Carolina CanFEST 7 2019 Impressions
Apr 14, 2019 at 10:37 PM Post #16 of 25

vc1187

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Finally getting around to commenting on impressions of equipment from the meet. I know I will be forgetting to comment on everything that I heard, but I may add on to these impressions later.

Let's start with the Oppo PM-1 driven by the Gungnir MB Gen 5 USB and Mjolnir 2: I really enjoyed what I was hearing from this setup. While not as technical or resolving as other headphones, the PM-1 struck that balance between very musical and just resolving enough. I didn't perceive any issues or deficiencies with the frequency response and I thought they sounded great out of the Gumby and Mjolnir 2. It was also my first time hearing a Gumby and Mjolnir 2, which left a very good impression. Certainly a combination of source and amp that I would recommend to anyone looking for excellent bang for the buck equipment.

Then there was the HE6SE driven by the Yggdrasil A2 Gen 5 USB and Ragnarok: Brought back some memories of the HE6 that I owned long ago... however one of three things may be different - my ears/taste, the headphones, and/or the pairing with the source and amp. Could be a combination of those three, but I thought the HE6SE sounded harsh compared to what I remember from the original HE6. An impactful sound with a bit too much energy on the highs.

Woo Audio WA11 Topaz: The form factor of this amp is perfect for the traveling audio enthusiast. Very sleek and very easy to operate. I was getting excellent sound quality driving the Oppo PM-1 with this and had no problems with noise. Again, not super resolving, but wildly musical and enjoyable. I didn't get a chance to try some harder to drive headphones on the Topaz, so I can't comment on the range of headphones that it can drive well. I would have liked to operate it with an external DAC providing a source to the amp, but could not find any included adapters to do so. This would be my only knock on what I'd consider an excellent product. Priced very fairly at $1400, it even supports DSD128, though I also didn't get to test this capability.

Denon D7000 from Woo Audio WA22 sourced from... can't remember the CD player: The D7000 is what I'd consider a headphone with a sound signature that got me interested in high end audio. Simply put, it's one of those headphones that have more of a U-shaped frequency response, sound great with lower bitrate tracks, and can play any genre fairly well. Coming from the WA22, it sounds fantastic and welcoming. The warmth and body provided to the D7000 by the WA22 is perfect and it's always a joy to listen to this setup while staring at the mannequin.

iFi Pro iDSD and iFi Pro iCAN driving the Focal Utopia: First and foremost, there were way too many settings for me to even begin to comprehend which ones I were using, but having two feature packed boxes is certainly a plus for the tinkerer. The Utopia sounded fantastic out of this setup. While not as spacious and three-dimensional sounding as the Auralic Vega and EC ZDS combination, the resolution and overall strengths of the Utopia were not diminished by this combination. I think for the price, the Pro iCAN cannot be beat based on its ability to virtually drive any headphone with many different sound tweaking settings.

Holo Audio Spring L3 KTE DAC with ECP torpedo pairing with HD800: The HD800 is still one of my favorite headphones today. I really liked the Dekoni pads on this HD800. I've always felt like the HD800 fit rather loose and the dekoni pads helped to fix that. The Spring with the Torpedo really allowed the HD800 to shine with its strengths in soundstage and resolution.

Focal Stellia: Great clarity, great color. Sounded excellent out of both the EC ZDS as well as the Headamp GSX mini. A bit less resolving than the ultra-resolving Utopia, but as a result, also less fatiguing. Sound isolation was decent and leakage was minimal. If I were to invest in a pair of closed headphones, I would look no further than this pair.

Abyss AB-1266 Phi with CC pads: Bass monster in a good way with a very detailed presentation. Would never own this pair of headphones due to the comfort. It's heavy, balances on top of your head, and doesn't really attach to your head.

Hifiman Shangri-la and Stax SR-009S: Both being powered by the Headamp Blue Hawaii and both absolutely end game territory. Personal preferences lean towards the Shangri-la, but only due to the preference of a warmer sonic signature. Like its older variant, the SR-009S has extremely fast transients that are matched by no other headphone. Shangri-la provides more body, leading to an overall more organic sounding presentation.

Hifiman Susvara: For me, this pair of headphones was the star of the show. As an owner of the HE-1000, the Susvara was a noticeable step up in every department ranging from comfort to sound. For comfort, it fits better on my small head, is lighter, and just disappears once you put it on. For sound, it is more resolving than the HE-1000 while maintaining the seductive midrange and fleshes out slightly more detail in the high frequencies without the peakiness that can sometimes occur with the HE-1000. Harder to drive than the HE-1000 as it was very noticeably less sensitive. This is the Shangri-la of planar magnetic headphones.

Cary Audio 306SACD player with Moth Audio 2A3: The dinosaur and staple setup at every Charlotte meet I have been to. The Cary 306SACD is essentially what I'd call a CD to Vinyl reproduction source. It has the ability to make tracks on CDs sound more organic and lifelike without the popping of a vinyl player. The Moth 2A3 is a legendary amplifier that works wonders with many headphones. It gives off the presence that I am familiar with when it comes to 2A3 amplifiers but also goes above and beyond by improving dynamics. This was one of my favorite setups to pair the Susvara with. Flawless reproductions of tracks that I am familiar with.

Chord Blu Mk2 and Chord DAVE: The astronomical price and hype are real with this duo of magnificent sources. Not my first time hearing the pair, but every meet I do listen to them, I leave wanting Chord. FPGA, number of taps, amount of upsampling... no idea what it is, but the voodoo magic does work on my ears. Hands down, the best source pairing I have heard to date.

HeadAmp Blue Hawaii: I have heard the Stax SR-009 out of Stax headphone amps and have not enjoyed it in the past. The Blue Hawaii is the only amp that I enjoy the SR-009 with. Widely known as one of the best electrostatic headphone amps, it surely lives up to its name. Build quality is phenomenal and color choices are abundant and classy.

That's it for now. Again, great meet guys. I look forward to the next one.
 
Apr 16, 2019 at 8:58 AM Post #19 of 25

Afghan Vet

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And a thank you to Vernon for reminding me that I needed to add a small review for the iFi PRO iDSD (DAC & headphone amp) and the iFi PRO iCAN (amp).

Danny contacted me to let me know that the US Distributor for iFi provided him a few items to show at the meet. He let me know that I was the kind of knucklehead that could get these items together and running at the event. Since he was dealing with the overall logistics of the event, he needed a knuckledragger (and knucklehead) to handle this lower level task. I picked up the items and happily set them up in my home.

The boxes were small, but heavy - these didn't feel like toys. I pulled out everything and it took only a couple minutes to get everything connected. I used balanced cables that I had on hand to connect the two devices (DAC + AMP). I primarily used USB out of the AURALiC Aries for source, and I also connected my A&K SR15 'Norma' DAP via USB. I'm not typically a bells and whistles type of 'audiophile' - I use an EC ZDS.....input knob, output knob, volume knob - and can roll one tube. I have a friend who is installing the iFi PRO iDSD in his car, and he has been using it for a while in his demo room. I was able to get some preliminary settings on the DAC from him, and my listening basically matched his preferences (as expected, our sound preferences typically line up).

I set the DAC to Solid State and the AMP to tube - I tried the other options (Solid State, Tube, Hybrid), but SS / Tube is what I preferred. It was enjoyable to switch between the various modes within the DAC as well - from Bit Perfect, Bit Perfect +, Apodising, and Transient Aligned. I didn't have the unit long enough (and a quite busy time) to dig into all of these filters to discern what they do to the signal (to a certain degree....I didn't want the bias of knowing what I was 'supposed to hear')....and again - my preference lined up with Steve's - I used the Apodising primarily. Very cool that a simple twist of the knob and it switches, so you could easily hear the differences. I didn't spend much time with the internal headphone amp since I had the iCAN.

The iCAN was a very capable headphone amplifier on my two headphones (Senn HD650 and Focal Utopia), and it was a fun amplifier to try various settings. With the Focals particularly, I enjoyed adding a little boost at 20hz.....I struggle with that in the car...I had a sub with 1000 watts, and I would typically use the bass volume control within the processor to 'add / subtract' bass based on the music. Low bass song, add bass.....too much in the track, dial it down a bit. My last few tunes, I would tune the bass to be within a curve - proportional to the front stage.....reproducing the source per a specified curve. I stopped using the bass knob to add if the track was bass light.....basically trying to faithfully reproduce the music as recorded. So with this 20hz boost employed, I was not faithfully reproducing the source.....but it was enjoyable at the same time. I would imagine that some would say that adding that bass boost to the Utopia made it sound almost as good as the Audeze LCD-XC.......

I didn't use the 3D adjustments at all or experiment much with the gain switches, but the units give many options for enjoying various types of headphones. The sound quality of the units were exceptional...I was very pleasantly surprised and found myself listening to this little rig then entire week + that I had them. I can't give you all of the splashy review talk that you can read for yourself on line, and I'm not going to compare them to my AURALiC / ZDS combo. The night before the meet, I set up the little system in the hotel room and John came over to take a listen. His brief listening basically verified the settings that I was using (he verified that the knuckledragger hit upon a pleasing set of options) was what he preferred. He came away with the brief audition with a favorable impression as well.

I also spent only a few minutes playing the iFi X-CAN with my A&K SR15 and 64Audio A6t CIEMs - very nice amplifier, but I didn't have much time to really test it out.

In conclusion, I want to thank Danny for reaching out to me (with the promise of a mark up over the retail price if I destroyed them) to have the opportunity to evaluate some very advanced, very modern pieces of kit. Thank you to Lawrance at iFi for trusting us with his excellent gear. It is extremely helpful when a vendor provides these types of items so folks can experience them. Somebody with a large set up - that only has an on/off switch - may see something like this and hate all of the switches / knobs......but then again, they may see an entire other world of options, enjoyment in experimentation. My overall impression was that this would be an 'ultimate' desktop set up at a work place....if your job is not very interactive (co-workers/phone), this would be perfect with a decent set up headphones or even CIEMs in a workplace environment.

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Aug 21, 2019 at 3:05 PM Post #20 of 25

Dellwolf

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Would anyone be opposed to Carolina Canfest 7 being hosted at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte? I can get a large room reserved with many outlets and tables for free since I am a student here. Visitor parking is close to the building and free on weekends.
 
Aug 21, 2019 at 8:34 PM Post #22 of 25

jazzk

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If it’s free I will have three I appreciate anyone’s effort to pull a canfest together I’m all about higher learning. Thanx for the work dellwolf
 
Aug 26, 2019 at 2:09 PM Post #23 of 25

Dellwolf

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Alright, I'll start a thread sometime this week and I'll post a poll for date options and the location information.
 
Mar 13, 2020 at 5:34 PM Post #25 of 25

Army-Firedawg

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