In the recent months we have seen so many new IEMs, the driver wars from a few years ago have been shifted toward a new challenge – the e-stat race. A lot of companies are fiddling around with those Sonion electrostatic tweeters nowadays, and the market has gladly welcomed them with open arms and ears.
The Canary however is currently the only e-stat hybrid I have in my collection, more will be added over the next few weeks. Some of which I am not allowed to talk about just yet. For now, let’s take a look at how Canary compares against other In Ears in my inventory. No, I won’t make comparisons to models I have not heard extensively in my own home. Sorry.
Mentioned prices are for the custom built variants, with the exception of the Noble Khan, which only comes as universal IEM for now. Comparisons were done using the respective stock cables.
Empire Ears – Legend X (2DD/5BA; 2,299$)
The Legend X has a much more prominently placed bass response, that goes lower into the sub-bass areas. It throws a meaner and harder punch, that brings shocking thunder. The Canary is a lot calmer and places the bass more in line with the rest of the spectrum, while keeping it tighter bound. Legend’s bass has higher resolution and better texture than the Canary’s, though the AAW’s is more dynamic and softer.
Mids on the Legend are denser, where vocals especially have more weight than on the Canary. The AAW is airier in its midrange. Instruments and vocals appear slightly warmer on the Legend X to me.
Soundstage dimensions of both models are very good, but the Legend stretches further into width while I feel the Canary goes deeper. Both have very nice imaging and instrumental separation, though to my ears the Legend renders a finer picture with sharper separation.
Treble is richer and faster on the Legend X than on the AAW. Canary is a bit crisper and brighter, it brings more air into the sound.
64 Audio – A18t (18BA; 2,999$)
The A18t comes with 64 Audio’s proprietary tia high drivers, which in my opinion create a similar sound to the e-stat tweeters. Both monitors extends wide into highs, though I am giving the nod to the A18t here, as it just goes further. Both have a non-aggressive, sparkling top end, but when it comes to richness it’s the Canary that takes the crown.
Bass hits harder on the Canary than on A18t, while it has higher resolution on the latter. Both are finely dynamic down low and have good layering. A18t has better texture and renders a more precise bass. The Canary has a more shattering sub-bass to me.
Mids are slightly warmer on the Canary than on the über-precise A18t. The 64 is more transparent in its midrange, it brings a lighter body to the table as well. The A18t has a blacker background and separates instruments and vocals cleaner and more precise. It also has better imaging and stretches a bigger sound stage in all dimensions. Vocals on the A18t are positioned closer to you, while they appear more recessed on the Canary.
JH Audio – Layla (12BA; 2,750$)
Layla features on of the nicest tonal balances out there in my opinion. However it is flawed by its cable, which really holds back the treble response. Canary and Layla are alike in many ways. Both have a superb bass reproduction, they both reach very deep, though Canary rumbles more in sub-bass and punches harder in mid-bass.
For a pure BA monitor, Layla has a dynamic-esque low end with impressive air and resolution. In terms of air both are on par, but resolution and texture both go to Layla if you ask me. Layla also seems faster than Canary, however, the difference here is not big.
The JH flagship has more body throughout and an even more organic sounding midrange. Canary appears smoother to me. Both have good instrumental separation, imaging is something I consider Layla to do better. When we’re looking at soundstage dimensions it’s Canary that wins on that front. Resolution and layering are two aspects where I see them going head to head.
As mentioned before, I find Layla to lack in treble with its SPC stock cable. The electrostatic tweeters of Canary definitely do a better job here than the quad-BA set-up of Layla. Highs extend further with brighter shimmer and sparkle on the Canary than on Layla.
Noble Audio – Khan (1DD/4BA/1Piezo; 2,399$)
The recently released Noble Audio flagship Khan is the company’s first universal only model. Like Canary it features a triple hybrid design, although it does not use an e-stat driver for treble. It rather utilizes a ceramic piezo-electric driver, which sits on top of the dynamic low end driver.
Khan and Canary both have a deep extension into lows, although I think Canary goes even lower, it is Khan that has a more present and rattling sub-bass rumble. Khan has higher resolution and can hit harder if needed. However, Canary isn’t a slouch at hitting hard either, it just presents lows with a softer approach, which makes them more dynamic in the end. Canary has more air in its bass response than Khan, which is faster down low.
Canary has a more accurate and realistic body throughout the entire signature. Khan does also sport good body and weight, but at times it appears to have too little for me. Canary places vocals further back than Khan, which keeps them closer to you.
The created room of Canary is bigger in terms of width and depth in comparison to Khan, which also stretches a good sound stage, but it here it is falling short against the AAW. Khan however has better imaging and resolution, where Canary again wins is layering.
Treble on Khan sometimes comes across as metallic or tinny, while Canary stays clean of that, it appears brighter and even a bit dryer than Khan. Canary extends wider and places more air in the spectrum. Khan’s top end has less bite and is slower compared to Canary’s. Thankfully both monitors don’t have any sibilance issues.
Canary is my first CIEM with electrostatic tweeters. I have been very interested in this driver technology in In Ears for a while, and I am very glad to finally have had the opportunity to explore e-stats a little. AAW brings a more than complete package with this CIEM. The accessories are spectacular, the build quality very good and the sound just wonderful.
The Canary does make a lot of things right, maybe it doesn’t lead the hoard in any particular segment, but it presents an excellent tuning balance and for me is one of the top CIEMs in my collection. Canary doesn’t seem to step a foot wrong, but rather plays it safe. It doesn’t risk anything to go beyond it’s abilities, which makes it a nicely enjoyable ride.
If that sounds like your kind of signature, give the Canary a listen and see if one of your local retailers has them available for demo. For me Canary is an easy recommendation and gets placed in our Best CIEM list.