Audiofly AF180 mk2 – Bright done right!

If you're looking for a fast IEM that can provide superb detail retrieval without sounding analytical thanks to tight bass and balanced mids, then you should consider the AF180 mk2 especially given the price to performance ratio!

Pros

  • Excellent resolution and detail retrieval
  • Great overall speed and quick clean note decay
  • Excellent treble extension and beautiful lower treble with accurate tone
  • Balanced and articulate mids with accurate timbre
  • Tight, fast and perfectly controlled bass
  • Great value for money

Cons

  • Signature is highly influenced by tip selection
  • Needs a source with decent power to sound best

Product page : https://audiofly.com/shop/af180-mk2/
Price : 450$

Fit, Build & Isolation

The AF180 mk2 comes with a very nice sturdy protective hard case that is worth noting at the price point, also of note is the stock cable which is quite good and the cordura fibre looks sturdy and is very agreeable to wear.

The AF180 mk2 features a very compact plastic shell with a glossy black piano finish and thus is very lightweight, and you easily forget you’re even wearing them. The stem is long with a narrow bore that reminds me of Westone products and unfortunately I didn’t have Westone Star tips handy but I suspect those who be a great choice for the AF180 mk2.

Tip selection is key to having a good seal given how compact the shell is. Tips will also have a significant effect on both bass and treble on the AF180 mk2, the stock silicon tips made the AF180 mk2 brighter with a bit less bass presence while the stock comply foams did tame the treble a bit and helped the bass presence. The best experience for me was with Custom Art silicon tips I hade made for the KSE1500 and share almost the same bore size as the AF180 mk2. It was the best bass experience without loosing anything on the top end.

AF180 mk2 with Custom Art custom silicon tips

Introduction

Audiofly has been developing IEMs and headphones since 2012 in Australia with the aim to achieve clear, accurate sound and superb ergonomics for audio professionals and music lovers alike. It’s a brand I have long heard good things about and never had the occasion to audition, this review is my first opportunity at the lineup.

Among the lineup, the AF180 mk2 is a “detail oriented IEM which encompasses a perfect balance between bass, mids and highs. Housing four high-resolution balanced armature drivers in a precision-tuned electronic 3-way crossover, this IEM boasts a brightness that cuts through the noise with unparalleled speed.”

Let’s see if the AF180 mk2 holds its promises in terms of tuning and performance!

Sound

Upon the very first minutes listening to the AF180 mk2 it’s very apparent that the tuning is exactly as advertised, a balanced signature with a strong focus on clarity that indeed boast brightness. The soundstage is quite open and wide with a black background and very precise and stable image no matter how complex and fast the track is.

The AF180 mK2 is a bright IEM but it also boast some punchy and clean bass, very balanced and articulate mids and although the well extended upper end is fairly present it’s not harsh by any means provided you have the right tips as mentioned above.

Of note is the unusual lower sensitivity of the AF180 mk2 for a multi BA, 104dB is something more common among dynamic drivers. This means the AF180 mk2 needs a decently powered source to sound its best and some smartphones or lower tier DAPs will struggle. The little PAW S1 dac/amp had more than enough power but my AAW Capri lightning cable struggled a little.

Let’s go back to the AF180 signature and dive deeper!

Bass

The AF180 mk2 bass is definitely not as shy as one might expect from an IEM with a focus on clarity : it’s a very clean bass with very good speed and a snappy note attack and quick decay.

From that standpoint the AF180 mK2 certainly delivers a bass that is in the spirit of the intended signature, the bass features great detail and it perfectly controlled. Its aim is not the fun bass, other models in the lineup can address this, but accurate and detailed bass.

Sub bass extends fairly well but its presence is clearly not the main goal although my usual test tracks like Sohn “Fallen” or Aphex Twins “Ageispolis” or L’impératrice “Erreur 404” certainly deliver a much better presence than I expected with perfect control. It won’t deliver a physical sub bass but few balanced armature manage this anyway so I’d rate the AF180 mk2 quite highly there. Note that this is using my custom silicon tips, the picture is a bit less true with comply or silicon tips. Depending on the tips seal you’ll get a different experience.

Mid bass has less presence comparatively so there clearly is a sub bass tilt. The bass line is definitely articulate and the rythmic message is there but depending on the tracks you might feel the AF180 mk2 is a bit bass shy. This was expected and is coherent with the intended tuning. This leaves me wanting for more body on the double bass for example, but that’s personal preference as the AF180 mk2 definitely doesn’t loose any ability to convey rythm.

Mids

If there is something you can’t fault the AF180 mk2 for is lack of coherence. The AF180 mk2 is a great testimony to this and again it holds its tuning promises delivering a very balanced midrange : timbre is spot on and Audiofly wisely stayed away from a upper mids tilt that could have made the AF180 mk2 go from a bright and clarity focused IEM to a harsh one.

There is no hint of harshness and the AF180 mk2 provide a very open, transparent, very articulate and accurate midrange. Audiofly also smartly didn’t dip the lower mids and while the midrange is not full bodied or thick it isn’t overly thin and artificial sounding (to my taste) like some clarity focused IEMs. This means instruments have satisfying body and notes have sufficient weight.

Speed is also of the essence, with a very short decay that makes for clean and articulate notes. The AF180 mk2 has no problem keeping up with faster and more complex and fast Jazz for example Hank Levy’s “Whiplash” is absolutely brilliantly rendered.

Treble

I expected the AF180 mk2 to feature good treble extension, presence and energy and again it didn’t disappoint. Audiofly has a lot of tuning experience and it shows : the treble have excellent extension and the lower treble energy is superbly done.

There is a more upper than lower treble presence and it shows in terms of resolution and air as well as a safe lower treble region that can sometimes be an issue with this kind of tuning. Ari Ann Wire “My favorite things” or Stan Getz/Laurindo Almeida “Maracatu-Too” are good examples of tracks that really made the AF180 m2 shine.

I was utterly impressed by the resolution out of the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and the AF180 mk2 certainly shines in term of detail retrieval especially at its price point. More importantly to me is how it retrieves detail never feels artificially boosted with the all too easy peaks. It’s natural sounding detail retrieval if that makes sense. The treble tone is spot on.

Coherent accross the whole frequency range, the AF180 mk2 treble is fast with snappy attack and quick decay and has no problem handly anything you decide to throw at it.

Verdict

I always find it interesting to review gear that are not in your personal preferences comfort zone and the AF180 mk2 is not my typical signature of choice. I often have issues with brighter signatures but with the right tips and source I enjoyed the AF180 mk2 very much in fact much more than I expected to be honest. I must say this made me quite curious to hear the other IEMs in the Audiofly range, from the AF140 to the AF160 and definitely the flagship AF1120.

Audiofly certainly did a superb job of tuning a bright but not agressive and never harsh IEM. To me it’s more of a balanced signature foundation with a touch of well tuned brightness. This being said with the wrong tip selection and on some tracks the AF180 mk2 can sound quite brighter so be careful about it and take your time tip rolling. Given my preferences I wouldn’t pair the AF180 mk2 with a bright source either, your mileage may vary. Cable rolling is very interesting with the AF180 mk2, as you can either take it towards even more detail retrieval or a smoother more organic route (typically what I got out of Hansound Zen 8 wire copper cable).

If you’re looking for a fast IEM that can provide superb detail retrieval without sounding analytical thanks to tight bass and balanced mids, then you should consider the AF180 mk2 especially given the price to performance ratio!

Listening notes
I spent approximately 40 hours with the AF180 mk2, listening on the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and PAW S1 with the stock cable and also Dunu Lyre and Hansound Zen 8 wire cable. 

Special Thanks
Thanks to Michelle at Audiofly for providing the opportunity of a review unit of the AF180 mk2. As usual, this review is my honest opinion. No incentive was given for a favorable review. 

Accessories

  • Audioflex™ SL twisted cable
  • Audioflex™ cable reinforced with CORDURA® fibre technology
  • Noise isolating
  • Protective Hard Case

Specifications

  • 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
  • Acoustic tuning: Physical 3-way frequency divider
  • Impedance: 16Ω
  • Sensitivity: 104dB at 1kHz
  • Cable length: 1.2m / 47”
  • Plug type: 3.5mm gold plated, right angle format

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