ANEW U1 Review: ANEW Standard In Sound

Introduction: ANEW is, well, a new Chinese audio company that just recently started making IEMs, and this product rather surprised me with it's sound on first hear, the ANEW U1, a single dynamic with a carbon nanotube diaphragm that techwise was not entirely new but rare enough that it is interesting to note. So today, I'll be reviewing the ANEW U1 in white (it's only color so far) and I'd like to thank ANEW and Penon for the chance to review the ANEW U1 in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. You can buy the ANEW U1 at the Penon website or locally if your local retailer carries it.

Driver: 10mm Dynamic driver
Diaphragm: Carbon nanotube
Sensitivity: 108 ± 1dB
Frequency Response: 20-20khz
Impedance: 32Ω
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): < 0.2%
Material: Acrylic
Connectors: MMCX
Cable Material: Silver plated high purity single crystal Copper (SPC)
Cable Length: 1.2 meters
Plug: Gold plated 3.5mm

Unboxing: The ANEW U1 has a simple white box made of sturdy cardboard that is moderately in size, inside you'll find the U1 drivers connected to the MMCX cable in a displayed format that shows off the faceplate and beautiful cable. Along with the cable and IEM, there is a small pouch of tips, 2 duplicated sets of 3 sized tips (S/M/L) that has an unextended length and a rather wide bore, as you can see, one is semi transparent and the other is white to match the U and a double flange tip for more options on fit. As far as packed accessories go, it's a little above the average in terms of necessary tips (the Hibiki SE had 3 pairs of tips and a pouch) though I'm sure there will be others who'd want more.

Cable: The cable is definitely a looker, made of high purity single crystal copper plated in silver, it matches the overall white and light aesthetic of the U1. The velcro strap holding the cable is branded with the ANEW name, same as the plug and Y-split, but that's not what makes the whole thing beautiful. The silvery cable is nicely braided, loose enough that it is flexible with a chain like design, it looks like silver jewelry, the chromed metal plug feels strong and holds the cable with a short clear rubber strain relief, the slightly extended (makes connecting to recessed plugs and phones with cases easy) 3.5mm single end jack is gold plated.

The Y-split is a metal bead with a black middle section where the branding is placed, its a nice minimalist design for me that bucks the trend of using carbon fiber designs on plugs and splitters. The chin slider is made of clear rubber, it does it job and it does it well, cool eh? The mmcx connectors are also metallic with a color band of blue for left and red for right, makes easy identification of which goes where, the ear guide acts as a strain relief while guiding the wire around my ear, the simplicity of an mmcx connector means you don't need to think if you're plugging it in with the wrong polarity, just align, push, snap, and you're done. Overall, the cable is something that raises the value of the package, the braid and cable material prevents any microphonics with both beauty, quality and what seems to me, durability. This alone makes me forgive the U1 for it's rather spartan accessory set.

Build/Design: The ANEW U1 went for a mono white acrylic shell without any fancy face plate design or eye catching carbon fiber design, the white reminds me of piano keys, and is uniform throughout the shell same as the texture which is smooth all around. The ANEW logo is on the faceplate made from a shiny metallic looking paint that is underneath a thin layer of acrylic, ensuring that it will never rub off. The 3 things that break the overall smoothness and uniformity of the shell is firstly, the MMCX plug which feels sturdy and flush with the shell.

The second is the metal nozzle that has a prominent tip lip to ensure any tip stays in place, there is a fine dotted hole grill on the nozzle and would seem to prevent almost anything other than sound to get in and out.

The last is the rather large vent with fine dotted holes atop the ANEW logo encircled by a color to denote left (blue circle) and right (red circle). This helps vent the rigid yet flexible CNT diaphragm of the U1, which I believe is one of the reasons for its very good bass performance.

Overall it's a universal fit design that works, not too big, not heavy, but lacking a vent just after the nozzle does induce a bit of driver flex which can be heard if inserted incorrectly (pulling your ear up and back to straighten the ear canal and at times also opening your mouth helps too) but once inside, it'll stay there and can be easily forgotten for hours on end, you can even sleep on them (and don't have to worry about destroying the connectors since it's MMCX, it'll just disconnect instead of destroying the connection housing or breaking a pin and leaving it inside.

Sound Analysis: Earlier impressions of the Anew U1 was that of a nicely engineered sound with an emphasis on bass, I have thought at the back of my head that the bass on the U1 is truly big and strong, just within the realms of bass head territory.  And yet, the mids and treble were not added as an afterthought, it stood out to me as something more advanced bass loving audiophiles might want. And as usual for bass boosted products using dynamics, I've since experienced in most dynamic driven products that it does get better (less overwhelming, more controlled and more agile) as you put more usage time into it. Considering too that the diaphragm is made from carbon nanotubes, there are high expectations on the Anew U1, so after over 200 hours of use, I prepared the U1 for review, using the largest (white) stock tips, a variety of sources (but mostly with the WM1a) and volume matched to 90db to test its capabilities.

Bass: Right from the onset, Dragonborn's war drums resound with good impact, the 10mm carbon nanotubes elastic yet rigid drivers giving it a good amount of bass that fills my ears with a hit that is felt rather strongly, then rumbling deeply with an extension that has very good reach. On Lose Yourself to Dance, the bass shows it's true colors, the intro hits me with a strongly weighted and yet smoothly controlled slam, coupled with a rumbly sound underneath the main attack, clear and detailed to stand alongside the different sounds generated in the this song, it doesn't overwhelm the listener or bleed into the mids. Decay is a little above average in speed, being both able to give a good lingering rumble yet also quite resolving to give The Day The World Went Away guitar reverb and harmonics a clearly sounding intro riff that does not trip on it's own sound. The grungy crunch of of Lithiums bass guitars resound beautifully and energetically in the chorus, blending a smooth, detailed and overall very good bass into a fun musical experience that got my head bobbing around to the beat of the song, definitely one of the main draws of the Anew U1.

Mids: Skipping the "mids is life" monologue I sometimes do, the Anew U1 has a rather interesting mid frequency presentation, the lower mids are a little forward, lifting male vocals up and giving them better representation, which is the same level of forwardness of the upper mids/female vocals. The notes here have a good amount of body, an above average level of thickness which gives more power to each note played, Clair Marlo's Till They Take My Hear Away offers a sweet level of vocals that mixes a good amount of body with the details of her sweet sounding voice that results in a smooth and quite emotive performance. Not to be outdone, Sam Smith's Too Good at Goodbyes reaches into his vocal prowess to deliver a husky touching song that is given strength with the body provided by the U1.

Granted that body isn't the most important part of the mid section, the U1 is also able to deliver a good amount of detail and space it out so each instrument, sound and vocalization is clear and delivered without sound squished together, Pandemic's mid section is littered with sounds, drums, guitars and vocals playing all at the same time and the U1 is able to deliver them without sounding congested or compressed, though there is not a lot of micro detail, you can pick a sound and identify it within the cacophony that is this song. While not the the first thing you'll notice, the mids on the U1 are impressive in their own right and deliver a good amount of clarity, detail and power to my ear, it's quite a pleasant combination.

Treble: There is a good level of extension to the U1's treble section, it provides a good airy presentation that give space and clarity to the harmonics and sounds that reach this area. Kill Em All (Deluxe/Remastered) gives an energetic performance with so much high hats, cymbals and other smashing sounds that are nicely separated, presented without harshness and give shine to the music. Silent Lucidity's harmonics delicately dances in the treble area with crisp and some sparkle, the U1 has good control that prevents sibilance to occur though I'm sure some who are treble sensitive may feel that it's bright and if pushed to the upper registers (100db and higher) sibilance prone songs can start to reach the point of sibilance but stops short of being a harsh jab into your ear. A Question of Lust (101 Live) shows good control of the 7-8k region where cymbal crashes occur where the U1 does not roll off the frequency, but presents it in a clear but controlled smash that blooms outward a bit before decaying into the next hit, sounding quite natural in it's execution. The overall treble of the U1 has good extension, space and clarity that keeps the music exciting.

Soundstage: The U1 has an above average soundstage with a good amount of width that's around 3 inches away from the ear, this stage sounds natural (vs a forced distancing) and has a similar but shorter range from front to back and the up and down (depth/height) giving a fishbowl shape to the soundstage. Giving ample space for orchestral music like Ameriques (1929 revised version by Chou Wen-chung) to play around the stage and sound good and clear. As evident in the mids with songs like Pandemic and Hit the Lights, separation and layering are quite good and gives a nice sense of space as well as a defined notion of what the sound is and where it's coming from granting the U1 an accurate (though not in a laser focused way) imaging of sound.

Comparisons: Each IEM was volume matched to 90db via a dedicated sound meter and to even out the playing field (whether you believe in tips change the sound or not) I used Symbio W tips on all the items for comparison as they fit on all test units easily and have the same material and diameter of bore for a fair comparison. Buyers may hear differently when using the stock tips, but I believe this is the most fair way to compare them and let the user decide on how to shape the sound (using tips, cables and their source signature).

iBasso IT01 and ANEW U1
Bass: The U1 and IT01 has very similar extension, with the U1 edging it by a tiny bit more in depth. U1 has more impact weight than IT01, quantity is the same, IT01 has a little bit slower decay, both have good rumble, bass texture is again similar with the IT01 being a little bit more smoother, both do not bleed into the mids.

Mids: U1 has more forward lower mids and a little bit more forward upper mids than IT01, IT01 has a thicker, bodied midrange, U1 has more clarity and details, both do not sound hollow or tinny, separation and layering is similar, range is similar as well.

Treble: U1 has more extension, both have similar air,  sparkle and clarity, both have good control over sibilance and harshness, cymbal crashes are more natural expanding on U1 than IT01, decay is faster on IT01. resolution is the same.

Soundstage: The IT01 has a wider left/right soundstage, and U1 has a more up and down height and depth as well as front and back space than the it01. Accuracy on both is on par.

Shozy Hibiki SE and ANEW U1
Bass: The U1 has a little bit more extension than the Hibiki SE,  The U1 has a has a little more impact weight than the Hibiki SE, the Hibiki SE has more bass quantity than the U1, the U1 has a little bit more faster decay, both have good rumble, bass texture is similar but the U1 has more smoothness, both do not bleed into the mids.

Mids: U1 and Hibiki has a similar level of forwardness in the lower mids, upper mids, the hibiki se is a little more forward. The Hibiki SE has little more thickness, bodied midrange, and the U1 has a little more clarity, both have a similar range in detail presentation and retrieval. Both do not sound hollow or tinny, layering and range is similar in both with the U1 a little bit more spacious in separation.

Treble: The U1 has more extension, both have a similar air with the U1 leading a little bit than the Hibiki SE. There is a bit more sparkle and a little bit more detail with the U1, both have good control over sibilance and harshness though cymbal crashes (7-8kHz) on the Hibiki SE little rolled off,  and decay faster, the U1 sounds more natural in this area. Resolution is a little bit better on the U1.

Soundstage: the Hibiki SE has a wider left/right soundstage, and U1 has a more up and down height and depth as well as front and back space than the it01. Accuracy on both is on par.

Conclusion: The ANEW U1 is so much more than an alternative in this price bracket, on sound alone, the balance of the frequencies are very good; a strong, articulate and engaging bass, clear, spacious and forward mids, and nicely extended and crisp highs coupled with a good amount of detail retrieval, separation and layering, and you have the makings of a satisfying IEM that is more compelling than the rest, something that both a basshead and those that aren't can actually enjoy! A good build and a wonderful cable with effective tips rounds out the package that one can easily dismiss as spartan, until you hear the U1 at least, then you'll just easily forget about that little concern.

Pros: Very good bass, good mids and highs, good details and separation, solid build, very good cable

Cons: The driver flexing isn't so bad, but I'd rather not have it at all.

Sound testing was done using a Sony WM1a (Primarily), Sony A35, Zishan Z1(for comparison), Audirect Beam (for computer convenience) and a phone (for checking driveability) volume matched to 90.X db of max volume for safe hearing below 8 hours of use and calibrated using a 1kh tone on a dedicated DB Meter, all sources patched through a switcher. More information will be available on the About Me page (once I find the time to write it up.)

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