★ 2017 Tokyo Spring Fujiya Avic Headphone Festival Report ★

  1. Currawong Contributor
    I'm told this year that there was another major event on in Tokyo on the Sunday, so the second day, at least, was much quieter the first. This year the guide book was very thick, and listed pretty much everything that was new or interesting.

    The best part of the show was talking to people though -- not only the famous engineers, but the Head-Fi members that had come to the show, even if only briefly.

    I didn't manage to try everything, especially as the very popular items had a queue or waiting list for listening, and it was easy to forget to go back. The show is spread across 5 floors, and not sequential ones either (6, 11, 13, 14, 15). It was not unusual that I'd completely forget what floor I was on.

    Since I'm still getting used to the forum software, this thread will be uploaded in parts over the next day. If you don't see all three parts, please check back in a day or so.

    JHAudio Lola
    Jerry Harvey



    I ran into Jerry Harvey early Saturday morning before the show, so I invited him to our pre-even coffee meet, where he brought 4 pairs of Lolas for us to try.

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    ExpatInJapan with Jerry Harvey.

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    Anakchan trying the Lolas.

    It doesn't do them justice to say that the focus was on the mid-range. Whereas I remember the Roxannes were one of the first IEMs I tried years back that had a more realistic treble, in the case of the Lolas the focus is on making instruments sound more realistic, something which, on my brief listen, it seemed to do. The bass was not at all left behind, reaching deeply, powerfully as good as I have experienced with the Laylas, though the treble, possibly a touch brighter, was possibly not as smooth as I've experienced from other IEMs.

    Jerry also told me that the custom faceplates could be transferred if a customer wishes to buy a new model but doesn't want to have new plates made.

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    Last edited: May 4, 2017
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  2. Currawong Contributor
    Tago Studio T3-01
    60,000 yen.

    Taga Studio T3-01.jpeg


    While visiting the Fujiya Avic store before the show, the guys there showed me a pair of headphones made locally in Takasaki, a city quite a bit north of Tokyo.

    The Tago Studio T3-01 is a light-weight, well-made and very sturdy pair of wood-cupped headphones that have a fairly even sound with a slightly muted treble that is slightly aggressive with a bit of bite. The sound seemed to have more of a focus on spaciousness than the dynamics of the music. The bass isn't strong and there is a bit of frame vibration on very strong low notes. Very deep bass is somewhat rolled off. Otherwise they were quite clean-sounding, most pleasant with acoustic music and vocals.

    N+um NUM-E1000
    51,840 yen


    n+um E1000 2.jpeg

    These IEMs use a ceramic tweeter, something that is becoming more common nowadays.

    Upper-mid focused with pretty good, but not the best treble, which I wasn't sure if the result of the design or the cheap cable. Otherwise quite clean and coherent. They were, much like other ceramic dynamic driver IEMs, capable of pretty good bass, which stayed very separate from the rest of the spectrum. The deepest bass was rolled off, however.

    Abyss AB-1266

    2017_Tokyo_Spring-6593_Abyss-AB1266 Phatlab.jpg

    Angling the pads slightly I managed to get the right about of bass from the start. Using my rig with the Phatlab Sassy II SET portable I could some idea of their capability. Seriously excellent with insane speed and clarity with a good deal of depth. For full-size headphones with a broken seal the bass was amazing, with nothing bad to speak of the mid-range or treble. I really want to try them on a full-sized rig.

    Phatlab Sassy II SET Portable Amp

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    With 1W of power at 30 Ohms, this is a serious amp. The gold version shown has the bias turned up for the Abyss headphones, but it was remarkable how well it drove them considering it was running off batteries. Not only that, it has 10 hours of running time and charges off of USB.

    Ocharaku Co-Donguri Dual
    6,000 yen

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    This is a special upgrade to the Donguri, available only at the show or at the Ocharaku store, that uses the unique "tornado" system internally. As I understand it, the upgrade adds an extra tornado to improve the sound. With forward mids this was nice with The Wailing Jennys and Santana. The fatigue-free treble was spot-on, neither bright nor rolled off and there was still a satisfying bass kick which went down low, if not strongly all the way down. This, to me, was the pair of Donguris that really nailed it.

    AKG N90Q

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    After calibrating, which is surprisingly quick, the sound is fairly clear and even, balanced between spacious and punchy, but lacks fine detail and a completely harshness free treble. The bass kick of Hey Lion caused some unexpected vibration too. I didn't try any of the special modes. There was definitely something to the technology though, so it's a pity about the price.

    MrSpeakers Ether ES

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    The set-up was an Aurender music server feeding a Bricastic DAC to a Blue Hawaii SE. Unfortunately they wouldn't let me plug in my own digital source and I wasn't going to ask if they'd let me plug in the Hugo 2 I briefly borrowed, so I had to make do with whatever music was buried on the server.

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    The presentation was delicate and nuanced, however -- there was no mistaking it was an electrostat, and a very competent one at that. Each time I've heard them, I've liked them more, as Dan has steadily been working on them.

    MrSpeakers Aeon

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    Fed by an Auralic to the GS-X Mk2 and using a very expensive Kimber cable, they had a spacious and detailed that seems to punch above their price. I only had Time Out to listen to unfortunately, so proper impressions will have to wait until later. What was impressive is how even more simple the headband attachment system is than with the Ether. With the hinge on the cups being the only actual rotating part, the natural flex of the Nitinol wire is used for fit, meaning that they sit on your head with total ease.

    I saw a number of engineers from other companies try them and complement Dan on the design and sonics. It looks very much like they will be the proverbial benchmark for sub-$1000 closed-back headphones.

    Fostex TH610 and HP-A4BL


    The Fostex wood-cup headphones have been something of a standard on Head-Fi, ever seen they were sold by Denon, and continue to do so under their home brand. The TH900 were always a bit too bass strong for me, and the Massdrop versions a bit too bland, tonally, so I was pleased to find that the TH610 has a satisfying balance of punch and spaciousness in the sound. What the TH610s don't do in fine detail and ultimate refinement they make up for in pure entertainment. With the Fostex amp is a very easy-listening combo that worked with the variety of music I threw at it.

    This is the kind of set-up I'd recommend to someone not in the hobby that would guarantee them an enjoyable listen no matter what the music.

    Fostex TE04

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    Sporting a single 8mm driver, they cost only 8,000 yen, putting them firmly into the category of inexpensive, and good-sounding IEMs. Their sound signature was on the warm side, typical of IEMs of this type. At quiet to moderate volumes the sound was good and harshness-free, but become unpleasant when louder, fairly typical of single 8mm dynamic drivers.

    Fostex TE100
    130,000 yen

    2017_Tokyo_Spring-6678_Fostex.jpg

    This is the model that was made in conjunction with FitEar, who have their own custom fit version, the Titan. What struck me most about these hybrids was how well they get out of the way of the music. They seemed to present the music as it is, without trying to show off, with a fairly neutral character where no particular frequency range was forward, yet the dynamics were nicely presented. The only possible fault they have is that the very deep bass is rolled off to a degree, which might not give them enough kick for everyone's tastes.

    STAX SR-009 and STM-T8000
    Luxman DA-06 and Hugo 2 (DAVE filter)

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    I had a listen initially using the Luxman DA-06 that they had for their system, and a classical CD that another visitors had brought. At a quieter point on Sunday I borrowed a Hugo 2 as Stax had a cable on all the amps to allow people to attach their own source. The Hugo 2 was smoother than if I was using the Luxman DA-06, leaving me feeling much more like I was listening to the music than the equipment. Instruments and singers would reach into you and take your feelings much like my experience listening with the DAVE.

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    The SR-009 out of the T8000 sounded much more balanced, with more warmth and bottom end than I remembered them having with the 727, while retaining their magical ability to reproduce vocals. They were as happy to reach all the way down low as they were to deliver delicate highs that electrostats are known for, something I'd not previously experienced with them.

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    HiFiMan Susvara, EF1000
    Weiss DAC and Hugo 2 (DAVE filter)


    [​IMG]
    Photo of me listening, complete with "headphone hair" by Anakchan.

    If the STAX brings the music to you gently, the Susvara wants to tell you about every nuance. It sounds exciting, even when the music isn't trying to be. It only refrains from trying to blow your head off with deep bass notes, having a fairly even sound much in the vein of the HE1000 V2. Pure excitement, if not the most delicate presentation. The Weiss DAC was a fantastic match with the rig.

    Audio Technica ATH-LS400

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    It has been a while since I'd had a listen to Audio Technica's latest offerings, so I spent some time in their room. Given how bright Audio Technica IEMs could be in the past, the LS400 quad balanced armature IEM was somewhat on the thick and warm side, making instruments sound muffled. It might be a better match with brightly recorded Japanese pop than the mostly acoustic music I was using at the show.

    Audio Technica ATH-A2000Z

    [​IMG]

    The X, which I'd auditioned in the past, had sounded far too thin to me, especially as I could never get a proper seal with the wing system. The Z seemed to seal fine this time, without my having to bend and adjust anything to get a bass response.

    There is still quite a mid-range focus and the treble is still not the smoothest -- planers have wrecked me in that regard -- but it wasn't just acoustic they were good with this time, although the deep bass in something like Massive Attack's Angel doesn't have quite enough kick to be ideal. Neil Young were where it was at, along with Santana. Unfortunately turning the volume up on the Mojo made vocals somewhat harsh.

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    I also had a listen to The Eagles via the new AT-LP5 turntable and AT-HA22TUBE amp, the slight warmth of which was nicer in some respects, if not others. Like the other high-end ATs, I would have preferred to listen with them from one of the big Audio Technica tube amps, which always seem to match them best, possibly because they tend to bring out the most bass.

    Audio Technica ATH-DSR9BT
    via AK380 using APTxHD

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    These headphones don't have an in-built DAC, they are digital-direct output to the driver and are pure Bluetooth only with no wired option, nor any noise cancelling. Direct digital output is achieved by changing the digital input to a 1-bit (ie: DSD) signal, which can then be sent straight to the drivers, much as "pure DSD" DACs do. They had a spacious and light sound. The bass was there, down to the deep bass, but distant. Treble could be a bit harsh with some tracks, even such as the binaural C.C. Colletti album, but otherwise they are quite coherent and competent, and very good considering that they are Bluetooth-only headphones.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  3. Currawong Contributor
    Final

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    In a private room, Final had their Air Film Damper planar magnetic headphone prototypes for listening, alongside drivers and manufacturing equipment. Driver prototypes of both 55mm and 70mm were on display and we were told that they plan to manufacture a range of headphones.

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    Via a Questyle DAC/amp the performance from the 70mm prototype was pretty good, reaching down into the deep bass, and at least in prototype form, having a nicely balanced treble, neither too dark nor too bright.

    The model is due in September at a cost of around $300,000 yen.

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    Beyerdynamic Impacto essential

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    I totally would have missed this one if it weren't for running into Gunter Weidermann from Beyerdynamic, who showed us their DAC/amp cable that they had just announced. With inline controls and supporting high-res even up to 384k PCM and 5.6 MHz DSD, the purpose of this cable is to allow high quality playback out of smart phones for even their 600 Ohm headphones.

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    The Impacto has plugs specifically for connecting directly to Beyerdynamic models and will come in two versions, one that works with Android phones and PCs, and one that works with Apple devices as well. The design is interesting in that it has contacts on the back that will attach, magnetically if I recall correctly, to a special battery pack to get around the issue of low power output from phones.

    Brise Audio

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    Ever wondered what a $150,000 headphone rig sounds like? It sounds great. Not sure I'd drop the coin if I had it though. I had a listen via a pair of borrowed Utopias, which were fantastic, unfortunately not to my own music. Regardless, Brise makes some very well-constructed cables that certain look the part of the around $1k some of the ones I saw cost. Anakchan wrote up his factory tour recently.

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    As well as other high-end models (it was suggested that I try the Sony MDR-Z1R they had on hand with the system, they had a special pair of those Kura-Da open-backed models which are pretty much just a metal frame and driver.

    Re-Leaf

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    I thought it pretty stiff to offer an amp at around $20,000, but I was told that there is a model of their carefully hand-made DAC/amps that goes up to $50,000. There was one on display in the Final room, but sadly it wasn't working. They also had a cheaper amp, the E3 on hand, but it wasn't at the table at the time I was able to have a listen.

    Sonoma

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    I had a nice chat to David Kawakami of Sonoma, who is, in many respects, the father of DSD audio and the famous Sonoma recording workstation. The final version of their completely integrated electrostatic DAC/amp was on display and doing a wonderful job of reproducing instruments, even if I am not the greatest fan of Sabre-based DACs, nor of the idea of not being able to use my own analog source. While the unit has an analog input, it is converted to digital internally to allow the internal DSP to function.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
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  4. Currawong Contributor
    Music With 規格外
    (Music With Outside Specifications)
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    The reason you can't see anyone behind the display this year is that they all fled when I decided to take a picture. This table, if you can call it that, had, as usual, the most amazing display of DIY and old CD walkman and headphone hardware that I'd ever seen, and had an atmosphere of geekiness that was through the roof.

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    But that wasn't all. As I was chatting to Dan Clark of MrSpeakers, a man approached and sat down with his portable rig...to end all portable rigs. I shall let these photos of this battery- and supercapacitor-powered rig speak for themselves. He kindly let us have a listen (we were trying the Aeons), and the sound was good. We didn't have the heart to suggest he just buy a Hugo 2 instead...

    Just afterwards he told he that he needed to change a battery in one of the amps. I asked him how long that would take. He said "About 50 minutes" and began disassembling things on a spare table by the elevators.

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    Last edited: May 4, 2017
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  5. alota
    really thanks. about hugo2, please wich difference with hugo? i don´t have money for the dave but i really like chord stuffs so i´m interested in hugo 2
     
  6. Currawong Contributor
    More resolution, more headphone power, easier to use, filter options. The impression I get from the specs and my listening on the day was that it was between the TT and DAVE in capability.
     
    alota likes this.
  7. alota
    Thank you Amos. It's a good news. 2.000€(more or less) is a lot of money but compared to the performance i think is an end game for many people
     
  8. purk Contributor
    Great report. Thanks once again.
     
  9. gerbi
    Is there much difference in the trebles between the TH-610 and the th-900?
     
  10. ExpatinJapan
    Excellent write up
     
  11. obsidyen
    They are different. TH-610 has less bass quantity (although bass extension is excellent), more forward mids, smoother treble.
     
    Currawong likes this.
  12. gerbi
    Thank you. In the meantime I've managed to snatch a demo pair of the TH-600 (which I owned in the past) for a very good price!
     

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