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CanJam SoCal 2019 Impressions thread

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  1. roshambo
    Kaldas Research - RR1 Conquest was the biggest show surprise for me. Sounded great with the Mjolnir amp. I was expecting nothing and immediately was astonished. Great electrostat sound for not a lot of money. Prefer it over Stax 009, the RR1 has much deeper bass. I was instructed they go down to 40 hz. Hair dry, but it's so fast it had a pleasantly fiery disposition to it.
    Meze - Empyrean is probably the smoothest and most refined headphone I've heard. There is literally nothing offensive. It's so inoffensive I'd dare say it's in the vicinity of polite perfection. Balanced and super comfortable. Impeccable build quality.
    MrSpeakers - I brought my own pair of Ether 2's. Not much to say here, I love these headphones, even though I do EQ a bit of treble in.
    Audeze - Going from an LCD-4z to the LCD-GX was a buzzkill. A better comparison would've been the LCD-GX against an LCD-2, it had that kind of grain. Not engaging.
    Schiit - Listening to Ragnarok 2 again was one of my main objectives. I was surprised to learn I liked them better with my Ether 2's than with the LCD-4z's. Rag 2 made the 4z's a bit shouty, but paired great with the E2's. Interestingly, the DAC makes a huge difference with Rag 2 + Ether 2. I really like how the Modi Multibit card sounds with this pairing but when you substitute Yggdrasil you get some sharp treble that's unpleasant. My friend echoed this remark.
    QUAD - Despite being a tube amp, PA-ONE+ actually sounded great on planar headphones. My Ether 2 paired great.
    Raketen likes this.
  2. BassicScience
    Hi All,

    I last attended CanJam in 2017, and haven't posted a whole lot on this forum since my review of that show. I enjoyed attending both days of the 2019 show and thought I'd share my experiences. Right off the bat, I'd like to lobby for a return to downtown LA! Driving almost 50 miles each way (in often heavy traffic) to get to OC was kind of a drag. The main room was also much smaller than the one in LA in 2017, and the food options were basically limited to what was in the hotel itself. Food prices were quite high, and the sandwich I ordered for lunch on Saturday was mediocre. Saturday was quite crowded; thankfully there was a bit more breathing room on Sunday.

    In 2017, I was quite motivated to purchase some statement headphones, and ended up buying the Focal Utopias at the show. I still own them and love them. My DAC is the Questyle CAS192D Gold Edition, which also feeds my main audio system. This is definitively the best DAC I've ever heard, and a criminally underappreciated and underrated component (IMHO, of course). Since 2017, I've moved from using the amp in a Benchmark DAC2 to a Rogue RH-5, which was also a solid upgrade to my ears. I guess I prefer tubes somewhere in the chain, preferably prior to the output stage.

    My goals this year were a bit more modest, since I'm not feeling the need to upgrade any of the aforementioned components. I was interested in exploring IEMs with an eye toward possibly upgrading an old pair of Westone UM3X that I use primarily when exercising or travelling. I was also interested in hearing what Focal has come out with in the last two years, particularly their closed back phones, although getting a pair of same is low priority as I'm no longer working in a shared open office environment. I was shocked to read that InnerFidelity no longer rates the Utopia as Focal's best headphone. After listening to all of the current Focal offerings, I must respectfully disagree. None of the non-beryllium phones really come close to either the Utopia or Stellia to my ears. The Stellia was quite impressive... for a closed back headphone. But I'd take the Utopia every day of the week, all else being equal. They are still the standard for me, not only of the Focal line, but in the headphone universe.

    My second favorite headphones at the show were the Hifiman Susvara, which strangely were not available for audition at the Hifiman booth, but rather at Benchmark, where it was being driven by their new HPA4 amp. I have a lot of respect for Benchmark and their products, and this combo sounded really superb. My only nit with the phones was an occasional sonic jagged edge (where an instrumental timbre sounded just a hair off), but the bass texture and presence is to die for. My other reservation with planars in general is how inefficient they are. The HPA4 was most of the way up on its gain setting to get "realistic" volume. But if you've got the power to drive them, this is probably the best planar I've heard. I do regret not listening to the Meze Empyreans based on some of the buzz I've read just in this thread. They look beautifully made, as well. I guess I've got a reason to go back next year...

    I listened to quite a few IEMs, most of which I drove with my Samsung Galaxy S10. Surely this was suboptimal, but it's the way I listen in the real world. The vast majority of IEMs require turning the volume up within a couple clicks of the maximum. The one exception was probably my favorite IEM of the show, the Campfire Solaris. The buzz on this earphone is that it has the best soundstaging, excellent detail, and is nicely balanced across the frequency spectrum. I found that to be accurate. They are just supremely musical and engaging, and the soundstaging is a definite factor in their appeal. The Andromeda was quite good in its own right, but for an additional $500, the Solaris is a no-brainer upgrade in my opinion. I auditioned several of the venerable names in the field: Ultimate Ears, JH Audio, and 64 Audio. I found at least one model in each range that I could probably live with, but the pricing seemed high for what they offered, especially in comparison to the Solaris, in my opinion. I think all of these brands are more known for custom IEMs over universal, in fairness to them.

    Since I currently own the older Westone UM3X, I was curious to see what Westone was currently offering. I listened to a few models, but the sweet spot for me was still the UM30 (the successor to the UM3X). The new version sounds a bit more open and full than what I own, and for less than $300 (show pricing) offered fantastic price/performance. I didn't pull the trigger mostly because it wouldn't be my endgame, and the UM3X still offers respectable sound in its own right.

    The budget IEM that really wowed me was the Cardas A8. Again at less than $300 (show price) this IEM served up a very engaging listening experience. I played a wide range of styles through it, and didn't find too many weaknesses. Perhaps not the last word in detail, it didn't sound at all mushy either. The only reservation was the fit. The cable didn't lock over the ear and I wondered how well they'd stay in during active use. Another budget IEM that I listened to was the Periodic Beryllium. Unfortunately the bass was amorphous and somewhat prominent. Not my cup of tea at all.

    A couple of other notable IEMs I heard were the Dunu DK-4001 and the Empire Ears Phantom. The Dunu really shown in the bass and was very musical with excellent ergonomics. The Phantom was also very solid and just a pleasure to listen to. Ultimately, I kept returning to the Campfire Solaris, though. It has a special magic that is just so engaging.

    Finally, I'll mention that I checked out dCS's new Bartok, their first DAC with a headphone amp. The fit and finish was superb, but I've never been a fan of their house sound. This unit reminded me sonically of other gear of theirs I've heard, so if you like that sound, it may be worth checking out. Not cheap at $15k (or thereabouts).

    All in all, I had a great time at the show even though I didn't end up buying anything. It's great to be able to audition so much cool gear in one place!
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2019
    headpfizer, Baten, Malfunkt and 8 others like this.
  3. MadDane
    Agreed, how many times I've tried to "save a few", only to end up spending more, or MUCH more in the end. If that's what you want/like... then get/save for it, don't skimp, cause you will spend it in the end!

    OH... That would be great.

    Last edited: Jun 26, 2019
  4. miceblue
    I'm editing my photos at the moment. It'll be a few more days though; finishing up moving to a new apartment. >.>
  5. Giullian
    Look at that, such a big opportunity. We have Melbourne Hi-Fi show, but no Noble representation last year.
  6. vonnie123
    I attended Saturday and had a great time. Caught two presentations, and I ended up buying an Headphone amp, some new cans, and some pads.

    Thanks Jude for keeping us informed and helping make it a great event......
  7. DrunkSaru
    I too drove from LA, actually a bit more northwest of LA but I enjoyed the OC location. True there are not a lot of places to eat within immediate walking distance but a couple of minutes by car and there were far better selections than the LA location so in that sense, I enjoyed this year's location more. Plus if you had a hotel, you can get in and out more easily. I actually went and grabbed food for a few people since it was on my way to get food too plus we now have the option of getting food delivered too which I saw some people do. I did feel the the room and each booth to be a bit crammed compared to LA but maybe there were more attendees? I think the only thing I would change for myself next time is come in Friday night rather than Saturday morning to 1. avoid traffic (took me 2.5 hours to get from LA to OC) and 2. be more rested and relaxed Saturday Morning so I can be more focused on products.
  8. joshuachew
    Impressions of SP2000 pleaseeeeee
  9. Watagump

    Its gorgeous and heavy.
    Zachik and iBo0m like this.
  10. joshuachew
    Sound wise?
  11. singleended5863
    B1C93799-38DE-4802-B93B-7812F09C9BFE.jpeg 423013E8-A45E-4230-A37C-772333E37BDE.jpeg
    To my ears are okay nothing special but UI is very fast and sounds like SR15 but lack of bass and not too thick sound maybe it needs to burn in more and depends on your reference of headphones/IEMs and cables.
    Maybe $3.5K for beautiful cosmetic especially big screen (maybe 1080p) and UI.
    Whitigir likes this.
  12. Watagump

    Didn't listen to it lol.
  13. iBo0m
    And also cheap!
  14. Watagump

    Nothing selling a kidney wouldn't take care of.
    iBo0m likes this.
  15. Javiero
    Awesome view! where is this? I live in front a lake very similar to this one! :D
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