2015 Tokyo Fujiya Avic Autumn Headphone Festival Report
This is part 2 of a 3-part report on the Tokyo Headphone Festival. Covering 5 floors (plus another floor of events) and 2 days, this year's second show was as epic as ever. By the time the show had started, I'd met so many people I already knew that I was overwhelmed from the start. I still am!
Stax had their new earspeakers, the SR-L700 and SR-L500 on display for listening. The former are interesting because they use a Lamba-shaped version of the SR-009-type driver. I had a quick listen out of the same amp using my AK240 as a source between the SR-009s and SR-L700s and the latter, while still fairly bass-light, didn't have the upper-mid etch that can be discomforting on the SR-009s, leaving the spacious, effortless and relaxing sound that Stax is famous for. There was no way to easily tell if there was any difference in the level of detail (for that I'd want an Yggy, BHSE and a quiet room) but with one of the Stax amps the much lower prices makes a lot more sense than the SR-009s.
Take "Man Bag" and mix it with "Akihabara-degree overkill" and you have Van Nuys, a small Japanese company that makes so many different types of pouches, bags and accessories for all of them that your head will explode.
They have pouches to fit most common DAPs, along with a smartphone and/or amp, as well as neat IEM cases (see photo on the right) with neat velcro dividers, through to briefcases that can be customised so heavily with accessories that they make Tom Binh almost look like an amateur.
Main site: http://www.vannuys.co.jp
The IEM/DAP/whatever cases (right picture): http://www.vannuys.co.jp/n_index_page/right_page/right_15.html
Briefcases (scroll down for options, and scroll down even more for even more and more and more options): http://www.vannuys.co.jp/n_index_page/head_5.html
I missed getting a shot of Brannan "The Glove" Mason (see my previous Toyko reports if you don't get the joke) but Noble announced their aluminium K10s at the show. I really need to grab a pair and try them out for a while as I liked what I heard of the original K10s.
Luxury and Precision were showcasing their DAPs next to a new Japanese company: Oriolus, who had custom IEMs with cables made by PW Audio. I had a quick listen and liked what I heard. Like many products at the show, they had a lighter sound signature. Everything moderately expensive seemed to have a frequency response more suited to acoustic music. Their web site lists a price of USD$900 for their IEMs.
Mr Takei was on hand with another version of his personal super-tweeter system. This one includes a small box to effect crossfade and activate the system. The intent of the supertweeter is to cause a feeling of greater soundstage in headphones, not through any change in what goes into your ears, but through feeling the high-frequency sounds in your face.
As usual, however, he had his piezoelectric headphones on display, the H2, which sound like something between an electrostat and a planar.
On my way out to our morning "Coffee meeting" before the show, I saw a serious looking foreign gentleman in the lobby of Nakano Sun Plaza. Said gentleman was none other than Axel Grell of Sennheiser. Soon afterwards, I went to the Sennheiser room with Jude where I encountered the HD800S for the first time. Axel Grell was about to go to a presentation where he was going to announce the new model, but I managed to quickly shoot a video about them and post it, just after Jude posted his thread.
Later on we had a chance to sit down with Jude, Anakchan, Axel Grell and a couple of other HF members where we had a listen with the HD800S from various DAPs. I was lucky in that I had brought a balanced cable adaptor with me (I knew it would come in handy one day) and we managed to power it balanced out of an AK240 and AK380+amp. Given how different my own HD800s sound compared to stock, after re-cabling and mods, I'll leave impressions to other people, or to when I can get hold of a pair and compare them directly.
Lyndsay from RHA flew all the way over from Scotland again to partake in the fun of the show. I wrote about the new T20 IEMs in the Summer Buying Guide.
Verisonix / In2tuit
Verisonix had pairs of hybrid electrostatic (or electret) and dynamic headphones on display which looked quite appealing. I ran out of time, sadly, to audition them.
I did, however manage to sit down and have a listen to Phatlab's portable SET amps which they had on display with HD800s. They don't have the power output to suit planars, but at the very least they did sound very nice with the Sennheisers, with just a touch of warmth.
Skylar Grey was on hand to talk about Audioquest's Nighthawk headphones. Given all the controversy surrounding their unique sound, after the extensive research done by Skylar and his team, I plan on reviewing these in the future.
Personal space can be pretty small in Japan, albeit maybe not quite as cramped as I've seen in nearby countries. All the same, big hi-fi systems require big houses. It's pretty easy to buy neat mini-systems with speakers here, much the same as anywhere but Pioneer was showing a personal playback system that takes the design and aesthetic a few steps further and focuses around digital sources.
The Pioneer Stellanova consists of two different boxes, plus speakers, available in different colours to suit your decor, packed with an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink load of features. The first is a wireless music streamer that accepts hi-res music from iOS, via a custom application, and outputs through USB. This is then connected to either your own or Pioneer's matching DAC/amp/headphone amp. This amp also accepts Toslink, Bluetooth and an analogue input. For playback from disks, Pioneer also has their own drive available which can play CDs, DVDs and BlueRay disks. The system can also play from connected hard disks.
From their online shop, the sets, including speakers, go for 69,800 yen.
Kiyofumi Inanga was on hand, once again, with high-res microphones for audio analysis. He once again had his system up and running where you could look at the high-res output of your headphones and see if they truly would put out frequencies up to 40kHz, which is the requirement for the little gold label. The system uses computer-compensation to cancel out background noise. Here, in the photos, I had the MrSpeakers' Ethers on the dummy head. Kiyofumi Inanga was quite impressed with their relatively flat frequency response* and they indeed did show a response out to 40kHz (the vertical line towards the right of each response graph).
*NB: The graphs are un-compensated, so a bump is visible between about 1-5 kHz.
Edited by Currawong - 11/23/15 at 2:04am