Audiofly AF78M Review
Solid design, imperfect sound
The Audiofly AF78M (MSRP $209.95) in-ear headphones drive a high price, and claim to offer pure quality in return. From swanky packaging to a svelte felt cable, the AF78M wants to prove that premium headphones can be portable, too.
Unfortunately, as good as they appear to be, the AF78M headphones have an unfortunate tendency: They underemphasize very important parts of your music. Higher notes and tones that give resonance to such sounds as vocals, cymbals, violas, and guitars lack detail.
For headphones over $200, we expect better, and you should too. But don't give up—if you just want solid sound and don't care about fancy looks, we've tested vastly less-expensive items in recent weeks that impressed us with great audio quality. If you want the best of both worlds, though, you may want to forego the in-ear design and hop aboard the over-ear bandwagon.
Six different kinds of comfort
What's the worst part about in-ear headphones? For some, it's a question of comfort. Fortunately, Audiofly addresses this problem by providing six different sleeve options for the AF78M: four sets of silicone caps, and two sets of moldable foam tips. Will all of them feel exquisite in your ears? Certainly not—but we're willing to bet everyone can find at least one variation that fits like a glove.
The moldable foam tips are particularly valuable. Unlike the pre-shaped silicone variety, moldable tips are like memory foam, and shape specifically to your ear canals. The only problem with them is that they're a little bit big, so if you have smaller or more sensitive ears, they might cause you some discomfort for the first few hours until they've been compressed.
As for the rest of the AF78M, they're not mind-blowing, but they do look rather classy. Silver highlights on the backs of the buds and around the in-line controller complement a primarily black aesthetic. The fabric-wrapped cable looks and feels durable, and is naturally tangle-resistant.
One cool design feature is how the in-line microphone and controller are separated. The single-button controller hangs within easy reach of your fingers at the headphone split, making it easy to find just in front of your chest. On the other hand, the microphone hangs at a level just beside your mouth, simplifying the entire process.
Alongside the headphones and their myriad of sleeve options, you also get a small silver tin for storage purposes. The tin is even lined with felt—fancy stuff. Last but not least, Audiofly throws in an airline adapter, signal splitter (for music sharing), and a cleaning tool that looks like an adorable tiny broom.
Good enough for most, but not exactly premium
The Audiofly AF78M headphones are solidly designed, and certainly look like they would sound awesome. Unfortunately, the long and short of it is that these in-ear headphones fail to deliver what we consider stellar sound, despite being priced to do so.
If you have a bit of a refined ear and you dislike exaggerated bass, look no further. The AF78Ms provide solid low-end support, from the lowest audible notes through the meat of instruments like electric bass and cello—but they don't boost the low end like other products sometimes do.
In higher treble areas, however, these Audioflys drop in emphasis. The slump in volume may not be immediately obvious to an average listener, but practiced ears are more likely to hear it. Overtone resonance in everything from cymbals and snare, to vocals and guitar are heavily de-emphasized—so that fine details of upper middle notes just aren't particularly prominent.
The AF78Ms produced relatively high distortion throughout bass tones, too. While most headphones distort music in the very lowest frequencies, these in-ears tested with more than the average amount. Testing wasn't all bad news, though—these headphones have some real advantages, too.
For instance, the AF78M's dynamic foam tips aren't just good for comfort. They also make it really easy to get a great seal, which helps these Audioflys block outside ambient noise. Bassy sounds, like rumbling engines and James Earl Jones, are only slightly reduced—which is average. Mid-tones and higher-pitched irritants, though—we're talking passing cars, Eddie Vedder, crying babies, Justin Bieber—are practically silenced. What's more, Misters Jones, Vedder, and Bieber will have no idea what you're listening to, because these in-ears leak very little sound.
Wait for the price to drop.
Purists will want to steer clear of these—the under-emphasized high notes and bass distortion won't impress you. Average listeners, on the other hand, may not find much to complain about here. The AF78M in-ears offer comfortable, durable design in a portable package—just don't expect perfect clarity and detail in every note.
That said, we do recommend waiting for a price drop—$200 is just a little too much to pay. If price alone is your buying guide, consider that our current #1 headphones are only $20 more than these.
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