I’ve been looking into AAW a lot lately, and I have to admit that I’m excited to see this brand blow up in the States in the coming year. Based out of Singapore, Advanced AcousticWerkes offers a range of models that pretty much do the same thing: deliver kickass audio at rock-bottom prices. Cue the AAW ASH, a seven-driver earphone retailing for $799 and stealing my heart as well as my ears. But how does it stack up to the competition?
AAW ASH Review
The ASH comes packaged in a simple, no-frills cardboard box. Inside, you’ll find a classy leather case, a microfiber cleaning cloth, an airline adapter, a quarter-inch stereo adapter, and six pairs of eartips – in addition to the earphones and cable.
Appearance-wise, the ASH seemed a bit garish to me at first. Its eye-catching faceplate incorporates a wood grain and some gold flake in a two-tone, high-contrast design. If I were not already familiar with a few of AAW’s impeccable earphones, this might turn me off. But I know good things are lurking inside.
Advanced AcousticWerkes claims the ASH holds a cleaner sound – and one with minimum phase shift and coherence issue, thanks to driver placement and the proprietary Xross approach. But without too much Marketing Speak, the sound of the ASH boils down to a single 13 mm dynamic Graphene driver, with six BA drivers in tow. Well-engineered, this earphone sounds more detailed than any I have yet heard under maybe $900 or so (but more on that later).
Complimenting this well-designed and impressive-sounding IEM is a robust copper cable Symphonym. To be honest, I did mistake this cable for an Effect Audio cable at first glance, what with the copper-colored braided cable and carbon fiber accents. Rest assured, this cable seems just as durable as the Effect Audio Ares II, though.
Frequency Range: 10-40,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 30 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 108 dB
These specs reveal a fairly wide frequency range with a bit of extension in the high end. Impedance may seem high for an earphone, but the ASH still works fine played straight from a smartphone or personal audio player without amplification. Sound Pressure stands at a fairly high 108 decibels, so finding adequate volume shouldn’t be an issue.
Tame but gorgeous, the low end offers plenty of detail and an impressive overall listening experience. While never overplaying its hand, the ASH delivers a sumptuous performance with strong, tactile bass. Coming in precise and sharp, it remains clean and tempered, never sounding too sloppy or overbearing. A bit clinical in its overall presentation, the sheer detail recommends this low end to critical listening applications.
Good mids mark the AAW ASH, with vocals sounding strong and full-to-bursting. Instrumentation sounds contrasting and clean, with nary a blemish from compression or distortion. Overall, I’m surprised at how distinct vocals sound here, with a forward presentation that turns any listening session into a revealing tour-de-force.
Like the lows and mids, the high end exhibits good detail. Fun and engaging, the highs seem a little idiosyncratic in relation to the rest of the clinical-sounding frequency range. That being said, these highs never seem too bright or uncontrolled, feeling comfortable but chock-full of detail. A banging tambourine comes ringing through with the utmost level of clarity, and female vocals retain a sense of frailty, even in the highest highs.
Soundstage on the ASH sounds intimate and just a little spacious. With good depth, this earphone struggles to overcome the limits of its design. And it does a good job of this, too. Sure, it never sounds as spacious or as grand as an open-back over-ear, but for an IEM, the ASH accomplishes a fairly layered and immersive listening experience that still trounces that of the competition.
During my listening sessions, I much preferred the ASH with good amplification. In my case I was running it with an iPhone 7 and a wired FiiO Q5 DAC Amp. While you could technically play this straight from most low-output devices, they definitely sound a little more robust and exciting with good amping.
The sound equals more in summation than the total of it’s individual parts. Somehow, Advanced AcousticWerkes has engineered and arranged these drivers in such a way as to deliver the best sounding earphone at this price point.
But “best-sounding” probably has a lot to do with my own personal music tastes. Because the ASH offers a critical listeners dream – details (and, more over, ACCURATE details with zero coloring or artificial flavors). If you want to hear everything – and not just the instruments, but the wind blowing out of someone’s nose or those tiny, miniscule, seemingly-insignificant details you missed a thousand times before… Well, then, this is the IEM for you.
If you want lots of bass and lots of treble, don’t even bother demoing the AAW ASH. This is not the ASH. If you want this kind of sound, opt instead for the Noble Audio Dulce Bass ($699) or the Django ($999).
For folks who just want that sludgy, cludgy, hard-rocking, gut-busting, bowel-shaking low end, the Empire Ears Bravado ($599) provides an optimal alternative.
But, if you’re a critical listener or a professional who wants to treat yourself to a world-class IEM with a metric ton of detail and nuance, make room in your budget for the AAW ASH. The only other earphone that can compete with the ASH in terms of detail would be the Sony IER-M7. While both of these earphones will cost you the same price ($799), the M7 lacks the sparkling and mesmerizing highs heard on the ASH.
The expansive, impeccable sound of the AAW ASH seems like a steal at $799. Add to this the gorgeous appearance and sturdy build and you’ve got one impressive package. Compared to other earphones at this price range, the ASH struts a fine line between professional powerhouse and musical miracle, providing the best-value-for-money when it comes to detail and soundstage, as well as accuracy and precision.
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