AAW – Nightingale (1PM; 999$)
The Nightingale is more alike the Dope Pure in terms of size, but like the LCD-i3 it features an open-back design. AAW’s planar has a completely different tuning than the Dope Pure. It’s much darker and congested in comparison.
The Dope Pure does not put as much weight on the notes as the AAW, but it sounds faster, more agile and cleaner. Both monitors go deep into lows, but the Pure seems to push more volume in the lowest registers. The AAW’s bass bleeds more into the midrange, which covers up a lot of clarity there.
The mids on the Nightingale sound fuller and heavier, while the Pure is definitely more neutral and natural. The AAW puts more attention to the lower midrange and bass segment, which gives deep vocals and bassy instruments more presence. Dope Pure on the other hand seems lighter here and gives its attention to the upper registers.
When we look at the treble section, these two couldn’t be more different. The AAW sounds muted and veiled in its highs, while the Dope Pure is shiny and very energetic. The Pure has higher extension into the highest Octave and pushes more air into the rest of the spectrum.
In terms of technicalities it’s the Pure that clearly wins again to me. It forms a wider and deeper stage with better imaging and resolution. The Dope also comes out on top for the blacker background and highlights instruments and singers better, gives them nicer contours and separates every instrument clearer. To top it all off, it also has better resolution and texture throughout the entire signature.
The Dope Pure is Dope Audio’s very first product and from a sound point of view it really gives a lot. The build process and internal design of the Pure is very complex, which is probably why it has to be 3D printed. The housing material is not up to today’s standards in my opinion. The fact that it doesn’t come with some sort of protective mesh to keep ear-wax and debris out of the nozzle is something where Dope should find a better solution for the next product. Even if the nozzle is wide enough to clean everything, it just doesn’t look very safe.
To me the Dope Pure does not look like a high end product from physical design. Of course the sound is far more important and this is where it truly wins. The Pure has immaculate imaging and a superbly dark background that is among the best I’ve experienced in an IEM. It features a nicely linear sound all the way to the upper midrange. Here it rises and produces a treble that potentially is best for treble-heads. If you’re sensitive to highs, you probably are better off with other products.
From its sound alone it would deserve to be on our Best Universal IEM list, but to be on there it has to tick all the boxes. Maybe with the next one. They certainly have the potential for it. So let’s keep our eyes on Dope Audio and see what they come up with in the future.