Singapore-based AAW launches an impressive freshman Hybrid IEM
Mon Sep. 28, 2015
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…
Form Factor: Acrylic Custom In-Ear Monitor
Damage: $1111 USD
Build Quality: Very good! Carbon Fibre weave very nicely done as well.
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…