‘Advanced AcousticWerkes (AAW) W500 AHMorph’ Review: The Tell-Tale Heart

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Singapore-based AAW launches an impressive freshman Hybrid IEM

Mon Sep. 28, 2015

By jelt2359

The AAW W500 recalls a classic story of macabre and awe, authored by the incomparable Edgar Allen Poe. In The Tell-Tale Heart, a madman writes lucidly about how he had found discomfort in the gaze of an old man — this eye was like a vulture, pale and blue, with a film over it — and hence in order to free himself of this chilling gaze, had murdered this nameless man.

But after death the old man’s heart would not stop beating. As a watch enveloped in cotton, the sound of his heartbeat could only be muffled, and not contained. And so the madman tore up a few planks from his floor, and buried the corpse many feet under. At length the heartbeat finally ceased.

By and by three officers knock on the door. Neighbours had heard a shriek (that of the old man, as he was getting butchered), and they wanted to know if everything was okay? Smiling, the confident madman — he had cleaned things up, of course — bids them welcome. He shows them around the house, and sits them in the living room for some chit-chat of familiar things. In the wild audacity of his perfect triumph, the madman places his chair above the corpse just buried.

Slowly at first, the madman soon fancies hearing a ringing. As he continues chatting with the officers, it grows more and more distinct. He speaks louder to try and free himself of that dreadful sound, but no — that sound is not within his ears. It is that immortal heartbeat, starting up again! The madman now grows very pale, but still the men talk pleasantly. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! –no, no! They heard! –they suspected! –they knew! –they were making a mockery of my horror!-this the madman thought. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! He could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! He felt that he must scream or die! and now –again! –hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

“Villains!” He shrieks, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Consider yourself warned. If you choose to proceed — brave man, you — prepare to be haunted by the incessant heartbeat of the AAW W500. All ready? Good. Here we go. As the owl clock strikes midnight, twelve times again and again, look into a mirror and bite slowly into a blood-red apple. Welcome to the indelible and potent world of AAW’s dynamic driver…

IEM: Advanced AcousticWerkes AAW W500 AHMorph

Form Factor: Acrylic Custom In-Ear Monitor

Damage: $1111 USD

Build Quality: Very good! Carbon Fibre weave very nicely done as well.

Fit: Perfect.

Accessories: Two jewelers’ screwdrivers to turn the knob to adjust the bass; pelican case; Null Audio’s special, in-house cable

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: An Interview with AAW

Interviewee: Kevin Wang, Co-Owner and Co-Founder

Who are the people behind your company?

AAW was started at the end of 2013 by a core team of 4 NTU (a university in Singapore) graduates, including 2 Phds in Material Science Engineering and Electronics Engineering respectively. Each of the members is a fanatic music lover and does appreciate the higher performance audio gears’ ability to help audiophiles enjoy music to a further extent. The Custom In-Ear Monitor audiophile industry is a relatively young and developing industry, although there are mature professional musician markets in many countries. We definitely see the void of presence of such industry in the SEA region despite a strong demand developing in the consumer segment.

Therefore AAW was started with a focus on the consumer market, which is reflected on the pricing on the entry range. Our goal is to broaden the recognition of CIEM concept and increase the awareness for consumers who would not even consider CIEM in the past.

What do you feel about this industry?

One thing we realised quite quickly is that there is a lot of similarities between different products. Everyone is using BA drivers made by Sonion and Knowles. This is especially the case if you want an IEM with more drivers. There just aren’t that many choices out there. There are other companies making drivers, for example in China, but we’re not really sure about their reliability just yet and so we can’t take the risk. That being said, Sonion and Knowles have done a fantastic job, investing a lot in R&D. But nonetheless we felt that in order to do something different we had to go the customised route, and that meant designing and producing our own in-house dynamic driver. Everything’s built in-house, from the injection moulding, CNC process, and so on. In fact, this extends to almost our entire IEM line. Apart from maybe the pins on the cable connector, everything is done in-house. We take real pride in this.

Do you have a “house sound”? What would you describe it as, and what are its inspirations?

The design of hybrid IEM will more likely to lead to a perception of bass heavy, warmer sound signature. However, each of AAW’s products is tuned to cater a different taste in music presentation. For instance, being dual driver models, A2H and A2H-V are distinctively designed to emphasize on different frequency range. If we really have to pick a true representation of a ‘house sound’, I presume it should be the design which our designer’s heart really lies with, which is the W300AR and W500 AHMorph at its default setting.

Can you describe the sound of the AAW W500?

The W300 and W500 are quite similar. They’re both quite reference, with a slight bump in the 2-3k region. Between the two, the W500 has just a bit more treble and soundstage, but also a smoother treble response.

Both of them use a dynamic bass driver. Dynamic bass drivers just sound different- more natural- from BA bass drivers. BA bass drivers have their advantages in the mid-bass region, though. So in order to take advantage of the best of both worlds, we’ve overlapped the two types of drivers to create a bass where the dynamic driver focuses on the bass and a bit of the lower mids region, while the BA drivers take care primarily of treble, but also overlap a bit in the bass and the mids.

Is it easy to make customs?

Not at all! It typically takes 2 months to train someone to know how to make a custom IEM; and six months to be an expert. It’s more an art than science, to figure out where to place the drivers in every earpiece, so that it not only fits but delivers the exact sound that we had intended. It also takes real skill to process a set of ear impressions properly so that the user will get a perfect fit. So yes, it all takes time…

Page 2: Sound (Bass, Midrange, Treble, Spatial, General Qualities)

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When jelt2359's Shure earphones stopped working ten years ago he was forced, kicking and screaming, to replace them. He ended up with more than 20 new IEMs. Oops! jelt2359 flies to a different city almost every week for work, and is always looking for the perfect audio setup to bring along.

12 Comments

  1. Peng on

    Hey Jelt

    Thanks for such a review!
    May I ask what cable u used while doing the review?

    Thanks!

  2. John on

    Do I have to buy a special cable for AAW500 ciems.

  3. John on

    Hi

    What is the suitable amp / dac for AAW500 ( non-AMorph version).

    John

  4. jdwright on

    Thank you for these amazing reviews! Just a couple questions…

    I am looking for a CIEM suited best for Rock Music such as Metallica. I like to feel the energy, presence and urgency of the music. I also identify with the clarity of the notes, and want something that is huge sounding where I feel the sound is surrounding/encapsulating my entire brain. Naturally a lot of this is subjective, and I read all of the reviews and being very new to this process I am finding myself unable to determine which features are required for this genre vs which I can allow to be less standout. For reference I had Shure SE530 which I found to be pretty good which decent bass and definition. I find the SE535 to be less “present” and “in my face” tone wise. They also fatigue my ears after listening for awhile.

    Appreciate your help and guidance.

    • jdwright on

      I also listen to Blues, Classic Rock and Acoustic Guitar Instrumental. So strong performance within these would be great also.

      I don’t listen to Classical, Jazz, Vocals, R&B, Rap, Country, electronic.

  5. wong on

    Loved the review, what a joy to read (and look at – what pretty photos!)

    A quick check – I’m assuming the W500 AHMorph review was done with the power distribution knob at neutral position? I am deliberating if i should get the W500 non-AHMorph version. Is the adjustable variant worth the premium?

    • jelt2359 on

      Yes, neutral. I like it best at that spot; a buddy prefers it as max. It’s nice to have the option, but I could live with the non-AHMorph just fine.

      • wong on

        Thanks for the reply. I guess i’ll save myself some dosh and put it towards upgrading the cables instead!

        • jelt2359 on

          Happy to help!

      • John on

        Hi

        What is the best amp/dac for AAW500 ( non-Amorph) ciems. What about the Fiio E12A & OPPO HA-2.

        John

  6. Ezekiel_77 on

    Thanks Jelt! Been waiting patiently for the review. Now I’m dead set on getting one of these based on your earlier suggestion. Do I order from Null Audio?

    • jelt2359 on

      Yup, Null has them I think 😀

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