It’s in and out time again, folks, and the AudioFly AF78 is on the plate. This earphone is a garnished by a sturdy melange of resin, nylon, and kevlar. Beneath its tough skin is the main course: a hybrid dynamic / balanced armature driver array. And it is good.
Driver: 9 mm Dynamic + Single Balanced Armature
Frequency response: 18 Hz - 22.000 Hz
Sensitivity: 108 dB/1mw (S.P.Lat 1KHz)
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Connector: 3.5mm gold plated connector
Max input: 10 mW
Audiofly AF78 199,95$ AUD
Made in CHINA
ohmage & porridge: fit
Oh the luxury of being clever. Audiofly angled the AF78m’s sound tube to slide right into the ear. No huffing, no puffing. That angle is luxurious, the earphone’s fit, smooth. There is only one downer: it is meant to be worn with cable hanging down your front. But like an errant fried potato hanging from a winter knit sweater, the textile cable draws a lot of attention. It transfers a lot of noise back to the ear. It lacks a cable cinch, so its jingle jingle jingle every where you go. I suggest using one of the micro-hook fasteners in lieu of a cinch. That way, you can keep the noise down, and help balance the earphone better if you prefer to wear it with the cable routing over the ear.
Because the sound bore is wide, no ear piece ever clogs the output channel.
ohmage & porridge: kitsch and quality
Audiofly have let a little kitsch into the AF78. Loud fonts and big ‘clear talk’ logo as well as general clutter cheapens the otherwise fly packaging. Under the plastic sheath is a sturdy canvass covered cardboard or plastic box. The earphones, case, and accessories come neatly cradled in sturdy pressure foam. The plastic sheath must be ripped open to get inside. After that, it flaps awkwardly and never goes back to its place. I want to cut it all away, but then I will lose the nice left-hand insert. I don’t get it.
The felt-lined carrying case is reminiscent of a Leica lens cap. Not sure that it costs 80$, though. Inside the box is a splitter, an airline adapter, and a dust brush. The AF78 comes with six pair of ear pads, two of which are Comply. The silicon ear pads are wasted on sensitive-skinned people who may find the raised Audiofly logo rubs against the inner ear.
The AF78 is sturdy. The housing is made from a high-density resin. The earphone-side strain reliefs are a bit too hard, and with rough play, may cause the nylon cable sheath to fray. The y-split is sturdy and compact. Finally, the jack. I likes it. It likes that it looks like a shrunken professional 6,3mm to 3,5mm step-up jack. I likes that its strain relief is decent and adheres to the cable.
Audiofly have done a good job. Build quality is good. Finish quality is about par for expensive Made in China earphones. Viz., you can expect smudges on the metal bands and resin shells, and the odd glue trace. AF78 is a well-designed earphone. Its polish leaves a little to be desired.
The AF78 will delight lovers of rich, warm music. Highs are easy to swallow and mids are warm. Lows are powerful, if not drop-dead deep. There’s not an analytical bone in the AF78’s sturdy body.
My first impression was of ennui. The AF78 doesn’t flash verve the same way the hybrid Astrotec AX60 does. Lows don't crow with the same vigour. Instead, they are meaty and dry. Highs don’t trip quite as clearly. But what the AX60 lacks: a solid, dependable midrange, the AF78 serves up in spades. Vocals aren’t muffled, strings are clear, and upper percussion simply sings.
While I would love more high range extension and brightness, not everyone would. What I hear is a hump-less Sennheiser HD650. And that is good enough for me. It’s got all the necessary parts, and not too much of any single part. Instrument separation and stage depth are good to great. The sparkly stuff shimmers at the edge of the ear, bass rings from underneath and rolls in next to the uppers. Bass speed is good, but not spot on. Thrash metal fans may want to look elsewhere.
Vocals are front and centre, but with enough wiggle room for stereo effects. I haven’t encountered such depth in a small-body hybrid earphone before. The contrast in stage depth and stereo image is stark. And through it all, mids stick out so wonderfully. And then there’s that powerful, chalky bass. This presentation is just what Nick Cave and Arcade Fire ordered and Leonard Cohen ordered. And damn, it is a fine menu.
PC Mag’s review of the AF78 is a good, honest read. Where its assessment fails is the 2nd entry under cons: “Distorts on deep bass tracks at top volumes”.
Indeed the AF78 does distort at high volumes. Every earphone does. But exactly how much voltage must the AF78 suck down in order to sizzle and pop? The answer is too much. No one will ever listen to the AF78 at those levels- unless they want blood coming out of their ears.
What the AF78 is guilty of is poor first impressions. Yawn. But when you get beyond ‘hello’, you are in for a long relationship. The AF78’s chalky, dry, warm sound is rich and addictive. It grows as you grow.
By the way, the microphone/remote smartphone thingy on the AF78m: it works. The remote responds to iPod the shuffle control scheme, but the small button is hard to triple tap. Recording quality clear enough.
Today’s in and out ends with this reviewer realising that he has matured. Today he digs warmth and a sturdy midrange. He still loves deep and wide stages. But he’s really into basically everything the AF78 exemplifies. And at the same time he wonders how AudioFly, a new manufacturer, were so well able to mix up the right ingredients in just the right amounts to win over the mature ear. Fit and finish quibbles aside, the AF78 is well worth it.