Got back from Denver late last night. I am not one to post much, but thought I would share my views on the show and the gear I got to see and hear. First and foremost, I went to Denver to learn more about computer audio, and to search out the best approach for improving my front end. I am late to the game here, as this is the weakest part of my system. I attended an excellent two hour seminar called "The Future of High-Resolution Computer Based Audio". This led me to some amazing people doing amazing things. Check out pugetsoundstudios.com, playbackdesigns.com, and mytekdigital.com. Bruce Brown of Puget Sound and Cookie Marceno of Blue Coast Records are making amazing recordings, while Mytek and Playback Designs are producing wonderful DSD DACs that can decode the downloads with great detail. After three days of intense listening, I was really able to appreciate just how important the source material and the ability to decode it made one room stand out over another.
Now, on to CanJam. Spent some time listening and conversing with Dan at the Bottlehead table. For a small financial commitment, you can get a nice DIY tube amp that sounds great. Dan does produce his own re-master tapes and had an amazing tape deck as his source, and I am sure this had a big positive effect on the sound being produced (all the best rigs I heard at the show had reel-to-reel as the source). Still, I came away impressed by how these inexpensive amps performed, and I was certainly not the only one.
The Woo Table: Jack and family in my humble opinion make some of the best and sexiest gear to be had. I can sit at their table for hours, and probably did just that. They had some interesting new gear on display that has been covered quite thoroughly here already. That being said, I do think their new mono blocks are over-kill. At ten grand for the pair, there is simply to many great amps that are equal to, or better for one third the money or less. That will lead me to RSA.
RSA Table: Spent a lot of time at Ray's table. I bought an Apache in June of this year and am thus, quite familiar with his sound signature. I can also tell everybody that it really is special to attend an event where the creators of the gear we all love are together in one room, and you can just sit there and pick their brains. And this is exactly what I did. Ray is an amazing guy (so into it), and everyone can see by all the photos just how much amazing gear was packed at that table. All this led to a real eye opener for me. I have never liked my listening experiences with the HE-6 Headphones. I have always found their sound signature too bright. That all changed while listening to them through Ray's new Darkstar amp. It will be hard to find a better combination out there. Beautiful massive sound stage with lots of depth and incredible bottom end. The extreme highs I found irritating were now tamed. Everything just sounded right to my ears. Ray explained how and why he designed the amp, and why the phones would never sound great on my Apache. The HE-6 needs massive amounts of power to make them reach their full potential, but there is obviously a lot more involved than just a lot power, and I guess that's what makes Ray such an amazing designer. This is a good lead in to the Cavalli Liquid Fire. An equally great amp with the HE-6, I had the same listening experience as with Darkstar. Both these amps have the power and synergy to make these phones shine at there absolute best. All though I thought the Darkstar sounded better, Ray's table had a huge advantage based on his front-end gear. In closing, anyone who owns or is considering owning one of these amps should considering adding a pair of HE-6s to their headphone collection.
The Audeze Table: Spent a lot of time with Alex. Actually, we sat around till 7:30 Saturday night listening and talking long after the Fest had closed for the day. I've read a lot of the complaints here about the release of the new phones, along with their huge price increase. I also was not too thrilled myself. I busted Alex's chops quite a bit on this, and I can tell you he is not one to take a lot of crap. He doesn't have to. His short answer was "nobody is putting a gun to your head to buy them." To that, I had no reply. I did have plenty of time to pick his brains on the changes and upgrades that have been made, and their overall effect on both the sound and large cost increase. I also had breakfast Sunday morning with his head engineer/designer and peppered him as well with the same questions. All I can say is that I have a pair on order, and that should explain what I think about the way they sounded and how I feel about Alex's explanation. I hope to have them in time for the Westchester meet next month. They will mate well with the Apache.