CanJam SoCal 2021 Impressions Thread (September 25-26, 2021)
Oct 3, 2021 at 2:23 AM Post #529 of 593

DecentLevi

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OK guys here's my more complete impressions from CanJam SoCal 2021. I'd like to start by giving major props to the H.F. team for doing a tremendous job swinging back into high gear after these difficult times, putting on what could be my best CanJam yet and I'm sure I'm not alone.

Note on preferences: I'm into full-size headphones more than IEMs and my preferred signature is ever so slightly darker than neutral with a touch of coloration. These are highlights of only my favorite gear I tried, starting with the best.

Although these impressions were done in meet settings, I took notes during or immediately afterwards and made multiple rounds of comparisons on my favorites. YMMV as well as mine.

Audeze LCD-5
Planar magnetic
Masterful. Sonic. Reproduction. A milestone for headphone audio innovation and a defining moment in my audiophile journey.

Though I only got 5 wonderful minutes with these beasts I will not forget the sound that was cohesive and balanced throughout the sonic spectrum and excelled at every aspect. Finally I've found a headphone that is basically flawless! Balanced, fluidic, nearly effortless sound with a hugely pleasing soundstage that manages to be not overdone - holographic / 3D when called for and 2D according to the recording, with drums that hit with force and weight, and seemingly spot on transient response. Definitely seemingly like a master at ALL genres. No slouch with rock, folk or hip hop, and myself as well as others loved it's performance with EDM as well. Treble manages to simultaneously be detailed, smooth, sweet AND non-fatiguing. I honestly don't know how but they seem to have pulled that one off among other qualities. I felt I could listen to it for a long time.

I had no qualms at all about this headphone but if I had to be picky I may say there could have been a slightly off kilter tonality somewhere in the upper-mids or treble, but even if so I still much enjoy these! I got the feeling these have potential to shine even better with a bigger desktop rig. I tried these with the Weiss 502 DAC/amp, and although it's a glorious little high value system, I would say with the likes of a 'beefier' tube or SS amp with an external DAC, power conditioning, etc. these can be taken to even greater heights.

These are also very comfortable and just a bit over 1/2 the weight of their LCD-4 and slightly less than LCD-2. A very indirect comparison to the LCD-4 makes the latter sound somewhat veiled and metallic by comparison.

@LogicSound you asked me about the vocals and warmth compared to LCD-4. I would have to do more testing but these are no slouch in ANY department. The low end may take a nuance step back if at all in terms of quantity, but texture / speed are also a force to be reckoned with. I'm in agreement with the post from @04gto here.

HEDDphone from HEDD Audio (Heinz Electrodynamic Designs, Germany)
specialized AMT technology
This folks remains a giant-killer and total chameleon!! As I've stressed right from the first prototype, these have enormous potential to 'shine'. The experience ranges from downright awful on the wrong system to otherworldly spectacular on a good system. To those who tried these on a non-synergizing system, you have my sympathy because you sorely missed out.

These have a unique signature and pack enough resolution to 'stop a train' so to speak. Overall a very organic lifelike sound with huge soundstage (larger than LCD-4z I compared it with but maybe not quite as large as good electrostats), but with a special 3D-like characteristic that's highly desirable IMO. Wide FR with perhaps some slight peaks but nothing really missing. Bass quality or definition was great but lagging slightly behind that of a good electrostat, sounding possibly a nuance muddy akin to the bass of the HEKSE (HifiMan HE-1000 SE) that I also compared it to. Still these sound absolutely sublime and worth every penny being so affordable in comparison to other flagships; especially depending on which genre you're playing and which system it's paired with. I had a preference for folk and jazz with these.

Notes on amp pairing:
These really shine best on tube amps ranging from 8-100 ohms; especially between the 16-50 ohm range. This aligns perfectly with their impedance of 42 ohms. These paired famously with almost any of the AmpsAndSound tube amps such as "Forge" and their 8-50 ohm headphone outputs, but for some reason they just did not sound right with the Woo Audio WA-33 which happens to be way more expensive. Although this amp does drive low-z cans well it may have something to do with the wattage.

Comfort: Due to weight, limited swivel of earcups and a moderate pressure point, these are generally preferable either for people with a medium to small size head and those who put SQ above comfort.

This was based on extensive A/B testing with different headphone output taps of varying ohm loads, and it consistently sounded far better textured, detailed, dynamic, etc. with the above ohm rating; vs. with 300-600 ohms sounded downright low-fi and dull. This was my 3rd occasion trying these, each time with multiple systems.

Audeze CRBN
electrostatic 'e-stat'
Overall a fluidic, semi-sweet / modestly dry (in a good way), linear sound with the full FR represented. Bass texture was spot on but overall leans ever so slightly towards a brighter signature not far off from Stax SR-009. Soundstage was great as well, but may be a small step behind Stax Lambda series in that regard. Sense of PRaT was nearly impeccable, though drums may not hit with quite as much authority as a well driven dynamic or planar headphone (something Mark Cohen of Audeze also confirmed). These pull it off so nicely that one may not even notice any shortcomings whatsoever, and can do almost any genre with finesse and seemingly left over headroom to boot. This paired exceptionally well with what I believe was the Mjolnir Audio Carbon e-stat energizer. For a comparison to the SR-009 I would have to do more testing, but I would say the SR-009 has superior sense of resolution, speed, depth and emotional / visceral quality. Not necessarily better overall, just different.

Side point 1: it seems as if people are pronouncing the CRBN as "carbon" instead of "crrbn"? Its' great pairing with a "Carbon" electrostatic energizer seems fitting though!

Side point 2: These seemed to actually improve in some ways when not touching the head. I noticed when pulling these headphones approx. 1-2mm away from the head (as if slowly taking them off) that the bass seemed to become fuller and soundstage changed, perhaps in a positive way. This is something I also noticed with my Stax Lambda's at home which I modified using a spacer between the earpads and headphone cup with evenly spaced pieces of blu-tac in between to give a sizeable amount of room for the air to 'breathe' (see here). I believe I mentioned this to Mark Cohen and he dismissed it saying that it's "breaking the seal", but I for one see potential with the concept.

Audeze LCD-4z
Planar magnetics
Lush mids and great detail, intimate and pleasing soundstage. Linear FR (freq. response), with nice weight to the bass and basically no 'veil' akin to perhaps HD-650 or Meze Empyrean. Extremely pleasing sound especially for the likes of classic rock. The entire resolution and experience really seemed to open up especially with the Futurtech Kimber cable vs. a more entry level sound with the stock cable. Pairing was immense with the GSX mini amp!

Oddly I had also tried this same headphone at the last meet 2 years ago but was underwhelmed at the time, so either Audeze must have made some revisions since, or it's down to system synergy.

Meze Audio Elite
Planar magnetics
I would say these are an unmistakable upgrade to the Meze Empyrean, really picking up where they left off and leaving the former behind. Improved and incredible dynamics, clarity and lifelike quality gave me a sense of the 5th element - the visceral touch. Spot on texture, tuning and imaging. The Empyrean sounds highly veiled and somewhat off tonality wize vs. these with more transparency and improved texture and speed. Near perfection, though possibly exuding a very modestly metallic quality to the mids and/or treble (I could be wrong and that could be down to meet environment or system chain). Comparable to Rosson Audio RAD-0 and Audeze LCD-4z; and like the LCD-4z it also pairs famously well with both GSX mini amp and Woo WA33 and Futurtech Kimber cable, as well as sounded preferable with analogue recordings like classic rock.

I think color choices besides silver for the metal headband yoke would be great.

Rosson Audio RAD-0 (designed by Audeze co-founder)
Planar magnetics
Vivid, hard hitting vibrant sound that's more 'front row' and with even better dynamics than the HEDDphone, sounding fantastic especially for well mastered electronic music (techno, EDM, etc.), yet great as well for analogue recordings. Comfort level takes a step back, on par with the approx. weight of the HEDDphone but with a different weight distribution.

Notable mentions I was 'on the fence' about

Hifiman HE-1000 SE 'HEKSE '
Planar magnetics
Great, liquid and nearly effortless sound. But slightly metallic quality with forward & shouty mids, splashy highs and somewhat artificial bass. May have been down to amp pairing (Benchmark DAC2 HGC). Arya by contrast seemed slightly brighter & more clear but somehow managed to seem a bit less fatiguing.

ZMF Verite'
Beryllium-coated PEN driver
Wide FR skewed slightly towards darker tone focusing slightly on lush, vibrant mids but with perhaps with a modestly metallic quality. Limited listening session so my opinion could change.

Hifiman Shangri-La
Electrostatic
This sounded liquid and visceral but soundstage seemed to suffer from a sort of permanently 2D / nearly 3D quality that made everything sound as if it could be in the same space and overall was slightly too back-row.

iFi Audio Diablo
Portable DAC / amp
I found this little guy at the Headphones.com booth upon request. I found it to have strikingly good clarity, impact and detail and with a natural sound, even above their Black label and Signature predecessors. I still preferred the CEntrance.

Sennheiser HD-540
Dynamic
Legacy 80's relics still have a very pleasing, transparent and vibrant sound (asked to try from someone I noticed with it)

HifiMan Deva Pro wireless planar headphone for $320!, VZR Audio Model One headphones and CEntrance Hifi M8 V2 portable DAC/amp see here.

Your experience with everything here could change depending on listening environment and system chain.

PS - I would like to note that I was taken aback at the relative lack of awareness I noticed (at least from the few people I spoke with) regarding the merits of power conditioning and DDCs in a desktop system. Over the years I have come to swear by highly distinctive differences made in my chain from such devices. These are definitely additional areas to look into for anyone wanting to further up their game in a non-portable rig.

Also this is for you @Sajid Amit @UntilThen
 
Last edited:
Oct 3, 2021 at 4:17 AM Post #530 of 593

UntilThen

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Well DL, I don't know. You didn't get to hear the Abyss 1266 TC at CAMJAM. That's the one I'm probably going for. Just watch Steve Guttenberg YT review of it. He call it the best headphone on the planet. :)
 
Oct 3, 2021 at 4:44 AM Post #531 of 593

thecrow

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Well DL, I don't know. You didn't get to hear the Abyss 1266 TC at CAMJAM. That's the one I'm probably going for. Just watch Steve Guttenberg YT review of it. He call it the best headphone on the planet. :)
Happy to pump up the tyres of @Sajid Amit :) with this very well put together review of the abyss and susvaras - pros and cons

i’ve never heard the abyss myself but there is so much great info here in discussing it and what it offers (including in comparison to susvaras of course as)

very well laid out and well considered from a valuable contributor (who lives with these) when considering this level of headfi

imho

 
Last edited:
Oct 3, 2021 at 4:59 AM Post #532 of 593

DecentLevi

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Well DL, I don't know. You didn't get to hear the Abyss 1266 TC at CAMJAM. That's the one I'm probably going for. Just watch Steve Guttenberg YT review of it. He call it the best headphone on the planet. :)
I did hear the Abyss 1266 TC and the Diana at the previous CanJam with WA33. I had a personal preference for HEDD and Rad-0.
 
Last edited:
Oct 3, 2021 at 11:42 AM Post #533 of 593

Sajid Amit

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OK guys here's my more complete impressions from CanJam SoCal 2021. I'd like to start by giving major props to the H.F. team for doing a tremendous job swinging back into high gear after these difficult times, putting on what could be my best CanJam yet and I'm sure I'm not alone.

Note on preferences: I'm into full-size headphones more than IEMs and my preferred signature is ever so slightly darker than neutral with a touch of coloration. These are highlights of only my favorite gear I tried, starting with the best.

Although these impressions were done in meet settings, I took notes during or immediately afterwards and made multiple rounds of comparisons on my favorites. YMMV as well as mine.

Audeze LCD-5
Planar magnetic
Masterful. Sonic. Reproduction. A milestone for headphone audio innovation and a defining moment in my audiophile journey.

Though I only got 5 wonderful minutes with these beasts I will not forget the sound that was cohesive and balanced throughout the sonic spectrum and excelled at every aspect. Finally I've found a headphone that is basically flawless! Balanced, fluidic, nearly effortless sound with a hugely pleasing soundstage that manages to be not overdone - holographic / 3D when called for and 2D according to the recording, with drums that hit with force and weight, and seemingly spot on transient response. Definitely seemingly like a master at ALL genres. No slouch with rock, folk or hip hop, and myself as well as others loved it's performance with EDM as well. Treble manages to simultaneously be detailed, smooth, sweet AND non-fatiguing. I honestly don't know how but they seem to have pulled that one off among other qualities. I felt I could listen to it for a long time.

I had no qualms at all about this headphone but if I had to be picky I may say there could have been a slightly off kilter tonality somewhere in the upper-mids or treble, but even if so I still much enjoy these! I got the feeling these have potential to shine even better with a bigger desktop rig. I tried these with the Weiss 502 DAC/amp, and although it's a glorious little high value system, I would say with the likes of a 'beefier' tube or SS amp with an external DAC, power conditioning, etc. these can be taken to even greater heights.

These are also very comfortable and just a bit over 1/2 the weight of their LCD-4 and slightly less than LCD-2. A very indirect comparison to the LCD-4 makes the latter sound somewhat veiled and metallic by comparison.

@LogicSound you asked me about the vocals and warmth compared to LCD-4. I would have to do more testing but these are no slouch in ANY department. The low end may take a nuance step back if at all in terms of quantity, but texture / speed are also a force to be reckoned with. I'm in agreement with the post from @04gto here.

HEDDphone from HEDD Audio (Heinz Electrodynamic Designs, Germany)
specialized AMT technology
This folks remains a giant-killer and total chameleon!! As I've stressed right from the first prototype, these have enormous potential to 'shine'. The experience ranges from downright awful on the wrong system to otherworldly spectacular on a good system. To those who tried these on a non-synergizing system, you have my sympathy because you sorely missed out.

These have a unique signature and pack enough resolution to 'stop a train' so to speak. Overall a very organic lifelike sound with huge soundstage (larger than LCD-4z I compared it with but maybe not quite as large as good electrostats), but with a special 3D-like characteristic that's highly desirable IMO. Wide FR with perhaps some slight peaks but nothing really missing. Bass quality or definition was great but lagging slightly behind that of a good electrostat, sounding possibly a nuance muddy akin to the bass of the HEKSE (HifiMan HE-1000 SE) that I also compared it to. Still these sound absolutely sublime and worth every penny being so affordable in comparison to other flagships; especially depending on which genre you're playing and which system it's paired with. I had a preference for folk and jazz with these.

Notes on amp pairing:
These really shine best on tube amps ranging from 8-100 ohms; especially between the 16-50 ohm range. This aligns perfectly with their impedance of 42 ohms. These paired famously with almost any of the AmpsAndSound tube amps such as "Forge" and their 8-50 ohm headphone outputs, but for some reason they just did not sound right with the Woo Audio WA-33 which happens to be way more expensive. Although this amp does drive low-z cans well it may have something to do with the wattage.

Comfort: Due to weight, limited swivel of earcups and a moderate pressure point, these are generally preferable either for people with a medium to small size head and those who put SQ above comfort.

This was based on extensive A/B testing with different headphone output taps of varying ohm loads, and it consistently sounded far better textured, detailed, dynamic, etc. with the above ohm rating; vs. with 300-600 ohms sounded downright low-fi and dull. This was my 3rd occasion trying these, each time with multiple systems.

Audeze CRBN
electrostatic 'e-stat'
Overall a fluidic, semi-sweet / modestly dry (in a good way), linear sound with the full FR represented. Bass texture was spot on but overall leans ever so slightly towards a brighter signature not far off from Stax SR-009. Soundstage was great as well, but may be a small step behind Stax Lambda series in that regard. Sense of PRaT was nearly impeccable, though drums may not hit with quite as much authority as a well driven dynamic or planar headphone (something Mark Cohen of Audeze also confirmed). These pull it off so nicely that one may not even notice any shortcomings whatsoever, and can do almost any genre with finesse and seemingly left over headroom to boot. This paired exceptionally well with what I believe was the Mjolnir Audio Carbon e-stat energizer. For a comparison to the SR-009 I would have to do more testing, but I would say the SR-009 has superior sense of resolution, speed, depth and emotional / visceral quality. Not necessarily better overall, just different.

Side point 1: it seems as if people are pronouncing the CRBN as "carbon" instead of "crrbn"? Its' great pairing with a "Carbon" electrostatic energizer seems fitting though!

Side point 2: These seemed to actually improve in some ways when not touching the head. I noticed when pulling these headphones approx. 1-2mm away from the head (as if slowly taking them off) that the bass seemed to become fuller and soundstage changed, perhaps in a positive way. This is something I also noticed with my Stax Lambda's at home which I modified using a spacer between the earpads and headphone cup with evenly spaced pieces of blu-tac in between to give a sizeable amount of room for the air to 'breathe' (see here). I believe I mentioned this to Mark Cohen and he dismissed it saying that it's "breaking the seal", but I for one see potential with the concept.

Audeze LCD-4z
Planar magnetics
Lush mids and great detail, intimate and pleasing soundstage. Linear FR (freq. response), with nice weight to the bass and basically no 'veil' akin to perhaps HD-650 or Meze Empyrean. Extremely pleasing sound especially for the likes of classic rock. The entire resolution and experience really seemed to open up especially with the Futurtech Kimber cable vs. a more entry level sound with the stock cable. Pairing was immense with the GSX mini amp!

Oddly I had also tried this same headphone at the last meet 2 years ago but was underwhelmed at the time, so either Audeze must have made some revisions since, or it's down to system synergy.

Meze Audio Elite
Planar magnetics
I would say these are an unmistakable upgrade to the Meze Empyrean, really picking up where they left off and leaving the former behind. Improved and incredible dynamics, clarity and lifelike quality gave me a sense of the 5th element - the visceral touch. Spot on texture, tuning and imaging. The Empyrean sounds highly veiled and somewhat off tonality wize vs. these with more transparency and improved texture and speed. Near perfection, though possibly exuding a very modestly metallic quality to the mids and/or treble (I could be wrong and that could be down to meet environment or system chain). Comparable to Rosson Audio RAD-0 and Audeze LCD-4z; and like the LCD-4z it also pairs famously well with both GSX mini amp and Woo WA33 and Futurtech Kimber cable, as well as sounded preferable with analogue recordings like classic rock.

I think color choices besides silver for the metal headband yoke would be great.

Rosson Audio RAD-0 (designed by Audeze co-founder)
Planar magnetics
Vivid, hard hitting vibrant sound that's more 'front row' and with even better dynamics than the HEDDphone, sounding fantastic especially for well mastered electronic music (techno, EDM, etc.), yet great as well for analogue recordings. Comfort level takes a step back, on par with the approx. weight of the HEDDphone but with a different weight distribution.

Notable mentions I was 'on the fence' about

Hifiman HE-1000 SE 'HEKSE '
Planar magnetics
Great, liquid and nearly effortless sound. But slightly metallic quality with forward & shouty mids, splashy highs and somewhat artificial bass. May have been down to amp pairing (Benchmark DAC2 HGC). Arya by contrast seemed slightly brighter & more clear but somehow managed to seem a bit less fatiguing.

ZMF Verite'
Beryllium-coated PEN driver
Wide FR skewed slightly towards darker tone focusing slightly on lush, vibrant mids but with perhaps with a modestly metallic quality. Limited listening session so my opinion could change.

Hifiman Shangri-La
Electrostic
This sounded liquid and visceral but soundstage seemed to suffer from a sort of permanently 2D / nearly 3D quality that made everything sound as if it could be in the same space and overall was slightly too back-row.

iFi Audio Diablo
Portable DAC / amp
I found this little guy at the Headphones.com booth upon request. I found it to have strikingly good clarity, impact and detail and with a natural sound, even above their Black label and Signature predecessors. I still preferred the CEntrance.

Sennheiser HD-540
Dynamic
Legacy 80's relics still have a very pleasing, transparent and vibrant sound (asked to try from someone I noticed with it)

HifiMan Deva Pro wireless planar headphone for $320!, VZR Audio Model One headphones and CEntrance Hifi M8 V2 portable DAC/amp see here.

Your experience with everything here could change depending on listening environment and system chain.

PS - I would like to note that I was taken aback at the relative lack of awareness I noticed (at least from the few people I spoke with) regarding the merits of power conditioning and DDCs in a desktop system. Over the years I have come to swear by highly distinctive differences made in my chain from such devices. These are definitely additional areas to look into for anyone wanting to further up their game in a non-portable rig.

Also this is for you @Sajid Amit @UntilThen
Thanks man. Very helpful. 🙏🏻
 
Oct 4, 2021 at 3:54 PM Post #535 of 593
We’re excited to say our official CanJam SoCal 2021 Show Report is up!
We’d also like to take a moment to thank everyone who stopped by our table and allowed us to get your picture. For us CanJam is as much about the gear as it is about our community, so to that end we’d like to share some of the awesome shots we got of all of you over the two day show!
three_friends.jpgTwo_guys_tables_end.jpgzmf_vc_stax007.jpgthree_guys_HE500modded.jpgstax_couple.jpgr10p.jpgpeace_4.jpgLCD4z_m.jpgfocal_celestee.jpgfocal_c.jpgdca_e2_sus.jpg009_007_elite.jpg009_007.jpg007_elite.jpg
ayra_ms_fin.jpgElite.jpgelite_stax.jpgether2_DCAroom.jpgHE_60.jpgmeze99Classic_roseglasses.jpgstealth.jpgstealth_4z.jpgsusvara_thumbsup.jpg
 
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Oct 4, 2021 at 5:00 PM Post #537 of 593

jlbrach

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I did hear the Abyss 1266 TC and the Diana at the previous CanJam with WA33. I had a personal preference for HEDD and Rad-0.
I know this is a completely subjective hobby and I respect all peoples opinions but I just find It hard to imagine preferring the rad-o to the abyss tc
 
Oct 4, 2021 at 5:47 PM Post #538 of 593
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Oct 4, 2021 at 7:41 PM Post #539 of 593

MacedonianHero

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I know this is a completely subjective hobby and I respect all peoples opinions but I just find It hard to imagine preferring the rad-o to the abyss tc
I've owned both the RAD-0 and HEDDphones...love them to death! But they don't crack my top 4-5 headphones...the Phi TC do however. :wink:
 

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