The Nightingale definitely isn’t a monitor that’s hard to get to loud volumes, but it to me is a monitor that’s hard to drive right. It is a planar magnetic IEM after all. I have tested it with my inventory of Digital Audio Players and found that only the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch came close to driving it properly. Other than that I would suggest taking a source with decent power to amplify the Nightingale right.
Lotoo – PAW Gold Touch
The PAW Gold Touch delivers a very clean and neutral signal to the Nightingale. With all settings turned off, it sounds very coherent with good extension. Bass is slow and a little boomy. It has good texture and a snappy sound to it.
There is good resolution in the midrange, where instruments are well placed in the room. Every musician knows his place. The darker sounding Nightingale blends in really well with the reference tuned Lotoo. You get a nice organic touch in the entire spectrum, with excellent body and weight. A vibrant lower midrange and a smooth mid-mid segment.
Upper mids and treble are recessed and laid back. Brighter instruments can be the victim of the lower midrange and bass, where these clearly are in focus. However, it is not like highs are completely off, no, they just need some extra attention.
Chord Electronics – Hugo2
The Hugo2 is one of my top picks for transportable DAC/amps. It delivers heaps of details to the Nightingale, which I missed before. The resolution is wonderful and the same goes for instrumental separation and imaging.
Bass has good control with a tight grip. It is fast and dynamic, with good extension and texture. You still get a stirring low end that will make you tap your feet.
Midrange has high resolution, excellent accuracy and spot on imaging. There is sufficient transparency and air brought in from the Hugo2. Instruments sound open and have good air around them. The sound stage is probably the widest of any pairing I’ve heard during the review time.
The Hugo2 has a brighter signature to begin with, and that is audible when pairing it with the Nightingale. The AAW’s treble becomes more agile and crisper. Highs are brighter than before and this gives the AAW more air and better detailing.
Woo Audio – WA11
The WA11 is a prime example of how to make a portable amplifier right. I have paired it here with the SP1000M and their balanced in/outputs.
You get a faster sounding low end with great control. Mid and upper bass have wonderful body and texture with a tighter grip around their neck. Bass is well controlled and dynamic.
Instruments are lush and full, with good body, texture and emotions. Singers ave good air in their voices, so they don’t sound compressed or closed in. The upper mid segment does come out nicer with the WA11 than on any other pairing I’ve tried.
The WA11 delivers excellent layering and imaging to the Nightingale, where the sound stands out from a dark background. Instruments and vocalists are highlighted very well on the WA11, where they get good amounts of richness to sound seductive and pleasing.
The overall tonality still is on the warmer side, but to me treble comes out the best when paired with the Woo Audio amplifier.
AAW’s first ever planar magnetic IEM has been in development for quite a while, there have been some revisions seen at different shows world wide, but with this one, AAW was content.
Nightingale has excellent build, comes in a great looking wooden transport box and on top, sounds very nice as well. It has a rather balanced sound with a darkish tendency and if you like headphones like the LCD-2 or similar sounding products, chances are you might really enjoy the AAW too!
If you plan to use the Nightingale with a DAP, please keep in mind, there are better options out there. I firmly suggest using an amplifier with good power to really get the Nightingale to its peak. With insufficient voltage it can not hold up to its potential. Try it with something like the WA11 by Woo Audio and you’ll see how well the Nightingale can perform.