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

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  1. Redcarmoose
    Just a suggestion; but I don’t think double amping your 1Z is going to be your preference?
  2. HeadphoneAddict Contributor
    Agreed. I still have and love my HE-6 and I drive them with a 75-watt Emotiva speaker amp and a HiFiMan 4-pin XLR adapter.

    My HE-560 are one of the first pairs made, and wow’d me on my Eddie Current ZDT that puts out a couple of watts into 32 ohms and it’s an 8 watt speaker amp (the 560 are 45 ohm). I haven’t tried them with a speaker amp yet.

    But the original HE-6 are one of the best headphones I’ve owned, when properly driven with a speaker amp, such as my Emotiva. But I have an old 55 watt Yamaha AVR that drives them equally as well through a simple 4-pin XLR to speaker banana plug pigtail, and my old Denon 1804 80-watt AVR actually drives them pretty well right out of the headphone jack! They were magical out of my 1980’s vintage Marantz receiver speaker out as well.

    But out of the Eddie Current ZDT the HE-6 fall flat. The bass punch is gone and it comes out sounding a bit limp at higher volumes. On that amp, when listening at moderate to high volumes to pretend like you’re there just doesn’t work.

    Yet somehow the HE-6 low-volume listening remains quite good on many headphone amps, such as when you’re in a quiet house with nobody to interrupt you and you just want your ears to relax - the bass remains extended and you don’t need to EQ or use a “loudness” setting to hear everything.

    I really should have spent more time with the HE-6se but I couldn’t imaging it being better.
  3. arnaud Contributor
    Interesting read. The last bit about change in demographics and the end of the traditional koolaid selling process thanks to ever more popular forums must be making some of these marketers uncomfortable to say the least.
    <<My feeling is that we are witnessing a "post-High-End audio" trajectory with MQA clearly demonstrating, perhaps like never before, the importance of objective analysis beyond appeals to certain "authorities", many of whom have been feeding audiophiles with myths and fantasies of the pseudoscientific variety for essentially a generation. Guess what? Maybe the upcoming generations of audiophile consumer isn't as uneducated or as docile as might be expected. Maybe the mainstream media isn't as capable in promoting the intended message as the "high-end" audio segment thinks.

    Like it or not, "the forums" and communities like those on CA are on the rise. I see this as a healthy development that restores the rights and promotes the interests of consumers. Perhaps this will rhyme with the times in other areas of grassroots advocacy, social change and politics.>>
  4. musicman59
    i agree!
    The first time I listened to them (I think was Axpona) I was not impressed at all but after listening @ RMAF CanJam they are in my short list. Out of the Auris Nirvana they were very impressive.
    Stillhart likes this.
  5. Hansotek
    yellowblue, moriez, Sp12er3 and 28 others like this.
  6. Mark Up
    Thanks for the response Jude. That's great. I knew from the 99 series that Meze knows how to bass (sometimes a bit much). The weakness in planar bass that I have consistently heard (despite claims of slam, it always seems rolled off, even on the best Audeze and HiFiMan). These hopefully address that. The others I've heard that have the quantity of the below 30-40 hz range are the Abyss, the sadly not to be Advanced Audio GRT-1 (incredible for what their price would have been), maybe 1 - 2 others that I've heard I can't recall.
  7. Odin412
    I finally got around to watching the YouTube video and it's interesting, despite the frequent interruptions. I gained a lot of respect for Computer Audiophile and lost all respect for the MQA mafia.
  8. snk8699
    Your show reports are some of the best Dave! Kudos for covering everything I was hoping to hear more about, even though it will directly impact my wallet.
    kid vic, knopi and Hansotek like this.
  9. arnaud Contributor
    Indeed, the MQA staff (or zealots) who intervened in that session shoot themselves in the foot alright. I was a bit skeptical on MQA, now I’ll be downright negative lol. In that sense the CA guy says he failed his attempt but I’d diseagree, this video totally discredits MQA (and the part of the industry desperately pushing for this).

  10. ashwinvyas1981

    Nice impressions...... any more detailed comparison between ZMF Verite vs Auteur.

  11. ashwinvyas1981

    Couldn't agree more with regards to iFi BL.... its a really awesome all rounder.... capable of driving anything even IEMs with authority.... but yes it requires a little break-in time..... & I felt a bit if treble issue when drove my TH900 with these.
    HONEYBOY likes this.
  12. NovaFlyer
    Thanks for the great write up, great information since I couldn't make it in person. CanJam RMAF was going to be my first CanJam, but had to cancel due to work - hope to attend next year.
    Hansotek likes this.
  13. Zachik
    Great work Dave, as usual :)
    Totally agree with your conclusion that these CanJams becoming more and more a social event (in addition to the gear, of course)!
    Hansotek likes this.
  14. Calliope
    CanJam @ RMAF 2018 has come and gone and it was enlightening, fun and wallet RIP-inducing to be certain. :) I was stoked to join everyone at the event, which was my first official CanJam. Gear was tested, lots of music was played, great conversation (and knowledge exchange) abounded and it turned out to be a memorable experience for this audiophile neophyte. I’ve compiled my impressions below.


    Ether 2: The Ether 2 has the distinction of being my first headphone audition on setup day. It was as dreamy as I had imagined, imparting great detail AND warmth to both the Shpongle track that Dan Clark selected for me as well as my Ry Cooder test track. Adding to the magic was the legendary Cavalli Liquid Glass Amp powering the Ether 2. I was impressed by the light weight of the headphone, and it was one of the most comfortable cans I auditioned at the show.

    ZMF Auteur: Remember that meme from Pulp Fiction involving the super enigmatic briefcase? There was a similar sense of awe when the good folks at ZMF brought out their presentation case containing custom steampunk-inspired ornate brass inlay Auteur headphones. They were easily some of the most stunning headphones at the show. But along with their good looks came great sound too! The Auteur proved to be a well-balanced headphone, both highs and lows shining without feeling overpowered in any one area. All the while, providing faithful renderings across the various genres of music I tested with.

    Focal Clear: Driven by an SPL Phonitor Amp. I found the Clear to be a mid-centric headphone with a decent soundstage depending on the track. The mids in Michael Jackson’s "Another Part of Me" felt recessed and the track lacked a big soundstage, although my Warren Zevon test track fared better in that regard.

    Focal Utopia: Utopia indeed! I had a chance to listen to the blissful Utopia on 2 different setups: Focal’s booth which utilized a Auralic DAC and Manley amp, as well Questyle’s booth with the technically impressive CMA Twelve. Both setups delivered phenomenal sound that is damn near perfect to my tastes: clean, analytical, and DETAILED sound with an extra punch of bass for good measure. One of my favorite auditions by far at CanJam and on my dream list!

    Abyss Diana Phi: The search for the Diana Phi was initially an elusive one, as there were rumored to be only a couple units floating around CanJam. When the headphone appeared at the Abyss booth, I made a quick beeline to check out what was probably one of the most talked about headphones at the show. While not my personal favorite audition, the Diana Phi performed strongly, with bright detail, large soundstage and a sound signature that seems to skew towards mids. It sounds fantastic for weighing next to nothing, and aesthetically was one of the sleekest looking headphones at the show.

    Audeze Mobius: As a gamer, I was totally impressed by this headset from a gaming perspective - I can imagine how fun and immersive it would be to play an MMO or FPS with the 3D enhancement provided by the Mobius. However, to me, listening to music was a tad bit disappointing, and my tracks sounded cavernous and hollow, both with the 3D setting on and off. If I purchased this item, which is certainly tempting, I would be inclined to use it solely for gaming purposes, which makes it more of a limited product, in my opinion.

    Sennheiser HD 800S: Late to the audio game, I had my first (and very memorable) encounter with the 800S a few months back at the Audio Video Boutique in Las Vegas, NV. At the time, it was far and away, the best thing I’d ever put to my ears. So after having listened to some of the other headphones at CanJam, I wanted to revisit the experience. Once again, I found the sound to be extremely clean and detailed, with a grand soundstage, although now lacking in bass comparatively speaking to some of the other headphones I auditioned at the show. I was limited to listening to the tracks available at the booth so was unable to have a longer audition using my own familiar test tracks.

    Sennheiser HD 820: I was impressed by the interesting design of the 820 with it’s gorilla glass encased drivers, and was surprised by it’s warm sound and deceptively large soundstage that felt liberating considering I typically prefer the privacy of a closed can headphone. Having listened to both the 800S and 820, if I had to choose one headphone, I’d go with the 820 as it seems to have more bass, which I favor, than the 800S while still maintaining a large soundstage.

    Meze Empyrean: As a newcomer to the audiophile world, I am still discovering manufacturers and product brands. So I want to preface this by saying I knew little to nothing about Meze, except that I had seen a photo beforehand of the Empyrean, and it looked aesthetically stylish to my eye. So I had no performance bias as I sat down to what would become 3 separate auditions of the forthcoming Empyrean. In a word, this headphone is MAGIC. It was the only product at the show that gave me that x-factor feeling - I had an emotional reaction with this one bordering on supernatural! The Empyrean skews very differently from my usual taste for analytical and clean sounding headphones. Make no mistake, it has a ton of detail, but also conveys a sense of warmth, intimacy of the music and this oneness with the sound that can only be explained by saying, you have to hear it for yourself! Everything I threw at it sounded beautiful, across all genres from Dave Brubeck to Michael Jackson to Sarah McLachlan. It’s also worth mentioning, the Meze booth setup including the Schiit Yggdrasil, Auris Nirvana and Empyrean was an absolutely drool-worthy combo. I may just sell an organ on the black market for this most amazing headphone - I am totally hooked.


    Alclair Electro: Billed as the first electrostatic hybrid IEM, the Electro’s were one of the first IEM’s I auditioned at CanJam, and made such a great impression they stayed on my mind during the entire show. In fact, if you spoke with me at the show, chances are I probably directed you to the Alclair booth for a listen! I auditioned the Electro with my trusty AK320 player, and the sound was sublime, powerful and detailed. Days later, I am still thinking about the Electro and am certainly craving a longer audition with this fantastic IEM.

    InEar ProPhile 8: This was a last minute audition at the urging of fellow Head-fier @drgajet who insisted I simply must have a listen. So glad I did! The ProPhile 8 delivers with a large soundstage, detailed sound and as a bonus, adjustable bass and treble. Although I didn’t take the time to try the different settings, even on the base neutral setting, the IEM’s sounded pretty amazing.

    InEar Stagedriver 5: Another fantastic IEM from InEar. Although not as beefy as the ProPhile 8, this IEM had many great characteristics including detailed sound and an airy soundstage but with tighter punching bass.


    Sony DMP-Z1: I certainly hyped myself up for this particular item - a high-end all in one unit from Sony (what is this sorcery?). I didn’t get to spend too much time auditioning the unit, but I was a bit underwhelmed by its performance, especially given the price point, with my test tracks lacking separation, sounding a bit fuzzy as well as with weak mids. Bass sounded marginally better. To me, the aesthetics, not the output sound is the strongest feature of the DMP-Z1.

    JDS Labs Element Amp/DAC: Not only did I appreciate the sleek good looks of the Element, I was also impressed by the powerful, detailed sound coming through as I tested some rather quirky music including Ween’s "Buckingham Green" and Jocelyn Pook’s "Dionysus", which I have found challenges some gear. The Element added a great boost of energy, detail and separation to my LCD-X headphones.

    Chord Mojo/Poly: Being new to the hobby, I’m probably one of the last people to discover the Chord Mojo/Poly, but I am so glad I did! I am a sucker for portables, but add to this the fact that the Mojo/Poly sounds and performs tremendous and my admiration for this item just shot to the next level. The device packed a wallop of power, has a bunch of cool features and brought my Audeze LCD-X to life with warm and detailed reproduction. Nick Cave’s “I Need You” sounded gloriously gloomy, and The Clash’s “Straight to Hell” rendered with amazing separation and imaging. The Mojo/Poly (mo-jah-paly? :p) has rocketed straight up to the top of my wishlist!

    Chord Hugo 2: While at the Chord booth, I also auditioned the Hugo 2 with my LCD-X and was pretty stoked about what I heard. Lows and Mids feel pronounced with the base settings, but enabling the onboard crossfeed filters created a very noticeable enhancement to mids as well as imparting a warmth that made my various test tracks feel inviting and more detailed.

    Schiit Lyr 3 Amp with built in DAC: I spent some time with my LCD-X and the same two test tracks (Nine Inch Nails’ “Gave Up” and Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party”) throughout Schiit’s booth, discovering their lineup of gear for the first time, and was quite impressed by the Lyr 3. Both tracks kicked my ears with powerful bass, good detail and separation. As someone currently in the market for a mid-priced yet powerful desktop DAC/Amp, I found the Lyr 3 to be a strong contender.

    Things I Missed (But Wish I Didn’t)
    • Astell & Kern - Billie Jean IEM
    • Questyle CMA Twelve - would like a longer audition
    • Westone line of IEMS
    • Fostex line
    • Chord Hugo 2 TT and M Scaler
    • Focal Elegia
    • HiFiMAN line
    • iFi line
    I’d like to send kudos to the Head-FI and RMAF staff as well as exhibitors for putting on a fantastic show. It was certainly a memorable way to begin my CanJam experience! I had a great time helping the Head-Fi guys setup and it was cool hanging out with you all - Warren, Jude, Ethan, Joe and Brian!

    I was impressed by how friendly and welcoming the community is, especially from my perspective as a newcomer, and during the show I had the pleasure of chatting with numerous Head-Fi members including @Stillhart @drgajet @musicman59 @Hansotek @fzman and even got to meet one of my childhood heroes - David Robinson, as well as industry members Owen Kwon of Astell and Kern, Amy and Tony of Schiit Audio, Jeff Fowler of Westone, John Marshall of The Audio Video Boutique, David Solomon of Qobuz, Mike Dias of Domo Audio, Steve and Heather Rochlin of Enjoy the Music, Bill Leebens of PS Audio, Tyler Folsom of Alclair, Bruce Ball of Questyle and the lovely people of JDS Labs and ZMF Headphones who were booth neighbors to Head-Fi.

    What else can I say, CanJam - you were a blast, and I look forward to seeing y’all in NYC next February for more adventures in audiophilia!
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2018
  15. Zachik
    Very nice write-up. CanJams are addictive. My first was RMAF 2016, and since I have been to 4 more (including RMAF 2018) :)
    I totally agree the Head-Fi guys, Zach and Bevin from ZMF, and the JDS Labs guys are ALL amazing people!
    For the $500 range - I highly recommend both the Lyr3 and the Gilmore Lite Mk2 (I own both).

    Lastly, PM @joe and he would grant you an RMAF 2018 badge.
    Calliope and Wes S like this.
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