Fujiya Headphone Spring Festival 2017 Show Report

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  1. Fujiya Headphone Spring Festival 2017
    29th - 30th April 2017

    Fujiya holds 4 shows a year, two smaller one-day "potaken" shows in winter and summer, and two larger two-day festivals in spring and autumn. This past weekend Fujiya Avic held it's Spring Festival in its usual venue Sun Plaza, Nakano, Tokyo. With the larger shows such as this, exhibitors from overseas and from across Japan convene in Tokyo to share their newest offerings to audio enthusiasts.

    Aside from being able to try new products, these shows are always fun as it's an excuse for distant friends with a common hobby to meet up, catchup up, chat, and at time just have a meal and drink together. There is so much more to this hobby than just listening.

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    Tomoe Ma - always there to warmly welcome and greet us at the shows.

    1) Meeting Jerry Harvey at Starbucks

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    As usual a small core of us Head-Fiers meet up at Starbucks in the morning before the show opens to have a cuppa coffee, or breakfast and to show of our fanciest gear. This time we gate crashed @ExpatinJapan's (Damon's) meeting with Jerry Harvey who was showing Damon his Lola's. The above photo is Jerry Harvey's personal Lola beautifully designed and crafted by his team.

    Naturally he had a few universal demo Lolas for us to try - and even one cable made by Drew Baird of Moon Audio terminated with the Pentaconn 4.4mm balanced for us Sony NW-WM1A/Z owners. That allowed us to hear the Lola to it's fullest potential balanced out of the Sony DAP.

    At least to my ears this was one earphone with a sound signature that departs from the usual earlier Siren series. I enjoyed the Lola's so much that over the next 2 days I kept going back to Jerry's table to listen to them over and over again.

    2) Brise Audio Cables

    These are quickly becoming my favourite cable brand. I wrote a little report about this company here.

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    Okada-san and Watanabe-san of Brise Audio were looking at revamping their introductory STD001 range and came up with the cables above. They are 4-wire that's slimmer/thinner and more flexible. Brise Audio hasn't even chosen a name for this new range they've debut at the show. The price is expected to be less than ¥20,000.

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    Brise Audio also showed off their new 8-wire UPG001Ref cable pictured above. This cable isn't in full production yet however 5 were made available at the Fujiya show for purchase for a cool ¥105,800. I own the 4-wire UPG001 regular as pictured below (inner cable whilst outer is the 8-wire UPG001Ref).

    The Brise Audio cables for headphones and Line out interconnects are all high quality copper based. The philosophy of Brise Audio is shielding to prevent external interferences. The UPG001Ref (either 4-wire released in March, or this new 8-wire released in May) have their Murakumo level shielding at strategic parts of the cable.

    I did a brief 10 min comparison between my 4-wire UPG001 regular (non Ref) and the new 8-wire UPG001Ref and promptly went to the Fujiya sales desk to buy one! Yes they're expensive but I was highly impressed with the results it's produced.

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    The 8-wire UPG001 cable is considerably thicker and stiffer than the 4-wire UPG001. It is somewhat more microphonic too however, for its sonic qualities, I'm well prepared to accept some sacrifices.

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    Brise Audio spared no expense to setting up a high end listening station with SFZ network transport, DAC and transport feeding into an Oji Special BDI-DC44 B amp. The setup above is well in access of USD$110,000 where the cables behind the devices alone are ~USD$81,700.

    Brise Audio also had a suite of headphones (not pictured) for listeners to demo on their different cables.

    3) Sensaphonics Japan

    I swung by the Sensaphonics Japan table again to talk to them about the sleeves for the KSE1500. Talking to Ooyagi-san, the sleeves forthe KSE1500 can be made but can't say how it'll impact the sound. In general the ear canals for the Japanese audience are somewhat smaller therefore there is less advertisement/promotion of the sleeves in Japan as it would in the US.

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    Ooyagi-san though did introduce to me their Move-Interlock. The material used is softer than that's used by Sensaphonics overseas. The Move-Interlock is a Japan-only Sensaphonics offering.

    4) OJI Special

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    OJI Special has been around for quite some time and for some of the more veteran Head-Fi users may remember OJI Special taking RSA portable amps and modifying/improving over them. Now though OJI special has made some pretty high end top-tier headphone amps such as the BDI-DC44B R-Tuned in the Brise Audio exhibit, and on their own table the BDI-DC24B-G Limited II.

    The BDI-DC24B-G Limited II actually had a special at the Fujiya show for a cool ¥780,800. Had I been single, I would have jumped on it. I fear the likes of such products is pushing my personal audio to a new level.

    5) Stax

    So, for a little preview, a small group of us got invited to the Stax office on Friday 28th April before the Fujiya Headphone Spring Festival. We were given the tour of Stax new office. I'll write up a separate article about that later this week.

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    The Stax SRM-T8000 new flagship is one of the major announcements of the Fujiya Spring festival this year. Stax hasn't had a flagship in a long time. The last great Stax amp was probably the SRM-T2 back in the 90's. This SRM-T8000 was announced earlier in the week and has made it's show at the Fuiya Festival. The release date is planned to be mid June. Stax has completely revised this amp - it doesn't even share the same format as the SRM-727/007/323 series, and it's a much more expensive amp.

    Sonically to my ears this amp gave the bass that many craved from the SR-009's. In fact in a very crude analogy, it the SR-009 more like the SR-007Mk1s. Across the frequency response were well controlled. Especially for Japanese customers where the likes of BHSEs, Electras, Liquid Lightnings, etc aren't easy to come by, the SRM-T8000 is much welcome to the Japanese Stax aficionados.

    6) MASS-Kobo

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    Masuda-san of MASS-Kobo showed off his prototype 405 pre-amp, and 406 balanced headphone amp. The 405 pre-amp (currently?) accepts 7 inputs. Unfortunately someone else was listening to the amp whist I took that photo. I did not get the chance to give that rig a listen.

    7) 64Audio

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    Someone asked me to swing by the 64Audio table and there I gave their Tia Fourte a shot. The earphone to my ears had a warm sounding signature which to me would suit for rock. I would have personally preferred a little more treble extension.

    Sadly I didn't try the other 64Audio earphones on display.

    8) Unique Melody

    Stephen Guo of Unique Melody and I go way back - in fact it was through him that I first had my Shure SE500's hacked and made into a CIEM - which was my intro into Head-Fi.

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    Back in December '16, Unique Melody showed off its ME.1 prototypes. It had 2 different tunings. Now they've settled on a 3rd and (I believe?) final design of the ME1 with a new signature. How this has changed from the earlier Dec '16 offering is there are two magnets as opposed to one-sided. This has made the ME.1 easier to drive.

    Listening to the ME.1s, they definitely sound more "planar" to me than the earlier ME.1 prototypes. For those who do like that kind of character should give these pair of earphones a listen.

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    The Unique Melody ME.1s are ported too for ear protection as pictured above.

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    I was taking a picture of a poster and Stephen was asking why I was taking a photo of a photo. He mailed me the pix above of the ME.1 breakdown.

    9) Mr. Speakers

    Everytime Dan Clark swings by Tokyo he has fancy new toys we die to get our grubby hands on. This year is no exception. I had Dan's older Alpha Dogs a few years back but his newer Ether products weren't so suited to my tastes.

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    This time though, Dan brought the Aeon and boy these were great to listen to. In fact it's unbelievable for the sound it produced for just shy of $800. This headphone was further able to demonstrate its scalability when driven by a more powerful desktop amp like the Headamp GS-X MkII. I have to say this was a very pleasant and welcoming surprise from Mr.Speakers.

    Early adopters who are prepared to forgo fancy packaging should be getting their Aeons soon as it seems they're shipping as early as this week.

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    Another is the long awaited electrostatic headphones from Mr. Speakers. This has been in development for well over a year. It's finally coming close to production. These were driven by Headamp's Blue Hawaii Special Edition and it's an improvement from last year's prototype.

    10) Grado

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    Grado debut it's PS2000e headphone at the Fujiya Spring Festival this year. Apparently it's so new there were no specs associated with it.

    I normally don't listen to Grado headphones but these seem fine sounding. Possibly it was later in the day, I felt the earcups were a little too warm around my ears.

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    The earpads are moved here.

    11) Hifiman

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    After a long absence, Fang Bian made a show at the Fujiya Headphone festival presenting Susvara. These headphones sounded good - full sounding signature. Aesthetically it's an improvement over the HE1000 series too.

    As Hifiman has an office in Japan, I hope to pop by there some time in the next week or two to give these pair of headphones a better listen - it's piqued my interest.

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    And here's how it looks like off @Currawong (Amos') head. I love his hair, don't you??

    12) Tago Studio

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    Tago Studio is a local Japanese brand. They're also based in Takasaki, Gunma prefecture which is where Brise Audio is from. Tago Studio had their T3-01 on display. Overall it was a nice pair of closed headphones for a reasonable asking price of ¥50,000. They're easy to drive. My only criticism is that the bass bleeds a little into the midrange.

    End of Day 1 29th April 2017
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
  2. AnakChan Moderator
    Day 2 - 30th April 2017

    Ms. Tomoe Ma was here to greet us again with a new outfit.
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    13) Re-Leaf

    Re-leaf is a high end amp maker with a focus on direct current driven design. I covered them briefly in last year's Fujiya Autumn Headphone Festival 2016 in #20.

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    This year they're back showing their new E3 Hybrid amp at a more affordable ¥600,000 (compared to their international E1 USD$50,000 showed last year). The above is the E3 Hybrid in a prototype case - the final will look a little more like the E1 design. The hybrid portion comes in that it supports current and voltage drive (where voltage comes in L & H gain).

    Last year in the Focal Utopia exhibit, I mentioned they used the Re-Leaf E1 and I felt their current drive brought out too much bass out of the Utopia. With the above E3 Hybrid, I could perform the test again switching back 'n forth between the current drive and voltage drive and again it reassures my earlier findings last year. The current drive isn't a good match for the Utopia however works brilliantly with the likes of the Sennheiser HD800(s) instead.

    The E3 Hybrid provides that flexibility of headphone matching. I talked to the makers and they mentioned that with current drive, there is no real impedance matching required - however it does play the drivers for "what they are" (not certain what that means). The E3 Hybrid makes more sense as it's more flexible than their dedicated current drive E1 and it's cheaper too.

    Unlike the E1, the E3 Hybrid is not hand made but more "mass produced". The mainboard of the E3 Hybrid is not as thick/layered as their more expensive E1.

    Itermission

    Just to squeeze in another JH Audio Lola pictures. Did I mention already I kept going back to Jerry's table?
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    14) Vannuys

    Over the years I've seen Vannuys popularity increase dramatically. They've become more and more innovative in making their cases, pouches, sling bags, backpacks, etc.

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    The Hugo 2 is not available yet but their case are already being showcased. Vannuys has taken given a lot of thought the design thinking of all the tiny little features we take for granted. The case on the left is larger than the one on the right primarily for hiding the cable management on the bottom end.

    Further one may noticed the raised dimples on either side of the volume window. This is to allow the case to be place upside down (cos the ttransport goes the other side) giving room for the volume knob clearance from touching the table top.

    Not pictured is the inside of the case where there are depression points for the Chord Hugo 2's raised dimple base. It also allows the Hugo 2 to "clip in" when it's slid into the Vannuys case.

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    There are two colour offerings in 2 designs as pictured above.

    Photo 2017-04-30 16 12 30.jpg

    Vannuys also designed a case for the AK KANN. The one with the flap can have that flap switch to open left or open right.

    15) Chord Electronics

    What?? You really need an introduction to Chord Electronics? I don't think so!

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    The Chord Hugo 2 made its show but due to the queue lengths, I still haven't had a chance to hear the Hugo 2!! Yes I was a little too lazy to line up for it. I'll probably turn up to the stores one day to see if they have a demo available.

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    Instead, I did manage to spend time with the Chord Blu II and DAVE. That was one exquisite setup. Unfortunately I didn't bring my media and the headphones available weren't probably my first choice for such a lovely system.

    I did spend quite a bit of time listening to that setup though - first with a CD that we played around with regular and upsampling, then later from a PC Notebook USB source.

    I'm glad I have a family with kids as if I were single, this setup would drive me broke. it's brought "desktop setup" to a completely new level.

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    Not only was the performance fantastic, the design and finish was eye catching.

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    It looks like the transport digital interconnect is BNC and the Blu II also accepts USB from the PC. The stand is very robust.

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    I'm not certain if @shigzeo's impression is from a spearheaded piercing presentation of the clamping force of the headphone on his skull.

    16) Final Audio Design

    Whilst chatting with @shigzeo, I got whisked away to be shown Final Audio's new concept model headphones.

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    Final Audio is making their planar magnetic as seen on @Currawong's head. I did listen to it but was unfamiliar with the music. I didn't hear anything in particular to pick up from it but for what I heard, it did sound nice. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this in the future.

    17) FitEar

    I actually spent a lot of time at FitEar table as they had their new Custom IEM (yes it's called "Custom") for a cool ¥75,000 only (~USD$650). Furthermore, the limited Titan release from last October's Fujiya Autumn show is now production (but at a higher price of ¥300,000, up from last year's limited ¥268,000).

    As each listening time is only 5 minutes, I kept lining back over and over again listening and comparing between the two. The Custom was ridiculously (cheaply) priced for the sound it produced. Seriously great value for money for a CIEM. FitEar was secret of its construction so no specs/details were provided.

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    Aside from that, Suyama-san did give a presentation (which we all missed!!) about his FitEar shelf speakers powered by Fostex. We did hav a private listen and he's performed some custom modifications to it (as such FitEar on it). It's uncertain if this goes to production or not.

    18) DIY Pete Millet Style at Korg

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    The boys at Korg received this DIY board from Pete Millett which uses the Nutube as pictured above. The difference with this design is that the daughterboard the Nutube sits on is isolated from the mainboard. Taps and vibration on the mainboard doesn't traverse to the Nutube and the output remains silent. As a test, the exhibitor tapped on the Nutube directly and the microphonic ping returns.

    The daughterboard is so isolated even the wires to it are wrapped in some vibration absorption material (as seen to the left of the Nutube).

    Conclusion of the Show

    This time I really didn't spend as much time equally on every desk and was more selective on which ones I visited. There were other exciting releases that I completely missed however I still had a blast of a time. However by being more selfish on choosing where I wanted to spend my time on, I did really enjoy myself a lot. All the exhibitors were warm and welcoming as usual.

    Once again I have to thank Ishizone-san of Fujiya Avic for this wonderful organisation, and to @Sasaki-san of Music-To-Go for helping us get early access to the show before the crowd came in.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2017
    Pokemonn likes this.
  3. ExpatinJapan
    Very Nice. Good write up as usual
     
  4. Mkubota1 Contributor
    Thank you for this Sean! I will eventually make my way back to these shows, no question. =)
     
  5. Mimouille
    Cool write up. It struck a chord with me, because I really got caught up deeper into iems through Stephen Guo as well, when I asked him to reshell my SE530 ! Then bought the Miracles, then the SE5..,then the 1plus2...and then it was too late.
     
  6. ranfan
    Wow, what an event. I wish I could come.. Can I ask, what do you like about the Lola? And how would you describe the sound? Thank you for sharing :)
     
  7. Sound Eq
    @AnakChan can you describe more the sound signature of Unique Melody ME.1 as i read the first tuning was not that great and lacked bass impact, so can you shed some light on bass and mid and highs, as just saying they sound like planars can not give any idea how they sound, for example you audeze and mr speakers and they sound not alike at all
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2017
  8. Whitigir
    Wonder how Mr.Speaker fares against 009 out of BHSE

    Thanks Anakchan
     
  9. gearofwar
    Apparently, you missed the best iem of 64audio - A18...
     
  10. alota
    thanks for the report. the first picture is the best part
     
  11. buzzlulu
    GREAT report - Thanks

    Did you have the chance to see or hear the new Pioneer closed back SE-Monitor5 ?
     
  12. arnaud Contributor
  13. AnakChan Moderator
    The Lola to my ears had a full sounding signature - bass that was controllable depending on what setting you set on that dial on the cable, it can cut out anything under 200Hz at min setting, or up to +15 dB at max setting. I personally liked around the 2 p.m. setting which if I heard Jerry correctly, its about +6dB.

    The mids by the D.O.M.E. (twin) dynamic driver technology gave a nice robust sounding midrange and the quad BAs gave a nice extended treble.

    Now personally for me, the other JH Audio offerings were a little dark (I know some may disagree), but the Lola is a contrast from the Laylas and Roxannes.

    Sadly the two available rigs with the two headphones were paired with different amps. I've got very little experience with the BHSE + 009 to compare with the Mr.Speakers electrostat (which was what it was plugged into). @arnaud may be able to comment more about these two comparisons as he owns the BHSE.

    I did (miss it). I saw it next to the Tia Fourte but didn't try it. But luckily that demo unit is available at the stores in Tokyo so I can try anytime.

    I didn't! In fact I didn't even know about it until you've mentioned it (i.e. it won't even be in my upcoming part #2 post in a day or two). Thanks for letting me know. I'll see if they'll have it in the shops.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
    ranfan likes this.
  14. Whitigir
    Anakchan, what tubes glow green as seen in your avatar ? It look Hulkingly Awesome :D
     
  15. Ike1985
    Thank you for the great writeup Anakchan! Very entertaining. Looking forward to day 2 and hearing brise cables, Tia Forte and the ME.1 myself!
     
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