I’ve tested out numerous headphones and earbuds over the years, but this is actually the first time I’ve tried a pair of in-ear monitors. These specialized earphones are optimized for performers to use on stage so they can hear their performance without the echoes and ambient noise from the venue around them. So I’ll start out by saying that if you’re looking for everyday headphones to wear to the gym and on the train, these probably aren’t for you. But if you’re a musician or stage performer, you’ve come to the right place.
The Audiofly AF120 in-ear monitors are designed to combine long-wearing comfort with crisp and clean audio and to block out background noise. Each earphone is has a curved over-the-ear wire that can be bent to conform to your ear, and the set comes with a wide variety of ear tips to fit as many different ears and preferences as possible. I landed on the large Comply eartips, which are made of a super squishy foam that expands back into place once in your ear canal. I found these to not only be comfortable, but did a great job isolating outside noise.
One thing that took a little getting used to was the manual’s recommended running of the wires behind my head, which is a common requirement for performers so the wire doesn’t get in the way of instruments they’re playing. On the other hand, it’s a little cumbersome when running the wire to a device that’s in front of you, like a computer. This wiring configuration works best for devices in your pocket or strapped to your body. Speaking of wires, the cable is made from Audioflex SL, which is wrapped with fabric to prevent tangling and improve durability.
Sound quality from the hybrid dynamic/balanced armature drivers is very good, offering clean and bright sound. Since these headphones are designed to cut through background noise, they have a tendency to emphasize mids and highs, while the low end is less prominent than you might otherwise be used to. So if you’re looking for big and booming bass, these aren’t for you. That said, the sound is crystal clear and crisp at even very high volume levels, and there’s no question you’d be able to hear yourself on stage even in a really loud venue. Keep in mind that Audiofly recommends a 40 hour burn-in period before pushing the drivers to their limits.
Audiofly packages the AF120s in a nice cloth-wrapped box, and then inside you’ll find a handsome canvas carrying case with ample room for the headphones and their accessories. The AF120s list for $249.99 a pair, but the company is currently offering them at a discounted promotional price of just $149.99 through June 21.