CanJam @ RMAF 2017 (October 6-8, 2017) Impressions!

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  1. Mkoll
    With aptx-HD just starting to roll out, I'm waiting on it to become more widespread in devices and headphones before upgrading from my aptx portable setup. All the impressions I've heard is that it's really much better than standard aptx.

    Not trying to dismiss the BlueDAC, I'm sure it's great! Just putting out the idea of waiting for those of us already with an aptx portable rig.
  2. HeadphoneAddict Contributor
    Well, at least this already has AptX-HD so it's a little more future proof, even if your transport isn't ready for that yet. Don't know when Apple is going to adopt this, if ever. But with AAC bluetooth it's pretty darn good.
  3. Zachik
    Here are my notes and impressions. Attended all 3 days, and it is my 3rd CanJam (been to RMAF 2016 and SoCal 2017).
    Guys - those events are absolutely a blast! Seriously, make an effort and come try one if you never did. It is so worth it…

    Let me start by thanking Ethan (@third_eye), @jude, Warren (@warrenpchi), @joe and Brian (@AxelCloris) from Head-Fi for their hard work and making those CanJams possible. You guys rock!

    Running into people I know from previous CanJams, as well as connecting a face to a Head-Fi name is so much fun. JD, @MTMECraig and @Muinarc to name a few :wink:

    About myself (this part might explain some of my opinions / preferences afterwards):
    * My hearing is not perfect, and I do NOT have golden ears.
    * I love warm and smooth sound signature. I do not like super-detailed, sharp notes, analytical signature.
    * I strongly prefer over-ear headphones over IEMs. Not sure if my ear canals are weird size or shape, but I can never fit IEMs properly or get a good seal :frowning2: One day, I will just get custom IEMs… I did try a few IEMs (notes below), but compared to over-ears, they’re a minority.
    * I listen mostly to rock music of all kinds (classic, soft, hard, metal, progressive, alternative, etc.). I might occasionally listen to pop and jazz, but very very seldom classical (and never opera). So, as much as I encourage people to ask me questions (and I would do my best to answer), do not bother asking the likes of:
    “Could you tell a Stradivarius from el-cheapo Walmart violin on DAC X or amp Y”... :wink:

    So without further ado, here are my notes at no particular order:
    * Mr Speakers - meeting Dan (@mrspeakers) is always a pleasure! One of the nicest guys in the industry :)
    OK, I already own the Ether Flow Open (EFO) and Aeon Flow Closed (AFC). Does the new Aeon Flow Open (AFO) sound any good? Absolutely! Are they better than EFO? No, IMHO. They are warmer / more fun signature.
    Here is my “buyer’s guide” for Dan’s crazy good portfolio:
    - For neutral and detailed: buy Ether Flow Open (if price difference is not an issue)
    - Fun and warm great all-arounder: buy Aeon Flow Open
    - Got to have closed headphones that sound great: buy Aeon Flow Closed

    * ZMF - Zach (@zach915m) and Bevin are so great, and I am grateful I can call them my friends! Repeating my comment about Dan above - definitely among the very nicest people around :)
    Auteur vs. Atticus - Auteur is great! Atticus is great! Sound signature is close (to my ears), which is great for anyone who likes Zach’s house sound. So how do they differ?
    Auteur is a little more detailed and closer to neutral.
    Atticus is smoother and warmer.
    Both are very highly recommended!

    * HiFiMAN - Briana and Angel were a lot of fun to hang out with. I spent some time at HiFiMAN table, auditioning the new Sundara and the not-so-new Edition X v2 (HEXv2).
    HEXv2 is easier to drive. Much more detailed. More bass slam. Not surprising it is much better than the $499 Sundara! The HEXv2 are still my favorite of the entire HiFiMAN lineup. Including the HE-1000v2... (call me crazy if you like, but for me - the HEXv2 are superior to the HE-1000v2)
    Sundara's ear cups are round - not elliptical shaped like the HEXv2. Opening is enough for bigger ears but nowhere near the huge opening of the HEXv2.
    Shabgri La - I was not impressed at all. Didn't sound very detailed to my surprise!! A bit muffled even. I suspect that in blind testing, I would choose the $1300 HEXv2 over it...

    * Focal
    Clear - first, as background, I was never impressed by Elear or Utopia. I never found them exciting personally (and tested them on any imaginable setup at CanJams).
    The new Clear, to my ears and taste, beat both Elear and Utopia easily! For their price ($1500) - I can name a few headphones that match my personal taste better, but those are the first Focals I did not completely yawn at. Did not post any photo since many posted photos already...

    Spark IEM
    Focal Spark.JPG
    Good deal for $69
    Nice low. High not shrieking or harsh. Not very detailed but for $69 that is forgiven. Comes with basic accessories (only silicone tips).

    Sphear S IEM
    Focal Sphear S.JPG
    Priced at $129
    Definitely a step up. All the positives of the Spark, but more detailed. Comes with foam tips that worked much better for me.

    * Final Audio
    Final D8000.JPG
    D8000 - Coming out “in a few weeks” for $3800. Found them very bright and harsh! Did not sound right to me at all, to the point that I suspected maybe the pre-production set is broken! Tried the other demo pair - same! Personally, I would not buy those for $100, but each to his own… :)

    E3000 and E2000 IEMs - with the infinite patience and help of Michael, I managed to get a reasonable fit and seal. Both IEMs are single dynamic driver value IEMs ($55 and $45 respectively). E3000 is more neutral, while the E2000 has more bass (and therefore more to my taste). The E2000 are very small. I liked them a lot!
    Final F4100.JPG
    F4100 - single BA driver. If you think the E2000 is slim, wait until you see the F4100. OMG - where did they fit a driver in this super-ultra-skinny IEM?! :) Sounds very nice, too, but a significant step up in price. F3100 (identical but fixed cables) - $189. Good deal IMHO.
    Final Workshop 1.JPG Final Workshop 2.JPG Final Workshop 3.JPG
    IEM assembly workshop - WOW! What a unique experience!! Participants got a single dynamic driver IEMs, with a tuning kit, and for an hour or so we tried various tunings… End result looks decent and sounds decent, too. How many of you can say “I built and tuned those IEMs myself”? :wink:

    * Abyss Headphones Diana
    I could not even try them on! :frowning2: Ear pads are way too small for over-ear, and weird size and shape for on-ear. Fit and comfort - Fail. Having said that, to quote Metallica: nothing else matters... I did not audition them at all.

    * BeyerDynamic DT 240 Pro
    Supposed to be over-ear but unless you have tiny ears (I do not…) - they fit as on-ears. For $99 - they could be a good deal for some. Especially if they fit as over-ears.

    * Shure KSE1500
    KSE1500 are awesome! Sound is great, but price is $3,000 - ouch :frowning2:

    * Schiit Audio
    Bimby vs. Gumby - comparing DACs, in a show floor, when each is coupled with a different amp, is obviously impossible!! No point in even trying to A/B the DACs…
    Loki Mini - very cool. Played with it a little, mostly adding bass and/or reducing highs. Will probably grab one at some point - definitely makes listening to music an interactive and fun experience :)
    The Gadget - a tough one! Tried it with various random tracks… from various music genres… turned the knob right and left, but never had an “ahhh” moment as described by Mike from Schiit. It did change something in the sound, but I could not find a spot that made it better for me. Gadget definitely did something, so it worked! Maybe my ears (or brain) are broken… :wink:

    * Klipsch Heritage HP-3 ($1199)
    Klipsch 1.JPG Klipsch 2.JPG
    Very comfy for the ears, but pressure on top of the head - needs more padding to headband, IMHO.
    Scale very nicely from their new amp to the woo WA8. Would definitely NOT recommend their retro amp.

    * AudioTechnica Bluetooth receiver (with DAC and amp)
    AUdio Technica BT RX.JPG
    Due in Jan. for $129. Battery life: 8 hours. Sounded good for the price.

    * A&K AK70 Mk2
    Look and feel just like the original. Was not able to A/B original vs. Mk2 (did not have one with me).

    * A&K L1000 Desktop Amp (& DAC)
    AK L1000 a.JPG AK L1000 b.JPG
    Pre-production / prototype. Rep did not know much about it, and had to power cycle it twice before it worked properly (so obviously a little immature at the moment).

    * Crosszone CZ-1
    Those sound very different, and I cannot decide if that is a good thing or bad… Feels like the sound stage moved?
    I could not feel / hear the illusion of being in a room with loudspeakers, which I believe is their claim.

    * Audeze
    New LCD-MX sound very nice and are comfy. Price: $2,995.
    LCD X (now $1199) - maybe a bit less detailed.
    Between the 2, due to huge diff. In price - I would definitely go with the LCX X!

    * iFi Audio
    iFi iDSD Nano BL.JPG
    Guys, iFi iDSD Nano BL is coming! Should be out “in early November” for $199. Photo shows it next to its big brother, the iDSD Micro BL. (I did not audition it)

    * Fostex T60RP
    Fostex T60RP.JPG
    Tried the 2 T60RP prototypes. Pretty close to my ears but I did pick my favorite, which “surprisingly enough” was the pair with more bass… :wink:
    Sorry @Allanmarcus, but some people do prefer the one with more bass... :wink:

    * Echo box
    Echobox Vanguard.JPG
    Headphones prototype called Vanguard.
    Very comfy open back. Handled bass and sub bass very well. No harshness at all. Very fun listen.
    Expected in 5-6 months for $349. I would very seriously consider adding them to my collection at that price!

    * E-MU Teak
    E-MU Teak.JPG
    $700 list. $500 show special.
    Worked well for Coldplay and Dire Straits.
    Lorde's low bass and sub bass was a little bloated / uncontrolled.
    Feel very closed. Soundstage felt very narrow and small.

    * Koss
    Koss Pro 4S.JPG
    Pro 4S. $150 list price.
    Supposed to be over-ear, but on-ear for me due to small ear pads. Soft pads - so not an issue.
    Very pleasant warm sound. Not very detailed though.
    Little harder to drive - cranked volume on the FiiO X3-II dap pretty high... Nice bass, but bloated sub bass.

    * Sennheiser HD569
    Very nice for its price point of $179.
    Played nice with Dire Straits and Coldplay.
    Lorde’s “Royals” failed with its low bass and sub bass, though!

    * Rupert Neve amp
    Very nice clean and neutral sound!
    Definitely worth its $499 price.

    * HeadAmp Gilmore Lite Mk2
    HeadAmp Gilmore Lite.JPG
    WOW. What a nice clean and neutral Solid State amp! Fell in love with it with ZMF Auteur. Tested it with several additional headphones, including ZMF Atticus (that I own) and Mr. Speakers Ether C Flow. Sounded awesome with all of them!
    How much did I like it you may ask? Well, I bought the very first production unit (serial # 001) from Peter!!! :wink:

    * PSB Speakers M4U 8 and NAD Electronics VISO HP70
    Two almost identical headphones with Noise Canceling. Different design but almost identical “insides”.
    Basically, competitors for Bose and Sony Noise Canceling headphones. Definitely better sonically than Bose. Could not A/B with Sony, so cannot tell for sure which is better.
    Both are coming out in a month for $399.

    * Advanced Alpha
    Advanced Alpha.JPG
    Planars open back - $499 on MassDrop. Did not take any notes but from memory it sounded pretty nice for the price! Very comfy with plush ear pads.

    * CTM (Clear Tune Monitors)
    CIEM company based out of Florida. Very nice people. Probably one of the best value in CIEM. I wish I would have run across them earlier - I am very tempted to choose one of their IEMs… To be continued on this one… :wink:

    That concludes my notes and impressions from RMAF 2017. I am sure I forgot some things, but hopefully I remembered all the important ones!
    Feel free to ask any questions :)

    See you all, hopefully, at CanJam SoCal in April 2018 :wink:

  4. mtoc
    @Zachik LCD-X $1,199? no joke?
  5. rollinbr
  6. daniel_hokkaido
    I love how the specs on the audeze site don't include the headphone weight. Like beer not having calories on the bottle lol ...
  7. Snowpuppy77
    Comfortable. Very smooth full sound. Decent open soundstage. Transient attack is not like the traditional Klipsch speaker sound. Some will like that and some will see it as a not having much attack. I found them to be a comfortable listen. They look beautiful. Ultimately what would keep me from getting them is what seems like a veil or over smoothness. I like a vivid more detailed sound. The amp may have had something to do with it. I heard them on Sunday at RMAF on the Klipsch Heritage headphone amp.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
    stalepie and Mkoll like this.
  8. Allanmarcus
    Wonder write up. Thanks.

    You and I are polar opposites on some, and agree on others. Perfect example of why everyone needs to listen for themselves to make purchasing decisions.
  9. Andrew Rieger
    By retro amp, do you mean their new DAC/Amp combo?
  10. Zachik
    @Snowpuppy77 - if you haven't heard them through the Woo WA8 (the 2nd setup on Klipsch table) - you missed out big time!
    That setup was a very significant step up.
  11. Zachik
  12. Andrew Rieger
    Do you think the new Headamp Gilmore Lite MK2 would be a good pairing with the HP3?
    Would you describe the Gilmore as bright? I found the GSX MK2 to be an unpleasant listen so Im curious how the new Gilmore Lite compares.
  13. ctaxxxx
    So it's a warm headphone? Not a V-shaped one? (Since someone described it as a TH-900 done right)
  14. nsk1
    Nobody went to listen new ESS AMT headphones?
  15. czy6412
    It is both warm and slightly V-shaped, those two are not conflicting each other.
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