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Tokyo Headphone Festival presented by FUJIYA AVIC, May 12, 2012 (Pictorial)

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  1. Mkubota1 Contributor
    Once again, it was that time of the year for the bi-annual Tokyo Headphone Festival put on by FUJIYA AVIC and I was lucky enough to attend this ever growing event.  It is estimated that about 3,500+ visitors came out, which seemed about right given that it felt more crowded than the last two.  And this time it occupied four floors (some partial) of the 'Stadium Aoyama' complex.
     
    TokyoMetroMap.jpg
     ​
    As with the previous posts this one isn't so much about listening impressions as it is just a simple feast for the eyes along with some random bits, pieces, and ramblings.  This year with the help of Ishizone-san (FUJIYA AVIC) and Sasaki-san (Head-Fi blogger), Head-Fi was able to have a small private room just for quiet listening and meetings with select manufacturers.  Otherwise 'critical' equipment evaluation is always difficult under these show circumstances.  The Headphone Festival is a great place to see what's new, get a basic idea of how some things sound, and of couse meet people with the same passions including those who actually manufacture and design the equipment.
     
    And that brings me to a quick story before I get into the show itself- one of several sidebars that I will sprinkle throughout this post:
     

     
     
     
    Sennheiser used this show as a public premiere for their HD700 and RS220 headphones.
     
    IMG_6746.jpg       IMG_6686.jpg
     
    I remember how Jude raved about the RS220, calling them near sonic equals to the HD600.  And for the short time I got to spend with them I would have to say that they do sound really good and are also equally as comfortable- a huge plus in my book.
     
    I thought the HD700 sounded quite nice- maybe a tad warmer (or less clinical) than the HD800.  They can get a bit 'essy' and splashy as many have reported, but I think I have a reasonably high tolerance for that sort of thing so it didn't bug me that much.  As I find with a lot of these headphones that people discuss (and speculate about) around here, they usually turn out to be not nearly as bad as often reported.  Then again these are $1000 headphones; so compared to all of the great ~$300 cans out there the bar should be raised a lot higher and we should be less forgiving for that kind of money.
     
    A8FV5497.jpg       A8FV5496.jpg
     
    Yes- they even have headphone models at these events.  In Japan, headphone and portable audio are growing subcultures which I will get into more later.
     
    A8FV5485.jpg       A8FV5490.jpg
     

     
    Denon showed their yet un-named headphone and (dual BA) IEM.
     
    IMG_6689.jpg       IMG_6690.jpg
     
     
    I've had limited time with D7/5/2000s and I enjoyed them all.  To me there is no question that these new Denons share the same house sound and should satisfy Denon fans with their sound.  However, I must say that I like the wood finish of the earlier models.  One thing these do have going for them is removable cables. 
     
    IMG_6761.jpg       IMG_6764.jpg
     
    The new IEMs sound good... really good.  They are fairly balanced but definitely not lacking in fun, much like their headphone relatives.  My only worry is their price, which will be more inline with triple balanced armature IEMs despite these being doubles.  But if people judge them more on their sound quality, these should sell.  A few features that I noticed were 'sealed' silicon tips and a new type of cable material that I have not seen before.  For the tips, think of your regular IEM tip that has an open flap on the large end; whereas these tips have that part closed off.  The result is something that is a bit more rigid than 'regular' tips, but not as stiff or hard as (Monster) gel or foam filled ones.  The cable has a really durable feel to it.  Yet it is very compliant despite having a more plasticy than rubbery feel.  I wish I had asked about it because it is some really nice stuff!
     
    I also wanted to pass on a thank you to the Denon people at the show (Kunihiko Tamura, Senior Product Development) for chatting with me in English (I always feel guilty), and staying well after closing time to give everyone a chance to hear their new headphones.
     

     
    Sony really covers all users, from casual to audiophile as you can see.
     
    A8FV5045.jpg       A8FV5042.jpg
     
    I heard some not-so-flattering reviews (okay, just one) on the new MDR-MA900s so I was a bit worried going into hearing these.  My fears were for naught though as I found them quite nice sounding.  They seem tonally well-balanced and certainly not lacking at the bottom end.  The environment I heard them in (a store) was not ideal for such open cans so I'll have to leave final judgement for another time.  But I think they are definitely worth an audition if you have the chance.  Currawong wrote a little bit about them here in his write-up of impression from the show.
     
    A8FV5050.jpg       A8FV5049.jpg
     

     
    Fang from HiFiMAN was there showing their latest DAP.  I love the updated look; although I did not get to hear this prototype unit.
     
    A8FV5032.jpg       A8FV5033.jpg
     

     
    JVC just released a new line of IEMs, headed by the HA-FXD80.
     
    A8FV5053.jpg       A8FV5055.jpg
     
    I didn't get to hear these.  But they boast a new 'microHD' driver (a smaller than usual dynamic driver) that is directly coupled to the earpiece via a pipe made of carbon nanotube material.  This is opposed to the typically larger diameter driver that is funneled to a smaller tube and then to the ear tips.  It is not a flagship IEM- more around the sub-$100 price.  I think these are only available in Japan for now.
     

     ​
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    Canal Works makes custom IEMs in Japan.
     
    A8FV5072.jpg       A8FV5075.jpg
     
    Here are some artwork and shell samples.
     
    A8FV5081.jpg       A8FV5083.jpg
     
    Canal Works CW-L51
    These customs have a really cool feature:  You can change one of the components in the crossover (a resistor) to adjust the frequency response of the IEMs.  This resistor sits on the outside of the IEM shell so it is easily accessed.  But it's done in a fashion similar to a DIP socket so the resistor is quite secure.  This is a really nice feature because demo customs never quite sound the same as fully fitted and molded (hence custom) IEMs.  So what if you find that the sound you thought you were getting just isn't quite to your liking?  I've often thought that if my UE-RMs had about 1.5-2 db more bass, they would be perfect.  This is a very cool thing indeed!
     
    A8FV5076.jpg
     

     
     
    Can we get back to headphones now?  Okay... how about we start with some gold Grados?
     
    A8FV5039.jpg       A8FV5060.jpg
     ​

     
    Centrance
     
    A8FV5091.jpg
     
    MasterClass 2504
    Everyone knows them for their DACport and DACmini, but they also make these wonderful speakers.  They use a two-way point source driver, similar to KEF or Tannoy, that was designed in-house at Centrance.  That must've cost a lot of money!  The other thing that makes this system unique is you can purchase it in a package which includes the speakers, the DACmini, nice cables (not in the photo), and a case that all of this fits into.  The case is similar to the Peclican hard-plastic type which almost seems flight check-in worthy; but who in their right mind would?
     

     
    ALO had quite a bit on hand to listen to.
     
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    ALO RXmk3
    The last time I heard it (at the fall show) I was impressed by its power and well-implemented bass control.  Now that it is in production form nothing has changed.  It's a really solid feeling and sounding amp that makes you wonder if full-sized amps are really that necessary, especially if space or cost is an issue.  They drove the LCD3s with ease.​
     
    IMG_6692.jpg       A8FV5099.jpg
     ​
    ALO PanAm
    What a cool little tube amp!  The real neat thing here is the power options-  if I recall correctly there are three ways you can do this.  You can power it with the included wallwart.  In this case you only get/need one box- the top one with the tubes sticking out.  If you want to run AC but want to beef up your power supply, then you can purchase another box that the main unit sits on top of.  Option three is if you want to run off the grid via battery- think Red Wine Audio.  Again, fantastic sounding on the HD800s, this is another space-saver that seems to give up very little in SQ compared to larger amplifiers.
     
    A8FV5108.jpg
     
    A8FV5105.jpg       A8FV5107.jpg
     ​
    IMG_6696.jpg
     

     
    Mixwave distributes JH Audio, Audeze, and Beat Audio among other things here.
     
    A8FV5116.jpg       A8FV5122.jpg
     
    These Beat Audio cables are really nice.  Project86 reviewed them here.  And yet again I missed out on hearing the JH-3A!  I have started a list- sort of a bucket list, but not as morbid and having more to do with things I want to hear on my next trip.  The JH-3As are on that list.
     

     
    FitEar's new release is the TO GO 334.  Most of us know it as the universal custom (universal based on custom technology) or one of the most expensive universals today.
     
    A8FV5134.jpg
     ​
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    The build quality is what you would expect from a 'regular' custom IEM.  From my very brief listening these IEMs reminded me of the HD650s- as opposed to the other expensive ultra-universal, the K3003 which sounds a bit more forward and analytical to me.  These 334s seem good for extended listening sessions.  But that cost is hard to overlook!  Other Head-Fiers at the show seemed to have positive impressions of them too.
     
    These are the titanium tubes that are used to channel the sound of the four balanced armature drivers.​
     
    IMG_6705.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5129.jpg       A8FV5125.jpg
     ​

     
    Musica Acoustic (and Demitri) is no stranger around here.  They distribute EarSonics, Fischer, and Colorfly among other things.
     
    A8FV5151.jpg       A8FV5153.jpg
     
    This Vorzuge amp caught my interest at the table.  Designed in Germany and made in Singapore (I think), this is a new company to me.  The amp is certainly not lacking in power and it has the rare feature of a treble boost switch as well as a bass boost switch.  Top shelf parts are used throughout.  But at around $500 ($400 without the tone controls) they have their work cut out for them.
     
    IMG_6709.jpg       IMG_6716.jpg
     ​
    Guess who that is?  It's Shigzeo from TouchMyApps!  He was helping Demitri translate at the show as well as do some photographic work for the company.​
     ​
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    The Digizoid ZO- I finally got to listen to one of these.​
     
    A8FV5704.jpg       IMG_6711.jpg
     ​
     ​
    I've really been wanting to hear one of these.  In short, I agree with others who say that it takes a while to understand how to adjust the processing level on it.  It's not a linear one-dimensional adjustment like a conventional shelved or parametric EQ.  I would definitely have to spend more time with it to see if it is something I want to add to my portable setup.  Typical of devices like this, it might benefit people who are still stuck using iBuds or those who haven't shelled out for high(er) end IEMs or headphones.  Or maybe those who want to add some fun to their IEMs at the push of a button.​
     

     
    TDK has some nice looking headphones and seems to be moving up in quality.  I just haven't gotten around to listening to them yet.  They're on the 'list'.
     
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    A8FV5160.jpg       A8FV5164.jpg
     

     
    Ultimate Ears
     
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     ​
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    I've given them plenty of my money already.  Moving on.  [​IMG]
     

     
    Parrot is an interesting company that can easily be dismissed as a design- and appearance-first company.  But their stuff really packs a ton of technology that normal people (not us) might really find useful and enjoyable.
     
    A8FV5176.jpg       A8FV5672.jpg
     ​
    I'm a sucker for design, so these Zik headphones did catch my eye.  I didn't find out until later how much technology went into these really good looking headphones.  They are wireless.  They have a sophisticated multi-sensor/mic noise cancellation system.  There is a touchpad (trackpad) on one side to control volume and tracks.  A built-in sensor knows when you have taken them off your head so that you don't kill the battery too quickly.  And even if you do, you can connect a cable to them and use them like conventional wired headphones.
     
    They also had a demo of their Zikmu (is it me or do these  sound like IKEA products?) wireless speaker system.  You can also put these in front of your house so that your neighbors won't block your driveway.
     
    A8FV5680.jpg
     

     
    Audio Technica released a ton of stuff last time for their anniversary.  So it seems like their lineup this time around was status quo.  That's not to say that they didn't have anything good to listen to.
     
    A8FV5178.jpg       A8FV5183.jpg
     ​
    Audio Technica ATH-AD2000
    After hearing much about these (forbidden fruit here in the U.S.), I finally got a chance to hear them.  And I liked them a lot!  Midrange and soundstage seem to be their strengths, although everything else was quite nice.  I could do without the large, flat pad contact area and the drivers touching my ears.  But still, very nice.
     
    A8FV5181.jpg
     

     
    Canor is a company from Slovakia.  And while I didn't get to hear this amp, I thought its origins were interesting (why Slovakia?) given that a lot of the well-sought after tubes come from this geographical region.
     
    A8FV5187.jpg
     ​

     
    Burson and Fanny Wang... I couldn't think of two more different approaches to aesthetic design.
     
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     ​
    Ahhh- much better!!!​
     ​
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    Go-Dap
     
    I've always liked this device (as I dump my Droid I'll consider one), and here is their latest version- apparently now compatible with most iDevices (no longer form fitting).  It seems like more and more companies are grabbing licenses to do digital extraction from iDevices which can only be good.
     
    A8FV5196.jpg       A8FV5202.jpg
     
    Here is more information on this from AnakChan:  http://www.head-fi.org/t/609906/new-venturecraft-go-dap-x-for-both-idevices-and-pcs
     

     
     
    Fostex
     
    TH900 headhphone and HP-A8 amplifier
    It's funny how fast things move- just six months ago at the last Headphone Festival there was a line to hear these headphones.  There wasn't nearly as long a wait this time, which was not a bad thing.  I had a very favorable impression of these headphones and of the matching DAC/amplifier.  The later is particularly attractive as it can act as either a DAC and/or amplifier with a remote.  The fit and finish is second to none and the price in Japan is right alongside (actually less) that of similar remote controlled units such as the Benchmark or Anedio.
     
    A8FV5210.jpg
     
    They came out with a special 'Suara' version of the TH900.  Rest assured, these are mechanically the same as the 'regular' TH900.  Suara is a popular singer in Japan and these headphones have the marque of her last concert tour embedded underneath the lacquer in silver leaf.
     
    A8FV5222.jpg
     
    A8FV5213.jpg       A8FV5217.jpg
     
    Kazunari Furuya (Fostex Engineering) is standing next to the engineer for the HP-P1.  'Kazu' remembered me from the last show!  I told him how I knew where the Fostex office was (just on the edge of Tokyo) because I had spent a summer very close by there about 30 years ago when I was a kid! Back then I was into boomboxes.  [​IMG]  It's funny how things come around again.
     
    A8FV5226.jpg
     

     
    Otomatsu
     
    This company sells a DIY portable amplifier kit (far left side of photo).  Their website lists features such as replaceable opamps, metal film resistors, Alps pot, and so on.  The price seems reasonable (with today's horrendous exchange rate) at around $100.  The case is optional but with the provided template and a quick trip to Akihabara you can also customize like crazy. 
     
    A8FV5244.jpg
     
    They are also coming out with what appears to be a balanced desktop amplifier kit.​
     
    A8FV5233.jpg
     

     
    Focal
     
    Spirit One
    These are actually quite nice.  You can't fault them from a build quality and design perspective; and the sound is quite pleasing- slightly warm and mid-centric is what I heard.  I thought the bottom-end might have been a bit lacking, but it usually is in demo environments.
     
    A8FV5271.jpg       A8FV5275.jpg
     

     
    Burutta
     
    I've see a few devices like this CAV at stores in Japan.  The neat things about this particular one, other than being Bluetooth (because "everything is better with Bluetooth" - Sheldon, 'Big Bang Theory'), are the docking method and the speaker.  The unit couples with and transmits vibrations to whatever surface it is on to create the sound.  The angled top plate where you would rest the phone is a tacky silicon material- sort of like those pads you put on your car's dashboard so that your stuff doesn't slide all over the place when you slam on the brakes.  It's under a hundred bucks and oh- did I mention that it's Bluetooth?
     
    A8FV5280.jpg       A8FV5286.jpg
     

     
    AKG
     
    They had their new K550 and wonderfully expensive K3003 on hand.
     
    A8FV5288.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5290.jpg       A8FV5296.jpg
     

     
    Phiaton
     
    I don't think there is much new going on here.  However, I had the chance to hear the PS210s (at another place) and I really liked what I heard.  I had only heard these once before and came away with a favorable impression.  This second time around I must say that I really like them- although I need another IEM like... you know.  What they lack in sealing out noise (I wouldn't use them on a bus, subway, or jet ski), they make up for with nice, smooth midrange and a pleasing soundstage.  And they're quite inexpensive for the level of sound quality.
     
    A8FV5300.jpg       A8FV5298.jpg
     ​
     ​
     
     
    Zero Audio
     
    Carbo Basso/Tenore
    This is a new line from this Japanese IEM company.  As their carbon construction would indicate, these IEMs are really light.  The 'Basso' has lots of bass.  Everything else is nice but this is a bass-head IEM.  I have to admit though that on certain tracks it does bring a smile to my face. 
     
    A8FV5302.jpg       A8FV5307.jpg
     
    The 'Tenore':  Ahhh... much better.  These have a warm balance and are really smooth.  As the name would imply, there is much less emphasis on low frequencies here; but the bass is still plenty ample.  This is a really good sounding IEM.
     

     
    SRS
     
    iWow 3D
    I heard this last time and thought that while pleasing to a mass audience, the effect was a bit too strong.  Well now they have an app for it so that you can have complete control over what this thing does to your music.  The interesting thing about this device is that it operates out of the LOD of your iPhone/Pod, has no battery (drains your 'Pod), and you plug your earphones directly into it (as opposed to the iPod's own headphone jack).  So rather than just taking the analogue line out and processing it, this seems to interact directly with the iDevice.  Interesting.
     
    A8FV5314.jpg
     

     
    Scosche
     
    RH600
    Boy- this is becoming one crowded area of the marketplace:  The under $150 portable headphone segment.  But as they say, competition is a good thing.  I think we can all agree that we've lived with one choice (begins with a 'B') a little too long.  These are pretty nice- much better sounding than you-know-what.  It's sound is not your classic 'vee'; but still plenty lively and got a little better as the pads warmed and settled to form a better seal.  Their fit for me was just okay and their construction about the same.  The sliding metal bands remind me of those on my Beyer DTs.  These would go on my must-hear list if I were shopping in this category.
     
    IMG_6729.jpg
     

     
    Westone
     
    There was nothing really new here except iPod compatibility for the model '1'.  Is there a W5 or UM4X waiting to come out?  Maybe the next show?
     
    A8FV5319.jpg
     ​
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    Final Audio
     
    Having sort of given up on trying to make those metal Piano Fortes fit in my ears, I glossed over their table this time. 
     
    A8FV5330.jpg
     
    But Currawong spoke with them and had a very interesting conversation regarding those IEMs:
    "...they explained that they were voiced by the owner of FAD to emulate the sound of an old movie theatre and weren't intended as flagship models in the manner that other companies make. This was to fill an unusual niche and not intended to be generally liked."
     
    When I read that, it reminded me of Lion (you'll see in a minute).  And all of a sudden the light bulb (well, energy-saving LED) went on full-bright in my head!
     
     
     

     
    A8FV5670.jpg    A8FV5688.jpg
     

     
    Accessories
     
    A8FV5337.jpg       A8FV5341.jpg
     
    Among the few accessories that were being sold at the show were these LOD kits:​
     
    A8FV5339.jpg
     
    The cool thing about them is that since they were indeed a 'kit' you could completely customize them.  The price was really fair too considering the Oyaide connectors used.  The only thing that kept me from getting one (other than not really needing one, but that's another issue of mine) was that I know there are a few variations for pin-outs on iDevices.  And while these came with instructions, they were of course in Japanese.  Food menus I can almost read- technical manuals and instructions, not so much.  [​IMG]
     

     
    CleanPiece
     
    Anti-bacterial IEM tips
    This would definitely fall under that 'why didn't I think of that' category.  I'm actually surprised that these people decided to market these themselves rather than license the technology to someone like Sony or AT.  I wonder if or when they will come up with a similar product for headphone pads.  I ride bikes quite a bit and for years they have had antibacterial pads so that your helmet wouldn't smell like an old running shoe.  Can't they apply the same technology to headphone pads?
     
    A8FV5007.jpg       A8FV5006.jpg
     
    i2ehan, drez, TeddyG and 4 others like this.
  2. Mkubota1 Contributor
    Southern Acoustics
     
    Our very own Arnaud was talking shop with our guy who sells the Taket products among other things.  (Arnaud is an acoustical engineer by trade, if I am not mistaken.)  I've always wanted to get my own HATS rig for who knows what reason.  I have quite a bit of fun with my Sony PCM-M10 and in-ear binaural mics.  To me, this is the holy grail of headphone audio, if not audio reproduction in general.  The only thing is all of your music must be DIY!
     
    A8FV5350.jpg       A8FV5347.jpg
     

     
    Beyerdynamic
     
    T90
    It seems like most of my Beyer demos are hit and miss.  This is strange because while I really like my DT880/990s, I can't seem to get a handle on their higher-end stuff with the possible exception of the T1.  Could they be really source or environment sensitive?  Some have mentioned manufacturing variations.
     
    IMG_6736.jpg       IMG_6735.jpg
     
    As for these (T90s), they have that that typical Beyer sound for me.  The Sony engineer we hung out with said the same thing.  These are pretty nice if not a tad on the hot side.  Lineage-wise, I was told that they fall between the T1 and T70- (semi-) open-air Teslas; although there seems to be a lot of speculation about where Beyer is headed in regards to this.
     

     
    TEAC
     
    'Reference 501': HA-501, UD-501, PD-051HR, AU-501
    These new components just came out.  All I noticed was DSD, USB audio, and "Please do not touch."  Supposedly you can connect the CD player via USB to your PC and use it essentially as a ROM drive!  The headphone amp is particularly interesting in that it has an adjustable output impedance with several settings between 32 and 600 ohms.  I think these are sort of what I was hoping the current 'Reference Series' would be; although I have a feeling the price will not be what I was hoping for.  These gorgeous units are due out in the fall- hopefully I will touch them then.
     
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     ​
    The current 'Reference Series'​
     ​
    A8FV5364.jpg
     

     
    V-MODA is getting ready to release their new VAMP- an iPhone companion based on the VentureCraft Go-Dap.  And the 
    M100- though I did not know at the time!  Another thing to add to my list.​
     
    A8FV5396.jpg       A8FV5398.jpg
     ​

     
    Ortofon
     
    A8FV5405.jpg
     
    A8FV5416.jpg       A8FV5412.jpg
     ​

     
    FURUTECH ADL
     
    Another Japanese company specializing in portable and PC audio.  The Stride is the wedge-shaped DAC/amp similar to the carbon fiber Cruise, but in a more conventional metal casing and lower price.
     
    A8FV5411.jpg
     ​
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     ​

     
    Shure
     
    A8FV5422.jpg
     
    Shure had their thinking caps on this time:  They had these nice listening stations set up for semi-quiet listening.​
     
    A8FV5401.jpg       A8FV5403.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5805.jpg
     ​
    They also had a 'scoreboard' where you would put a smiley face under the headphone or IEM that you liked the most.  And they gave out some cool swag in exchange for your thoughts.  It seems people like the more expensive headphones and IEMs.  And they like red more than bronze.​
     ​
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    STAX
     
    Arnaud was right when he said that each show they seem to have the identical display setup.  I guess considering the wares, that's not such a bad thing.
     
    A8FV5437.jpg
     ​
    Apparently there are no changes at STAX ever since they got purchased by a Chinese company.  What they could use more than anyone else at these shows are those isolation booths.  While they sound fantastic, their headphones offer just a bit more isolation than my K1000s.  I guess they were the original 'earspeaker'.
     ​
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    RATOC (RAL)
     
    A8FV5461.jpg
     ​
    This company started in the PC hardware business, so it's only natural that they are now focusing their efforts on (desktop) computer audio.  I like their minimalist, compact design.​
     ​
    A8FV5458.jpg      
    A8FV5454.jpg
     
    This guy however took it one step further and decided to move it from the desktop to his portable.  My guess here is that the unit on the bottom (iPod digital extractor) is powered by the USB battery pack underneath the iPod, and the DAC/amp is being powered via the USB input.  This is getting awfully close to just strapping a dry-cell Optima and automotive 110v transformer to your back and using whatever.  (Love it, though!)​
     ​
    A8FV5844.jpg
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     ​
    Monster
     
    Although one of my favorite dynamic IEMs is still the Turbine Gold, the N-Tune headphones don't seem to fall far from the Dre tree.  I was hoping to hear more of their post-Dre headphones- maybe at the next show.
     
    A8FV5474.jpg       A8FV5476.jpg
     

     ​
    Audiotrax
     
    A8FV5507.jpg       A8FV5509.jpg
     
    Dr DAC2 DX
    I was looking into getting one of these for its incredible versatility.  I'm surprised these aren't more popular in the U.S.; although I hear they are in Japan and other parts of Asia.
     
    A8FV5511.jpg
     ​

     
    A8FV5698.jpg    A8FV5691.jpg
     ​
     
     
     
    GoVibe
     
    A8FV5525.jpg       A8FV5523.jpg
     

     
    ORB
     
    Another JDM-only brand, these built-like-a-tank DAC/amplifiers are on my long list of 'must hear someday' items.
     
    A8FV5654.jpg       A8FV5529.jpg
     ​
    Like a few other companies, they have also applied the Japanese lacquer finish (urushi) to one of their portable amps.  This is a durable finish, but I'd still be scared to wave it around or strike an intruder with it.
     
    A8FV5534.jpg       A8FV5536.jpg
     ​

     
    Bakoon
     
    DAC-9730
    What looks to be a few stages of prototypes for their new upcoming DAC:
     
    A8FV5548.jpg
     ​

        ​
    Audio Design
     
    A8FV5556.jpg
     
    Since seeing it a year ago, the DCHP-100 amp has always drawn my attention for its remarkable concentric stepped volume control.  Many users of these types of attenuators, self included, complain about the large steps due to the limitation of only being able to fit so many resistors on the rotary switch.  This company designed an attenuator so that the outer knob handles the larger steps while the inner one (blue) does the finer steps.  The result is even tracking, high quality contact points, and a volume control that feels like no other I have touched.  It's too bad the abysmal exchange rate on top of the already lofty price of this amp makes it a bit tough for me to seriously consider purchasing.
     
    I've seen a few companies use PC ROM drives as transports.  Audio Design seems to have blurred the line between PC, audio, and home theater even more with this HTPC set (left).
     
    A8FV5649.jpg       A8FV5559.jpg
     
     

     
    Phasemation
     
    A8FV5656.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5577.jpg       A8FV5581.jpg
     ​

     
    Triode
     
    A8FV5582.jpg       A8FV5587.jpg
     
    To my eyes these are among the most beautiful components.  The pictures just don't do these things justice.  It's one of a few instances where I'm not afraid to admit to liking something based purely on cosmetics; though I can't imagine these things sounding bad.  Added to the 'must hear someday' list!
     
    A8FV5592.jpg       A8FV5665.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5597.jpg       A8FV5602.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5608.jpg
     ​

     
    Luxman
     
          A8FV5833.jpg
     ​
     ​
    A8FV5835.jpg       A8FV5836.jpg
     ​
    In addition to their headphone listening stations, Luxman also had this speaker setup using ELAC 310CEs.  These are fantastic sounding speakers; however I always found that their tweeters (AMT folded-ribbon kind) were extremely unidirectional, so you were sort of stuck with that head-in-a-vise listening situation.​
     ​
    A8FV5829.jpg
     ​

     
    Schiit
     
    A8FV5620.jpg
     
    It's funny how something as common to us in the U.S. as Schiit Audio seems almost out of place at this show.  This seems to underscore how different each of our markets are.  I realized this while talking to some guys at the show who live in Japan and had never heard of Little Dot amplifiers.  I'm guessing stuff like Woo Audio, Eddie Current, Bottlehead, or AMB are unknown over there as well.
     
    A8FV5625.jpg
     ​
    The prices for the Schiit stuff seems to be the same in Japan as it is here in the U.S.​
     
    A8FV5621.jpg       A8FV5622.jpg
     ​
     ​
     
     
    Headphone Club
     
    A8FV5773.jpg
     
    At a show that boasts high-end and esoterics like Stax, Phasemation, Antelope, and Luxman, it's great to see people take on headphone audio from a different angle like these guys from the local headphone club. 
     
    A8FV5733.jpg       A8FV5731.jpg
     
    Not all about how much money you can throw at the problem, DIY and vintage seem to be popular here as is personalization.  The later is an interesting trait, coming from a culture that is often thought to side with conformity.
     
    A8FV5738.jpg       A8FV5740.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5741.jpg       A8FV5742.jpg
     ​
    Onsite modifications and repairs are always part of the game.​
     ​
    A8FV5743.jpg
     
    I remember seeing this 'Daruma' at the last show.  Unfortunately according to its maker it had a slight accident.[​IMG]
     ​
    A8FV5747.jpg
     
    A8FV5748.jpg       A8FV5750.jpg
     ​
    This takes me back... Technics SL-XP5.​
     ​
    A8FV5749.jpg
     

     
     
    Orthodynamics
     
    A8FV5769.jpg
     ​
    "All these headphones are not for sale, but you can try to listen to these old totally rare planar magnetic (aka orthodynamic, isodynamic) headphones."​
     ​
    A8FV5754.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5755.jpg       A8FV5756.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5757.jpg       A8FV5758.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5761.jpg       A8FV5764.jpg
     

     
    Computer Audio
     
    No doubt this is where it's headed, if it isn't there already.  There were so many different music servers, DACs, digital front ends, and network audio devices at the show that I couldn't keep track- let alone describe them all.  So here is a bit of a mash-up of what was there.
     
    A8FV5017.jpg       A8FV5019.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5235.jpg       A8FV5236.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5149.jpg       A8FV5066.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5190.jpg       A8FV5468.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5246.jpg       A8FV5342.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5381.jpg       A8FV5383.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5570.jpg       A8FV5572.jpg
     ​
    A8FV5644.jpg       A8FV5146.jpg
     ​
    Both the interest and level of sophistication has jumped since the last show.  It was not uncommon to see attendees ask exhibitors to connect their portables via S/PDIF (either Toslink or RCA) so that they could listen to their own music.​
     
    A8FV5633.jpg
     

     
    A8FV5701.jpg    A8FV5714.jpg
     

     
    The Rest...
     
    As in the previous section, there was simply too much at the show to listen to- much less describe.  So here are some things that you might want to see that I didn't mention earlier.
     
    CEC: Transport, DAC, amplifier (TL3N, DA3N, HD53N)
     
    A8FV5009.jpg       A8FV5010.jpg
     
    Muses:  Opamp chip (72320)
     
    A8FV5209.jpg       A8FV5207.jpg
     ​
    Conisis:  Desktop integrated amplifier, power supply (Gizmo)
     
    A8FV5262.jpg       A8FV5264.jpg
     ​
    New Tone:  Hybrid DAC/amp (eDison-01) ... RudiStor:  DAC, amplifier (DAC X3, RP030)
     
    A8FV5515.jpg       A8FV5520.jpg
     ​
    Intercity:  Amplifiers (MSA-1, MBA-1, HD-1L)
     
    A8FV5539.jpg       A8FV5543.jpg
     
    Lehmannaudio:  Amplifier (Linear SE) ... CHORD:  CD player, transport (ONE, QBD76HD)
     
    A8FV5371.jpg       A8FV5373.jpg
     
    McAudi:  Amplifier, DAC (M-81, MD3300)
     
    A8FV5560.jpg       A8FV5564.jpg
     ​
    Blossom:  Amplifiers (BLO-3090, BLO-0169EW)
     
    A8FV5615.jpg       A8FV5630.jpg
     ​
    KRK: Powered speakers (VXT4) ... SPL:  Amplifier (Phonitor)
     
    A8FV5810.jpg       A8FV5813.jpg
     ​
    Apogee:  Digital interface (DUET 2, Symphony I/O)
     
    A8FV5809.jpg       A8FV5816.jpg
     
    Antelope:  DAC (Zodiac, Zodiac Gold)
     
    A8FV5554.jpg       A8FV5550.jpg

     
    Closing
     
    What... you mean that's it???  I hope you weren't reading this on your bandwidth-capped smart phone.  To be honest at this point after having been to three of these, about 80-90% of it is not new- carry over from the last show.  Of course you never have enough time to hear a fraction of what you want to hear.  But the novelty of being surrounded by seemingly endless amounts of gear does wear after a while.  If you've seen my pictorials on the two previous shows (1,2), you'll know that I constantly say, "I'll have to hear this someday."  Hopefully after a few more of these that 'must hear someday' list will get shorter; although I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep up with the new things that keep coming out at the same time.
     
    A8FV5850.jpg
     
    What will keep me coming back to these is the people- well, and of course the rest of Tokyo and Japan!  People like Sony Lead Engineer, Naotaka Tsunoda (above center in our private sauna/ listening room)... did I mention that this is one cool dude?  Arnaud already wrote about him meeting us in our private room at the show, and how well he understood and picked up on sound.  (Free Benchmark plug:  He really seems to like the sound of the DAC1.)  As I wrote in my post of the last show, this gentleman is a distinguished lead engineer at Sony, has several patents to his name; and yet he is the nicest guy to just hang out with.  It also seems like he really enjoys what he does which as they say is a key to success.
     
    So yeah, if you didn't notice already this is much more about just audio gear for me.  And the more of these that I go to and the more people I meet, the more I get to learn about this hobby from a different perspective.  Very cool!
     
    IMG_6749.jpg
     ​
    More Headphone Festival model/ eye-candy!  [​IMG]
     ​
    The next show is Saturday, October 27, 2012.  So start saving up and making your travel plans; and hope that the currency exchange rate turns in your favor.
     

    BASIC INFO!!!
     
    I was asked some basic information about these shows which I now realize I somewhat left out.  This being the third post I've done of this show, I guess I took for granted that people knew what these were; plus I tried not to be too repetitive from the previous post.  So here's the deal:
     
    These shows are held twice a year- once in May (usually the 1st or 2nd Saturday) and once in October (usually the last Saturday).  In terms of climate and weather, you couldn't ask for a better time.  For the last several shows, it has been at the Stadium Place in Aoyama (pretty much the middle of Tokyo) and the next one will be there too.  Most importantly, the event is free of charge for all to attend.  The show runs the whole day (just one day) from around 9:30-10am to around 6pm.  Some English is spoken by many if not over half of the vendors.  But in any case, it's not hard to get around.  They know what you're there for.  :wink:  
     
    This show is generally for looking and listening- and meeting!  Items for sale are limited to accessories such as cables, LODs, and that sort of thing.  For this last show, FUJIYA AVIC, the show's organizer, had a selection of pre-owned gear for sale on a first come, first served basis.  They handed you a flyer with a list of items as you walked in; but be warned that the 'good' items sold fast so you'd need to arrive early to take advantage of these.  And the flyer was in Japanese.  I assume they will probably do the same thing at the next show.
     
    As I mentioned, the next show is October 27, 2012.  I hope this helps!
     
  3. AnakChan Moderator
    Subscribed! Awesome review Mike! I can't believe despite being there, I still missed so much that you covered above! Well done!
     
  4. Currawong Contributor
    Wow, fantastic write-up. How do you find all these crazy cafes and other stores in Tokyo? You've got to take us around next time to your favourite ones.
     
     
    Quote:
     
    I can't emphasise enough how good everyone was from all the companies I talked to and how good it was to be able to have a frank discussion about headphones and other gear. Not only that, but have people such as Nao, Mike (from Centrance) and others hang out with us in our tiny sauna/room (it was HOT with all that gear inside). Everyone has such respect for everyone else and even though for most of us it was our first time meeting, it was more like meeting a group of friends we'd known for ages.
     
     
  5. arnaud Contributor
    Excellent job again mkubota1! Acually, more than the show report, I liked your sides stories! I often go to Tokyu Hands, but never checked the cafe, it seems nice indeed! Looking forward to see you again here, hopefully have more time to chat as you were too busy to report on the show this time!
     
  6. gkanai Contributor
    Amazing write up! Sorry that we didn't get to meet.
     
  7. dagothur
    I'd be afraid to go to that festival with money in my pocket.  I'd be broke in ten minutes.
     
  8. shaunybaby
    that was so great! i,m turning green and i want to go so badly! :)
     
  9. Windsor
    Awesome - the best coverage of a headphone festival I've yet seen in one post. Mkubota1, thank you so much for taking the time to create these impressions! [​IMG]
     
    P.S. anyone else notice the back-to-front HD 800? [​IMG]
     
  10. SpiderNhan
    Actually, in your description of V-MODA, you said the M-100 wasn't present, but you actually have 2 pictures of it. See the new case and the all-black headphones resting on top of it? Also, notice the hinges on the folded up circumaurals. No V-MODA headphone folds up like that except for the M-100s.
     
    Awesome photo journalism. I wish I could have there. It all looks amazing.
     
  11. KimLaroux
    Wow that's a lot of headphones and sources in one place! I would have gone nut from geek-pr0n overdose! [​IMG]
     
    What strikes me is how Audinst and Audiotrak are sharing the same booth... Could there be a link between those two companies?
     
  12. Mkubota1 Contributor
    Quote:
     
    (Scratches head)  Hmmm... good point!  The hinges are a give-away.  Darn- missed hearing that.  And edited.  Thank you!
     
     
     
    Haha!  Good catch!!!
     
  13. SpiderNhan
    Quote:
    Glad I could help. Damn. They were right there and you didn't listen? My anticipation for them is driving me nuts!
     
  14. AnakChan Moderator
    Well the good news is that the exhibitors aren't supposed to sell anything. Having said that, the organizers, Fujiya Avic, did set up a "For Sale" corner of which they offer some products on discount.
     
  15. CEE TEE Contributor
    THANK YOU for getting some shots of the Lion Cafe!!!   Unfortunately, I did meet someone there who was "ebullient" when we were supposed to be quiet.
     
    So, I tried to get our party out of there with the <hope> that I could someday return before it is gone...
     
     
    Thanks AGAIN for your care and coverage (plus all of the fun background/side notes).  
     
     
    We couldn't ask for more, but we can keep encouraging it!!   [​IMG]
     
    Drop Stay updated on Drop at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.
     
    https://www.facebook.com/massdrop https://twitter.com/massdrop https://www.massdrop.com/?clickid=3QR3Ib27lyA-VkBRJwyGuQJeUkhUQvX5r0tLzQ0&utm_term=252901&utm_content=VigLink&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=impactradius&irgwc=1
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