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AFUL Performer 5 - The Future of Hybrids

AFUL Performer 5 - The Future of Hybrids

Author: Andy.EF

Foreword

  1. At the point of this article, my AFUL Performer 5 has undergone over 150 hours of runtime
  2. I don't do measurements, I just describe what I hear, from my own POV
  3. My preferred sound tuning, Diffused Field Neutral (Etymotic)
  4. The entirety of my impressions was done with my own Dekoni foam tips
  5. Ultimately, my reviews are purely subjective and biased to my personal preference in sound
  6. For the purpose of this review, the unit will be mentioned as P5

 

The Build
AFUL Performer 5 (P5) is a newly developed 5 drivers hybrid IEM from AFUL, boasting some of the most impressive array of technology I have seen yet. For a start, P5 comes with 5 distinctive patented tech - something almost unheard of from most earphone manufacturers (the likes of Etymotic and Shure does have their own patents).

Frankly, I am not well versed with tech stuffs pertaining to audio gears. What I do appreciate is when a manufacturer goes the extra mile to produce bespoke like products to achieve possibilities and maximizing performance, value and dependency. So I will not delve too much into the specifics because my reviews has always been, how do they perform in real life? sounds good? - that sort of thing.
Aful performer 5-1

Let’s start with the shells. They are made of hardened resin with EnvisionTEC High-Precision 3D Printed Acoustic Tube Structure, I figured that this is where the characteristic of P5 sound are influenced - IEM auditory and sonic characteristics are largely attributed to how the shells are designed. What this means to me, AFUL has spent great effort to tune the internals of the IEM shells to comply to specific target they deem as fitting. Inside the shells, a single Dynamic Driver accompanied by 4 Balanced Amatures, Those 5 drivers deployed with RLC Network Frequency Division Technology - I assume that it means there's some serious tech under the hood to connect and tune the five different drivers, ensuring high level of precision, cohesion and accuracy.

Esthetically, P5 is a thing of beauty. The magma like faceplates looking gorgeous, layered with thick enameled lacquer finishes. The inside section, dark blue-ish black. P5 has been designed meticulously ergonomic to offer comfort and best possible universal fit. I would say the 4mm bore size nozzle exhibiting moderate length - not too short nor does it protrude longer than necessary. On top of that, at just 4.2gm each side, P5 is assuredly among the lightest IEM have ever had yet in my possession. These thoughtful design and implementation meant that wearing P5 is a pleasant affair. It is super comfortable once anchored securely. I have been able to wear my P5 for literally half a day with music on shuffle nonstop - no unsavory effects like wear fatigue that I can complain of. P5 literally disappear when the music starts.
AFUL Performer 5-2

On top of that, P5 has something called High-Damping Air-Pressure Balance System, some sort of integrated ventilation system intended to relieve possible buildup of vacuum pressure - which means that there will be no sensation of closed vacuum proximity when IEM seal has been achieved. But this was also intended, and perhaps more importantly to impart some element of influence of how P5 would perform sonically (more on this later).
AFUL Performer 5-4 



P5 comes accompanied with pretty much standard array of accessories as per expected of an IEM of this pedigree. Nothing too lavish or extravagant - it is more practical than fanciful. The stock cable, I believe being made of SPC, looked just like many other IEM cables seen these days. Well built, offering robust yet pliable feel to it and should stand the test of time with daily rigorous usage.

 


Then, there's two sets of silicone tips offering 2 variant - wide and narrow bore. Wide for Treble focus and narrow for lower frequency emphasis. I wished AFUL would have also included foam tips but alas none are offered, manufacturers really need to understand that silicone tips won't work for everyone - and I am one of them. The entirety of my review for P5 has been done with Dekoni foam tips instead. I just cannot bear the odd feeling of silicone tips on my ear canals.


Equipment Used
  • Sony Xperia 1 iV
  • Windows 10 with Native USB Drivers
  • UAPP Bitperfect Mode
  • HiByMusic USB Exclusive Mode with FLAC files
  • CEntrance DACport HD
  • Cayin RU6
  • Ovidius B1
  • Hidizs XO
  • 7Hz 71
  • VE Abigail

Test Audio Playlist

 


Sound Impressions

 



AFUL Performer 5 (P5), I would describe it as a fusion between Harman and W curved sound tuning. Pronounced boosting and coloration especially on the lower frequencies being prominent out of the box. With approx 40 hours of burn-in, I can audibly hear the lower frequencies firmed up and settled down nicely. Otherwise, to my ears which is so accustomed to Diffused Field Neutral sound curve, P5 sounded exceedingly Bassy, colored and vibrant.

P5 is assuredly rich and expansive with dynamic range. The breadth and expanse from one end to the other end practically TOTL level - only bested by the likes of Shure KSE1500. On the aspect of dynamic characteristics, P5 offer lively and vibrant dynamic transients that exhibited silky smooth flow of harmonics. Euphony level exhibited finesse and grace, it is exciting as it is mature sounding at the same time. Always clean and coherent. The transitions of sonic frequency interchanges seemingly fluid and purposeful. Most prominent would be the depth of lower frequency reach, P5 projected them masterfully yet keeping it sensible with imaging crispness - it is cleanly audible, but it does not overwhelm.

Tonal and timbre balance of P5 is highly organic. My extensive listening to P5 covering all possible genres, I was able to throw at it, I have yet to hear any hint of unsavory metallic or plasticky timbre. P5 is natural as it is gracefully realistic with tonal and timbre balance, despite being highly colored and vibrant. On this aspect, I can totally respect tuning acumen as exhibited by AFUL. For the most part, instruments, percussions and vocals presented transparently as how they are meant to be. I think P5 owes it a lot to how the 5 drivers bonded together to always remained cohesive to each other, the technology as stated earlier applied ensuring that the harmonics being well controlled and balanced, resulting in smooth projection of dynamic transients that sounded believable tonal wise.

For something that is relatively V Harman-ish curved, P5 is surprisingly rich and frontal with Mids presentation. Hence why I said earlier this P5 being a hybrid of V and W sounding IEM. It is rich, dense and succinct. The overall theme of P5 Mids being naturally organic, just very mild hint of warmth to the timbre and texture. P5 Mids offer good depth and resolution. Be it stringed instruments, percussions or electronic, P5 Mids will always appear well defined, crisp and smooth. Playing Jazz is an emotional and immersive affair thanks to the ambience of Mids staging which can be intimate depending on how they were mixed and mastered. The V element of Mids will be audible when subjected to listening to Rock/Metal genres, or practically any music that exhibited native suppression of Mids as part of the recording scheme. What this translated to me, P5 being highly transparent to the nature of the recording - the ability and agility to adapt to the source intended design. For someone who listens a lot to Metal music, P5 offer some of the smoothest sound for electric guitars - smooth yet still crispy enough imparting good sense of bite and edge. Or should I say, the electric guitar riffs will always appear well rounded and refined. The attack and decays remained realistic, engaging and vibrant. I can listen to raw Black Metal Lo-Fi recordings all day long and will never get any risk of auditory fatigue due to the smoothness of P5 Mids presentation, especially upper Mids which is absolutely free from any elements of Pinna glare.

For vocals, notably I would say the lower keyed female vocals (Contralto) from the likes of Diana Krall or Sinne Eeg would appear slightly warmer, but it still has ample natural tint to it - which resulted in something that is lush and engaging, highly emotional...that's the purpose of Jazz isn't it? to be emotionally connected to the music and singing. The same can be said of male vocals, typically richer and thicker in density, I am hearing deep chesty singing from Morrissey and Nick Cave, both being Baritone-Tenor type. And last but not least, subjecting P5 to the peakier type of vocals from Alison Krauss and Mariah Carey (Soprano-Alto), P5 exhibited excellent control to emit even the most shrill section of their singing - simply outstanding.

Treble for P5 can be best described as mature and well controlled. In fact compared to some competitors, I would say P5 may appear seemingly moderate with Treble projection. But moderate does not mean P5 being weak with upper frequencies performance. Simply put, it is not an outright bright sounding unit. P5 offer delicate and cleanly audible Treble with deep extensions - evidenced with great presentation of Treble micro details exhibiting smooth decays dispersal. The energy, the attack being highly mature. It is euphonic enough to instill excitement, yet never offensive or sibilant - not even when subjected to highly aggressive music that contain lots of Hi-Hat and cymbals. Treble transients being harmonious and fluid. I daresay, for someone who love refined Treble, I find P5 capable of mesmerizing performances that will not fail to impart sense of satisfaction.

Now to the best part, Bass. Among the many that I have listened to, without a doubt P5 is an absolute champion with Bass performances. I would even describe P5 being a miniature Subwoofer IEM. And thus the subject goes back to the implementation of P5 High-Damping Air-Pressure Balance System, which means that P5 has an advantage of behaving like an open backed earphone instead of an In Ear Monitor. This in return resulted in something that is airy and gracefully flowing. Yes, Bass notes of P5 is literally flowing and mesmerizing, devoid of any sense of closed vacuum - something that is akin to Subwoofer sensations. Midbass of P5 exhibited solid authority and presence, commanding yet never overwhelming. It has details and rich texture, immersive depth and articulation. Impact and slam just as per expected of a Dynamic Driver, with strong seismic sensations all the way to Subbass decays. The Subbass itself being well extended into the furthest region with realistic dispersal of note edge. Despite largely being somewhat Bass heavy IEM, P5 surprisingly does not feel awkwardly boomy or bloated, Bass is always clean and fast. I am no where near being a Basshead yet I am addictively attuned to this sort of lower frequency performances. This is where I would say P5 being strong enough to rival some of the Harman tuned IEMs competitors out there. That deep and engaging Bass will assuredly please those who appreciate beautifully presented lower frequency vibes.

Technicalities

 


Without a doubt, AFUL Performer 5 is exceedingly good with technicalities. Perhaps the only critic I would say would be on the aspect of overall headstaging width and dimension. I feel that the soundstage could use a bit more space to compliment the open sound. It is not exactly narrow, but I have heard wider staging from other IEMs. Maybe, because P5 being frontal with the projection of Mids, that sort of presentation impart strong sense of intimacy which in turn making my ears perceive the soundstage being not wide enough. But really I am nitpicking here.

As for the rest, P5 exhibited clinical precision with layer separation and spatial imaging. Being a 5 drivers hybrid tuned correctly does that. P5 is highly holographic and immersive. P5 can easily be at home for music as it is for gaming as well, especially for FPS or TPP type of gaming where sound source accuracy is critical.

Transparency and resolution is assuredly top notch. P5 will resolve even better for high quality sources. Extracting all possible details contained therein. The bonus part, despite being highly resolving, P5 is still forgiving enough for Lo-Fi or even YouTube contents - this is not an easy thing to balance out.

Aligned with the rest of technical competencies, P5 is also great with speed. Good coherency between the 5 drivers ensured that P5 is able to resolve even the most complex of music composition, or outright speedy exceeding 250 BPM. P5 will never be subjected to sounding sluggish or muddied.

Scalability
Rated at 35 Ohm with 110 dB of sensitivity, P5 runs perfectly fine even directly from my Sony Xperia 1 iV phone. The output being wholesome and rich.

Subjecting P5 to higher powered partners, P5 will then exhibit improved dynamic density and technicalities. Absolutely mesmerizing when paired with CEntrance DACport HD, Cayin RU6 and Ovidius B1. I must say that I am impressed that P5 was able to handle all that power without any effect of being shouty or overly euphonic. That's the sign of maturity and great scalability.

But I must also mention, P5 may exhibit floor noises on some DAC/Amps, something like Ovidius B1 or VE Megatron, both of which are obscenely powerful.

Final Words
AFUL Performer 5 is a solid and amazing unit end to end. The application of exotic tech does translates into sonic performances that will not fail to instill WOW element. I know it WOWed me, despite of my dogged insistence to sticking to more neutral sounding IEMs.

I like it a lot that P5 is highly organic and natural sounding with timbre and tonal balance (despite being colored with sound spectrum). This is how a vibrant yet mature sounding unit should be tuned. It compels the user to want listening more and more, not wanting to put it aside because music sounded so lively and immersive. While being musical, P5 remained highly acute with technicalities, details and crisp imaging in abundance, always.

And yes the Bass, damm that Subwoofer sensation is an absolute winner in my book. That rich mesmerizing flow of Bass responses, airy and commanding. Bass heavy tracks simply blissful to listen to.

Ultimately, AFUL Performer 5 is a wonder to behold. The build, the tech, the sonic element, the wear all seemingly well crafted. It will be hard to match the unique qualities of P5.

 


AFUL Performer 5 is available at HiFiGo (to be released 24 November 2022):

Pros:

  • Natural and organic timbre/tonal balance
  • Great dynamic extension and transients
  • Exceedingly good technicalities
  • Big and open sound
  • Amazing Subwoofer Bass performances
  • Exotic tech behind the build that's practical and proven
  • Beautifully built

Cons:

Just slightly lacking with overall soundstage width

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