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Montreal 31st Audio Fest//Salon Audio - March 23-25th

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    I just found out about this today. The list of companies going seems short, but the event is still a month away. I've never been, so I'm interested in checking it out as I live in Montreal.

    The most interesting exhibitors currently are 1More, Astell & Kern, AudioQuest, Bower & Wilkins, FiiO, Grado Canada,HifiMan, iFi Audio, JVCKenwood Canada, Kimber Kable, Klisch, Layton Audio, Lenbrook, Luna Cables, Moon Audio, Paradigm, ProStudioMasters, Sennheiser, Shure, and Yamaha Canada Music.

    Exhibitors: HERE
    Map: HERE
    Seminars: HERE

    Free Admission
    Hotel Bonaventure Montreal
    900 Rue de la Gauchetière O,
    Montreal, QC H5A 1E4
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
    I updated the list of interesting Exhibitors. I'll be going, so if anyone is interested in meeting up let me know.
    YtseJamer likes this.
    I had the chance to go today, and pretty much test all I could. I might go tomorrow as well just to make sure my opinions are correct.

    I don't think this event was big enough to need a impressions thread, so I'll just post my impressions here.

    Firstly I'd like to say that I'm not a audiophile expert, but I do know good sound when I hear it. I'm more of a gamer than a audiophile, but I love music just as equally. When it comes to buying headphones I try to buy all-rounders, because I use headphones for playing games, listening to music, and watching movies. I wanted to go to the event today to see if I could find my next headphone.Granted I did buy the Audeze Mobius for sale on Idiegogo.

    Currently I own Philips Fidelio X2 and Philips SHP9500S, which run off a Creative Sound Blaster X7 Limited Edition and a Asus Impresario SBW-S1 Pro headphone dac/amp. Not the best setup, but it fits my needs. As a gamer I've tested my fair share of gaming headsets, and surround sound emulation software. I started all the way at the very bottom with Plantronics/Logitech, upgraded to Sennheiser's first gaming headsets, moved up to the Astros+Mixamp, and ended up using a few generations of the Sennheiser Game One series until I got the X2. When I joined Head-Fi in 2004 in the middle of all this I found out about a unit called the Philips HP 1500. Its a DSP unit that was the first unit to use Dolby Headphone tech. I found some Scandinavian guy on Head-Fi that was willing to sell me a new Philips HP 1500 unit as Philips doesn't normally sell to North America. I got the unit and it changed my life. It took my game to the next level. In games like Counter Strike it felt like I was cheating, as sound ques were pinpoint accurate. Unfortunately the unit died, and Philips had discontinued the unit when I got it. I don't think it was a problem with the unit, but a problem with the power converter/transformer I had to use with it. Anyway when I tried other headphones and surround sound emulation software I ended up being very disappointed. Whatever magic the Philips HP 1500 did, I haven't been able to capture it again.

    My Philips Fidelio X2 has been kinda meh since I got it. Same with the Philips SHP9500S. They sound decent, but I'm ready for a real upgrade that will get me as close to my ideal setup as possible. I'm at a point now where I'm ok with investing $4000+ into a setup, but I'm not crazy enough to put money down without testing components in the setup first. I do a lot of research before I buy anything, but there is only so much you can extract from other peoples subjective opinions on sound. Thus the main reason I wanted to go to the audio show to test headphones, as I pretty much drained all the audio shops in Montreal for testing.

    My experience at the show is as follows:

    I didn't know Focal was going to be at the show as they aren't even listed, and they had the biggest room it seemed. Also one of the nicest setups. They had 3 Focal Utopia, 3 Clear, 3 Elear, and 3 lower end models. I didn't write down the headphones amps they were using, but they had a different one for each headphone. Most of the headphone amps were from Questyle and SPL. I tested the Clear first, and thought it was decent. Same with the Utopia after that, which was a disappointment. If I go again, I'll have to test it again. I tired the Elear, which had a bit more life, but still only good. The Clear Professional was a bit less better than the Elear. Granted I only listened to one song on each. If I go tomorrow, I'll have to test with the same song on each, but I'll need some suggestions on that. The build quality on these is pretty great.

    Focal Day 2
    This time at the Focal headphone area I made sure to use just one song on all headphones, which was Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Chile that someone on here had suggested. The headphone amps being used were the Questyle CMA800R+CMA800P, and the SPL Phonitor X. I forget what i used with the Elear and the Clear Professional, but it was a lower model. Both the Utopia and the Clear sounded a lot better the second day, and the only thing that was different was the song. While the Utopia might be a bit better than the clear I can't justify the price like Tyll, and the Clear ends up being the winner here. The Elear sounded more murky while listening to Voodoo Chile, while yesterday I thought it sounded the best. The Clear Professional sounded better than the day before, and bit worst than the Clear and Utopia. However I think this is do to the cheaper headphone amp as I believe the Clear Pro is more or less the same as the Clear.

    Also if I remember correctly the headphones were on sale at the show. I believe the Utopia was on sale for $3,999, the Clear Pro for $1,399, and the Elear for $999. I don't think the Utopia is even worth the $1000 discount. I believe the price includes taxes, so pretty nice deal for people who want to get one.

    The iFi table had the new iFi Audio Pro iDSD DAC with the Meze 99 Classics and HifiMan HE400S beside it. They also had most of their smaller products and cables. I tested the HifiMan HE400S before at a shop from just my Samsung S8+, and I can say it obviously sounded much better on the iDSD. The plastic on the HE400S seems prone to breaking unlike the plastic that Sennheiser uses. I'll have to trust Tyll on his Wall of Fame recommendation at the price point, but I thought they sounded ok. This is the first time I tried the Meze 99 Classics, and I honestly can't remember what I thought. I remember testing the Meze 99 Neo, and I thought they sounded musical, so I guess I would say the same for the Classics.

    iFi Day 2
    I only asked questions about the iFi Pro stack at the iFi table this time, and the iFi guy there was very helpful. Some people there were not impressed with iFi, but as far as I can tell it did the job.

    The HifiMan had the most headphones of all the tables I checked. They were using the iFi Pro iCan headphone amp. I first tried the HifiMan Edition X V2, which is the headphone I thought I wanted to buy. They sounded pretty good, but as some have reviewed a bit grainy. Now I know what that means kinda. The build here had what seemed like a better plastic than the HE400S, but still seemed like it would break over time. The HifiMan HE1000 V2 sounded a bit better than the Edition X V2, and got rid of the grain. The build for the HE1000 was also way above the Edition X. I tried the HifiMan Sunvara, and it sounded just a bit better than the HE1000. The build was a bit better as well. I tried the HifiMan Sundara and it sounded decent and pretty clean. I can see why Tyll might put it on the Wall of Fame. Its built better than the older HifiMan, but still have the same core issues.

    HifiMan Day 2
    On day 2 I tested the Edition X, HE1000, and the Sundara again. The Edition X and HE1000 were the version 1, and not the version 2 like I said yesterday. The HifiMan Rep put on a classical track, which I repeated for each headphone. All the headphones ran off a DAP via iFi Gemini 3.0 USB cable into a iFi Micro iPhone2, and into the iFi Pro iCan. I don't know the settings that were used, but the Edition X sounded a lot better on the classical track. The grainy sound that I had heard the day before was gone. That would suggest to me that the grainy sound was part of the old track, and the Edition X just revealed the source. However if that is the case I don't get why I didn't hear it while listening to the HE1000. Anyway the HE1000 not only sounded cleaner than the Edition X, but had better separation of the instruments. I feel the same way about the Sundara as I did yesterday.

    I tried the 1More Triple Driver Headphones off a FiiO X7 I believe, and I thought it sounded pretty good at its price point. Pretty clean sounding as well, and build quality is very good. I don't know why they call it a triple driver headphone because its not. It makes people think its a gimmick like the older gaming headsets.

    I tried a Grado RS2e with a FiiO X7 at the FiiO table. I thought they were just ok. I remember testing them at a shop going between them and a Sennheiser HD660S, and I thought the HD660S had better vocals, and the Grado RS2e had better instrumentals. This time they were just ok. Maybe it was the Cayin headphone amp/dac (iDAC-6&iHA-6) I was using at the shop. Build on them seemed like they could break pretty easy. I'll have to check out the Grado table tomorrow.

    Grado Day 2
    I tried the cheap Grado SR80e, which are $150. They souded kinda ok for the price, but they had the in-head sound that is a problem with a lot of cheaper headphones. I tried Grado's new Flagship the PS2000e, and it sounded pretty good, but not HE1000 good. I forget if I tried the PS1000e or the GS1000e next, but it sounded just a bit worst. I tried the GS2000e after that, and it seemed about the same as the PS2000e. The headphones are pretty like, but also very cheaply made as well.

    I tested both the Nighthawk and the NightOwl at the Audioquest table, and I thought they sounded decent. The Nighthawk was being run off a Dragonfly Black off a labtop, and the NightOwl was being driven off a Dragonfly Red. I had tested a Nighthawk before off the Cayin headphone amp/dac iDAC-6&iHA-6, and it was distorted. The build quality on dispaly here was better than old HifiMan, but did seem kinda prone to breaking.

    The Sennheiser table was a joke with only low end headphones. The highest model there was the HD 599. I was hoping to try at least a HD800.

    Sennheiser Day 2
    The second I dropped by the Sennheiser table, and this time they at least had the HD660S. I had tried the HD660S before off a Cayin headphone amp/dac (iDAC-6&iHA-6), and thought it was pretty good, but not at its price point. This time I tested on my Samsung S8+ and thought the same. I used Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Child (Slight Return) song. I got home and tested the same track on my X2, and I thought the song sounded better on the HD660S. The left to right switch on this track sounded much more clear on the HD660S, however my X2's are kinda broken, so its hard to tell. I tested the HD599 on the same track, and it sounded murky.

    The guy at the Sennheiser table wasn't even a Sennheiser Rep. He was hired by the Audio Fest organizers. The guy was nice however, and was just paid to do his job which he did well. I'm pretty shocked that Sennheiser didn't even show. I can understand that CanJam Singapore is happening right now, but they do have a factory right here in Montreal, and I don't understand why they didn't get a employee there to Rep the event.

    Layton Audio
    Last table I hit was Layton Audio, which is the oldest audio store here in Montreal. They setup the room for all the tables above. They were also selling headphones directly at the show. The only headphones they had to test were MrSpeakers Ether C and Aeon Flow Open. I tested both and they sounded pretty good off some headphone amp I forgot the name of, but it started with a "P" and had green letters. I will say that the Aeon Flow Open did sound a bit grainy like the HifiMan Edition X.

    Layton Audio Day 2
    This time at Layton Audio table I check out MrSpeaker Ether C and it sounded the same as yesterday. The Aeon Flow I tried yesterday was the closed version. It sounded pretty good as well, and on par with the Ether C. It also didn't have the grainy sound it had yesterday. They were both run off the Pathos Aurium Hybrid Headphone Amp. I'm not sire what settings were used.

    I also found out that one of the Layton Audio employees I talked to is a member here at Head-Fi, and the Headphone Headquarters Discord. We chatted for a bit, and shared our opinions on headphones. It turns out he is one of the members of the Head-Fi meet here in Montreal that happened a few years ago. Apparently most of those members have reached their endgame headphone (Sennheiser HD800, HifiMan HE1000, Stax), and are smart enough to stop hearing new headphones cold turkey like.

    Given that I listened to only one song per headphone I can only comment on the general performance of each. If I go tomorrow I'll have to test each with single song of my choice.

    There were a lot of Speakers at the show, but I didn't listen to any as I thought it was a waste of my time. To many conflicting sounds with no real sweet spot to be found. I checked every room however, and the only things that interested me were the personal audio zone with the above tables, and the Focal room. The show started at 10am, and I think I got there at 10:20am. I was lucky enough to be one of the first to test things out, but by like 12am the place was packed enough to where it wasn't worth staying to listen to stuff. If I go tomorrow, I'll have to get there before 10am.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2018
  4. 1TrickPony
    ... just finishing work and have other errands later. Shame.
    That sucks bro! I'm going now, so call me on my cell if u want to meet up 514-917-3281.
    I just came back from the show, I'll be updating my opinions above after I eat lunch.

    I updated my opinion post with my day 2 experience.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2018
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