Audiofly AF1120 MK2: Reference Quality
Today we’re checking out the AF1120 MK2 from Audiofly.
Based out of Australia, Audiofly has been in the business of portable audio since 2012. They embrace the concepts of technological innovation, musician empowerment, and quality sound on all levels. They have worked to achieve this through products that cover a wider range of prices and purposes, from affordable Bluetooth to high end studio monitoring. Recently Audiofly revamped their lineup, updating many of their more popular models with MK2 variants, one of which we are checking out today.
The AF1120 MK2 is the flagship of Audiofly’s lineup and is packed with technology. Inside are six balanced armatures in a 2x2x2 configuration with a hybrid 3-way electronic/acoustic crossover keeping everything in check. Updated MMCX connectors round things out. The AF1120 MK2 is a product for professionals who require a clear, neutral sound, and that’s exactly what it delivers in my experience.
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
What I Hear
The AF1120 MK2 is a very neutral leaning earphone. Treble has a fairly linear presentation without any major peaks in any particular region. The brilliance region is very smooth and somewhat de-emphasized resulting in a mild quantity of shimmer and sparkle. It is non-fatiguing and reasonably low energy, especially compared to your average mainstream hybrid earphone. Despite this dearth of excitement, the upper ranges of the AF1120 MK2 remain relatively airy with plenty of space between notes. The presence region is expertly balanced to give notes stellar transparency and weight without sounding strident or overly aggressive. As a result, clarity is top notch but not pushed to the point of being sharp or overly analytic. It simply sounds realistic.
The AF1120 MK2’s midrange is quite neutral in presence and tone with vocals sounding prominent but not overly forward. Male and female vocals are evenly represented with neither one standing out more than the other. The AF1120 MK2 does a great job with Riya and retaining the natural warmth and intimacy of her presentation, while Calyx’s gruff style is picked up and reproduced perfectly with all texture intact. Notes are weighty and dense yet retain outstanding clarity and coherence. I never found anything blending together or vocals being overshadowed by background instrumentals. Timbre is spot on for the most part with only brighter instruments sounding slightly off and ever so slightly plasticy, likely due to the lack of emphasis in the brilliance region. One instrument that is an absolute standout through the AF1120 MK2 are pianos which feel beefy with perfect attack and decay.
When it comes to the low end the AF1120 MK2 won’t be winning over bassheads anytime soon thanks to a neutral presence. Notes are full and warm, hitting with a hard, snappy decay. I really appreciated this performance with rapid transitions and complicated passages, but it ended up being somewhat underwhelming with deep, sustained notes. The roll off and rapidity of decay being to blame. Another plus is that the presentation is very smooth and refined, but not lacking at all in texture and detail. It’s not in your face, but inserted in a way that feels natural. If you want some more bass out of the AF1120 MK2, you’ll be happy to hear that it takes EQ and bass boost functions very well. Pairing it with the new iFi hip-dac and it’s Xbass function does a killer job of filling out the low end of the AF1120 MK2 improving suitability with bass-driven tracks. All the positive qualities are retained but more voluminous making the AF1120 MK2 even more versatile.
While the AF1120 MK2’s soundstage is fairly average, it’s staging qualities are anything but. Imaging is nuanced with razor sharp and accurate movement from channel-to-channel, with easy to detect, subtle movements. No one is likely to be use this for gaming, but if you do you’ll find them pretty darn amazing. Tracking movement in a game with great sound design (i.e. pretty much anything from Dice) ends up being very natural and organic. Helping this out is how well layered tracks and soundscapes are. The AF1120’s ability to provide a true sense of depth is impressive. Instrument separation is also a highlight thanks to each individual track element being pulled apart and set within it’s own space. As a result vocals are never hindered by bass bleed, cymbals aren’t overpowering and restrictive to other elements, etc. Everything plays together, never fighting for dominance.
Compared To A Peer (Volume matched with Dayton iMM-6)
Fearless S6 Rui (389.00 USD): The S6 Rui has more treble emphasis through the entire range than the AF1120 MK2. This gives it a lighter, airier presentation with additional space between notes, but somewhat artificially bumps it’s relatively impressive detail and clarity as a result. The AF1120 MK2 provides just as much information, but without advertising it. Treble quality is better through the AF1120 MK2 too with cleaner strikes on cymbals and a tighter, more controlled presentation overall. The midrange of the AF1120 MK2 is more linear with a smoother transition from lower to upper regions compared to the S6 Rui which sees a small upper mid bump. As a result, vocals tend to stand out more in the mix through the AF1120 MK2, playing a more even role with the rest of the track. While they’re never hidden on the S6 Rui, they don’t stand out against background instrumentals the same way. Timbre also falls into the AF1120 MK2’s camp which sounds more accurate and natural against the S6 Rui’s brighter, more breathy nature. Bass on the S6 Rui is similarly linear in it’s transition from lower to upper bass, but does a better job bring subbass notes forward. While not as quick, notes out of the S6 Rui are heavier and more impactful. They lack the same texture and clarity, however. Despite the S6 Rui’s extra upper treble emphasis and leaner presentation, the AF1120 MK2 sounds more spacious with the default seating position being just a little further from the ear. Although the S6 Rui is no slouch when it comes to imaging, layering, and instrument separation, the AF1120 MK2 is a notable step up. Sounds transfer from channel-to-channel with greater accuracy and precision, individual instruments feel more defined, and distance is better represented. Sound simple moves in a way that is more dynamic and natural through the AF1120 MK2.
In terms of build, the S6 Rui bats above it’s weight class. The AF1120 MK2 is a quality unit, but the smooth 3D printed acrylic of the Rui looks and feels a step above. No seams, better visibility of the drivers within, and that interesting faceplate all give it an advantage. Comfort is more or less a wash for me as well, despite the bulkier design of the S6 Rui. Isolation is better on the AF1120 MK2 though. The S6 Rui’s 2-pin connectors are a step down from the AF1120 MK2’s MMCX ports given the right earpiece has a tendency to detach unexpectedly. The S6 Rui’s cable is much more impressive looking with it’s thick, 8 strand braid and silver-plated wiring that shines through the clear sheath. The beefy metal hardware looks equally impressive. However impressive Fearless’ cable is visually, the AF1120 MK2’s thinner, lighter, half-cloth offering is straight up more pleasant to actually use. Neither tangles easily, but the Rui’s cable retains some memory of kinks and bends where the AF1120 MK2’s cable recalls none. Summary? I like the S6 Rui’s look and build, they tie on comfort, and as impressive looking as Fearless’ cable is, Audiofly’s is better to use.
As much as I love the S6 Rui, the AF1120 MK2 sonics are a step up. The biggest difference is not the Audiofly’s more balanced tune, or improved technical abilities, but just how much more refined it sounds while pulling off those other improvements. It is that much smoother and better controlled.
Hifiman RE800 Silver (599.00 USD): Where the AF1120 MK2 is a beacon of balance and accuracy, the RE800 is a clarity and detail monster. The RE800 is a fair bit brighter thanks to a notable upper treble peak. This lightens up the note weight compared to the AF1120 MK2 making a/b comparisons between the two quite interesting. Switch from the RE800 to the AF1120 MK2 and the Audiofly sounds thick and slightly muddy in the mids. Acclimatize to the AF1120 MK2 and switch back to the RE800 and the Hifiman sounds lean and tinny with artificial clarity leading the way. They’re more complimentary than not, but I wouldn’t want to own both at the same time because their qualities are so at odds with each other. Trying my best to not be distracted, I find the AF1120 MK2’s midrange more even and natural with a more linear presentation, even though they both seem to have mild bumps somewhere around or at 4k. Bass on the RE800 digs deeper and provides a more visceral experience while managing to output similar texture. It’s certainly a more entertaining, if not less accurate, style of presentation. Sound stage is pretty firmly in the RE800’s hand to my ears. Default positioning moves you further from the ear with sounds easily trailing off into the distance. Imaging accuracy goes to the Audiofly, as does instrument separation, with the RE800’s staging coming across slightly deeper and more multi-layered. Both are fantastic in this category overall.
When it comes to build, I have to give the AF1120 MK2 the edge. Hifiman’s RE800s has tiny metal shells with good fit and finish, but the design is plain and lacks the visual flair of the AF1120 MK2. I want to say the RE800s will have the edge in durability, but it has a fixed cable. While it’s a nice cable with silver-plated strands, the sheath is the bog standard, black rubber that you see at much lower price points. Add to that sub-par strain relief and the AF1120 MK2’s cable is sitting pretty. Comfort is again a bit of a wash. The AF1120 MK2 has better ergonomics and the low profile design gives it a big edge in isolation, but the RE800s’ more traditional barrel-shaped housing allows more wearing flexibility; cable up or cable down, you decide which you prefer. With the AF1120 MK2 it’s cable up only. Summary? The AF1120 MK2 looks and feels like it’s worth much more than the mere 100 USD that separates the two.
This was a weird comparison, and one I’m not planning to revisit. Not just because the AF1120 MK2 is a loaner and by the time you’re reading this I will no longer have it, but because these two earphones are so at odds with each other. If you want a neutral, reference style monitor go for the AF1120 MK2. If you want a detailed, vibrant high energy earphone, the RE800 will do the trick.
Campfire Audio Andromeda (1099.00 USD): The Andromeda is another product I’d consider reference quality, though not necessarily for the same reasons as the AF1120 MK2. Where Audiofly’s tuning is quite neutral and uncoloured, the Andromeda is more energetic and forward in it’s presentation. This is quite noticeable in the midrange where the Andromeda is more dense and aggressive, but falls behind on overall clarity and detail. The AF1120 also sounds slightly more realistic with a warmer, more natural presentation. Treble on the Andromeda is more elevated, particularly in upper treble regions. Cymbals and the like have more shimmer and a stronger attack with detail being pulled forward more. This leaves the AF1120’s upper ranges sounding somewhat dull beside the Andro. Both are equally above average when it comes to control with no splashiness present. Bass on the Andromeda is more forward and powerful with slightly better extension. Texture and detail are similar. Neither are bloated or suffer from midbass bleed. One thing the AF1120 has an advantage in is reception to EQ. If it’s feeling bass light, you can dial more in with great success. With similar adjustments, the AF1120’s armatures can provide a more visceral subbass experience. Sound stage is wider and deeper on the Andromeda, but to my surprise I found the AF1120 did an even better job with other qualities like imaging, layering, and separation. This is an area the Andro excels, yet the AF1120 provides an even more dynamic soundscape. Truly impressive.
The AF1120 MK2 is a good looking, well built earphone with a distinctive design that is pure Audiofly, but it’s hard to compete with the visual force that is Campfire’s iconic shell and impeccable aluminum construction. It’s been copied to death over the last couple years for a reason. The Andromeda fits me just fine and I can wear it for long periods fatigue free, but the AF1120 MK2 with it’s smaller, lighter, and more organic shape fits me even better and has improved isolation to boot. So while the vastly more expensive Andro feels the part, the AF1120 MK2 easily bests it in other ways. They both have great cables but again, the AF1120 MK2’s rubs me the right way just a little bit more, and that comes purely down to handling and memory attributes. The Andro’s braided cable is a bit stiffer, doesn’t react as well to cold weather, and retains a hint of bends and kinks that the AF1120 MK2’s cable shrugs off without a second thought. Summary? The Andromeda’s price tag makes sense, though I still prefer Audiofly’s cable.
This is another case of two earphones being complimentary. If you want a neutral sounding, technical powerhouse the AF1120 does a better job of meeting those needs. If you want a high energy yet equally impressive earphone when it comes to technical ability, the Andromeda is hard to best.
In The Ear With the AF1120 MK2, Audiofly stuck with one of their tried and true shell designs. While reminiscent of the sort of bean-shaped shell popularized by Shure and others, this design is more pepper-shaped with the shell getting wider as it approaches the nozzle. I find this makes it extra stable since what little weight there is distributes perfectly throughout the outer ear. The slender nozzles, only around 3.5mm in diameter, help with comfort too since your chosen tips have more room to compress. If deep insertions are your thing, the slim nozzle helps with that too. Thanks to the low profile, form fitting, sealed shell design, isolation is well above average, as is common for BA-only earphones. The AF1120 MK2 is a joy to use in noisy areas like the local coffee shop or on transit given how much noise is passively blocked (especially with foam tips in place). That said, given the price of this product, it’s probably best to leave it at home and bring something more affordable and less risky.
When it comes to build quality, the AF1120 MK2 is doesn’t do anything too crazy. The plastic shells are put together neatly with good quality materials. There are no misaligned parts or poorly glued sections. The use of clear plastic allows you to peer inside at the six balanced armatures and 3-way electronic crossover with Butterworth filter. The soldering job and general wiring is neat and tidy, as I would expect from something at this price. The MMCX ports are also neatly integrated allowing the cable to sit flush with the housing, limiting it’s ability to spin since there is some friction to prevent it. One aspect of the build that is slightly disappointing is that all writing and branding is printed on the plastic, not molded into it. As a result, I fully expect it to rub off after a while, as is starting to occur on the right ear piece of this tour sample.
The cable is wonderful in my opinion and a highlight of the overall package. What it lacks in flash like those cables from other brands such as Campfire Audio, BGVP, Astrotec, and Shozy, among others, it makes up for in other ways. First is that it is very light and flexible. It doesn’t weigh down the earphone in use which is quite welcome when you are active. The use of flexible, ergonomically curved preformed ear guides helps too since you don’t have to struggle with shaping memory wire every time you go to use the earphone.
Above the y-split the cable is a slender, uber flexible two-strand twist, quite reminiscent of the cable that comes with the EarNiNE EN2J (one of my favs). Below the y-split it transitions into a cloth sheath. Normally I detest cloth cables because they’re noisy, tangle easily, fray after a short time, and develop kinks that almost always lead to breaks where the inner cable spurts out. This one is much, much better than most any other cloth cable I’ve used, and doesn’t feel like it’ll suffer any of those issues anytime soon. I would make improvements in a few areas though.
Strain relief is pretty much nonexistent. It is too short and stiff at the compact 90 degree angled jack and y-split to offer much protection at all. And while I will never scoff at the inclusion of a chin cinch, the use of a small hunk of clear tubing is underwhelming for a $700 earphone. However, this seems to be a common practice with high end earphones. Sure it works well, but it doesn’t flow with the cable design and if you slide it down too far, puts unnecessary strain on the cable at the wide y-split.
Overall I am quite pleased with the fit and cable of the AF1120. The build quality is good too, though I would like to see slightly more premium materials or techniques applied, like the logo being molded into the shell vs. printed on.
In The Box The AF1120 MK2 comes in a moderately sized, somewhat understated matte black box. On the front is a reasonably high quality image of the left earpiece showing off the design and internals. In the top left corner is the model info and notice of the six drivers per side. The top right corner notes the AF1120 MK2 is a part of Audiofly’s Pro Series of monitors. Flipping to the right sleeve you see an image of the earphones and accessories neatly laid out, which the left sleeve repeats the model info. On the rear is a short blurb about the AF1120 MK2 and what’s inside, translated into nine languages. You also find a frequency response graph, specifications, a list of what’s included, some feature bullet points, and an exploded image of the construction of the AF1120 MK2.
Opening the package, a large Pelican style hard case dominates the welcoming party, while the AF1120 MK2 sits patiently above nestled within a dense, protective foam insert. Beneath the hard case you find a brief user guide. In all you get:
- AF1120 MK2 earphones
- Audioflex MMCX cable
- Single flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- Tri-flange silicone tips (s/m/l)
- Comply foam tips (s/m/l)
- Protective hard case
- Airline adapter
- 3.5mm to 1/4” adapter
- Cleaning tool
- Cable clip
Other brands craft an in-depth, multilayered unboxing experiences for their earphones. That’s cool. It’s visually impressive, engaging for the buyer, and can produce one heck of a first impression. Other brands opt not to do that and let the product speak for itself. With the AF1120 MK2, Audiofly falls into the latter. This is a very simple unboxing experience that enables you to skip the fluff and get to the plethora of included goods nigh immediately. Audiofly is not competing with luxury fashion brands (ignoring some of my chosen comparisons above, lol). This is a professional product with a suitable unboxing.
Final Thoughts It’s not often I get the chance to listen to a reference level earphone, so I’m appreciative that Audiofly agreed to send the AF1120 MK2 my way. Such products really help put the hobby into perspective, from the budget cheapos to other flagship models that aim to be the best of the best. Why is that? It’s because the AF1120 MK2 has a properly neutral, uncompromising tune and as a result can act as a near perfect bassline for which to understand various tuning choices, and to better understand your own personal preferences.
While not necessarily the most exciting listen, the AF1120 MK2 won me over with its balance and technical ability. The midrange is gorgeously lush and realistic, treble detailed and non-fatiguing, and bass technical and flexible. I wish the sound stage was a little larger, subbass dug a little deeper, and there was a bit more life in the upper treble, but I can most definitely live with the existing presentation or make some adjustments with an EQ if I really feel like it. In addition to sounding fantastic, the AF1120 MK2 has a well designed shell that snugs up ergonomically to your ear while also blocking out plenty of exterior noise. At this price I would like to see some nicer materials and molded vs. printed branding on the earpieces. But, as is the build is good enough since it is lightweight, comfortable, and doesn’t present any real red flags. The accessory kit is also outstanding with a beefy, spacious carrying case and many tips of various styles and sizes, among other useful extras.
The AF1120 MK2 is a flagship done right, and while certainly not for the feint of wallet, is more affordable than equivalent products from other makers. So if you’re in the market for a neutral, top-of-the-line earphone, Audiofly has made a strong argument to consider the AF1120 MK2.
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer Thanks to Michelle with Audiofly for reaching out to see if I would be interested in reviewing one of their products, and for sending over the AF1120. This earphone was loaned for the purposes of review and has since been returned. All thoughts within this review are my own subjective opinions and do not represent Audiofly or any other entity. At the time of writing the AF1120 MK2 retailed for 849.99 AUD: https://audiofly.com/shop/AF1120 MK2-mk2/
- Driver: 6 balanced armatures with three-way crossover (dual bass, dual mid, dual high)
- Crossover: Passive 3-way electronic crossover with Butterworth filter
- Acoustic Tuning: Physical 3-way frequency divider
- Impedance: 11Ω
- Sensitivity: 109dB @ 1kHz
- Frequency Response: 15Hz-25,000 Hz
- Cable Length: 1.2m / 47”
Devices Used For Testing LG Q70, iFi hip-dac, Asus FX53V, TEAC HA-501, Shanling M0
Some Test Tunes
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Slipknot – Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Porcupine Tree – Stupid Dreams