The Audiofly AF180 In-Ear Monitor Reviewed
I often get asked about my methods for determining which of my IEMs get an InnerFidelity write-up. The predominant assumption is that they are assigned by Tyll, but I usually learn that he likes a particular IEM the same way everyone else doesfrom a monthly update post.
My requirements for an InnerFidelity review are for the product to 1) be better than others of its type, 2) be in a category of interest to InnerFidelity readers, and 3) have measurements that don't show any hideous problems. It also helps if it will have staying power as a recommendationbecause my IF reviews are few and far between, it can be frustrating to review the latest and greatest only to see it replaced with a newer model a few months later.
So, while there might be a small bias towards newer releases with a potentially long lifespan, the main thing an IEM has to do to get an IF review is simply impress me with its design and performance.
This quad-driver monitor from Australia-based Audiofly did just that.
I first encountered Audiofly at a show more than 3 years ago, when the brand had just launched. I liked the designs, the brand image, and the strong focus on in-ear earphones, but the audio quality of those first-gen products didn't blow me away.
At the same show two years later, I came across Audiofly again. The company had a new range of in-ear monitors with ergonomic designs, interchangeable cables, and a variety of performance options with prices ranging from $150 to $550. The range-topping, quad-balanced armature AF180 model has taken quite a while to come to the USA, but it's finally here, and it is good.
The new Audiofly lineup features a shared ergonomic housing design slightly different in shape from the popular Shure and Westone monitors. These sorts of designs are popular with audiophiles and music pros for a reasonthey are among the most comfortable on the market. The variation in shape means that some users may get a better fit with Audiofly and some with Westone or Shure. For me, the AF180 and the Westone W40 are equally comfortable, more so than the larger Shure SE846.
The housings of the AF180 are well-made and feature nice design details including reflective logos, oversized L/R markings, and tactile L/R indicators on the cable connectors. Noise isolation is very good, as expected from this type of product. It won't beat a custom-fit in-ear monitor but is more than good enough for travel duty.
The detachable cables utilize micro coaxial (MMCX) connectors, which are quickly becoming the standard among higher-end in-ear monitors. The plastic molding around the connectors on Audiofly's earpieces has a slight crown-like shape. This is meant to prevent the cables from rotating freely in the socket, which can result in a less secure fit. However, it also means that the AF180 is only compatible with some aftermarket MMCX cables.
To make matters worse, the AF180 doesn't come with a headset cable, though there were plans to make a cable with inline mic and remote available for an additional cost later on. This is fine for the entry-level models, but the $550 AF180 really should come with it in the box.
The stereo cable that is included is very niceit has a short memory wire section and an L-shaped plug at the other end. Cable quality is excellent, especially below the y-split where it is thick and has a cloth sheath. The thin, twisted, slightly rubberized upper part of the cable is more tangle-prone.
The earphones ship with 6 pairs of silicone eartips (3 single- and 3 triple-flanged), 3 pairs of foam eartips, quarter-inch adapter, in-flight adapter, cleaning tool, and carrying case. The quality of the accessories is excellent and there's nothing left out, except maybe for a pocketable carrying casethe included case looks great and has a very unique construction but is rather bulky.
Small nitpicks aside, the AF180 is lightweight, comfortable, and feature-richa solid foundation for an excellent in-ear monitor.
It's not let down by the sound, either.