Thanks to everyone who made the meet possible. I had a lot of fun listening to gear and talking to people who share an interest in this crazy hobby. There's so much gear that I wanted to listen to, but I didn't get the chance to listen to them all. Out of the things I did get to listen to, there are a few that really stood out for me. Of course, these are all meet impressions so they're likely not accurate and I don't have the experience of some of the other members so take these for what they're worth, not very much.
The Omega II and Blue Hawaii SE were out of this world, just simply the best headphone/amp combo I've ever heard period. The clarity, detail, and imaging of this pair were unmatched and the tonality was pretty damn good as well.
The Omega II/ES-1 was also great; it wasn't as technically as good as the BHSE paring, but it sounded a bit more involving. When I listened to this rig, I've only had experience with the gear I've own and the Singlepower Extreme/K340 set up in the same room and it was the first rig I listened to at CanJam that made me think "wow, this is something special."
Ray's B-52/R10 rig had the most beautiful mid range I've ever listened to. Listening to Ella made the hairs on my back stand up. The soundstage is wide and the sound in general is pretty airy to my surprise. The imaging was pretty 3D, but not as much as the O2s. The bass felt a bit boomy, but that might be the recording. The treble also sounded a little bit brighter than my taste, but my ears are treble-shy.
The Audeze planars were surprising. They sounded pretty good from the short listening session I had. The clarity was almost as good as the Omega II possibly. Its soundstage was very wide, but its imaging wasn't in the same class as the O2s. Of course, the Blue Hawaii and O2 combo costs like $8000 while the CTH(at least I think it was a CTH) and Audeze planar combo costs less than a 1/10 of the price; so, relatively speaking the little amp and headphones held up pretty well. I'd love to take a crack at them again in my room with my set up to see how they compare to my Lambdas since they're one of the few set ups things I listened to that I can reasonable afford at this point - as much as I loved the O2/BHSE as a poor college student I'm not getting that rig any time in the near future unless I win about 10k in Vegas or something.
The Beyer DT48 was something I've always wanted to listen to and I got a chance to listen to Uncle Erik's 25 ohm DT48 out of his Zana Deux. I did like what I heard, but ultimately I'm more intrigued by it than impressed; you'll understand what I mean after the next few sentences. I put in my Sviatoslav Richter EMI Schumann recording and I wasn't too impressed with the sound. The soundstage was small, and it sounded a bit too bright for me. However, it handled the details pretty well. After listening for a few minutes, I popped in my Richter DG Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no.2 with Wislocki and the Warsaw National Philharmonic the headphones sounded very different. The bass of the opening section of the first movement was thunderous and the sound had much more body than before. Between the two different recordings, the Beyers changed more than any of the other headphones with which I've listened to these recordings. If my impressions are true, then the Beyers are amazingly transparent. I still don't know if it's placebo or if I was tired though since I listened to the Beyers near the end of the day on Sunday. Also, the Beyers had the advantage of being closed with great noise isolation so this may have made the changes more pronounced than with the open cans with which I listened to these recordings. However, what I experienced with them really interested me so I really need to spend some more time with these cans. I've been looking for a closed headphone for classical music which comprises the majority of music to which I listen so if my impressions prove true I'll likely be picking up a pair of these Beyers soon because they happened to be within my price range.
Finally, we have the HD800. It's just great. First of all, it was the most comfortable headphone I have ever heard. With most headphones, my ears end up touching the drivers or the sides of the pads which annoys me, but this never happens on the HD800 due to the distance between the ear and the driver. The sound was airy and spacious. The depth of the soundstage was excellent, right up there with the Sigma 404 and the K1000 I feel. The clarity was good. The tonal balance is great. The bass digs pretty deep and effortlessly. The mids have a weight and presence that I've not heard from any headphone except the K140 I used to own. Laugh if you will, but this is actually quite the complement because in terms of just body and presence in voices the K140 is extraordinary. The K140 lacks in the technical aspects of a good headphone like clarity, detail, extension, soundstage, and imaging, but the HD800 happens to have these in spades along with that mid range body and presence. Finally, the HD800 is somewhat amp dependent from what I heard during the meet. I was thoroughly unimpressed with it out of the Headroom setups. They lacked clarity compared to electrostats and made the music sound boring and lifeless in my opinion. However, out of Ray's Apache and Raptor, I absolutely love the HD800. Although I think the Omega 2 is slightly better than the HD800, a top shelve HD800 set up will probably cost half of what an O2/BHSE costs, maybe even less than half and the HD800 does some things better than the O2 in my book anyways, most notably the body and presence in vocals and depth of soundstage. The HD800 has the potential to be a real winner in my book and if I get some more quality listening time with these I may even be tempted to starve myself to raise the funds necessary to buy these.
As I have said earlier, these are all meet impressions so take them for what they're worth, not very much. I just need to make that clear. About ten to twenty minutes in a noisy environment is not enough to make a decision about a pair of headphones. I learned that with nearly every headphone I've ever purchased I needed at least a good two to three hours of focused listening before I can really tell how much I'll really like a pair of headphones.
Anyways, I would like to again express my thanks to everyone who made CanJam '09 possible. It was a valuable experience for a newbie like me to listen to the megabuck setups and meet people who shared the same interests as I do.