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

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  1. Mediahound
    Can anyone tell me what was the headphone amplifier that Meze used at their booth?
  2. bmichels
    was Shunyata there ? any news of the availability of their SIGMA USB cable?
  3. Allanmarcus
    Manley absolute headphone amp
  4. Mediahound
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2018
  5. Hifiearspeakers
    How was the soundstage between the Ether 2 and HEK SE?
  6. dawgwood9

    I just came from the show and to me the He1000se had a wider soundstage, more sub bass and more extended treble than the ether 2. The Ether 2 was very impressive though. A very comfortable headphone both physically and sonically.
  7. rockcrusher
    To me, that is a tough question. I noticed the openness of the sound stage more in the HEK SE. I would say that the sound stage is wider and more open, but it's more obvious too. Incidentally, dawgwood9 is not wrong. The HEK SE is a very comfortable headphone.
  8. WCDchee
    I have not heard the Sony, but having used the fourte extensively, I beg to differ.

    The fourte is something which takes a lot to sound good. When I say that what I mean is that the way it scales with better equipment is quite unlike other earphones I’ve tried. On average sources, I’ve heard the fourte sound bad, bad as in I wouldn’t use it over my other earphones from a purely SQ POV. However, once the quality of the source goes up, it pulls ahead from everything else by a large margin to my ears in terms of resolution, transparency, staging and imaging.

    I get what you mean by if it sounds good on an avg source it sounds good with everything. That I can agree with. But sounding bad on a less fantastic source does not mean that something can sound marvellous with a different source. Different earphones scale up differently. Case in point the Vega and the dita dynamic earphones scale extremely well. As do the fourte. The Sony ex1000 however, despite my hopes and expectations actually do not scale up well at all, even plugging it into something like the Dave, it doesn’t get much better.

    Remember, a large part of our hobby is in the synergy between different equipment, sometimes no one can explain why something sounds bad with a particular pairing and great with another.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2018
    fiascogarcia likes this.
  9. Dsnuts Contributor
    That is one point the guy I was speaking to at the audio 64 table was saying as well. They sounded great on my M3s actually but they just didn't capture the same magic I heard at the Sony booth. Don't know maybe I went into it expecting something greater for my car down payment. I am sure with the right source those will be worth the money but for me I was more impressed with the new Sony earphones.

    I suppose sound preference has a lot to do with ones subjective views when demoing a phone as well. To be fair places like an audio show is not the most ideal place to hear a phone so you guys have to take all the statements with a bit of a pinch if you know what I mean.

    For me I went into can Jam with a complete clean slate not knowing what to expect and came out with what I thought was the clear winner for me. Might be different with each person so that is what it is. Just because my own experience with this is how I posted it don't mean it will be the same for another person.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
  10. kubig123
    Did anybody had the chance to try the Campfire Equinox?
    I’m extremely curious about them!
  11. Dsnuts Contributor
    I got a brief listen in on those. Big bold sound on them with crazy bass. They kinda remind me of their atlas but even greater transparency. Imaging was really good. You definitely have to be a bass lover to get into those. It was only a brief listen but those are promising.
    tim0chan likes this.
  12. Zachik
    Very good points!
    Let me clarify my initial statement:
    I did not say the GSX mini is only worth or should cost $1,000.

    I guess what I meant to say is:
    As a very satisfied Gilmore Lite Mk2 owner who does not need the extra power for my headphones, and who has no balanced source - for $999 I would have jump on the GSX Mini anyhow.

    Hope that clarifies it.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
    marhol and Stillhart like this.
  13. elira
    I tried almost all headphones, and most of them were what you would expect from them. I'll put my most significant impresions:
    • I was a little disappointed by the Sony player, I expected something magical. It was paired with the Sony flagship headphones that I don't like and the music in them wasn't something I knew. So at the end they sounded good, but I had higher expectations. They should have connected one of them to a tablet with Tidal or Qobuz.
    • Most of the booths had a tablet or computer with some kind of streaming service (Tidal in most cases). And that is great, what I still don't understand is why some of them don't do that. For example Schiit booth had interesting pieces of hardware to try, but their library of music is constrained and didn't have anything I knew. I hope next time that improves.
    • The ribbon headphones sound really good (https://raalrequisite.com). You need a speaker amp, and the magic box that increases the impedance but the results are amazing. Those are the ones I liked most in the entire show.
    • The Ether CX are something I wouldn't buy, better to save some more money and get the Ether C Flow that sound much better.
    • The Ether 2 are astonishingly light, as for the sound I guess the environment wasn't the best so I didn't find them remarkable.
    • The Focal Elegia sound like a closed focal, I don't like Focal headphones, but it sounded like other Focal headphones which I guess is something good.
    • Spirit Torino headphones were a big deception. I was expecting an improved Grado (because they are using the same form factor). I guess nothing sounds like a Grado. Sound wise they had more bass and the sound felt heavy.
    • ZMF new headphones were interesting, most ZMF headphones sound good to me. I didn't like the one with beryllium drivers (which is the expensive one). I really liked the open Atticus, it was fast with a lot of impact I've only heard that kind of impact in electrostatics.
    • Mackie MC-250 headphones sound good, are comfortable and not expensive. Great value there.
    • Cleer Next have a very interesting sound, it feels like a ton of dynamic range, they have some isolation, and a lot of detail. I really liked them. Thinking seriously in buying a pair.
    • Qobuz was giving free early trials and I feel it sounds better than Tidal (and it's explicit about what version are you listening/downloading). It also has a really cool feature, if you stream a song it get's stored in cache (in the memory of your device), so if you listen to it again you don't need to download it again because it's already in the device.
    • The thing that I loved the most and was really affordable was the Buffalo Chicken Wraps of the food trucks.
    That's what I remember as remarkable. If you have questions regarding my impressions you can ask, but I don't promise an extensive audiophile analysis of nuances, I can describe things in very broad terms. Hopefully someone finds this post helpful.
    Mshenay, Zoide, episiarch and 5 others like this.
  14. HeadphoneAddict Contributor
    Zoide likes this.
    *** Notice! Quite the verbose brief notes ahead! ***

    This was my first CanJam and I enjoyed it immensely. When I lived in Asia, it was easy to try new IEMs and headphones with so many hifi shops around, but now that am in the US that has proven to be quite difficult, so I knew I was not gonna miss this, especially since I just needed to walk to the show!. Walked over on Friday and the show was much bigger than I had envisioned in my mind. The paradox of choice argument by Barry Schwartz is very much in effect here. There is too much to listen to within the time frame. Only after I resolved to listen to a few select items did I stop feeling like I was missing out on everything. Just a tip. My biases lie more to getting me into the music than extreme fidelity, though ironically a great deal of fidelity is a prerequisite to getting me into the music. The point is I will forego extreme detail and technality if something can provide me with great coherency, and timbre.

    These are my superficial and ostensibly brilliant insights with respect to what I tried at the show. Source: Hiby R3 -> Coax Cable -> Chord Mojo w/ Flac and Alac files.

    Focal: Utopia, Clears, Elegia

    Started with the Elegia, and didn't think too much of it. It was good sounding, but forgettable to me. Jumped immediately to the Clear, and started hearing a ton of details in the music I hadn't noticed before. I remember thinking is the treble on these boosted or what. It was an exciting listen, but thought it may get fatiguing over extended listening sessions. Proceeded to the Utopia, and felt right at home. It had a relaxed clarity and effortless beauty that I liked with excellent vocals. I really enjoyed the Utopias, and thought perhaps they're the best headphones I had heard that day, but would never pay that much for them.

    64 Audio: 12t, 18t, Trio, Fourte

    Spent a great deal of time here and listened to the entire line up. I have to say that it was the Trio that impressed me the most. It sounded more natural and organic than the others, and for my biases thought surely they made a mistake and this should be the flagship item. The transparency, depth, and detail of this IEM was amazing, but most importantly it had better coherency than the others. It sounds sooo "musical". The Fourtes were excellent as well with slightly more detail, with a tad more technically adept, but I sensed a slightly elevated treble in the mix. The mids on the Trio had better timbre to me as well. This was the super star of the show for me until another experience I had on Sunday with another audio product. I remember thinking the Fourtes sound good, no doubt, but the Trios are the better value though still insanely expensive.

    JH Audio: JH13V2 Pro, Layla; Shure: KSE 1500

    These JH Audio IEMs sound amazing, great focus, and imaging. You can tell where everything in the soundscape is located. They both had excellent depth as well. I felt like there was an ever so slight brightness with the 13s, but the clarity on both of these IEMs was exquisite. You can hear the space between the elements. I tried these after trying the Shure KSE 1500. Within the show environment I couldn't tell if the Shure was more detailed, but I found the JH stuff to be more coherent, and didn't do much wrong. I remember thinking I'd be happy with either one with a slight preference to the Laylas. The Laylas seemingly needed more power from my DAP. The Shure's had exceeding detail, but I'm not sure I got into the music as much with them. Nevertheless, they had a compelling show.

    iFi: Micro iDSD BL; Schiit: Jotunheim, Valhalla, Bifrost; Sennheiser: HD 820, 800, 660S

    I found the Micro iDSD BL to be one of the best valued products at the show. It has more buttons than I care for, but drives almost everything in my opinion. I currently own a Mojo, and though I felt the Mojo sounds more natural, and has better imaging/depth. I thought this transportable was more true to being able to drive everything. I recently picked up some Massdrop Sennheiser HD 6XX about 5 days ago, and these drove them much better than the Mojo in my view. It sounded clearer, with more apparent detail, and focus, and an actual headstage. I listened to some of the Schiit products like the Jotunheim, and Valhalla, but still thought I could really just be happy with the Micro iDSD BL and the 6XX. By the way if you ever thought the HD 6XX lacked clarity and detail listen to them through the Jotunheim. I was really impressed with that amp. There was also the Bifrost, and Valhalla stack, which I thought had more mid bass, but sweeter mids than the Jotunheim. I couldn't really confirm my suspicions as the area got kind of loud, but the experience made me realize just how much of an extraordinary value the Schiit products and especially the Massdrop 6XXs are. I started plugging them into hi-end systems when comparing whatever expensive headphone was on the table and in many cases was more listening to the inexpensive Sennheisers. These headphones can scaaaaaale!! Wow. Even after trying all the Sennheisers I felt the value in these was too much to not state. The 820s I felt were forgettable, and um wait how much do you want for these? The 800s are much better, and very good technically, but predictably does not get me lost in the music as much as the 6XX. Don't get me wrong though, the 820s are a capable closed back headphone, but value wise abysmal.Thankfully they do nothing for me. The 660s did sound pretty dynamic, and I need to definitely give those another listen.

    Stax SR-009; Meze Empyrean

    I thought these were the two most transparent headphones I tried. The Stax still has more and more transparency than the Meze to my ears, and it left a lasting impression on me. I was so bowled over by its clarity and transparency that it was mainly what I focused on. It was like the singer and instruments in the ensemble were right there in the same air that I was present to the most realistic degree that I've heard. I wasn't lost in the music, but could definitely appreciate what was coming through. A lot of folks were going crazy over the Meze Empyrean. I had a more measured experience. It weirdly sounded brilliant with music I didn't know and not so good with music I knew. I have no clue what that means, but it was still an excellent listen. Still won't pay this much to get it. I view this hobby as a connoiseurship activity, and perhaps at some point I may grow to like what these two beauties have to offer, but until then I shall go with what gets me lost in the music.

    Chord: Poly, Astell & Kern: SP1000M

    Since I do have a Mojo, I was naturally interested in the Poly. I did recently build a raspberry pi streamer, and connect my Mojo via optical to a Hifiberry digi + Pro hat all for less than 60 dollars. I am tempted to say that the poly sounds a tad better, with more space, and micro detail, but my brain could be playing games with me. I did try the 6XX with the Mojo and Poly and thought I heard slightly more detail, clarity, and depth to the soundstage than when it was driven merely via Mojo. Why that is the case I do not know, but it was hard to confirm this as that area was also very loud. At the same time, I felt like the Mojo was up there with the Astell & Kern product. Perhaps the SP1000M had slightly better clarity and bass, but the Mojo seemed more at one with the music to me. I know I won't get an AK player at those prices, but for those interested the interface is nice, and from what I heard they'll be releasing a firmware update that will allow you to listen to tidal downloads offline.

    Empire Ears: Phantom, Legend X

    I honestly cannot remember much about the Phantom, but the Legend X was excellent. I was thinking wow. Now this is definitely vying for the top spot with the tia Trios for my tastes. I got into the music and really digged the presentation. Excellent clarity, and imaging. It reminded me of the experience I had at the JH Audio booth with the Laylas and the the 13s in terms of 3 d soundscape and imaging.


    I had the most fun at this table. Everyone was very warm and welcoming. The type of folks with a passion for the hobby that I'd like to support. I was able to listen to every single pair of the headphones and all I can say is that they all sound excellent. The tuning on all of them are quite similar with subtle differences, but man these were all smooth, and natural with excellent sense of space and vocals. The Verite sounded really impressive, but I think I walked away loving the Auteur. It is articulate yet smooth, and effortless. Really incredible sound and perhaps my favorite. Being at this booth was like being sprayed with multiple nice colognes at the same time. They all smell good, but how do you distinguish which is your favorite after taking a dose of all. These are still expensive to me, but some of the better valued phones for what they offer in my opinion.

    Campfire Audio: Andromeda

    In my opinion, these are the best valued IEMs because they arguably sound almost better than anything below 1000 that I tried yet they can compete convincingly with the over valued ones. It has a reference tuning that is still magically coherent with an excellent 3-D sound stage and impressive imaging. If it erred I'd say the bass still sounds like armature driver bass and it's slightly lacking in body of the instruments and vocals relative to what I'm used to (IMR Acoustic R1). I somehow didn't quite like it with the Mojo, nor the Hiby R3, and opted to use the Sony players they had. These guys were also true professionals and welcoming. It was a very organized booth. In any case I never liked the look of the green Andromedas from pics, but in person they are much smaller and really beautiful to behold. The Andromeda S is also a looker, to me it fixes the body niggle I mentioned and at least to my hearing seems to have retained the majority of the original's profile. These IEMs present a very compelling listen, and I could see how one could be wise to make this the only one they own.

    Sony: IER-Z1R

    This is the best thing I have ever put in my ears. Wow and Wow! It's hard not to talk about this product without overhyping or using expletives. Actually it's impossible for me. This was by far the standout product at the show for me. I was just minding my business when I went past the Sony booth on the last day (Sunday) and thought ok let me check out their weight lifting dumbbell players, but then my eyes caught sight of the new IEMs and I went straight for the top. This Sony IEM gave me an experience that is indelibly written in my mind. 3 dimensionality in spades. Details like crazy without over boosted treble. Actual blackness and air around instruments. This certainly was unlike any IEM or headphone for that matter that I have ever heard, and to boot an inimitable coherency to the sound that makes your music come so alive! I know these are hackneyed statements in these circles, but it was true for me today in that it was like listening to my music for the first time all over again. Though cognizant of time limits to be considerate, I couldn't skip a track. I was enchanted and kept skinning my 44s. There was some serious voodoo going on in those drivers. I don't know how they did it, but I tried to go back and listen to almost everything I had listened to and couldn't stop thinking about these. I predict that this will be a product they try to out do, but will take a while to, if ever. Now for the hypocritical part, I have to get these $2400 IEMs What!

    What I learned and will do next time: Select a realistic number of vendors to view per day. Seek out less popular brands, and what this show most importantly offered is the chance to have more realistic expectations when reading reviews. Knowing what some of the best sounds like provides that limitation check because at the end of the day it's the same music am listening to.

    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
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