AAW Canary - Hybrid (DD, BA, EST) IEM - Official Thread

The Advanced Acoustic Werkes (AAW) “Canary” (main page here) is a new triple-hybrid IEM (dynamic, balanced-armature and electrostatic drivers), replacing the more conventional W900 hybrid at the top of AAW’s line-up of both custom-fit and universal models.

The Canary’s headline features are:

  • Dual 6mm Bass Drivers in Isobaric Configuration
  • Four Balanced Amatures (2 mid, 2 high)
  • Dual Electrostatic Super-Tweeters
  • 4 Way Passive TruXross + Acoustic Crossover
  • 12 Ω Flat-Impedance
  • Premium Symphonym Hakone UPOCC Silver/Copper Cable

While hybrid IEMs, utilizing a combination of dynamic drivers (usually for low-frequencies/bass/sub-bass) and balanced armatures (for mids and treble) have become increasingly common (finding their way into $20 budget models even), the adoption of electrostatic high-frequency drivers is a more recent and exotic innovation.

So called “tri-brid” designs, that use three different driver technologies are rarer still, and the AAW Canary is one of the few, and one of the first, that utilizes dynamic drivers on the low-end, balanced armatures for the mids and treble, and then includes electrostatic super-tweeters as well.

Mixing different driver technologies is an interesting challenge, as they tend to have very different response profiles and sensitivities. Early hybrids had a tendency to be incoherent or poorly integrated with clumsy transitions between bands. The first dynamic/balanced armature hybrid I heard that really got this right was the AAW W900 - so it was encouraging to see AAW being an early adopter of the tri-brid DD/BA/EST approach.

Originally launched in custom-only form, the Canary is now also available in universal configuration.

This is the spot to discuss this new flagship IEM …

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wow what a beautiful view on the future of IEMs

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I’d expressed interest in potentially adding the Canary as my custom IEM (along side my universal-only tia Fourté) almost as soon as they were announced, but due to the cutting-edge nature of the tri-brid design, I very much wanted to audition them properly.

Headphones.com and “The HEADPHONE Community” were kind enough to indulge me with the loan of the newly-released universal version of the Canary, which showed up earlier today (excuse the quick-and-dirty cellphone picture, I’ll post better shots later):

I have only gotten to spend a couple of hours listening with them so far, so sound impressions are going to be limited to me saying that I’m really enjoying them, they have a surprising signature (in a good way) that is not what I was expecting, and any fears about coherence issues have already been washed away.

Their overall tuning yields a perceptual response that fits my preferences for IEMs rather well (a little extra sub/bass, and a less excitable, but extended and present treble, without going so far on either as to leave the mid-range feeling recessed). The balance is really nice - with everything very well integrated and coherent.

With the trend towards larger dynamic drivers in other IEMs, and multiple of them at that (dual 9mm drivers in the Empire Ears Legend X for example), and even with the AAW W900 having a 9mm dynamic driver, I was a bit surprised to see AWW go for dual 6mm drivers.

In hindsight I think that is paying some dividends here, as I found the Legend X to exhibit too much bass, without enough control, for my tastes, where bass with the Canary is crisp, taught, fast, punchy and very well controlled. The isobaric (push-pull) design (something I remember from an earlier set of Linn Keltik speakers, and prior to that on their “Isobaric” model) helps with bass control, phase while still delivering the equivalent surface area of a 9mm driver.

Anyway, they’re very engaging musically and impressive technically, so far.

I usually have to fuss with IEMs initially to get the right tips in place both to effect a proper seal and to be comfortable (I have boxes of most of the interesting tip options, in every bore and ear size imaginable, just for this purpose). With the Canary, I haven’t even swapped out the tips that were pre-installed (medium-sized silicone tips) … they popped right in, sealed perfectly first time, and have given me no comfort issues at all so far. I will, of course, still play with other tips … but it’s nice not to have to for once!

Isolation is EXCELLENT.

Sometimes IEMs with dynamic drivers lack a bit here, due to having vents to let the dynamic drivers “breathe” (and I understand there’s a vent on these too) and that lets some sound in … but these are isolating as well as the best pure BA-driver IEMs I’ve owned.

Oh, and the presentation and packaging is excellent too. The storage case is a beautifully finished suede/leather affair, includes repositionable dividers to use in different ways, and houses a gorgeous African Blackwood box to house the cable and IEMs when on the go.

Very much more what one would expect for a $2,000 IEM, than the rather utilitarian plastic and cardboard you find with some IEMs at nearly double this price.

The supplied Null Audio Symphonym Hakone cable is a nice piece as well … high-quality UPOCC silver/copper wiring, no issues with flexibility or microphonics, well built and aesthetically compelling, with carbon fiber inserts, silver/copper finish and extremely solid 2-pin connectors.

Anyway, more listening and some burn-in time to do before saying more about sound, but I am highly encouraged so far.

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Some more time with these today (after leaving them running overnight) … and right now driving them straight out of my DAVE.

I remain impressed.

I’m not sure how best to describe their profile/signature, so here’s a ROUGH approximation of what I am hearing (i.e. perceptual response):

This is NOT a measurement!

I shall have to try and bribe @antdroid to measure them properly.

Based on how actual measurements relate to PERCEPTUAL response, I’m going to say I think these are essentially going to measure flat from <20 Hz to >20 kHz.

Compared to a lot of IEMs, their 100 dB/mW SPL sensitivity is a bit low, so they need more juice to drive them than most IEMs. And their 12 ohm flat impedance means they’re relatively current-hungry, which does not make for a great match with cellphone dongles.

These are the most comfortable universal IEMs I’ve ever tried, even with the stock tips.

Detail is excellent, even superlative.

And the treble is completely unflappable. While it doesn’t have the sparkle/tinkle/excitement of, say, the CA Andromeda’s top-end, it is more natural, more detailed, faster, more spacious and better integrated.

These are not variably-sensitive to their source’s output impedance either. Everything I’ve paired them with, ranging from 0.075 Ω up to about 3 Ω has rendered the same way.

Bass is surprising.

It is a little elevated, particularly in the sub-bass, but it’s also very fast, has excellent texture, is tight/taut, will rumble and growl as needed, but never gets wooly or out of control. The Canary seems to have the uncanny ability to deliver the speed and detail of a smaller bass/sub driver, while still yielding the impact and scale of a larger one.

Like the W900, this is a well-measured, coherent, tuning. It doesn’t add artificial excitement, but doesn’t hold back on dynamics nor detail, and maintains a neutral profile where it counts.

There is also no sense of euphony here.

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Several straight hours of listening (between DAVE, SP2000 and Cayin N8) with absolutely ZERO fatigue … either physical or “listening”.

The only other IEMs I can say that about have been equipped with with ADEL or APEX technologies (so, Empire Ears and 64Audio to date).

Impressive …

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… MOST … impressive!

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How do these compare with your Tia Fourtè’s?

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I would love to measure these, but am on travel this week and next week to amazingly cold destinations.

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Cold destinations make for “cool” photography… :smirk:

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At a very high level …

The tia Fourté have a more W-shaped tonal profile, with more mid-range presence, and a brighter overall signature (treble is elevated more), a more spacious stage, but weaker isolation and slightly cleaner, but less present bass and sub-bass regions

The Canary are closer to neutral, while still having slightly elevated bass and treble. There’s more high-end extension here, but the level is lower, so these do not have the top-end brightness or added sparkle of the tia Fourté. Upper mid range resolution is a hair behind, the tia Fourté, but overall detail and resolution is similar. Sub-bass hits a bit harder/faster and there’s a hint more detail in the bass here, but the tia Fourté has a bit more control in the mid and upper bass.

Both are excellent.

If I could only have one, it’d still be the tia Fourté - but that gap isn’t big and this is an excellent complement to it, with better isolation, more even tonality, and the option for custom-fit!

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Have an excellent trip!

I’m pretty sure these will still be around when you return, as right now my plan is to keep this set, order up a custom set, and then when I have that on hand maybe sell this set.

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Thank you very much Ian for your thoughts. I appreciate your time.

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I left the Canary running most of the day (without listening), and have gotten a couple more hours on them this evening.

My perception of their frequency response has shifted a bit more. Whether this is due to “break-in” or just psychoacoustic conditioning I don’t know (though the reason I let transducers sit and play without listening is to minimize the effects of the latter).

Again, this isn’t a measurement … it’s just my perception of the Canary’s response profile:

Overall bass level is down a bit, and tighter than it was with a better sense of control in places they seemed to be getting a bit exuberant before. This also has the effect of making the mids and treble more present, though their relative levels are unchanged.

Sub-bass slam, rumble and growl is close to the Legend X … without that models somewhat underdamped/uncontrolled tendencies there with bass-heavy material.

Resolution is rivaling (maybe excelling in the highest registers), the tia-equipped 64Audio models.

Comfort remains excellent - and easily the most comfortable non-ADEL/APEX equipped IEM I’ve stuck in my shell-likes.

Scale/stage/sense of space is fantastic and I would still say only bettered by more overtly vented IEMs (again, the ADEL/APEX models from EE, 64Audio, InEarz).

Absolutely hiss/noise free with every source I’ve tried them with (SP2000, N8, ADI-2 DAC fs, DAVE, Hugo, Hugo TT 2, iPhone Dongle), with no apparent shift in FR with any of them.

Always nice to have something that starts off WITHOUT aural-fireworks become more engaging, than starting off with a “Wow!” that rapidly turns into an “Ow!”.

Really impressed.

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