The new Audiofly AF160. Somebody spent a looooong time setting this photo up.
Australian earphone-maker Audiofly was just a fledgling outfit with scarcely a handful of models and a shaky toehold in the earphone market when I first encountered a year ago at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. After I had a chance to spend some quality time with what was then the company’s flagship set, the fantastic AF78s, I was pretty certain that, if the company did eventually fail, it would be in spite of the brand’s quality — not because of it.
But they didn’t fail. Now here they are, a year after debuting at CES, with a trio of new, more expensive additions — all decadently equipped with multiple drivers and balanced armatures — that shove the AF78 into the middle of their lineup.
We bumped into neophyte Australian headphones-maker Audiofly in January, during a press-only event at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, and gave two models in the four-model lineup a whirl. Their mid-level AF45 set sounded great for $50; but the next one I tried — the top-of-the-line AF78 ($200) — left me slack-jawed with disbelief; its sound knocked my socks off, even amid the cacophony of noisy journalists.
What makes the AF78 unusual is its speaker arrangement.
Many mid-to-high-end canalphones are powered by tiny armature speakers, while moving coil drivers are found pretty much everywhere except the very high end. Armatures are generally better at producing clean highs and mids, but can lack deep bass; moving coils, on the other hand, are generally not as good at reproducing the clarity of an armature. But the AF78 is part of an elite group of models — like the Scosche IEM856m I reviewed last year — that employ both a moving coil speaker and a balanced armature in each ear, in an attempt to give the listener the best of both worlds. And it works spectacularly.