Precision and power shrink to fit inside Audiofly’s new AF180 in-ear monitors

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There’s nothing like a great pair of over-ear headphones to completely envelop you in your favorite tunes. But those looking for a more low-key way to roll may want to swap out those bulky cans for the sleek and elegant fit of an in-ear monitor, such as Audiofly’s gorgeous new AF180. Packing radiant detail, rich and woody bass, and a comfortable fit that cuts out the outside world, the AF180 are the modern way to take music with you wherever you roam.

You may not have heard of Audiofly yet, but the up-and-coming Australian headphone maker has quickly made a name for itself by cultivating a music-first philosophy — along with some impressive in-ear offerings along the way. Designed for stage musicians, the company’s AF180 don’t just wedge into your ears like standard earbuds, their wrap around design keeps them snug, while the surprisingly light earpieces fill your entire ear canal to block out ambient noise.

Related: Add premium performance to your commute with the Nuforce Primo 8

And while the stone-blue buds aren’t hard on the eyes, it’s what’s inside that makes these headphones worth their salt. Like others in their class, such as the Westone W40, or the Nuforce Primo 8, the AF180 pack four miniaturized balanced-armature drivers, known for their unrelenting accuracy. Banded together to cover the full frequency spectrum, the drivers combine for a commanding display of power and precision.

But what really makes the AF180 special is their ability to dig up smooth and taut bass, especially prevalent in woody stringed instruments like guitar, and string bass, which makes them sound much more like a pair of full-sized cans than their slight form would suggest. Pairing that with vivid accuracy up top, and a smooth flush of midrange warmth, the AF180 are hard to put down.

Accessories include three sets of ear tips, including two silicone designs, and one set of Comply foam tips, gold-plated quarter-inch and airplane adaptors, a cleaning tool, and a rustic leather case to wrap it all inside.

Of course, all their spoils don’t come cheap. At $550, these headphones beg for better source material than what’s offered from your standard smartphone loaded with low-grade MP3s. However, thanks to a growing selection of high-resolution portable devices from the likes of Astell & Kern, Sony, and Neil Young’s PonoPlayer, it’s a good time to start thinking big when going small. We also caution their thin cabling at the top, which demands a delicate touch on the road.

That said, if you’re looking for uncompromising sound in a diminutive design — and you don’t mind paying for it — Audiofly’s new AF180 are a tempting new addition to the audio landscape.

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