Pros: Very good timbre.
Sound, which will not offend.
An “affordable” flagship.
Very nice overall.
Very nice case.
Cons: Cable is not the best.
Build quality not, TOTL.
Maybe too neutral for some, as in it does not offend?
AF’s version of flagship may not be for everyone…
Audiofly AF1120 mk2 ($700usd): A flagship of a different sort.
Define “flagship.” Kansas-Mt. Sunflower is a “summit,” on a different level, and so should AF1120 be considered a flagship in that same verbiage.
Initial: Upon arrival, I checked to ensure all was well and good. It was and gave a quick listen. Immediately, I realized that this to me was the better offering, and more to my liking than the AF180. With a bit darker signature, and better clarity, the timbre of the AF1120 immediately shown through. Very good bass, with good air between the notes lent itself to a quite pleasing signature, or one that fit my tastes. In conversation with @Wiljen, we noted how many of today’s product indeed sound good, and the gap is getting smaller these days, which makes our job enjoyable but harder. Those of us with good ears can indeed do an admirable job of discerning those decreasingly smaller discrepancies. Then there is me, with my ears. I have to work harder to discern those differences, but as a result, my critical listening skills have moved forward a bit. Enough to make differences known and enjoyable in pursuit of those.
Thanks to Michelle with Audiofly for allowing @Wiljen to send over the AF1120. This earphone was loaned for the purposes of review and will be 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 849.99usd: https://audiofly.com/shop/AF1120 MK2-mk2/
Driver type: Six Balanced armature drivers with 3-way crossover
Driver arrangement: Dual bass, dual mid, dual high
Frequency range: 15-25kHz
Crossover: Passive 3-way electronic crossover with Butterworth filter
Acoustic tuning: Physical 3-way frequency divider
Sensitivity: 109dB at 1kHz
Cable length: 1.2m / 47”
Plug type: 3.5mm gold plated, right angle format
Meze Rai Penta ($1099)-from review
Shozy x AAW Pola ($850)-from review
Shozy x AAW Pola39 ($1050)-from review
64Audio U8 ($950)
Campfire Audio Jupiter ($700)
XDuoo X10Tii/iFi Pro iDSD
Los Lobos- Disconnected in New York
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
twenty one pilots Regional At Best, Trench
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World
Mark Knopfler-Down The Road Wherever
In the box:
AF1120 w/ AudioflexTM cable and Cordura® fiber wrap
3 sets silicon tips (s/m/l)
3 sets triflange silicon tips (s/m/l)
3 sets Comply tips (s/m/l)
3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter
Coming a satin black box not unlike what Clear Tune Monitors does, the box looks quite good. With writing on all sides there is a plethora of information to be had. A nice picture of the AF1120 covers the front, while the back has all pertinent information. A too small to see frequency graph along with tiny print adorns the top left, while an exploded drawing covers the right. Specifications and items included cover the bottom 1/4 of the back. Nicely done, but print is too small.
Taking the top off and you reveal thick hard foam cradling the IEM’s and cable. The lower half carries the pelican-like case. Inside are all of the other details such as extra tips, shirt clip, etc. Not a bad presentation overall and one in which you can live knowing the AF1120 is protected well.
The cable is white with a Cordura covering, which is darn near indestructible. It even has a very good tactile feel to it, and with strain relief fits over the ear well. The Audioflex cable lays well, too. Above the y-splitter though, there is no protection with the Cordura and as such both wires on each side seem a bit thin. But with a tight wrap, you need not worry too much, for the lay of the cable is such that the upper part stays protected.
The IEM itself is made from two halves of kidney-shaped plastic and a long skinny nozzle. The same diameter as the AF180, the nozzle has a “dip” on one side of the end, just like the 180 as well. I am not sure why, but it does help when putting tips on. The plastic is clear so one can see the electronics inside, which are neat and tidy. Each side is also labeled with the model number, serial number and either “L” or “R” for the respective sides. Fit isn’t the best, and less than I would hope for a flagship let alone one that costs $850usd. Will mentioned this in his review with hopes that Audiofly would move to injection molded plastic or something of the sort, which would be more befitting a flagship. I agree. But, once you hear the critter, most of that can be forgotten thankfully.
The AF1120mk2 has a very pleasing sound overall to me. Slightly warmer than the AF180mk2, with a fuller sound as well; the 1120 fits my musical tastes more closely. That could be why I like it more as well. Not so long ago, the driver war pushed the number into near astronomical limits. Thankfully, as companies realized this was not a good long-term strategy, they dialed back that number to a more reasonable level. I for one am glad since this allowed those companies to focus on the sound rather than compete for numbers.
With six BA drivers, two each for bass/mid/highs, the 1120 can focus on the crossover network and fine tuning of each set. And the “tri-combo” works well together. Neither forces themselves to the front, except for the mids a bit to me. But this is not a bad thing, no. Vocals tend to be in front, like they would be on stage so giving the listener that sense makes for a good sound. Add in enough bass push to make for a pleasant tie down to hold everything in place and you have the makings of a very solid IEM at the sub-$1000 price point.
Control is the name of the game down low. The bass does not reach especially deep, but this is amongst the better control of an IEM I have had inhouse for a good longish time. Lack of thump is made up for in quality. There are times I love my Legend X for its pure thump, but other times a bit more control is wanted. And here the AF1120mk2 accommodates nicely. Playing well with the other sounds, the bass does not draw attention to itself, it merely provides the support. So far so good.
Moving higher though and we reach the star, the mids. Here the quality detail can be heard easily. And it is very, very good. Clarity lends itself nicely as a result, but not quite as clean as others. The warmer side of life tends to do that. But it is quite good as well, and I do not miss that extra cleanliness. For with that, you often get a feeling of “antiseptic.” Here there is no such thing. None of the shoutiness happens here that could occur from the “too clean” sound. And for that I am thankful. Rosa Lee from Los Lobos could easily descend into a cacophony of unruliness without the slight warmth provided by the tuning here. And as such, the mids are the central focus, the star of this presentation. This is the kind of mid sound one would wish could be transferred to other IEM’s instantly, so that you do not miss the sound. Kind of like a plug-n-play amp on certain DAP’s.
And thankfully, the treble is of sufficient quality to not bother me with too much up top. Good energy without becoming grating, biting or too sparkly makes this reviewer happy. I am able to turn up Chuco’s Cumbia sufficiently to keep my tiring ears happy without too much bite. Ever so slightly dropped at the top, this makes for a very pleasant flagship. This is not about so much detail that you cannot enjoy the sound but more about actually enjoying the sound. Of the ones listed below in the comparison section, this is the most tolerant top end, and the one I enjoyed the most. Good stuff, indeed.
Thankfully this enjoyable sound carries over into the soundstage, which while as bit wider than some, is not so wide that the separation suffers. Sometimes a headphone can have too wide of a soundstage. One where the instruments do not work in concert together. On the AF1120mk2 though, you need not worry. Wide enough to accommodate everyone but not tall enough to make you think of a high vaulted concert hall. More small venue, and that intimacy is not claustrophobic in the least. When solos on Van Morrison tracks call for it, there is room to be heard. When the whole of Los Lobos gets going, there is indeed room for all to jam.
Individual instruments do not fight for space, nor separate from each other as noted in the previous paragraph. Melding together like sound engineer envisioned I would imagine is an apt description. The pluck of bass cello on March Winds In February can clearly be heard and give that firsthand intimacy of experience. Van Morrison’s voice does become a bit harsh, but that is the nature of this track and a good part of the album. Conversely, Joey Alexander’s piano staccato on Warna sound wonderfully sublime. A bit dark (due to Tidal), but nonetheless quite compelling in presentation. Giving the AF1120mk2 a good mark for cross source and cross platform, this does.
Audiofly AF1120 mk2 ($700) v Meze Rai Penta ($1099)-from review:
After hearing the Empyrean, the Rai Penta would be in a tough place to come close. Ultimately in my mind, Meze did not take the same chance they did with the Empyrean. As a result, I think they missed a tremendous opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, the Rai Penta is quite a good unit, but it is kind of like the jack of all trades. Does many things, but not with anything standing out as its preemptive favorite. I do like how it performed overall, with that sublime middle of the road sound, but I could have used more bass to give it a bit more soul.
The AF on the other hand performs well, especially the mids. These are quite good, and the match for the Rai Penta. If it was on sound signature alone, it would be a tough draw. Fabulous mids, with a slightly warmer tilt and quite competent sound, the AF1120mk2 would be a good choice. If you want a critter who’s build is second to none, with a sound characteristic that does all admirably, without showing off in any direction, then the Rai Penta would be a good choice. I will admit, that both appeal to me and if I had to choose one, I would fret and froth over the decision for a good long time.
Audiofly AF1120 mk2 ($700) v Shozy x AAW Pola ($850)-from review:
This one is easier. To me, the AF1120mk2 is what the Sozy/AAW should have striven for. The older AAW W900 is one of my all-time favorites. It was also one of my first forays into a TOTL. It deserved its place among the top. But here, the Pola falls short, doing nothing above average to me. I was uninspired. For the price, this would be an easy decision. The AF wins across the board (to me).
Audiofly AF1120 mk2 ($700) v Shozy x AAW Pola39 ($1050)-from review:
This is a bit more difficult. The Pola39 is what the Pola should have been, and the Pola39 then should have moved towards the W900. The bass on the Pola39 is among the best controlled and reaching of pretty much any unit at this price. Extraordinary control makes for a foundation upon which the rest builds. And does so well. I really enjoyed the Pola39 and did spend the majority of my time using it over the Pola. That said, the AF1120mk2 can hold its own very well here due to the wonderful sounds of mid and control of bass. Lonely Streets defines all that is good in the AF1120, and I have to pause to raise the volume on the N6ii.
Audiofly AF1120 mk2 ($700) v 64Audio U8 ($950):
An older friend purchased due to @Glassmonkey’s wonderful review, I still pull this one out for comparisons and the quality of bass. A very different signature than pretty much everything else from 64Audio, I love the way the bass is handled. Pure thump and deserving of its pedestal in the basshead hall of fame in my book. What it lacks in overall quality, it makes up for in 64Audio quality of thump and a velvet smoothness of character. This is a fabulous sound. Mids fall well behind the AF, but the U8 is pulled out by me for an old school good time of bass and rock-n-rock. A purchase I do not regret.
If you want an overall excellent signature, the AF1120mk2 is well ahead. But if you pine for a bass unit, which might even make the Legend X blush in jealousy, then the U8 might be the way to go. And from what I hear that sound was tuned into the A8, a cult favorite.
Audiofly AF1120 mk2 ($700) v Campfire Audio Jupiter ($700):
The Jupiter was at one time Campfire Audio’s “flagship.” Then the Andromeda came along and stole the show. Weird of fit, and a sound signature not for everyone, the Jupiter fell by as others moved along. If overall signature is what you want, then it isn’t even fair. The AF wins. But if you want a bit more character with mids (specifically vocals), which may be a bit more round then the Jupiter might work. If I had the two side-by-side, I would most likely bring home the AF every time. But sometimes I still pull the Jupiter out just for a listen.
The XDuoo x10tii/iFi Pro iDSD was the unit I used the most, and to me the trio fit extremely well together. Providing a detailed sound from the XDuoo, paired with the tubeness of the iFi made for a complimentary package. One, which worked very well and again received the majority of my listening time.
If portable is what you want, the Cayin N6ii is hard to beat for me. Providing a warm sound, with excellent detail aided the AF in strutting its stuff. The mids came across clean and clear. Not crisp, but airy and detailed. I could listen to this combination all day and not fatigue, even at high volume.
If you want to add pure detail to the sound, then the Dethonray DTR1 is where you should go. This combo gives the AF that extra air, which can be missed between other sources. Call this the complimentary pair that bring different talents to the table and work well together. The Sonny & Cher of the group. This would be a fabulous on the go pairing and one in which I did that several times.
It is often hard to follow others who have reviewed the product, for you might feel you cannot hear what they did, or you do hear the same things and do not want to plagiarize or grab their verbiage. But here is a case where I walk side by side with the other reviewer in hearing pretty much the same. The mids are fabulous. The overall signature is one, which has few peers at this level with regard to musical detail save maybe the Rai Penta. This is a very good sounding musically detailed IEM with excellent timbre. Of those mentioned above, it probably is the most musical. It isn’t perfect though. At this price, sub-par build and a cable, which mimics a 1970’s Kirby leave a bit to be desired. There is a certain other company, which has build quality such as this. But it has a very devote following. My hope is that Audiofly and especially the AF1120mk2 will garner that same respect when it comes to sound. It would be deserved.
I thank Audiofly for the loaner, it is a wonderful unit, with some flaws, which can be ironed out. I also thank @Wiljen for sending the critter my way in the trade. Please give the AF1120mk2 a listen. It is enjoyable.