An In Ear Monitor usually is not a hard to drive product. Well, it’s definitely not a difficult task to get them to blasting volumes with the typical sensitivity above 100dB. Most monitors also don’t benefit from additional power. To me, hybrids usually present the exception here. In my opinion getting a dynamic driver and balanced armatures both to be driven right is a harder to achieve goal.
Now we’re looking at triple hybrid constructions, and while the Sonion e-stat drivers might not need a big energizer like e-stat headphones, I still think they need some extra juice to perform at their peak. You might disagree with me here, no problem with that, but to me Canary does enjoy some proper amplification.
Let’s check out some pairings.
Lotoo – PAW Gold Touch
I consider the PAW Gold Touch to be the DAP to handle all my inventory best. The Canary does get driven well by the Touch, but I found that setting it to High Gain makes them perform even better together.
You get a tightly bound and well controlled bass, that’s dynamic and has very good body. It reaches deep with good rumble, mid and upper bass are nicely liquid. There is good air and texture in the lowest of frequencies.
Mids are full bodied and well defined. Instruments and vocals sound accurate with timbral correctness. I don’t feel they are overly thick or thin, their body is just about right with good separation. The layering is one aspect that really impressed me here.
The soundstage creates a nice wide room with good depth. Instruments are placed closely in front. There is very nice energy in the pairing with the Lotoo. Especially faster guitar riffs sound amazing in my opinion.
Highs are crisp and detailed, with superb energy and air. At no times have they been sharp or piercing to me, while they undeniably are bright and direct, they have enough richness in them to not be too dry.
Astell&Kern – SP1000 SS
The SP1000 has just officially been de-crowned by Astell&Kern as their flagship. At High End in Munich they released the SP2000 as expected. That doesn’t mean that the SP1000 isn’t a top dog anymore though. It’s a fantastic device, that to me still is best in many ways. However, handling hybrids is not one of them. I guess the new amp module AK just released will help in that regard, we’ll see when it hits Vienna.
I was pleasantly surprised this time though as it was better than I expected. At least the BA’s and e-stats were well controlled, the dual dynamics were not so much.
Bass was a little boomy, though not to an extreme. Lows are not as controlled as with other pairings, this to me was most audible in bass drums and synthetic bass, which seemed more elastic. Bass goes deep and does so with good rumble, but it misses out on speed, texture and resolution to me.
The SP1000 brings incredible layering and resolution to the Canary. You get a very detailed sound, that is precise to the last beep. The created stage is stretching in great dimensions on X, Y and Z axis. It’s a slightly holographic sound compared to other pairings, but you’re still closer to the musicians.
Instruments and vocals enjoy good body, however upper register male and female vocals do have a tendency to sound slightly nasal. It’s not a fully clogged nose, but rather a small cold to put it in other words. Other than that the midrange sounds organic and smooth, with good speed and texture.
Treble is where things get gorgeous for me. The SP1000 produces a superbly rich and pleasing top end, that has excellent body in it. There’s good energy and sparkle still, but the real show stopper is the beauty of the notes here in my opinion.
Chord Electronics – Hugo2
The Hugo2 brings power and flexibility to the table. It can drive pretty much anything I throw at it with ease and more often then not, I like the pairing.
You get a well layered and controlled bass, with a good natural appearance. It’s dynamic, impactful and has good air in it. Bass has good speed and texture, bass drums have excellent kick in them and are tight and fast. Mid and upper bass have a nice fluidity in them, which makes them nicely dynamic.
The British Hugo2 is a master when it comes to detailing and resolution. It brings out finest nuances into the Canary. The separation is particularly nice with this pairing, as the background has great darkness in it. With the Hugo2 I feel like I’m in the audience watching the musicians perform. The soundstage stretches good dimensions all all axis.
Vocals and instruments are presented with good body and weight. They appear organic in their sound and have good texture. This combination has a nice blend of both worlds. The Canary’s richness and the Hugo2’s analytical nature. You’ll get a sound that has a nice reference quality, but coupled with wet notes to make it superbly pleasing combination.
Treble is a bit dryer than the Canary can be, but you’ll gain sparkle and precision with the Hugo2. The e-stat air is still in tact and thankfully it did not get unnatural in terms of amounts. It’s still very nice, although there definitely is more air perceived.
What I like about this pairing, is the authority of the lows and the energy of upper-mids. If you’re a fan of Rapcore or Hard Rock, I think this is something you want to experience with Canary.
Woo Audio – WA11
The WA11 has more than enough power to drive the Canary to blasting volumes, even in low gain the dial does not go past 10 o’clock.
With the WA11 you get more body and weight, especially in the lower midrange and bass. It’s a warmer and more analogue sounding Canary than with my other pairings. If you want to bring more density to the vocals, the Woo would be a good choice.
Bass is well defined, but misses out on speed for my taste. It’s dynamic and soft, reaches deep with good impact and rumble. Texture could be better, same goes for resolution in my opinion. Lows on some occasions are too present and upfront, while they seem to push treble and upper mids slightly back. Though highs are still easily perceived, they don’t feature the energy and sparkle I’m used to from the e-stats.
Midrange is rich and dense, with good emotional vocals and organic instruments. The body and weight in this pairing is wonderful, you get a vibrant sound that knows how to impress with physicality and authority.
Treble is taken slightly back, but it still possesses a rich tonality with good shimmer and sparkle. However at times, especially when there is a lot going on down low, it has troubles shining through as with other pairings.
The review continues on the next page.