Audiofly AF1120 Review – Neutral+

Introduction –

Audiofly are an Australian manufacturer that has gradually risen from obscurity to modest popularity, though you still won’t see talk of their new models as you would of something from Sennheiser and even some more popular Chi-fi iems. And that’s because Audiofly is a much more professional orientated company, much like 64Audio and Westone, the majority of whose products are dedicated towards stage and recording use. Of course, despite this focus, Audiofly’s products also hold great value to the audio enthusiast community due to their neutral, technically proficient tones.

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I actually have a personal affinity for the company, they’re local and I had a great experience with their triple driver hybrid, the AF140. I also admire the originality of their designs and the variety of their tuning between different models. So when I heard about Audiofly’s new 6-driver AF1120, I was nothing but intrigued. Let’s see how Audiofly’s newest premium in-ear performs when compared to in-ears from some of the most respected brands on the market.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Audiofly very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the AF1120 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

About Me, Background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases – 

I generally prefer a u-shaped sound that is close to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound. I’m not particularly treble sensitive so I may be more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I will note if I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review and describe the sound changes.

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Accessories –

My review unit didn’t come with any packaging though the models I’ve purchased in the past were packaged within a nice box. Retail AF1120’s will too though I’m not too fussed about the lack of box anyway.

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Instead, my set came simply within the waxed canvas carry case which provides fantastic drop protection to the in-ears in addition to some water resistance. The case is quite large, fitting a medium sized DAP in addition to the earphones and some accessories though an additional soft pouch would be nice for more portable use.

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The case also contains the accessories and papers, Audiofly provide the buyer with a comprehensive setup that guarantees a solid fit and seal. The AF1120 comes with Medium Comply T100’s preinstalled with small and large tips in separate bags. In addition, Audiofly include 3 triple flange and 3 single flange silicone tips. The earphones also come packaged with an aeroplane adaptor and 3.5mm to 1/4″ adaptor.

 

Design –

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The AF1120’s may not be the most visually striking earphones and they certainly don’t draw the eye like the Campfire Nove, Dunu DK-3001 and Plussound Prism. But in return, the minute, plastic Audiofly’s provide ergonomic perfection with just a hint of visual flare via those intriguing transparent housings.

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In terms of design, the AF1120’s employ the typical Audiofly style housing that is very unique and distinct amongst more typical in-ear monitors. And though they are unorthodox, I found Audiofly’s angular pod-shaped design to achieve fantastic comfort that was, for my ears, superior to Westone’s UM Pro earphones and on par with the most comfortable in-ears out there like those from Phonak, Klipsch and Oriveti. The housings are simply perfectly shaped, they really hug the inside of the ear and their thin, curved rears avoid forming hotspots. This flawless comfort is aided but their minute dimensions; I considered the 5-driver Westone UM 50 Pro to be impressive, but the AF1120 contains an extra driver in a shell that is around half the width. They have a super low-profile fit that not only sits flush in my ear, but slightly recessed. As such, they are perfect to sleep with, even on the side, and wind noise is minimised.

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With an over-ear design, fit stability is also fantastic. They have a very deep fit by virtue of their long, thin nozzles and they really lock into the ear like the 64Audio U3 and Westone Um Pro earphones. Furthermore, their super small, lightweight housings barely budge during activity, making them perfect for running and stage use. They are also full-sealed producing fabulous noise isolation that is on par with the Plussound Prism and just bested by the metal Campfire earphones, you won’t find much more isolation beyond Customs. With their comfort and stability, the earphones were perfect in the gym and on the plane though I found their isolation was actually excessive for commute where I like to keep some connection with my environment for safety reasons.

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However, the AF1120 isn’t all flawless as their cable is one of the worst I’ve handled around this price. While it is removable, utilising a standard MMCX connector, both the earphones themselves and cable are keyed, preventing the cables from swivelling and also preventing the use of third party cables. In addition, I found the connectors to be quite loose, lacking the authoritative snap of other modern MMCX earphones, and the earpieces unintentionally detached several times during my testing. While I didn’t notice any intermittency when listening I had to be a bit more careful when uncoiling the earphones from storage. I’m still not sure why Audiofly didn’t just go with a 2-pin connector.

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The cable itself is also pretty mediocre and certainly not as compelling as the fantastic units offered by competitors like Plussound and Campfire. The cable is quite long at 1.6m, which is great at home, but a bit awkward during portable use (though a cable winder solves this issue easily). The cable itself has a relatively supple fabric sheath below the y-split and a braided construction to the earpieces, my main issue is with the cable above the y-split as it is incredibly thin, springy and has noticeable memory. This makes it exceptionally tangle prone and difficult to untangle too. The cable is also relatively microphonic despite running over the ear due to its stiffness and tight braid. Audiofly should really consider including a thicker gauge wire above the y-split both for ergonomics and longevity; I understand that the cable is intended to be lightweight, but it is simply too compromised for convenient use and the earphones are easily stable enough to support a slightly heavier unit.

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On the flipside, the actual build quality of the cable is quite good with great strain relief on the 90-degree plug and beefy y-split; which is arguably a bit too beefy. They employ well-formed plastic ear guides, my preferred implementation, rather than memory wire which I found to be both comfortable and secure. The earphones also have a basic chin slider that holds its place relatively well though when slid to the y-split, it does put some stress on the cabling.

 

Sound –

The AF1120 implements a whopping 6 balanced armature drivers per earpiece with a 3-way crossover, twice the amount of the similarly priced 64Audio U3 and three times that included by the Plussound Prism. To my knowledge, the AF1120 possesses the greatest sheer number of drivers at this price and while that doesn’t always translate to direct performance gains (the AF1120 doesn’t actually have the best end to end extension), the Audiofly has more headroom for professional use and equalisation. Furthermore, their superb linearity and nice balance also make the AF1120 very nicely tuned for home listening too. Of note, I did put the AF1120’s through ~100hours of burn-in through my Oppo HA-2 but did not note any noticeable changes beyond general acclimatisation to their tonality.

The AF1120’s are not overly tip sensitive due to their longer nozzles though they did sound more balanced to my ear with the stock Comply tips rather than silicone tips. Spinfits also pair quite well, granting a slightly fuller low-end and a little extra sparkle up top though I didn’t agree with the change to the AF1120’s midrange. All comments below will be with the Comply foam ear tips.

 

Drivability –

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The AF1120 is sensitive and easy to drive and despite having such a large driver count combined with a low 10ohm impedance, I didn’t find the AF1120 to be hugely source sensitive. They are less sensitive than the Dunu DK-3001, 64Audio U3 and Campfire Jupiter, all of which are insanely sensitive, though the AF1120 reaches deafening volume even from my iPod Nano 7G. The AF1120 is also surprisingly resistant to hiss, the Dunu’s and Campfire’s both pick up considerable noise on my Oppo HA-2 but hiss was barely audible from the AF1120. The Audiofly’s have a brighter sound and find great synergy with more musical sources though they are natural enough to sound very pleasing from more clinical sources too. The AF1120 was perfectly matched to my Chord Mojo which added slightly more body to the low-end and some much-needed bass slam. And although the AF1120 isn’t a particularly strident earphone, the Mojo slightly smoothed off their high-end, making them a bit more balanced. The AF1120’s also found great synergy with my older Wolfson based Fiio X3, they did lose a bit of definition and resolution compared to my newer sources though the X3 provided a nice clean response with more bass body and a delightfully organic tone. They sounded fine from my HA-2 though the Oppo’s brighter sound did tend to tire during longer listening sessions and I missed the body of the Mojo and X3. As aforementioned, the AF1120’s do also deal quite reasonably well with higher output impedance sources, they sounded good from my HTC 10 with pleasing resolution and clarity though they were perceptibly drier and slightly more unconcise than from the Mojo and HA-2, unsurprising given their resolution advantage. And coming back to the Fiio i1, the AF1120 found a nice match with its musical tones where my iPods all tended to sound a bit over-forward. The AF1120 finds best synergy with slightly more musical sources and isn’t as hiss prone as competitors, it is easy to drive but scales nicely with high-end sources.

 

Tonality –

The AF1120 is a very balanced, almost neutral earphone that still sounds more tonally pleasing than the Plussound Prism and RE-600 to my ear. It is a slightly brighter earphone not due to any treble emphasis but due to their slight midrange colouration. Depending on the source, they can either sound slightly mid-forward or almost perfectly balanced though I would say that with the majority of sources, their bass response sits very slightly behind the midrange which has equal weighting to treble. By comparison, the relatively balanced 64Audio U3 is perceptibly u-shaped with a fuller bass response and notably more treble emphasis; the AF1120 is probably the best option around this price for those prone to fatigue and sibilance without losing any detail, clarity and air. The AF1120 has no obvious peaks or troughs and carries a more natural tone than the majority of earphones that pursue a neutral or reference style sound, it excels with strings, piano and vocals, especially female.

 

Soundstage, Imaging and Separation –

The AF1120 isn’t as immediately spacious sounding as the U3 and Jupiter, though it has the ability to reproduce convincing space in recordings that call for it. Their soundstage is slightly depth focussed though width is very good with the widest notes occasionally reaching just beyond the periphery of the head. The U3 possesses appreciably more width as does the vented DK-3001 but depth is more immersive on the AF1120 than either. The AF1120 actually has some nice height to their soundstage as well which enhances imaging and immersion over the more two-dimensional sounding U3 and DK-3001. Listening to Radiohead’s newly remastered version of “OK Computer OKNOTOK” and the AF1120 produced pleasing width and impressive forward projection that adds an extra layer to songs such as “Karma Police (Remastered)”. Imaging, in particular, is outstanding, positioning and centre image are sharper on the AF1120 than the U3, Prism and DK-3001. So while the AF1120 doesn’t have the widest soundstage, their fantastic depth and imaging provide more immersion than competitors.

 

Bass –

Though bass doesn’t hold huge emphasis within the sound, low notes never get drowned out or overshadowed by higher frequencies. So I wouldn’t consider the AF1120 to be perfectly balanced, but bass doesn’t sound anaemic and quality is exquisite. After some adjustment to the more neutral bass levels, the AF1120 provides a deep and articulate sounding response with a slight lower-bass focus. To put their quantity into perspective, they are slightly leaner than the 64Audio U3 and Campfire Jupiter overall though they still have a little extra bass over the Hifiman RE-600. Though I found the AF1120 to be well-balanced stock, for those who prefer more quantity, they respond very well to eQ, a benefit of those additional drivers. Interestingly, sub-bass extension is just average for a high-end armature earphone though they do produce a pleasing sense of fullness that handily bests the Plussound Prism and even the Westone UM 50 Pro despite having significantly less bass quantity. That being said, the AF1120 still doesn’t move air like the hybrid DK-3001 and certain armature earphones like the 64 U3, CA Nova and Jupiter do possess more solidity and rumble to these notes. Apart from a slight deep-bass emphasis that grants a little extra thump to notes, the AF1120 is otherwise impressively linear in their bass tuning, even the Campfire Jupiter is slightly more uneven in its tuning though some may find certain emphasis to bring more enjoyment. And in listening, that linearity is really exceptional, allowing the AF1120 to produce class-leading bass definition and articulation. Listening to The Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s “Dark Necessities” and low notes were very controlled, tight and fast with absolutely zero flab or bloat. Texturing was exceptional and their bass response was slightly more revealing than the U3, DK-3001 and Prism, even the more expensive Jupiter was just slightly more textured. So if you don’t mind the sub-bass roll off and more neutral quantity, the AF1120 delivers a hyper-detailed bass response whose quality takes full advantage of that linear tuning.

 

Midrange –

Mids may be the Audiofly’s speciality; the AF1120’s portray a delightful amount of nuance and their tuning might be my favourite around this price range. The midrange is slightly forward with a touch of upper midrange lift. They are similarly tuned to the Plussound Prism with more of a neutral, natural tone and a little less clarity than the U3 and DK-3001, but the AF1120 has an extra layer of detail and resolution on top that crafts a more pleasing rendition of the same presentation. Lower mids have great resolution and definition along with a very well weighted tone. For instance, the DK-3001 and U3 both possess more clarity but the AF1120 has more body and sounds more realistic as a result. That’s not to say they are a warm earphone, they are just as transparent as the Prism but sound more consistent, textured and dynamic. The AF1120 also doesn’t provide my absolute favourite lower midrange presentation around this price, that will be dictated by preference, though they easily compete with similarly priced models in terms of overall quality. Listening to Robbie William’s “Somethin’ Stupid” and the AF1120 provided a dynamic, smooth reproduction with great vocal definition. The DK-3001’s provided a similarly pleasing presentation that was well balanced between clarity, resolution and realism. The 64Audio U3’s had a similar presentation to the Dunu’s with especially impressive resolution and strong clarity to William’s vocals. I was happy with all of their presentations in both tuning and quality.

Upper mids are the AF1120’s forte, contrasting to these other earphones that tend to falter a bit more as you head higher up. The Audiofly’s are lifelike and perfectly bodied, making the glossier DK-3001 and U3 sound a bit thin and raspy. Listening to Arianne’s “Komm, Susser Todd” and the AF1120 provided delightful layering and texture to vocals. They had pleasing immediacy and clarity without sounding boosted of enhanced, they also lacked that slightly nasal character of the Prisms. The Dunu’s also provided a nice rendition with just a touch less body and a little extra gloss, a reasonable trade-off. The U3 took this presentation a step further with an even clearer sound but one that was lacking body which compromised texturing. When listening to the thicker, more intimate tones of Tamia’s “Officially Missing You”, the AF1120 provided a similarly impressive portrayal with super smooth vocals, nice crispness to directional cues and great fullness to the acoustic guitar. The U3 provided a more agreeable reproduction here with fantastic clarity and an extra layer of silkiness to vocals that the AF1120 smoothed off. Guitar strums had more nuance on the U3 and directional cues were sharper even if the AF1120 imaged slightly better. This time, the Dunu actually sounded slightly more unnatural than the U3, main vocals were crystal clear and nuanced though backing vocals were quite raspy and a little over-forward as opposed to the other two earphones. The AF1120’s also had a similar detail retrieval to the Dunu, a hair more than the U3 and noticeably more than the Prism. Once again, I found the AF1120 to produce a very refined presentation of that detail though they are ever so slightly on the aggressive side, adding some extra bite to their sound. So while I immensely enjoy the midrange presentations of the U3 and DK-3001, the trend is clear, and the natural, linear tones of the AF1120 easily make it the most consistent performer if not the absolute best one in every scenario.

 

Treble –

The AF1120 is surrounded by greatness with regards to high-frequency performance; the supreme separation of the Prism, the awesome resolution of the U3 and the explosive detailing of the DK-3001. And with their slightly laid-back response, the AF1120 isn’t as immediately clear and resolving as these earphones either. Though that’s not giving the AF1120 enough credit because its high-end is definitely just as impressive. Although treble isn’t forward or aggressive, presence is well balanced with the midrange. They are relatively linear, lower treble has a small bump that grants some crispness to their sound though otherwise, middle and upper treble are well extended and mostly neutral. Treble isn’t peaky at all, they have a very smooth yet detailed high-frequency response that flatters strings but has enough aggression for guitar and cymbals. They still don’t quite resolve upper treble detail like the U3 nor do they have the detail presentation of the DK-3001, but the AF1120 is a nice middle ground between natural and engaging. They also almost completely lack sibilance and they are definitely one of the best high-end in-ears suited towards longer listening sessions without compromising detailing. Listening to “A Lovely Night” from the soundtrack of Lala Land and the AF1120 provided nice air and space to the rapid high-hats but missed that last bit of extension offered by the U3. They also produced a fantastic presentation of piano and strings were super smooth and refined without a hint of grain. Strings were pushed slightly behind in the mix and some details were perhaps slightly over smoothed to my ear, though I very much prefer this to an over-forward presentation. Similarly, when listening to “Hermit’s Habit”, the AF1120 provided great high-frequency resolution and micro-detailing, easily distinguishing between the drumstick hitting the cymbals and the subsequent cymbal shimmer. Trumpets were also nicely detailed without coming across as honky, something the Dunu would occasionally suffer from. The U3’s provided a really nice presentation with the most treble energy of the bunch. Once again, they provided exceptional air and notably increased clarity to each note over the AF1120. They were similarly paced and nuanced but trumpets sounded slightly thin.

 

Verdict –

Objectively evaluating such expensive earphones is more complicated than it may seem. Because in isolation, any $800 earphone will sound great, and it’s only in comparison to similarly priced models and those neighbouring it in price that we can start to appreciate the extent to which an earphone performs well. But the AF1120 was rather the opposite, which is often a good thing, and it wasn’t until I compared it to more sculpted earphones that I began to really appreciate it’s more neutral, mid-forward tones

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The AF1120 isn’t perfectly neutral and lacks the delicate frequency balanced of the Campfire earphones, but it is an exceptional mix of components that work perfectly well with each other. I love the consistency of their sound combined with their technical prowess and their comfort and fit are easily class leading. The AF1120 isn’t the most vibrant, resolving earphone, but it’s hardly a jack of all trades. Rather, the AF1120 is a versatile, mature and simply impressive earphone that isn’t objectively compromised. Of course, for my tastes, I would prefer a little more treble energy and they do have a typical BA sub-bass roll-off. But if you have a nice musical source and are looking for a very neutral, natural and detailed earphone with all-day comfort, the AF1120 is an exceptional option.

Verdict – 10/10, The AF1120 is a stunning in-ear with excellent comfort, fit and sound. Their neutral tones won’t suit everyone’s tastes, but few will dislike their stunning detailing, texturing and realism. Audiofly’s flagship in-ear provides a nuanced and versatile package that earns its premium pricing.

 

The AF1120 is currently available from Amazon for $700 USD, please see the link below for the most updated pricing and availability:

AudioFly – AF1120 – Universal 6-Balanced Armature Driver In-Ear Monitors

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