CanJam SoCal 2022 Impressions Thread (September 17-18, 2022)
Sep 18, 2022 at 6:39 PM Post #181 of 613

TimSchirmer

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I just put some Tin Pan Alley on
Looool :). I was mentioning in the Auteur thread that too many things sounded amazing, at least with headphones. I think all headphones should have the option to hear from a JDS atom and SDAC to know how they sound on humble gear. I listened to the Meze 109 and the utopia on a burson, so it was interesting how I liked the Meze and was meh on the Utopia. Some of the other gear I heard from 10k+ systems, so of course it sounded great. The Atticus was a world beater on the Ampandsound Nautilus.

I appreciated the vendors that had an option to hear some cans on set ups that we mere mortals might have at home. :)
Totally agree. A standardized set of reference gear would give be so useful at these events. Comparing two flagship headphones on the same $1000 dac is better than hearing two different headphones on two different $4000 dacs as that eliminates the possibility that differences one is hearing are from the source and amp. I quite liked the non-hotel head-fi meets of yesteryear without manufacturer booths where everyone brought their setups and tried different gear in their own setups. It was like speed dating for headphones and it was glorious.
 
Sep 18, 2022 at 6:47 PM Post #182 of 613

rlanger

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I quite liked the non-hotel head-fi meets of yesteryear without manufacturer booths where everyone brought their setups and tried different gear in their own setups. It was like speed dating for headphones and it was glorious.
Actually, I was in San Jose in 2006 for Head Fest, I think it was called at that time. And while there were plenty of manufacturers, there were also tables where Head-fiers just set up their own personal gear that you could check out.
 
Sep 18, 2022 at 6:54 PM Post #183 of 613

Insidious Meme

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Sep 18, 2022 at 7:27 PM Post #184 of 613

catom

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I just put some Tin Pan Alley on

Totally agree. A standardized set of reference gear would give be so useful at these events. Comparing two flagship headphones on the same $1000 dac is better than hearing two different headphones on two different $4000 dacs as that eliminates the possibility that differences one is hearing are from the source and amp. I quite liked the non-hotel head-fi meets of yesteryear without manufacturer booths where everyone brought their setups and tried different gear in their own setups. It was like speed dating for headphones and it was glorious.
Yea, I had the same thought too. I had to remind myself I didn't have the same amp/dac at home. I did bring a humble pair of headphones to test just that. Well, going the other way. Yeah, from memory, it did make a pair of my current headphones sound better too. Which I figured. Fortunately not that much better. It still gives me an idea. Ok, this pair of headphones is going to be roughly this incremental change.

I have to sleep on it all. I swear I was coming home with a pair of headphones. I didn't somehow (tbh if someone had a deal on the Meze 109 of any sort, I'd probably have bought them). I do have to say right now my top favs from the show were the Meze 109 Pro and Audeze MM-500.

Others were amazing. I'm just looking at it from price point perspective too. They made these two headphones very attractive. Very competitive.
 
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Sep 18, 2022 at 7:29 PM Post #185 of 613

DraconicNerd

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My quick impressions on a bunch of stuff I heard and my favorites.

UM Mext: That bass is very very special, definitely an interesting IEM to try but not really mind blowing.

FatFreq Maestro Mini v1/v2: Tuning is super well done and the rest of it fills in fairly nicely: despite the bass focus everything else still sounds good. Pretty dang good given what they cost. Heavy reccomendation to Demo for any other bassheads.

Sennheiser IE600/IE900:
Both definitely seem to punch above their price a bit. IE900 is held back a bit by its tuning. IE600 are very good overall, worth the praise they've been getting. Fit on both was absolutely horrific for me.

64 U6t: I still absolutely cannot stand BA bass, instantly gives me a headache. Not heard a single iem with BA bass that I liked.

64 Trio: Still really dang good, overshadowed by some of the other stuff I've listened to, a step down from the highest tier of iems but still has a bit of magic of its own. Treble is a bit hot sometimes.

Fir NE4/XE6: Both good iems and especially in the case of the Xe6 impressive in their own rights. I found them incredibly fatiguing to listen to (I think) primarily due to the boosted midbass.

Effect Audio Axiom/Gaea: Axiom has very solid resolution, definitely a bit too aggressive for my tastes. Cool style but the fit definitely isn't great with how they're shaped. Gaea are definitely tuned better but lose some of the resolution and unique character in the treble and lower mids.

xMems: These demo units may have been 3D Printed and nothing special in build/fit, but man something thrown together like that has absolutely no business sounding that good at all. The resolution and separation they provided was very strong.

ZMF Caldera/Verite Closed:
Super good headphones. I enjoyed listening to them but it's hard to pinpoint or say anything specific given the noise level and how quiet I listen. (73db RMS is pretty loud for me). Attached is a photo of how I had the volume which was loud for me, mind. Still find absolutely no headphones comfortable in the slightest. The build on these is beautiful, you can see the craft and care put in.



Spirit Torino:
Enjoyable, some of the more (still not) comfortable headphones I've worn. I really enjoy the design work on these. Noise floor made it even harder to provide judgements, did sound great.

Favorites:

Elysian Annihilator:
Tuning is most certainly a bit too aggressive for my preferences and I solidly prefer the bass on the other three I have listed in my favorites. In terms of Mids/Treble and sheer resolution and resolving ability these absolutely wipe the floor with everything else I heard. Insanely impressive iems, they fit the picture of what I'd think a $5000 iem to sound like.

JH Audio Jolene: Absolutely nothing stood out as impressive, everything was just pretty good. For some reason they were just extremely captivating, sure there was nothing special in what they were doing but I just wanted to keep listening to music on them for as long as I could.

Fir KR5:
Going in I thought I'd like the NE4/Xe6 more, the tuning on this set was far more preferable. The bass here definitely has some special sauce, the ability to pull texture out and go deep was extremely good. Treble and mids were also very solid if not on the same level as the bass.

Empire Ears Legend Evo:
The bass on these goes insanely deep, closest to subwoofer level. The rest of the tuning leans a bit aggressive to provide some more level presence which definitely means they can be a bit much. Very solid set, high resolution across the board and I just wanted to keep trying out different tracks on these, definitely not the same as the Jolene which was more of a just relax and listen to music iem vs this where I just wanted to see how they'd make everything sound.

Day 2:

Advar: good sub bass rumble, hot treble, fun tuning. Pretty dang good fit.

109 Pro: Too neutral for my taste, despite not being boosted bass shows through well. Pretty dang good at texture. Drew me in

Empyrean: Too much midbass, tuning in these is super good otherwise. Definitely feel like a little bit of something is lost in the lower mids compared to other stuff, potentially just a result of noise pollution however. Just some solid enjoyable cans.

Mest MK II: Impressive sense of space for an iem. Midbass hits a bit much. Extremely good separation.

Mest Indigo: Mest but slightly better, mid bass less offensive, fit worse for me.

CRBN/X9000: Very impressive sets, as usual headphones certainly not something I comment too much on. X9000 had the far better bass, tuning, and general tonality to my ears.


Trailli: I still do not like BA bass

VE Ext: Extremely good set overall, bass is very good. Resolution and texture are good. Drums and mid/upper bass are pushed too far forward for my taste along with a slightly aggressive upper midrange. Still enjoyed listening to them. Sounded a tiny bit congested/compressed.

FAudio Mezzo Le: Technicalities are good. Fatiguing both in the bass and treble, felt like someone was whacking me in the back of the head when there was any heavy bass.

Oriolus Szalayi: Definitely have something special going on, definitely not to my tuning preferences and felt a bit closed in so didn't demo long. That is a massive nozzle, had to use foam tips and even then.

Liquid Links Venom: Insanely pretty (Not doing any cable comparisons here, I just thought this cable looked insanely cool)

Aroma Jewel: Inoffensive tuning, a tiny bit much in the treble for me and I'd like a slight bit less mid bass, not nearly as strong of a too much reaction as I get from most sets. Nothing pops out at you but you can tell they're extremely technically capable once you start focusing on any one part of a song and see all the information there. Technicalities are all there, just not shoved in your face like the Annihilator. Really enjoyable set.

Vision Ears Phonix w/ Ode to Laura: Best BA Bass I've heard by far. Super good set overall, really enjoy the tuning. Only mildly headache/discomfort enducing, actually could listen to them for a few minutes unlike every other set with BA Bass I've tried. Definitely a flagship product.

Kinera Urd:
Really enjoyable bass, goes pretty deep. Something in the mids/treble just makes me feel uncomfortable.

Favorites:

RAAL SR1a off VM-1a:
How are ribbons with no seal throwing that much bass? And it's pretty dang good bass too! Some absolute magic in this combo. Still sounded incredible even with the background noise, most impressive headphone/amp combo I heard at the show by far, impressed me where no other headphone could in the noisy environment.

Campfire Supermoon: That's some proper planar bass alright, extends alllllll the way down. Resolution and texture is extremely good. Bass does not bleed over at all into the lower mids. Upper mids/treble a little bit forward but not bothering me surprisingly. Very unique set, personal favorite IEM today. Best set I listened to in portraying the texture of Harsh noise on Tokyo Times Ten and Extract 1 by Merzbow (massive volume warning on those two tracks). For EDM I definitely want some of the other sets that I really enjoyed yesterday. Strong separation, never felt like they were getting overwhelmed.
 
Sep 18, 2022 at 7:36 PM Post #187 of 613

Doug2507

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Day 2:

Advar: good sub bass rumble, hot treble, fun tuning. Pretty dang good fit.

109 Pro: Too neutral for my taste, despite not being boosted bass shows through well. Pretty dang good at texture. Drew me in

Empyrean: Too much midbass, tuning in these is super good otherwise. Definitely feel like a little bit of something is lost in the lower mids compared to other stuff, potentially just a result of noise pollution however. Just some solid enjoyable cans.

Mest MK II: Impressive sense of space for an iem. Midbass hits a bit much. Extremely good separation.

Mest Indigo: Mest but slightly better, mid bass less offensive, fit worse for me.

CRBN/X9000: Very impressive sets, as usual headphones certainly not something I comment too much on. X9000 had the far better bass, tuning, and general tonality to my ears.


Trailli: I still do not like BA bass

VE Ext: Extremely good set overall, bass is very good. Resolution and texture are good. Drums and mid/upper bass are pushed too far forward for my taste along with a slightly aggressive upper midrange. Still enjoyed listening to them. Sounded a tiny bit congested/compressed.

FAudio Mezzo Le: Technicalities are good. Fatiguing both in the bass and treble, felt like someone was whacking me in the back of the head when there was any heavy bass.

Oriolus Szalayi: Definitely have something special going on, definitely not to my tuning preferences and felt a bit closed in so didn't demo long. That is a massive nozzle, had to use foam tips and even then.

Liquid Links Venom: Insanely pretty (Not doing any cable comparisons here, I just thought this cable looked insanely cool)

Aroma Jewel: Inoffensive tuning, a tiny bit much in the treble for me and I'd like a slight bit less mid bass, not nearly as strong of a too much reaction as I get from most sets. Nothing pops out at you but you can tell they're extremely technically capable once you start focusing on any one part of a song and see all the information there. Technicalities are all there, just not shoved in your face like the Annihilator. Really enjoyable set.

Vision Ears Phonix w/ Ode to Laura: Best BA Bass I've heard by far. Super good set overall, really enjoy the tuning. Only mildly headache/discomfort enducing, actually could listen to them for a few minutes unlike every other set with BA Bass I've tried. Definitely a flagship product.

Kinera Urd:
Really enjoyable bass, goes pretty deep. Something in the mids/treble just makes me feel uncomfortable.

Favorites:

RAAL SR1a off VM-1a:
How are ribbons with no seal throwing that much bass? And it's pretty dang good bass too! Some absolute magic in this combo. Still sounded incredible even with the background noise, most impressive headphone/amp combo I heard at the show by far, impressed me where no other headphone could in the noisy environment.

Campfire Supermoon: That's some proper planar bass alright, extends alllllll the way down. Resolution and texture is extremely good. Bass does not bleed over at all into the lower mids. Upper mids/treble a little bit forward but not bothering me surprisingly. Very unique set, personal favorite IEM today. Best set I listened to in portraying the texture of Harsh noise on Tokyo Times Ten and Extract 1 by Merzbow (massive volume warning on those two tracks). For EDM I definitely want some of the other sets that I really enjoyed yesterday. Strong separation, never felt like they were getting overwhelmed.
Was Jewel on demo with stock cable?
 
Sep 18, 2022 at 8:06 PM Post #189 of 613

iamoneagain

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Actually, I was in San Jose in 2006 for Head Fest, I think it was called at that time. And while there were plenty of manufacturers, there were also tables where Head-fiers just set up their own personal gear that you could check out.
I think I was at this too. It’s where I heard the Audio Technica L3000, Sony R10 and Sony Qualia. I ended up buying the L3000 a few weeks later. But yeah they had a good amount of tables for the head-fier and the vendor setups we very basic with no real signage. Think Ray Samuels newest amp was a big deal back then. My how things have changed.
 
Sep 18, 2022 at 8:10 PM Post #190 of 613

earthtodan

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This is my second CanJam, so I was able to be more focused than last year, when I was trying to take in everything. I also slept better. That said, my default review style is curmudgeon, so take me with a grain of salt.


Focal Utopia (2022). First thing Saturday morning as my hearing warmed up, my initial impression of these $5k cone driver headphones was kind of amazed. My critical listening gremlins came up emptyhanded at first, and the enjoyment of my music took over and I just kept listening. Maybe they were a bit metallic in the upper mids, but it could be ignored, as the rest of the spectrum was crisp and sweet. I listened to them a few times throughout the day. Did a cone speaker headphone really just leapfrog the field of planar magnetics?
Maybe not. On the third session, with the Utopias on the Naim amp, I listened to Miles Davis “Shhh/Peaceful” on the album In A Silent Way (Sony 2001 remastered) – if you haven’t listened to this track before, it’s a sublime way to spend 18 minutes – but that metallic upper mid I thought I heard before was back with a vengeance in the passages where the horn wanders up high, impossible to ignore. This problem is absent on my Hifiman Aryas. The Focal guy said it’s because they’re not yet broken in... hmm. I’m still impressed with the new Utopia, but that beryllium needs a bit of taming.


Audeze CRBN. I love technology, I love precision, and I especially love the intersection of technology and art. These headphones are made for the fantastic future, using super lightweight nanotech membranes suspended in electrostatic force fields developed for MRIs, and capable of crystalline accuracy. So, I was excited about them. My rational brain wanted these to be my favorite headphones. But the part of me that experiences music as a firsthand emotional truth just wasn’t feeling it. Accuracy and perceived linearity are great, but there’s a coldness to the sound that keeps me and the CRBN on somewhat formal terms. Audeze was nice enough to have a dual output amp running these and a normal pair of headphones simultaneously, allowing me to A/B the CRBN with the LCD-5 (with a bit of volume adjustment). Switching back to the LCD-5 was a homecoming in terms of pure engagement and the joy of listening. And the LCD-5 isn’t even my favorite headphone. I still believe in the fantastic future, but it’s maybe hasn't arrived yet.


Dan Clark Stealth. Last year I was very impressed with the Stealth, but maybe still a bit unwilling to believe that a closed backed headphone could deliver on a level playing field with the best open backs. This skepticism was reinforced by my experience with DCA’s first headphone a decade ago, the Alpha Dog, which was the new hotness in closed back SQ but still sounded boxed in to me. This year I listened again, and the Stealth really, truly gets 98% of the way to sounding like an open back. I mainly listen to downtempo electronic (Massive Attack, Funky Porcini, Air), Jazz (Miles & similar), and folk acoustic + vocal, especially Irish/Gaelic (John Doyle, Julie Fowlis, Solas, Susan McKeown), plus DJ Krush (which defies categorization). The Stealth doesn’t just work with one genre, it works right across the board, and most importantly in the vocal range. “Madam I’m A Darling” by Karan Casey & John Doyle is one of my reference tracks, and the Stealth delivers it convincingly. It’s a great headphone for all but the most critical listening sessions, “all but” on account of that slight lack of reach into outer space, and somewhat restrained bass. Right now, I have no reason to plunk down $4k and buy a pair, but that’s because I still work from home. If I ever have to return to an office environment on a regular basis, I’m buying the Stealth and shopping for an amp as my consolation prize.


Dan Clark Expanse. I haven’t been paying attention this year, so when Dan Clark mentioned in the Starbucks line that he had a new open back headphone, I was like, Wat. Isn’t closed back, like, your brand? Well. All the passive tuning that DCA did with the Stealth has set them up for a win with the Expanse. The first day I listened, enjoyed and couldn’t find anything wanting, so I thought maybe I didn’t get a good enough impression. It’s a noisy environment after all, even in the side rooms. On the second day I was able to A/B the Stealth and the Expanse, and it took me a minute to detect the differences. The Expanse has a bit fuller bass (whether fuller is better is a matter of preference), and the highs are a hair more relaxed. Both of them have a hint of the forward upper midrange that I described in the Focal when listening to trumpets, but in this case it can mostly be ignored. Once your ears are attuned, it's clear that the Expanse is the more natural sounding pair. Both are excellent.


Meze Elite: I didn’t get enough quality time with the Elite this year to formulate my thoughts, but I like them every time I demo them. For $4k I think it’s a toss up between these, the DCA Expanse, and the Hifiman HE1000se.


Hifiman Susvara: Best in show (demoed on the dCS Lina stack) of what I heard. Same impression last year on different amps. This is the one headphone where my critical listening radar finally turned off, and gave way to total immersion and bliss. They even fixed problematic hot spots in certain of my favorite tracks that come through in most top tier headphones. I could do this for hours. I WANT them, but I'm too cheap, so instead I just fly south and listen to them once a year. :smirk:


Spirit Torino Valkyria Titanium: Whoa... These rich sounding (and costing) headphones add a distinctive floral bloom. They have liveliness to the music that no other headphone does, almost like you’ve placed them in a small chamber inside a jazz club, brought a date and ordered martinis. I only listened to them briefly, and it was fun, but I’m not looking for a party in my headphones. Good thing too, given the price.


My daily driver is a Hifiman Arya (first generation) driven by a tricked out Topping DX7 Pro. At the show I was carrying around an Astell & Kern DAP with all my music downloaded, and cables for every situation. Highly recommended - the right way to CanJam.



Reference tracks:
“Madam I’m A Darling” by Karan Casey & John Doyle
“Teelin Harbour” by John Doyle
“Oran Nan Raiders” by Julie Fowlis
“Aililiu Na Gamhna” by Solas
“Shhh/Peaceful” by Miles Davis (Sony 2001 remastered)
“But The World Moves On” by DJ Krush
“Further Down The Road” by Spacetime Continuum. Don’t miss the outro.
“Three” by Massive Attack
“Every Day A Story (Original Mix)” by Fragile State
 
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Sep 18, 2022 at 8:12 PM Post #192 of 613

jamato8

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Focal Utopia 2022 Live From CanJam SoCal with Chris Shaw from Focal! Going live at 4:40!


Interesting. I asked if there is a goodwill warranty on the drivers of the OG, since there is an issue that is well known. I bought mine new. Asked on the live video but my question was skipped over. Not a hard question.
 
Sep 18, 2022 at 8:14 PM Post #193 of 613

Rockwell75

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CanJam SoCal Impressions


Sitting here back at home over coffee & relaxing with my cats on Sunday morning trying to gather my thoughts over what was a thrilling, exhausting, emotional, breakneck, and ultimately eminently satisfying weekend. My heart, mind and spirit are full right now-- and not merely from the fact that for two days I was essentially a kid in the candy store I've been dreaming of for the last two years. On the surface I came to SoCal to demo gear, and indeed that was a pre-eminent highlight of the weekend. But in retrospect I can tell even now that the true magic of this past weekend, besides it being my CanJam deflowering, was the fellowship and community I share with so many fellow enthusiasts this last few days-- something no doubt magnified tremendously by the crushing weight of isolation so many felt over the course of the last few years. It was so nice to attach faces to so many names, to see people light up in person when hearing something for the first time, or to directly share the joy with someone when you're both talking about something you both love.

Regarding the events of this weekend I am reminded of the following quote:

"To a traveler standing near a mountain range many eminences seem to have approximately the same altitude; it is difficult to disengage Everest from its lofty neighbors. But as the range recedes in the distance, the highest peak lifts more and more above its fellows, until it alone fills the horizon."

I imagine something similar will hold true with respect to the community bonding of the last few days.

Following will be my best attempt at an impressions post of the last few days. Before I get going a couple general caveats and points to note regarding my impressions.

1) Most of what I will be talking about are IEMs & sources that I heard for the first time this weekend. As such I will not pretend to be able to be truly comprehensive with anything as my demos in all cases were by necessity brief and done along side the breakneck pace and underlying excitement, noise and enthusiasm of the event. The most I can say now is simply whether or not I liked something and what I noticed off the cuff. Everything I say here is subject to revision pending more time & thought with the gear in question.

2) I try to avoid saying things like "a is better than b" in a general way as quite often a and b don't really compare in an apples-apples way. Is the Aroma Jewel "better" than the Fir Kr5? Well...it depends. They both do totally different things and either could be "better" or totally undesirable depending on what you're looking for and what you prioritize.

3) I have a fetish for single driver setups as I feel the coherence you get is worth its weight in audio gold. Because I put a lot of stock in this something like my Campfire Supermoon excels for me in ways that no hybrid setup, no matter how complex or nuanced, can compete with. This might not hold for you and, well, YMMV there.

4) All listening here, unless otherwise noted, was done through my AK SR25ii.

Started the event of right with one of our custom Watercooler name tags courtesy of @HiFiHawaii808

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Favorite IEMs heard:

The Campfire Trifecta was the show stopper for me. Impressions of this IEM so far have been very mixed—with I would say the majority being less than favorable somehow. I had thought to myself that CFA had at best a bit of a misfire on their hands. That being said I wasn’t even expecting the Trifecta to be at the show given that it’s a limited edition, sold out everywhere, and most importantly that Campfire wasn’t even going to be present. It was then with a combination of surprise, delight and trepidation that came over me when, immediately entering the show floor on Saturday morning, the first thing that grabbed my attention at the Bloom table was the Trifecta in a disembodied hand reaching from the clouds and beckoning me to listen. I wasn’t expecting much and I am ashamed to say that it was mostly morbid curiosity that compelled me to sit down and listen. Trifecta impressed me immediately with it’s massive ballsy sound, impeccable coherence, solid resolution and beautiful dynamic & analogue timbre. This is a sound that completely embraces you with warmth and depth and takes you for a ride. Unlike CFA’s previous DD only units that suffered from some combination of veiled mids, metallic treble, overdone bass or crap extension—the Trifecta, in my brief time with it, gets everything right. Bear in mind that I’m a bass & lower mids fiend, as that is what a lot of my library is, and I don’t listen to a lot of female vocals. I went back to the table 4 times over the two days and gave the Trifecta a good once over and continued to find it utterly compelling with the only false note being treble that is a touch aggressive (but nicely extended and never metallic) at times…but never to the point that I hit skip. CFA’s house sound has always existed along two prongs. You have the highly technical with a dash of fun sound of the Andromeda and utterly perfected in the Supermoon, and then you have the more hair on the beast & what I characterize as a “balls deep in dynamic swagger” type sound that Ken Ball has been obviously been passionate about for years but never quite perfected until now. The three DDs in the Trifecta, positioned as they are, act as so many matches whose intensity increases exponentially when they are brought together give the illusion that one is listening to a full size single DD headphone. Single DD and single driver enthusiasts should give the Trifecta a serious look. Approach it with an open mind, you may be very pleasantly surprised.

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Hot on the heels of the CFA Trifecta was the Noble Viking Ragnar. Ragnar may be the closest thing to a bonafide Traillii competitor I’ve yet heard. I was able to hear the Ragnar over a few demos starting with an early peek on Friday night. The sound is pleasantly energetic and immediately engaging with the highlight, I would say, being the midrange. I never had any issues with the upper mids or highs but for those who like a more relaxed presentation this may not be the best option. It’s not exactly a basshead either— I would say it’s between Jewel and Traillii in quantity and arguably superior in quality to either. Recommended for people who enjoy the Jewel but would like something a little more energetic and engaging. I could even see this being a great compliment to the Bird for many. Also build quality is utterly top tier—that Damascus shell is really something. Puts the Jewel to shame in this dept. The cable is excellent too.

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Astell & Kern Odyssey. I was eager to hear this IEM because of some private chats I’ve had with some EE enthusiasts I consider reliable. The hope is that it would be something along the lines of an IEM with bass quantity more than Odin but less than EVO and less upper mids than both IEMs. There is nothing at all fatiguing about this IEM so if you’re on the fence because of EE’s prior upper mid tuning (I finally got to hear Evo this weekend and the upper mids there murdered my ears) but really love their sound otherwise this may well be the IEM you’re dreaming of. I will say one thing here about this IEM and EE’s sound in general that I have noticed from my experience with LX, Odin and Bravado II. Empire Ears house sound consists in what I refer to as an “observer oriented” presentation. When listening to their IEMs you’re in the perspective of an audience member watching the presentation about a row or two back. Sony is another company I would say has this sort of presentation and I could see it appealing especially to old school 2 channel enthusiasts. It stands in contrast to what I would describe as an “in your face” presentation where, instead of from the perspective of an audience member, you’re totally immersed in the sound—it’s all around you. Campfire Audio is a company who specializes in this type of sound and my overall preference for it is one of the things that has endeared me to this brand over the year. Fir Audio is another one. I would say the Noble Viking Ragnor is slightly in this category and this, along with its midrange emphasis contrasted with the more bass centred sound of the Odyssey (which is by no means a basshead IEM but whose bass grabs your attention more than the Ragnar, whose midrange & highs are more central) comprise the biggest differences between these two IEMs. Both are top tier—choose your poison.

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The Unique Melody Multiverse Mentor was my first exposure to UM’s Mason line and I was impressed off the bat—full spectrum goodness with great BA/BC bass and mids so seductive I wonder how this IEM comes from the same company responsible for the synthetic mids that characterize the whole Mest lineup to my ears. Imagine a Phonix minus a bit of the midrange magic (VE are still among the GOATS here) but better everything else and you have the Mentor. If I wasn’t so inherently averse to BAs (despite how good this is) I would be seriously considering it. Of the other UM IEMs I listened to the Mentor is most like the Mason FS...which I consider to be a slight downgrade.

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I was enjoying breakfast with some fellow Watercooler-ers on Saturday morning and I had a chance to hear @morserotonin's Aroma Thunder. I didn’t know what to expect at first. Jewel (build quality aside) is a summit fi IEM for sure but it’s too reference sounding for me—YMMV there—and on account of that I’d kind of kept the Aroma Thunder hype at bay. When I put them in my ears I was totally blown away. They’re not the most sophisticated sound perhaps but they’re super engaging with fantastic bass, present clear mids, well extended treble and don’t do anything really wrong that I could detect. Perhaps not the best in any single category but I’m at a loss to find many IEMs that are as much of a fun yet sufficiently technical sounding total package that the Thunder is.

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Favorite sources: For me this is a tie between the Hiby RS8 and the Sony WM1ZM2.
The RS8 has a beautifully seductive and analogue tonality...it is a perfect match with my Supermoon. Software seems a little laggy and buggy to me at times—the player froze a few times on me when trying to navigate and sweet jumping jebus is the player a brick. It’s the heaviest DAP on the market and for be very hard to pocket given it’s tendency to pull one’s pants down. I don’t have a lot of experience here but the RS8 is just what I’d imagined a TOTL R2R to sound like—a flowing river of analogue & technical sound. On the other hand Sony sexy is a thing. My demo with the WM1ZM2 was not ideal because it wouldn’t let me load my own SD card into it—as such my demo was very superficial and I didn’t get to listen to any songs I know. But damn that player is a work of aesthetic perfection and is probably edging the RS8 for me for just that reason.

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Disappointments: The Elysian Diva didn't impress me-- which is too bad because that was the one IEM I’d squirreled away funds for and thought I might buy. It gives you a taste of the top tier treble Elysian is known for, and the mids are decent enough but…the bass does not do it for me. The thing with Elysian so far for me, which is kind of the inverse of a problem with many IEMs that focus too much on bass to the expense of mids or treble, is that while the treble is summit fi the bass often is far from it. On the Diva the bass was too boomy for me on the max setting and on the middle setting the Diva like a low-res Supermoon (which I was a/b’ing with it) with limp bass and marginally more seductive mids. On its own terms the Diva may even be a great IEM but for me having the Supermoon more-or less renders it redundant.

The Astell & Kern SP3K seemed mediocre coming from RS8 and didn't do the Odyssey any favors to my ears. I didn’t even like the Odyssey until I plugged it into my SR25ii.

I tried the UM Indigo on two occasions. It didn’t really connect with me for the same reason neither prior Mest I’ve heard has fully connected with me—it’s a technical powerhouse with zero emotion in the mids. Once the fireworks wear off there’s nothing of substance for me to sink my heart and teeth into.

I tried the Dunu planar hybrid (in planar only mode) and it was…well...meh. Coming from Supermoon’s stage &, especially, the fantastic bass it just didn’t cut it. Even at the $200 price point I’d probably still take the Timeless. YMMV.

Other random points:

1) The Aroma Ace is a great all BA IEM, as is the Oriolus Mellianus-- both are overpriced though.

2) Traillii may very well still be the GOAT-- it knocked my socks off today, and through my SR25ii no less. I put it in and literally lost track of time for like 30 minutes in lala land.. given the events and surroundings that is noteworthy. Still not sure about the bass in the long term though.

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3) The Elysian Annihilator is mostly a great IEM— hearing its treble performance through the Hiby RS8 was a thing to behold. But the bass is too weak and loose for it to be a top tier IEM for me. The tragic thing is this may not even be a tuning problem but a cheap driver problem—if the Annihilator had a bass driver of the same quality as CFA, EE or Sony’s…and less power demanding e-stats…well this could make me want to spend $4K on it. As it stands now it falls short of the mark for me.

4) I loved the Fourte and it's my presently my favourite 64 IEM. Still it’s showing its age on today’s market. I’ve heard rumours of a Fourte MKii possibly on the horizon and I will be watching for tha VERY closely. u18t is just as sterile as I remember and Trio is still too thin and bright for me.

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5) Thanks to @theveterans I heard an OG Andromeda for the first time ever in the form of a Pacific Blue edition and I absolutely loved it. I think I may even prefer it to the 2020...would need to a/b. Hiss free through my SR25ii.

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6) I really enjoyed my time chatting with Eric from Eletech—he’s one of the most passionate and kind people I’ve met in this hobby. I tried the Ode to Laura and it wasn’t the best match with my Supermoon-- it totally nerfed the bass but it did a lot of clarity to the mids & highs. Ironically this may have made me a full on cable believer. Talking to Eric about this and we figure the gold plated copper of my Victoria may offer the perfect synergy with Supermoon. We talked about the Jewel and he said it’s the IEM he uses to tune but that he wouldn’t listen to it for enjoyment. That’s basically how I see it.

7) The Stax 009 & Blue Hawaii is the greatest headphone/IEM product I've ever heard. And it's not close. Well actually Susvara is a close second. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to anything else for like an hour after I heard it.

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8) Biggest out of nowhere was the EE/Elysian collab Gaea. I picked it up when I had 5 minutes to kill in an idle moment and it totally surprised me. I liked it more than Diva—it’s got much better bass at the very least. It was an enaging & dynamic set but consider this only the hottest of hot takes because of how short it was. I’m fortunate to be part of a tour and should get ears on this again soon. Stay tuned.

9) Perhaps the biggest surprise was this small Singaporean company called FatFreq. I actually met them all in the elevator when I first arrived and was heading out to my room and finally got around to checking out their table on Sunday morning. I tried their Maestro (?) sub-flagship and entry level models. These IEMs have some of most singularly unique and engaging bass I’ve ever heard in an IEM. Impressive still is all the mid-range and top end clarity. I would have bought the $500 mini-Maestro for $500 except there was no vent on the front and the BA was sitting right there. I’d be to paranoid a fleck of dust would get in and wreck it. Still I will be following these guys (and girl) and will be purchasing one of their IEMs eventually. Watch for them.

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@HiFiHawaii808 @discord and all the other Cooler members I was privileged to meet are great people. Was a beautiful and exhausting couple days I will never forget.

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Edit: Since this post made the front page and they used the above pic as the showcase it's worth pointing out that the above members are all regulars at our Watercooler Thread.

Left -> Right
@Shecky504 CanJam impressions here
@discord Impressions here
@stacey Impressions here
@wolfstar76
@HiFiHawaii808 Impressions here
@morserotonin
@Skyediver


Also Musicteck/Andrew is the Goat of Goats. It was fun meeting my dealer in person for the first time.

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As a plus I got to enjoy some Michelin Star (vegan) Ramen (along with some vegan water LMAO).

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As a final gesture this little guy bid me farewell:

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It was a slice everyone...thanks for the memories.
 

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Last edited:
Sep 18, 2022 at 8:50 PM Post #195 of 613

DavidLovesIEMs

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I might get around to sharing some more involved impressions, but here are some highlights for me:

  • Elysian/Effect Gaea - the show stealer for me. Aggressive, lively, and dynamic. Absolutely love it.
  • Odin - Absolutely love the bass and vocals. Bought one directly from Jack.
  • Viking Ragnar - ultimately too hot and sibilant for me, but probably the most technical set I heard and I wanted to love it fully
  • Symphonium Meteor - laid back pleasant tuning with treble extension. Great guys too.
Some disappointments for me:
  • Annihilator - amazing extension but lack luster bass and mids
  • Jewel - this just didn't jive with me. Tuning sounds funky and off. Treble bothered me.
  • EXT - some nice timbre, but bass felt bloated
  • Phonix - I did not like this at all. Felt dark and muted
  • Fir Lineup (X6, K5, N4) - I must just not like their tuning choices in general. X6 bass is impressive, admittedly
  • UM Mentor - felt narrow. Much prefer the Mest lineup.
 

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