I had a long time friend visiting over from China, so the show was brief for me. Still managed to get pleasantly surprised by a couple if items, one being the roxanne from JH Audio and the other being the prototype planar from fostex.
JH Audio Roxanne:
The bass adjustment is really neat, that's my main concern with most iems I try, the tonal balance is rarely in line with personal taste and being to tune the JH to my preference was really impressive. The other thing that surprised me is the upper register extension, from the quick listen there's no question this goes higher than my 846 but maintains the great coherence across all drivers that I am used to with JH gear.
Now price is a bit steep and it is rather bulky so it does take some thinking before jumping the gun. I have already spent my money with the 846 so I'll just be waiting for the next iteration (looks like these new connectors support multi-amping , separate adjustments for the different drivers, so who knows where this is going).
JPS Labs Abyss phone:
Could briefly hear it at jaben's table, driven by cavalli audio amp (liquid glass or gold). Source was an iphone line out so that may explain why I was not awed with detail / resolution and what not.
The issue I had is I couldn't make a seal with the pads, even pushing on the earcups. The design, clever might it be, is not universal. As such, did not hear the thunderous bass everyone is talking about, maybe next time.
I heard the LCD-X/XC driven by audeze dac/amp prototype or hifi-m8 or ifi stack. What surprised me is the much brighter sound signature than I am used to with Audeze. The bass was pretty amazing, in particular when driven from the centrance dac/amp combo.
I also liked the fact that the XC does not sound like your typical closed phone: tight bass, no cavernous / nasal sound and pretty open staging.
That said, I found both X and XC too bright for my tastes, a bit shrill/harsh with some rock recordings I sampled (all from the vendors rigs). I wished I could compare against the previous lcds but looks like there was no space left in the suicases for those.
MrSpeaker Alpha dog:
I had the pleasure to talk to Dan from MrSpeakers and have to say he's the friendliest vendor I met at any of these events. I worked 3 blocks away from where he lives and so maybe this was nostalgy from the days I used to live in socal. Nevertheless I loved his relax attitude.
I listened to the alpha dogs through the mjolnir (unsure about the source) very briefly but again, similar to the latest audeze gear, I found it too forward in the mid/highs for my tastes for the music I sampled (vendor selection).
Given the short audition I don't put much faith in my own comments, however, it was surprising for me to find out that most of the recent planar offerings are going for quite detailed / bright sound signature.
I have plenty of upper register detail with my Stax 009 rig so not in the market, but I can imagine these new generations of planar phones finding a large audience.
I think those looking for an exciting sound might really like the audeze and alpha dogs. I see myself more attracted by the fostex planar prototype, the voicing and comfort being much more to my taste.
Fostex prototype planar phone:
This one took me by surprise. I liked the TH900 before, did not find any major fault with recent dac/amp offerings either but never was excited to the point of being in the market for one of fostex's products.
As much as I liked the visual aspects of latest audeze gear, they're still pretty much terrible in the comfort department for me. I am used to forgetting I am wearing headphones and these audeze just don't do it for my weak neck. The alpha dogs are far more comfortable but, like the lcd-x I sampled on different rigs, I found it a bit too bright / excessive in the presence / lower treble region.
The fostex open back prototype phone based on tr50p planar driver was a very pleasant change. It was driven by the latest small footprint dac/amp from Fostex and sounded so well balanced. That may be me, but my reference for planar sound is old quads or magnepans. The fostex sounded like that to me (mind you I haven't listened to planar speakers for a while). It wasn't harsh or shrill for any of the recordings, sounded very balanced, tight clean extended bass. The th900 felt a bit loose in the bass and tizzy in the upper mids in direct comparison. The other nice improvement over the th900 was the soundstage width as it definitely sounds more open.
Last but not least: comfort and price. The prototype weights like a feather and the final product will preserve this apparently. The pads are soft and make a good seal without feeling the pressure, very nice. I never thought I'd own some planar gear but this one may make me reconsider. The price is also right it feels (around or less than th900).
I felt bad I did not have more chance to hang out with headfiers, with Jude coming all the way from Detroit and some Tokyo members I keep missing every time. Gotta do a bit better next time!
That's pretty much it for me,