CanJam SoCal 2019 Impressions thread
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M Siau

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I enjoyed meeting everyone, many new faces and dozens of old too. It seems the mood was top notch and (basically) everyone was in the best of spirits on both days. I think the venue was better than the last two L.A. area ones, being in a more laid back, new area and just the right venue size also with all rooms in the same area as opposed to down the hall and up to another level like before.

Besides the ubiquitous DAC Chord Hugo 2 and it's newer Chord Hugo TT2 which are both astonishing with well deserved popularity among hi-fi audio enthusiasts, another DAC the struck me was something from Benchmark. While I didn't get a chance to actually stop by that stand-up booth in the corner exhibiting Benchmark DAC's, I was awestruck by just a brief listen with one of their DAC's connected to a Benchmark SS amp on the HifiMan table that was powering their flagship electrostat headphone. While I wasn't quite sold on the HifiMan's, I did experience one of the most realistic sound reproductions of my entire life, which was is no small part a product of the DAC behind it. I'm in the dark on the Benchmark line... would somebody mind telling me which DAC model that was and any thoughts? Perhaps how it compares sound-wise to the likes of Chord Hugo 2 or Hugo TT2?

Speaking of Grado, I finally got around to trying all their prominent models. My favorite was their PS200, which the exhibitors agreed. It had a large soundstage, transparent, detailed and smooth 'buttery' sound, seeming slightly bright as well. Though I'm personally not a fan of the wide foam pad concept which would seem to absorb a bit of heat.

PS - the Hedd.Audio website for the new HEDDphone is now live again for a cool read! It's also a ribbon (electrodynamic) transducer like the new Raal SR1A but unique making it the first headphone of it's kind.
We brought our Benchmark DAC3 B (there are 4 different DAC3 models) and Benchmark HPA4 headphone amp to the show which could be heard at several booths throughout the show including our booth where we had 4 systems setup with a variety of headphones to choose from. Glad you enjoyed listening to it!
 
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chimney189

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This has been a great thread to read and now my interest in going to one of these shows is sky high!

However, I was let down when I read on Headfonics that they measured the Rosson Audio Rad-0 at 650 grams. That's insane.
 
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bryceu

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This was my first CanJam and I'm very glad I decided to make the trip up from San Diego. I got to demo so many new things I had never heard and talk with a bunch of great people in the industry and community. I only had the chance to spend Saturday there as I worked Sunday but I feel like I got to experience most of what I was hoping to. My focus was primarily on full-size headphones but I got to experience a few of the IEMs also.

I am in no way an audiophile or an expert in audio, my experiences listed below are not meant to define any of these products, rather I am simply sharing my impression.

The "Not My Favorites":

Kaldas RR1 Conquest: Great sound for the price but the volume was all over the place. Almost like extremely exaggerated dynamics, or unevenness in the FR. Didn't listen long enough to get to the bottom of it, hard pass.

Periodic Elements:
I listened to all their models. The Beryllium was my favorite of the four, but overall was not impressed. Definitely did not like the Carbon and Titanium sound signatures. The amp was neat, but didn't offer any improvements over my iPhone dongle.

iFi Pro iDSD + Pro iCAN:
I don't specifically remember what I didn't like, but for a TOTL setup I was unimpressed by the sound.

Schiit Lyr 3:
Might not be fair to judge the Lyr 3 after listening on so many TOTL setups, but the lack of detail and stage was really noticeable. No slam either. I listened to the Lyr 3 with Ether2 and Verite, and both headphones sounded disappointing on it. In general I like Schiit gear, but I'll pass on this one.

Benchmark HPA4:
Tons of detail, but no musicality. The listening experience was so critical and sterile that I could not enjoy it at all. Maybe there was a filter enabled that I was unaware of but it was just a lifeless flood of detail. Even if it was super clear.

Audeze:
The Audeze house sound must not be for me. I appreciated the resolution on the LCD-4, but after listening to so many other headphones I just know this wasn't for me. The LCD-X was a noticeable step down in resolve. I did like the LCD-2 Closed even though I normally don't like closed backs.

Sennheiser:
I stepped into the demo room just to look at the Orpheus but it was during someone's scheduled listen. The guy from Sennheiser wasn't too friendly to the people that were present in the room, quite snobby in the way he addressed people that it was by appointment only. I get it, you're the Orpheus, but humility is cool too.

HD820s:
Listened very briefly and just took them off. Didn't give them a chance.


Good:

RAAL: Super unique design and sound. Remarkably life-like, felt like you were at a concert or watching a live performance. The lack of detail in the upper half of the FR was disappointing. Also I could never justify purchasing something with such a strange design and look.

CA Atlas:
I wasn't expecting to like this that much but it was a quality sound. Bass was very present, detail was great too. Overall I like the design of the Andromeda/Orion/Jupiter more and I definitely appreciated the highs of the Andromeda over the Atlas.

LS300:
First time listening to electrostatics. It was underwhelming but still remarkable. Crystal clear airy highs, but everything else is too absent.


Great:

Chord DAVE: This was probably the single piece of gear I was most excited to listen to just from it's reputation of being the DAVE. It was an incredibly detailed sound that still maintained the musicality. I was listening to it with the Meze Empyrean which I had never heard before either so all-around I can't give impressions other than being impressed.

64 Audio Upcoming Release: I didn't even know 64 Audio had something new coming as I'm not too big into the IEM scene. The bass quantity and depth was quite ridiculous, in a good way. Also the highs were some of the most detailed and refined highs I heard all day aside from the Utopia.

Focal Utopia:
I didn't particularly enjoy the sound of the Utopia, but the resolution cannot be ignored. Truly the best resolver I have ever heard. I prefer a bigger stage and a slightly warmer sound, but now I know why people say Utopia is king (of it's own place).

Mr Speakers Ether2:
Wasn't expecting the sound stage of these. Also for comfort and lightness, these cannot be beat. The bass response was phenomenal as well.

Ampsandsound:
Really cool piece of gear, and the sound on the non-mono-blocks amp I listened to was so meaty and had the best weight.

Feliks Euphoria: Very detailed for a tube amp. Beautifully sweet and resolving piece.

Hifiman Sundara:
I was hoping to get to listen to these as I had heard many good things about them. Definitely a unique and amazing high end. I didn't pay much attention to the rest of the sound though. Also very light and comfortable.

Hugo TT: This was one of the first amps I listened to at the event and it was a shocker at how much of an upgrade from my home setup it was. Great separation and detail. Way out of my price range though.


The Best:

ZMF Verite: I'll start out by saying my Auteurs are already my favorite headphones I've ever owned. The design and look of the ZMF brand is beautiful and comfortable. The sound stage of the Verite was the best I heard all day, not to mention near Utopian detail and resolve. Much more musical than the Utopia however. I'm still contemplating if I should have purchased a pair at the $300 discount, and these will definitely be my next upgrade! :)


Overall:

I had a great time talking with various owners and the employees in general. Everyone was great in the community, I even ran into some people I had met up with previously from selling/buying gear which was cool too!

My biggest take away though was that I'm really happy with the gear I have and while there are many great/better (and more expensive) products out there, being content with what I have and enjoying it should be the best part of being in the personal audio hobby. I would love to give a big thanks to Head-Fi and to all the vendors that made CanJam possible for me to enjoy. I look forward to attending the next SoCal event.
 
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csglinux

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This was my first CanJam and I'm very glad I decided to make the trip up from San Diego. I got to demo so many new things I had never heard and talk with a bunch of great people in the industry and community. I only had the chance to spend Saturday there as I worked Sunday but I feel like I got to experience most of what I was hoping to. My focus was primarily on full-size headphones but I got to experience a few of the IEMs also.

I am in no way an audiophile or an expert in audio, my experiences listed below are not meant to define any of these products, rather I am simply sharing my impression.

The "Not My Favorites":

Kaldas RR1 Conquest: Great sound for the price but the volume was all over the place. Almost like extremely exaggerated dynamics, or unevenness in the FR. Didn't listen long enough to get to the bottom of it, hard pass.

Periodic Elements:
I listened to all their models. The Beryllium was my favorite of the four, but overall was not impressed. Definitely did not like the Carbon and Titanium sound signatures. The amp was neat, but didn't offer any improvements over my iPhone dongle.

iFi Pro iDSD + Pro iCAN:
I don't specifically remember what I didn't like, but for a TOTL setup I was unimpressed by the sound.

Schiit Lyr 3:
Might not be fair to judge the Lyr 3 after listening on so many TOTL setups, but the lack of detail and stage was really noticeable. No slam either. I listened to the Lyr 3 with Ether2 and Verite, and both headphones sounded disappointing on it. In general I like Schiit gear, but I'll pass on this one.

Benchmark HPA4:
Tons of detail, but no musicality. The listening experience was so critical and sterile that I could not enjoy it at all. Maybe there was a filter enabled that I was unaware of but it was just a lifeless flood of detail. Even if it was super clear.

Audeze:
The Audeze house sound must not be for me. I appreciated the resolution on the LCD-4, but after listening to so many other headphones I just know this wasn't for me. The LCD-X was a noticeable step down in resolve. I did like the LCD-2 Closed even though I normally don't like closed backs.

Sennheiser:
I stepped into the demo room just to look at the Orpheus but it was during someone's scheduled listen. The guy from Sennheiser wasn't too friendly to the people that were present in the room, quite snobby in the way he addressed people that it was by appointment only. I get it, you're the Orpheus, but humility is cool too.

HD820s:
Listened very briefly and just took them off. Didn't give them a chance.


Good:

RAAL: Super unique design and sound. Remarkably life-like, felt like you were at a concert or watching a live performance. The lack of detail in the upper half of the FR was disappointing. Also I could never justify purchasing something with such a strange design and look.

CA Atlas:
I wasn't expecting to like this that much but it was a quality sound. Bass was very present, detail was great too. Overall I like the design of the Andromeda/Orion/Jupiter more and I definitely appreciated the highs of the Andromeda over the Atlas.

LS300:
First time listening to electrostatics. It was underwhelming but still remarkable. Crystal clear airy highs, but everything else is too absent.


Great:

Chord DAVE: This was probably the single piece of gear I was most excited to listen to just from it's reputation of being the DAVE. It was an incredibly detailed sound that still maintained the musicality. I was listening to it with the Meze Empyrean which I had never heard before either so all-around I can't give impressions other than being impressed.

64 Audio Upcoming Release: I didn't even know 64 Audio had something new coming as I'm not too big into the IEM scene. The bass quantity and depth was quite ridiculous, in a good way. Also the highs were some of the most detailed and refined highs I heard all day aside from the Utopia.

Focal Utopia:
I didn't particularly enjoy the sound of the Utopia, but the resolution cannot be ignored. Truly the best resolver I have ever heard. I prefer a bigger stage and a slightly warmer sound, but now I know why people say Utopia is king (of it's own place).

Mr Speakers Ether2:
Wasn't expecting the sound stage of these. Also for comfort and lightness, these cannot be beat. The bass response was phenomenal as well.

Ampsandsound:
Really cool piece of gear, and the sound on the non-mono-blocks amp I listened to was so meaty and had the best weight.

Feliks Euphoria: Very detailed for a tube amp. Beautifully sweet and resolving piece.

Hifiman Sundara:
I was hoping to get to listen to these as I had heard many good things about them. Definitely a unique and amazing high end. I didn't pay much attention to the rest of the sound though. Also very light and comfortable.

Hugo TT: This was one of the first amps I listened to at the event and it was a shocker at how much of an upgrade from my home setup it was. Great separation and detail. Way out of my price range though :frowning2:


The Best:

ZMF Verite: I'll start out by saying my Auteurs are already my favorite headphones I've ever owned. The design and look of the ZMF brand is beautiful and comfortable. The sound stage of the Verite was the best I heard all day, not to mention near Utopian detail and resolve. Much more musical than the Utopia however. I'm currently regretting not purchasing a pair with the $300 show discount :frowning2: and this will definitely be my next upgrade.


Overall:

I had a great time talking with various owners and the employees in general. Everyone was great in the community, I even ran into some people I had met up with previously from selling/buying gear which was cool too!

My biggest take away though was that I'm really happy with the gear I have and while there are many great/better (and more expensive) products out there, being content with what I have and enjoying it should be the best part of being in the personal audio hobby. I would love to give a big thanks to Head-Fi and to all the vendors that made CanJam possible for me to enjoy. I look forward to attending the next SoCal event.
Nice set of impressions! BTW, if you're still sad about not purchasing those Verites, you could always try asking ZMF. Many times, vendors will extend the CanJam discount by a week or so... :)
 
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bryceu

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Nice set of impressions! BTW, if you're still sad about not purchasing those Verites, you could always try asking ZMF. Many times, vendors will extend the CanJam discount by a week or so... :)
Cool, yea I had thought about reaching out to Zach/ZMF and asking, but I'm trying to sell off some existing gear first to make room! Thanks for the kind words.
 
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roshambo

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Sennheiser: I stepped into the demo room just to look at the Orpheus but it was during someone's scheduled listen. The guy from Sennheiser wasn't too friendly to the people that were present in the room, quite snobby in the way he addressed people that it was by appointment only. I get it, you're the Orpheus, but humility is cool too.
Interesting, because I was actually talking with the Sennheiser rep about how much more mellow the HE1 booth was this year. Last year I thought they did way more pompous theatrics. Additionally, they let you use Tidal this year instead of their limited sound library. Overall, I thought it was a good experience. It is appointment only though, which isn't the worst thing. Sometimes I wish I had that option at other booths.
 
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vonnie123

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The Best:

ZMF Verite: I'll start out by saying my Auteurs are already my favorite headphones I've ever owned. The design and look of the ZMF brand is beautiful and comfortable. The sound stage of the Verite was the best I heard all day, not to mention near Utopian detail and resolve. Much more musical than the Utopia however. I'm still contemplating if I should have purchased a pair at the $300 discount, and these will definitely be my next upgrade! :)

@bryceu

Give Zach a buzz. Never hurts to ask. I’ll bet he’ll extend the show special to you.
 
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LoryWiv

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I'd suggest picking a headphone or thirty that you really like,get that,and then find out which amps it has good synergy with.
If its a ZMF(great choice) I'd begin looking into a good OTL amp.



+1
Exactly, I picked up a Feliks OTL at the show and can't wait to pair them with my ZMF Auter. That combination rocked my world at the show and I can't wait to receive the amp for my home setup.
 
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Darthpool

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I was very disappointed at the Noble booth. @Watagump was not helpful at all, and I was so engrossed listening through the Khan that I forgot to grab some candy!

On a more serious note, I believe there was an open back ZMF headphone at one of Schiit's listening stations...anyone know which model it was?
I saw a Verite there, it seemed like everyone had a ZMF Headphone at their listening station (for good reason, they are awesome!)
 
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lichie

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This was my first canjam, and it was a ton of fun. I am only going to write impressions about the things I was hearing for the first time, and listened to long enough to form thorough impressions. Warning: I am pretty picky and not afraid to be harsh on some of the community's favorite products.

The Bad:


Mr Speakers Voce: Incredibly thin sounding, very poor timbre and dynamics. Has a similar sound to many of the top end stax headphones that I despise. Sounded artificial.

Mr Speakers Ether 2: Maybe the worst sounding headphones I heard at the entire show, regardless of price. It sounded so wrong I don't even know where to begin. I don't know how someone can engineer a planar magnetic headphone to be so midbassy and warm. The upper mids were extremely veiled and distant sounding. Treble sounded washed out and grainy.

Jomo Trinity IEM: This thing was absurdly warm. Sounded like the Ether 2 in IEM form. Upper mids were veiled, treble was almost non-existent. Maybe the worst dynamics of everything I tried at the show.

Headamp BHSE: This amp was very compressed, especially in the treble. May even be part of what made the Voce and 009S they were demoing sound so bad. I brought along my Sennheiser HE60 (my personal favorite headphone ever) to the show, and the BHSE made even it sound bad. Compared to the KGSSHV at the Kaldas table, it sounded horrible.

Woo Audio WA8 and Topaz: These little portable amps seemed to have something wrong with them. I'm not sure if Woo had something wrong in their chain from their tablets, but these amps were clipping very easily. Even at only 8/10 on the volume knob and loud tracks would start clipping very badly.

The "Okay":

Focal Stellia: Honestly, I expected this to be worse than it was. It still had a good bit of the nasty bass bloat that plagues almost all closed back headphones, but the mid range wasn't as affected as I was expecting it to be. I still would not recommend them though, especially at $3000.

Sony MDR-Z1R: Similar to the Stellia, I expected to hate these. Was pleasantly surprised, and actually liked them a bit more than the Stellia. Mid range and vocals sounded surprisingly good for a closed back, and the bass was less bloated than the Stellia. Still a bad deal at $2000 though.

Meze Empyrean: Somewhat acceptable tonal balance, but with a plasticky timbre and slightly muddy bass and mids. Build quality is top notch, but I wasn't a fan of the headband and it didn't fit my head correctly.

Jomo Flamenco IEM: Much better tonal balance than the Trinity, but still severely lacking in dynamics.

64 Audio Mystery IEM: Good staging, but with etched, unnatural treble. Far too bright for my tastes. The bass sounded boosted and loose/slow, very little punch. Mid range was recessed and a bit thin sounding (almost every BA IEM has this problem).

Sony IER-Z1R IEM: I had high expectations for this highly-hyped IEM, but was very disappointed. Many people brag about its "amazing" bass, but I found that to be its biggest weak point. Its supposed to be a big beefy dynamic driver supplying the bass, but it sounded like an underpowered BA. The bass was slow and not punchy or dynamic. Thankfully though the treble was nice and smooth, and staging was impressive. Mids were still thin like with most IEMs.

Audeze LCD-4: Good resolution, decent dynamics. Very poor tonal balance just like every Audeze LCD product.

Hifiman Shangri-la Jr: Insane resolution. Maybe the most resolving headphone I've ever heard, especially in the mid range. But it was a bit sibilant and bass light. Timbre was a bit artificial as with *most* estats.

Hifiman Jade 2: I liked this a little bit more than the Shang jr even though it was significantly less resolving. It was slightly more sibilant than the shang jr, but also had more warmth.

Rosson Audio RAD-0: Expected it to sound like an Audeze, but it didn't. Seemed to have a much better tonal balance, but it was super compressed. Also very uncomfortable with a strong clamp.

The Good:

Raal Requisite SR1A: I *think* this was good. Hard to tell because the man running the booth was also choosing all of the music. The staging was very good and the mid range sounded good on most tracks. I nearly put these in the "Okay" category though, because when he did play one song that I was familiar with, they sounded a bit off and a touch too bright. Take this impression with a grain of salt.

64 Audio U12t: Even though these are all BA, the bass on these was far superior than the IER-Z1R, and basically every other IEM I heard at the show. Mid range was still a bit thin/recessed though.

Dunu Titan-6: Including these here just for their value per dollar. The low end and mid range was very well balanced for an IEM at $140. The treble was a bit unnatural sounding but I didn't consider it bright. I thought it was objectively better than their flagship DK-4001 which costs $900.

Kaldas Research Conquest RR1: Incredible value at $500. Somewhat natural timbre unlike STAX. Had a healthy amount of bass and low mids. However, the treble was a bit harsh and unnatural sounding. Wouldn't call them bright though.

The Great:

Heinz Electrodynamic Designs HEDDphone: HEDD was not an official exhibitor at the show, but one of their employees was attending and brought along one of the two HEDDphone prototypes they have built. Man, this thing was incredible. Fantastic staging, dynamics, and detail. It was a bit recessed in the mid range, but not overly so. It did have a bit of a metallic timbre, but those who enjoy electronic music may like this. This thing will make every Audeze and Hifiman planar magnetic headphone obsolete on release. I'm not sure if I will be buying one due to its tonal balance not being my cup of tea, but I can still appreciate its greatness.

LB-acoustics Mysphere 3.2: WOW. This is what I have been looking for. This thing sounded like a true HD800 killer to me. It had a very diffuse-field tuning, except with an extremely lush sounding mid range. Being that it is an open design similar to the AKG K1000 (and designed by largely the same group of people as the K1K), of course the staging was incredible. If there was anything about it worse than the HD800 it would be detail. I've already ordered a loaner from LB-acoustics to demo at home.

(EDIT)
Sennheiser HE-1: I can't believe I forgot this one in the original post! Anyway, the HE-1 was great. Fantastic with technicalities, and a sound signature that will be extremely pleasing to most listeners (research shows this too :)). But alas, it is tuned to be a bit too harman for me. I prefer less bass. HE60 still reigns supreme to my ears.
 
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Who wouldnt want a canjam in Florida !?!?! Lets make it happen
Remember the very first "CanJam" in Ft Lauderdale, 2008? It was pretty crazy.
 
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