First of all I would like to thank Trav for putting together such a wonderful meet. This was the best one yet, and I ended up staying much longer than I anticipated. There were a few rigs and cans that really impressed me. Of course I would have to start off with the 009/blue hawaii setup. It was sublime, it had a certain nautralness(I know it's not a real word) to it that I've never experience before. The sound was completely grain free, spacious, with a very holographic image. The best I've heard the he6 was off an audio research vsi60, and it came close, but narrowly edged out by this combo.
I was really, really impressed by Trav's personally modded t50rp. I slightly preferred them over Matt's equally impressive mad dogs. I would take either over the d7000 or lcd-2 any day. I really liked Kevin's pan am stack, such a big musical sound from a very small package; very nice. The cary preamp/headamp was excellent and looked as beautiful as it sounded. All of Purk's setups are always awesome. Got to finally listen to his qualia's and they sounded truly excellent.
To my surprise Purk had the new matix dac demo unit on display, and had it set up for a blind comparison with the w4s 2 dac. His amp had a source toggle switch that made quick easy switching between both sources. I wasn't aware of which one was which until after the comparison when I took a peek at the wiring on the back of the amp. The w4s was on the left, the matix on the right, but he had the cabling reverse with the toggle switch. A few who thought they were picking the w4s were actually picking the matrix instead. I don't know if Purk did this intentionally or not but it was a smart move since turning the toggle switch to the left was actually selecting the dac on the right.
What I liked about the matrix was it's clean, colorless sound. The dac didn't impart any sound signature on it's own and just got out of way. The sound was very neutral, with a very wide sound stage, and great extension. But I ultimately prefer the w4s. It wasn't quiet as neutral as the matrix, but it had more body, better depth and layering, and just a little more punch in the bass. But the matrix was still a great sounding dac and I liked it alot.
The aurisonics were by far the best universals I've listened to. They were extremely comfortable, and had a very nice sound stage for iems. If I didn't have my jh13's, these would definitely be high on my list. Their customs are probably that much better, and I may still put in an order for one of their universals in the near future. There were sooo many great sounding setups there, really can't cover them all, but these were the one's that really stood out for me.
I'm still listening to the AriPower and R10s on the Matrix... at 3am... at a friend's place. I'm pretty impressed.
My phone died just after the meet, so I was just able to check the thread. Many thanks to Trav for putting on a great event!
I had a great time talking to the Aurisonics and JH|Audio crews, who I hadn't had a chance to talk to. The JH3a was something that really impressed me in the JH booth, and I was intrigued by the ASG-2 (I think), the universal from Aurisonics. As an album listener over a song/track listener, I can see digging those and adjusting the bass port from album to album. I also appreciate their opinions on my Stax SRS-002s.
I wound up spending a bit of time trying to get my rig to work, so I missed out on listening to a lot of stuff, but I dug Trav's modded cans, great for the $$$. Thanks to Reks for the DAC1/MBP/DT880-600 loaners when we couldn't get my laptop to work with the DAC1.
Oh, thanks to John Morrison of the AVCOA for bringing out the Astell & Kern AK100. I hadn't heard it in a few months, so it was great to have a variety of options, headphone wise, to try out with it.
TomB, thanks for bringing everything out... I know you had a little bit from someone else too, but I gotta say, I missed the mustache
Justin/HeadAmp, thanks for making the drive down. The BHSE/009 rig is definitely something people should check out.
Purk, thanks for bringing out so much great stuff for us to listen to. I know you spend as much time just loading and unloading as some of us out-of-staters spent on our entire drive in!
I hate that I didn't get around to everyone's rigs, but there was, I would say, definitely something for everyone at this meet (I found a pair of KSC-75s in my bag, so I put them out, just for kicks).
First I would like to thanks Trav for organize this great event. It is the best one yet!! Thanks for an awesome legwork Trav as well as making those cool "Canlanta" T-shirt!! I would like to thanks JH Audio, Beezar, Aurisonics, and Headamp for attending and showcasing your fine products.
It was great meeting new & old friends, and sharing our love for headphones gears. Thanks for making the trip everyone! I'll post more impressions later.
Trav & His Lovely Significant Other
Brent & his impressive sounding portable Stax
John Morrison, the president of Audio & Video Club of Atlanta was enjoying my rig. Many club members were also in attendance.
Meet a wonderful JH Audio crew!!
Justin Wilson of Headamp was there. The SR009+BHSE was the best system at the meet!!
Another Excellent Sounding C/IEMs Alternative: Aurisonics
My setup and a little DAC Shoot Out: Matrix X-Sabre vs. W4S DAC-2. Thanks Headfier Maxvla & Arthur of www.matrix-digi.com for loaning an excellent sounding X-sabre DAC. "Switch-Left" is the W4S DAC-2, and "Switch-Right" is the Matrix X-Sabre DAC. I'm short change both the R10 & Qualia by not driving them balanced though. Next time I need to bring my best dynamics amplifier to power them.
The lovely JH Audio Girl surrounding by headphone geeks. We stayed until the end of the meet, and JH Audio crew gave us free t-shirt.
So the Matrix DAC was the one at Switch-Left? Quite clever of purk, I must say. I remember thinking the one on the left looked much more substantial, so it "fit" with my impression of the sound - better, more substantial, greater clarity, etc. On the other hand, I thought the Matrix box looked a little cheap.
At least I got the direction right (left) with everyone else.
Loved the sound with the Qualias!
P.S. I was also very, very impressed with Justin's PICO casework - I had never seen one up close and touched/felt it. Being into that myself, I know what an effort it is to work up the case for a product - machining, anodizing, laser-etching, etc. The finish and casework on the PICO is simply outstanding. He had one with the same color as some of my stuff and it was positively superb.
Note: I had originally posted this in a different thread about the Canlanta meet, and Moodyrn was kind enough to give me a heads-up about this one, so I'm reposting here. These notes started off being just for myself, and then at some point I decided to share them, so please forgive any bizarre lapses in logic or whatever. Thanks!
[size=small]This was my very first headphone meet, and second audio meet of any kind, and I've got to say-- this was a BLAST!! Travis did an excellent job bringing in a lot of different gear that you simply don't have the option to listen to elsewhere (you just aren't going to waltz into an audio store and listen to a set of Qualia cans, for example). My mom and I both attended (as we are both music lovers who enjoy the gear side of things as well), and it was awesome to get to share the whole deal with her. (If you have any family members who are into music and/or gear, you really ought to bring them to one of these-- it's just a TON of fun!!) I got to meet some pretty awesome people (Travis, of course, was incredibly nice and really enthusiastic about the entire event; Brent [MexicanDragon] was a really cool guy who went out of his way to bring in ousiders like me to the conversation with more well-established Head-Fiers in attendance; Dale from Aurisonics was a really interesting guy who obviously knows significantly more about audio reproduction than I could ever hope to; Neal [n_calvin] had Metallica, Massive Attack, Radiohead and Alice in Chains all on two demo discs he brought, as was every bit as cool a guy as that would suggest; and so many other people!), which is a big part of the fun for me. It was also great to have Headamp, Aurisonics, JH Audio, and Astell & Kern represented there-- for a relative noob to the hobby, getting a chance to put a person and a face to some of the companies that make high-end personal audio a possibility was not just a positive experience, it makes me significantly more likely to purchase from these guys-- so thank you very much for taking your time to bring down and share your awesome gear with us!!! [/size]
[size=small] During and after the meet, my mom and I discussed in some detail what we heard, what we liked and disliked. Knowing that auditory memory is a highly fickle thing (and also knowing my love for verbose note-taking), I decided I would make some notes about the gear I heard for myself later so I'd have something to refer back to. About halfway into typing it, it occurred to me that somebody else might be interested in my notes as well, so I decided to post them. If them seem a bit disorganized and opinionated, then they simply reflect their author, so please forgive them their grammatical (and other) faults. If any of the statements I've made are inaccurate or misleading, please let me know and I'll gladly correct them. Otherwise, please enjoy my thoughts on the gear, in no particular order!
Aurisonics ASG-2: Got a chance to talk to Dale and another Aurisonics guy from across the pond (Peter, I believe?). We didn't get to talk for a particularly long time, but Dale is an interesting guy and obviously puts a lot of thought into his gear. We talked a bit about his design and manufacturing process, and the steps he's taken to make it exceedingly difficult for someone to copy his designs. He talked about working with different musicians and actors to create CIEMs, and we even found that we used the same audiologist for impressions in Nashville (small world!). I got a chance to listen to the ASG-2 twice; once shortly after arrival, and once for a more extended period a few hours later. They were running the demo through a Fiio E11 (which I have and about which I feel somewhat lukewarmly), but the ASG-2 still sounded very impressive. (During my longer subsequent session I used my GS3 as a source into the Meier PCSTEP, and the improvement was noticeable). It has a variable bass control knob that Peter was kind enough to demonstrate for my mom and me, and although I found the bass to be completely overbearing even at halfway, I actually found this feature to be potentially pretty useful (unlike the bass adjuster on the IE8, which I find to be gimmicky and not particularly useful-- I've never turned it up from its lowest setting). At the lowest bass setting, the sound of the ASG-2 was clear and highly detailed, with a bass response that seemed just shy of neutral. I preferred the sound slightly above the minimum setting, which gave the bass a lot of punch and impact while not overrunning the midrange. The ability to change the bass response to taste could be a boon to travelers and others in high-noise environments, as the bass response seems to be the first thing to go when outside sounds abound. My only potential reservation here is that when the bass setting was increased to the max, I could hear people talking around me a good deal easier, meaning it reduced the isolation, which could be problematic in louder situations. Realistically, though, I don't think many people will ever come remotely close to maxxing out the bass on these, so I doubt it will be much of an issue.
The description that kept running through my head while listening to the ASG-2 was everything I like about balanced armatures, but with an vastly improved bass response. While driving down to the meet, I listened to the Fischer DBA-02 Mk.II, and the ASG-2 sounded to me like a DBA-02 Mk.II with slightly more refined treble and worlds-better bass. If you like balanced armatures for the clarity and detail of the midrange and treble but dislike the underwhelming bass, these are likely going to be a slam-dunk for you. I believe Dale said these would be around the $500 range for the universals (if I'm mistaken here, someone please correct me, as I didn't write it down), and at that price, these are going to be really competitive. In comparison to the JH13FP, I found the highs slightly more emphasized and the bass a bit more impactful on the ASG-2, which suits my preferences. The JH13FP seemed more cohesive, and while I would overall say the JH13FP was probably the "better" IEM by a small margin, I thought the ASG-2 offered a significantly better value. My mom later said that of all the things she listened to, there were only two that she felt pretty confident she would own in the future: the Woo Audio WA7, and the ASG-2. I was looking around trying to get a feel for pricing before we'd even left Atlanta, if that tells you anything. The ASG-2 is an IEM that needed to be made, and I'm glad it was.
HiFiMan HE-6: I went to the meet really interested in hearing a few specific cans, and the HE-6 was high on that list. (I got hear several others from my list, including the SR-009, SR-007, and some Grados, but the T1 and HD800 weren't available, unfortunately). I'll just say that these are obviously world-class headphones from an SQ perspective, and that I will absolutely be owning a pair at some point (hopefully soon). In fact, I thought they thoroughly outclassed the Qualia and R10 headphones in nearly every respect, and I liked them a good bit more than the LCD-3. I got to hear them from a vintage Sansui 9090DB and from one of Justin's headamps (GS-X2, I think?), and they are just phenomenal. They don't have quite the mind-blowingly good bass the LCD-2 has, but they are MUCH better in the treble, with none of the darkness or recessed sound that so defines the Audezes. This is one of the first headphones I've heard I would rather have than my LCD-2s, and that's saying something. If you love the Audeze but find them a bit too dark (as I do), then you owe it to yourself to hear the HE-6. Incredible.
MadDogs w/ Alpha Pads: I was surprised by how good these sounded. I didn't get to listen to them long, but they are a no-brainer recommendation for a closed can in the $300 price range (along with the Momentum). My only reservation about them was that the sound was a bit dark-- but the comfort and impressive sound quality at that price point pretty much negates this complaint for all but the most dark-averse listeners. I hoped somebody would bring a set of LFF Paradox to compare, but unfortunately there weren't any present. My initial impression is that these are a bit better overall than the Momentum for sound quality, but nowhere near as attractive. Also, if one was into listening to a lot of bass-heavy music, the Momentum would probably be a better fit. But the Mad Dogs held their own quite well IMO.
Sennheiser Momentum: I had purchased these a few days before the meet and was surprised to see several other pairs about (I think three other people had them as well?). Long story short, these sound GREAT for $350, and are an absolute steal at the prices one can find with a bit of digging (mine were $230 refurbished from Amazon). They strike me as being exceptionally well-conceived and executed perfectly upon that vision: they are visually very distinctive and attractive, they isolate pretty well (although not HD25-well), they are quite comfortable and feel rather luxurious especially for the price, and they manage to create a sound that is applicable to a wide range of music and different listening tastes. For example, listening to rock and metal (Arsis' Unwelcome and Clutch's Blast Tyrant, for example), they manage to capture the texture and tone of the guitars reasonably well, and are fun to listen to. The bass there, while a bit elevated, is not objectionable in the least. Switch to Massive Attack, however, and the bass suddenly becomes GREATLY increased without sounding muddy, indistinct or overblown. I'm guessing they kept the frequency response fairly calm until you get to the really low stuff and then increased the response almost exponentially. This means that you can enjoy rock 'n roll without feeling like the bass is an annoyance and really go bonkers with bassy tracks when you want to. For the more casual consumer who wants better sound but realizes Beats probably aren't it, this is a perfect suggestion-- the sound quality is obviously better (and yes, I have actually listened to Beats before) and it still has the ability to pound out impressive bass on tracks that benefit from it. I actually prefer these to the HD650s-- which is probably at least as much because I don't care for the HD650s as because I like the Momentums. In summary, these are a slam-dunk-- buy your mom a pair for Mother's Day and walk away feeling like the best kid ever.
Audeze LCD-3: I didn't listen to these for long (they were sitting between the HE-6 and Stax SR-007 and SR-009, you do the math), but I found them to be pretty much what everybody else has said: they're like the LCD-2, but a bit better. (Although I'm leaning towards saying I still like the LCD-2 better for overall bass performance). If you like smooth, you'll love these. If you like treble, you probably won't. I'm not sure I'd trade my LCD-2 for these, and I personally preferred the HE-6 by a good margin. But I can see why people absolutely love them-- they are just incredibly inviting and pleasing to listen to.
HiFiMan HE-400: How these things are $400 is an absolute wonder to me. These are KILLER cans for that money. Justin had them running from a PICO DAC/amp out of an iPad (via CCK), and although the bass was a bit reticent, I chalked it up to a result of powering a planar dynamic from a portable unit in meet conditions. Again, a no-brainer for somebody in this price range. I thought they were superior to the Mad Dogs, but I can see somebody preferring the darker sound (and closed-back design) of the Mad Dogs in some circumstances. Somebody without Stax money to burn but interested in great sound should definitely consider these!
HiFiManHE-500: I was glad I got to listen to these. After reading a good deal about these and the HE-6, I wasn't sure if one or the other would be a good fit for my preferences. After listening, I liked the HE-500 quite a bit, but I decided I wouldn't trade my LCD-2s for them. While they sound very good (and I like their tonal balance better than the LCD-2), they lack the additional clarity, fluidity and emotional rightness of the HE-6. Prior to attending the meet, I had thought about possibly snagging a pair of these as a stop-gap prior to consolidating my gear down to one or two top-notch cans, and I still see how this is viable for some people. However, I decided that as good as these are, they aren't going to satiate what I now recognize as HE-6 lust. Great cans, though.
Stax SR-007 & SR-009 from BHSE: All the ludicrously high accolades you've heard about these are pretty much exactly right. They are clearer, more effortlessly detailed, and emotionally involving (without being euphonic) than anything I've ever heard. In switching back and forth between them, I always found myself initially liking the SR-007 more, but liking the SR-009 after a couple minutes of listening. The SR-009 seems to be a bit better balanced and maybe a touch better in the mids than the SR-007. When I first sat down to listen (I grabbed these several times when people walked away), I was fortunate to hear a Radiohead album I was extremely familiar with. The SR-009 just does everything right: the texture, tone, detail, soundstage, and coherence of the sound were all pretty much perfect. I've read a few reservations about the bass, but I thought the bass was excellent. While not quite as impactful as the LCD-2, it wasn't the anemic MIA sound that I've heard some associate with Stax gear-- the bass was most definitely there, and it sounded GREAT. My mom and I agreed that if we could have anything we heard that day, it would easily be the Stax from the BHSE. I preferred the SR-009 and she preferred the SR-007, but naturally, reasonable people can differ.
Stax Lambda (didn't see the model number): I didn't get to listen to these for long, but wow, I was really impressed. These were easily 85-90% of their vastly more expensive brethren in sound quality, and were more comfortable than their bizarre-looking design might lead one to think. I could listen to these pretty happily in my own setup-- and might just do so, one day.
JH Audio JH13FP: The folks at the JH Audio table were great to talk to and very knowledgeable. They had universal versions of a few of their IEMs available, and as I wasn't particularly familiar with their lineup, I asked which one had the most neutral response. The young lady pointed me towards the JH13FP, and as I wasn't able to get the CLAS they had up and running (missing a cable I needed, ironically enough), I listened straight out of the headphone jack on their iPad. The thing that struck me about the sound was how cohesive it was-- the music just seemed to work together somehow. I initially thought the treble was a bit understated, but later chalked this up to being in comparison with the ASG-2, which has a bit of a treble emphasis. Overall, I thought the sound quality of the JH13FP was excellent, and a bit better than the ASG-2. Personally, though, I'm more likely to get the ASG-2, given the price point, availability of universals, and variable bass control for use in different scenarios. One interesting tidbit: the young lady intimated that there might be a universal version of their IEMs coming out in the future. If so, color me highly interested-- particularly if it brings the price point down a bit.
Woo Audio WA7 Fireflies: These were hooked into a pair of HD650s, and while they sounded very enjoyable playing Norah Jones, I found it to be a bit too lush for my tastes. As such, I might have been a bit more dismissive than is wholly warranted. (I'm not a big fan of the HD650). My mom listened to my T5p on the WA7, a combination I didn't get to hear, and had nothing but superlatives for the sound she heard. Of all the gear we got to listen to, she found only two items she feels confident she will purchase at some point, and the WA7 was one of them. In fact, I'm going to go on record as guessing she gets one before any other audio purchases, which means a lot (she's a music and gear junkie like me). I believe the gentleman who brought this said he had the $100 tube upgrade option from Woo as well.
Beyerdynamic DT880 from Aripower Extreme: I must be a Beyerdynamic type of guy, because I really enjoyed the sound of these. I didn't get to listen for long, but I found the sound clear, involving, and not overly tubey in a way I really liked (the Aripower is a modified Singlepower Extreme, and is thus tubed). The 880s had velour pads on them and they were quite comfortable as well. For what these sometimes go for used, I'd call them an absolute bargain. I believe the gentleman who owned the DT880 said they were the 600 ohm version.
HiFiMan HM-601: I listened to these briefly on a pair of Beyer Pro cans (990 32 ohm, I think?). I thought it sounded pretty good, but there was something slightly artificial about the sound that kept me from being fully pulled in. I'm not sure if it was the DAP or the cans though, and I was listening to unfamiliar material (soundtracks mostly). But it definitely got me thinking about the possibility of using a dedicated DAP while on the go instead of my phone-- an option I'll have to consider more fully in the future.
Astell & Kern: Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to listen to this. Each time I walked by, someone was already giving them a listen. I heard really good things about the sound, though.
Sony Qualia and MDR-R10: Given their consideration as end-game cans and general unobtanium status on Head-Fi, I was very glad to have the opportunity to listen to these (from a Larocco amp, I believe). But honestly, I didn't find either one of them to be overly impressive. I liked the R10 a great deal more on Metallica's One, but preferred the Qualia quite a bit more on gentler material. I didn't find either of them to provide appreciably better sound than the HE-6 or even my T5p. I am very grateful to have been afforded a few minutes of listening time with these, and it's helped me understand my different taste and priorities from others in the headphone world, but these just weren't for me, especially at their astronomical price points these days.
Anyway, them's my thoughts. If there was anybody else there that would like to post their impressions as well, I'd love to hear them!! Thanks again to Trav and everybody that made Canlanta 2013 such an AWESOME event!! [/size] EDIT: I somehow completely forgot to mention one of my favorite items from the whole event, the Stax IEMs that MexicanDragon brought. They definitely weren't the most comfortable things I've ever tried, but the sound was absolutely stunning. Detail, clarity, bass response, these things had it all, and for roughly $700 new with both the IEMs AND the energizer, I'm not sure there's much out there that can compete on a sound-quality-per-dollar-spent criterion. The only thing I didn't like was the fact that they're open-backed, as that undermines the utility of IEMs for me most of the time. But the sound that they make is pretty much good enough to look past the comfort and design issues IMO. Extremely impressive little buggers!!!
That would be Andy. He and I chatted a little about some downtempo music, and he was awesome in letting me listen to Bonobo's latest album on his phone through the ASG-2. I never listened to IEMs, so I was kinda blown away by its sound. As in nearly passed out; the maximum bass had me disoriented. But at lower settings, they sound wonderful, and it would be fun to change the bass settings for certain music. Like your mom, Theogenes, I'd definitely buy this (well, the customs) in the future. I've got my local audiologist bookmarked for future reference.
I had a really, really great time at the meet. I would've like to stayed longer (left before the Crack came along!) but Nevets and I had to get back home.
I went to the meet excited to listen to Audeze LCDs, but I ended up favoring Hifiman's HE6 (through Michael's Sansui) and HE500 (Kevin's Pan Am). I listened to Kevin's copy of Martin Zeller's interpretation of Bach's Cello Suites through both the Hifimen... Just sublime. Justin's STAX were just as sublime. Would love to hear all three again, but for now, I'm grateful to Trav for organizing this as I would never had the chance to listen to these audio marvels.
Of course, all other equipment we heard were great. So great, that I didn't bring in my own. I felt awed and stupified by the equipment there. If given the chance to go to future Canlantas, I hope I could contribute some substantial equipment.
Once again, thanks, Trav, for getting us together, and thanks to all in attendance for allowing us to listen to your head-fi set-ups.
Thanks for the write-up! If anyone wants to know more about the AriPower (the orange tube amp), LMK and I'll try to post some details.
With the Stax SRS-002s, the MSRP is actually only 650ish, and re: fit, it took me a few days to get it dialed in with various tips and whatnot. I also have some Comply tips that I was able to stretch over them I got at the meet, so I'm going to give that a shot in the coming days. There may also be something else in the works soon. If it comes to fruition, I'll definitely be happy.
It was great meeting a lot of new people, and again, great job, Trav, for doing so much!
Oh, if anyone wanted a T-shirt from the meet who missed out, message Trav. I know we had a few left, and if you noticed shirts many of us were wearing, having a memento of some really great meets is just a great thing to have.
Brent-- a big thank you again for bringing those along. They don't seem to get the credit around here that their sound quality should afford, and as such they seem to be a bit of a rarity. And thanks for the correction on pricing-- I was thinking of the desktop amp, which is now the same price as the portable amp on Headamp.com. Listening to those is highly dangerous for one's wallet .
Also, dumb question: I've looked for the generic variant of the AS-2, but I can only find the custom version. Anybody have a link to the ASG-2 instead of the AS-2? TIA!!