CanJam New York 2024 Impressions Thread (March 9-10, 2024)
Mar 12, 2024 at 9:31 PM Post #376 of 688
We need a Can Jam in Chicago again. This time not on a weekend I have an event in action already.
Let’s make Axpona the unofficial replacement!

As always, it was a pleasure chatting with people and showing off the products we carry at Mimic Audio!

I'm going to think about how this could work, maybe a 'quiet room' that could be sponsored and reserved in 15-30 minute time slots? Those noise isolation booths cost about $2500 to rent and can fit 1-2 people. If you put a few of these in a side room, it might cost $15k with the room fee. I think the only way that makes economic sense is to have a 2nd setup up in a hotel room and have sign ups or invitations for it
There’s a potential solution already in use thanks to 2channel shows like Axpona.

Basically have canjam completely take over a hotel venue and give vendors and dealers the option of renting a booth, hotel room, suite, or convention hall.
 
Mar 12, 2024 at 10:08 PM Post #377 of 688
There’s a potential solution already in use thanks to 2channel shows like Axpona.

Basically have canjam completely take over a hotel venue and give vendors and dealers the option of renting a booth, hotel room, suite, or convention hall.
I'm pretty sure in NYC that gets real expensive real quickly. I'm guessing that's why stereophile doesn't do 2 channel shows anymore, here.
 
Mar 12, 2024 at 10:46 PM Post #378 of 688
I'm pretty sure in NYC that gets real expensive real quickly. I'm guessing that's why stereophile doesn't do 2 channel shows anymore, here.
There's always the option to move to a less expensive location. Plenty of convention space in NYC or even Newark, NJ.

People hold conventions in Newark and call it a NY convention. :laughing:
 
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Mar 12, 2024 at 11:10 PM Post #379 of 688
You'll probably get a lot of Jersey natives reply with "Hey youse, fahgettaboudit!"
I'm not from NJ originally but been here long enough to adapt.
Or perhaps a “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to ME? Cos I don’t see who else you’re talkin’ to…”

If you know, you know. 😅
 
Mar 12, 2024 at 11:11 PM Post #380 of 688
People hold meets in NY in part due to the fame of the city and allow people to tour and experience the NY life.

Like I don’t go to meetings in California or Florida unless it’s held inside of Disney Land.
 
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Mar 12, 2024 at 11:22 PM Post #381 of 688
To get this thing back on track a bit, I’d like to share my show impressions. I’ve been to a bunch of CanJam NYCs and there was absolutely no doubt this was the biggest, grandest, wildest, loudest one ever. I had a wonderful time and I’d like to sincerely thank the organizers for putting in the time and effort to make this happen year after year.

Full Size:

My preferences have shifted to portable over the last year+ so I focused primarily on IEMs over both days, but I did manage to spend 45 minutes or so in the ZMF room to see what it was all about. It was a total frenzy in there, I loved the enthusiasm and atmosphere.

ZMF Caldera & Caldera Closed – All my listening was via the Benchmark HPA4 (the least trafficked setup in the room, that’s how I was able to snag a seat as everyone was hovering over the tube amps). I really liked the open backs, but much preferred the closed. The opens were brighter to my ears, with a hard edge on some vocals that I didn’t jive with. Tonality wise they are both fantastic. I felt the bass on the Closed was just on another level versus the opens. In my opinion there were no attributes of the opens that were better than Closed, not even soundstage if you can imagine that. They nailed it.

Abyss Diana MR – I popped into the Woo Audio room to say hi to Mike (just a lovely guy) and to tell him for the 3rd year in a row that his HD800 unboxing video on Youtube over 10 years ago single handedly got me into the hobby. Man do I need to come up with some new material for next year… anyway, I listened to the MRs off the Woo Tube Mini/PowerBase and was totally enchanted. I have a really small head and I think the design of the 1266 is an abomination, but the Diana is just perfect. They feel so good on my head. As for sound, the best way I can describe is that they sound “alive”. Notes are tangible, bass is thunderous, and the imaging can by hypnotic with the right track. A lot of fun all around and as a $3500 set with the tube mini, its something I’m really considering.

IEMs:

Oriolus Traillii JP (original) – so I did it, I heard the bird. And frankly I wish I didn’t. I’ve never heard a midrange so seductive. Kind of melted in my chair there for a second listening to The Sound of Silence. If you have the money, I would run and not walk before they’re gone. There was nothing better at the show period. And yes, I know they’ve been out for a few years.

Oriolus Traillii Ti – I don’t think these are a great buy at $8500 when the original still exists. Sure there’s more bass, the Ti is certainly more technical, but its all at the expense of what makes the original so special. I will say the shell housing is super premium.

Vision Ears VE10 – These have a lot of energy, maybe a little too much for me. Fun sounding but they didn’t hook me for some reason and I suspect these may cause a bit of fatigue for those sensitive to treble energy.

QDC 8pro – surprise highlight for me. For an all BA set, I really really liked these. The sound is a little thin compared to hybrids, but they are a technical beast with e-stat like speed. Excellent BA bass. Compelling proposition at $1500.

Canpur CP622B – I was pumped to hear these given all the recent praise. Didn’t live up to the hype for me. Too bright and has a lot of upper midrange energy. Also, the build quality didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The shells kind of looked and felt cheap and weighed literally nothing.

Canpur CP54E – I vastly preferred these over their big brother. Much more relaxed, controlled yet pounding bass with great balance through the midrange and treble. These are the ones to look out for in my opinion.

Unique Melody – going to be brief here and lump a bunch of impressions into one. I tried the Mentor, both Mason FS’s, and the Amber Pearl. Not sure what I’m missing or smoking but I thought the Mentor was the best of the bunch, and that one was just a “meh” for me. AP and the Mason FS’ sounded almost identical. I couldn’t really pick out any differences, even subtle ones. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m on the side of not understanding the hype with these.

Aroma Audio Fei Wan – Icy and bright. Couldn’t move past that.

Campfire Trifecta – The Bonneville is my daily driver and I LOVE them so you can imagine how excited I was to try these. Tried them twice, and both times I walked away confused. I have pretty small ears so its possible there was a fit issue (Bonneville fits me like a custom) but the Trifecta to me was so much brighter and less pleasant. I was hearing a whole lot of sibilance which I thought was a thing of the past at the high-end. The image was definitely taller but felt flatter to me than Bonneville and very two-dimensional. It was just a weird audition for me.

Campfire Fathom – Take all the best aspects of the Andromeda and Bonneville (minus the bass) and you have the Fathom. Awesome. Nicely Done.

FatFreq Scarlet Mini – Tried these out for giggles and ended up really enjoying them. I didn’t feel that the bass was overwhelming at all. As a hip-hop/electronic specialist, these are fun.

Noble Triumph TWS - They sounded really good. Very very fast with ample bass. I was surprised they were able to tune it to give it some meat and note weight with the xMEMs drivers. Definitely preferred these over my Svanar tws in pretty much all regards except soundstage depth. I did not love the alcantara case, but I’m sure most will appreciate.

Overall, I had such a blast trying all this gear and meeting some of you guys. I’ve had a very schiit-y year and really needed this weekend to just forget about life and relax. I know a lot of you can relate. :beerchug:
 
Mar 12, 2024 at 11:30 PM Post #382 of 688
To get this thing back on track a bit, I’d like to share my show impressions. I’ve been to a bunch of CanJam NYCs and there was absolutely no doubt this was the biggest, grandest, wildest, loudest one ever. I had a wonderful time and I’d like to sincerely thank the organizers for putting in the time and effort to make this happen year after year.

Full Size:

My preferences have shifted to portable over the last year+ so I focused primarily on IEMs over both days, but I did manage to spend 45 minutes or so in the ZMF room to see what it was all about. It was a total frenzy in there, I loved the enthusiasm and atmosphere.

ZMF Caldera & Caldera Closed – All my listening was via the Benchmark HPA4 (the least trafficked setup in the room, that’s how I was able to snag a seat as everyone was hovering over the tube amps). I really liked the open backs, but much preferred the closed. The opens were brighter to my ears, with a hard edge on some vocals that I didn’t jive with. Tonality wise they are both fantastic. I felt the bass on the Closed was just on another level versus the opens. In my opinion there were no attributes of the opens that were better than Closed, not even soundstage if you can imagine that. They nailed it.

Abyss Diana MR – I popped into the Woo Audio room to say hi to Mike (just a lovely guy) and to tell him for the 3rd year in a row that his HD800 unboxing video on Youtube over 10 years ago single handedly got me into the hobby. Man do I need to come up with some new material for next year… anyway, I listened to the MRs off the Woo Tube Mini/PowerBase and was totally enchanted. I have a really small head and I think the design of the 1266 is an abomination, but the Diana is just perfect. They feel so good on my head. As for sound, the best way I can describe is that they sound “alive”. Notes are tangible, bass is thunderous, and the imaging can by hypnotic with the right track. A lot of fun all around and as a $3500 set with the tube mini, its something I’m really considering.

IEMs:

Oriolus Traillii JP (original) – so I did it, I heard the bird. And frankly I wish I didn’t. I’ve never heard a midrange so seductive. Kind of melted in my chair there for a second listening to The Sound of Silence. If you have the money, I would run and not walk before they’re gone. There was nothing better at the show period. And yes, I know they’ve been out for a few years.

Oriolus Traillii Ti – I don’t think these are a great buy at $8500 when the original still exists. Sure there’s more bass, the Ti is certainly more technical, but its all at the expense of what makes the original so special. I will say the shell housing is super premium.

Vision Ears VE10 – These have a lot of energy, maybe a little too much for me. Fun sounding but they didn’t hook me for some reason and I suspect these may cause a bit of fatigue for those sensitive to treble energy.

QDC 8pro – surprise highlight for me. For an all BA set, I really really liked these. The sound is a little thin compared to hybrids, but they are a technical beast with e-stat like speed. Excellent BA bass. Compelling proposition at $1500.

Canpur CP622B – I was pumped to hear these given all the recent praise. Didn’t live up to the hype for me. Too bright and has a lot of upper midrange energy. Also, the build quality didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The shells kind of looked and felt cheap and weighed literally nothing.

Canpur CP54E – I vastly preferred these over their big brother. Much more relaxed, controlled yet pounding bass with great balance through the midrange and treble. These are the ones to look out for in my opinion.

Unique Melody – going to be brief here and lump a bunch of impressions into one. I tried the Mentor, both Mason FS’s, and the Amber Pearl. Not sure what I’m missing or smoking but I thought the Mentor was the best of the bunch, and that one was just a “meh” for me. AP and the Mason FS’ sounded almost identical. I couldn’t really pick out any differences, even subtle ones. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m on the side of not understanding the hype with these.

Aroma Audio Fei Wan – Icy and bright. Couldn’t move past that.

Campfire Trifecta – The Bonneville is my daily driver and I LOVE them so you can imagine how excited I was to try these. Tried them twice, and both times I walked away confused. I have pretty small ears so its possible there was a fit issue (Bonneville fits me like a custom) but the Trifecta to me was so much brighter and less pleasant. I was hearing a whole lot of sibilance which I thought was a thing of the past at the high-end. The image was definitely taller but felt flatter to me than Bonneville and very two-dimensional. It was just a weird audition for me.

Campfire Fathom – Take all the best aspects of the Andromeda and Bonneville (minus the bass) and you have the Fathom. Awesome. Nicely Done.

FatFreq Scarlet Mini – Tried these out for giggles and ended up really enjoying them. I didn’t feel that the bass was overwhelming at all. As a hip-hop/electronic specialist, these are fun.

Noble Triumph TWS - They sounded really good. Very very fast with ample bass. I was surprised they were able to tune it to give it some meat and note weight with the xMEMs drivers. Definitely preferred these over my Svanar tws in pretty much all regards except soundstage depth. I did not love the alcantara case, but I’m sure most will appreciate.

Overall, I had such a blast trying all this gear and meeting some of you guys. I’ve had a very schiit-y year and really needed this weekend to just forget about life and relax. I know a lot of you can relate. :beerchug:
nice write up!

I have attended the past three NY can jams. agree on this year having been the best one!
 
Mar 12, 2024 at 11:56 PM Post #383 of 688
I'm a little late to the party here, but here are my impressions of CanJam NYC!

CanJam NYC 2024
:statue_of_liberty:


Ahh - New York City. The city so nice, they named it twice. My favorite place in the world. Somewhere I feel more at home than I do in my home city, Boston. Just don’t tell any of my family members that…

This was my second go at CanJam NYC and this year was even better than the last. I was far more comfortable and free on the showroom floor, going into it with no clear defined list to shuffle through, but rather allowing my emotions to guide me through the many many different options on display. Trust me - it’s a lot
:face_exhaling:


The biggest highlights this year include a bunch of IEMs (of course), meeting @Precogvision and having a small chat with him, and at the top of the list has to be hanging out after the event ended with the guys from Symphonium. Felix, Phil, and Gary are all top-notch guys. Discussing IEM R&D with Felix was so fascinating, I learned quite a bit about how BA drivers work and the challenges they face with using them solely (not for long) on a majority of their IEMs. They also allowed me to take home a pair of Crimsons for an extended Demo and photos. What a bunch of rock stars those guys are.

Let me start by saying I did not listen to as much stuff this year as I did in 2023. I was not compelled to try and listen to so many IEMs this year, and I wondered why this was the case going into the event. I believe now that it’s simply because of the amazing generosity my buddies have shown me over the last few years, sending me and the rest of the tour group IEM after IEM. The likes of the STORM, Imperial Loki, Monarch MK3, and many more have crossed my desk so, I just think I’ve tasted the top and quite frankly, anything I could have listened to at CanJam would either be a downgrade or a side grade at best. With that being said, here’s everything I took stock of on Sunday!

Noble Spartacus - These are a very decent IEM, but nothing special stood out to me at all. The resolution is, of course, that of a flagship, but outside of that, nothing shouted “These are special”. It was a relatively short listen admittedly, and the entire reason I picked them up in the first place is due to them being damn pretty and I was waiting for @GooberBM to be done listening to the IEM he was listening to lol

Symphonium Titan - wow. Now THIS is bass that digs very very deep. Some of the best Sub-bass rumble and tactility I’ve heard in a little bit. This set very much reminded me of an improved Monarch MK3, with better mid-bass control, sub-bass texture, and a similar technicality suite. These also have a “hidden” vent for that 8mm DD so there was 0 discomfort or pressure build-up - Thank goodness. “I’m very intrigued” is what I wrote in my notes whilst I was listening, but holy crap, boys… These have lived in my head rent-free for the past 2 days. According to Felix (Symphonium R&D guy), these will retail for $1000 and IMO, that’s a crazy good price for these. I was expecting more like $1,500+. Look out for these if you’re a bass-head or enjoy a good slam and rumble.

2nd go with the Anni 2023 - I am shocked and disappointed that I am not as blown away as I was last year. I have heard so many other incredible IEMs since then, admittedly, but they don’t sound as special to me. Jesus h. Christ. All that to say these are still incredible IEMs. Layering and resolution are both something to behold. The way these render the Space in which the music is being recorded in is very impressive. I just need more bass and slightly less upper mids. Female vocals are emotional and incredibly textured, just a touch too forward for me. The treble, on the other hand, is probably a step above everything I’ve ever heard besides the STORM. Simply put - intoxicating. Chills.

2nd go with the Divas - Interestingly, I think I like these more than the Anni. There is something about the bass on the Divas that gives a little bit more of an elastic texture and bounce that I really really enjoy. Not to mention, the Treble sounds more airy and open, although, not as refined as the ESTs in the Annihilator. I am pleasantly surprised. The Divas, unlike the Annis, have surpassed my feelings from last year. These have always been on my radar since 2023, but now they’re a serious contender for a purchase down the line, as long as Lee get’s his crap together and buttons up on all the QC issues.

Anole VX - Oh boy, interesting… They’re… too thin, there is just simply not enough bass, even with the switch on - the timbre is way off for me. Clean as a whistle though. Its reputation is not a lie. Res is absolutely off the charts. They’re just not for me.

Canpur CP622B - strange but incredible fit once they’re in. Excellent isolation and comfort for my ears.

The Sub bass is absolutely excellent with very good articulation between different notes and tones in the sub bass. It’s kind of hard to explain, it’s not a blob of rumble and bass, but various tones within said bass line. Excellent resolution that cuts through all the bass, which is probably the ideal amount. Layering and res are excellent. Timbre fantastic, maybe a little off with BA timbre, maybe? But it’s almost non-existent so it’s easy to shrug off. Yes, these are awesome, and very balanced sounding to my ears with excellent bass and resolution. I would say from memory and reviewing the notes I took, these are probably one of the most balanced pair of IEMs I’ve yet to hear.

Scarlet mini - Obviously, huge bass. Boomtastic nasty-ass sub bass with a darker tone for the overall sig to my ears but vocals are still fairly clean and well separated from the crazy bass. They’re definitely similar to Maestro Mini, just…. MORE bass, and maybe a smoother upper mids but I never had an issue with the Maestro Minis in the upper mids until I had them in the desktop rig. Maybe too much sub-bass for me, it does have a lack of control. Very blob-like with little rumble definition. I have grown from this kind of bass, unfortunately. These have a very distinct lack of control to my ears. But there’s no doubt it’s fun from time to time! Good thing I have the Maestro Minis at home.

MEST MKII - FINALLY, I get to try the MEST 2. The first thing that jumps out to me is the space -the width seems wider than usual for me, and the resolution is nutso. These are hitting my HRTF with very little to no masking because of that relaxed pinna… at first, they weren’t doing it for me, somewhat underwhelming but as the song went on, it changed. However, something is lacking, and I think it’s the lack of noteweight and lower mids support. But the sub-bass is hella clean, very nice definition. Just needs more mid-bass/lower mids for me to be completely blown away. But I do like these a lot. I think my expectations were just so high because I’ve been dying to listen to these for 2 years now, nothing was going to satisfy me 100%.

The Titanium Bird - These are probably the cleanest IEM I’ve ever heard, without being thin whatsoever. These are the definition of “effortless”. I am very impressed at how smooth these render every single part of the music from the bass, to the beautiful smooth mids, to the extremely natural treble. Man, color me a fan.

Lacking in the sub-bass is the only real complaint I’d have, and it’s very noticeable for some songs but it is not a deal breaker.

Definitely not worth the money tho.

Timsok TS - 316 - These are a very decent single DD IEM that has great resolution across the board, at the sacrifice of being a touch too spicy for me. However - the bass quality is glorious. Tons of detail. Somewhere between 3K-6k is unnaturally boosted to the point where it sounds almost BA-like, but these are pretty fun. For some of the daft punk tracks on my test playlist, these were having me vibing at the table.

64 Audio Velour - I have absolutely no idea what the hell happened here, these were disappointingly boring. Admittedly, I only had access to the m15 module due to the M20 not being available according to the guy at the Headphones(.)com. So, aye, not the best impressions but I turned them off after 30 seconds.

Singularity - These had less bass than I expected for some reason but still a very healthy amount of low end more towards the mid-bass and lower mids so it sounds more full, with less bass separation from the mids and upper mids leaving them slightly less defined than I’d like. The mid-bass is extremely thick though. I’d like maybe a touch more treble with cymbals and whatnot in the air -

lol that’s where my notes ended haha

Well, that’s it for IEMs. Not much at all, I know, maybe I should have tried more. But I don’t have any regrets. After a while, it almost starts to feel like they all sound so similar… Some rapid fire on some sources I listened to;

FiiO KA17 - DUDE, this was an awesome little dongle. So much power! These really drove my Monarch MK2s so well, a little towards the warmer and fuller sound but still had plenty of details. For $150, if they sort out all of the issues with the software of this thing, it could be my next purchase in terms of sources for portable use.

FiiO R7 - Not too much to say about this one, I didn’t go super crazy and test it up down left, and right, however, it sounds good of course. Probably similar to my stack at home, or even the K7 if I’m just going from memory. It’s on the cleaner and more lean side IMO. The software was fine but my problem is that it’s running an outdated Android OS with an underpowered Processor on the inside and guess what? It’s stuck TO the damn DAC/Amp. Decent Idea and very good execution, but a little short-minded in my opinion.

That ends my impressions from this year! I probably should have listened to some of the newer stuff but, luckily my bud @GooberBM did lots of heavy lifting on Saturday and he’s got you with a bunch of stuff that he heard from the show.

Meeting the boys at Symphonium was definitely the coolest part of the show for me. From about 4 pm to 5:30 ish, I hung out at the table with them, listened to Titan most of the time, and had cool and interesting discussions about audio, R&D, how BAs work, and so much more. I just want to thank them for being such top-class guys, trusting me to take home their IEMs to provide some honest impressions, and being literally the most laid-back company ever. I am so happy they’re the first company that decided to give me a shot with demos and photos by sending me loaner sets because they really set the bar high for others if I ever decide to go that route.

Top class, Gentleman, top class
:handshake:


Here are some random pics I took for your viewing pleasure - Till next time!
 

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Mar 13, 2024 at 12:32 AM Post #384 of 688
Symphonium Titan - wow. Now THIS is bass that digs very very deep. Some of the best Sub-bass rumble and tactility I’ve heard in a little bit. This set very much reminded me of an improved Monarch MK3, with better mid-bass control, sub-bass texture, and a similar technicality suite. These also have a “hidden” vent for that 8mm DD so there was 0 discomfort or pressure build-up - Thank goodness. “I’m very intrigued” is what I wrote in my notes whilst I was listening, but holy crap, boys… These have lived in my head rent-free for the past 2 days. According to Felix (Symphonium R&D guy), these will retail for $1000 and IMO, that’s a crazy good price for these. I was expecting more like $1,500+. Look out for these if you’re a bass-head or enjoy a good slam and rumble.

Meeting the boys at Symphonium was definitely the coolest part of the show for me. From about 4 pm to 5:30 ish, I hung out at the table with them, listened to Titan most of the time, and had cool and interesting discussions about audio, R&D, how BAs work, and so much more. I just want to thank them for being such top-class guys, trusting me to take home their IEMs to provide some honest impressions, and being literally the most laid-back company ever. I am so happy they’re the first company that decided to give me a shot with demos and photos by sending me loaner sets because they really set the bar high for others if I ever decide to go that route.

Top class, Gentleman, top class
:handshake:


Here are some random pics I took for your viewing pleasure - Till next time!
Agree with you on some IEM impressions, disagree with others.

I wish I knew how good the Titan was before I spent so much time with Storm and Singularity, which I'm glad I did, but I wanted to dedicate more time to Titan after I listened to my 1st song with it, but only got through about 5 songs because a line was forming around me and I've been at the Symphonium table too long at that point.

The Titan was one of the few IEMs I thought was worth the high but not outrageous asking price. I disagree that they're an improved MMK3 (more refined maybe), but they are definitely a great all-arounder IEM like MMK3, but with a lot more boosted bass. High quality, well-controlled boosted bass. A true audiophile basshead IEM. I'd say, the best basshead IEM in the world once it releases hopefully within a month.

Symphonium guys were awesome and the highlight booth/table at CanJam for me too. They're such passionate audiophiles, are chill, and really cared about getting the best audition possible for attendees and visitors to their table. Before going to CanJam, I didn't know much about them or their IEMs, but have heard good things. Now, I'm a fan. Going to start buying their IEMs, starting with Titan.
 
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Mar 13, 2024 at 12:36 AM Post #385 of 688
Here are my takes on the various IEMs and equipment I tried at the show. All were tested using my THX Onyx DAC, Hi-Res and CD-quality FLACs purchased from Qobuz and a few older VBR MP3's, played via USB Audio Player Pro on my Asus Zenfone 9. Until I lost the DAC, after which I just had to use the regular phone headphone jack. I test using a varied playlist including Electronic, Downtempo, Industrial, Grunge, and Rock styles.

Fir
Krypton 5 ~$3000

Warm, good low bass
Slightly set back highs
Overall good balance
Nonoffensive

Radon 6 ~$3300
Needs a lot of power to drive -
Pronounced, clear highs
Mids and bass set back
Not for me

Xenon 6 ~$3900
Better mid than Radon
Guitars to the front
Bass punched up but slightly muddy
Very detailed highs but vocals set back

E12 ~ $1800
Not as clean as Xenon
More cohesive balance-wise than Xenon, less peaky
Somewhat prominent mids and bass
Sometimes gets confused/noisy in transitions with a lot of rapid-fire changes in the music

STAX
SR-L300
focus on mid
Electrostatic
Missing low bass
Bright highs but clear

SR-009S
Good definition
Vocals forward
Smooth
Bright, slightly fatiguing

SR-L500mk2
Too bright, confused for my tastes

ABYSS + Woo WA7 fireflies
Good combo, vocals nice
Warm, smooth

Drop+grell
Fine, slightly too bright for my tastes
Vocals set back
Good bass/mid balance
Too messy for rock
Acoustic guitar fantastic

Westone/Etymotic
Westone Mach 60 ~ $1100

Claim it's their "Reference" sound
Balanced
Light on low bass
Good definition
Bright highs but set back mids

Westone Mach 70 ~ $1400
Warms things up compared to 60 but slightly muddy
Still too bright for me

Westone Mach 40 ~ $600
Better balance, toned down highs
Similar mids/bass compared to 70
Highs slightly thin
Vocals set back at some frequencies; weird EQ pattern

Final
ZE8000mk2 (wireless) ~ $399

Incredible bass
Slightly bright
Mids lacking a bit
Adjustable

VR1 ~ $699
Impressive clean bass
Clean
Mostly Neutral, slightly set back mid
Sibilance/hissy "S" sounds on top end

VR2 ~ $299
Muddy, thin
Not good for me

A8000 ~ $2000
Prominent bass
There's a distinct hole in the mids
Crossover point to bass is weird, higher and more aggressive than expected
Slightly too bright in highs for me

Focal
Bathys

Typical planar sound I don't like

Clear MG
Sibilant high
Bright
Set back mid but decent bass

Creative Labs
Aurvana Ace 2 (wireless) ~ $149
Good bass volume, though very slightly muddy at some frequencies
Nice smooth vocals
Not sibilant at all
Details incredible
Overall most impressively technical IEM of the day
How they make them at this price point I will never know.

X5 DAC
Smooth, had not listened to Cirrus Logic DAC before

ifi
GO link - tested with my 64 Audio Nio ~ $50

Similar sound and power to THX Onyx
Prefer build quality of THX Onyx over GO link
Could be a good addition if I didn't already have Onyx.

GO bar - tested with my 64 Audio Nio ~ $329
More power than Onyx, but still sounds substantially the same as GO Link and THX Onyx
What is purpose of IEMatch? Seems like it just mutes the audio.
Plastic case feels cheap for the price
Markings on case are too small and totally illegible in anything but brightest light
Even though I was playing in bit-perfect mode, LED did not change for 24-bit/96KHz FLAC vs 16-bit/44.1KHz

Hip dac 3 - tested with my 64 Audio Nio ~ $149
Much better defined / controlled bass than the other two portable DACs
Beautiful control
Volume knob motion/friction balance is just right
Not much heavier than the other solutions
Stereo separation fantastic, sounds exactly like desktop Eversolo DAC-Z8
Will be my next purchase to replace the THX Onyx; not sure why people would buy a GO bar for $150 more

Sennheiser
Momentum True Wireless 4 ~ $300
Comes in 3 colors
Good bass
Slightly muted but tinny highs
Comfy but fit was looser than expected, and they are super sensitive to touch. Too easy to accidentally turn off.
Has an app to adjust eq and balance if desired.

----------------- DAY 2 ---------------
Campfire
Trifecta ~ $3300

Good bass definition
Clear vocals
Loud mids
Some high sibilance
Very nicely controlled bass
Would not buy at this price

Fathom ~ $1050
Slightly muddy mids but balance is great
Not peaky at all
Less emphasis on bass
Want more bass, everything else is great

Bonneville ~ $1400
Slightly sibilant highs, very prominent in imaging
Good bass
Very crashy hi-hats
Not great for rock

Ponderosa ~ $800
Mids/vocals more set back, muted than other offerings
Good bass definition and control
Not sure what type of music these would be best for

Andromeda Emerald Sea ~ $1400
Fantastic all around IEM. Good for everything and everyone.
Very balanced / nothing emphasized
Would insta-purchase if I did not already have the 64 Audio Nio, especially at this price point.

Solaris Stellar Horizon ~ $2600
Definition in mid is great, punchy but not in a bad way
Bass well controlled, powerful
Imaging impressive
Clean vocals
Sub bass roll-off slightly muted
Will absolutely reveal issues in source material; could easily hear artifacting/compression vs FLAC
Would also purchase these but would need to decide what type of music best showcases them

Fatfreq
Scarlet mini ~ $650

Set back highs
Muddy, muted mids
Good bass control but perhaps overboosted, somewhat sloppy

Maestro (not mini or SE) ~ $1800
Better control than Scarlet mini
Muted, set back highs
Good mid clarity
Would not purchase these knowing 64 Audio Nio and Campfire Andromeda exist

Tsuru ~ $900
Clear vocals
Better balanced
Mids slightly muddy
Distortion/strains in highs at semi-loud volume
Overall good reference IEM

Sakura ~ $1200
Good imaging
Clear highs and separation
Not easily confused with transitions
Bass boost is necessary for best sound (IMO), but switch felt loose/cheap and easily bumped. Locking button would be better.
Really good for price. Would consider purchase.

Hyabusa ~ $1600
Clear highs, but too much of them?
Again, bass boost is necessary and locking button would be better than switch
In A/B with Sakura would there really be enough difference for price?
Well controlled otherwise

Grand maestro ~ $2900
Clean, great definition
Very clear mid, better than others
Bass boost also needed
Slightly thin highs, but definitely non fatiguing
Need a LOT of power to get to a comfortable listening volume compared to others

------------- Lost THX Onyx :frowning2: , now just using phone headphone jack -------------

Headphones.com IEMs
64 Audio

Volur ~ $2500

Great signature 64 sound
Smooth
Balanced, great bass and mids
Very full sounding, present, musical
Fantastic, would absolutely buy but would want to do A/B test with Nio to see if cost difference is justified.

Moondrop
Blessing 3 ~ $320

Thinner mids and highs than I like, but balanced well
Reference sound, but needs a lot of power
Overall good for the price. Would recommend for someone shopping for lesser-cost IEMs.

Thieaudio
Hype-4 ~ $400

Clean, even
Great bass
Mids and vocal levels are even
Very expensive sound for the price. Better than Blessing 3 for not much more money.

Monarch mk2 ~ $1000
Similar to hype4
Slightly less mids, more highs
Good for the price point but doesn't tickle my fancy

Monarch mk3 ~ $1000
More mids and bass in some freq but set back highs
Too confused with rock, just sounds jumbled
Do not like balance, do not sound like an evolution of MK2 to me. Would not buy.

Hype-10 ~ $900

Nice balance across freq
Something weird happening in midlow bass where it's muted and rolling off quickly
Vocals slightly pulled back
Overall good, would probably buy Hype-4 over the -10.

Symphonium
Meteor ~ $600

Phone power was insufficient to drive satisfactorily
Very neutral in general
Electric guitar very punched up in mids

Crimson ~ $1500
Excellent bass extension
Vocals slightly set back
Guitars/mid frequencies punchy

Nightjar
Singularity ~ $1400

Warm powerful bass
Clear highs
Very deep bass floor - below 30Hz for sure, lower than I've ever heard on any IEM
Fantastic sound and personality. Would purchase over Crimson.

Subtonic
Storm ~ $5200

Very smooth
Noticeable dip in midbass
Good definition, does not give off typical electrostatic "bright" sound signature
Didn't get a ton of time with these because it was 5pm and booth was closing.

Sennheiser
IE600 ~ $800

Nice signature, smooth
Efficient; does not need a lot of power to drive
Low end rolls off quickly
Good separation and imaging
Can get confused in noisy sections
Nice build quality/case

IE900 ~ $1500
Significantly brighter than IE600
Mids more muted than IE600
Not to my taste, much better options at this price point.
 
Mar 13, 2024 at 12:59 AM Post #386 of 688
Really interested in the ZMF decware. Been hearing good things.
I fell in love with it at CanJam Dallas and picked one up in December. It really makes ZMF headphones sing. Specifically with the Atrium Closed, it creates this wonderful subbass bloom that is hard to explain, but fantastic to hear. Looking at your current gear, this would be very complementary to what you already have.

DecWare OTL.jpeg
 
Mar 13, 2024 at 1:15 AM Post #388 of 688
I fell in love with it at CanJam Dallas and picked one up in December. It really makes ZMF headphones sing. Specifically with the Atrium Closed, it creates this wonderful subbass bloom that is hard to explain, but fantastic to hear. Looking at your current gear, this would be very complementary to what you already have.

When I went to CanJam Chicago, the line for this amp was very long due to it first being released. I was not able to have a listen.

I used to have a DNA Stratus, and while it's not as powerful as the WA33 in my second listening system, I do miss a bit of it's delicate nature. I'm not replacing the Woo, more like adding a sibling to it. The Viva is just a madman, and I can't really compare anything to it.

My current favorite ZMF (or any of my headphones) is the Atrium Closed. Zach and team really knocked it out of the park with that set. It's so robust and dynamic while still being silky smooth.

Hard to decide on adding another Atrium Closed (Cocobolo) or getting this amp 😂
 
Last edited:
Mar 13, 2024 at 1:41 AM Post #389 of 688
Hard to decide on adding another Atrium Closed (Cocobolo) or getting this amp 😂
+1 Vote for the Amp :L3000:

Not that Cocobolo isn't great - but this amp was designed by Steve (the Decware Zenmaster) alongside the Atrium as I was designing it. It's the best you will hear Atrium open or Closed IMHO.
 
ZMFheadphones ZMF headphones hand-crafts wood headphones in Chicago, USA with special attention to exceptional sound and craftsmanship. Stay updated on ZMFheadphones at their sponsor profile on Head-Fi.
 
https://www.facebook.com/ZMFheadphones https://twitter.com/ZMFheadphones https://www.instagram.com/zmfheadphones/?hl=en http://www.zmfheadphones.com/zmf-originals/ contactzmf@gmail.com
Mar 13, 2024 at 3:30 AM Post #390 of 688
CanJam NYC 2024 - Day 2 (Sunday morning)

(WARNING: Possible verbosity ahead! Proceed at your own risk. :beyersmile: )

Having stayed up late on Saturday to post my Day 1 impressions, I could have done with some extra sleep, but it wasn't in the cards. My wife had an 11 AM flight back to Cali from JFK, and I headed downstairs around 8 AM to send her off with a Lyft and a peck on the cheek. I then popped into the hotel Starbucks for an oat latte (extra shot, extra hot) and a small bottle of Evolution OJ, which totaled $20. Everything is bigger in New York, including inflation apparently, but at least the latte was superb (per moi, a Starbucks non-fanboy)! I spotted DMS and GoldenSound by the espresso machine sort of silently staring into space, and speculated they might be nursing an even greater sleep deficit than I was. :relaxed: Then I headed back up to my room, leisurely consumed a Bobo's oat bar along with the drinks, took a leisurely shower, broke down and carefully bubble-wrapped/packed my audio gear, folded and packed my clothes, headed down to the bell desk to check a full-size and a carry-on suitcase, and then officially checked out at the Marriott reception counter at 10 AM on the dot. I'd slept and showered with my CJ weekend entry wristband intact to avoid waiting in line again, so from reception it was quickly down two floors via the escalators and right on into the show.

In my somewhat amorphous preshow planning, the one thing written in ink (metaphorically) was hitting the ZMF room on Sunday morning, when show attendance would be sparsest. And this strategy was rewarded in spades, as there were only a handful of other showgoers in the room upon my arrival. Bevin greeted me warmly with a smile, and I explained that my main goal was to try different pads and/or the mantle mesh on the Caldera (open), a headphone which had greatly impressed me during a home audition a few months ago. Unfortunately, with stock pads and no mesh (all I had on hand then), I couldn't get past the upper midrange peak on some tracks with horns and electric guitars, in particular. I also wanted to audition the Caldera Closed and the Atrium Closed to see if I might like them more than my DCA E3 (I typically only own one closed-back headphone at any given time, as my use cases are limited). I was also curious about the Atrium Open and the Bokeh, but I knew the arrival of the horde was inevitable, plus I had a lot of other listening planned for the day, so I abstained on those.

A quick anecdote: I think my very first CanJam was in LA in 2016. I had my sights firmly set on the new, "astronomically-priced" (LOL, in retrospect) Focal Utopia, had auditioned it first thing, and was 99% sure I'd be going home with one. But I wanted to hear as many other cans as possible to be positive Utopia was indeed the one. At some point, I sauntered by an 8' table (!) in the middle of the main floor (!) manned by Zach and someone else (Bevin?), with two or three beautifully-crafted wooden headphones on display. I'd seen some online chatter about ZMF, and knew they already had something of a devoted fan base. I enjoyed their then-current models, but was looking for a more reference tuning that day, and thus went home with a Utopia. I recount this story to highlight the magnitude of ZMF's ascent in a scant 7.5 years, likely unprecedented in the history of this industry. It's a true testament to Zach and his team's passion, skill, work ethic, and great customer service. Kudos and congratulations to ZMF on their success.

Back to Sunday morning: Bevin asked me which of the multiple (!!) available listening stations I'd prefer to use. There's an old saying about wine: "When buying, serve bread. When selling, serve cheese". In the context of audio, solid-state is bread and tubes are cheese, and I prefer to conduct initial auditions on solid-state. The best available option seemed to be a Holo May/Bliss stack, which had the added advantage of being situated in a far corner with the least foot traffic and congestion in the room. I'd never auditioned either of these components previously, although I did buy a Holo Spring 3 about a year ago to see what all the buzz/hype was about. I thought the timbral accuracy and soundstage depth (tested on speakers) of the Spring 3 (which only operates in NOS mode internally) improved quite noticeably in conjunction with HQPlayer, but not enough to usurp my D/S DACs, and given the extra hassle of having to use HQP, I sold it quickly. The May does have internal over-sampling (OS) and I made sure it was engaged. When auditioning any electronics for the very first time, it's tremendously useful to do so with a very familiar headphone, and I had my Susvara in my backpack. Stupidly, I neglected my own advice, mostly because I wanted to proceed quickly before it got crowded. It turned out I got in almost 90 minutes of listening before the room got crowded and loud, so in retrospect I really should have started with the Sus.

There was an Atrium Closed next to the Holo Stack, so I started with that. I've read that the AC is a headphone with prominent bass (that doesn't extend too low) and a "fun" tuning. I like bass and having fun (sometimes), so bring it on, AC! :relaxed: I plugged in my laptop and started with Joshua, my Miles Davis track du weekend, not really expecting jazz to be in the AC's wheelhouse. I was pleasantly surprised that the bass, whilst having excellent presence in the mix, was not bloated or bleeding into the midrange at all. The AC's tuning is a notch or notch-and-a-half toward warmth, but it's well within the bounds of my preferences. Treble extension and air was very good, as was apparent detail. While neither was top of the class, I didn't feel like anything was missing, per se. The music was all there, and I was highly engaged with it. I moved on to a couple of rock tracks (My City Was Gone by The Pretenders, and In World by Television), which confirmed that the AC renders electric guitar harmonics convincingly and without harshness, and generally knows how to rawk... dude. The AC also sounded excellent on Teardrop by Massive Attack, again showing its chops on female vocals. In summary, the AC was an involving and very enjoyable listen on the sampling of tracks above. But how does it compare to the DCA E3, and am I going to switch, you may be asking? Honestly, I'd have to listen to the AC on my own chain(s) and at greater length to definitively answer that, but the fact that it's not open-and-shut for the E3 (which I love) speaks very highly of the Atrium Closed! The E3 probably has bigger staging, is somewhat more neutral and detailed, costs a bit less, and folds up compactly for travel. The AC has more personality, is easier to drive, can be tuned with different pads, and is more attractive (to myself and, I suspect, the majority). The weight and comfort of the two headphones are roughly equivalent. Given that I don't need a closed-back all that often, and I already own the E3, inertia dictates that I'll stay with that for the time being.

By this time, a Caldera (open) had long since been delivered to my station. It was stock oak, and Zach subsequently informed me that it was sporting the thick pads, although he had to look them over a bit to be confident in that assessment, and they indeed didn't seem too much thicker than stock to my untrained eyes. I was also interested in trying out the mantle mesh, but this pair didn't have it, so in the interest of time efficiency I proceeded without it. I played the same tracks as I had on the AC, and heard more of a resemblance in the tuning between the two than I expected. The Caldera was more resolving, and staged bigger, but it was just a matter of degrees. The good news was the midrange peak that had bothered me on the Kingwood Caldera with stock pads didn't really bother me with this pair, although a bit of extra energy was still perceptible there. OTOH, the capacious stage and weightiness of bass notes that I loved so much in my home demo were less in evidence at CanJam. This version of the Caldera was less idiosyncratic and more "mainstream", which I considered a mixed bag. The differences were hardly surprising given the different woods, pads, chains, listening environments, and times of day (I listen mostly in the evening at home), but their magnitude did perplex me a bit.

I clearly wasn't going to solve that mystery on the spot, so why not listen to the Caldera Closed instead? To be honest, I don't love the aesthetics of the stock oak(?) with dark accents, but I spotted a CC in Queensland Maple that was pure class and beauty (see rearmost headphone in photo, below), and asked to audition that one. The first thing that struck me was its general congruence with the ZMF house tuning. Overall, I concluded that the CC was somewhere in-between the Caldera and the AC, but actually closer to the latter. In this instance, closed/open seemed more differentiating to me than planar/dynamic.

zmf.jpg


I played a few more tracks and rotated through the cans trying to get a better handle on their relative strengths and weaknesses, including Flight of the Cosmic Hippo by Bela Fleck & The Flecktones to test sub-bass extension (AC lost there, but the Calderas were pretty even). I also briefly tried the suede pads (about which I'd heard great things) on the Caldera (open), but didn't like the feel on my skin, or their (dulling) sonic impact, and quickly returned to the thick pads. At some time toward 11:30, the room filled up and got noisy, and I became aware that someone wanted my spot, so I called it a wrap and thanked Bevin on my way out.

So what were my grand conclusions from this session? Of the three headphones, I have a clear preference for the Caldera (open) overall. It's the most technical of the lot, and probably the most versatile across genres. It was too close between Atrium Closed and Caldera Closed for me to declare a preference there, not to mention that I didn't get to experiment with different pads, let alone different amps. Apologies for my vagueness, but given the number of variables in play and my very limited past exposure to ZMF cans, I lack ultimate conviction in my assessments. My gut feeling is there's probably a Caldera (open) in my future, but pursuing that isn't on the front burner because........


My next stop was a return to the Raal 1995 table where the Immanis had so wowed me the day before. Someone was listening to the Immanis on the VM-1a, but Raal also had an iFi iCan Pro setup available, so I got to audition the Magna (and subsequently the Immanis) on that. For some reason, possibly some test track burnout, I decided to forgo plugging in my laptop and just listened to some tracks from Raal's limited local playlist. Word was that the Magna sounds similar to the Immanis, but has a more intimate soundstage. I looked for a track that might be flattered by intimacy, and chose Wicked Game by Chris Isaak, which I hadn't heard in years, but always liked. My first impression was "wow", which soon morphed into "WOWWW!!!". What I was hearing was pure seduction in audible form. So much space between instruments and vocals, so much purity and richness of sound. I didn't need or want to analyze what I was hearing, as much as to just admire and enjoy it. The Magna, in other words, was "getting out of the way of the music" in spectacular fashion. The Immanis became available, and I immediately switched it over onto the iCan chain and listened to the same track. The stage was a bit wider than with the Magna, but otherwise they sounded surprisingly similar to me. If you can't afford the Immanis, you should sleep well in the knowledge that you're not missing much at all with the Magna. OTOH, if you're a sucker for a grand, cinematic soundstage (I plead guilty, Your Honor!), the Immanis may well be worth the extra scratch to you.

The next tracks in succession after Wicked Game were Seeya by deadmau5 and Return to the Sauce by Infected Mushroom, both of which feature molar-rattling bass. And the Immanis delivered the low-end goods with both power and startling definition! Overall, it was a tour de force performance, and in the space of fifteen minutes I confirmed what I already suspected yesterday: that I have to own one of these cans. This is what the future of headphones sounds like, and it's available for purchase today.... except that I'm the rare Head-fi'er who doesn't need to own the latest, greatest toy by yesterday, not to mention I've got a potentially large tax bill looming over my bank account in about a month. So, I'll contact Danny in the near future and we'll plot the best way forward. I'm leaning heavily toward the Immanis, but would ideally like some listening time at my home with it and the Magna before choosing which model to live with. Now if I may, a few random thoughts. I think the comfort of both headphones is excellent. Clamp is moderate, but not loose, and they're relatively light. Build quality and feel is about 9 out of 10 for me. One minor nit is if you tilt the cups outward, the pads kind of catch on the frame. I'd also like to see a tad more clearance between the head strap and frame, but I never felt the latter contact my head, so I guess it's adequate. I didn't play around too much with adjusting the cup positions, as the headphones just seemed to fit me very well as they were.

One clarification: I noted a high noise floor when listening to the Immanis through the VM-1a amp on Saturday. When I pointed this out to Danny the next day, he said the issue was something with the DAC, and that the amp is actually very quiet, especially for a tube amp. I will also note that in my very limited testing, the Immanis didn't sound markedly better on the VM-1a compared to how it sounded on the iFi iCan Pro, which did surprise me a little. But you probably shouldn't put too much stock in that assessment given the circumstances.

Having been so impressed with the deadmau5 and Infected Mushroom tracks on the Immanis, I was curious how the Hifiman Shangri-la would handle them, so I walked back over to the Mimic Audio room, where it was connected to the Viva estat amp. I noted yesterday that I thought the Shang sounded better on my home chain than it did on the Viva amp, in part because I had no way to add a bass shelf with the show setup. In any case, I listened to the Infected Mushroom track on the Shang, and it did a highly credible job with it. Staging was a bit narrower than on the Immanis, but detail retrieval was on par. Bass impact on the Shang was quite good, and frankly better than I expected, although Hifiman headphones (including Susvara) tend to image bass somewhat narrowly and centrally. In live music or on good speakers, bass usually sounds much broader, which may be one reason many listeners perceive Hifiman cans as bass-deficient. (Sorry, I'm just spitballing rhetorically here.) In any case, the track sounded a bit more organic on the Immanis, which I preferred, but I also enjoyed it very much on the Shang. Suffice it to say that the show conditions and variables make it impossible for me to opine meaningfully on the relative merits of the Immanis and Shangri-la, except that if you index highly for bass, Immanis is the clear choice.

At that point, I headed up a couple floors to the Revel & Rye Restaurant and ordered a pepperoni, mushroom, and arugula pizza. The atmosphere was relaxing, the seating was plush, and the pizza was delish. I felt refreshed and ready to sprint down the homestretch, to be recounted in the next installment of this sprawling, overlong opus.

Ciao for now.
 

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