Like many companies journeying into and through the world of earphones, starting with a range of custom in ear monitors before releasing a line of universals is becoming the norm. Singaporean Advanced AcousticWerkes or AAW for short are no different in that regard. AAW started back in 2014 with a partnership with cable creator and store Null Audio and two years after building their custom monitor range to something broad and inclusive they have turned their effort to some universal fit models… three in fact. But here is where they differ from the rest of the world. They have not just re-released their existing models in a shell that looks like a store demo. Instead they have gone from the ground up making brand new shell and driver configurations especially for the new Nebula collection. I know that may not sound that special but it shows the passion and energy poured into these new products to make them something new!
I have received two of the three Nebulas, the cheapest two consisting of the Nebula One and Nebula 2, costing S$149 and S$199 respectively. For us Brits that means about £80 and £100! I don’t know if it is just with my pairs that may not be production or just an oversight but I do find it annoying that the “One” is using letters and the “2” a number. Maybe its just me….
Zip & Tie
AAW’s website does show a cardboard packaging but my samples come in some cute little zip tie packets. You know the type electronics such as op amps come packaged in. You get the usual flight adapter and 1/4 inch jack to start things off and the clamshell cases are nice on top of that. When it comes to tip collection, oddly, both pairs have a slightly different set. They both have the “ultra flex” tips in common, a very long silicone tip. They seem like a good idea but are quite flimsy, one tip actually breaking on removal. I am not actually sure if that is the fault of the tips or the sound bores as I have ripped other tips when removing from these earphones, something I have never done previously. Then the ‘Ones’ have 3 pairs of standard tips while the 2’s have 3 pairs of foams instead. Not sure why they both can’t just include, flex, super flex and foam tips….
The build of both monitors is 95% identical, with the only tell between the two being the Ones silver and the 2’s black faceplate. Build difference is limited to the 2 having metal bores compares to the Ones plastic! Visually they look very much like RHA’s MA750, to the point I had to check there was no team work involved. That is not the case by the way, this is all AAW’s work, 18 months of it in fact. Obviously due to their form factor they can only be worn over the ear, which I am usually a fan of but these seem to be prone to very shallow insertion and it tends to be a bit harder to get a great seal. Consequently with some tips these can sound much worse than they actually are!
They both have a housing made up of a metal front and plastic back, which I can’t find fault with. The cable however has been a bit annoying to me. They actually seem to have put a lot of thought into the cable with it being oxygen free copper stranded in a type 2 litz construction, nothing to laugh about. Regardless I find it very thin and prone to tangling. Longevity should be all right though since they opted for a kevlar core so that puts my mind at rest a little. I am also disappointed to say this is only available with a 3 button controller, something that will cause issues with some audiophile DAPs and really does single out phone users. I don’t mind it being an option but that is exactly how I like it, as an option!
To help the short bores and being prone to shallow insertion, have found denser and longer tips to work better (super flex or triple bore) in aiding seal and isolation. Comfort wise though they feel light in your each due to the semi plastic construction, non intrusive and the cable is also low profile. Isolation is really underwhelming, these are basically an open design.
Dynamic & Hybrid
The biggest difference between the two models that is not literacy related would be what going on inside. Both have 10mm titanium dynamic drivers that are mounted in the housings but the 2 steps things up by mounting a balanced armature in the sound bore, likely why it is made of metal. The idea is that the BA is working as a super tweeter, allowing the earphones to extend to an alleged 40kHz… the Ones only manage 23kHz! Apparently the super tweeter was a project between a BA developer and AAW to be optimal for the products needs.
For the 2 there is also a big focus on the crossover between the two driver technologies, doing without the usual high order RC crossover network and going for a simpler and more coherent approach. I think positioning of drivers is vital for this and while not done as cutely, it seems very similar the bullseye driver technology from Dynamic Motion!
Turn the Page for Sound