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Canjam SoCal Headphone and Audio Show 2019 Part 2

amirm

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As you may have noticed from my comments on day 1 at SoCoal CanJam, the first day was busy so I could not talk to many industry people. For some reason I thought today would be worse but it was the exact opposite. There were maybe 30% of the number of people on day one. This made the day hugely more fruitful for me in networking, chatting with companies, etc. Some will be reflected in the trip report. Others will reveal themselves in the future. :)

Anyway, my initial mission was to hit the suites that were too busy the first day. And that started with Woo Audio's table, starting with this GES Electrostatic tube amplifier:

6T5A3080.jpg


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It sounded good but like my Stax tube headphone amp, can't play super loud.

The next product was the WA11 Topaz which is a portable DAC and headphone amplifier:
6T5A3082.jpg



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It sounded good until I just checked its price: US $1,399! Oh, please.

These SONY IEMs sounded good. Anyone can ID the model?

6T5A3085.jpg


For the third-time, I saw someone leaving the last played music as Adele:

6T5A3086.jpg


She is an amazing singer. But his recordings are horrible. Her live videos actually sound better. Why on earth some would play them to test headphones is beyond me.

Next was the mysphere 3 headphones:
6T5A3087.jpg


At first I thought they go on like Raal headphones and go on backward. Then a guy came over and tapped on my shoulder saying I had them on backward. Alas, they didn't sound that good to me either way. The Raal is a much better "speaker hanging from your ear" emulation. Considering that these go for US $4,000, I am not sure who is in the market for them.

Headphone maker Meze was sharing the same room and had these Cayin portable players as source. They had a super matte display which was hard to see if my memory is right:

6T5A3088.jpg


You can see the fuzziness in the picture above.

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I started with the Classic 99 units which looked nice but I did not walk away with a memorable experience:

6T5A3090.jpg


They had this science-fiction looking WA33 on a table by itself:

6T5A3092.jpg


It goes for a cool US $8,000. How does it sound? Well, a very helpful young person was sitting next to me at the table and told me how great the headphones I was holding sounded. Alas, he was monopolizing the touch-screen player on the right and despite me sitting there spinning my wheels for 5+ minutes, never offered to let me hear something! Grrrr....

These were the massive headphones that I was going to use with them: Abyss AB-1266 PHI TC

6T5A3093.jpg


They were super heavy and uncomfortable for me.

This was the other headphone there that I could not hear:

6T5A3094.jpg
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #2
Ampsandsound LeeLoo Monos:

6T5A3095.jpg


The concept of "monoblocks" as applied to headphone amplifiers seems odd to me with two independent volume controls and such. It is not like we can't get enough power in one box. These things are expensive too at US $5,500.

6T5A3096.jpg
 
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amirm

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Next station was all Sony. DMP-Z1 digital media player (US $8,000) with Sony headphones.
6T5A3102.jpg


I was surprised about the lousy feel of the volume control and to some extent the "gold" finish of them. The display was also pretty hard to see at sland angles that it makes you look at it.
6T5A3103.jpg


The headphones were decent sounding: MDR-Z1

6T5A3104.jpg


At US $2,000 though, not for me. :)
 
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amirm

amirm

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I wanted to play more with this Questyle amp/DAC but that player without touchscreen was very hard to use:

6T5A3098.jpg


6T5A3099.jpg
 
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amirm

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These Grado PS2000e sounded "OK":

6T5A3100.jpg

6T5A3101.jpg


Definitely not for me. Those oversized foam pads just look too cheap.
 
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Next station at this retailer was the Chord gear, driving Meze speakers with Axios after-market cables:

6T5A3105.jpg

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Couldn't hear any of the magic Rob Watts talks about.
 
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This Quad PA1 headphone amp sounded pretty good and got less distorted than many other tube amps at the show:
6T5A3109.jpg


At US $1,800 is too expensive but I swear the guy said they were $600 or something.
 
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Chinese company SendyAudio was showing these Avia planar magnetic headphones:

6T5A3112.jpg


They sounded decent and go for $499 to $599. He said their factor is where the factory for other headphone makers.
 
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Schiit had this area to build your own Modi:
6T5A3113.jpg


6T5A3114.jpg


I was hoping they were giving samples for those screws but alas, they were not. You could sit there and make your own. I saw noone doing that.
 
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This hifiman Jade II electrostatic headphone was so light and comfortable to wear. Here it is mated to its amplifier:

6T5A3115.jpg

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The package is $1,399. I might prefer this to my stax setup as it could get louder and had more bass.
 
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Had a great time talking shop with Don Higgins of Periodic Headphones:

6T5A3120.jpg


The have the same IEMs made out of different material and a quick switch fixturey the have built themselves. Made for great science experience, pun intended :), on different driver material. They also have ultra small headphone amplifier with built-in battery that sounded really good. They gave me one to review. I was pleased that they had verified its performance using Audio Precision analyzer!

Their $99 IEMs are all built in Ventura County (California) and sounded pretty good!
 
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amirm

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I was drawn to this manly desk because a guy sitting there listening commented on it having a feedback knob and him liking it before max. So I sat down and played with.

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The knob on the left is for feedback. Turning it to the left I think reduced feedback. Unfortunately it also severely lowered the volume and killed the bass. The only place I liked it was at max.

There were two tone controls on the right but I could hardly hear their effect.

The volume knob has a two stage gain or something as there this an audible glitch after certain point.

I could get the amp to distort fairly easily on some material. At $3,800, it will be something I would NOT spend money on.

The headphones were the Focal Stellia which I liked elsewhere:
EDIT: these are Utopia.

6T5A3123.jpg
 
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I walked by this desk multiple times thinking, "oh great, another multi-channel to stereo virtualizer." The last time there was no one there so I decided to sit down and try it. I was very surprised that it came with a head tracker. Basically this is a device you strap to the top of your headphone and then tells the system which way your head is pointing. This massively improves the 3-D spatial effect. Otherwise the brain gets confused as you move your head and the standard shift in levels doesn't not occur.
6T5A3124.jpg


What I also liked was how clean these were.

Above is the user interface. it installs as a virtual sound driver so to use it, you just point your multi-channel player (video, audio, game) to that device. And then in their control panel you tell it what your real 2-channel DAC is.

It comes with that parametric eq which they told me is quite popular.

Turns out the designer, Ryan Redetzke, is a fan of ASR so we had a great chat and he loaned me a unit to review. So look for that soon.
 
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Thread Starter #18
Everyone seems to be getting into headphone amp and Prima Luna is the latest example of this trend:

6T5A3125.jpg


It sounded decent to me. I was surprised they had tubes with their name on it!

6T5A3126.jpg
 
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I think someone asked me in day 1 report to learn more about this Pathos Aurium so I spent some time on it:
6T5A3127.jpg


It is a hybrid design (solid state output) so it had good power and sounded good. Industrial design is also unique.
 

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