofly logo which sits beneath the clear lacquer finish giving it a 3D effect.
Another similarity to Westone products is the tiny diameter of the nozzles, which means your tip rolling options might be more limited. The AF180 uses universal MMCX connectors, meaning you can easily switch out the cable if desired.
Internally, there are 4 balanced armature drivers with a 3-way electronic crossover. For the driver arrangement, there are 2 drivers working on the bass, 1 for the midrange and 1 for the treble. On top of the electronic crossover, there is also a three-way frequency divider for additional acoustic tuning.
Comfort and Noise Isolation
Although the shells are not vented, I have not experienced any pressure buildup. Ergonomics of the AF180 MK2 are fantastic and these are one of the most comfortable IEMs I’ve used to date. The shells are very small, rounded all over with no sharp edges and very lightweight. I can happily wear these all day long.
Noise isolation is excellent, which isn’t surprising as these are designed with musicians and stage use in mind. Great for commuting and noisy environments, these block out a large degree of external noise.
The AF180 MK2 comes with a high-quality detachable MMCX Audioflex cable. The lower section of the cable has a Cordura fabric outer sheath. Cordura develops military-grade fabrics so you can be sure that the Audioflex cable is built for durability. It’s very light and additionally, handles quite well and has minimal cable noise.
At the top are plastic MMCX connector housings followed by supple pre-formed ear guides. A transparent length of plastic tubing acts as a chin slider above the lightweight Y-split. The cable terminates in a right-angled 3.5mm plug. Strain relief is good from top to bottom.
So, they’re built really well and are supremely comfortable to wear but I know y’all are waiting to hear how the AF180 MK2 sounds. Well, strap in because this is where it gets really interesting. The AF180 MK2 is tuned for detail, clarity, and linearity. And linear it is, with an extremely level mix of bass, mids and treble across the board.
A hint of additional bass is added to provide natural warmth and realism. These could definitely be used for mixing and monitoring or in my case, pure musical enjoyment. In fact, this is one of the few monitors that I would trust implicitly when it comes to timbral accuracy.
Gear used for testing includes the Sony NW-ZX300 and Soundaware M2Pro as portable sources. On the desktop, I used my PC and Foobar2000 plugged into the Singxer SDA-2 via USB and on my laptop, the Cozoy TAKT C.
A pair of balanced armature drivers work together in tandem to produce the bass. Although the bass driver count is double that of the mids and treble, the quantity of bass is still almost even with the mids and treble. If you’re familiar with BA bass then you will have some idea of what to expect. Speed, agility, texture, and control abound but there’s not much air being pushed here.
The level of the bass on the AF180 MK2 is just a pinch above neutral. It’s just enough to imbue some warmth into the overall presentation while staying extremely linear at the same time. Absolute control is what the AF180 MK2 bass has in spades.
Listening to Rhythm & Sound’s “Mango Drive” with some IEMs makes me want to throw up. It’s more bass than my brain can handle. But the AF180 MK2 takes it in its stride. Its sub-bass notes are tight and quick. However, at times it can leave you wanting when it comes to absolute impact and weight – bassheads need not apply. Mid-bass notes, however, have the perfect amount of body and slam.
The midrange is neutral with vocals presented slightly forward. Just a touch of warmth is carried over from the bass to add body and make the midrange tone sound more natural. It doesn’t make warmth the defining attribute but neither is it an analytical presentation. Clarity and articulation abound but the mids are delivered smoothly in a musical fashion with vocals being the highlight.
Where the AF180 MK2’s mids really shine is in the timbre of instruments and vocals. Although the mids are transparent and uncoloured, they’re full of emotion, richness and realism. Additionally, the AF180 MK2 handles both male and female vocals with equal deftness. Unlike the sometimes conservative bass response, the midrange excels in all genres.
Continuing its trend of timbral mastery, the AF180 MK2 delivers in the high frequencies too. The treble sits ever so slightly behind the midrange and is delightfully accurate. It sparkles without being bright and it’s clear as day without showing any signs of stridency. On top of the clarity is ample detail, all the while remaining smooth but never laid back or subdued.
AF180 MK2 is clearly tuned for timbre and tonal balance. It doesn’t need to be flashy or upfront to impress, instead, it acts as an accompaniment to the bass and mids – it’s an integral part of the whole and blends in with ultimate coherency. This softer, almost genteel presentation isn’t the most energetic or dynamic but it’s one that you can enjoy for hours at a time without fatigue.
The AF180 MK2’s stage is slightly larger than average and is fairly even in terms of width and depth. Its dimensions are more akin to a hall than a room. Due to the relative softness of the treble, imaging is not pinpoint precise. Instead, it leans towards coherency and naturalness. The slightly forward vocal position feels intimate and engaging but still leaves a comfortable space between them and the listener. Instruments are spread out to the sides and behind the vocals, reinforcing the sense of depth.
Fearless Audio S8F ($489)
The Fearless S8F (review here) is an 8 BA driver Chi-Fi powerhouse. Its sound is more dynamic, energetic and more upfront. It’s also more efficient and requires less power to reach equal volume. Additionally, the S8F is more aggressive and stark in its presentation.
Bass is more elevated and punchy, giving the lows and lower midrange more body. Vocals are less forward but have greater articulation. A fairly prominent upper midrange boost adds presence to vocals and a sharper snap to percussion and guitars but it can fatiguing compared to the smoother AF180 MK2.
The S8F has a more forward and lively treble that highlights more micro details. It has better treble extension that adds more shimmer and brightness but listening side by side with the Audiofly reveals the S8F’s less accurate timbre and tone.
Instrument separation is better on the S8F which is great on some tracks but sounds less coherent than the AF180 MK2. Imaging is more precise on the S8F and layering is more defined but the Audiofly’s stage sounds more organic and natural.
Spending a considerable amount of time with the Audiofly AF180 MK2 left me wondering why there isn’t more talk about this brand. This is a gorgeous, detailed but noble-sounding IEM. Among the standout characteristics are its natural tone and accurate timbre. The richness of the midrange and crisp clarity of the treble are simply outstanding as is the precision of the bass.
Additionally, this is an exceptionally comfortable monitor which certainly adds to its allure. But what really keeps me coming back is the smooth presentation and uncompromised timbre. The AF180 MK2 has left me impressed, so much so that it’s being added to my best IEMs list. If you’re shopping for a mid-tier in-ear monitor, you should be adding this to your list of candidates.
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