Taking a break from big name brands, today I’m turning my Review Powers on the odd-little Advanced Wearable Audio AWA-101 earphone. At $49.99, this earphone may not be as pricey as other models I’ve listened to. And to be honest, the AWA-101 may not deliver pure, Audiophile-grade sound. But I still love this earphone, and if you listen to it, you’ll fall head over heels for it too.
The Advanced Wearable Audio AWA-101 comes in a plain black box with a fairly robust carrying case. Inside the case are a plethora of eatips, and that’s it for accessories.
Sporting a two-driver design, there’s some ample chops to the sound, but the build quality deserves equal props.
With sweat and water-resistant shell and some impressive nylon cabling, these earphones fell more durable than any other $79 model I’ve demoed. Indeed, these things still outclass headphones that cost $300 or more when it comes to their sturdy build. Throw them in your backpack, into traffic, or down a well. Then dust them off and put them in your ears to enjoy the sound.
A mic and remote is built into the standard 4 ft (1.2 m) cable. The earpieces themselves are designed to be worn with the cable looped over the back of the ear.
Frequency Response: NA
Nominal Impedance: NA
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): NA
I couldn’t find any specs for the AWA-101, confirming my suspicions that this headphone was sent back from a future time when the earphone landscape has become dominated by sub-par sound and boomy, uncontrolled bass. Futurekind, in its wisdom, decided to send one fantastic earphone back in time, to create a watershed model for past (present-day) audio engineers to follow. Sure, my coworkers may not share my faith in this theory, but people didn’t believe Einstein’s headphone theories, either. Probably because he didn’t have any, but if he had, you can imagine what kind of opposition there would have been.
Anyway, if I had to guess, I’d place the frequency range somewhere around 5-22,000 Hz. Nominal impedance seems low, around the standard 32-ohm mark. Last but not least, Sound Pressure seems a not-too-shabby 108 dB or so, though these earphones can get plenty loud thanks to an isolating design.
The low end of the 101 is fairly energetic, with strong detail and only a slight amount of distortion. Bass impact lands with gusto, making these earphones an immediate hit with any electronic, rock, or hip-hop tracks. While powerful, this bass isn’t too uncontrolled or sloppy. For those who actually prefer a bassy earphone, this sound is almost perfect, though hardcore audiophiles may snort with indignation.
While the low end performs well, the mids may suffer a bit on the AWA-101. To be honest, I’d expect poor mids on almost any earphone at this price point, but I was still hoping for something amazing. Though some distortion and compression is present, it’s not a total deal-breaker; the sound remains decent-enough for rock or pop, but its not the kind of sound you want to throw at classical tracks.
Not bright at all, the high end on this earphone strikes me as being slightly rolled-off. While there is still some impressive detail present here, it’s just not as present or as intimate as I was expecting it to be. While female vocals seem to benefit from this smoother high end, it doesn’t seem all that ideal for strings or instrumentation in general.
With some depth but poor placement, the 101 may not offer the most soundstage. There’s a little layering here, so music can still sound somewhat deep. However, you’ll never be under the impression that you’re dealing with a live performance.
These things are super durable. Thanks to a rubber-like exterior that deflects water and sweat, as well as that nylon cable, you would be hard pressed to destroy this earphone.
While a bit skeptical at first, I was eventually won over by the over-the-ear fit and double flange tips. Some casual listeners may balk at this cable design, but anyone who has experience the dreaded Cable Thump will appreciate this small quirk. The eartips, despite being isolating, aren’t uncomfortable – a huge boon for listeners who want to block out sound but can’t stand stabbing themselves in the ear.
Sound quality – let’s be honest here, this headphone isn’t audiophile quality. But for a bass-y, driving, energetic sound, it don’t get no better ‘n this. Pop, rock, hip-hop, and electronic music sound amazing, and it’s only when you start to delve into more acoustic or instrumental stuff that you see the AWA-101’s shortcomings.
If you’re a classical fan or an acoustic music junkie, skip the AWA-101. If you’re into anything with a good deal of bass to the sound, though, or if you’re looking for an earphone to abuse as you fall in love with it, buy this turkey. At a modest $79, the sound is as smooth as gravy, stuffed with detail, and will melt your brain to a fine soup. But the fact that it remains virtually indestructible really tips the scales. Sure, you might be able to find another earphone at this price. And sure, that earphone might almost as good as this one. But the cable will short out after a week and you’ll be stuck with some janky nonsense.
Rarely do we see such a good earphone offered at such a low price. While not the kind of sound to drive audiophiles bonkers, the Advanced Wearable Audio AWA-101 offers a rich, heavy consumer sound. Able to survive a nuclear blast while still delivering mad bass, this $79 earphone gives you what you need at the price you want.