disclaimer: Audiofly is an Australian company that is trying to expand its brand awareness globally. They recently began a review tour on head-fi to help accomplish that goal. The AF1120 Mk2 was provided by Audiofly as part of the review tour on Head-fi. I have received no compensation of any kind for this review and the unit was sent on to another reviewer at the end of my listening. I have no financial interests in Audiofly, For more information on the AF1120 and other models they offer see their website.
Unboxing / Packaging:
The AF1120 come in a lift-top box with a large picture of the earpiece on the front and the details on the rear. Lifting the cover reveals the earpieces with cable attached nestled in foam in the upper portion of the box (with the bulk of the cable hidden in a recess in the foam) and a pelican style hard case in the lower portion. All other goodies are hiding inside the case or under it. The instructions are under the case, while a variety of tips, adapters, a cleaning tool, and shirt clip reside inside it. Provided tips include 3 sets of triple flanged silicones, 4 sets of single flanged silicone tips, and 2 sizes of foam tips. The Case is well thought out as it has enough room for the earphones, cable, and a spare set of tips without feeling cramped or crowded. I usually add a small carabiner to attach the case to a backpack for air travel and the provided case mimics the Pelican as it provides multiple ways to attach it. It would be nice to see some form of balanced cable included at this price point but otherwise the kit is fairly thorough.
The earpieces are a 2 piece shell with the seam between inner and outer shell being visible on inspection, but well mated and difficult to feel. Shape could be best defined as kidney bean with the nozzle coming off the center front of the shell and the mmcx connector the top rear. The Shell is transparent and gives the user a good view of the rather busy internal space with 6 drivers, a crossover, sound bores, filters, and wires running neatly between. Size is moderate and will be workable for most ears. For me, they took a bit of adjusting to get good seal with mid sized tips, but due to the longer than average nozzles, the larger tip I normally use was uncomfortable. Nozzles are smaller in diameter than standard and longer with almost no rake in any direction and are cast into the shell very similar to the Audiosense T180 in both size and shape. A filter is visible in the nozzle and contributes to the tuning of the 1120 in addition to the driver and crossover. There is no lip for tip retention, but the shaft of the nozzle is long enough that surface area provides plenty of grip for tips and I found no tendency to slip once installed. Overall, I found the 1120 comfortable for long listening sessions without any tendency toward physical fatigue.
The AF1120 is an all balanced armature design using 6 per side with a 3-way electronic crossover and butterworth filter handling the break out to each. Audiofly lists drivers as a pair of bass, a pair of mids, and a pair of treble drivers but does not disclose the model number or manufacturer of the drivers that I could find. Nominal impedance is listed as 11Ω with a sensitivity of 109 dB /mW at 1kHz. The numbers suggest the AF1120 should be fairly easy to drive and we found that to be the case as it had adequate power from smartphones, tablets, and low powered devices. It does scale well qualitatively with improvements in source, but doesn’t need the added power of many of those higher end options.
I have to say it right up front, I’m not a fan of this cable. It is tangle prone, and not of appropriate quality to match the 1120. It starts well enough with a 90º 3.5mm jack but immediately goes to a cloth wrapped single cable that is reminiscent of the monoprice snails and goes up a splitter that is larger than necessary followed by two non-cloth coated twists with a large clear plastic chin slider that gives the cable an odd look due to the wires being widely separated by the splitter and then immediately pulled back together by the chin-slider. The north ends terminate with pre-formed earhooks and mmcx connectors. Housings could be better marked as any L/R indicator is difficult to find as well. The good thing about the Mk2 is the cable is now removable which gives the end user the opportunity to replace it and I think most will. The provided cable is simply not in congress with the quality of the rest of the offering.
The 1120 is blessed with a good selection of tips including comply foams, triple flange (trees) and several sizes of single flange silicone tips. For my testing I stuck with the mid-sized single flange design. I’m not a big fan of the multi-flange tips as I usually find them uncomfortable for extended wear, but they do provide a better seal in this case as the mid/large were either slightly small and needed exact placement to seal well or too large and got uncomfortable quickly. I found I didn’t care for what the foam tips did to the sound but others may disagree and look to those for better isolation.
The tuning of the AF1120 is very different than the typical boosted sub-bass and upper-treble we see today. Gone are the artificial boosts of frequencies that aren’t commonly found in live performance with a focus instead on tonality and musicality in the ranges most common to ensemble performances. For some, this may be disappointing as the sub-bass won’t blow you out of your chair, nor will the top end extension wow you with sparkles. For many others, the AF1120 will reproduce the genres they listen to with stunning accuracy and tonality. Lets break out what to expect.
Roll-off starts fairly early on the AF1120 with the bass centered around the 100Hz mark and beginning to fall back fairly quickly below that point with notable roll-off by the time you reach 6oHz. From 100Hz up, bass is in good proportion with the rest of the signature and has good clarity, and character as is typical of BA produced bass. It does sacrifice a little thump for tighter control, but produces a very articulate low end. It is obvious here that a quality over quantity approach was taken as what is presented is quite good, but it won’t be enough to please those looking for a bass-first model.
Here we have the star of the show as the 1120 is definitely a mid-centric design. That is not to say mids are overly forward as they are not, they are just very well rendered with great detail and tonality. Starting with the lower mids, we have no perceptible mid-bass bleed as is expected considering the driver type, but there is a slight warmth to the lower mids that belies its all BA design. This is the first hint that the crossover and filters are providing something atypical to BA tunings. Lower vocals are well rendered with good texture and sound full and lush without getting thick or syrupy. Guitar is well rendered as well with particularly good tonality on acoustic guitar (I spent quite awhile listening to 40 fingers guitar quartet and thoroughly enjoying it). As you move up, the upper mids do move slightly forward, but it is a gradual push and not a sudden jump. This gives female vocals a touch more forward presentation, but doesn’t get shouty or “in your face” as a result. Strings have good tonality and texture as well. This is one of the best sub-$1k models I have heard for string quartet as the tuning really lends itself to that genre.
Lower treble continues the push forward that began with upper mids and has a peak in the 3kHz – 4kHz range before dropping back to a level similar to the lower-mids and mid-bass at about 5kHz. Here again, the tuning is on full display as this gives the 1120 enough energy to sound open without getting at all strident or harsh in the process. Another smaller peak at about 9kHz brings some energy to snare rattle and cymbals and again is tastefully done as the tone sounds neither artificially hot nor flat and lifeless. At the very top, the 1120 falls away quickly above that 9Khz peak. While it may lack the extension of flagship models, it does not feel enclosed or in need or more air or sparkle as a result, so I again tip my hat to the tuners as they have done a great job of making a very musical iem without feeling the need for chasing statistics here.
Soundstage / Imaging:
Width is slightly larger than depth of stage on the 1120, but they do have a good sense of height and somehow manages to place the listener in the audience on live recordings. Instrument separation is quite good as well which makes my normal exercise of trying to draw the orchestra seating chart in my head very straight forward. Movement around the stage is easily tracked and fairly precise as well again honestly better than should be expected at the price point. Layering is quite good as well and even as passages get busier, the 1120 shows no signs of thickening, compression, or mud. I will stop short of calling the 1120 a holographic stage, but with binaural recordings that push in that direction anyway, it does amazingly well. Try Cowboy Junkies – I’m so lonesome as an example.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
So, after a couple weeks with the AF1120 Mk2, what do I think of it? I think if offers stunning tonality and detail for a model in this price range. Having said that, I think one should have high expectations of models that cost upward of $500 and while I think it easily justifies its place in the market, I would stop short of saying it is a stellar bargain. Were a better cable included, I would be more inclined to go there, but as it is, most will add another $150-200 to the cost in order to put a better cable on it, and that pushes into direct competition with the Pola, Rai Penta, and a few other heavy hitters in the class. What the AF1120 brings to the table though cannot be denied, as it is more musical than any of those mentioned, has at least as good detail, and offers a signature and tonality that few can match. Those looking for a balanced signature, with good manners, and excellent timbre will really enjoy the 1120Mk2. Those looking for that last little bit of extension on either end may be better served by one of the hybrid electrostat models. For me, the trade of a little extension for the gorgeous mids presented by the AF1120 is well worth it.
- Bass - 7/107/10
- Mids - 8/108/10
- Treble - 7.5/107.5/10
- Soundstage - 8/108/10
- Imaging - 7.5/107.5/10
Pros: Tonality, timbre, resolution, balance, stage, build, kit
Cons: cable is just plain bad, Extension (particularly low end) is modest at best