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Tokyo Fujiya Avic Headphone festival Spring 2012 meet impressions  

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 

The guys in Tokyo for the Fujiya Avic 2012 Spring headphone festival.

L-R: Anakachan, arnaud, ?, donnyhifi, onizukajp, mokobigbro, Currawong, mkubota1, ?, ?


I thought I'd get the ball rolling with a few thank you's to all the people and companies who made our time at the meet so much fun.


First and most importantly I'd like to thank Fujiya Avic who surprised us at the last minute by offering us a room to use which ended up being incredibly useful for us to chat and try gear.



Speaking of which, I'd like to thank the following companies for lending us headphones and other products so we could get a good chance to listen to them, as well as coming to our room to chat or otherwise reaching out to us (in no particular order):


ALO Audio (and their local distributor)



V-MODA (and distributors)



Timelord (Ultrasone)


Take T

Final Audio Design


Let me know if I've forgotten anyone!


and thanks to Jude for the t-shirts and Ken @ ALO for bringing them!


Thanks to Sasaki for organising everything between us and Fujiya Avic. He spends a lot of time helping bring everyone together and without him none of this would have happened.


Thanks too to AnakChan for helping get everyone together, bringing your rig and lending me your 12-24 lens and driving me at high speed back to the hotel. Also thanks to onizukajp for taking lots of photos with that huge D3 rig.


And, of course, thanks to everyone here who came to the show and made it so much fun.


I'll post up photos and impressions once I get back home and have a chance to organise everything.

Edited by Currawong - 5/18/12 at 4:23am
post #2 of 53
Thread Starter 

Some of these were taken with Anakchan's 12-24 fisheye lens in case anyone is wondering why people look a bit weird in some shots. Also, most of the photos were taken either before the show started or just before closing time. The place was packed during the day and there were queues just to get into the main rooms. I missed the Denon and Sennheiser rooms, but there were big queues for the new models.


Inside the show 






Mokobigbro in heaven with the Stax SR-009s:



Our tiny room with three of the guys:



Our room from the door side. Before anyone asks, we were NOT drinking water near the Stax rig! The bottles had just been moved around the table to make way for various headphones and whatnot that people were listening to.



Lunch at the burger joint across the road



Val! Guess who I met! They are now her favourite headphones.



Final Audio Design



DSD and DXD player, up-sampler and DACs.





New Stax portable



ALO Audio









HM-901 prototypes



Audio Technica



The Fostex guys. Middle is the HP-P1 engineer.



Sony following the fashion trend






VAMP (Venturecraft GO-DAP) and M-100s





Model Kaori Sakai holding a GO-DAP.



Me, likely taken by Michael Goodman of Centrance with Anakachan to the right talking to Ken at ALO. I like the picture of the model better._DSC4589


The rest of my photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34128580@N00/sets/72157629698573214

Edited by Currawong - 5/18/12 at 5:26am
post #3 of 53
Thread Starter 
In our tiny room (and it was really small, and hot, but we loved it) we had so many amps and headphones at one point the entire table was completely covered in cables, amps and everything. The photos were taken after we'd given everything back and cleaned up. While the floors were reasonably quiet (Japanese people are not noisy) it wasn't good for getting impressions of equipment, even IEMs sometimes. However, we incredibly grateful to have a reasonably quiet room to sit and listen and it helped a lot.
Unfortunately a bunch of my impressions of equipment was useless as I found out after I got back to my hotel room that my DX100 at some point during the day had started distorting, as both through the headphones and digital out the sound was very off with instruments sounding like they'd been badly re-sampled.
The rig in our room, for those interested, was:
Digital transport (mine, used for the DACs): 
MacBook Pro with Amarra (latest version) - Vaunix USB Lab-grade hub - Audiophilleo 1. 
Optionally: A Van Den Hul Optocoupler from our DX100s or the like.
DACs: Metrum Octave, Yamamoto DAC, Benchmark DAC Pre.
The rest: Stax SR-727 - SR-009
Final Audio design. (At their table)
I'd been wanting for a while to try their vase-shaped metal IEMs to see what they were like. The weird chamber design definitely had something going for it, not having the odd faults of IEMs that I'm used to. However, the frequency response was totally off. When I told them this, they explained that they were voiced by the owner of FAD to emulate the sound of an old movie theatre and weren't intended as flagship models in the manner that other companies make. This was to fill an unusual niche and not intended to be generally liked. That took me by surprise, but explained much. The same will go for the Muramasa -- it will be for a particular kind of person and not everyone.
However, of their IEMs, the Heaven IV and Adagio V are (and I say this cautiously not being as experienced with IEMs as many of the other members) quite good. Considering the compromise IEMs are, I tend to like the least offensive sounding pairs. By that, I mean ones that don't have the common faults of dead-sounding percussion (almost all dynamics) or stupid frequency response curves with insanely peaky treble or boomy bass (many of the new dynamics). At least from the DX100 those two were appreciable. They insisted I try their $50 IEM that has a plastic body and looks like a jet engine. It certainly pumped out bass like a jet pumps out air. That is as much as I need to say I think!
Edit: They gave me a pair of Adagio V after I gave them my serious opinion on the range. The stock tips have the usual fault of being a long rubber tube that adds distortion. Trying them without the tips suggested that there is possibly good sound to be had with different ones. Might be worth investigating.
Sony (in our room)
This is the first chance I had to try the MA900s in a quiet environment for some time. Having our own room at the show gave us the perfect chance. If you've heard the ageing SA series or the F1, you'll guess why it has a 70mm driver.  BASS! These are a good take on Sony's very open angled-driver style and the bass is very punchy (short decay) and the overall FR seemed too work well with most music I had. I didn't give them a comprehensive run, but my main negative impression would be a little harshness in the treble at louder volumes, though this is more because I'm used to the treble in Stax headphones and probably wouldn't be noticed by the people this headphone is aimed at.
The main criticism of them seems to be that they feel flimsy but I was assured that the materials used aren't cheap, and while the unusual rubber-tube-around-metal method of holding the headband adjustment feels cheap, it is novel and the result is a very light and comfortable pair of headphones. For someone sitting at home listening at moderate volumes who doesn't need to use them as a portable I'd say they hit the spot at their price point of around $200.  I think I would have liked these as a first pair of headphones when I came to Head-Fi back in 2007 to get a pair to replace my MB Quarts.
For the kids who blast their ears out with their iPods on the bus, it's the M80s with the safer shelved-down treble. For dad who wants to listen at home it's the MA900s. Mum probably wont like the all-black design.
We were encouraged to try the 7520s, which are pure recording studio 'phones. To audiophiles, the sound is forward and "in your head", but for recording engineers, it presents the mix cleanly, with a very clear image of the musicians' positions on the stage and are as effectively close to flat as possible. Since Mokobigbro, who owns his own recording studio, was with us, he confirmed their capabilities with positive comments. For me, it was interesting to get the perspectives of people who make music, as their priorities are quite different to mine.
I'd like to thank Nao Tsunoda from Sony for coming to chat and hang out with us and bring us headphones to try. 
Ultrasone (in our room and at e-earphone)
I have a shock announcement. But first, some background. I've owned their Edition 9s, twice; the ED8s and tried the ED10s. They were all awful. The ED9s were the best, after they were fixed with better damping and I can't stand either the ED8s or the ED10s. I suspect that, unlike some people, the S-Logic system just doesn't do it for me. There has always been hope in the back of my mind that they'd make a good pair of headphones without all the unnecessary bling and a better focus on all-round sound quality. So, I was completely shocked when I tried the Signature Pros and they actually sounded good. I could be going insane, but everyone else agreed. There was even talk of buying a pair from some people. Yes, totally unbelievable. 
Thanks to Timelord for lending us a pair to play with for a few hours.
ALO and the high-end portable shoot-out. (In our room)
Special thanks to Ken here for bringing our t-shirts out with him, despite also bringing his family with him. He kindly lent one of his only three RX3s for display and a bunch of cables to us for a couple of hours. I regret I didn't get a chance to do a proper shootout as we had the L3 and RSA amps there. It was hard to pry them out of people's fingers! So we didn't get a "winner" but I did feel the balanced amps gave a wider (and possibly slightly cleaner) presentation than the L3. The L3 is very source picky, which is its downfall too. I didn't feel they were going to replace a $1k+ balanced desktop amp anytime soon, but I did feel they do a very good job with headphones all round and I wouldn't think someone crazy for using one (or the L3 actually, especially as it works much better with regular DACs) as their main amp for full-size headphones.
It was also hard to focus on comparing my DX100 to the CLAS, with too many cables to switch to be able to do it reasonably quickly. Not to mention I had to have the same tracks ready on both my iPhone and the DX100. I do think the DX100 sounds a bit better than the HP-P1 and CLAS as sources. However, there is a big synergy thing in all this, as I still very much like my HP-P1 + L3 combo (more than the DX100 + L3) and, likewise, the CLAS/RX3 combo sounds very good too. Those combinations are better than the DX100 or HP-P1 by themselves in my opinion.
Thanks for lending us a Dacport to try. Unfortunately my computer was tied up the whole time with our Stax rig so I didn't get a chance to try it. It has been on my list of devices to try for such a long time.
Speaking of the HP-P1, they don't officially have any newer portable in the pipeline (or they aren't saying), however, going by my conversation with them, they are paying attention. I was lucky enough to meet the designer and speak to him and chat about what I liked and didn't like about the design and discuss what was possible and what wasn't, as well as their goals.
The day before the show we went into e-earphone in Akihabara and I whipped out my.... optical cable to try their new TOTL system using my DX100 as a transport. I quite liked the sound and I think it would be worth a serious audition. However, at $2k for the headphones, they are up against the the Audeze LCD-3s and HD-800s and, not to mention, Stax. 
Venturecraft and V-MODA
Now the cat is out of the bag, the VAMP is being made by Venturecraft. The Tokyo guys have started to take a big interest in OPAMP rolling the GO-DAP and the timing couldn't be more appropriate. Val personally selected the ones he liked for the design. I didn't get a chance to try it unfortunately, though I'd been meaning to. What I did notice was their very strong enthusiasm to make not just a good product, but an excellent one, just as Val is. I only tried the M-100s (with their snappy folding design and case) briefly. The best I can say is "full-sized M80s". I'm curious to see if they are more resolving than the M80s as I'm the kind of guy who expects better genuine sound quality when the price goes up. 
Thanks to the guys from both companies for hanging out with us during and after the show and shouting us dinner.
Who? This tiny company you've never heard of makes a digital player that can play or up-sample to DSD and DXD, as well as ES9018-based DACs that can play those files back. I couldn't use my own music as I didn't have an SD card to use, but they had some violin music and were using Sony SA3000s (which can play back frequencies well beyond the range of hearing) out of the speaker taps of their own power amps and the result was impressive, along with the prices, which are too. No fancy boxes, just good sound.  
They also make high-grade audio equipment power supplies, which was my interest last year.
Take T
I've already heard the Take T H2, which are amazing and sound like something between an ortho and a 'stat. They use a unique adjustable super tweeter system which changes the perceived soundstage. However, it was only being demonstrated with a very basic all-in-one audio player as both the source and amp. What I want to see is Fidelix demoing their gear using the H2 headphones. THAT would be fantastic I reckon. 
I missed the new models! Sorry. There was a BIG queue to listen to them. Next time.
The big news was their new portable SRM-002 amp. The kit has yet to be numbered, but while they have no isolation, being able to take a 'stat rig with you when travelling will be hard for me to pass up. Unfortunately it was only a non-working unit, but I could see it takes 2 AA batteries and the connector is the same as on the older model.
They had a demo of the new HM-901 on display, but only using the line out, along with 2 non-working mock-ups. Since all the equipment was unfamiliar, along with the music, I don't have any useful impressions to give, other than the layout of the controls was good held in my right hand. It would be easy to operate without looking while it was in your right jacket pocket.  I forgot to ask, but the connector on the bottom looks the same as the current iPhone/iPod connector. 
I tried the DA-11 at their distributor's table (whom had never heard of Head-Fi!) using my DX100 as a source and I quite liked it. Good all-round sound from the headphone out to my Magnums. Both very clear and very engaging. I'd definitely consider it as a one-box solution and aim to give one a long-term evaluation if I was in the market for such a thing. 
More to come, with more pictures as I'm sure I missed someone or something, such as all of Friday and everything else we did those two days.

Thanks to those companies I have yet to write about who took the time to let me try their gear and answer all my tough questions.

Edited by Currawong - 5/18/12 at 5:33am
post #4 of 53

Looking forward to all the pics

post #5 of 53

Wow what a show!!!  I did not take many photos, It was great to see all. Sorry I pooped out on the after event stuff I was totally destroyed ;- ) I think someone said the attendance for the one day event was 3000.


















Man what a city!



Edited by KB - 5/12/12 at 2:45pm
post #6 of 53

Glad you had a good time Ken !      What is the Amp with 2 tubes on your table?

post #7 of 53

Great pics!


Wow @ the EF-6 on hifiman's table. I didn't realize just how big that monster is!




Edit: Also there are way too many pics of that girl in your album tongue.gif

post #8 of 53
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post  Beautiful model (whose name I've forgotten but will add later once I find it) holding a GO-DAP.


Is it Kaori Sakai? Or is that someone else? (Saw it referenced on Fujiya-AVIC's Faebook page)

post #9 of 53
Thank you for comming our table again smily_headphones1.gif
I hope see you again in Kumamoto!

BTW you were looks bit tired so take a rest and have enjoy rest of your trip redface.gif

post #10 of 53

Thanks for sharing these pictures and for your upcoming impressions, guys. Going to headphones festivals in Japan is a future goal of mine, for sure.


In particular, I'm very curious about this new Stax portable. Is it just the amp, or a combo package with a new pair of ear monitors to replace the SR-003 as well? Also wondering if Final Audio had a working unit of the Muramasa VIII available for demo. Considering they're getting ready for the launch, I would think they'd want to show it off.

post #11 of 53

It was great meeting new (to me) folks and seeing the folks I had met last winter at the Headphone Amplifier festival. I'm sorry I wasn't able to spend the full day on either Friday or Saturday with everyone. 3 hours is not nearly enough time to take in everything AND to catch up with friends. Lesson learned- will try to budget more time next fall.


My only purchase was on Friday, and it was a pair of SE535s that I had been thinking about for some time now. Love them a lot although I'm still getting used to inserting them and whatnot. Am I jealous of the unnamed person who bought those gorgeous FitEar MH334 IEMs? No! Not at all! How dare you even ask! smily_headphones1.gif


If there are any other t-shirts left, I'd love one if there's a big one (XXL?) left. Forgot to ask about that. Not sure who has the leftover shirts.


Thanks to my friend who brought his April Music Eximus DP1 which was eagerly tested against the Benchmark DAC1. I heard it held it's own and may be even preferred to the Benchmark by at least one SR-009 owner.


I loved being able to test all of the different flavors of DAC/AMP for the i-devices. I tried two flavors of Go-DAPs, the HP-P1, the CLAS and Pico Slim pair. I didn't try the new GoDAP unit however (the non-integrated sleeve version.) I had a hard time discerning the differences between these to be honest. I can tell that they're much better than straight from the iDevice, but if you had to ask me which one I liked the most, I'd be hard pressed to pick one. They all sounded good, at least in the fairly loud setting of the festival.


I did a short test of Currawong's LCD-3 as well as frenchbat's Hifiman (unknown model.) Both amazing, but I was surprised at the weight of both of them. I'd need to spend more time with those phones before I was to invest.


The SR-009 listening experience was amazing. Aretha Franklin's "Amazing Grace" has never, ever sounded better.


Thanks to everyone who brought gear to test. Very helpful! (although I'm still undecided...)


For my friend who is considering a closed headphone for travel, I had him test the Sennheiser HD-25 1-II, the V-Moda M-80 and the Beyerdynamic DT1350 back-to-back. He liked the Sennheisers the best.


I did a comparison test at the Shure booth (using the GoDap and ALAC files) going back to back between the SRH-840 and SRH-940 and aside from the weight difference, I really had a hard time discerning any difference. I was thinking about upgrading from my SRH-440s but here again, I wasn't convinced that the difference is worth it. The Shure engineer suggested that I put the 840 pads on the 440 (that's what he himself uses at the office) because the 840 pads breathe more and are more form-fitting. I'll probably do that before I do anything else. I think the 440s are great for what they are and for what they cost (IMO they're directly competing against the v7506 and handily beating the Sonys.)


I didn't take any photos because Currawong and onizukajp had their cameras out.

Edited by gkanai - 5/13/12 at 6:30am
post #12 of 53
Thread Starter 

gkanai: I remember during the afternoon every time I came up to the room you were standing outside with a different portable rig.


I've posted up some impressions. I have to post up the pics from Friday, which I haven't yet.

post #13 of 53

It was a great headphone fest and what an experience for me as a first timer attending the show. The friday was great as well, hanging out with everybody. 


e-earphones was mind blowing. Planning another visit tomorrow. 


The gear reviewing was fun. STAX SR009 is now a reference of what a good sound should be to my ears. Along with Currawong's Amarra software and his whole setup (i'm sorry, I didn't keep a documentation of what you had.) However, when I was able to try it with my humble ipod classic and Fostex converter, I was even more convinced since I am listening to the songs that I know. 
I've never heard such realism, depth, balanced frequency and tonality coming out of a headphone. 

I now have a new wishlist of things to get in my life. :)


As for the headphone show, I was pretty overwhelmed right before lunch, to see such a big crowd of people. I had my target and I approach them pretty early. On top of the list is Fitear. I first heard about the Headphone Festival from Hirokazu Saika of Mixwave (distributor for JH, Westone, ALO, Cypher Labs, Fanny Wang and more). He introduced me to Suyama San right when the show started and the first thing I heard was the To Go 334 universal fit in ear. I didn't have my ipod with me so I listened from their ipod. I liked what I heard but I wanted to listen to the music that I know very well. So, I made another visit right after lunch and listened to them again (along with the custom 334 and 335.) I really love what I heard and definitely will get a pair. 


As a quick impression, the To Go 334 and the custom sounded different in the high frequency response. I also feel that the transient response of To Go 334 sounds a bit 'faster', bass a bit cleaner. 


Also tried the Ocharaku in ear. I think the designer did a great job in achieving the clean bass sound from it, although to my preference, it was a bit too much. Nonetheless, it was pure clean bass, and it didn't mask or pull my attention away from the song. Overall a good sound. I wouldn't hesitate to buy that as the go to in ear for $300. 


Will post more later when I can remember what i have heard. Right now, it's time to nurse my legs after 3 days of walking in Tokyo :) 

post #14 of 53

Keep 'em coming y'all

post #15 of 53

First and foremost, thanks to Fujiya Avic and Sasaki-san for getting us a room to rather up, it was really convenient to chat and meet up. Next to Currawong and Anakchan for helping for the tours, bringing your gear and all.


As usual, it was really nice to see friends again and meet new cool people, it does feel like head-fi keeps growing and gathering steam.


On my end, I have very little to give about the show itself, I really mostly went to meet people but I think others like Mike have taken many pics and will do a fantastic job as usual ;). There were at least 3 pro-level DSLR shooters in the group so I expect I lot of pics to come!


Highlights for me:


- DAC shootout in our steaming room:


  • Some pics will show up later on I think, we had 4 very different dacs fed by mac laptop(s) driving a Stax 727 / 009 combo generously brought by Anakchan and I spent a good part of the saturday afternoon comparing the various DACs through this amp and phones I am most familiar with.
  • In terms of DACs we had my Yamamoto YDA-01, the Eximus DP-1 brought by gkanai's friend (I hope you will post here - it was nice to chat with you and Ken about HD recordings, tubes amps and all !), Currawong's Metrum Octave (unfortunately, it did not play with with my mac / Pure Music so I have no comment for how it sounds), and AnakChan's Benchmark DAC-1.
  • All the DACs were plugged to the same computer through USB port (I use a MBP with iTunes / Pure Music) and I brought a 3 to 1 RCA source switch to be able to switch between DACs almost instantly.
  • It's always hard to figure out how much you're making stuff up from preconceptions but essentially, I found the DAC-1 to be a bit lean and rather muted / restrained, which was very obvious when switching to my YDA-01 (maybe some to do with the lack of volume matching and rather hot line out of the YDA-01). The Benchmark also sounded more 2D than the other 2 DACs.
  • The YDA-01 had better prat and more copious low end and it paired better with the amp / phones I felt.
  • The nice surprise came from the DP-1 because it clearly improved on the YDA-01 both in terms of detail but also shear realism. It's really difficult to describe it but coming from the YDA-01, it was much more immersive. It felt more detailed but in totally natural way. The even more shocking thing for me was that the DP-1 it sounded smoother than the YDA-01, which I expected to sound overly smooth compared to the others.
  • One thing to note is that the DP-1 has a very clean USB (XMOS) interface while I was feeding the YDA-01 coaxial input through an Audio-GD DI (waiting for DI-DSP) and this may be playing an important role.
  • Moreover, I want to stress that the differences were rather subtle and that I'd need much more time with each source to really get down to relevant impressions. Also, it was recording dependent as some recordings did not make much difference between the sources to my ears. I used mostly high-res stuff I purchased from HD tracks to make this evaluation. I came out wanting to buy a DP-1, the striking look does not help to turn a cold eye ;)


- Discussion with one of Sony's audio engineers, Tsunoda-sama (one of the engineers behind cool products like the recent XBA series):


  • I was so surprised when I saw him coming into our small meet room on Saturday I could not speak much at first. It was really nice to have you there with us for part of the day and I very much enjoyed our conversations on headphone design.
  • I don't think I'll be the only one to say but I was surprised by how Tsunoda-san could quickly assess the performance of gear he would try in the room. He could pick some defects on transducers (like emphasis or suck-out bands) without seeing the response graphs and, it wasn't fluff (currawong pulled a response graph for one of the headphones and the comment was bang on, similar to the talents of purrin's). I was quite impressed.
  • Few will care, but finding out that the XBA with noise cancellation is a digital feed-forward scheme was another shocking news to me as I still remember my grad school years where such active noise control required a separate desktop computer with several DSP boards and could barely go beyond a couple of kHz. I would never have thought you could bring this down to a tiny box that drains less than 3mW, wow!


- Quick discussion with Stax:


  • I never miss a chance to stop by Stax booth and have a quick chat with the sales director and chief engineer. It's funny because they always have exactly the same setup, so it feels familiar place and reassuring ;). Most tables with in-ear phones have sooooo many models and demo units that it's overwhelming and I just skip through it all because of sensory overload...
  • So, like last time I asked about upcoming amplifier for the 009 and they're making progress it seems! At the last meet, they weren't even clear on which direction to go (SS or tubes) so this was progress... Absolutely no mention on the timing / pricing, I wouldn't bet much for 2012 announcement.


- Brief impressions of the show:

  • I really did not do a good job there, partly because we had probably over 15kUSD of equipment in the small meet room upstairs and I was not as reassured as Currawong who'd just leave his MBP and other 1kUSD+ gear in the middle of the table and just walk away for an hour ;).
  • Take-T H2+: first time I listened to this type of transducer and, although the source / amp were rather modest it sounded quite impressive. I wasn't particularly blown away by the super-tweeter stuff (supposed to affect how you perceive the imaging), I couldn't tell a difference with the flaps open / closed.
  • I listened to the high-end Fostex amp (HD-A8) and phones (TH900) with my own music (iPhone feeding the a fostex DD then optical in to the amp). It was very nice sounding overall, nothing wrong jumping at me on the short listening. The only thing I did not like with that slight harshness / sibilance when playing Miles Davis "Someday my prince will come". I know the trumpet is not supposed to sound muffled on that recording but at least I have no issue with any of my stax gear and with other gears I sampled on that day.


That's all for me. Looking forward to the next one and reading other's impressions!

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