Huge thanks to Steve and everyone else who helped make this happen. Was also great to have Michael with CEntrance, as well as Ray of Ray Samuels, Dan of Mr Speakers, and Arnold of Tweak Audio there as vendors. All really nice guys with great products.
Also a special thanks to dBel84 for his table of extreme goodies. He had the Cavalli Liquid Glass, Liquid Gold, and Liquid Lightning. But even better, he had an LCD-3, an Abyss, and an SR-009 to listen to. I will say that as much as the SR-009 is so effortlessly detailed and nuanced, I just haven't been able to get into them. I feel like I am missing something in the lower end that helps create emotion. This is all within the context of this headphone costing near $5K and needing an amp that will add another several $K at least. Amazing headphones, but I'm not sure I will ever want a pair. While the Abyss didn't have quite the smoothness or effortlessness of the SR-009, it had a better balance of sound for me. I couldn't quite get used to the fit, though. I understood that they weren't supposed to clamp like most headphones, but the way they hung off my head like the AKG K1000 did seem right, as I didn't get anything close to a seal with the earpads like some others were. Still. I thought they were tremendous headphones, but not $5K+ tremendous. IGood first try. The LCD-3s in direct, fairly immediate comparison to the SR-009 and Abyss felt like it was just too in my face. While I like an intimate, closer presentation at times, I just want a bit more than the Audeze line can give me right now in airiness and soundstage. I find it tough to compare amps at a busy meet, but I have to say that my HD800s sounded darn good out of the Liquid Glass. Really, really good. It was fed by a Mytek DAC.
Also a good match for the HD800s was the Eddie Current Balancing Act, courtesy of driver8. This paired with a NAD M51 was so good even my girlfriend was impressed. Normally, every thing beyond a certain level sounds very good to her, but even she noticed that there was something special with the setup.
I also finally got to listen to a CEntrance HifiM8 that I have had preordered since last November. I am happy to report that I am not disappointed in the slightest. I have more impressions in the HifiM8 impressions thread, but in summary, it was clean, powerful, and packed with excellent features like tone shaping, impedance and gain switching, along with full sized output connectors, including balanced XLR. Digital extraction from iDevice and 24/192 capable USB DAC. Can't wait for my production one to get to me.
Ray Samuels Lighting balanced amp is a marvel of power coming from such a small package. Crazy gain. Hard to get a handle on detail and nuance at a meet, but it was a touch behind what I'd want. Then again, it was being played out via an analog LOD from an Ipod. Maybe a better source would let it shine better. Still impressive.
It was cool to hear Cardas' first attempt at an IEM, courtesy of ToddR. It sounded pretty good to me, though I struggled to get a good fit (not surprising since I always seem to have problems with fit in my left ear). Pretty well balanced sound. I only have low-end experience with IEMs so it was impossible for me to compare to others in its price range.
Finally got to hear the Mjolnir/Gungnir stack from Schiit, courtesy of MrSpeakers. Very exciting setup. Worked well for a short bit, but I wonder if it wouldn't be a bit much for my tastes after a while. It was definitely a good match for the balanced Maddogs on display. It was really fun to hear these since I have modded a couple pairs of T50RPs on my own before. They sounded great, and are a testament to these amazing Fostex drivers. Good detail, solid across the spectrum. Would be a fantastic pair for anyone looking for a good closed can in the $300 range. Probably one of the best. The Alpha pads are beautifully soft and well made. There was a pair of Paradox at the meet, too, but embarrassingly, I forgot to listen to them. I am still happy with my own modded pair of T50RPs (my go to's at work), but the Maddogs are impressive.
I finally got to hear a Bottlehead Crack, and it definitely lives up to its reputation of being one of the best fits for the HD800s regardless of price. I feel like the Liquid Glass and the Balancing Act gave me a more expansive sound, but the Crack as beautifully lively and energetic. If I didn't already have a Bottlehead S.E.X. (that I think is just as good a match for the HD800, but with more versatility and power), I'd order a kit immediately.
Someone asked me what my least favorite in show was, but I don't know if anything sounded wrong enough to me for me to say I didn't like it. Possibly the LCD-3s, which I feel is an incredibly absurd statement to make, but in comparison to other setups, the LCD-3s I heard were just too closed in sounding for my liking.
Favorite setup was a toss up between the Mytek/Liquid Glass/HD800 and the NAD/Balancing Act/HD800. Best part of the meet for me, though is figuring out that I am happy with my personal setup. Is it as good as my two favorite meet rigs? No. But it is gives me an enjoyable sound that is close enough. It would take me thousands of dollars at this point to take a meaningful step up in sound quality.
I wish I had more time, as I didn't get to hear some of the other gear available due to socializing. Hopefully, it won't be too long until the next meet.