The Shozy & AAW POLA39 is a re-tuned version of the electrostatic hybrid POLA monitor with more of a midrange and treble focus than the original presentation. It is priced at $950.
Disclaimer: The Shozy & AAW POLA39 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the teams at AAW & Shozy for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Shozy products reviewed on Headfonics click here. To read more about AAW (Advanced AcousticWerkes) products reviewed on Headfonics click here.
More electrostatic goodness with the new POLA39 from Shozy & AAW just dropped into our office a few days ago. 2019 is really the year of these hybrids and I honestly cannot see it cooling down anytime soon.
The nicest thing about all these electrostatic monitors is just how different they sound from each other. Each company is injecting its own unique interpretation of how dual (or even quad) electrostatic drivers should be tuned as well as what to throw in with it be it dynamic/BA or just BA.
The original POLA at $800, ($900 for the custom), came out at the start of the year and is one of the best value electrostatic monitor performers in the market today. The new POLA39 is slightly more expensive at $950 but it comes with a complete change in the tuning and a different driver design on the inside to support that.
And why call it POLA39? Well, in Japanese calligraphy the numbers 39 reads a bit like a popular Anime character in Japanese culture. We will let you know who exactly in the main review. And here lies a strong hint as to why the POLA has been re-tuned or to whom they are targeting. Call it an Asian tuning? Possibly, but it is different from the original for sure.
The original POLA used a 13mm Graphene (carbon allotrope) dynamic driver and dual electrostatic tweeter hybrid design with a TrueXross 2 Way Crossover. The new POLA39 swaps out that 13mm driver and instead goes with a slightly smaller proprietary 10mm dynamic driver but retains the same dual electrostatic driver build as the original.
To maximize the implementation the housing has also been shrunk down in size with a new venting and nozzle design. Shozy & AAW have also retained the excellent Null Audio 48″ Symphonym Tiburon UP-OCC Copper Litz 4-wire cable as the stock cable for the package.
You can almost tell on the specific areas AAW had the most influence because the packaging and retail box is pretty much AAW’s high-end vision for their Nightingale and Canary products. This is a large PU leather-covered blue finished flip-lid container with a POLA metal badge at the bottom. It 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 POLA39 and get an additional 3 months warranty over the standard 12 months.
Inside the universal edition POLA39 retail box you get the following accessories:
The cable and carry case in particular offer excellent value and craftsmanship. I have seen the carry case before with the Nightingale and Canary so it does seem to be a new theme with AAW to include these attractive little woody cases. Thankfully that theme has extended to the collaborative with Shozy on the POLA39.
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 POLA39 drivers from any damage from knocks.
If I had to nitpick I do wish they went with POLA39 branding on the case and not Symphonym which is the cable brand.
Sadly, as a comparison, I cannot do like for like with the original POLA as my original sample was a custom design. However, the color scheme from the old to the new has changed and definitely a much smaller housing than the custom version.
This is a turquoise/pale green acrylic hollow body 3-piece build consisting of the translucent main shell, Mother of Pearl faceplate, and a stainless steel nozzle with a decent lip for holding the supplied tips. It also has some decent custom universal contouring which is unsurprising given AAW’s custom monitor manufacturing background.
The transparent housing allows for a nice nerdy peek into what’s happening on the inside and you can easily pick out that driver positioning and exact designs. In all this looks to be a tidy and compact design and probably one of the advantages of going with that smaller 10mm dynamic driver.
The POLA39 uses a standard recessed 2-pin 0.78mm socket that is designed to guide the cable over your ears and not straight down. Maybe it was just my original version finishing but I find the sockets much easier to connect with the stock cable pins on the POLA39 compared to the original POLA. Less moving around and hunting for a lock than before which I much appreciate.
The pros of a recessed socket do mean it is quite stable and robust once locked-in so you won’t have any accidental bending and the socket is less likely to wear out over time like an MMCX.
This is an excellent stock cable. No surprise really given that Shozy, AAW, and Null Audio work closely together. The POLA comes with a 48″ Symphonym Tiburon UP-OCC Copper Cable Litz 4-wire cross-braided in a very supple translucent PVC jacket. It retails separately for $169 so it is not a throwaway accessory by any stretch of the imagination.
The finish on the cable is excellent also. The Tiburon uses a chrome-plated barrel with carbon fiber weaves and a matching chrome allow ring for the chin cinch. Inside each barrel is finished with rhodium-plated copper contacts at the y-split and jack.
The jack is gold-plated 3.5mm TRS as stock but personally I would have loved this to come in a 2.5mm TRRS but I guess AAW/Shozy are planning for the most likely applicable usage and most every DAP has a 3.5mm socket.
In The Ear
The custom contouring seems to work pretty well in the ear and is very comfortable. Combined with the more compact size of the new design it does not stick out as much as the original POLA. However, in terms of sealing it is not as good as a custom version, new tuning or otherwise.
No surprise there then that tips will play a fairly important role in the final sound signature, comfort and the level of seal you can get on the universal POLA39. Which I why I am a little bit surprised at the lack of choice in the tips that come in the box. You get a set of single bore silicone black tips in S/M/L sizing and 3 foam tips with the same sizing.
Now they all fit pretty well and I tend to use the large in silicone and medium in foam as the foams are slightly firmer and thicker. However, I can’t help but wonder if a set of bi-flange or SpinFits would have been a nice alternative for not too much additional cost.
In terms of isolation, the POLA39 is excellent with the foam tips with some good low Hz noise blockage. The silicone tips do a decent job also but you will find ambient noise leak in a bit more. I find the single-bore silicone tips to be marginally more comfortable, however.
Initial Sound Impressions
(Initial testing is done with a Cayin N6ii, Lotoo PAW Gold Touch and a Hifiman R2R2000 Red Edition)
Just a short initial observation on sensitivity but there is no difference in volume matching from the DAPs we tested. If you are pushing up the volume on either it may well be due to the different tuning as they have some emphasis in different areas.
I will confirm this in more detail in the main review but for now, as with the original POLA, you do need some decent juice to drive the POLA39 with the LPGT as high as 65 in low gain unbalanced and about 55 on the same setting from the Cayin N6ii. So far as I can tell, the POLA39 is also pretty darn quiet on high noise floor amp stages such as the FiiO M11 unbalanced output and the HiBy R6 Pro.
My initial impressions are of a big change in the tuning with the POLA39 pulling at my vocalist heartstrings a bit more than the original. The POLA39 low-end has lost a little “vastness” and the absolute extension of the 13mm original POLA but it seems tighter and punchier.
Mids on the POLA39 have more focus now, especially that 2-4k range which struggled a little for air on the original POLA due to a more pronounced dip. That smaller dynamic driver also seems less invasive when tracks get busy so lower pitching male vocals have a much better presence and a slightly cleaner tone. You definitely will prefer the POLA 39 tuning if you enjoy vocals.
There also seems to be a change in the treble tuning on the new POLA39 compared to the original POLA. The upper mids to lower treble transition is a lot smoother with less of suck out and more lower-treble energy. The new tuning also delivers a bit more contrast and sparkle to that punchy mid-bass dynamic driver sound. Percussion has some nice bite and seems further forward without sounding bright or harsh.
So far, I am finding the new tuning a little more on the intimate and forward side but also more coherent and exciting compared to the bigger but slightly flatter sounding original. It is all about the mids’ presence on the new POLA39 so people looking for more vocal “pop” should try for a demo.
I also have to try and find some more tips and see if there is a bigger difference in the tuning compared to the stock tips in the main review. There might be a bit of cable rolling though to be fair the stock cable is excellent to begin with.
I am also receiving two similarly priced electrostatic monitors soon that shall go unnamed for now. However, it will be interesting to compare them plus the Soranik DES hybrid which is close in pricing. The POLA39 remains a very competitively priced hybrid electrostatic monitor for the performance so stay tuned for the main review to come soon.
Configuration: 2 x Electrostatic, 1 x 10mm Dynamic driver