Separate names with a comma.
Is that a red Focal Utopia? and how do I buy one?
That's the Focal Clear Pro, which comes with red earpads:
Normally, can headphones be purchased at the show, or are they available for ordering at the show? I live in SoCal, so I will definitely attend the 2019 show.
Sometimes they have show specials but you have to order. They very rarely have actual stock of headphones at the show. The exception at RMAF was Dekoni, who did have some of their Dekoni Blue's available at the show.
Often you can make an offer and see if they will sell you to demo stock at the show.
All of our headphones at the show were available with a show discount. All except our two pre production models. Presale for those coming in November.
I'll be sure to visit you next year at CANJAM SOCal 2019. Some Open ZMFs are in my future.
Part 1 of 4
First of all, I want to thank @jude, @joe, @third_eye, @warrenpchi, @AxelCloris, and everyone who made the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest even possible. Without them, this event wouldn't have been a thing. Also, random shoutout to @Muinarc for organizing the Airbnb to stay at.
This is my third time at RMAF, but I'm always amazed at the show. Denver airport is still an awesome sight to me with its spacious interior design and cleanliness compared to other airports I've been to.
I landed on Thursday afternoon, and being hungry after the stressful morning of getting through airport security and making sure I had enough time to catch my flight, I grabbed a bite at one of the many restaurants in the airport. What's more of a welcome to Denver than a Boulder Sandwich from Woody Creek?
I met up with muinarc at the airport since we were staying at an Airbnb. Later we met up with @Hansotek and @MTMECraig. We decided to go for tapas for dinner, and holy smokes was I blown away by the quality of the food at Ambli DTC! We met up with @Evshrug, whom I had previously interacted with on Head-Fi in none other than the V-MODA M-100 [VTF-100?] thread many years back. It's really neat to come to these CanJam events to meet people who you've interacted with online for some time!
^ burrata cheese plate [the best dish of the night]
^ beef samosas
^ Portuguese garlic shrimp
^ potato bravas
^ pork mixiote
There was a group playing flamenco music live in the restaurant. I absolutely love flamenco and the group was playing so well that I bought their CD on the spot. Tito Malaga, if you've ever heard of him.
Afterwards, we all went to the nearby Hyatt and talked for days in one of the conference rooms. While we were there, I may or may not have fallen asleep from exhaustion for the day, hahaha.
On the following morning, Friday, us Airbnb folks went to The Original Pancake House for breakfast, a recurring theme for us.
^ their orange juice is made in-house and is probably the best orange juice I've ever had
^ I ended up getting the Mary's Egg's Benedict dish. 4.5/5 from me
At RMAF events, I've typically done one day of the 2-channel stuff. This is the premier show for 2-channel gear after all. I spent all day on Friday doing the 2-channel "speaker tower" in the Marriott hotel from the 10th floor down to the 2nd floor. 99% of the gear displayed in these showrooms are out of my budget, but it's always fun to see and hear nonetheless. The 2-channel stuff is a whole other realm of this audio hobby.
^ it definitely felt like autumn in Denver!
Before we did the "speaker tower" though, I stopped off at Audio Precision to get my Audeze Mobius measured. Like previous years, the room was right across the hallway from a 2-channel room blasting their music at 200% volume, so the measurements aren't going to be super accurate despite using top-grade measurement gear. I was mostly curious about the Mobius' DSP options and how they affect the frequency response. I myself almost exclusively use 3D manual, Music DSP. Audio Precision's interface was limited to the analog input of the Mobius unfortunately, so that's another factor to account for.
I won't go into detail for the 2-channel stuff since 1) I'm not too familiar with the different brands and 2) Head-Fi isn't the place for this kind of audio gear.
^ I will say though, the MBL speaker room was the best-sounding room at RMAF in my opinion
^ Martin Logan Neolith/Dan D'Agostino
^ Nagra/Rockport Technologies (the reel-to-reel rig is really cool)
^ Monitor Audio
^ Tekton Encore
^ Marten/Zesto Audio
^ Tekton Double Impact (I liked the sound of this setup more than the one above)
^ Bob Carver/Speaker Lab (it's always a pleasure listening to the music selection these folks have for their demos)
Part 2 of 4
During the "speaker tower" run through, I came across the Woo Audio and Abyss Headphones room, where they were featuring the new Diana Phi.
I gave the Diana Phi a listen on a Mytek system that I wasn't familiar with. With music available through Tidal, they sounded pretty good to me overall, minus being a bit sizzley up on top. I'm not sure if these are open-back, or closed-back. Despite that, they sounded pretty closed-in to me, but had great imaging abilities; instruments were very easy to point out in the soundstage.
What I really didn't like about them though were the fit of the earpads on my head. My head is pretty round and I'd describe the Diana Phi's fit as trying to put a ^ shaped headphone on a circle; it doesn't work very well. The original Diana headphone was next to the Diana Phi, and the fit of the earpads was even worse. For a headphone being touted as super thin, I think Abyss headphones (for both the Diana and the AB- lines) really needs to consider how headphones' ergonomics work on a head. The original AB-1234 headphone always felt like it was going to fall off my head.
^ Diana Phi
Although not related to headphones directly, Dragonfire Acoustics was also in the "speaker tower" run. Dragonfire Acoustics is a project idea started by Dr. Dragoslav Colich, who is the co-founder and head of research and development at Audeze. Therefore, it should be obvious that they were debuting a pair of planar magnetic near-field monitor speakers. Of all the things at RMAF, this was probably my favorite system.
Weilding 10" x 5"(?) planar magnetic drivers with a 2 Tesla push-pull configuration, the panels are super thin but heavy, and they designed the speakers so they can be angled to your liking, or even folded flat for storage. The neat thing about these speakers is that they come with a microphone that you can use to calibrate the speakers' sound via DSP to correct for any room anomalies, so you can get a pretty flat frequency response where you might be sitting while listening. A subwoofer is required though as these speakers only go down to 250 Hz.
Sonically, they're very articulate, "big"-sounding, and can easily fill a room with sound. Even if you're off-axis, the sound is still quite good as demonstrated by my binaural video below. I really enjoyed the sound I was hearing out of them considering their size.
The downside is that the speakers themselves cost $5000, and if you want to have the subwoofer, that'll cost you another $450. And if you want their DAC/amp that does additional DSP, that'll cost you another $3000. In short: it's not a cheap system to own. Another downside is that the audio can sound a bit funky if you're not exactly in the sweet spot where the microphone was used to calibrate the system. In the video above, I kind of move my head in an out of the sweet spot a few times. I should also note that while sitting in the chair, my head was slightly below the sweet spot (I would have to had squat in order to get into the right area), so the audio doesn't represent a perfect situation.
Anyway, after a day of the "speaker tower" run, many Head-Fiers went out to eat at a local Mexican fusion restaurant, Los Chungones DTC. AxelCLoris and friends split an order of the "Bad Ass" rattlesnake queso appetizer. It was quite tasty! I've never had rattlesnake before. In terms of the actual food, I ended up getting a fish taco that tasted not-fresh, and a lamb-neck taco that was actually quite delicious. I had a jolly-ol time hanging out with familiar friends, and new ones. After interacting with him on Head-Fi for the first time 4 years ago asking about the Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor, I finally got to meet @Mike Diaz.
^ Bad Ass Queso
^ fish taco [it looks better than it tasted]
After dinner, most of us walked back to the Marriott to have drinks and socialize. @Stillhart had an Alclair Electro 6 Driver in-ear earphone going around at this time for people to try out. Having heard the EnigmaAcoustics Dharma D1000 before, the Electro 6 Driver had a very similar kind of sound, which is a good thing. It carries the same kind of electrostatic treble that's known to be super smooth but still detailed, and it also carries the same property that I find in e-stats where I can turn up the volume really loud without the sound falling apart or becoming too strident.
It does carry the D1000's weakness though in that the frequency response seems to sound a bit disjointed between the midrange and the upper-midrange/treble from the crossover frequencies of where the balanced armature drivers meet the electret drivers. All in all, it's a really solid in-ear that I would enjoy listening to. Two thumbs up for me.
On the next day, us Airbnb folks decided to eat breakfast at the Corvus Roasters cafe at the Marriott. I ended up getting a blueberry croissant that was a bit too dry and bready for my tastes, an actually-delicious BoBo's coconut, almond, and chocolate chip oat bar made in Boulder, CO, and a Fuze brand kiwi juice that has a lot of vitamins and minerals in it (perfect for someone who's travelling away from home).
At RMAF, there's 2 areas for the CanJam booths: there's an outer corridor area near a bar, and there's the main ballroom. The outer corridor this year had both CanJam and RMAF booths, so the area was much more busy-looking than years past. I decided to go to the ballroom since I wanted to try the new HIFIMAN Jade II system. Immediately at the front entrance where the FiiO booth was, I ran into none other than The Admiral: David Robinson. I had just watched an interview of him regarding his watch collection, so we talked a bit about watches before I let him be.
At the HIFIMAN booth, it was pretty much empty this early in the morning. Plugging in my Shanling M3S (which was my source throughout the CanJam event) into the Jade II's amplifier via 3.5 mm to RCA cable, I put the Jade II on my head and was immediately impressed.
^ note the color change reflection on the Jade II's diaphragm due to the nanoparticle coating on the diaphragm's surface
^ the amplifier has a pretty solid, and unique construction
This is getting a bit ahead of the game, but after CanJam closed on Sunday, all of the people I talked to were equally as impressed with the Jade II system. I'm thinking (and this might be a stretch) that the Jade II will be what the Andromeda is to in-ears for the electrostatic headphone realm; it's seriously that good I think. I have not heard such universal agreement on a headphone/earphone since the Andromeda, so I think it's worth a listen if anyone gets the opportunity to do so.
Sonically, it's not the best e-stat out there, so it's not a giant killer. Then again, neither is the Andromeda. The overall sound signature is warm and inviting, without sounding the least bit harsh, and lacking any big holes in the frequency response to my ears. Hotly-mastered Japanese anime recordings I played back weren't ear-piercing bright; cymbal crashes and hi-hat notes in rock songs weren't overly sizzley; male vocals were full-bodied without sounding thick; electronic music had nice sub-bass extension and mid-bass presence without being overbearing. The imaging and instrument separation was pretty much on-par with my STAX SR-207, and that's not something I hear often. The soundstage was likewise, a little on the small-medium size, reminding me a bit of the newer Lambda STAX headphones.
The Jade II is a very, VERY solid system overall. It gets two thumbs up from me. My only serious complaint about the system isn't actually the price, but the gain of the amplifier. I asked the HIFIMAN reps there, and even Dr. Fang Bian when he was at the booth on Sunday what the amplifier's gain is. To put the amp in perspective, I used the entry-level STAX SRM-252S for many years and I've never had to turn the volume knob past 12 o'clock with a 2 VRMS input. My M3S outputs a 2 VRMS line-output into the Jade II amp, and I needed to use the volume knob at a good 2-3 o'clock level for average listening levels. The SRM-252S has a 58 dB gain, so the Jade II's gain is obviously much lower than that. That, or the Jade II headphones are very inefficient.
HIFIMAN's table had their array of other headphones on display, but to be honest, I wasn't really interested in them and didn't really give the others a listen. I'm not a big fan of HIFIMAN's newer headphones all looking alike. Sundara, HE-5 SE, HE-6 SE all basically share the same chassis.
^ were it not for the name stamped on the side, you wouldn't be able to tell which one is which
The HE-1000, HE-1000 v2, HE-1000 SE, Edition X, Edition X v2, Ananda, and Arya all share the same chassis with different colors, and are less distinguishable now with the black themes.
^ I gave the Arya a listen on the Manley amp and it reminded me of the HE-1000 but a bit brighter/sharper. I didn't give it a serious listen though, so my impressions are to be taken with a U-Haul of salt.
^ The Shangri-La Jr. shares a similar chassis to the Susvara.
I stopped by the Focal booth since it was basically right behind me at the HIFIMAN booth and I gave the Elegia a listen. I'll make this clear right here and now, this is NOT a Clear. If you own a Clear, or know the Clear's sound, to me they don't sound very similar next to each other. I was expecting the Clear's sound from the Elegia, and was left disappointed. For what it is though, as a closed-back headphone, it's quite spacious-sounding. The bass on the other hand sounded quite boosted and bled into the midrange for my tastes, and I didn't even like it very much with some hip-hop tracks. It was also a bit too bright for me. The Utopia for me has always sounded too bright, with the Clear sounding acceptable. The Elegia sounded in-between the two for me.
I know Jude measured the Elegia, but my impressions were before I saw them (let's be honest, how many people check Head-Fi while they're having fun at a CanJam at RMAF event?).
After the Focal booth, I visited the EarSonics booth which was also right next door. I've never really been a fan of their in-ears to be quite frank. I gave their new Grace in-ear a try and found it super sibilant and bright. I didn't enjoy it at all and it left my ears ringing a bit afterwards.
^ I do appreciate the layout of their booth though. It's easy to find information about their products, and very organized.
Part 3 of 4
^ that's the Manley amp that was so prominently displayed on a lot of the tables at CanJam
Going around the CanJam tables, I stopped by the Akoustyx booth. I hadn't heard of them before, so I asked them for the rundown of their products. Basically they use modified Knowles drivers, where they made the diaphragms in-house, but in the same body as an off-the-shelf Knowles driver. They also have tips that fit into the concha of your ear, as opposed to in the ear canal. They had two earphones that looked like Etymotic's in-ears, or Final's E-series in-ears, so I gave the blue-colored one a try. Immediately I got the same vibe as the Etymotic ER-4XR; very balanced-sounding to me, and articulate. I was pleasantly surprised. What was even more surprising was the price: $169. That is an insanely affordable price for the sound I was hearing from them. Two thumbs up from me.
They also had a black one that was priced at $199. I didn't like it at all. It was like my Etymotic ER-4SR with -5 dB bass or something, and +5 dB at 6 kHz. It was super bright.
Unfortunately, because this company is so new, I don't think you can find out anything about them. They don't exist in a Google search nor a Head-Fi search, nor does their listed website on the RMAF program book work.
I stopped by the FiiO booth for a bit after catching up with @Barra. Their M9 portable media player is quite nice. It drove my Focal Clears pretty well overall and the graphics user interface is pretty snappy. It reminded me a lot of my Shanling M3S (M5S soon), and I think that would be its direct competitor.
Next to the FiiO booth was Shure. I had previously tried their KSE1500 system and I wasn't a huge fan of its sound; perhaps it was the DAC, or maybe the source at the time. This time I brought my own source and music, so I tried the KSE1500 with the KSE1200 amplifier. It did sound better than I recall from times past, but I don't like how the treble is presented. Literally everything but the treble was good to me. To me it sounded like there was a peak in the mid-treble that was elevated. Hi-hats and cymbal crashes seemed to have more air than they actually should, and some recordings I have had an emphasized high-frequency sound to it that didn't sound terrible, but rather annoying. It's like when you hear a CRT monitor on and you can hear the high-frequency buzz it makes.
I switched back to the standard KSE1500 system and used a custom -5 dB EQ at 12 kHz to see if that helped, and it did a lot. I did a quick Google search for measurements of the KSE1500, and sure enough, there's a gigantic spike in the measurements I've seen at 10 kHz.
Next up was the HeadAmp booth. Peter from @HeadAmpTeam and I actually had the same flights to and from Denver, so that was kinda neat. I gave the Gilmore Lite a listen with the Ether 2 and compared it to the new GSX Mini. For single-ended outputs, I couldn't hear a speck of a difference between the two when A/B-ing them directly, which is a good thing if you plan to use single-ended. I had previously heard a lot of praise for the Gilmore Lite, and I can confirm it is indeed a really solid amp to choose for its price. If you're venturing into a balanced amp, and/or you need a pre-amp, the GSX Mini is likewise going to be a very solid amp to choose. HeadAmpTeam already explained the main differences between the two amps on post #100.
^ so pretty!
As for the Ether 2, I definitely think it's an upgrade from the Ether Flow. Silky smooth is how I would describe it. I previously didn't like the Ether Flow all that much because it sounded too warm in the lower-midrange, and too bright in the upper-midrange. The Ether 2 didn't have any of these problems to me. It also sounded more airy and spacious than the Ether Flow from memory. Imaging was likewise, pretty rock-solid and it honestly reminded me of the Voce in that regard. From what I was hearing, I think the Ether 2 might just be my favorite planar magnetic headphone. It also has a new facelift, so it looks like a black version of the Voce. Two thumbs up from me.
^ that was at MrSpeakers' actual booth
After HeadAmp, I went around the corner to visit the Mackie booth, who is known for their pro-audio gear. Funny enough, I used to live in the Seattle, Washington area and I actually applied for a job at Mackie. I didn't know anything about Dante networking at all, so I didn't get the job, but it was cool to be able to walk into their headquarters. Anyway, I gave the MC-250 a try....holy cow I was blown away by its sound. Monitor flat a la MDR-7506 or V6 minus the brightness is how I'd describe them. For a whopping $99, these deserve the "Best Of CanJam" award from me. ATH-M50/M50X: moooove aside, there's a new king of monitoring here. And to think this is Mackie's first foray into the headphone realm. Just wow.
^ that was their <$500 room in the "speaker tower"
Next was RAAL. If you know about the AKG K1000 or the MYSPHERE headphones, you'll know what you're getting yourself into when you see a headphone like this:
Yup, it's basically a similar concept.
^ wings closed
^ wings opened
What's different though is the driver design. Unlike literally any headphone out there that I can think of, this headphone uses ribbon tweeters as the headphone's drivers. You heard that right, a ribbon tweeter (they kept telling me it's designed like a subwoofer in that it moves a lot of air, but most people think of tweeters when it comes to ribbon diaphragms). If you don't know how a ribbon tweeter works, it's similar to a ribbon microphone, which I've described in the video below:
With that explanation, these headphones have a replaceable "cartridge" for the actual metal foil ribbon of headphone. Supposedly these will cost $50 each if you need to replace them. This isn't a bad idea to have considering how fragile ribbons are, as described above. Additionally, instead of the ribbon being folded like an accordion, it's bent into a sinusoidal pattern (as seen below) to allow a more planar wavefront of air to be moved.
The ribbon "cartridge" actually has 2 foil sheets in it, separated by some oil to allow sliding to occur between the two sides when the ribbons move to produce sound. The ribbons have two textures to them: one side that's dull (second photo above), and one side that's shiny (third photo above). So it's kind of like Reynolds non-stick foil, hahaha.
Sonically, I can't really tell how these sounded unfortunately. Their booth had a station of 3 headphones, 2 of which were connected to the same source and amplifier. I was using one of the two headphones tethered to the one amplifier, and the representatives of RAAL were talking to the person controlling amplifier's volume for basically the whole 15 minutes I was there for. They didn't even have Hotel California or Steely Dan in whatever music source they were using. D:
Oh well, at least you guys now know a little bit more of how the headphones work, hahaha. I'll leave the sonic impressions for others to share.
On Saturday, I also attended two seminars. One was about headphone measurements, led by none other than Jude himself.
The other was an Ask Me Anything panel featuring a nice variety of industry representatives.
It was a lot of fun hearing the different explanations from different people alike.
Since Saturday was the longest day of the event, a big group of us decided to go to Giorgio's NY Pizzaria. Although this was the wrong restaurant (the Yelp photos of this place looked similar to the one that was the intended restaurant), the food was pretty good. The two waitresses in the restaurant were really working hard running around the restaurant getting everyone's orders, and fulfilling requests. I felt kind of bad for them since a group of us 50-some people entered the small restaurant, and at the wrong time of the reservation from some miscommunication. The food was great though. Though I wouldn't say it's as good as pizza from New York itself, I thought it was close. I ended up getting some garlic knots (which were super duper garlicky and super good), a slice of cheese and a slice of pepperoni pizza.
^ garlic knots
^ a friend got a calzone, which was humongous
Part 4 of 4
^ those birds were beautifully-colored when they fly
On the final day, Sunday, I mostly just got around to doing other things I had meant to do on Saturday.
I stopped by the AMR/iFi Audio booth in the outer corridor of CanJam to say hello to the folks there. I spent a lot of time catching up with @Cotnijoe there. Fun fact, if you didn't know already, AMR is the parent company of iFi Audio, and a lot of the technology in iFi products are trickled down from AMR.
This DAC was on display at the AMR area of the booth. It's supposed to look like a Ferarri and reminded me a lot of the Light Harmonic Da Vinci DAC.
^ Of course, they were also displaying their Pro-series of equipment, which includes the Pro iDSD, Pro iCan, and Pro iESL energizer.
If you watched the Ask Me Anything video in the previous post, you would have seen Thorsten from AMR/iFi as one of the panelists. He was at the AMR/iFi booth today and I got a chance to talk with him. He's super fun to talk to if you ever get the opportunity. We talked about some of the engineering aspects of the iFi products and why they're designed the way they are. He even pulled out a Marriott notepad and started drawing circuit diagrams on it to help explain things. Seriously!
After all of that, I didn't actually get a chance to listen to any of the gear at their table. Time was running short for the day.
I also attended the CanJam seminar on Sunday afternoon, which, like the Ask Me Anything seminar, had a nice variety of panelists in the in-ear earphone industry.
They didn't quite answer the questions directly, so that was a bit disappointing. It was an interesting seminar nonetheless. I personally haven't seen representatives from Westone, Ultimate Ears, and Shure all in the same room before.
After the seminar, I went back to the main CanJam ballroom area and I wanted to check some things off of my "to listen" list.
I stopped by the InEar booth to try their Prophile 8 and Stage Diver 5 in-ears. Holy cow was I blown away by the Prophile 8's sound! If you're familiar with the Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered, it sounds a bit like that with a slightly boosted sub-bass and a treble that's not as rolled-off sounding. With the additional options to boost the bass, treble, or both, this makes it a much more versatile in-ear to customize your sound on-the-go. I tried both the bass and treble switches on and I think that particular sound profile would be great for listening to if you're in a noisy environment like the train or busy city.
It is also very interesting that they offer two shell sizes for people: small and standard. Usually in-ear earphones with multiple drivers tend to be too big to fit comfortably in my ear, but the small variant fit really nicely. Additionally, both sizes of the shells are formed into triangular-shaped wedges, which makes gripping it extremely ergonomic when putting them in or out of your ear. Also, these particular in-ears are 3D-printed and finished with a matte-black finish, which is even cooler! Two thumbs up from me.
I also tried their StageDiver 5, and it was still quite good. It didn't quite have the same detail and instrument separation as the ProPhile 8, but that's to be expected. It sounded more V-shaped to me in comparison, more than the ProPhile 8 with the bass and treble switches on. One of the InEar representatives showed me the different types of wood enclosures you can get with the StageDiver 5. The ebony wood one was simply stunning!
I stopped by the Swan Song Audio booth to say hello to the representative there. I attended one of his talks last year at the "speaker tower" where he described how the big Swan Song Audio speakers worked with their vacuum tube power amplifier. I gave their White Swan DAC/amp system a try and it sounded okay to me. I'm not too familiar with the LCD-XC, so I didn't get a good baseline for how the DAC/amp sounds. The White Swan is basically a box that you can request to be customized, which is a novel concept. Want it to have XLR headphone outputs? You got it. Want it to have line-out outputs? No problem. Do you want it to have USB inputs? Sure. Do you want RCA line-out options? Will do!
^ at last year's talk
Next was Periodic Audio. I know a lot of people swear by the beryllium drivers. I honestly liked the magnesium drivers more. To me, the beryllium driver one had too much of a mid-bass hump that crept into the midrange, making it sound too thick and recessed. On the other end of the mids, the upper-mids sounded too shouty to me.
In contrast, the magnesium drivers had more bass quantity, but it sounded more like an elevated sub-bass to me, so the quantity didn't bother me so much. The midrange as a whole was good minus the upper-midrange/lower-treble area, which sounded sizzley to me. This didn't bother me as much as the shouty midrange of the beryllium drivers though since I know I can easily EQ that peak out.
It was near the end of the event by this time, so I rushed over to the Sony table nearby to give their in-ears a listen. Typically Sony doesn't have a house sound that I like so I had low expectations for their IER-M9 in-ear. I was pleasantly surprised though. It reminded me a bit of the Periodic Audio magnesium without as much bass and without as much of a sparkley sound, more on the bright side. I don't mind a bright midrange as long as it doesn't sound sibilant, and the M9 didn't. Compared to the Periodic Audio magnesium though, the instrument separation was much better-defined and the overall soundstage sounded more spacious. Ironically enough, the M9 uses magnesium for their super-tweeter driver too. Maybe my ears just like the sound from magnesium drivers, hahaha. I wouldn't mind picking up one of these again.
I was guessing the next in-ear was their new flagship since they had a blow-up display of its internals: IER-Z1R. To be honest, I wasn't a big fan of it. It had better instrument separation than the M9 and an even bigger sense of space, a more balanced-sounding sound signature overall, but sibilant to me, which as stated above, I can't really tolerate. I guess my ears must be off from the average though since pretty much every other impression I've seen for the IER-Z1R has been overwhelmingly posititive. At $2.3k, I'd give this a hard pass and I'd much, much, much rather invest nearly half of that amount into a ProPhile 8.
The Sony table also featured their newest DAC/amp with a screen: DMP-Z1. It certainly looks beautiful with the milled aluminum chassis and the gigantic customized Alps RK90(?). I couldn't really evaluate its sound because 1) It was connected with the MDR-Z1R which I'm not too familiar with, 2) they had a very limited selection of music in MP3 format. If you're displaying flagship products with a freaking HI-RES TM sticker on it, why are you using MP3?!?!? That's like what my non-audiophile friends would say as a joke: how's it sound with my MP3 music? Ugh...
At this point, the show was wrapping up and people were starting to pack up. I quickly went to the Benchmark booth to give their system (DAC3 and HPA4 amp) a try. I listened to it with my Clear and compared them with the Utopia. This was the first time I actually really enjoyed listening to the Utopia. That system made my Clears sound like mud, it was that eye-opening. I originally bought the Clear because I liked how it sounded next to the Utopia on various amps and I always found the Utopia to sound too bright for my tastes. Hearing the Utopia on this system didn't give me any of those vibes. I'll have to give their system another listen during a future CanJam event.
After most of the exhibitors had packed up their booths, jude and other folks from Head-Fi sat down and just talked for a good 2 hours about our impressions of things, as well as measurements of gear and other technical aspects. It's a lot of fun hearing others talk about their impressions, as opposed to reading them on the forums.
jude has a pair of Theoretica Applied Physics BACCH-BM in-ear binaural microphones that he's generously going to lend me soon, so I'm really looking forward to using those for some test recordings.
Speaking of measurements, here are the measurements of my Mobius from the Audio Precision room*:
^ those are the different DSP options for the Mobius with the 3D head-tracking off (1/3 octave smoothing, raw)
^ those are the "Music" and "Flat" DSP options for the Mobius with the 3D head-tracking on, and centered when it was placed on the ear simulator (1/3 octave smoothing, raw)
^ left/right channel tracking
^ impulse response for "Music" DSP, 3D head-tracking off
^ impulse response for "Music" DSP, 3D head-tracking on
^ level and distortion for "Music" DSP, 3D head-tracking off; -65 dB = 0.056% THD
* Just as a reminder, these are not 100% accurate since these were measured in a noisy room with speakers playing at volume 11 across the hallway
Anyway, I had to leave that evening to head back to the airport, so I said goodbye to everyone and took off. Of the RMAF events I've been to, I think this was the best one to date. I had a ton of fun at this event just going around and talking to folks from Head-Fi. Until next time, I'll see you guys on Head-Fi!
Thank you for taking the time to peruse through my CanJam at RMAF experience!
@miceblue don’t you own the UE Reference remastered? That would give me an idea of your preferences. I owned UERR, even though they sounded great in a lot of areas they were the darkest sounding headphone/iem I ever heard. Most stuff must sound quite bright to you.
@miceblue great photos!