Some would say I have a terrible collection of music in my iTunes library. Ask any of my friends, or wife, and I probably rank last in choice of great music. Assuming, for now, I agree with them, that does not mean I cannot appreciate quality sound. Thus, my quest for the best pair of headphones began about a year ago. Keeping my eyes, and ears, open for anything that could quench my audio thirst.
As an average consumer, sound quality and price are both considered. Sure, if we wanted the best money could buy, we would all just buy in-ear monitors like the pros. But, not all of us make millions of dollars. Thankfully, I ran into Audiofly‘s booth at CES in January this year. Their full line of products dazzled my ears. This summer, I reviewed the AF78’s, which were astounding. Today, I take a closer look at the AF45‘s, a more financially modest pair, as we head into the holiday gifting season. You could even win a pair for yourself! I’m giving away two pair of AF33‘s and two more pair of AF45’s…
Before diving further into the review, let me pause for a moment of clarity. I sometimes catch a lot of flak in the comments section about blindly endorsing a product or that I am paid by the product companies for my opinion. Let me assure you, my opinion is not bought, nor do I receive compensation from the companies for reviews. I do receive the product for testing, but there is no review supplication.
With that in mind, I can tell you, I am about to, again, fall all over these Audiofly headphones. Just like the AF78’s, I find it very difficult to fault the AF45’s, which are described below. Considering the price and sound, I seriously doubt you can find another quality contender. Typically, I do not give pricing until the conclusion, but it will help frame my astonishment by noting the starting price for the AF45’s is currently $39.99 on Amazon for green or Extra Virgin.
Even before getting the buds in-hand, the packaging and presentation were stunning. A well crafted and informative box includes all necessary details about the buds. The plastic sleeve gives way to a fully designed and custom brand printed box. A clever tab opens to reveal the custom cut foam core, which carefully, and in a presentation fashion, holds the buds, extra tips, and a plush carrying case. Again, I go back to pricing. Most manufacturers would pass on the customized boxing at $40.
The above blow out image begins to explain how AudioFly is able to produce such a clear sound. (1) The machined and anodized alloy bezel is laser cut to provide venting for acoustic optimization. Essentially, it lets the earbuds breathe to provide richer sound. (2) Is an elongated one piece thermoplastic housing. (3) An 11mm custom voiced dynamic driver is designed to balance bass, mids, and crisp highs with specific definition. (4) Is a strain relief to prevent cord fray. (5) Designed streamline sound port to prevent sound from catching in the bud. (6) The AF45’s come with a range of noise isolating silicon tips.
For a quick tech spec overview: Driver Type 11mm dynamic driver; Neodymium magnet; frequency range 18-20KHz; 3.5mm gold plated jack, no adapter; impedance is 16 Ohms; and, sensitivity is 118dB at 1kHz.
Another marked difference in the AF45’s and other competitors is the AudioFlex (TM) cable, which is a proprietary branded inclusion. The braided cable uses a CORDURA fabric outer sheath. For those that do not keep up with outdoor gear, CORDURA is often found in hiking packs, tents, and apparel to prevent ripping or tearing. In addition to the CORDURA fiber, Kevlar (R) reinforced conductors keep things protected inside. Kevlar is used in body armor, to put that into perspective.
To give a fair shake to the lower priced AF45’s, I listened to the same music used to test the significantly more expensive AF78’s from my earlier review. The genres are broken down below, because headphones may be built with the right pieces, but sound is most important.
Classic Rock – Dominators in this category include Chicago, The Eagles, and Pink Floyd. Mids and highs are clear, guitar, brass and vocals are well toned. Slightly flat, to be accurate, but again, at the price, I would expect that. I’m being extremely picky here.
Pop – First up was the new JT album 20/20 Experience, which really shined. The 45’s held their own on the subtle bass lines and beats, which where punchy, full, and whole. These nuances were particularly apparent in TKO. Additional entries in the top pop category are Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Maroon 5. Similar performance was rendered with these other top chart artists, especially on Gaga’s ARTPOP, with strong bass, almost out weighing mids and highs.
Hip/Pop and R&B – Starting with TLC, this genre is also solid. Again, I can’t get away from the strong bass, that provides a rich full sound, but can slightly interfere with vocals. In hip hop and R&B, however, a strong bass is preferred. It is very apparent in Wiz Khalifa’s and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ tracks as well.
Dubstep – As I found with the above genres, the AF45’s are very strong in the base on Skrillex tracks. I had to turn down the volume from my other genres. Now, while bass is strong, the response range doesn’t drop to the floor with these buds. You will still not be able to hear the absolute lowest ranges, but they are going to do your ears a favor if you love dubstep.
Classic – It is always important to give the classic genre a listen. It helps determine crispness and clarity. While the track, Attaboy, including Stuart Duncan, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, and Yo-Yo Ma, sounded decent, there was some distortion in the buds while they struggled to reproduce the highest ends of the 100% string performance. If you are looking for a completely pure sound, pass on this option.
Again, I go back to the entry price of $40 through Amazon and that includes a microphone version for calls. You can get a pair as low as $29.99 for just the buds. I have bought headphones from companies like JVC and Sony at that price and I considered then throw-away gym wear versions. While $40 is on the high side of daily knock around drivers, if you are going to pay $20 for a pair of crap gummy headphones at Walmart, do yourself a favor and order the AF45’s for an additional $10. You can thank me later for the advise.
Unless you are a serious, serious audiophile, I would even encourage users to give the 45’s a shot over the much more expensive 78’s. MSRP for the 45’s is $70, while the 78’s are $210. Given the solid performance of the 45’s, despite some nuance and minimal distortion, for the average customer, go for the 45’s all day long and twice on Sundays.
As we head into the holiday season, $40 is a great gift for the tech minded member of your nice list. Even people that are not gear heads can appreciate the quality sound and the packaging makes you look like a hero with a deep wallet. At day’s end, you are a price conscious gifter that is smart enough to do a little research before purchasing. I even bought another pair.
I’m guessing you are wondering how to get your hands on one of four headphone pairs we have to give away! Look no further than the directions below.
What do you have to do to win?
We are excited to team up with AudioFly to give away four pair of earbuds! Yes, international readers rejoice, as this opportunity is for everyone. This is a big giveaway, so make sure you follow the directions! Follow the next steps to enter for your chance to win either AF33’s or AF45’s:
- Friend iDownloadBlog on Facebook
- Click the Facebook LIKE button at the top or bottom of this post
- Like AudioFly on Facebook
- Follow @iDownloadBlog on Twitter
- Click here to tweet this message
- Comment below: Don’t forget to put your Twitter handle in the comment! What is your favorite feature of the AF45′s and where would you use them the most?
Thanks again to Audiofly for sending over the review unit and we look forward to selecting a winner by week’s end. You will be contacted via Twitter DM if you have won!
Thanks to everyone who entered our giveaway and special thanks to Audiofly for offering the review unit and four pair of headphones for our readers! Make sure to check them out for some quality ear monitors.
The AF45’s go to: @tyler_fh and @THETKAEO
The AF33’s go to: @iamdineshdharma and @GGurudas
Check back for more giveaways in the future! We always have something brewing.
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