There are a lot of custom IEM companies out there vying for your hard earned cash and sense of individuality. You would have to be living under a noise suppressing rock not to notice how popular they have become in the last couple of years. Some of the brands are very well known such as UE, JH Audio but this year we have tended to reach out and see what the smaller companies have to offer such as 1964EARS and lesser known custom IEM brands such as Minerva in the UK (more known for hearing aid solutions). I have been very impressed by both the level of service, communications and end product these rising firms have to offer. So much so I decided to dip my toes once again into this ‘indie’ scene and this time picked out Advanced AcousticWerkes (AAW) from Singapore and their then flagship, (they just came out with the 500 series last month), the W300AR hybrid custom IEM.
The W300AR was launched a little earlier this year by AAW and if it is not a big brand name you have heard off before then you might instead have heard of Null Audio Studio who partnered with AAW specifically for the W300AR launch which is part of AAW’s Meister line of custom IEM’s. Null Audio Studio have long been known in SE Asia and beyond as manufacturers par excellence for great quality aftermarket cables specifically for IEM’s. Some people I know swear by their cables. In fact I had the Lune cable for my old UE TF10i permanently connected right up until the day I let it go – it really was such an improvement on the stock cable. I also currently use their MK3 series with Shure connectors for my SRH-1840 which is tons smoother and much lighter ‘on the go’ than the stock cable that comes with it.
AAW’s Product Range
Currently AAW have two lines of Customs IEM’s on offer; The Musiker Line and the Meister line. By my interpretation the Musiker line is more for those looking to dip their feet into customs for the first time with an emphasis more on musicality than a preferred reference sound and the Meister line is the top of the line equivalent to say a “pro” level reference sound preferred by musical artists and raging audiophiles with too much money to burn in their pockets. Naturally I chose the burning of the pockets option with the W300AR. Until last month the W300AR was the flagship custom costing SG$899 but at the time of writing they have just launched the new W500IR series which takes it up a notch at SG$1499.00.
The common thread between the W300AR and the W500IR though is that both use a hybrid driver setup with the W300AR using a 3 driver setup comprising of a W100 Reference Proprietary 9mm Dynamic Driver for the bass frequencies and two Balanced Armature Drivers, one each for the mids and treble frequencies. The W500IR adds two more BA drivers into the mix much like my old UM Merlin to produce a 5-way hybrid with a ‘on the go’ customizable sound signature. In some sense then with the launch of the W500 the W300AR 3-way config and pricing now places it into mid-fi custom territory and closer to my Minerva Mi-performer Artist acrylic series which is also a triple driver, albeit a straight 3 way BA setup rather than hybrid. There are also some slightly cheaper hybrid single dynamic/dual BA universals such as the Fidue A83 in the market at US$330 but having tested the two it is really like comparing oranges and apples at times. I do not believe they really appeal to the same target market or audience on price and purpose.
Click on next page for the build impressions…