Audiofly’s AF56W is another take on the Bluetooth wireless headphone. Here I look at the updated mark II version.
Now the 3.5 mm jack socket is an endangered species, Bluetooth wireless headphones are the way to go. At NZ$200, the Audiofly AF56W is an expensive option, but not at pricy as Apple’s AirPods 2 which cost another NZ$80.
The money buys a pair of in-ear headphones connected to each other by a Cordura fibre-braided cable. There’s a built-in microphone and a basic controller on the cable.
Elsewhere in the box is a selection of tips so you can get the headphones to better fit your ears. There’s also a magnetic charger on a micro-USB cable and zip case that Audiofly says is waterproof.
Connecting the two headphones with a cable is an interesting twist. Audiofly says this makes it harder to lose the headphones. Maybe. There have been reports of people losing Apple AirPods, so it could be a useful feature.
However a funny thing happened when I was preparing to write this review. I temporarily lost the AF56W. So, the cord is not that helpful.
The cord is about 400mm. You can adjust the actual length with a clip device at the centre of the cord. At first I wore the headphones with the clip under my chin, which looks dorky. Then I figured it works better when the cord goes around the back of your neck.
Hard to lose the AF56W
While I didn’t have problem with the buds falling out of my ears, more about that in a moment, the cord means they won’t drop to the floor if that happens.
You’d have to be unlucky for both to be dislodged at the same time. This means the AF56W might be a better choice of headphones if you want to listen to music during a vigorous run or workout.
Audiofly’s choice of tips means you get a better fit. That’s important because the headphones don’t have noise cancelling. Instead you have to rely on a tight fit to reduce ambient noise.
The box says the batteries are good for eight hours. That’s pushing it a little. In testing I found seven hours was about all I could get.
Charging takes 90 minutes according to the information on the box. That squares with my experience. It’s nothing like as easy as the Apple AirPod charging arrangement.
The magnetic charging pad on the cord snaps onto a connector that, in turn links to a 300mm micro-USB cable. The other end of the cable has a standard USB plug, so you might be able to charge the headset from your PC or laptop. I used a phone charger. But the 300mm cable means I had to leave everything on the floor next to a power socket.
That’s far from ideal. Although micro-USB is still fairly common, the move to USB-C means the AF56W could get left behind.
Enough of the details. How do the headphones sound? I found them to be surprisingly good. There’s clear blue water between the sound quality of the AF56W and the cheaper earbuds. That must be down to the 13mm neodymium driver — I read that from the blurb on the box.
Music comes across far better than the spoken word. There’s enough at the top and the bottom to fill out a wide range of music. After hours of listening I can’t tell you if the sound is better or worse than Apple’s AirPods. I can tell you they sound different.
One area where the AF56W lags AirPods is dropouts and glitches. I get almost none on the AirPods, quite a few on the Audiofly headphones even when I’m only a metre or so away from the phone, laptop or tablet.
Another oddity is the spoken voice used to tell you the phones are connected. It’s been recorded at a low bit-rate so it sounds glitchy, which is a bad advertisement for the actual sound quality.
Audiofly AF56W verdict
At NZ$200 the AF56W headphones are expensive. More so considering there is no noise cancellation. Mind you, the sound is noticeably better than you’d find on low cost Bluetooth headphones.
That said, the product and the experience feels cheaper and not as complete as Apple’s AirBuds. In terms of overall quality, ease of use and so on that extra NZ$80 for the Apple alternative starts to feel like a bargain.
In other words high-end audio, mid-range user experience at price somewhere between the mid-range and high-end.