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.
The Audiofly AF78M (MSRP $209.95, $199 online) in-ears have plenty of strong points, but unfortunately, most of them are related to the design. We love the durable cable, the sturdy jack, and the moldable foam tips. The frequency response? Not so much. While the AF78M provides solid bass support and a good mid-range, it drops the ball when it comes to higher frequencies. We also tested higher levels of harmonic distortion than are ideal.
A frequency response is a visual illustration of the way a speaker reproduces a source signal. How much "boom-boom" does it lend to bass? How easy is it to hear a harp when a timpani is also thumping away? A look at a frequency response chart can tell you a great deal.
Testing revealed a solid, flat response to sub-bass and bass frequencies—basically everything from 20Hz through about 300Hz. Likewise, the midrange was treated with decent emphasis. The AF78M de-emphasizes the higher notes and overtones from 2kHz and 6kHz, however—the meat and potatoes of instruments like flute and piccolo, and where the harmonic overtone frequencies live for nearly every instrument and voice.
Some amount of distortion is always present in music playback—it's just the way speakers work. Most of the time, headphones we test exhibit 3% or less of what is called total harmonic distortion (THD); any more than 3% is trouble. The AF78M tested with a high amount of distortion in their sub-bass range—frequencies below 100Hz. This range is barely audible to human beings, so this isn't an issue. Unfortunately, these in-ears still produce about 5% THD around 100Hz and 200Hz, which are key frequencies for bass sounds.
We also tested a maximum sound pressure level of 110.848 dB. With the distortion problems already present, you don't want to listen to these headphones any louder than that—but you shouldn't be listening at that volume, anyway.
Attenuation refers to the reduction of ambient outside noise. Obviously, when you put anything on, over, or inside your ears, ambient noise is naturally quieted. As in-ear headphones with moldable tips, the AF78M do a great job at this, despite not being noise cancelers.
While sub-bass and bass sounds won't be dampened much, you can expect middle frequencies (voices, cars whizzing by) around 1kHz to be reduced to less than half of their original volume, upper midrange frequencies to be reduced to one quarter of their original volume, and very high-pitched noises to be reduced to one eighth or less of their original volume—a very good result.
Meet the tester
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.See all of Lee Neikirk's reviews
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email