The AAW Canary is the company’s debut flagship hybrid electrostatic universal monitor, (also can be ordered in custom format). It is priced at SG$2,999.00.
Disclaimer: The AAW Canary sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the teams at AAW for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about AAW (Advanced AcousticWerkes) products reviewed on Headfonics click here.
Note, this 2-page review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
For those that have already read our First Contact feature a few weeks ago, there may be a degree of overlap on page 1. You can safely skip to page 2 for our in-depth sound impressions and comparative analysis. For those coming to the AAW Canary for the first time then read on.
The Canary is AAW’s debut hybrid electrostatic monitor and first made its presence felt at CanJam Singapore in March 2019. March seems like such a long time ago in the electrostatic monitor world. Back then things were just getting going and something like the Canary was quite unique. Now we have tons at different prices all with various patented or proprietary claims. Some overlap in design and some are very unusual in their configurations.
However, what is common is their tuning uniqueness. Each TOTL electrostatic hybrid monitor brings something different to the table in terms of tuning bias and sound quality. The Canary is no different in that respect and as such it does seem a worthy flagship IEM that should attract a lot of potential customers.
The Canary is a hybrid universal driver monitor though you can get this in a custom design should you have a degree of patience and a penchant for individualism.
Like the name drops in the intro, the Canary is a fusion of 3 different types of drivers, dynamic, balanced armature, and electrostatic. There is a total of 7 drivers with a dual-diaphragm 6mm push-pull isobaric woofer (dynamic), 4 BA for the mids and highs and a dual electrostatic tweeter array for the super highs.
All of this is stitched together using a 4-way passive and acoustic crossover design which is based on their TrueXross system to reduce coherence and phase shift issues to a minimum in complex hybrid designs.
Isobaric Dynamic Driver
So, what is an isobaric woofer? At the simplest level, this is a fairly small 6mm dynamic driver. However, its performance is governed by a key design feature. This is an isobaric dual-diaphragm design combined with high strength neodymium magnet build. This should deliver a very uniform level of tension across both diaphragms for optimal performance.
Isobaric is a thermodynamic process in which the pressure stays constant and has been knocking around audio applications since the 1950s and mainly in speaker drivers. The dual-diaphragm of this 6mmm dynamic driver is one of the key characteristics of an isobaric design. Both operate simultaneously to improve low-end frequency response and in doing so, allows the Canary 6mm to perform to the same level of a large single diaphragm driver.
This allows AAW to design the Canary with a fairly small form factor and a balanced FR that otherwise would not have been possible with a traditional dynamic driver of 10mm and above.
The Canary in the pictures is the stock design and the same one you will see on all universal version currently. If you decide to go with a custom version you can change the design and personalize it with your own artwork.
This is a lightly smoked translucent acrylic body with a faceplate consisting of gold and silver flakes in a mosaic pattern on one half and a turquoise Pearloid finish on the other half. The overall visual is unique with a sort of semi-green/black overtone and a nice shimmer from the faceplate, especially when you flick it under the light. The design is finished with a light gold-colored Canary moniker on both faceplates.
The nozzle is not acrylic, however. On the universal, it is an additional component made of stainless steel and using a small perforated metal finish on the top.
Size-wise the Canary is fairly compact though slightly wider than the Noble Audio Khan. It is quite a bit smaller than Empire Ear’s new Wraith 11-driver flagship and fairly similar in dimensions to Jomo Audio’s Trinity.
Cable & Connectors
The Canary uses a slightly recessed socket 2-pin 0.78mm socket mounted on the top for over-the-ear wearing. I always find recessed just a little bit fiddly for wide barrel 2-pin cables but this one seems fine, even with other cables attached.
The key is normally how accurate or central the pin socket is to the opening. Any angles or slight misalignment can be a nightmare. So far so good with the Canary socket.
The supplied stock cable is gorgeous and a real upgrade on the standard plastic one nonsense some stuff into their flagship offerings. The Null Audio Hakone cable is sold on its own for $299 so it is not a cheap cable by anyone’s standards.
This is a 1.2m 26AWG UPOCC Litz silver/copper wire (2 x 2 staggered multi-density wire) with a PVC translucent jacket and terminated with a rhodium-plated 2.5m TRRS jack and gold-plated brass pins on the connector side.
The barrels are solid chrome and carbon fiber printed aluminum alloy finished and do add a bit of solidity to the cable weight. The chin strap is a gorgeous little chrome-finished aluminum ring that matches the splitter barrel perfectly.
There is some memory wire finish but its more the springy type and fairly lightweight rather than a memory retentive version. It is a fairly thick finish though and I would love to see Null thin that out even more and make it less visible.
Otherwise, the Hakone cable is very easy to work with and very microphonic free below the splitter. The little bit of weight on the barrels does produce some welcome downwards pressure to keep it from bouncing around during use also.
Comfort & Fit
This is the universal version but the fit and seal are very good due to the Canary’s relatively compact size. I was looking for some sort of venting feature given the use of a dynamic driver but could not find one. I am guessing the 6mm size and push-ball isobaric technology renders one moot. Otherwise, the Canary seals as good as a balanced armature ventless driver shell with excellent passive background noise isolation.
The Canary is not quite a custom universal in shape, so there are not so many aggressive curves in its design. However, it is rounded enough with a thickish nozzle to sit securely in my ear. Even with the stock smallish silicone tips, I do not feel they are loose though they do stick out a little from my ear due to its fairly deep dimension.
The Canary comes with two different types of tips in foam and silicone. The first is a generic foam tip in small, medium and large and it is these that I tended to gravitate to the most for their excellent sealing properties. The sound tweaks I also enjoyed though I will admit they take a tiny bit of top-end presence out of the final presentation. They do, however, add a little bit of thickness to the low end which I quite like.
The second set of tips are single-bore silicone black tips, also in small, medium, and large. The isolation is good but not at the same level as the foams. They also adjust the sound with slightly less bass and a bit more mids and treble presence.
Accessories & Packaging
It seems like with every new AAW release the blue presentation case gets larger and larger. This has to be the largest version I have received to date. Is it impressive? Well, yes no issues there and that PU leather covered blue finish with Canary metal badge at the bottom does look fairly premium and fitting for a high-end offering.
Inside, it is all about a clean visual so everything is neatly tucked away under a paper insert with just the small carry case for show. The new cases are indeed lovely and it seems AAW are rather proud of that with the statement “African blackwood handcrafted carry case” in gold emboss printed just above it on the paper tray.
One thing to note is the underside of the flip-top lid which has a little mesh netted flap that pulls down to reveal a small blue Pu Leather-finished pocket. Inside is a warranty card and a small code to allow you to register the Canary and get an additional 3 months warranty on the standard 12.
Inside the universal edition retail box you get the following accessories:
- 48″ Symphonym Hakone UPOCC Silver/Copper Cable
- Wooden AAW Carrying Case
- Cleaning Cloth
- Flight & 1/4″ adapter
- Assorted Ear Tips
- 1 Year Limited Warranty card
- AAW Canary
The first two in particular offer excellent value and craftsmanship. I have seen the carry case before with the Nightingale First Contact done in June so it does seem to be a new theme with AAW to included these attractive little woody cases.
The quality of the handcrafting is really good also with not a blemish or chip to be seen anywhere. This is a very smooth dark wood finish. Inside you also get a layer of dense foam top, bottom and sides to protect the Canary drivers from any damage from knocks.
Click on Page 2 for Sound Impressions & Comparisons