Sitting here in the MajorHiFi review office, I’m slowly musing over all earphones I have reviewed over the years. Outside my office window, a gentle rain murmurs over streets and sidewalks, spurring on the steady flow of foot traffic. Today I’m looking at the AAW Canary, a hybrid isobaric IEM from Singapore-based Advanced Audio Werks. At a hefty $1999 asking-price, the Canary might sing a pricey tune. But is it worth the money?
AAW Canary Review
The AAW Canary comes in a small wooden carrying case, with some extra accessories in tow. Alongside the earphone, you get some Final Audio E-Type eartips, a cleaning cloth, a 1/4” stereo adapter, and an airline adapter.
Inside a semi-translucent housing, the Canary’s guts shine like so many precious stones. A cluster of drivers, connected via a web of wires, drives home the intricacy and precision underlying its solid construction. Outwardly, though, the AAW Canary exudes a clean and classy appearance, with a pearlescent faceplate and gold lettering.
Utilizing dual push pull/barometric dynamic drivers, as well as four BA drivers and two Electro-Static drivers, the Canary offers four-way crossover and some impressive specs.
But around this aura of technological sophistication exists an earphone that feels solid and real. During my listening sessions, I was amazed at how well-built it appears. Though the housing is not exactly small, it still fits comfortably in my ear.
The cabling too, provides another strong point: the braided silver-and-copper affair measures a solid standard 48 inches. Terminating in a slightly hefty 3.5mm plug, the cabling on the Canary feels as un-compromising as the design of the earphones themselves.
Frequency Range: 5-100,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 12 ohms
Sound Pressure Level: 100 dB
Here we get a glimpse of an incredibly wide frequency one – with a large amount of it falling outside the range of human hearing. A low nominal impedance compliments this wealth of detail, allowing the Canary to jive with smartphones and personal audio players (like the new FiiO M11). Sound pressure level comes in at a solid 100 dB, and as such volume remains a non-issue.
The Canary’s low end comes across as natural and luscious, with a deep, powerful resonance. Yet, despite it’s vibrant, lively display, this earphone remains capable of nailing the subtlety of bass notes and percussion. All in all, this this constitutes a fantastic, lifelike, realer-than-real low end that adds magic to any of my test tracks.
Full and articulate mids mark the heart of the Canary, imparting the sound with a certain meatiness. And even alongside that substantial weight, the sound still allows for breathtaking insights full of nuance and poignancy. Made possible by a highly-resolving midrange, the effect results in breathtaking and arresting listening sessions.
Here in the high end, you get excellent fidelity and detail that hits you right in the feelings. Beautiful with vocals or instrumentation, the sound never becomes too bright or uncomfortable. But the overall experience is one of tempered emotion. Not neutral or even very accurate, but softly colored in the most pleasing way, overflowing with a sumptuous flavor.
Good soundstage rounds out the Canary’s performance. Due to it’s in-ear design, it still sounds a bit in-your-head. However, the sound of this earphone does sound a little more intimate as a result, and the isolation is almost perfect.
Keeping this in mind, there’s still a good sense of depth at play here, adding to the impression of space between individual instruments, especially on higher-resolution tracks.
Despite the bulky earpieces that come hand-in-hand with eight drivers, the AAW Canary wears like a dream, and I have zero issues with the comfort.
I did feel the urge to upgrade the cable, and the only thing I can really recommend to seasoned audiophiles is this: the Canary has the resolution to take full advantage of a balanced output. Sure, it sounds good with the stock cable. But why settle for good when you could have orgasmic?
While I’ve tried to figure it out for some time now, I can’t narrow down what I like about the Canary most. It looks snazzy, sounds like crack, and offers a dreamlike fit.
Although this earphone is currently only available in East Asia, I was surprised at how well it held its own against current class-leading earphones – like the Noble Audio Khan and Empire Ears Legend-X. Unlike these two heavyweights, the Canary feels a little more emotive and less bass-heavy, with a clean and clear emphasis on mids and highs, but still not skimping on the low end detail.
For folks who want an equally intimate but more bassy listnening experience, the Legend-X might be the smarter buy, though it will cost you more at $2299.
If soundstage is more of a requirement, the Khan does edge out the Canary by a slight margin. But in this arena, the real nod goes to the 64 Audio U12t. Like both the Khan and the Legend-X, there’s a bit more bass at play here. But for folks who need the most soundstage, the U12t offers the best sound.
Still, the Canary holds its own, and manages to deliver a rousing listening experience that seems to almost drip with detail.
While the $1999 price tag lands this Canary smack-dab in the territory of flagship IEMs, this little bird still packs a wallop. With a solid sound, resilient build, and striking look, everything about it screams luxury audio. While the sound may never be warm enough for some diehard bass-lovers, the overall detail and fidelity will definitely turn the heads of more discerning audiophiles.
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