AXPONA 2017 Impressions Thread

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  1. AxelCloris Administrator
    This is the place to do our thing. Let's get the show impressions rolling! What caught your eye this weekend?
  2. audi0nick128
    Hey there,

    Since I am from Germany and won't be able to attend, I would like to get some Info on the Janszen Headphones.

    So for those of you who are there, you should check them out :)

    I'm most interested in SQ, obviously but I would also like to know what connection is used.
    Looks like the 2*2.5mm, like Nighthawks or HEK.

    Cheers and enjoy the event.
  3. willsw
    Janszen is using one of our amps for his headphones, so I'll make some time to go over and investigate them more thoroughly. I do know that they are, at least superficially, fairly early prototypes. I think the internals are near production or at production.
  4. audi0nick128
    Hey there willsw,

    that would be awsome :wink:

    Cheers and enjoy the event
  5. Watagump
    Who flew United? [​IMG]
  6. buson160man
       On Friday I covered the bulk of the headphone exhibits . I liked the new hifiman 1000 v2 .I was not blown away by the original when I heard it awhile back . But I did like the new version 2 . I thought it much improved over the original. I thought it was the best compromise among the other phones .
  7. seamon
    Things that blew me away  - From Full Blown Hurricane to stagnant air
    1. Tia Forte
    1. Zeus XR ADEL
    1. Sony WM1Z
    2. LCD 4
    3. Focal Utopia
    4. LCD 3 in Balanced mode
    5. ZMF Atticus
    6. EE IEM 2.0
    7. 64 A18 Tzar
    8. Dita Answer
    9. CA Vega
    10. Hifiman He1000
    11. LCD 2
    12. Focal Elear
    13. LCD Studo
    14. Hifiman Shangri La
    15. Hifiman Susvara
    imperialblue likes this.
  8. goodvibes
    I liked the 1964 3 way and Empire Ears 4 way. At higher prices, 1964 Tia and Shure electrostatic.
  9. Watagump
    Its Sunday, did only 3 people attend this show? [​IMG]
  10. seamon
  11. AxelCloris Administrator
    I had an excellent time seeing everyone this weekend. It's always fun going through the Ear Gear Expo and spending some time upstairs in the 2-channel rooms. I'm going to keep this post brief since I have a busy day ahead of me. Here are my highlights from the event in no particular order:
    JansZen's new headphone was a surprise for me. I hadn't heard anything about it before the show but I made sure to give it a listen once I knew it was there. For those who don't know, it's a closed-back, self powered electrostatic headphone. That means there's no need for a dedicated amplifier to run the stators. I was told that it could run multiple weeks on a single charge if listening to music for 4 hours a day. That's pretty impressive. Sonically, it's an early prototype and there's plenty of work to be done, but early impressions are promising. Looking forward to seeing more about it as it develops.
    It's always nice to see Bevin from ZMFheadphones and she brought her husband along to the show. ZMF is always a fun stop at these shows, and every time I looked there were people listening at the table. Bevin's husband and I chatted for a bit and I like where the company is headed.
    MrSpeakers had the most recent revision of their upcoming electrostatic headphone and I listened to it paired with an early prototype of Linear Tube Audio's new electrostatic amplifier. E-stats are tough to completely grasp in a show environment but I enjoyed what I was able to hear. I think both products will mark their space when they launch.
    Empire Ears was showing their entire lineup of IEMs and it's always a pleasure stopping by their table for a listen. I was completely surprised with how much of a difference I noticed when going between the Zeus XR's cable and an Effect Audio copper cable. I believe it was the Ares II. I very much enjoyed the more fun signature I received from the Effect cable, but it wasn't as reference sounding as the cable included with the Zeus XR. I guess that lets the listener choose their flavor.
    There were several exhibitors showing their gear together too. Questyle was showing their gear alongside Focal, Kimber Kable and a few other brands. The Focal Utopia Tournaire was on display. I don't normally like yellow gold but I think it works on that design. Still, the $125k price tag keeps it far from my reach. I'll save for the normal Utopia, thanks. :wink: Focal also had the rest of their line: the Listen, Elear and Sphear.
    I use the Kimber Kable Axios with my MrSpeakers Ether Flow and the Sony TA-ZH1ES from time to time and love the pairing, and they had their cables available for use with the Questyle golden reference stack. The Kimber build quality is exceptional and they're some of the best feeling cables I've ever come across. Questyle also had their CMA400i, CMA600i and CMA800i on display. There was one production version of the CMA400i at their table and I enjoyed the short demo. Could be something to pick up when it's available. My only complaint is that it uses a 2.5mm jack for balanced IEMs rather than the newer 4.4mm connector. I have 4.4mm terminated cables so I'll have to get an adapter made if I want to use them.
    HiFiMAN had their Shangri La on hand as well as their entire lineup of headphones. The table was constantly busy so I didn't stay long but the Shangri La is always a must-hear.
    Audeze was at the show with their lineup including the upcoming studio-focused LCD-Pro and the SINE Deluxe. For anyone interested, Evan told me that the SINE Deluxe will be going on sale tomorrow (4/25) at 10am PDT on their website. It's a limited run so this could possibly be the only time to snag one.
    This show was the first time I listened to the new Cleer headphones and I was surprised by their entry level $130 over-ear. It's not an audiophile reference sound by any stretch, but for a headphone designed for the masses it's surprisingly enjoyable. Their flagship NEXT headphone is nearing the end of development and is shaping up nicely. I'm looking forward to the finished product.
    Final was at the show and their's is another table I suggest nobody miss. The FI-BA-SST is a solid piece and their F series is incredibly comfortable for a universal in-ear. I like the F4100 the most of the three.
    Sonoma had a room upstairs where they were giving demos of their M1 electrostatic system. We have one of these at the office and it's a great option for someone who wants an electrostatic system without the need to hunt for the best pairings. It's a complete system in a box. Build quality is insane and those details combined with the sound make the M1 worth the price of admission.
    After missing it at RMAF, I finally got to listen to the AURALiC Polaris. I've been waiting months to hear it and the wait was worth it. Unfortunately it's overkill for my current needs, but if anyone is looking for an all-in-one home stereo solution (note: no headphone output) then it's one to consider.
    ELAC was showing their upcoming Adante bookshelf speakers. I adored the ELAC UB5 last year and the Adante continues that tradition. It's always a pleasure chatting with Andrew Jones with his unique sense of humor. The Adante are going to run $2,500 a pair, so the UB5 are still a killer budget offering at $500.
    And finally, I got a chance to listen to the Focal Sopra N1 upstairs. I fell in love immediately. I'd love to have a pair of those for the apartment, but at $9k they're well out of reach. Maybe someday.
  12. maverickronin
    I haven't posted much on here recently but here's a rundown of what I listened to and what I thought of it.

    Unless otherwise specified the source and amp were my portable rig:  xDuoo X3 (Rockboxed) > Leckerton UHA-4 with crossfeed off
    Janszen prototype electrostat:
    This is a closed, 2-way design with a battery powered bias circuit for the electrostatic tweeter.  One charge will allegedly last for something like 2 months at 4 hours of listening per day which I find hard to believe but it really only need to keep up with the 10-15 hour battery life of the average audiophile DAP in order to find a market.
    Sound-wise they have quite a few problems to work out.  The main difficulty with these types of designs is integrating the standard dynamic woofer with the more exotic tweeter and this is no exception.  It sound disjointed with the quality of the lower mids and bass not coming anywhere near the treble.  The treble is smooth and sweet with nice resolution and no hint of etch or ringing.  With a better dynamic driver and some more extensive tuning it could be a contender in it's final price range of ~1K but as it is now, even the early adopter price on their Kickstarter of $500 is too much of a gamble.  As it stands now, it's basically just an easier to drive version of the AGK K340.
    Beyerdynamic Amiron:
    The usual Beyer house sound. A bit of "smile curve" EQ, clear and overly crisp, with "fake" detail, metallic timbre, and sparkle from a large boost to the high treble.  Not really sure why these cost 3X the DT880.
    Beyerdynamic T5p:
    It's best attribute its the expansive forward projection from the angled drivers giving it an excellent sound stage for a closed headphone.  The timbre is still metallic, though less so than the Amiron, and the high treble is still too peaky and resonant.
    Beyerdynamic 1770 Pro:
    A slightly more neutral version of 770 Pro.  Same above average isolation, small and closed in soundstage, unnatural timbre, and peaky treble.
    Audio-Technica AD2000Z:
    Hey!  Audio-Technica's here.  That's a surprise.  And an AD2000Z?  When did they even start selling those here?  Let's give it a listen.
    Not much isolation, but super-comfy as usual for AT's AD series.  Snappy and mid to treble focused with some bass roll off and/or lack of impact.  Sometimes they sound a bight bright but they're a breath of fresh air compared to Beyers I just listened to.  Doesn't have a closed in sound at all.  The size of the soundstage is above average for a closed 'phone but on the smaller side overall if you include open 'phones.  The soundstage it very symmetrical with good projection and imaging.  Separation is great and overall resolution if quite good as well.
    It would be hard to resist buying these (even at full MSRP from AT USA which is the only place I can find them) if they had better isolation.
    Also, how do these cost more than US MSRP from Price Japan?  It's like the world's coming to an end.
    Audio-Technical AD1000X:
    More mid-focused remember the non-x version I used to have.  A small-ish soundstage for being open but it's symmetrical with good projection.  Treble is sharper than the 2000Z (though still pretty far away from Beyer-level) and less detailed overall.
    Audio-Technica W1000Z:
    Has a bit of isolation.  Much warmer and more romantic than the previous two but the bass is less defined.  Better separation than the 1000X but less than the 2000Z.  Has a natural and symmetrical soundstage similar to the AD2000Z but a hair larger.  The treble isn't as smooth or detailed as the 2000Z
    Mr. Speakers Aeon:
    Super comfy with some useful isolation and doesn't sound closed.  Good separation.  A medium-large soundstage, even counting open 'phones.  Soundstage is even and symmetrical.  Has an even and fairly neutral sound.  Treble is generally smooth and resolving.
    Mr. Speakers Ether C Flow:
    Still sounds fairly open despite being closed and having useful isolation.  More bass than the Aeon.  Soundstage is wider and less symmetrical than the Aeon but it responds well to crossfeed.  Smoother and more resolving treble than the Aeon.  Can occasionally hear closed resonances because of the increased bass.  Probably second favorite closed headphone after the Stax 4070.
    ZMF Eikon Padauk:
    Fed from Metrum Adagio DAC and Erzetich Perfidus amp.  Some useful isolation.  Clear mids with very good separation.  Decent sized soundsatge but wider than it is deep.  Placement within the soundstage is continuous and precise.  Even with the vents it sound more closed than open and the bass can reverberate a bit.  Treble is quite resolving but has some of the usual bio-cellulose sharpness but I prefer it to the Denon/Fostex bio-cellulose line.
    Final Audio F7200
    Another, "Holy Crap!"  Final audio is here?
    With stock silicone tips:  Has a very even and 3D soundstage.  Great imaging.  Surprising bass impact for a single BA.  That bass stays nice and tight.  A very neutral sound.  Like a slightly sweetened ER-4 or something.  Exceptionally clear and resolving treble.  A hair bright though.  Very revealing without "fake detail" from massively bootsed high treble.  Also tiny and super comfortable.
    Deep fit tips which feel like neoprene or something:  I couldn't get these to fit in my ears at all.
    Comply tips:  Even better clarity and a hair less bright because I could get a deeper fit.  I came back and listed to these again and they were the best IEMs I listened to at the show.
    Final Audio F4100:
    Similar to the 7100 but warmer and with less separation, clarity, and detail.
    Final Audio Heaven VIII:
    A softer sound that either of the F series.  Shelved, but extended treble.  Still quite detailed if not masked by lower frequencies.  Quite comfortable if you don't mind cable-down IEMs.  Slightly less detail and separation than the F7200.  Female vocals are liquid-lush.  Sounds like a Shure SE530 on steroids or what I had hoped the 846 would have sounded like.
    Also WTF is up with the looks of this?  Bright gold finish and golf ball dimples that look like all the rhinestones fell out?  It should come with your option of a can of black spray paint or a bedazzler.
    Final Audio Heaven II:
    Not very comfortable for me.  The sharp edges on the rubber strain relief cut into my ears quite a bit.  A bit brighter than the VIII's.  Overall has quite good seperation but the upper bass/lower mids can get a bit congested.  Treble is a hair metallic but overall it's a pleasant sound with average resolution.  Quite good for the price if they fit comfortably in your ears..
    Final Audio Lab II:
    Just. Weird.  Sounds like someone disconnected the woofer and tweeter from a nice 3-way.  Quite nice for female vocals with light accompaniment, crap for pretty much everything else.
    Final Audio E3000:
    Preproduction version of their new budget dynamics.  Small and quite comfy.  Smooth, relaxed, and non-fatiguing sound without being fuzzy or muddy.  Less resolving than the even then Heaven II but I think there are supposed to retail for something like half that price so I'll call these a win.
    Final Audio FI-BA-SST:
    Pretty comfy.  Have a bit of a dark tilt without sacrificing much in the way of detail.  Very good separation.  A pleasant sound and on a absolute scale it's pretty resolving but the details are smoothed over compared to the F7200 which is near 1/3 the price.  Sounds like a slightly brighter Heaven VIII which is a bit more than half the price.  They are more comfortable than the Heaven VIII's though.
    Final Audio FI-BA-SS:
    Oddly these are simultaneously brighter and less resolving than the SST.  The F7200 makes these obsolete in the Final line.  It's cheaper with a more resolving and detailed version of the same sound signature and has removable cables to boot.
    Those are my notes from Friday.  I'll post my impressions from Sunday later.
    AxelCloris likes this.
  13. Jodet
    Linear Tube Audio is making an electrostatic amplifier? 
  14. maverickronin
    Listening impressions continued...
    Pioneer SE Monitor:
    Prototype of Pioneer's upcoming high-end sealed full size headphone.
    Has useful isolation and I don't hear any of the usual resonances or reflections most closed headphones.  Soundstage is large for a closed headphone with good forward projection and 3D imaging.  Bass is a bit rolled off with average impact.  Treble has a bit of a metallic timbre.  There is pretty good resolution as well unless a note hits one the very narrow but pronounced resonances in the driver.
    Final Audio Sonorous III:
    Decent isolation and not much of the typical closed sound.  Quite good instrument separation with a decent degree of projection and a 3D soundstage.  A mild bit of "shout" in the upper mids  Treble seems a bit rolled off or shelved but what's there has good resolution.  Only a hint of ringing in the treble.
    Final Audio Sonorous VI aka Pandora Hope VI:
    I've been interested in hearing this since it was first released because of its unusual design, a full sized balanced armature/dynamic hybrid, and this is the first chance I've had.
    Doesn't sound closed at all.  Has very good separation.  Soundstage has decent projection with excellent 3D imaging.  I want to describe it as holographic.  Decent bass impact.  Much better resolution than the III.  The dynamic keeps up with the BA.  They are very well integrated.  The treble is quite smooth with only the barest hint of sharpness.  Very impressed with the sound.
    Unfortunately the Sonorous line all share the same aesthetic-focused design leaving plenty of room for improvement in comfort.  It's not head-in-a-vise level, but they are fairly heavy and don't do the best job in distributing that weight.
    Final Audio Sonorous IV:
    Little brother to the VI.  Same or similar dynamic/BA hybrid with more plastic and less metal in the cups and headband.
    Has a more lively sound than the VI.  Sometimes it sounds like a bit of a smile curve EQ and sometimes it just sounds like a bit more treble.  I can hear something resonating the housing that I didn't hear with the VI.  When nothing hits that it still have very good resolution leading me to believe that these are the same drivers and crossover as in the VI but with a cheaper housing.  IIRC the info cards indicated that the ABS plastic parts on the IV were replaced with stainless steel or aluminum on the VI.  Overall Imaging and treble resolution are not quite as good as the VI.  The bass is more noticeably looser as well.  The IV would probably respond well to mods.
    Final Audio Sonorous X:
    Final Audio continues their tradition of oddly tuned flagships with the 5K Sonorous X which goes back to single dynamic driver design.  I much prefer the VI for 14% of the price.
    These aren't bad by any means and certainly not as bizarre as the LAB II and the Piano Forte series but they don't come anywhere near the usual kinds of audiophile tunings.  These are very warm and mid-centric, though not to whoops-I-only-connected-the-mid-range level of the LAB II.  It's a very smooth sound with syrup-y, tube-y  mids and are great with female vocals but doesn't completely fall apart with other music.  It's more closed in with a smaller soundstage than the VI or IV.  It's more on par with the III in that respect.  When not masked by lower frequencies the treble is extended are articulate and has no ringing or resonances.
    Overall this is a pure luxury product.  It's the kind of thing you'd only buy if you absolutely fall in love with the sound signature, you have entirely too much disposable income and just automatically buy the highest trim level, or if you need some overly gaudy headphones to compliment your stage performance.
    Sennheiser HD569:
    Holy crap!  Sennheiser finally made a closed audiophile headphone rather than a "lifestyle" headphone, a lower level consumer model, or slapping a new coat of paint on one of their professional models.  Lets give it a try!
    Overall I was quite impressed.  It sounds a little bit closed in and the bass can boom a bit if it hits the wrong note but those are it's only error of commission.  It has very smooth and non-fatiguing treble with decent detail, slightly above average sized soundsage for closed 'phones with decent to above average imaging.  I find this to be a good all-rounder.
    Campfire Orion:
    Above average separation for for a traditional single BA design.  The soundstage seems oddly small, even for an IEM.  Rolled off on both ends.  The treble usually seems to have decent detail but it also tends to smooth over some flaws in the recording depending on what I'm listening to.  The mids have "veiled" sound that reminds me of the <$50 single BAs I've owned.  Way overpriced.
    Also, I'm not very impressed with the fit or comfort the the shells which all their designs share.  Machined aluminum sure looks cool, but it's too heavy.  Combined with the short nozzles I couldn't get a deep enough fit and the would slow slide out as I moved my head.
    Campfire Nova:
    Smile curve EQ.  Better separation and imaging.  Doesn't have the excessively closed in feeling of the Orion.  The soundstage is more normal for an IEM.  The last octave or so of the treble is rolled off.  Treble is not that much more resolving than the Orion.  Despite being bright it still has a smooth and pleasant sound.  Not bad by any means but I still think it's overpriced.
    Campfire Jupiter:
    Much more noticeable clarity than the Nova.  Still has the smile curve EQ but toned down some.  Better bass impact.  Good separation and 3D imaging.  Better treble extension and resolution.  Much better sound.  Not obscenely overpriced as the previous two.  Those machined aluminum shells must cost a pretty penny.
    Campfire Andromeda:
    Fairly similar SQ to the Jupiter but with a more neutral frequency response.  Separation and imaging are a bit better than the Jupiter but overall the treble isn't as detailed and will smooth over flaws in the recording.  Not bad at all, but back to being obscenely overpriced.  I prefer the Final F7200 and Noble Savanna which have similar sound signatures and better overall SQ for less than half the price.
    Noble Audio Django:
    Fairly even FR with a slight bass emphasis which can pound when it's called for and stays out of the way when it's not.  Quite good separation and imaging.  Good clarity.  Honest and resolving.  They reveal poor recording without exaggerating the flaws.  These Noble universal shells are huge but they're much more comfortable than the Campfires.  SQ per dollar is on par with the Jupiter but with a slightly more neutral sound sig.
    Noble Audio Savanna:
    These are very good.  Second favorite IEM listed in the impressions after the Final F7200.  A cheaper and more neutral version of the Djangos.   A hair less separation in busy passages but at the same time more overall clarity because of the more more neutral response.
    HiFiMan Shangri-La
    This is only connected to one of their own players which will take 30 minutes to scan one of my SD cards before I can listen to anything.  The player only has few sampler albums loaded onto it and nothing I am very familiar with.
    Some is either cheaping out on showcasing their $50K system or isn't very confident in its performance.
    Meze 99 Classic:
    Light and comfy with useful isolation.  Fairly even and neutral frequency response.  Bass is extended and had good impact but can get a bit boomy on the wrong note.  Treble extends quite well and is pretty smooth without any ringing.  It can sound a bit closed in at times.  Average resolution and separation.  Soundstage isn't large but it is even and symmetrical.  Over all I'm pretty impressed.
    Meze 99 Neo:
    Very similar to the classic.  It may have a little better separation.  Other than that, the main difference is the plastic cups moving the resonant frequencies and changing the bass notes which get boomy.  The Classic generally worked better with my test tracks.  Either one would probably respond well to basic modding but since there seem to be positioned as lightweight portable headphones I can see why they did come mass-loaded from the factory.
    Sennheiser PCX550:
    Noise canceling headphones with both Bluetooth and wired connectivity.  I just tested wired since I don't use my phone for anything music related.
    Cable plugs into the wrong side.  Shirt pockets are on the left, not the right.  Fairly clear and even sound.  Has good separation and is surprisingly resolving for an active headphone.  Treble is nicely extended.  Soundstage is small-ish but it's even and symmetrical.  Imaging could be better though.
    Something I'll have to look into when my QC15's eventually die.
    Focal Utopia:
    From both my portable rig and a Questyle CMA 400i DAC/amp combo.
    I continue to be unimpressed with these.  There is essentially no forward projection to the soundstage.  Most of the IEMs I listened to did better.  It's essentially 2 dimensional.  Everything is extreme left or extreme right.  It turns anything with any stereo separation into one of those old, early stereo Beetles' recordings where everything is hard-panned to one side or the other.  The crossfeed on my UHA-4 just moves it more towards the center of my head rather than further forward as it does with pretty much anything else.  It's headache inducing.  I wonder if TB Isone would be able to fix these?  If there's a pair at the next meet I'll have to try them on my own rig.
    Ignoring the soundstage elephant in the room it's quite nice otherwise.  It's smooth and pleasant without sacrificing too much in the way of detail.  It's clear without being harsh.  There is a very minor bit of ringing in the treble but people who aren't aren't practically allergic to that the way I am probably won't even notice it.  It does gloss over imperfections in sub-par recordings and mixes though.  If you don't mind the 2 dimensional soundstage, that may be just what you're looking for.
    Assuming you can't get your hands on a $DEITY-teir Audeze I think a modded HD800 is still the king of 'non-stats which makes the value proposition of the Utopia quite questionable at more than twice the price without even bringing the same technical abilities to the table.  I'd say it more or less falls into the same category as the Sonorous X.  It's primary market niche is as a luxury product sold to people with too much disposable income.  It just happens to make nice sounds when you plug in into an amp and some more traditional audiophile may happen to like it.
    AxelCloris likes this.
  15. maverickronin
    I beieve the amp the Janszen rep was using was a microZOTL.  The Janszen prototypes aren't traditional 'stats.  They're a two way design with a dynamic woofer.  The 'stat tweeter has a battery powered bias supply and seems to be efficient enough to run from a normal headamp since it's just handling the treble.
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