Singapore-based AAW launches an impressive freshman Hybrid IEM
Mon Sep. 28, 2015
Disclaimer: My scores are awarded after extensive comparisons with different IEMs. The scores below reflect the results of this exercise, and do not indicate my personal preference for one IEM over another. Depending on your sonic tastes, category scores may also be more relevant than the overall score. For example, a basshead should look primarily to the “Bass” sub-section; a soundstage nut should look at “Spatial”, and so on. Finally, the overall scores are an average of all the sub-section scores combined. Read more about how I did these comparisons, and about my overall scoring methodology.
The bass is bone-chilling. Could it be the heartbeat of that old man who’s freshly murdered? No, deep down you know the truth. This is not someone else’s heartbeat; this is your own terrified heart beating as furiously as a guilty man sweats under a blinding spotlight. With the W500 in your ears, the bass reaches deep into your chest, wantonly squeezing and bending your heartbeat to its will. Prepare to be possessed by this devilish bass…
Let’s get technical. The bass decays in a freakishly natural way, and hits with such authority that you’re probably still reeling from the bass note from two songs ago. The sub-bass is also incomparably good, possessing oodles of darkness and depth alike. Bass timbre, speed, tightness and detail are all very good as well, though they don’t quite reach the splendid heights of the other bass traits.
Bass Score: 9.2 (Elite)
Look, I get it. Sometimes it’s really fun to go for a ‘boom or bust’ type of midrange. It could equally soar like an eagle (thanks, R Kelly) or crawl like an earthworm (argh, that’s the best I can do); but what keeps you coming back is that when it’s good, it’s really good. That limitless potential somehow always cajoles you to look past all the maddeningly inconsistent flaws.
The W500’s midrange is the exact opposite. Like a blue-chip stock, you always know what you’re gonna get. This is not a box of chocolates- sorry, Forrest Gump. The mids are beautifully even, always and forever. They are passionately energetic, with leading clarity and naturalness of tone. All is not perfect, however. All that steadiness keeps them a bit too grounded, and I felt that they could do with a bit more air. As well, detail could be improved. One interesting thing to note- the AHMorph boasts a tuneable system to direct more or less power to the Dynamic or BA drivers. Turns out, the more juice you give to the dynamic drivers, the more the mids (not just the bass) come alive- weighty, rich, lush. Yes, these mids have both a dash of both Dynamic and BA in them! Yummy…
Midrange Score: 8.7 (Very Good)
The best airport runways of the world and a top-notch treble tuning share one critical trait. They’re both flat. The treble on the W500 is impossibly so, concocting a dizzying plateau of smoothness and sparkle. It also sounds very natural, with a tone and decay that’s makes high-hat notes sound very lifelike, for example. On the other hand, its extension and clarity is only ‘good’, which in this shootout actually ranks it as rather middle of the road compared to the others. The speed of this treble is also unfortunately slow. All and all this was a bit of a shame- I’ve seldom heard a flatter treble, which is extremely important in getting treble done right. If only everything else did just as well.
Treble Score: 8.3 (Very Good)
The W500 is not a size monster- its soundstage, while reasonably large, was not among the biggesin this shootout. Its width was top-notch, but depth and height both fell a bit short. But the quality of that soundstage, mamma mia. It is beautifully consistent, with sound that naturally diffuses out in every direction- among the best I’ve ever heard in this regard. It also boasts great air, with subtle sonic cues capably filling the stage all around. The imaging is another real standout trait, coming in second only to that secret alien Adel technology that 1964Ears stole from Area 51. Be it layering of depth; imaging across the left-right plane or forming a coherent center image, the W500 handles all of your imaging needs with equal aplomb.
Spatial Score: 9.6 (Elite)
Doing well across the board, the W500 comes across yet again as a good, steady performer. It scores in the top quartile in everything, but doesn’t actually win the race in any one trait. For example, it has great balance across the frequency spectrum, but there are probably just the one or two IEMs I’d pick over it if this was my primary concern. Similarly for note articulation; the ability to have the note resonate with strong musicality after the initial harmonics; and the thickness of the notes. All in the top echelon, but not the leader of the pack.
Perhaps because of the strong dynamic driver influence, however, one thing that the W500 didn’t do quite as well in was in PRaT. Let me qualify that, since PRaT has multiple facets (Pace, Rhythm and Timing). The W500 boasts a fantastic, toe-tapping sense of rhythm. This is not merely a rhythm or timing that endeavours to be accurate to the Nth-degree of millisecond-count, either. It has its own soul, and imbues the music with some great fun- think jazz, not classical. Where it comes to speed, however… Let’s just say I’ve heard faster.
That being said, the W500 is a hybrid IEM, and you can hear the different presentations between the dynamic and hybrid drivers. I personally think it ends up helping rather than hurting; adding to the W500’s ability to separate the musical notes from one another more clearly and succinctly. I could see why some people may think this lacks in coherence, though. Caveat emptor!
General Qualities Score: 8.7 (Very Good)