AYA Audio came up with an interesting and eye-catching IEM. I previously reviewed their first product, Nightingale YK-1 which I quite liked a lot. AYA Audio now released their 2nd product, called SA-01. They actually had few other IEMs before SA-01, though they weren’t official so I wouldn’t count them in. SA-01 is an upgraded model from Nightingale YK-1 and retailed for $399.
SA-01 comes with a simple packaging. The included hard case serves as the packaging and has an outer sheet covering the case. Other than the earpieces, the included accessories are 3.5mm stock cable, a full set of SpinFit eartips, a cloth, a leather cable strap, and a warranty card.
The earpiece materials are probably the most eye-catching element of this IEM. These shells are made of 925 pure silver which looks great, feels great. They have good weight on the hands but nothing excessive. They sure do require careful handling though won’t be too fragile since they don’t have the mirror finish.
The default look of SA-01 is actually just plain silver faceplates without any designs or engraved patterns but AYA provides several options, just like mine does. There are several more pre-made designs available other than this, as well as highly customized designs with extra charges. SA-01 has an identical shape as the Nightingale YK-1 but with non-recessed CIEM 2pin termination. AYA incorporated 2BA drivers per side, so one extra BA drivers each compared to their first product.
The cables are decent. Not much to say about the default cable, but it’s definitely an upgrade from the one included in Nightingale YK-1. It’s a 4 braided SPC cable and matches quite well with SA-01. Not so necessary, but I’d recommend pairing SA-01 with pure silver or hybrid cables as they would perform even better.
Sound Impression: Lows
SA-01 presents a slightly w-shaped sound signature with emphasis on mids. It follows a similar path with Nightingale YK-1 but with significant improvements in almost every aspect. Bass is on the lighter side but vividly expressed with a dense thud and density. The quantity sits somewhere between being flat and slightly v-shaped, feeling to have 20-25% more bass quantity from a complete flat.
Just like the Nightingale YK-1, the bass here more to uplift the upper frequencies rather than standing out from the crowd – which serves its purpose quite well. The bass feels to have solid core surrounded with smooth and meaty bass, well achieving both reverb and density. It also keeps the brightness dark which helps the full-BA bass to gain some extra depth to it.
Sound Impression: Mids
Mids are where SA-01 really steps in. I found Nightingale YK-1’s mids to sound charming and SA-01 follows the same path yet far better. SA-01 knows how to articulate a track in a delicate manner. It pays good attention to the coherency and linearity but knows how to beautifully present the sound within its simple 2BA nature.
Taking a step forward from the bass, SA-01’s mids have a delicate and sweet tone. It has good air with a fluffy upper mids, making them to perfectly match with modern acoustic genres or vocal-highlighted genres. Mids show neutral thickness but slightly leans to the thinner side. It has a small touch of a silvery tone added to the sound, but not even close to discoloring the tonality.
Sound Impression: Highs, etc.
SA-01 does a fine job handling both male and female vocals but I’d give a bit more props to female vocals with this one. This glimpse of added silvery touch makes the female vocals even shinier and prettier. SA-01 shows a steady flow throughout the mids and doesn’t have any audible peaks or dips around the sibilance range. What I like much about SA-01 is that it nailed that sweet spot on controlling the amount of reverbs.
That perfect amount of reverbs fleshes out the vocals and staging without making the sound muddy or dull. It’s also a big element that adds air and lively touch to the upper frequencies. Staging and imaging are pretty darn good for a 2BA IEM. I said “for a 2BA IEM”, but it’s still up to par even without the handicap.
Eartips / Cable matching
SA-01 shows a steady, consistent match with various cables. Using silver-based cables will highlight the upper sparkles and the texture details even more. My recommendations would be Satin Audio Medusa / Hyperion, PlusSound Exo SPC, Ego Audio Sake, and Null Audio Thera. Cheaper or pricier options would be fine as SA-01 works very nicely with SPC or pure silver cables. Considering the retail price of this IEM, I’d say Satin Audio cables would be one of the best choices to find for a reasonable price.
For the eartips, I found the ones with narrow nozzles (or I should say just typical nozzles) to work nicely with these. The included SpinFit eartips are one of the best matches you can get for SA-01 as it adds more fun on the mids with more 3D effects to the staging. Acoustune AET08 is good for getting an even more solid bass with a clearer bassline. Acoustune AET08 adds more air and openness on the upper frequencies, also hardening the bass but with lighter depths. E-Pro eartips are currently my favorite match, greatly adding sparkles throughout the frequency without much altering the overall sound signature.
Lots of fun stuff coming out from Vietnam nowadays. SA-01 is a carefully crafted IEM, both inside and outside. Seriously, entire housings made of pure silver with custom engraved faceplates for just $399? I doubt about finding this level of craftsmanship for this price. I can never stress enough about the sound as the most important part and SA-01 still lives up to the standards – actually much satisfied with its sound performance. SA-01 would be an appropriate choice for those who are looking for a sweet and mellow sound signature yet precisely tuned with lush silver housings.