We can't say $200 is a bargain, but Audiofly's AE78 headphones will match and exceed just about anything else in their price range.
Audiofly first showed their products off at CES last year, and came away from the event with more than a few potential new fans. One of the consistent statements you see written about Audiofly around the Internet is how they tend to test above - sometimes well above - their suggested price point, and in our short time with them so far, that seems likely to be true. This model, the AE78, features a hybrid dual-driver system to make the most out of complex sound environments; as a result, the headphones claim to offer well-defined lows without being forced to muddy up the mid and high sound ranges.
I'm not exactly a stranger to the world of high-end headphones (of course, it depends on your definition of high-end; in a market where some phones cost $5, and others $500, or more, there is a lot of variation. For the purposes of this article, we'll consider high-end headphones to be cans with a general starting point of over $100. Despite that, the new AE78 headphones, which are Audiofly's first flagship model, did not fail to impress.
From the moment the box left its shipping container, it exuded an air of quality. A magnetic latch keeps the door closed. Opening it up showed off a number of goodies and accessories that shipped with the AE78s: a full series of silicone and Comply comfort foam eartips (they ship with a foam pair pre-installed), a headphone splitter and a dual-jack for use with airplane audio systems, and a small brush for cleaning all of your disgusting ear gunk out out of the headphones.
The Audiofly AE78 headphones are quite attractive to look at, featuring a distinctive shape and design; the checkered nylon covered cord is reinforced with Kevlar for superior strength. Speaking of the cord, one of the principal complaints of the Audioflys has nothing to do with the sound quality, but rather the microphonics of the headphone cable - in my experience, it really wasn't worse than any other pair of in-ear headphones that offer up substantial physical noise reduction. I'd recommend against wearing these to the gym or running, however, unless you have them clipped down to your shirt.
The AE78s offer some of the best sound quality we've heard in an in-ear headphone - a "downside" to this is that you will absolutely hear the difference between a poorly encoded piece of music and a high-quality recording. You don't necessarily have to seek out lossless files like FLAC or ALAC, but I wouldn't want to listen to less than a 320kbps MP3.
One of the advantages of pairing a 9mm dynamic driver along with a balanced armature is the quality of sound you get across the entire frequency range. These aren't super bassy headphones - but then, what in-ear headphones truly are? Even though you aren't going to be physically shaking from the magnitude of the lows, you'll be able to clearly hear everything there; we tried several different tracks with the Audioflys, and were impressed by the impressive soundstage and instrument separation that these phones can drive.
At $200, they're certainly pricey, but I'm willing to say that you aren't going to find a better quality headphone for the price, making these a solid bet for any mobile music lover in your life.
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