Impressions post (what's that you all say, it's about time?)
tyrion throws a great party, and the Head-Fi crew is a blast to hang out with. I can only reinforce what others have said about our newest member, Melinda, being the cutest and coolest little baby around. She warmed all our hearts, particularly those of us lucky enough to hold and cuddle her. I think it fitting that Guss2 won the Tomahawk that Ray Samuels so generously donated so the Melinda has an amp of her own.
Speaking of Ray, I sincerely want to personally thank him and our other vendor friends, Mikhail and Tyll, for making the effort to attend. Each brought new and wonderful things for us to see and hear, but more importantly, they joined us as Head-Fi brothers to enjoy each others company. When we at Head-Fi say we "have a friend in the business", we truly mean it, and that is very, very cool. Both Ray and Mikhail had extremely difficult travel to get here, particularly Ray, who spent 24 hours in airport hell jockeying flights to make it. Add to that the stress of having his precious gear (all of it) lost in baggage purgatory, and his stress level had to be through the roof. The pelican case did arrive just in time, though, so the day was saved. Tyll deserves great thanks for digging right in to help us get going in the morning, and all the terrific pictures he took, then posted in real time.
The pleasure of hanging out with some of the coolest people around for a whole weekend of fun, frivolity, and wonderful headphone listening was just great. So, so nice to meet and greet old friends, and make new ones. We have a wonderful community, and it just keeps growing. Particular thanks to Wmcmanus for pushing through much foul weather all the way from Chicago to make it just in time, although without sleep or rest of any kind for 20 + hours.
Ok, ok, even though I could fill multi posts with how much I enjoy and like all my peeps, I will move on to impressions, for whatever they are worth.
Ray, Tyll, and Mikhail each brought wonderful new toys for us to grovel.
Ray's Tomahawk and B-52 were like bookends to his terrific lineup of amps. The Tomahawk amazed with its ability to drive headphones beyond Ray's stated intentions for it. As an IEM amp, it is a bullseye. The B-52 is a major accomplishment that is very well thought out and implemented with love, care, and great skill. The controls are silky and smooth, and the relay control of source/output switching is a marvel. Ah, but the sound - effortless, powerful, and lush - all in the correct proportions. Even though this is a balanced amp, the R10s sounded as good as I've ever heard them using the single ended outs. Qualias became listenable when used balanced. Balanced PS1s and HD650s were terrific, particularly the PS1s, which became so much more than just a bass monster out of the B-52. The B-52 was the star of the show for me. All of the above were sourced from Ray's trusty Meridian 508.
Mikhail just brought one amp, but what an amp it is. Whomever says you can't teach an old dog new tricks is wrong. Using the old PPX3 cases, Mikhail has fashioned a tube roller's playground in the SP Extreme. Just as significant, however, are the items that make such tube juxtapositions possible, the fiendishly clever and ingeniously engineered and constructed tube adapters from Mikhail's laboratory of tubeness. Some of those adapters go way beyond simple pin remapping - they have little circuits with caps, resistors and such to make the electrons go where they should, and behave with proper voltage manners. Oh, it sounded terrific, too. I only heard with HD600s and my HP2s, but that was enough to convince that here is another winner from SP. I think two got bought by meet attendees, if that's any indication of what people thought of it.
Tyll brought great things in small packages. There was a Micro amp with HeadRoom's clever Micro Strap holding an iPod. Then, an iHP120 Micro strapped to the Micro Amp/Micro Dac stack. Both of those rigs made for some seriously good mobile listening. The star of the HeadRoom table, though, was the Balanced Desktop prototype getting powered from a Desktop Power Supply. Sitting right next to the balanced Desktop (with Home Module - the most that they can stuff in the box, and still keep the temperatures reasonable) was a Desktop with Max Module and Desktop Power Supply. Both were sourced from Tyll's Meridian 508, so switching and comparing was easy. Most preferred the balanced with home module vs the single ended with Max module, but I was inconclusive. The balanced definitely had the "wow" factor, but the Max'd desktop had something going for it that I find hard to verbalize, but definitely makes me reserve judgement on which I prefer. Both were excellent, though, so no loser here at all. The Balanced Home at $899 (assuming Tyll can bring it for that) should be a market winner, and ushers in a new, more affordable way to go balanced.
Other random impressions ...
It is always a pleasure to hear mikeg's R10 rig of Supra SDS (recently revamped) and modded Denon player, and this time was no exception. Mike always broadens my musical horizons, too. This time it was a 16th century acapella mass ("Hercules"?) that was spectacular to hear through that system. Thanks, Mike.
I'd never heard the AD2000s, so gave a good listen on jp11801's Ayre/Moth 2A3 rig. Stunning - I was really grooving to these with some Miles, and now see what the buzz is about. I also listened to the EC SS from the same Ayre player, and agree that it is a serious contender in the entry-mid SS amp arena, right along with the Heed, Original Master, Meier HeadFive, and others.
The Zana Deux - HD30 prototype comparo at tyrion's table was fun, and the HD30 is a serious contender. If you like the Moth designs and the Eddie Current line, but can't go for the Zana, the HD30 will likely do it for you. I recall the Moth 2A3 prototype at an earlier meet, and contrast it with the production 2A3 that jp11801 has, and if the same progression from proto to production holds true for the HD30, it should be sweet, indeed.
Boomana's econo-rig of EastSound MiniMax cdp to the Heed Canamp and Darkvoice tube amp provided much enjoyment and entertainment throughout the day. I couldn't wait to get over there to listen to her beautiful modded K340s, and was lucky enough to make it just after one of the early tube swaps. A $300 tube amp has no business sounding that good. I think the modded K340s had a lot to do with it, but it sure was fun and satisfying to hear some Coltrane with Johnny Hartman vocals from that combo.
The mad scientests, flecom and hifihaxor had their works in progress amps, Frank's DynaMight and Merritt's Akido, on display. Both are accomplished and talented builders, and their amps reflected that. Tending quite to the function before form school that any engineer would love, their creations sound great, and it has been fun watching Frank's progress from a bundle of wires and metal that somehow produced sound to a finished item worthy of any audiophile's ears.
Speaking of DIY, new member, Gontran, had a beautiful little amp he both designed and built. A remarkable little solid state transportable in a very well finished and badged enclosure with a unique combination of features - battery powered with lead-acid batteries (rechargeable), discrete amplifier stage, 1/4" and 1/8" headphone outs, 1/8" and RCA ins, loop out, and very long battery life (a week or more of 8 hours days). Oh, it sounded good, too - in the same class as Hornet, Micro Amp, PRII. I look forward to future news from Gontran ...
Wmcmanus' and stevieo's headphones were well received. Thanks for bringing the Qualias, W5000s, etc, boys, and as mentioned before, thanks to Wayne for the great effort in just making the meet, and for bringing our friend, K'mani (sp?), who I always enjoy talking with.
Oh, yeah, almost forgot (not really, just saving it for last), it has been a while since I heard the Orpheus, and I was purposely leaving it to the end of the day so I wouldn't be spoiled. Near closing time, I meandered over to Guss2's setup of Wayne's Rudistor Egmont electrostatic to Gary's HE90 sourced from Gary's always exquisite SCD1. I was not disappointed - the HE90s worked their magic on me again, and it was a perfect way to end my rounds.
Apologies in advance for any omissions or errors - I will make up for them in later posts.
Thanks to all for making this another fabulous meet.