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CanJam @ RMAF 2018 Impressions (Oct 5-7, 2018)

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  1. Allanmarcus
    One impression I forgot to mention. Next year the conference will be Sept 5-8 at the new, and still unfinished, Gaylord Rockies. My first thought is, 4 days? 4 days of full show, or 1 industry day, and 3 days of show? We will find out.

    As for the gaylord, i'm not optimistic. Gaylords are usually quite expensive. Looking at the cost of hotels nearby for that weekend, the costs are not as attractive as the hotels near the tech center Marriott. Also, the "local" hotels are almost 2 miles away. Quite a little walk. Sure, I, and many in this hobby, spend a lot on gear, but I hate spending it on hotels for conferences. Also, we will be stuck in the hotel for food, which will also be expensive. Plus, rumors are that the Gaylord will/may charge for parking.

    I'm just ranting. It's probable the new location will be better for the vendors and better for the acoustics. For out of towners, it's closer to the airport for those that fly in. I don't know how locals will feel as the hotel is out in the boonies. I just hope total price to attend doesn't skyrocket.

    rant over.
  2. FangJoker
    How did they fit for you? Could you leave it in and not have to adjust it every 10 minutes? I'll be asking everyone who has tried it this question because it's my main concern as it's worthless to me if it's uncomfortable and I have to constantly adjust it.

    No one has said anything bad about the sound so it sounds like a winner, but I'll still wait to see if I can find a pair at the Sony store to try on. I think they will carry it as it's nearly a flagship size store, but not sure if they will let people try it on if they do have it.

    Unless there's a store out there that will allow returns I really have to make sure that they fit well. The early reviews have caught my attention and has put a dent in my ciem plans if they are as good as people say. I suppose if they are this good, I could always sell it at a minor loss here too, but I really hate buying things and not liking them immediately and having to sell them at a loss.
  3. phase0
    I had a small amount of time with Sony IEM-Z1R,
    - They're big and knobby, I was surprised at how comfortable they felt in my ears. I would still be worried and longer wear potentially being fatiguing but I have no idea.
    - Mirroring what everyone else said, people should add this one to the list to check out.
    - I think I might want a little more bass out of them.
    - $2300 list makes me hesitate though I would probably pick these over a 64Audio TOTL or the JH Layla but those were pretty nice of IEMs
    - Want to demo again some day

    I didn't have much time to visit RMAF this year, I was primarily checking out IEMs, haven't really had time to work out my thoughts on everything either

    Campfire Atlas,
    - Wow! these are nice, good bass without over powering or muddying things up
    - Slightly weird fit, seemed like a deeper insert using a smaller tip than I'm used too
    - Thought these sounded fantastic all around would probably be happy with them
    - They are a little bit heavy

    Campfire AndromedaS,
    - I think I couldn't get a good seal despite foam tips
    - I thought these were some of the worst sounding IEMs I've ever heard, so I think it must have been me, since everyone says good things about these

    64Audio and JH Layla
    - Nice TOTLs, still kind of sounded boxed in and IEMy
    - Flashy shouty designs and big knobby enclosures which wasn't what I was going for
    - Comfortable, more expanded sound stage, nice clarity good bass and over all pleasant but doesn't rival a good over ear HP IMO

    - Never heard anything from them before, surprised they don't get more love/attention here
    - I think I preferred to W60 over the W80
    - Compact, not to flashy, can lay down on a pillow with these in
    - Seemed a little warm sounding, good deep bass and I like the overall sound signature
    - Seems a little still boxed in IEMy, but there's some sound stage there, not as large as some of the others
    - I liked it enough to pull the trigger, ticks all my boxes for a nice portable, fit and comfort were some of my top priorities this round

    I wish I had stopped by and checked out Mackie's offering. Someone asked me if the Westone W60 is $900 better than the 1More Triple driver I have. No, really can't say it is. Then again I'm really enjoying them and I think it is a step up all around. I never had the most comfy fit from the 1More, and my ears hurt from them after an hour (or maybe hours if it's a good day and I'm using them for a phone call). I just wanted to note I think they're still impressive for the price as a budget option. If you want an IEM without spending a ton, that's what I would buy.

    Raal Earspeaker,
    - Really surprised by them, I hated the MySphere when I heard them last year, had really low expectations
    - I like bass and the demo track I heard seemed to have plenty
    - Seemed like amazing detail and realism to some of the sounds, above avg for headphone, felt like I was in the room with some of the sounds

    Final Audio,
    - Their really expensive HP, didn't like it for the asking price, Maybe if it was 1/3 the cost
    - That Cayin 300B amp was pretty and that really brought that HP to life, for that money I would buy an Abyss (well I did already)

    Meze Empyream,
    - Very comfortable
    - Listened through the manly amp
    - Had a sense of silk through the whole thing, nicely balanced, good deep bass, clear, not over powering
    - One of my favorite over ears I heard along with the Raal

    Mr Speaker Ether2 [?],
    - Super light, great feel, really comfy
    - Pissed off at Qobuz streaming, didn't work for crap there
    - loved the trebles and mids, felt really light footed and airy
    - demo track I heard had plenty of bass but it was undefined, and bleh, not sure if that was the track, I didn't stick around long enough to check other tracks

    ZMF (his new high end beryllium coated driver),
    - These things look solidly build with a lot of attention to detail, would call it a work of art
    - comfy fit
    - I was luke warm on the sound, nothing really bad, seemed evenly balanced
    - Overall nice

    Fostex TH-909,
    - Guy kept talking when I wanted to listen LOL
    - I think I like these, but I didn't stay around long enough to seriously listen
    - Fostex have good bass, sounded good too me, comfortable

    That's about all I remember... It was fun but I only had a couple hours to spare for it. I wish I could have checked out the 2 channel rooms etc. iI did a quick run around of the canjam highlights I could get too and that was it... Maybe next year...

    One more thing, I got the chance to play around with the new MacBook Pros at some of the booths, those are nice and quick. The keyboards don't seem as bad as some people said, no problems with palm rejection, arrow keys didn't mess me up. the touch bar is a little weird and gimmicky but I weasn't too put off from it. Really like the compact size, great screen, 13" is as light as the MBA, but has the retina IPS panel (vs TN in the MBA), now has a quadcore CPU, two extra USB-C ports. I do feel like it may be time to update since it's been 4 years.
  4. HeadphoneAddict Contributor
    Westone 60 to me are a benchmark universal fit IEM. They are simply fantastic. They’re also not bad with the Westone BT cable, while the W80 are not driven as well by the BT cable since they really need more power.

    The W80 love being plugged into an amplifier, and with my CEntrance Blue DAC and balanced Moon-Audio Silver Dragon cable the W80 can surpass the W60 in soundstage and energy.

    I wish everyone could get a chance to try out the W60. I agree that the thinner body is more conducive to laying your head on a pillow vs the thicker W80. So it’s hard to fault the W60.

    My only complaint would be that the sound does audibly improve with an upgraded cable, which adds about $150 for a display model Silver Dragon cable at the show. Westone includes an upgraded cable with the W80.
    phase0 likes this.
  5. Barra
    Wow, another great CANJAM. Really enjoyed getting the opportunity to hear so many great items back to back - almost overwhelming. Like everyone else is saying, not the greatest environment for critical listening - but I felt that I could tell when something special came along that deserves more ear time. Here are some short impressions:

    • Meze Empyrean: Was a nice headphone, but given the hype, I expected more. Full-sized big sound with a nice bass response and moderate soundstage, but nothing special jumped out like with the other headphones I listened to. The clarity or space between the instruments seemed to be missing. It was at the Meze booth so I assume that they had optimized the chain, but it just came across as another headphone.
    • Empire Ears Phantom vs Legend X: A big double wow here. I thought 64 Audio pretty much had this one wrapped up with their tia drivers, APEX systems, and big boy sound, but Jack at EE has mastered the cross-over magic to provide an intensely clear sound quality with magical mids .... and everything else. Definitely had an eargasm. Listening to the Zeus, Phantom, and the X side by side, it felt like the Zeus was at the reference side of the audiophile equation with the X at the fun side of the equation and the Phantom right in the middle. All three are masterpieces that should be heard, but all mastering the different preferences you might have. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but the Phantom in the middle is a safe bet. However, I am drawn to the uniqueness of the X. The Phantom had the right amount of everything with a huge dash of clarity and space between instruments that reminds me of my NT6pro, but better. The Legend X was thicker and juicier just the way I like it without sacrificing the clarity or the spacing. Playing it on my iPhone, it took most of the volume to drive it correctly where I was comfortably in the middle volume range with the Phantom. This leads me to believe that the Legend has a lot more to give. The Effect Audio copper cable on both is a huge upgrade to the normal standard cables making for a beautiful setup out of the box. All I can say is that I will need some more time with them - MAYBE A US HeadFi PHANTOM VS. LEGEND X TOUR IS IN ORDER!
    • Diana vs. Abyss: I know that I love the Abyss SQ as it is one of the very best HPs out there. However, I had to hear what they could do in a smaller form factor with the Diana. After going back and forth, I can say that the Diana is most of the way there, but the Abyss is definitely better in SQ. That Frankenstein cage setup used in the Abyss has some customization capabilities that a standard HP cannot do giving it a much wider larger soundstage. If I was going to join this family, I think it would have to be the Abyss.
    • Chord Mscaler w/TT2: This is one of those times that you just know that you are listening to something special. There is a Chord magic in my Hugo 2 that I just cannot get enough of and this is a supersized heaping helping. However, this is listening through the new Ether 2 HP that I was unfamiliar with so it leaves me wondering how to deconstruct the sound that I had heard. I was not familiar with the button on the Mscaler that could turn on and off the effect to see if I could hear the difference until reading this thread tonight - to bad - and I do not know what part of that sound came from the TT2. However, the Mscaler > TT2 > Ether 2 was a magical pairing that I could have listened to all night if there wasn't a crowd waiting in line behind me. The Mscaler / TT2 stack was to die for regardless which I would love to have on my desk at home.
    • Ether 2: The Ether 2 as mentioned above was connected through the Mscaler / TT2 and blew my mind. I saw it at a number of booths at CANJAM but only got to hear it at the Chord booth. Regardless, from distant memory, it feels like a large upgrade from the already outstanding original Ether. The form factor was as comfortable as always if not better. I have always considered Dan's creations as the most comfortable in existence. BTW, the cable is now fantastic and stands apart from the cables provided on the other TOTL HPs. Regardless, I chased Dan's booth throughout CANJAM not finding him in the general area, and seeing him listed as upstairs, tried there too only to see that his room moved, then finding his name crossed off at the door at arrival. Bummer, maybe he was sick or I was being led in circles.... maybe next year.
    • AK SP1000 SS vs. SP1000 M: Another double wow!! AK has finally done it right. I stopped at the AK100ii feeling that their entire lineup including the AK380 required an external amp to get it right. My $100 BH2 amp made the $3500 380 sound much better. This shouldn't be possible at that price point. This is not the case with the SP1000 series... full on power, clarity, and precision with immense textures that way it should be. Finally that big boy sound I have been looking for in a portable as my Hugo 2 is not portable. What is interesting is that the M was almost indistinguishable from the SS in SQ at a $1000 discount. The M is also much more portable with a big enough full-sized screen. This is a must have for me that will replace my Sony WM1a with a huge SQ upgrade. Looks like I will have to start selling gear to get there.
    • HiFiMan Susvara vs. Ananda: The Hifiman booth is not known for having the best music on their sources and is not easy setups to use your music sources. It was bad enough that I almost walked away from the Susvana disappointed. However, the Eagles Hotel California live HRes track came on just in time for a real treat. Wow, wow, wow. I love my HEX and always admired the HEK, but the Susvana is definitely better. I then switched to the new Ananda that will be replacing the HEX only to be delighted again. The Ananda had most of the Susvana goodness but was easily driven by my iPhone sounding wonderful. The Susvana will be my next Hifiman HP when the time comes.
    • HiFiMan R2R2000: While at the Hifiman booth, I was handed a little device labeled R2R2000 that I knew nothing about. But it really sounded surprisingly good. Looking it up later and seeing the price, it will not be in my future, but anyone that is interested in this device.... I think you will be delighted. Not only great SQ, but a very elegant design that feels good in the hand.
    • Sennheiser HD820: Finally...... I got to hear it. While it sounded great, it is not that large of a departure from my HD800. I am not in need of a closed headphone so that is not a driver. Speaking of drivers, the entire 800 lineup uses the same driver according to the staff at the booth, so no new tech. So if you are looking to buy your first in the 800 series and need a closed HP, this is your best bet. If you already have an 800 or 800s, then it is not that exciting.
    • 64 Audio N8t: Another big WOW from 64 Audio. And yes, I am pushing for another tour if I can make it happen.... it is that good. This has a 12t feel with the dynamic driver goodness. The Tia driver and APEX modules give the entire TIA lineup a very big boy sound quality sounding very full sized HP.
    • Cailyn N8: Didn't get to listen to this one, but it was at the Meze table and look very nice sporting a nice case that I had to remove to figure out what it was. Boy was it heavy. It also had a physical forward/back controller under the volume. Did anyone listen to this DAP?
    • Shure KSE1500: This took some time to wrap my head around. It sounded bright and fatiguing at first, but then after a little brain burn in, they started to sound right. In the end, I loved the new sound, but not enough to want them over other options, especially given the extra cargo needed on the go.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
  6. Zachik
    Before getting to the impressions, let me start by saying those CanJam shows are just something that should not be missed!
    I still remember contemplating before my first CanJam (RMAF 2016) whether I should use the travel budget to buy a headphone / amp / DAC, but after 1 CanJam - I just knew that the CanJam experience is priceless!! Where else can one try all these high-end headphones, amps and DACs? Meet with the brilliant minds behind those products and talk to them?
    I have made so many new friends who share my interest and passion for music and audio...

    Big thanks to the Head-Fi guys: Jude @jude, Ethan @third_eye, Joe @joe, and Brian @AxelCloris - you guys rock!!

    A big shout out to the people I had a blast spending time with, during and after the show: Dave @Hansotek, Dan @Stillhart, Evan, Mike @miceblue, Craig @MTMECraig, and several others.

    Here are my random thoughts, impressions and observations:
    • ZMF
      ZMF Verite.JPG
      • As always, a pleasure to see the lovely Bevin (also known as Zach’s wife :wink:) and the great addition to the ZMF team - Keith @Keithpgdrb
      • As for the headphones: Zach @zach915m has done it again!!! The new flagship Verite open back with Beryllium drivers is absolutely amazing. This one is definitely joining my Atticus
      • The Verite is significantly lighter than the Atticus (and Eikon), and nicely complements the closed back Atticus in term of sound signature. For me, it was love from first note (just like with the Atticus in the past)
    • Mr. Speakers
      • Dan's @mrspeakers Ether 2 are shockingly light, even compared to Ether Flow that weren't very heavy.
      • To my ears, with the normal caveats (show floor noise conditions) - small but noticeable upgrade in sound compared to Ether Flow. Great job Dan!
    • Between the Ether 2 and the Verite - looks like headphones have joined a weight loss program this year...

    • HiFiMAN Jade 2
      Jade 2 system.JPG
      • Not to be confused with Jude 2… (@jude and @theotherjude)
        Jude 2.JPG
      • I was never a fan of electrostatic headphones. STAX always sounded cold and analytical to me. Took the fun and emotion out of the music. Mr. Speakers' Voce were better, but still not my cup of tea. Not to mention the high cost of electrostat headphones and dedicated amp….
      • That is where Jade 2 by HiFiMAN gets into the picture. $2500 for the system (headphones plus amp). That is cheaper than STAX headphones alone... But how do they sound? Best electostats ever for me. That is the first time I liked electostat sound!
      • Great detail, very likeable, midrange and vocals are so inviting. A little warm and very musical. Should be available in Dec. according to the HiFiMAN folks.
    • CTM Da Vinci
      CTM Da Vinci Series.JPG
      • Cesar @Clear Tune Monitors has brought with him the Da Vinci 9 and 10 BA universal IEMs.
      • I have listened to both, and to my ears - they’re very close, with the main difference I could notice was a little extra bass on the 10 driver.
      • Both IEMs are very very good and easy to recommend (to someone who intend to spend $2000+ on IEMs...). I preferred the 10 driver but can see how people that like the bass to be more neutral may prefer the 9 driver version.
    • Campfire Audio
      • I was chatting with Ken, asking about the bigger pads for the cascade that he has mentioned before… The good news - they should be available for sale next month. He actually had a pair with him to try, and as I have hoped - those pads take the Cascade to the next level in term of comfort!
      • Equinox is the new and limited edition custom IEMs (yes, custom). They consist of a single 10mm dynamic driver, and the sound signature is very much to my liking - warm, bassy and thick meaty sound. Price: $1500 and Campfire intends to have 1 run and then stop forever. Those are very different from every other custom IEM out there! If only it were cheaper....
        Campfire Equinox.JPG
    • GS-X Mini by HeadAmp
      GS-X mini.JPG
      • Always nice to see Peter @HeadAmpTeam at CanJams. Very knowledgeable guy, and pleasant to chat with!
      • This is the big brother to the Gilmore Lite Mk2, adding: power, balanced inputs, balanced XLR4 headphone output, linear power supply.
      • I am calling it the Gilmore Lite Mk2 big brother, unlike HeadAmp who positions it as the GS-X little brother. My reason being: I personally prefer the Gilmore Lite over the big GS-X... regardless of the big price difference! The new GS-X mini sounds a lot more like the Gilmore Lite, only a little better (and tons of extra power). Great job HeadAmp!
      • At $1800 it is a great amp for people that need balanced and/or the extra power (Susvara / HE6 anyone?)
    • Focal Elegia
      • New closed back version of Elear
      • I was not impressed by Elear, and not impressed by the new Elegia
      • For $100 less, the Mr. Speakers AEON Flow Closed is much better!
    • Woo Audio WA11 Passport
      • Always nice to meet and chat with Mike and Jack @WooAudio. Very friendly folks with great products ranging from reasonable ($700-800) priced all the way to super high-end ($15,000) amps that cost and weigh as much as a car :wink:
      • The new WA11 is a Solid State portable DAC/Amp. You heard it - no tubes!
      • The WA11 sounds absolutely fantastic. I am a big fan of Woo Audio, and this non-tube amp sounds just like the Woo Audio house sound. No idea how, but it does!
    • Spirit headphones
    Spirit Headphones.JPG
      • Very strange ear cup design. Similar to Grado. Just sponge with no cover (leader, fabric or otherwise).
      • I did not find them comfy at all, and the sound was just meh.
    • Raal Earspeaker
      Raal Earspeaker.JPG
      • $3500 system, very weird looking, requires a trained person to put them on your head… That person not included in the price, as far as I could tell :wink:
      • They sound surprisingly good, even in noisy show floor environment
      • Sounds more like speakers than headphones! Very unique experience!
    • Fostex TH-909
      • Very satisfying bassy and meaty sound. NOT for people who like neutral and flat frequency response… :)
      • Too expensive at $1800 IMHO
    Already missing my CanJam buddies, and looking forward to my next CanJam...
  7. dawgwood9
    I did not spend much time with the fit, using what appeared to be their medium size tips I put them in and the sealed perfectly and stayed in place. They are heavier than other IEMs I have tried, but they seemed to feel well balanced physically when I had them in. I didn't do any other fit type experiments as I was to struck by what I was hearing. :)
    Sp12er3 likes this.
  8. musicman59
    Your description make sense. The one on the left was the Headonia based on 2A3 tubes putting out about 3 watts and I think the cost is around $10,000 usd.
    The one in the middle was the Nirvana based on EL34 tubes and putting out about 6.5 watts (that's why it was better with the Susvara) and I think the cost is around $7,000 usd.
    The one on the right was the HA2 SE based on PL95 or EL95 tubes putting out 1 watt and I think it is around $2,500 usd.
    HeadphoneAddict and Effusion like this.
  9. ufospls2
    Did you get a chance to listen to the Abyss Diana Phi? Also to anyone else at the show, Impressions would be much appreciated!
  10. Allanmarcus
    My take

    Diana Phi $4k. Fit is light and comfortable. Good bass, clear, crisp. Maybe a little lacking in dynamic punch on the bass (compared to the utopia). Big cups, but my left ear touches the driver. good seal. The bass is wonderful.
    ufospls2 likes this.
  11. Stillhart
    Westone W series is by far the best-fitting universal IEM I've ever worn. Like, by a lot. I generally don't like universals mostly because of fit/comfort issues and Westone just does it right for my ears.

    The W60 is on the warm side for my preferences but man it's such a pleasing, no-fatigue sound signature. W80 is more my style but it's a big jump up in price from the 60 and it's easier to get a good deal on a used 60.
    halcyon and phase0 like this.
  12. gerelmx1986
    Did you mean Sennheiser? :D :D :D
    Barra likes this.
  13. HeadphoneAddict Contributor
    I did not comment much on the Jade 2, except to say they were somewhat neutral and played louder than I would have expected, after living through the age of stats needing and amp with more and more voltage swing to work. But I thought they were very good, fast and detailed, and I felt that they fit between the Ananda and HE-1000se, where the HE-1000se had that added punch and excitement without losing any detail or soundstage. Back in the day, I preferred the Jade 1 to my SR-007 Mk2.

    I still feel that my Sennheiser HE-60, even with the HEV-70 amp, are one of the finest electrostatic headphones ever made. If I didn't have them, the Jade 2 would be next on my list, above the budget Stax (if I was looking for a stat/amp combo again). Although the Koss ESP-950 are a huge bang for the buck, I don't think they are this good and would only get them if the Jade 2 price was simply too far out of my reach. However, at that point, I'd rather have the Edition-X or Ananda in the ESP-950 price range.

    As for the GS-X mini, I loved it, and fell in love with it. I too would probably buy one before I bought the GS-X daddy. My Eddie Current ZDT with 2 watts of power would never be able to produce the tight bass with the Susvara that the GS-X mini could (based on how the ZDT drives my HE-6). In fact, my HiFiMan EF-6 amp is still not able to properly drive my HE-6 and is better suited to my HD-800, HE-560 and HE-1000 v1, and my LCD-2 V2, so I assume also not enough for the Susvara.

    If I wasn't happy with the Emotiva 75 watt speaker amp and HiFiMan 4-pin XLR speaker adapter driving my HE-6 I might be looking for a GS-X mini to drive my HE-6. Even if I got the Susvara or HE-6se someday, I'd be afraid to give up my HE-6 v1, they're that good.

    Nevertheless, I suspect that before next summer I'll have a GS-X mini, after I pay off my son's college Spring tuition in January but before fall tuition is due in September. We'll see. It's nice to have goals.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
    musikverein, marhol and Zachik like this.
  14. Zachik
    No, I did not. I did try to audition the original Diana, but comfort / fit was so bad - I just could not place it on my ears without it being painful.
    Did not even bother with the new Diana...
  15. phase0
    I had a chance to Amp the W60 at work with my Rupert Neve HP amp. That really bumped the performance up a level from listening on my Cowon P1. It looks like the can scale a little bit beyond my first impression. I thought the sound stage opened wider and I could hear more details.

    Neve was also at RMAF also and they didn't say anything much to me other than they were cooking some other things up right now. I mentioned that I don't think it drives my Abyss well, so I felt like they were insinuating a more powerful amp with balanced HP support could be in the works but they said none of that specifically.

    If you're looking for a small compact desktop amp similar to Magni but a little larger you should check them out. Neve is legendary in the professional audio world. I didn't really want or need a little desktop stack for work but that was my excuse to allow myself to buy the RNHP. It's really clean and sounds fantastic. Also totally worth watching the documentary Sound City.
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