On 9th February 2013, Fujiya held a small portable show ("Potaken"). Usually local manufacturers and distributors exhibit their products in this small event however this time a few international makers and distributors made a show too (namely Michael Goodman from CEntrance, and Wilson Yong from Jaben).
This year, the small Fujiya events appear to have picked up in popularity too with many customers attending the shows, and long queues at booths to demo products.
This is less of a complete report but more of a photo presentation of the event. I didn't bother taking pictures of any products that had been exhibited in previous events but more the newer products as well as the more local Japanese brands that get very little international coverage. Unfortunately I didn't get to spend as much time talking to each booth about their product offerings properly but for the few that I did, I'll do my best in sharing what I know.
The first stop was FitEar as I was getting my impressions done for the MH335DW. At the same time, I asked Suyama-san about the status update on their FitEar TO GO! 334 which had been out of stock since November 2012. There were some durability issues with the original TG!334 design that required Suyama-san to rethink and re-design with newer materials. The connectors were changed to be more secure, and pins coated as sweat on the old pins caused the coatings to peel off. The faceplate was also changed from the glossy look to a matte textured surface to reduce fingerprints and an overall lower profile (less flashy) appearance.
I also had to ask Suyama-san about the "for fun" titanium TG!334 he had up on his Facebook page. As my Japanese reading abilities was poor, I wasn't certain if they were replicas or the real thing. It turned out that Suyama-san actually made it for himself for fun and I was given the opportunity to actually listen to them. They actually sounded quite nice but a complete titanium housing seemed to have further accentuated the highs. He mentioned that he probably needs to add some dampening material inside these special TG!334's. No they are not for sale :D.
Meanwhile, Suyama-san also showed me a modified Shures E2002c. I have to admit I cannot remember what the modifications were. I had a chance to listen to these too but 3 weeks later and auditioning many other earphones/headphones I have zero memory of what these sounded like. What's appealing about the Suyama-san is aside from his production line, he looks like the kind of chap who'd like to experiment quite a bit. He's also an extremely humble and friendly chap.
He also left a message for me for Head-Fi: "Thank you for your support. If you do mail to us, please mail in Japanese". And a message to Ken Ball/ALO, "I apologise for my poor English".
Next stop was Michael Goodman's CEntrance table and about the widely known Hifi-M8. I managed to spend quite a bit of time listening to the Hifi-M8 but it was with a demo pair of Beyers which I was quite unfamiliar with. However the product was performing very well with great configurability. At least from what I saw, the product wasn't far from completion which is good news for the Hifi-M8 pre-order fans.
Next stop was Jaben's. Musica Acoustic's Dimitri actually dragged me over to the Jaben table to have a listen to the xDuoo XD-01 and XP-1. The manuals are in Chinese and I couldn't really understand what it said but it appears the XD-01 uses the WM8740 DAC with a CS8422 Async sample rate converter. As from the photo it also sports optical, coax, or microUSB in.
The XP-1 on the other hand is bigger and has USB in. I was told it was for Android devices. Again manuals are in Chinese but I think it sports 2x WM8740 DACs with OPA627 OpAmp. PCM2706 (USB DAC) was also mentioned although I don't know what part it plays with the 2xWM8740. Unfortunately my knowledge is limited in these areas.
As below, I did try using my RWAK100 as a transport feeding optical in into the XD-01 and sounded quite nice. Although note that both the iRiver (RW)AK100 and the XD-01 are using WM8740 DACs. So assuming the optical medium isn't introducing any sonic changes, it's merely the amp and surrounding circuitry of the XD-01 that would have made any difference.
I didn't get to try the XP-1 unfortunately.
Jaben also had the Hippo ProOne. It's a single BA if memory serves me correctly. Nothing really stood out with me for those IEMs. They seem to be in trend with mid-centric IEMs such as the JVC FXZ range, IE800's, etc.
4) Analog Squared Paper
This was actually the 2nd table I wanted to go to after getting my impressions done at FitEar. I was really looking forward to demo-ing their transportable tube amps. I actually lined up 3 times and a total wait time of 45 mins before I got to sample these tube amps. During the lineup I kept getting pulled by some other makers, distributors, etc to stop by their desk. Finally after lunch, I actually managed to test these transportable tube amps.
The larger TU-05b was actually released mid/late last year and ianmedium here on Head-Fi actually has one. The TU-05b takes on 4 tubes and is 1kg in weight. It has its own carry case. Unfortunately during the testing, the gain setting was wrong and I heard quite a bit of bass distortion with my (then) Tralucent 1Plus2. I tried the table's demo basic Marshalls and the distortion remained.
Talking to ianmedium it appeared I just had a bad combination and these device have pre-fixed gain settings. I am currently talking to the maker on getting a loaner to test in my environment for a few weeks. I actually feel quite positive about these two transportable tube amps despite a bad initial demo. I'm sure that it was merely the combination I had that was mismatched in one way or another.
This is the newer smaller TUR-06 and it weighs less than 1/2 the weight of bigger brother.
Both models actually have their own leather carry case that's hand sewn by the maker himself.
The TUR-06 on the left and the TU-05b on the right.
5) MH Audio
MH Audio has had their HA-1 portable amp for some time and although they are excellent performers, they get very little publicity on Head-Fi primarily due to the shy personalities of the makers (at least that's how I see it). To me their HA-1 amps are actually very nice sounding with almost a tube-like signature. Most may remember the HA-1 amps as being configurable aesthetically (different coloured volume knobs, leather wrapping, etc.).
This time they had a prototype HA-1e (for Evolution). Unfortunately although we got to pick it up (hand model is FrenchBat), we didn't get to try it.
They also had the HA-1 test bench, presumably it's an interchangeable OpAmp at the top. We also didn't get to try this model.
Mid/late last year VentureCraft released their DD Socket 1 DAC. It uses the same DAC as the Go-DAP X and 4.0 (AKM AK4353). Back then, the base DD Socket 1 utilised the OPA-275 OpAmp pre-amp. This year at the event, they offered various optional configurations to the DD Socket 1 with rather very expensive Muses01 and Muses02 OpAmps, OPA627, and an even more expensive OPA627 metal cap as seen below. The OPA627 metal cap is actually a prototype of which was so big they couldn't close the case. The metal cap version is supposed to be the highest grade of the OPA627 offerings.
VentureCraft also started selling the DD Socket 1 OPA627 DIP on Amazon USA for the overseas target market.
I didn't get to try the DD Socket 1 OPA627 metal cap version at the show but did last week in my meet with VentureCraft. One of the smoothest sounding portable DACs I've heard.
7) Topwing: Hifiman/Aedle/iFi
The first stop on this table was the HM-901 without a doubt. The Topwing distributors had the final version of this DAP and although I had heard it's prototype many times last year, I was unimpressed but felt the urge to listen to the final production version. I must say at least to my ears, the tables have turned. These to me sounded nothing like what I remembered in the early prototypes. I'm a believer of the HM-901 again. They sounded very smooth, fluid and full bodied. Overall a very wholesome sound. Admittedly these were not my tracks but the demo tracks they had. Later I found out the stand OpAmp is the AD8397 wihch is one of my favourite OpAmps.
The build of the HM-901 is also more solid than the prototypes which felt plasticky. At least it felt more like a $1000 device now.
The distributors also had the iFi iUSBPower & iDAC. Unfortunately I didn't get to try them.
The Aedle headphones also made an appearance with Topwing. I tried them briefly and the signature was somewhat not to my tastes. The overall soundstage sounded quite closed.
8) Timelord: Ultrasone
I had to stop by the Timelord table to do a comparison of the Romeo/Julia with the Signature Pro and Signature DJ series again. Last year Timelord was kind enough to loan me the Signature DJ & Pros for 3 weeks to write a review (which I've subsequently published here on Head-Fi). I personally still feel their Signature series are one of the best sounding closed-back isolating headphones (non-isolating closed-back goes to the TH-900).
The Romeo and Julia series sounded pretty much the same as the Ed8's and I couldn't tell much differences in the change of cable.
9) ADL Furutech
ADL Furutech joined the iDevice DAC/Amp bandwagon with the X1. They were actually quite decent sounding although I couldn't do any critical comparisons with the other iDevice DAC/Amps I'm familiar with. I believe this was still a prototype requiring a special ADL 30 pin to USB cable rather than just the standard.
ADL also had their ADL-H118 headphones which I tried but honestly cannot remember anything about them. Nothing really stood out for me with those headphones.
Last year in Fujiya's July Portable show, I tried the SRS-002 prototype. They finally released the production model. I had tried them at the stores before the event. The word "interesting" comes to mind. I'll admit that they're not to my taste (somewhat quite mid centric) however I can understand their appeal. I personally feel the SRS-005Mk2 is a better option as there's more power behind the electrostatic earspeakers.
This was another "must stop" table as their TH-600s prototyped last year was complete. I spent quite a bit of time with Kawahata-san and even sat behind the exhibitors desk.
There were actually two attractions here. The TH-600 production model, and the upcoming HP-V1 portable tube amp prototype announced only a few days/weeks before the show. I was extremely lucky that Kawa-san allowed me borrow the TH-600 back home after the show to write an impressions (which I've subsequently shared here on Head-Fi).
The HP-V1 also sounded pleasing although I have very little tube experience.
iRiver was conducting a survey on colours for the AK100. As mine was the modded RWAK100, I was somewhat reluctant to whip it out, nor felt the need to ask them about the 22 ohm resistors in the headphone output path. Looks like red was extremely popular.
Now this was one table where I knew nothing about their IEMs and thought I'd just stop out of curiosity and courtesy. They had their H-100, H-200 and 3rd which I can't remember on display. I wasn't aware that the H-200 (and H-100?) were still prototypes. Sadly I can't remember much about their sound and nothing really grabbed me. I only remember that 2 of their models were hybrids (which seems to be the in thing now).
I also noticed in their advertising brochure they quoted a head-fi link which lead to Putente's thread. I actually regret not spending more time on this table and wish I could get a 2nd opportunity to have a listen to these again.
This is another popular name on Head-Fi especially with their earlier Flat4-Sui and more recently Flat4-Maple. However the maker Yamagishi-san was actually came up with a lower end prototype, the Donguri. It's a single driver. Again sadly I can't remember the signature but I just recall they were nice sounding to my tastes.
Back to the same table as CEntrance (Mixwave being CEntrance's distributor in Japan), ALO had their Continental V3, and The International, whilst UM had their PP6 right next to JH Audio's JH-3A.
I think these are already well known so not much is needed to be said about these products. I'm having the International on the way to me :D.
I've actually not heard of Mass-Kobo nor come across their name in the past Fujiya events but I'm sure they must have exhibited in the past and I just missed them. The main chap behind Mass-Kobo is Masanori Masuda from Shizouka. He was an extremely funny chap who had a few sips of wine before the event had ended. He had 2 main products on display, the 385 portable headphone amp hooked up to my iPhone 4S below. This portable amp had a pretty industrial design. It sounded quite nice but by now, 3 weeks later, I can't remember what the signature sounded like.
The other thing that caught my eye with the Mass-Kobo were their amps were not cheap. Their portable amps retail for approx Y85,000 (USD$925), whilst the desktop Y210,000 -> Y240,000 although now on special for Y180,000 -> Y210,000 (USD$1960 - USD$2,287).
The other product is more a desktop amp model 370. Unfortunately I didn't get to try the desktop amp.
Sadly there were many other booths I didn't get to stop by due to time. However it was a thoroughly successful event and the Fujiya shows just seem to grow larger and larger. Their next event will be a big Spring Festival in May 11th.