Every year, Fujiya holds 4 events - 2 large ones in Spring May & Autumn October, and 2 smaller "Potaken" events in Winter February & Summer July. Whist the larger events tend to go for 2 days with many overseas manufacturers, reviewers, and Head-Fiers attend, the smaller "Potaken" events run for a day and is mainly just local makers & distributors exhibiting their products. Product announcements do occur with the smaller "Potaken" festivals such as the Chord Hugo in the Winter February '14 and with AK500N's Network Player in today's Summer July Festival.
This won't be a full report as I didn't get a chance to stop by every exhibit but will focus on the ones that I did; mostly with new products but not always.
Astell & Kern AK500N Network Player & Ripping Station
Astell & Kern had a presentation for their latest product, the AK500N at 10 a.m. before the start of the festival that was open to the media and reviewers. It was conducted entirely in Japanese naturally and therefore was somewhat of a struggle for me to catch up on everything. Luckily they gave out a presentation handout (in Japanese but at least I can read numbers).
The AK500N is a network player with CD ripping capability. There's an internal storage of 1TB SSD (max 4TB SSD) with a 7" 1280x800 touch screen display. One can also interact with the AK500N though remote control players off their smartphones/tablets. It supports all the usual formats (WAV, FLAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, APE, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, DFF, DSF) of sampling rates from 8kHz -> 192kHz (6/16/24 bit) & DSD (2.8 & 5.6MHz). Since it can be controlled remotely from smartphones, there's naturally WiFi support but also 100BaseT network for the local LAN. Naturally with WiFi & LAN capability, DLNA is also supported.
The CD is front slot loading as per the pictures. There's further AES/EBU, SPDIF, Coax, Optical, Type A & Type B USB digital inputs. It also has Internet Radio, and supports streaming like the AK240's (and in in Korea with Groovers+, I'm uncertain about Europe/US). The USB is also for file transfer from the PC to the device, and if I understood the presentation correctly, Android File Transfer. Gracenote DB on the other hand is leveraged on for CD rips.
Support outputs on the other hand include AES/EBU, SPDIF, Coax, & Optical for digital, whilst balanced and unbalanced for analogue line out. The whole device weighs a hefty 15 kg.
Timelord Exhibit Table
I spent quite a bit of time at Timelord 'cos I can't afford a Chord Hugo and this is the only time I get to listen to one. Not to mention, I think I secretly desire the Ultrasone Edition 5 even though I refuse to admit it. In fact I stopped bt the TImelord table twice - once in the morning and later again in the afternoon.
Although the Ultrasone Edition 5 has the typical Ultrasone Edition digitalish house sound, it does sound more spacious and not so "V shaped" as the Edition 8's. I actually don't mind the sound of the Edition 5's as much and it's seriously a very comfortable & light headphone to wear but just the price, 2nd hand even, is beyond justification. The Chord Hugo is also an amazing device. Timelord made their own optical cables for it.
TImelord also distributes Audiofly however I didn't get a chance to try any of their earphones.
Vannuys Pouches & Cases
Vannuys products have been around for quite some time but only recently they've been recognised on Head-Fi especially for their Sony ZX1/PHA-2 & AK pouches. To be honest, there is nothing special about their pouches even though they've designated for specific brands and models of DAP/Stacks. However I still like their pouches quite a bit. I picked up an AK240 pouch at the show today too.
They started to have the new AK120 II pouches too, and I picked up the AK240 pouch on the left. The pouches are reasonably configurable with different straps, belt loops, etc.
Whilst Waiting For My Number To Be Called (for shopping...)
It's normal that at such events Fujiya has a list of items in limited quantities for sale as special discounted prices. For example, they had the Chord Hugo with Timelord optical cable down from Y233,280 down to Y199,800, or the AK240 from Y256,500 down to Y208,000. Naturally there'll be a rush to buy some of the products and previously there'll be a long queue. This time they gave out a ticket number which they'd call out. That'll give one time to walk and browse around the exhibits without losing their spot (unless they missed their number being called out). I waited nearby regardless with a strong desire to buy some Wagnus cables, and whilst loitering around the table, I met up with A&K who had a special silver AK240. Now the folks in US had seen this before in some recent meets but it hadn't been seen in Japan. So I took the opportunity to take pix of it and hold it :-
The aluminium AK240 was one of a kind and was heavy! Very nicely crafted! Compared to (what I thought was) a normal AK240 the reflective shiny AK240 definitely stood out. It wasn't only after I got home and was going through the pix did I realise that maybe the normal AK240 wasn't normal in the end. What's that knob and switch on top of it!? Wish I had a chance to ask as it belonged to the designer of the AK240. It's probably an amp behind the AK240 but I don't see any lineout cables sticking out of it.
Back to my (waiting in queue for) shopping, I missed the Wangus Luna cable for the FitEar by just 2 queuers ahead and there was only 1x Wagnus Luna cable for sale there. So disappointed. In the end i walked away with a 2.5mm DIY plug for the AK240 :-
This Nakamura Corp NP-254 2.5mm is a short stubby connector that's easier to work with than normal 2.5mm plugs. More info can be found here but it's in Japanese. It was cheap though, only Y2,000.
Wagnus Exhibit Table
Being disappointed that I didn't get my Wagnus cable, I promptly went to Haru-san's table to demo what I didn't get to buy. But they didn't have the Luna cable for Fitears there. Instead they had the Proton for Fitears and the Luna for Noble Kasier 10's. I talked to him about buying the cables from him after the end of the show and he agreed and that put a smile on my face again.
Wagnus had an interesting Proton which wasn't for sale though. It was terminated with a VentureCraft 2.5mm TRRS plug. This went for the opposite direction of the Nakamura Corp NP-254 as it was slender and long. I talked to the VentureCraft folks about my concerns but more about later :-
Wagnus has an interesting concept that they believe in copper and don't have any silver/gold cables (I think!? I better double confirm with Haru-san). In my previous conversations with Haru-san, he feels copper is the way to go and his cables are just in various forms of copper - SPC, PTFE coated, etc. The Luna is meant to exhibit more on the trebles and speed whilst the Protons are more on accuracy and monitoring purposes. As I knew very little about Wagnus cables I bought one of each (Proton for Fitear, and Luna for K10's) and I plan to make a have a proper interview with Haru-san to talk about his philosophies and demo his cables in a more controlled environment.
Aside from the Wagnus cables, Wagnus is also now a distributor for Noble. Haru-san mentioned that for the Japan Kaiser 10's, instead of the 24k gold flakes, he's looking at a sliver design. I'd love to see the results of that design. I wonder if it's silver flakes?
Fostex Exhibit Table
Despite having a loaner TH500RP prototype, I had to try what they had in their exhibit. Sound-wise it was the same as the prototype I had at home but they had finalised the finish of the housing and swivel. There's a nicer light brushed (aluminium?) matt textured surface that's more low key but pleasing to the eyes. Sound-wise, I'll save it more when I spend more time with their prototypes I have at home. As you can guess testing open-backed cans in a noisy event wasn't very fruitful. Sale of the TH500RP will begin end of August.
VentureCraft Exhibit Table
Here's one table I spent quite a bit of time too; firstly to talk to them about their 2.5mm plugs but then they showed their new DAC/Amp Go-DAP BXD. But firstly about their plug. I told them that the spring was a nice idea but the length was a concern in terms of prone to damage (as the 2.5mm is slender enough as it is). They said the casing length can be shorten and may take my suggestion into consideration.
These plugs are pricey. But (at least from Wagnus cable), they work as they're supposed to. There's a reason for this comment which I'd talk more in the Musica Acoustics Exhibit section.
But now onto more interesting news, VentureCraft is releasing a new Go-DAP BXD DAC Amp in 15th August '14. This one is somewhat different from the other Go-DAP releases in that it doesn't support Apple and therefore pricing-wise much more normal at Y32,400. Leveraging on past experiences on the former Go-DAPs, the BXD is Op Amp changeable (same OPA627's, Muses 8920, etc.), but also have interchangeable gain with the following 32/120/300/600 ohm headphone impedance support. Zout remains at 10 ohm (why!?), and is 2Vrms at max volume. It takes in Optical, Coax, Line-In, and outputs headphone out SE 3.5mm and Balanced 2.5mm TRRS (same AK wiring). The balance is fully balanced. Battery is a 1550mAh and the DAC was supposedly a secret but they had a piece of paper and a quick glance showed something like a PCM5102A (but then the paper was pulled away very quickly).
The OpAmp daughter board has one OpAmp on the top, and another on the underside of the board. Meanwhile, those boards of resistors are gain boards I believe (for the 32/64/120/300/600 ohm). There's two 'cos one is for unbalanced SE port whilst the other for the balanced 2.5mm TRRS.
I'm trying to get a demo unit for this next week some time but this thing sounded very nice, optical from the AK240. Bass impact was tight and trebles were quite extended. I can imagine with the wrong kinds of earphone it could emphasise on the sibilance but otherwise paired well with warmer earphones like the FitEars.
Analog Squared Paper Exhibit Table
Now I had planned to stop by Shikada-san's table months in advance 'cos he was going to pick up my TUR-06 for a charging, and power module upgrade. For those who haven't been following the A2P thread, he's effectively a one-man show popping out 2-3 amps a month max as not only does he have the amp to make, he sews the leather casing himself too. And recently he fell ill which put him further behind in his deliveries. So when I met him in May, he already mentioned about the upgrades but couldn't take my unit in for the upgrade until now. As a gift, for his constant attention to me and my unit, I gave him a pair of Lorenz DF91's which were extremely hard to find. I think he was pleased with the gift.
Anyway, something new he's come up with is a small portable amp that's current driven. The SIT Amp stands for Static Induction Transistor and (assuming I understand Shikada-san's translation) is very much triode-like. This amp as he's done it is also a current based amp. As such I fed it into his other mini SS amp which is voltage driven (at his suggestion). I probably should have brought some higher impedance cans with me to try his SIT amp. It sounded impressive but I couldn't tell if it was the SIT or his mini SS amp.
Kumitate Lab IEM Exhibit Table
Although I spent quite a bit of time at this table in the e-earphone show last month, someone on Head-Fi asked me about their universal hybrid so I thought I'd give it another listen. Their universal hybrid is a solid and heavy IEM with an 8mm DD, and Knowles DWFK. There's an adjustable bass pot resistor to the 8mm DD and it goes for Y79,000. It's rated at 18 ohm.
Now I'm very glad @unknownguardian made me stop by to try this earphone 'cos it was a pleasure to listen to :-
I would describe the earphone as a chameleon with the bass port pot changing its signature rather dramatically. It is however still a very well controlled bass, not boomy like some other variable bass ported IEMs around. At neutral setting, it has a midbass/midrange/treble focused signature but the trebles aren't offensive. They're articulate (percussions were crystal clear), not too forward nor harsh. Quite smooth with room to breath. The midrange does have a little bloom but, again, not annoyingly so. It's not the widest or deepest staging I've heard in an IEM but it's still quite decent. Bear in mind those that I heard that had wider and deeper staging were double the costs of this earphone.
By playing with the bass port though, that's where the signature starts to change and it's more relative. It can start to sound a little U-shaped with bass boosted up to a fun signature. Again it's not that the midrange is pulled back but the bass is boosted forward so the U-shapness is merely relative. Overall I'm very impressed with this IEM.
Musica Acoustics Exhibit Table
Dimitri is a dear friend of which I meet up occasionally for a meal and a chat. I also help him test stuff whenever I have time and this visit is no different. I tried his Whiplash cables of which for some of those who may have followed my posts, will remember I had concerns on the 2.5mm TRRS plugs that Whiplash uses. I tried the a few Whiplash cables and their 2.5mm TRRS simply cuts out with my AK240. Poor Craig had to fix these issues and even sent Dimitri his AK240 to show that the cables were fine but for some reason or another, the cables don't operate consistently with different AK240's. Whist this starts to point the finger at AK240's implementation, other TRRS plugs used by other cable makers (e.g. Wagnus, JHA's AKR03, etc.) so far have been fine.
Here's a close up of the 2.5mm TRRS :-
Maybe Craig could consider using the VentureCraft or Nakamura NP-254 plugs? However I also had a small issue with the Sennheiser plugs he uses for the FitEar and that one of them (right channel) the pins were bending outwards. With a little flexing I managed to have them fit back into my MH335DW-SR & TG!334's. In spite of these connector woes, the Whiplash cables themselves do sound very nice and smooth.
Mixwave Exhibit Table for the Audeze LCD-2/3 Fazor Technology, and Unique Melody Maestro
I had to pop by Kenichi-san's table to ask him about the Unique Melody Maestro as when I posted about it the night before, it spread concerns of whether it would replace the Mentors which were released no longer than 7 months ago. Anyhow, whilst waiting in queue to try the Maestro, Kenichi-san suggested I tried the Audeze LCD-2/3 with the new Fazor Technology. To be honest, prior to this I never really was a fan of the LCD's - even when Currawong loaned me his LCD-3s for a few weeks. So I never bothered to follow the Audeze announcements and this Fazor Technology seemed newly announced and Kenichi-san was excited about it. As I was already waiting in queue, no harm in giving it a listen and it I actually enjoyed the LCDs for the first time! Either my musical goals had changed or these new Fazor Tech really does make a difference. Both LCDs had more treble, sounded more open and more balanced with refined detail. It's actually piqued my interests in Audezes again!
After the pleasant surprise with the Audeze Fazor Tech, I went on to find out more about the Unique Melody 12-driver Maestro (and 5-driver Maverick). So it turns out that the Maestro is actually Kenichi-san's "design". By this he used UM's custom tuning tools (see previous Fujiya May Festival for more info) and got a sound signature with parameters that he liked and asked Unique Melody to build it - the result being the Maestro. The sound isn't final yet and I think Kenichi-san said he'll pop by the UM Lab next month to further fine tune the Maestro - so for now there's little need to talk about a product who's signature's going to change.
As for the ruckus in the Mentor thread, the Maestro is a Japan-only Universal release since Japan won't be offering the Mentors. So for the folks overseas, don't worry about the Mentors going obsolete as UM will continue to offer them internationally. However officially at least, the Maestro will be available in Japan only (I'm not going to comment on grey market exports).
Hey a man's gotta eat.
Jaben Exhibit Table
Although Jaben had a few products on exhibit (such as the Calxy M, etc.), I was focused on the MGoodman's GloveAudio. Overall this had a warmer signature than the AK240. Although I've not heard RSA amps for a long time, somehow deep in my gut I felt those who do like RSA SR-71b signatures (I used to own one), may like the Glove too. I regret not bringing along Mezzo Soprano's MS-AK120 as it would have been interesting to compare the built-in mod vs the exo-skeleton booster pack of the Glove.
New Opto Portable Amp Exhibit Table
I didn't sit down to listen to their amps but they caught my attention 'cos they had one amp for sale in the Fujiya special discounts. Usually if a product only has 1 stock unit for sale at a discount they're sought after (whereas more common would have more units for sale). Anyway, I took one or two pix but didn't try their amps :-
It runs of 4xAA (spec says 4.4V -> 5.5V so presumably NiCad/NiMH, or basically not Zinc Carbon/Alkaline type). This amp is a whopping Y87,800 and at the Fujiya event special discount, was dropped only down to Y80,000. I should have spent more time and sat down on their table to try.
EME Audio Exhibit Table
Now I didn't intend to stop by the EME table but their sales rep ran out, tapped me on my shoulder and called me in. As it turned out, I was glad he did. He showed me the IA101E earphone. It doesn't look anything special until I saw it was Lightning terminated :-
I don't know about the rest of you but it's the first product I've seen that's lightning terminated ever since Apple's announcement about it as a follow up from their Beats/Apple partnership. I thought I'd see a Beats headphone with Lightning termination before any other brand.
The earphone itself didn't sound anything fantastic but I was impressed with the technology they had in it. In the remote is the USB Interface IC, and a Wolfson DAC. There is no OpAmp and basically audio line out straight to the earphones. That's got to be one tiny Wolfson DAC in there. Presumably the same as the one in the Apple Lightning<->30-ping adapter?
Anyway, below on top left takes in a microUSB and has a ESS DAC in it, with a 3.5mm analogue out. The top right is the same as the bottom but instead of earphones on the other end, it's a 3.5mm SE for any headphone one wishes to use.
Ocharaku Exhibit Table
Yamagishi-san didn't have anything new but was selling the SpinFit eartips. The S & M were available from last year but the L was released only 2 weeks ago. Apparently the maker in Taiwan isn't very consistent/reliable in their production output. Anyway I got a little carried away in buying all 3 sizes of Spinfits :-
Sadly I'm no @Mkubota1 and failed to cover every table - including Denon's DA-10 release which apparently was a big announcement. However I had an enjoyable time trying out a few new and some old products, and more importantly talking to the folks at the show. I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend a Saturday. I can't stop here without thanking @Sasaki-san for allowing me to come early before the crowd to attend the A&K AK500N presentation and naturally endless thanks to Fujiya Avic for holding such a show. Ishizone-san was as welcoming as ever for all these shows and a big thank you to him for welcoming Head-Fi with open arms.