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Soundwriter

Rating:
5/5,
  1. watts
    The Soundwriter: musicality united with technicity
    Written by watts
    Published Dec 29, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - TOP Transparency,definition and separation
    Musicality
    Very good on every music style
    Cons - Depending individual tastes, basses may be too forward and high mids too harsh.
    Price,Price and.....Price
    1.jpg
    Calvin, Music Sanctuary and the Project K

    Calvin is the founder of Music Sanctuary, a Singaporean boutique created in 2015. Music Sanctuary sells portable products : DAPs, IEMs, CIEMs as well as cables. Music Sanctuary also offers repairs and reshells services, but the activity intended to become the centre of gravity and the core business of MS is the "project K". In order to do so the shop has reduced its sales offer to the brands in line with its sales and marketing strategy.

    Project K is divided into two activities.

    The customization of DAPs and manufacturers partnership for TOTL (C)IEM development. Sony NW-WM1Z is the first DAP that benefits from a 6 levels customization, plus a battery mod. The mod is focused on wiring replacement by PW Audio 1960, new solder, isolation and new Pentaconn 4.4mm socket.

    Besides, Calvin is making the link between (C)IEM and cable manufacturers to coordonate High Level products development. He acts as a go-between by actively participating in the design, creation and tuning process.

    The first gem resulting of this work is the Soundwriter with the PW Audio 1960K, but Calvin had already been participating at the development of the Genesis and Arthur.

    Soundwriter & PW Audio 1960 overview
    Soundwriters are the result of a partnership between 64 Audio, PW Audio and MS. They are an improvement of the U18t.

    Those who had the opportunity to discover the Soundwriter at the Cam Jam in Singapore (end of March) were entousiastics and discovered a IEM without Apex module.but reflections and debates between 64 Audio and MS led to the development of a new version with new cabling, the return to Apex modules and a new tuning, it became clear that it was better to put the bet on the market for later and the current promotion was stopped. The process is now being finalized and should be made public shortly.Here is finally and foremost the result of this long wait..

    Soundwriters is an 18 Balanced Armature drivers (C)IEM that benefit from an internal wiring version of the Loki and N°5 of PW Audio with platinum soldering, their sensitivity is 116dB/mW and a frequency response of 10Hz-20KHz and impedance at 9Ω @ 1kHz.

    The Soundwriter will be available in 3 versions:

    Standard : $5,999 S (available only to current PWaudio 1960 owners; customers will need to send their PWaudio 1960 for upgrade)

    Deluxe: $6,799 S (included with 1960K PWaudio 2 wire cable)

    Premium : $7,499 S (included with 1960K PWaudio 4 wire cable)

    My copy of the Soundwriter is a test sample, so it differs from the Soundwriters which will be marketed. They are IEM instead of CIEM, so we must keep in mind that the sound is not exactly identical. Everyone knows that a CIEM version always brings more and better textured bass. On the other hand this version will include the apex modules present on the U18t which is the basis on which the Soundwriter design was built. The sound of my test sample is the closest to the CIEMs with the M26 module which gives maximum isolation.

    The cable delivered with Soundwriter is a modified 1960s PW audio cable, a well-known manufacturer that has already produced some incredible stuff, as the PW N°5.

    The PW Audio 1960 is a pure OCC copper litz cable made out of 26AWG wires and FEP jacket for the positive signal and 24AWG wires and PVC jacket for negative signal. My copy is a four wire and has a pure copper 2.5 custom connector.
    2.jpg


    Intro

    Although French and therefore Cartesian, I realised a 200 hours burn in and I must say that I noticed a difference between the before and after!

    Most of the listening, which is also about 200 hours, took place with the AK SP1000 but I also used the Sony 1Z with premium mod for a long time, which is in Calvin's opinion the DAP that offers the best synergy with the Soundwriter.

    I have compared the Soundwriters with the Flamenco which are (were?) my favorite intras and with the InEar prophile 8 which served me as a benchmark thanks to their neutrality and musicality. And finally I will add my impression with the 1950s cable as soon as I receive it, both cables being provided with a symmetrical 2.5 connector. As tips I used the Final Audio ones and Sedna earfit.

    I remind you that my listening is based on a sample whose sound corresponds to CIEM with the M26 module. It is to be expected that the use of the M15 and M20 modules will bring the sound of the Soundwriter a little closer to that of the U18t, it will in any case bring a wider range of sounds.

    Sound signature
    The Soundwriter's signature is slightly downward with a hump on the upper-mids.

    Bass is outstanding, deep, fast, without the slightest overflow. They are much further forward than on the U18t and thus provide a foundation for a much more organic and textured sound. Sub bass are here too, and bring this characteristic and almost physical rumble of a bass or a double bass.

    Low mids are a slightly recessed, contributing to a clear sound that may seem dry to some people's ears. Mids are thicker than on the U18t. High mids are a bit boosted, they might be a little harsh on some pieces as well as a tendency to cause sibilance, small flaws for those who are sensitive to these frequencies.

    The trebles are even more accomplished than on the U18t, as much extension but a more refined texture while keeping softness and realism. cymbals which are one of the symbols of this register blossom totally in time and in space.

    The articulation between the registers is so smooth that it makes you forget it, it gives you a feeling of naturalness and evidence that makes you forget about everything in order to focus on the main thing, the music !

    Soundstage
    The Soundwriter's soundstage is a "3D" bubble that is quite similar to that of the LCDi4, but smaller in size and much more coherent and precise in the musicians' placement. It is wide, which is common, but also deep, which is less common, and high, which is even more rare.

    It adapts to recording conditions, giving you a feeling of important space in an orchestral or live pop recording, meanwhile a folk singer or chamber music will be very intimate. The positioning also depends on the recordings, so we have a soundstage that is not a static frame but varies thanks to qualities of transparency and clarity never heard before at this level of realism and naturalness...

    Soundwriter soundstage is smaller than Tsar one, especially in width but has a greater depth.

    "Magic square": definition, resolution, separation and transparency.
    All criteria are obviously important in the final result of an (C)IEM, but it appears to me that these four criteria are the heart of what makes the difference between excellent (C)IEM and TOTL (C)IEM.

    To avoid misunderstandings here are the meanings I apply to each :

    «Resolution is the ability to individualize a voice or instrument.. It is most often linked to an organic perception of sound».

    «Separation is the ability to feel space between musicians. You can have a good resolution with insufficient separation».

    «Definition is the ability to perceive as much information as possible. You can have a great definition without separation or resolution».

    «Transparency is the ability to transcribe the nuances and subtleties of music, a high definition without transparency will deliver an analytical and "clinical" sound»

    The definition on the Soundwriter is one of the best I have ever heard, even beyond Flamenco for example. However, it imposes itself with naturalness and gentleness, without giving in any way the feeling of an overly analytical and clinical interpretation. Linked to exceptional dynamics and transparency, it gives a realistic transcription of classical music. I am thinking in particular of Malher's 9th symphony by Claudio Abbado in which the orchestral rises are of an astonishing quality. Rich and detailed, explosivity and right tones, all that is missing is the breadth of a sedentary set!

    The resolution, while of a high level, is lower than on the Flamenco or Zeus. This undoubtedly makes it possible to avoid making the sound too analytical and safeguards the musicality. It also seems more realistic to me, "live" listening does not allow the perception of a perfect routing. High resolution is a concession to listening with (C)IEM, it allows to give a very pleasant pseudo realism which serves as a substitute for the sensations provided by an open headphone or home sound system..

    The separation is of a high quality too, each instrument can be followed independently of the others while being perfectly integrated into the whole. The placement is perfect, one could almost estimate the distance between the different instruments. In "Hotel California" from the Eagles, version "hell freezes over", the positioning of the five guitarists, the drums just behind in the middle and the bongos on the far left is of incedible precision. As well as for Brahms' string sextets in which we "see" the two violins on the left, the Alto in the middle and the cellos on the left, it is even possible to perceive that they are in half circle !

    Transparency is undoubtedly what strikes most and allows all the other qualities to express themselves fully : tone respect, dynamic highlight.

    Speaking of dynamics, the Soundwriter’s one is at the top of the line, the gap between pianissimo and fortissimo is at its peak, the transition between the two is immediate. All this is of course done in absolute silence and without any background noise.

    A world about Burn In

    Being very sensitive to the sibilance and boost of the high-meds, I was quite worried after the first listening, and well I must admit that the burn in has considerably softened this perception, the sibilance only occuring in a few pieces where it is present on every (C)IEM.

    The Sony NW-WM1Z comes in
    So I also tried the Soundwriter with the 1Z K mod premium. After a few listening with firmware 2, I switched to firmware 3 which seems to have an expanded soundstage and basses less present which allows a better perception of the treble. A more balanced signature in short but one that will always please fans of the 1Z's basses.

    The differences with the SP 1000 are thoose for me :

    l A more important soundstage on AK and a more intimate presentation at Sony

    l A more balanced signature for the SP 1000 (although rather clear, even bright for some tastes)

    l Higher resolution in 1Z, but better definition, separation and transparency for SP 1000

    l A better dynamics on the SP 1000 but a feeling of power to the advantage of the 1Z

    I’m tempted to say that classical and jazz are the domain of the SP 1000, while rock, pop and blues are for 1Z.

    As mentioned before, this DAP is supposed to be a perfect match with the Soundwriter. Despite this, I prefer the SP 1000/ Soundwriter alliance for the following reasons:

    l I think that the signature of the 1Z remains slightly more colorful and less balanced than the SP 1000, if I add the less important soundstage, it results in my opinion a limiting factor : the 1Z does not allow the qualities of the Soundwriter to be fully expressed.

    l The bass becomes a little too important and tends to overflow on the low-mids

    l The mediums are a little more organic and closer, nothing changes as far as the high mediums are concerned, which are a little more forward.

    l The trebles do not have as good an extension and have more hardness.

    What about the Flamenco
    The Soundwriter are a little more balanced with mediums a little forward, the Flamenco basses appear in comparison more round and much slower, which gives the illusion of deeper basses but in fact, the Soundwriter basses go much lower and are more impressive.

    The soundstage is much larger than that of the Flamenco and looks like a modest version of the LCDi4, i.e. a 3D bubble in which the placement of the voices/instruments is perfect to me. The scene is a little more intimate on the Flamenco.

    Resolution is less important on Soundwriters and as a result the feeling of presence and individualization is less clear. The basses of Flamenco are rounder, it gives the feeling of having more accurate and textured tones with Flamenco.

    Definition: Soundwriters do even better than Flamenco, that's a lot to say! There is a wealth of micro details and nuances never heard before without it sounding "clinical", the texture of the Soundwriter comes from the definition and is therefore ultimately more realistic while the texture of the Flamenco is the result of a cross between resolution and balance low/high. The harmonics are much more noticeable on Soundwriters.

    The separation is equivalent but seems more important on Soundwriters because of a larger soundstage.

    Transparency: the nuances are more important on Soundwriters and the dynamics are much better.

    I will complete with the 1950s as soon as I receive the cable.


    Tips

    I have used the "Tornado", tips used for Flamenco and sold by Jomo Audio, and Final Audio. It is the latter that I prefer, the basses are a little more forward and the rendering is more organic. Tornado puts the trebles further forward with a little more transparency to the price of a little dryness.

    The Sedna Earfit were used by Calvin with demos Soundwriter.The sound is much more balanced and musical with a better bass texture.


    To Conclude



    The Soundwriter offers the following improvements over the U/A18Tzar:

    l Much deeper and more powerful bass, with improved texture and layering. All that with gracefulness

    l The mediums are radically modified, the voices on Soundwriter are thicker, softer and more powerful.

    l The highs are now more fluid, airier and detailed.

    l The resolution is improved, the sound scene is deeper and wider.

    The difference that seems to me to be the most important in favour of Soundwriters (and whatever the (C)IEM in comparison) is a kind of fullness whose one of the causes is the complementarity between local and global. With Soundwriters, the slightest instrument spreads throughout the soundstage while remaining locatable in a specific place, whereas on other (C)IEM the instrument remains much more contained,. If we imagine this same process for each instrument of a quintet for example, we obtain a full and complex sound space, we then have a global perception and this is simply called realism.

    Almost always, when I listen to a new (C)IEM, I first perceive the overall picture and it is only gradually that I focus on the details. With the Soundwriter and for about 40 hours, I was hypnotized by details, once the definition, once the transparency, once the tones etc... and suddenly I had a global image of the sound rendering... and it was magic.

    The Soundwriter are therefore the most qualitative (C)IEM that I have ever listened to, the only downsides will depend on individual tastes and concern basses that may seem a little too forward or high-mids that may seem a little too harsh.

    There remains the question of price: there is currently an "arms race" in the (C)IEM world where the worst is the best, but always at the expense of the client's portfolio. The passion for this hobby or the "satisfaction" of believing to be a "VIP" should not allow such abuses, but I am only making a return and not an economic speech here!

    I would like to highlight the performance of 64 Audio, PW Audio and Music Sanctuary. I hope that Project K will provide us with other products of this quality, but I would like to express my regret that the involvement of Calvin and his team in this project has led to a decrease in the quality of communication, and even of after-sales service, since the beginning of the year.

    Finally, I also want to thank Calvin from Music Sanctuary who allowed me to obtain the Soundwriter in universal version with a substantial discount.
      magicguy, linux4ever, Dim666 and 4 others like this.
    1. popof94
      Outsanding review, congrats Sir.
      popof94, Dec 29, 2018
      Ringo2014, MrLocoLuciano and Dim666 like this.