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e-earphone Akihabara Tokyo Headphone Festival December 2013  

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

This was the first time for me to attend an e-earphone festival in Tokyo. It was quite a different atmosphere from the Fujiya Avic ones. For starters, vendors were forbidden from wearing suits and ties! Everyone had to be casual. The atmosphere, likewise, was very relaxed in comparison. The show was in a large exhibition hall upstairs, the downstairs area being dedicated to Beats and a number of performances going on, including one by an anime character that people were lining up for. 

 

This casual atmosphere was also reflected in what vendors chose to display. While most brought their usual range of products, some chose to go more for pure enthusiasm, such as Audio Technica that brought a range of their famous wood limited edition headphones instead of their current range. You could listen to any of them. 

 

Thanks to everyone who let me listen to and borrow products. Special thanks to mtthefirst who did his best to try and help me with the photography (a big room with a black ceiling is no good for trying to bounce a flash off).

 

JHAudio

 

  

 

 

Jerry Harvey was back again after touring Asia to promote the Roxanne. This time we had a better chance to listen and go over the features. My impression was that they sound like an IEM version of Audeze planar headphones. We have kindly been lent a universal-fit pair to try for a few weeks. Expect impressions from us soon.

 

At the end of the show, a bunch of people came up and asked Jerry to sign their amps, IEM cases or even sweater. As usual it was always great to talk to him and ask questions as he is always willing to talk about IEM design.

 

 

 

Cypher Labs

 

  

Dave from Cypher Labs with his new balanced tube amp as well as his new balanced portable amp.

 

Fostex

 

 

Fostex had a new prototype of their up-coming planars available. The sound was improved on the one we heard at the October show. They are making steady progress with it but it may be a while before they have a model for release.

 

  

 

 

They also had their HP-A4 DAC amp, which I must say sounded very pleasant. 

 

 

Last, but not least was a prototype of a new pair of IEMs with detachable cables, the TE-05, which are multiple-balanced-armature.

 

Audio Technica

 

I forgot to photograph them, but instead of showing their current range (IEMs except) Audio Technica brought a range of their famous "woodies" -- limited edition wood headphones. There was even a W100 (ultra rare -- more so even than the famed W11R). I sat down and had another listen to the L3000s and talked about pad mods with the staff.  While Audio Technica is known for making small amps, I was pleasantly surprised to find they had made both a USB DAC/amp and a small tube amp.

 

Denon

 

Denon has a new USB DAC/amp which will be sold internationally from February for around US$500. It had a neat feature that if you put it on its side, the screen automatically rotates.

 

Orb

 

Orb had a Class D tube speaker/headphone amp.

 

  

They also have their own portable amps. The portable amps have a very handy case giving easy access to the batteries.

 

Olasonic

 

Olasonic had their Ocharaku IEM, SACD player and DAC/amp.

 

Ortofon

 

Ortofon had their little tube amps hooked up to a $20k vinyl rig. The sound was sublime.

 

Ortofon still sell a version of Ultrasone headphones and other IEMs along with their own amps.

 

KingRex

 

KingRex was there with the Headquarters and their USB DACs and cables.

 

Final Audio Design

 

I finally got around to having a good listen to the new Pandoras from Final Audio Design. They are unique because they use a balanced armature driver along with a dynamic driver. The sound with the treble and mids was very smooth, but they weren't so great with deep bass. Music also sounded a little odd as if there was some phase cancellation or cup vibration causing a few oddities. Regardless, I find them seriously interesting and unique.

 

Philips

 

Phillips had a gold X1 on display.

 

JVC

 

  

  

JVC had a couple of surprises. The first was a new range of headphones, some stylish and some serious, to go under the DX1000s in their range. They also had prototypes of an iDevice DAC/amp on display (but not for listening)

The models are all Japan-only, however.

 

Elekit

 

 

Elekit had a portable tube hybrid amp on display, available with a variety of opamps. They are designed for full-sized headphones (16-600 Ohm).

 

Stax

 

While they didn't have as big a display as they do in the other shows, they were focussing on their lower-end models, including the portable.

 

Resonessence

 

This is the first time I have seen the full range of Resonessence products at any of the shows. I had a chance to listen with the Herus poratable DAC/amp at the show. I hadn't realised that it would work with my iPhone using an adaptor. The sound was pretty reasonable all things considered. I am interested in getting my hands on one to find out how good it could be with higher-quality USB bus power. I certainly wouldn't mind carrying something like it when I have to fly.

 

V-MODA

 

  

At the Venturecraft/V-MODA table the XL Memory Cushion pads were on display with the V-MODA range. 

 

This is the Venturecraft Santa, of sorts. 

 

Bispa

 

Bispa is a Japanese company that makes portable amps. Here they have a range of aftermarket headphone cables on display.

 

Hifiman

 

The new inexpensive balanced DAP, the HM-700 was on display with an arm band. I quite liked what I heard from it at the October show so I hope to have a longer listen in the future.

 

ifi

 

ifi has the same distributor as Hifiman and the same stack of components on display in October was available for a listen here too.

 

Dëff Sound

 

 

Deff Sound (jokes about the name aside) make a small, portable headphone amplifier but are expanding into making desktop USB amps. They had a prototype on display. 

 

Unique Melody

 

  

We were pleasantly surprised to meet Stephen Guo from Unique Melody at the show. He showed us his new IEM, the Mentor and all the colours it would be available in. I had a listen to the demo Miracles for the first time and the Mentor. The Miracles seemed more "flat" with more focus on the mids and treble, but the Mentor was more full-sounding with stronger bass.

 

Radius

 

I hadn't previously heard of Radius, who were displaying a pair of IEMs as well as an interesting one-cable digital DAC for the iPhone to use with portable amps.

 

FiiO

 

A prototype of the FiiO X5 player was on display. I had an SD card full of high-res music which I could insert and use to test the unit with. The sound with my Parterres was very good. I'm hoping to get a further listen to this in the near future. 

 

Chord

 

Timelord had a single Hugo USB DAC on display. I didn't get a chance to try it, as there were always people listening unfortunately. The Ultrasone Edition 5s were on display again as well.

 

Cardas

 

I had a brief listen to the very dark-sounding Cardas Ear Speakers. They reminded me a little of the FAD metal models, but with a more regular sound signature.

 

xDuoo

 

xDuoo makes small tube headphone amps, as well as markets Little Dot and other manufacturers in Japan. I was curious to try out his XD-06 tube DAC/amp and was quite impressed. Expecting a huge price, I was surprised to find it was only $650 or so.

 

Mr Speakers

Musica Acoustica had the Mr Speakers Alpha Dogs on display and I managed to get a good listen to Anakchan's pair after the show. They are still very impressive for what they are going for if their sound signature takes a little getting used to. Dimitri also had a heavy silver Chinese DAP on display which sounded remarkably good and worked with all the files on the SD card I had been using with my AK100. 

 

Weird and Wonderful

 

 

No Japanese show would be complete without something weird. People dressed as animals and a headphone anime doll. The latter was for sale.

post #2 of 32
Thread Starter 

Reserved.

post #3 of 32
So much new gear to be seen in the years to come!
post #4 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
 

For starters, vendors were forbidden from wearing suits and ties! Everyone had to be casual.

 

This really should be mandated across all forms of corporate culture, worldwide. Suits are obsolete and pointless outside 007 movies. Nobody wants to be in a room full of stuffy black and white (and beige, ugh) penguin lookalikes anymore.

 

Initial thoughts/questions after skimming the photographs;

 

- Never realized Audio Technica had a USB DAC out. Japan only or worldwide?

- That Cypher Labs tube amp looks rather handsome (in a blingy sort of way). Did you get to try it?

- Will the Fostex planar eventually replace their T50RP range, or is it supposed to be higher-end?

- No Fitear or CanalWorks at the show?

 

Anyways, much thanks for sharing, Mr. Currawong. I'm a bit disappointed you didn't get AnakChan to cosplay as a bunnygirl though. Maybe next time.


Edited by kurochin - 12/24/13 at 6:08am
post #5 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kurochin View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
 

For starters, vendors were forbidden from wearing suits and ties! Everyone had to be casual.

 

This really should be mandated across all forms of corporate culture, worldwide. Suits are obsolete and pointless outside 007 movies. Nobody wants to be in a room full of stuffy black and white (and beige, ugh) penguin lookalikes anymore.

 

Initial thoughts/questions after skimming the photographs;

 

- Never realized Audio Technica had a USB DAC out. Japan only or worldwide?

- That Cypher Labs tube amp looks rather handsome (in a blingy sort of way). Did you get to try it?

- Will the Fostex planar eventually replace their T50RP range, or is it supposed to be higher-end?

- No Fitear or CanalWorks at the show?

 

Anyways, much thanks for sharing, Mr. Currawong. I'm a bit disappointed you didn't get AnakChan to cosplay as a bunnygirl though. Maybe next time.

 

I'll have to check about the AT. I didn't get around to listening or asking.

I didn't get around to listening to the Cypher Labs amp either. It had the wrong balanced outputs on there and I didn't have any cables with me to hook it up properly.

The Fostex planar will be a separate model as far as I know. 

No Fitear but CanalWorks was there. 

post #6 of 32

Sadly I was kinda "on duty" so I didn't get to take as many pix. But I do want further extend a big thanks to MixWave for entertaining us for dinner (pix below).

 

A giant Onkyo inflatable headphone to welcome us

 

David Maudlin from Cyperlabs

 

CypherLabs' Prautes desktop tube amp

 

Theorem 720

 

Algorhythm Duet

 

Theorem 720's new colour

 

Tokage's (Japanese band) with her new album Beat! Beat! Beat!

 

Oyaide just received the Fiio X5 prototype the day before the show

 

 

(that's my NW-ZX1 next to the X5)

 

Mixwave (distributors) was gracious to take us out for dinner.

 

Jerry Harvey & Stephen Guo (Unique Melody)

 

Corbyn, <someone> (Sorry!!), Jerry

 

A big thanks to JHA for loaning their Roxannes to us in Tokyo for the next few weeks for our thoughts.

post #7 of 32
Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by kurochin View Post

 

This really should be mandated across all forms of corporate culture, worldwide. Suits are obsolete and pointless outside 007 movies. Nobody wants to be in a room full of stuffy black and white (and beige, ugh) penguin lookalikes anymore.

 

Initial thoughts/questions after skimming the photographs;

 

- Never realized Audio Technica had a USB DAC out. Japan only or worldwide?

- That Cypher Labs tube amp looks rather handsome (in a blingy sort of way). Did you get to try it?

- Will the Fostex planar eventually replace their T50RP range, or is it supposed to be higher-end?

- No Fitear or CanalWorks at the show?

 

Anyways, much thanks for sharing, Mr. Currawong. I'm a bit disappointed you didn't get AnakChan to cosplay as a bunnygirl though. Maybe next time.

Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
 

 

I'll have to check about the AT. I didn't get around to listening or asking.

I didn't get around to listening to the Cypher Labs amp either. It had the wrong balanced outputs on there and I didn't have any cables with me to hook it up properly.

The Fostex planar will be a separate model as far as I know. 

No Fitear but CanalWorks was there. 

 

See if I can jump in here with regards the Cyperlabs Prautes.

 

The tube amp was done in collaboration with Coffmanlabs but there are quite a few differences even though they look similar. The Prautes uses 4x6L50 tubes & (dang forgot the 2xgain tubes). It supports balanced and unbalanced output but as Currawong mentioned the balanced output were male when they should be female (this will be fixed in production version). There's also a speaker output tap at the back. It supports 4x unbalanced inputs (one of them from the front). There's also 5x levels of impedance settings from IEMs to 600ohm HD800-type cans. I didn't ask about the settings for each level. The starting price is $3499 with a few optional upgrades announced later.

 

They sounded quite nice but I was using the default Sennheiser HD600 cans which I'm not familiar with.

post #8 of 32

Is there canal works in this festival?

post #9 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by TimOgawa View Post
 

Is there canal works in this festival?

 

Post #5

post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnakChan View Post
 

 

See if I can jump in here with regards the Cyperlabs Prautes.

 

The tube amp was done in collaboration with Coffmanlabs but there are quite a few differences even though they look similar. The Prautes uses 4x6L50 tubes & (dang forgot the 2xgain tubes). It supports balanced and unbalanced output but as Currawong mentioned the balanced output were male when they should be female (this will be fixed in production version). There's also a speaker output tap at the back. It supports 4x unbalanced inputs (one of them from the front). There's also 5x levels of impedance settings from IEMs to 600ohm HD800-type cans. I didn't ask about the settings for each level. The starting price is $3499 with a few optional upgrades announced later.

 

They sounded quite nice but I was using the default Sennheiser HD600 cans which I'm not familiar with.

Do you know if Cypherlabs added any of their own engineering to this unit or if they are basically paying Coffman to do a tube amp with their name on it?  It looks super similar.  (But the price is nicer than the previous Coffman offering.)

 

6L50 is a very interesting choice, I have never heard of it used for an an audio product, they'd use a 6L6.  Would be nice to know his reasons for going with it over the much more ubiquitous 6L6 (they have different sockets.)

post #11 of 32

I can't believe I missed this! Oh well... Next time!

post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio_head View Post
 

Do you know if Cypherlabs added any of their own engineering to this unit or if they are basically paying Coffman to do a tube amp with their name on it?  It looks super similar.  (But the price is nicer than the previous Coffman offering.)

 

6L50 is a very interesting choice, I have never heard of it used for an an audio product, they'd use a 6L6.  Would be nice to know his reasons for going with it over the much more ubiquitous 6L6 (they have different sockets.)


there's a Coffman Labs preamp/headphone amp review in the current issue of Stereophile (no discussion of headphone section though)

post #13 of 32

THanks for your effort guys to provide us some insight about the show. Any chance of more infor on the new amp from Ortofon, the TA-Q7? Did anyone pair it wit the ortofon E-Q8?

post #14 of 32

Haha, that "anime doll" isn't actually from an anime (yet), just a mascot for a game company: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Sonico. How much were they selling that for? :blink:

 

Anyway, looks like it was a fun meet! Did anyone get to try out the prototype Fostex IEMs?

post #15 of 32
Quote:

Originally Posted by Currawong

 

Last, but not least was a prototype of a new pair of IEMs with detachable cables, the TE-05, which are multiple-balanced-armature.

Just curious as to whether they are armatures or dynamics.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tomscy2000

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by AnakChan

1) Mixwave ALO: Nope! I didn't know they had new cables!

11) Fostex: Better let me doublecheck on that ;-)

A Friend: shhhh...from a competing shop. 

 
Yeah, the new ALO cables are pretty cool-looking.
I checked PhileWeb; they say that the TE-05 has a 9mm dynamic driver.
I'm sure they're well aware of his presence; he goes to every show! :D

The aformentioned source at Phileweb - 

Plus a couple of other mentions from others I recall with them going along the lines of them being dynamics.

 

I'm actually hoping that it isn't a typo though, since the idea of Fostex with BAs (in the hopes that they would be manufacturing their own) sounds fantastically intriguing. :D 

 

Also Re: Canalworks - did they happen to show their new CW-L32 there? Or was it just their old lineup?


Edited by TwinQY - 12/25/13 at 1:00am
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