Australia’s Audiofly has been making earphones for quite some time, mostly for musicians, but its latest pair is for everyone, bringing noise cancellation and wireless in a $199 pair.
It’s not just the big names that do earphones, because everyone makes a pair of truly wireless earphones these days. While many of these are international, in Australia, you can find a few names that do a locally made version, as well.
WA’s Audiofly is one of those, and while the company is largely known for professional grade in-ear monitors (IEMs), its latest pair of earphones is truly wireless, very cordless, and brings a degree of noise cancellation to a $199 price point. Are the Audiofly AFT2 wireless earphones worthy of your ears?
Design and features
Easily some of the more unique earphones we’ve checked out, Australia’s Audiofly has a different approach to audio design.
Upon first glance, the case is something very different. Rather than the typical clamshell earphone case, Audiofly has gone with a slide out canister that is very different and very cool. It’s a great design that truly stands out, delivering a cool take on something that we’ve not seen prior.
You’ll find a charge light on the bottom carriage, too, in case you’re not quite sure how much life you have left in those earphones.
Slide it out, though, and you’ll perhaps find why Audiofly needed a barrel: the AFT2 are some pretty big earphones.
Almost like a big softened triangle for your ears, the Audiofly AFT2 not only come in a different box, but also look very different, too, with a large and somewhat unwieldy design that is roughly the biggest pair of in-earphones we’ve ever seen. Coming across somewhere between a hearing aide and a pair of big in-earphones, they’re not your typical design, and may look a little unorthodox.
Indeed, they feel that way, too.
While the tips are a fairly standard silicone design, the larger size of the Audiofly AFT2 may not play nicely with every ear. We find that ours are about a medium to large, and the AFT2 could still be a little large for us.
In fact, we found early that they kind of need to be pushed in all the way to seal in the sound. Jamming the AFT2 earphones in can make them feel a little uncomfortable, for sure, as the casing size is simply huge. There’s no other way of saying it.
Fortunately, using them is a little nicer, with a touch panel on either side for controlling them. You’ll find a simple touch pauses and plays on either side, while holding down the left pad will decrease volume and the right pad increase it. Meanwhile, double tapping the left pad goes back a track and double tapping the right goes forward. It works well enough, but just be aware, the controls can be a little touchy, and if you try to move the earpieces, you may in turn pause what you’re listening to.
Of course, listening to them is the most important part, and for that we turn to the Pickr Sound Test, which you can always listen to yourself on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music.
And it starts with electronic, pop, and R&B, and a bit of a warning with the Audiofly AFT2 truly wireless in-earphones, which goes like this: jam them in your ear, or else.
Choose not to, and you’ll find a loud volume on offer from Audiofly’s wireless in-ears, but with a tinny and shallow sound that can feel as if the music has collapsed in on itself. In Tycho’s ambient electronica, the drums were lacking in depth, while the bass was empty and flat. The highs were the most notable part, but everything else removed, something we also heard in Daft Punk, where the band’s “Contact” lost any sense of dimensionality. There was bass, but not much, and certainly not enough to provide a beat you’d care for.
It was much the same in pop, where Carly Rae Jensen lacked any real roundness to the punch of what makes her music delightfully dramatic and fun. The claps in “Cut To The Feeling” came off like hollow synth claps, and while the bass exists, it just begged for more.
And then, thinking we might be missing something, and worrying the sound was too deliberately bright, we jammed the earphones in to the point where our ears were clearly not comfortable. There are only two eartip sizes with the Audiofly AFT2 — small and medium — which is both odd and unfortunate, and means if you normally fit a large, it’s very much a case of BYO or jam in what you have. Or both.
So we jammed in the Audiofly AFT2, because the company is no stranger to solid sound, and these should be better than what we were experienced.
When we did, it changed a little. With a tighter albeit more uncomfortable seal, the bass improved amidst what was still high sound. Mark Ronson’s R&B punch became bright yet boomy, and offered one of the better sounding tracks from the earphones, while Maroon 5 was acceptable and offered a little more punch in the bottom end, though the overall sound lacked the dynamism we’ve come to expect from them. And FKA Twigs delivered some bass, but lost the guttural bottom end we usually anticipate in “Two Weeks”.
It wasn’t all bad, though. While the sound is bright upon nearly everything, music that didn’t deliver an overly complex or complicated soundstage handled the AFT2 totally fine.
Take Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”, which has always been a delightful rumpus among guitar, percussion, and keys, and which delivers a sparseness that Audiofly’s AFT2 just soaks in. The bright rendition matches what you expect to hear, and works well in this song.
The same is true in jazz and classical, and that simplicity of sound is delivered well through these earphones, with just enough bottom end, but mostly a focus on the highs.
We were reminded of Radiohead’s “High and Dry” with these earphones, at least from its name, because they’re bright and dry, at least in terms of personality, and yet they handled that song relatively well. Overall, the Audiofly AFT2 handles simplicity well, which isn’t a bad thing, but really paints them into a corner.
A guitar and a single, a couple of instruments jamming, a string quartet. These are all examples of the simplicity of sound the Audiofly AFT2 has no problems with. It’s when you add instruments and structure and mixing and space that the earphones feel like they could perform better.
It got to the point that we broke out the emergency bassy playlist, which we use when bass needs to be pushed, and it was only evident in tracks where it had been pushed up already — in Justin Timberlake, Charlie Puth, Billie Eilish, and Kanye West — but it was much more restrained. That’s really what you’re getting in these earphones: a restrained take on the bottom end, which is surprising.
There’s also a hint of noise cancellation here, thanks in part to a chip from Qualcomm, using Qualcomm’s cVc noise cancellation. We won’t say what’s here is remarkable in any sense of the word, though. Instead, best to think of it as some noise cancellation for the basics, but not the quality stuff you can come to expect from other brands, nor is it customisable or able to be tweaked like in other options.
Battery life is one area where Audiofly wins major points, though.
While the design of the earpieces are huge, the battery can support up to a staggering 10 hours of battery life in the earpieces themselves, and a further 25 in the case.
That cute little barrel design is one of our favourite points about the AFT2 earphones, and it contains a good two and a half extra charges, bringing a total of 35 hours entirely. With a battery life like that, the AFT2 make a lot of sense for long trips, provided you can deal with the comfort and sound.
And at $199, the Audiofly AFT2 presents an interesting little option, offering truly wireless sound with heaps of battery life for just below $200, though not much more. They’re also water and sweat resistant, which will be handy, though we wouldn’t liken them to exercise-grade earphones.
What needs work?
But while the price isn’t bad for Audiofly’s first take on truly wireless noise cancelling earphones, there’s quite a bit that feels like Audiofly needs to work on.
Take the audio, which can feel like its sound stage has been squished. While our sound test covers quite a few variety of tracks, the results of our AFT2 review shows the earphones perform well in only a handful of tracks, with much of the audio sounding like it was spatially deficient.
There’s nothing wrong with a bright sound for earphones, but when you have to jam the earphones in almost to the point where they hurt, there is a slight issue.
And that’s something the Audiofly AFT2 struggles with: to make the earphones sound as good as possible, you need as solid a seal as possible, and to get that in these earphones, you kind of need to jam them in to the point where it can get uncomfortable. We think it might come from the overall size of the unit, which for many will be unwieldy. This isn’t like a larger tip found on KEF in-earphones, but rather more like the larger earpiece size that affected Sennheiser’s truly wireless first-generation Momentum. Somehow, Audiofly has made an even bigger earphone, and we’re not sure that’s a good thing.
So they can be a little on the uncomfortable side, and bright alongside it. You can get them to sound a little better if the seal is better, but again, you’ll need to jam them in.
Finally, we have one more comment on the design, because you get a blue light that just won’t turn off. Much like how older Bluetooth earphones from wayyyyy back in the day used to come with a blue light to tell you they were connected and working, the Audiofly AFT2 wireless in-earphones use a flashing blue light to tell you that they, too, are connected.
And you can’t turn it off. You can’t disable it. The blue light is on both sides of the AFT2 truly wireless earphones, and when you’re connected and listening, you can see it.
Sure, it’s a minor issue, but it’s also one we’ve not seen on a pair of wireless earphones for quite some time, so much that we thought it was a problem with getting pre-production units. That can happen, so we checked with Audiofly’s people on the matter, and they told Pickr:
The blue blinking is to indicate that the Bluetooth connection is active. Unfortunately it can’t be disabled as it’s part of the chip set.
That is unfortunate, and dents the design overall, because it means you’re going to have a blinking light on either side of your head regardless of what you do.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
It’s a bit of a shame that the Audiofly AFT2 don’t sound better than what they should, especially given the pedigree Audiofly is known for. This is a company that gets audio, and has delivered some truly excellent earphones.
What’s perhaps odd about the earphones is just how uncomfortable they are and what you get for that lack of comfort: once you find a way for them to sit in the ear, you get an either love it or hate it approach to personal audio comfort, and the result isn’t amazing once it has been achieved.
The thing is we’re convinced Audiofly has made better earphones before, and two years on from the AF100W Mark 2, it’s hard not to relate the AFT2 to that model. The sound is similar, with reduced bass and a focus on the highs first, followed by the mids. The Audiofly AFT2 wireless earphones are basically the truly wireless equivalent, delivering a retrained take on sound simplicity that some will like, though others will clearly be looking for something more.
This might be a case of third time’s a charm, because in the next version, we hope all the issues are dealt with, from design and weird errant lights to comfort and sound. Audiofly can do this, but at $199, you may also want to look around unless you’re solely into acoustic sets.