Thankfully, the company didn’t give up. After more than 6 months of radio silence, they popped up on the map again and announced a collaboration with “Le Tri Jeweler”. Whatever questions that announcement may raise, the AYA Silver SA-01 is the answer: these are actual pieces of jewelries, handmade by Vietnamese artisans.
It is not an overstatement to call these “actual jewelries”: per AYA’s info sleeve, the Silver SA-01 is made from 92.5% silver and 7.5% metal alloy from an US company called PMR. These earphones weren’t made from acrylic or opaque plastic, but from the same metal people have used to make necklaces and Olympic medals for the last couple of years. They are products of silversmiths working side-by-side with sound engineers.
Giant. Chunks. Of. Metal.
The end result is uniquely stunning. From afar AYA Silver looks like 2 giant chunks of shiny metal, because, well, they are. There are next to no decoration on the housings, which would be boring with any other choice of materials. But on this pair, the plain-ness is intended. No decorations = no distractions, so we can just focus on how bright and shiny the Silver is.
A closer looks uncover more details. Unlike acrylic IEMs which are molded from single pieces of plastic, the SA-01’s housing actually consists of 2 parts, an upper plate and a “bowl” that are held together by a tiny screw at the back. The 2 parts fit together with machine-like precision, so I can imagine AYA’s silversmiths put a lot of work into it. To add into the premium-feeling, AYA supplied the phones with a hand-made cable that looks really nice (and expensive) too.
For me, no words – or even photos – can do the Silver SA-01 justice. Imagine what a IEM-shaped piece of silver might look like, and AYA’s newest is just that. Every day I’m still stunned by how great it looks. What other IEMs would look like 2 giant chunks of shiny silver in your ears?
Its looks match with Satin Audio's Chimera, and AYA included a cloth so you can spend your days shining the earphones and the cable...
Build Quality: Weighty yet somehow still comfortable
Upon holding the SA-01 in my hands for the first time, I could imagine why no other companies have ever thought of using silver alloy as housing. At 16g, it is heavier than any other earphones that I’ve ever had. Yet wearing these same IEMs puts a smile on my face: it feels like any other IEMs, including AYA’s featherly YK-S. It doesn’t hurt even after a few hours of Visio drawing and Spotify’s Deep Focus playlist.
I asked my wife to try it and she told me the same. AYA seemingly found a way to distribute the weight evenly so that the monitors don’t cause discomfort nor fall out of our ears during use. Included is 4 pairs of Spinfit, a company renowned for increased comfort. I had used this brand of tips before, and I found them to be easier on my ears than the typical "stock" tips.
SpinFit and a hardcase included.
The closer I look, the more I appreciate AYA’s efforts in building these earphones. I imagined the housing should be thin to lose weight (and save costs), yet after a week of storage inside my backpack's pouches, the phones didn't get crumpled at all. Regardless, I have now put the Silver inside AYA’s included hardcase. My friend found out the hard way that the cable pins can get broken and stuck inside the housing.
Speaking of that worst case scenario, the choice of non-unibody design on AYA's Silver would be very useful. The maker of my friend's IEMs, an extremely expensive one, flatly refused to provide repair services to out-of-warranty IEMs, instead just offer a 10% purchase on the next purchase. That is understandable (“repair” means they have to destroy the housing and do their whole work from scratch), but from the buyer’s perspective that is hugely disappointing. Thankfully, with the Silver’s “assembled” build, I imagine the housing can be taken apart simply by unscrewing the 2 parts, and any repairs can be done without breaking the phones.
Spinfit and Silver-plated Copper
IEMs that do scale with equipment.
There are a number of factors that could impact the sound. First of all, source equipment. While the Silver (47 ohms, 110db/mW) can get loud from an iPhone, it will scale with your source equipment. Most of the time I find myself switching between the natural, musical EarStudio ES100 and the neutral Hiby R3. There was improvements with a (borrowed) K380 and a (borrowed, too) Hugo 2, but I quickly find myself going back to the cheaper ones.
Next up: tips. Through a partnership, AYA include a total of 4 Spinfit pairs with the Silver: 1 Yellow and 3 Red pairs. I don’t know the exact name of the model, but I have been a frequent users of the Red ones. The comfort is top notch, and it does make some change to the sound on my other IEMs, namely brighter trebles and leaner bass (less mid-bass bumps).
Hiby R3 and Satin Chimera seems to be the best match in terms of SQ.
Lastly: cables. AYA has always intended their products to change with different cables, and I find it to be the case here. With the stock cable (silver-plated), the sound is slightly v-shaped with recessed mid-ranges. With the YK-S’s stock black cable, a noticeable amount of bass is added.
For this review, I will be using the AYA Silver with the Hiby R3 and Satin Audio’s Chimera cable. This is the same cable included with Soranik SP3 LTD, and is the “best” one that I have at the moment. The cable does bring some improvement to the stock sound (more details, tamer trebles, smoother transition from bass to mids), but the sound signature remains the same.
SQ: A pleasant V-shaped experience
So, what is this AYA signature sound? To me, it’s a collection of the safest choices: V-shaped, with sparkling trebles, smooth mid-ranges and punchy, impactful bass. Perhaps AYA already knew in advance that everyone will gets their breath taken away by just looking at the Silver – the company now needs to make sure the sound will please all of their admirers.Why would I call such a sound “safe choices for everyone”? First of all, the V-shaped signature means the Silver emits a rather wide and deep soundstage, so no one would complain about being put too close to the (imagined) singer. Despite Vocals not being front and center in this presentation, the smooth mid-ranges manages to put a smile on my face when Karen Carpenters or Emmylou Harris start to sing. For male-fronted Metal and Rock, I would like the AYA’s mid-ranges to have more edge, a bit raspier, but 1, it’s still enjoyable, and 2, this slightly smooth out presentation is really good for everything else, from Pop to Country to EDM.
Good all-arounder, for playlists like this.
Up next, there are enough details in the trebles so that one can explore the “hidden” instruments in the background, or to “feel” the plucking of strings. On the one hand, it’s energetic enough so that Pantera and Metallica doesn’t get boring (despite the above-mentioned smooth mid-ends). On the other hand, energy and extension is kept in place, decay feels natural – I figure no one would complain about the V5 being harsh. Transition is smooth, so no sibilance even at passage where you are absolutely sure that it would happen. It has good air too, resulting in the most pleasant V-shaped listening experiences that I’ve ever had on IEMs.
Regarding the low-ranges, the overabundance of mid-bass that is typical with other BA IEMs is not to be found on these. The lows carry a good punch and enough body, and they never bleed into the mids. This means balance: MARINA stills gets me toe-tapping, and complex drum passages on Opeth’s Still Life doesn’t give me headaches. On Pantera’s Cowboy from Hell, I’ve found the drums to sync up quite nicely with the cymbals – the same thing can’t be said about the majority of IEMs that I have tried.
Pleasant look, pleasant sound.
Instrumental separation is clear, imaging feels accurate. So all in all, there’s nothing to complain: it is upbeat and it is relaxing depending on the music you’re playing. Unfortunately, good all-arounder makes compromises: Metallica would do better with more treble energy, and creamier mids would do wonder for Carpenters... But perhaps that’s the price to be paid for this pleasant listening experience. After all, no one has managed to put Grado trebles, Audio Technica mid-ranges and Sennheiser soundstage into the same package.
Almost a year of working under the radar has helped AYA reach a new height. The company has produced a bona-fide work of arts by turning IEMs into uniquely stunning ornaments. It has turned a novelty idea into something that is pleasant to use daily and pleasant to listen to.
If you want a loveable, relaxing sound to enjoy on a peaceful Saturday morning – and if you think IEMs should be made not just by sound engineers, but also by silversmiths – the AYA Silver might be what you’re looking for.