Price (RRP): $649.99
Do you prefer over, on or in? I’m talking about your wired headphones. Well after some quality time with fine over-ear headphones, I’m now spending time with the Audiofly AF-180 MK2 in-ear monitors.
Audiofly AF-180 MK2 features
In-ear monitors are what used to be called earphones. They have little buds wired to a 3.5mm plug. You can use them with your phone if your phone still has an analogue output.
But the Audiofly AF-180 MK2 IEMs are designed for better gear than that. Actually, they are at least in part designed for musicians to use on stage as “foldback” monitors. That’s the background of this Australian firm. But IEMs good for that purpose should be good for other listeners as well.
The Audiofly AF-180 MK2 IEMs consist of small buds with gently formed ear hooks to secure them. They’re attached to 1.2 metres of cable. There’s no inline remote-control pod, just Cordura fibre insulation around the twisted cable. The cable is attached via MMCX connectors, so it is removable and thus replaceable. Fatigued cables are the most common failure point in earphones, so that’s welcome. The whole thing, including cable and plug, weighs 16.9 grams according to my scales.
The Audiofly AF-180 MK2 IEMs are three-way units. All the drivers are a balanced armature design. Each bud contains a tweeter, a midrange and two bass drivers. Also somehow tucked in there is a passive three-way crossover.
Audiofly rates their frequency response at 15 to 25,000 hertz.
They come with a gold-plated 3.5mm to 6.35mm (quarter inch) adaptor plug, and a two-prong plug for airplane use. Also provided is a little cleaning brush with a tiny metal rod on the other end. That can be used to clean out any ear gunk that makes its way into the earphones.
And they come with a travel case. No, seriously, it’s a sturdy, hard plastic thing like a Pelican instrument case. It’s lined with some kind of velvety material to protect the earphones. It’s quite large for the job: 130mm by 100mm by 50mm.
The Audiofly AF-180 MK2 IEMs are provided with nine different sets of tips. Most of them are silicone: in a dome shape or “tri-flange”. But Comply Premium memory foam tips are included.
Audiofly AF-180 MK2 noise isolation
My wife complains about the ring on my phone. The ring tone is something I scavenged from the Internet, a recording of an old-fashioned phone ring. You know, from the days when they had a real, physical bell and hammer inside of them. It’s loud. And it’s long. The original file only repeated a couple of times. I’ve edited it to repeat more than a dozen times. I have it so because I don’t want to miss calls when I’m out in a noisy place and the phone is tucked away in a pocket.
Well, it turns out that someone called me twenty minutes ago. I completely missed it, even though the phone was sitting on my desk, right next to me. Yes, music was playing, but it was middle-of-the-road stuff playing at a modest level, since I was working on an article.
I was using the Comply tips in the larger size. They’re easy to insert: you just scrunch them down to a narrow fit, insert and wait ten seconds as they expand again to create a tight seal.
But they did tend to become loose on the earphones, so sometimes when I pulled them from my ears, the tip would remain or would fall out onto the floor. Indeed, they eventually became too much trouble to use so I switched over to silicone tips. These weren’t quite as good at isolation, but still worked quite well.
Listening to the Audiofly AF-180 MK2 IEMs
As I’m writing, I’m listening to the song “Cadence and Cascade” from King Crimson’s In the Wake of Poseidon. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Michael Giles’ drum kit presented by in ear monitors so tangibly, so realistically. Especially the kick drum, striking with a controlled, deep but thoroughly balanced thump as the cymbals swirl around over the top. Meanwhile Gordon Haskell’s vocals come through the mix so clearly that I could, if necessary conduct a forensic examination of them.