Warwick Acoustics Aperio - Official Discussion Thread

Anyone have opinion or experience with this flagship e-stat? If you have one are you using the internal DAC or your own external DAC. How do you think this compares to the Shangri-La-la SR and the HE-1 ? Are you happy with it?

I know @GoldenSound has heard both the Aperio and the HE-1. Unsure about the Shangri-La Jr though.

He has a video of the Aperio up on his own channel actually.


I’ve heard the Aperio (as well as the rest of the Warwick Acoustics lineup) at length.

Short version is I found it interesting, even compelling, in some regards. The bottom end is uncharacteristically stout for an electrostatic. Beyond that, there wasn’t anything there that you couldn’t get, for much less, and with greater flexibility elsewhere.

Personally I think the pricing is daft, even comical. $10K, yeah sure, $15K maybe. $36K? Not on your Nelly …

Put another way … and just considering “system” setups:

HE1 <> HE90/HEV90 > Aperio > Shangri-La (Sr) <> Bravura > Shangri-La (Jr)

Just my $0.02 … but given having spent time with all of them … I opted for the HE1.


Thanks, appreciate your thoughts.

No problem.

How you feel about them, for your purposes/preferences, should be what matters though. Especially where you have them on hand and can listen to them, and compare them to whatever else you own.

On the DAC side of things … I tried them with multiple sources but the built-in DAC reminds me very much of the Benchmark DAC3. Personally I’d use something else (I am with the HE1), but it isn’t bad by any means.

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I totally agree. It’s really a top shelf system by any measure. IMHO one of the problems/joys of this hobby is something is great until you hear something you like better! Once that happens there is usually no going back. I got spoiled by the performance I got from the Lina Dac and Master clock, powered by the HE 1000 and Susvara combo…….for me its was next level and I truly expected from all i read and the reviews I watched this would be noticeably better and it is not. And as you point “NOT BETTER” for substantially more $$$$$ just can’t work for most people. Again, thanks for your time and comments.

Although I only tried them for a brief time, I actually found that I preferred the Bravura for just listening to music.

While I think the Aperio is superior on a technical level, I found that the Bravura is more relaxed and I would probably choose it for a long listening session.

My favourite combo until then had been the Susvara powered by the Envy but I liked the Bravura more.

Again, that is just with a short listening session, long term my opinion may change.

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Hey! Ive got one on my desk right now, have an he1, and have had shang sr on a seriously extended demo with tons of enegizers. Imo, they are realisticaly all on similar playing fields and both the he1 and aperio are pretty significantly held back by there electronics.

I would say that the main down fall of aperio is its slightly wierd tonality (and obscene levels of clamp, but thats fixable by bending the head band). Its got everything there and the seperation is solid while having good enough bass (quite a bit more qty than shang sr, less than he1 but more control), but i find that certain vocal ranges leave me a bit wanting compaired to how shang and he1 do them. That said, ive only had this for a couple days and my dac is still warming back up from canjam so maybe an external dac will help with that a fair bit.

I havent heard hev90, but i think i would stack these up as he90 (on z10e, b22, and viva stx) > aperio > he1 = shang sr >= x9k (on viva stx specificaly) > bravura

Notes on the ranking

  1. He90 is truly mind blowing. If i heard one fore he1 i wouldnt have bought he1. That said, i think this is pretty well entierly because of electronics and im guessing as a pure transducer he1 is better, so if you wanna go mega baller and get a custom he1 amp, maybe thats the way to go.
  2. aperio above he1 cause the he1 dac is actualy pretty trash and way too agressive. I need to get them side by side on an extrenal dac but my gut check is they would be pretty equal with an extrenal dac (and he1 may pull ahead of you get off jj tubes)
  3. Shang is so low cause nothing on the market propperly runs it tbh (its probabaly my favorite can listed when fully powered). Ill buy one once rsa b22 comes out though since that did run it fully (but i am concerned about technical level of that amp vs something like a GC or 3es
  4. Honestly, i feel like x9k is too slept on as a true totl competetor. Its not quite as detailed as the others, but its extremely close and is a much more well rounded can over all. It also sounds great on lower end chains while you build up unlike shang or the AIOs who are excluded.
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I’ve not only heard, but owned, a near-mint condition HE90/HEV90 setup (prior to buying my HE-1). It (the HE90/HEV90) remains the most musically enjoyable electrostatic headphone setup I’ve heard.

BUT … the HE-1, from the same source, is notably more technically proficient.

Both of their DACs hold them back.

I did my comparisons with an external source (DAC). For me, the Aperio is a good way behind the HE-1 in all aspects except bass. And the Bravura is practically indistinguishable in the lowest registers and for impact/slam vs. the Aperio.

That can be your opinion! :wink:

Mine is that I rank it at the lower end because a) it’s piss-poor value, b) feels/looks like it was cobbled together in a shed, by a couple of chaps who’d been on the rat-piss a bit too long, and c) is really only any good timbrally and in terms of resolution.

The Shangri-La (Jr) sounds (and looks/feels) like someone took a Susvara and said “How can we build this more cheaply, make it make the Susvara look like a quality build, while also making the Susvara’s already rather limp bass positively flaccid”.

The Sr. does a bit better on the bottom end, perhaps because of the larger driver, but it is still sorely lacking in anything but resolution and timbre vs. competition price at 1/10th its asking price (headphones only … let’s not get started on their matching amps).

I haven’t heard the Sr. on any chain (and I can’t think of an amp I’ve not tried it on that you don’t have to build yourself) that would make me want to own one even if it were free.

If you like it, you like it - and there’s nothing at all wrong with that (tastes are personal, as is perception and preference) - but I think it’s a bad joke - for what I enjoy, hear, and appreciate.

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I also notably havent heard HE90 on HEV90, only on other amps. From a techncial stand point I think HE90 pretty well equaled HE1 on Z10E (same dac) while also fixing the stage depth issue I have with HE1. On B22 and Viva STX I would take it over my HE1 tbh (but that is also assuming a great dac on both ends)

I can see this. I have yet to have my HE1 on my main dac (still working on getting it fixed) and am excited to see how it does. I just especialy dislike how agro the internal dac in HE1 is tbh, so i rank it lower for enjoyment when talking about all my music (for anything vocal centric and not crazy complex it easily takes the cake over aperio though).


As a lotus lover, this is a benefit not a downside.

But realy, yah, I 100% agree with all of these takes. The last one is why I havent bought one yet. IMO the pending RSA B22 amp (as well as a few speaker setups using a woo wee) powered shang properly and made the tonality much more normal/less fatiguing. Now I do rank timbre and detail at basically the very top of my priorities, but the bass presentation on basically everything besides B22 just ruins it for me tbh (and B22 was a show impression even if it was before the floor opened)

Honestly, I feel like all 3 systems (he90 not included) have at least one major flaw that kinda pisses me off and doesnt seem super fixable. I like HE1 the most currently but have the most hope for shang sr (cause chances of me commissioning a custom HE1 amp are negligible unless Masuda from mass kobo agrees to it). That said I know we both have wildly different tastes in chains

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To be clear, I am saying I HAVE heard the HE90 via HEV90, because I owned a near-mint set.

Shouldn’t have sold it, but did.

Mostly because I had an HE-1 incoming.

Mistake all the same.

Not a fan of the Z10e, with … well … anything. Bottom end is all wrong. Top end lacks resolution. At least with SR-X9000, SR-009S, and CRBN.

It is quite poor.

When I still had my HE-1, I asked Sennheiser what they’d do for existing owners in the event that future HE-1s got a newer DAC (even it was just a drop-in chip upgrade) … and the answer was basically “you keep what you got”.

I love Lotus too.

I REALLY want them to do a pure-EV version of the Emira.

And I loved my S4 Esprit (V8 … even if the S3 4-cyl turbo is “the classic” version), despite the fact the steering wheel matched NOTHING else in the entire build.

But I think Lotus’ build is several notches above the best that HiFiMan has ever turned out.

I do get where you’re coming from, though …

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Slight tangent, but how would you say the Bravura compares to the Sennheiser HD800S for 1. clarity and 2. bass focus/tactility?

The background to my question is that I’ve compared the HD800S side by side with a number of flagships, including the Utopia and Susvara, and haven’t found them to be meaningfully or consistently better (if anything, the contrary).

My only criticism of the HD800S is the slightly limp and diffuse bass, and I’m wondering whether the Bravura will provide more in this regard while preserving (or improving upon) the Sennheiser’s clarity and detail.

It beats the clarity/resolution of the HD800S, but on a casual listen, and depending on the chain driving them, it’s probably going to sound the other way around. The HD800S is a bit brighter than the Bravura, which tends to exaggerate perception of clarity and detail. You have to listen, and focus for a while, after getting a feel for both, to really hear the Bravura’s advantage (and it’s not that a huge difference int he first place).

Bass is a wash. It’s not as tactile as the HD800S, but there’s more of it. There is more impact to the bass delivery of the HD800S (properly driven, I don’t regard them as having limp bass at all, just a fall off in bass presence/level vs., say, Harman … which I don’t think is a bad thing personally).

I don’t think the Bravura is worth $6,000 though (as a set). Nor an additional $800 if you happen to want it in black. A big part of that is the need to use Warwick Acoustic’s M1 DAC/amp. That’s 2/3rd of the cost of the total package. If you could use the Bravura with any Stax Pro compatible amplifier, then the raw price of the headphones would be a lot more reasonable.

But you can’t.

For one thing, it needs a completely different bias voltage (1350V vs. 580V). For another, the natural response of the Bravura’s driver requires DSP/EQ processing/correction, which is provided by the DSP in the M1 DAC/amplifier.

And then, because that DSP is needed if you decide to use a different DAC with the unit, the signal (single-ended only) has to go through the M1’s ADC, through that DSP, and then through it’s DAC. Which means that you’re further coloring the output of your original DAC.

Now, you can tell the difference between a) the internal DAC and (better) external ones and b) different external DACs, but you’re ultimately limited by that ADC->DSP->DAC processing. To the point that, really, you may as well just use the internal DAC in the M1.

I think there are better, more flexible, more satisfying ways to spend $6,000 in the headphone world. And if you’re starting with an HD800S most of that is down to a synergistic amplifier and/or the application of a little EQ.


Thank you - that’s extremely helpful and effectively ends my interest in the Bravura. We don’t have a distributor where I am, so this is as close as I can get to an audition (and with a superior set of ears, too).

Have you heard the DCA Corina, and, if so, where does it sit in relation to the Aperio, Bravura, etc.?

(And literally parenthetically, does ‘synergistic amplifier’ inevitably mean tubes where the HD800S is concerned? I’ve experimented a bit with EQ, and found that even a modest bass shelf introduced audible distortion, so I’m open to exploring better amplification).


In terms of listening I prefer the Bravura, but the Corina will, at least, work off any of the more powerful Stax “Pro Bias” compatible electrostatic amplifiers/energizers.

I’d rather listen to an SR-007MKII (with port mod), and that’s ~1/3rd the price of the Corina.

You might find the Nectar Hive is a closer fit to what you’re looking for vs. the HD800S here. @pennstac can probably chime in on that front.

Not necessarily, but there are more options on the tube front.

iFi Pro iCAN in solid-state mode (though you’d have tube options there anyway) is very nice with the HD800S. SPL Phonitor X and derivatives. Ferrum OOR.

Did you reduce the pre-gain/gain before applying the bass-shelf? Or did you just add more bass? If the latter, you probably wound up getting digital clipping which would be very obvious distortion and depending on the music even minor increases in bass level could invoke it.

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I’ve never considered the Nectar Hive, but it does look promising. No local distributor though, whereas I can easily try the Stax (and will probably do just that).

I think you’ve correctly diagnosed the issue with my abortive attempts at EQ. I have now enabled the clipping indicator in Roon, and can see that it can be an issue even with a fairly modest bass shelf. The pre-gain obviously takes care of that.

Nectar Hive is botique. No distribution. You buy it from the guy who makes them. @nectarsoundnet

Thanks for clarifying. I’d visited the website, but hadn’t appreciated that that was the only way to get hold of a pair. I am interested though: the frequency response looks excellent.

I love mine. It took a good week or more of break-in, but the sound got better and better. While I also like my Rosson RAD-0 at like 3 times the price, they have equally good sound and are more comfortable. I don’t use them as much because as an e-stat, I am limited to my desktop e-stat amp on my main headphone stack.

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