Since my first CanJam SoCal about five years ago, it has been my favorite Personal Audio show, and CanJam SoCal 2018 is no exception to this rule, chocked full of up and comers and movers and shakers offering exciting new products. And once again Ethan, Jude, Brian and the gang have made an outstanding effort providing one of the best forums for enthusiasts and audiophiles to experience the best that Personal Audio has to offer, with offerings from 56 vendors and according to Ethan a conservative estimate of over 2200 attendees.
My first stop of the show was with my good friends at MOON AUDIO who were displaying a small selection of their wares for audition and purchase, though they were so busy throughout the show that I had to return on Sunday morning before show open just to take photos. Not only are they the manufacturer of the award winning Dragon Audio Cables they carry most of the must have brands of Personal Audio products. The super find of the show was the amazing Crosszone CZ-1 headphone ($2,300 USD) which is not only extremely comfortable, but provides a truly realistic three dimensional soundstage using a three driver technology that reproduces rear wall and opposite channel reflections in separate time aligned drivers.
Sony MDR-Z1R Headphones, Pass Labs HPA-1 Headphone Amplifier, Aurender A10 Music Server, Focal Utopia Headphones
Questyle Audio CMA 400i DAC/Headphone Amplifier, Sanoma Acoustics Model One Electrostatic Headphone System, Aurender N100H Digital Music Player
Mytek Manhattan II DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Making a run of the private listening rooms I started with the MrSpeakers/HeadAmp room where MrSpeakers was launching the brand new MrSpeakers VOCE Electrostatic Headphone ($2,999.99 USD). If I were to award a best sound of the show, it would definitely go to the MrSpeakers VOCE/HeadAmp Blue Hawaii Electrostatic Headphone system, which currently stands as my favorite headphone system of all time.
MrSpeakers VOCE Electrostatic Headphone, HeadAmp Blue Hawaii Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier
Sharing the room with MrSpeakers was of course HeadAmp, who apart from their epic Blue Hawaii Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier ($6,879 USD) were showcasing their HeadAmp Gilmore Lite mk2 Headphone Amplifier ($499 USD)
MrSpeakers VOCE Electrostatic Headphone, HeadAmp Blue Hawaii Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier out on the showroom floor
Next on the agenda was Woo Audio, Kimber Kable and STAX, who shared one of the private listening rooms, and center stage was Woo Audio’s new 3ES Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier ($8,999 USD). Rarely have the STAX SR-009s ($3,799 USD) sounded this good.
Though they didn’t have a separate cable display Kimber Kables presence was certainly felt with all the systems being wired with Kimber Kable AXIOS as well as many of the displays throughout the show, including the MrSpeakers/HeadAmp room. Not only did Kimber contribute to the sound of a large part of the show, the provided both Woo Audio and MrSpeakers with a unique customizable headphone display. Apart from the amazing sound quality of this product of one of the icons of high-end audio, with their refined majestically crafted wood terminators Kimber Kable AXIOS is also one of the most aesthetically pleasing cables.
Not one to take second stage, STAX was celebrating the introduction of their brand new SRM-T8000 Tube Hybrid Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier ($5,000 USD) featuring two 6922 input tubes driving a pure Class A solid-state output stage.
CanJam SoCal 2018 would not be complete without Sennheiser, who had both a private listening room dedicated to the legendary Sennheiser HE1 ($55,000) and a display on the showroom floor, where they were very excited about their new Sennheiser HD 820 Closed Backed Dynamic Headphones ($2,399.95) and with very good reason.
Sennheiser Private Listening Room
Sennheiser HE1 Electrostatic Headphone System
Sennheiser AMBEO SMART HEADSET, Sennheiser PXC 480 Headphones, Sennheiser HD 569 Headphones, Sennheiser HD 660 S Headphones, Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones, Sennheiser HD 800 S Headphones, Sennheiser HDV 820 Headphone Amplifier, Sennheiser HDV 820 Headphone Amplifier
Sennheiser HD 820 Closed Backed Dynamic Headphones
Sennheiser IE 800 S IEMs
Back in the CanJam SoCal 2018 showroom I went to visit my buddies at Schiit who always put on a good show and truly represent the Personal Audio ideal. This year their focus was on the just released, first of its kind Schiit Lyr 3 Modular Tube Hybrid Headphone Amplifier ($499 USD) probably the best value in Personal Audio now available with either a Phono Stage Module ($100 USD), a Dual AK4490 Sigma Delta DAC Module ($100 USD) or their brand new Multibit DAC Module ($200 USD).
Schiit Jotunheim Configurable Balanced Headphone Amplifier with Schiit Multibit DAC Module, Schiit Lyr 3 Modular Tube Hybrid Headphone Amplifier with Schiit AK4490 DAC Module, Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amplifier, Schiit Loki High Quality Tone Control, Schiit Modi 2 Multibit DAC, MrSpeakers ETHER Flow Headphones, Audeze LCD2 Classic Headphones
Another audio veteran is AudioQuest who were on hand with their exemplary headphones and portable DAC/amps. Of special interest was their NightHawk Carbon Around-the-Ear Semi-Open Headphones ($399.99 USD) and their NightOwl Carbon Around-the-Ear Closed-Back Headphones ($399.99 USD) which provide a unique and thoroughly enjoyable sound.
AudioQuest DragonFly Black DAC/Headphone Amplifier, AudioQuest DragonFly Red DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Like many Pro Audio turned Personal Audio companies who produced a statement piece, Shure has found a growing demand for their unique KSE1500 Electrostatic Earphone System ($2,999 USD). Able to operate with both analog and digital sources the Electrostatic IEMs are a must hear for any audiophile. Subwoofer appears to be the watchword at this year’s CanJam as evidenced by the Shure SE846 IEM ($899 USD) which employs a ground breaking low-pass filter that allows 2 of the 4 balanced armature drivers to produce true subwoofer performance, without sacrificing mid and high frequency clarity.
Shure KSE1500 Electrostatic Earphone System
Shure SE846 IEM
Shure SRH940 Headphones
Once again HiFiMAN steps up to the plate and knocks it out of the park with their amazing Shangri-La Jr Electrostatic Headphone System ($8,000 USD), a scaled down version of their $50,000 statement piece, the Jr provides reference quality sound at an attainable price. At the other end of the scale the HiFiMAN SUNDARA Planar Magnetic Headphone ($499 USD) offers epic audiophile performance for the budget minded.
Shangri-La Jr Electrostatic Headphone
Shangri-La Jr Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier
Shangri-La Jr Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier
HiFiMAN SUNDARA Planar Magnetic Headphone
HiFiMAN HE1000 V2 Planar Magnetic Headphone, HiFiMAN Edition X Planar Magnetic Headphone
French made EarSonics had a novel display for their range of IEMs, designed to use a single source that let you quickly switch between models. Having sampled several of their different units I was fast to settle on the EarSonics S-EM9 Universal IEM ($1,799 USD) as the standout product.
Custom is the watchword that probably defines the Personal Audio community and it is also the word that defines ZMF Headphones, as well as precision handmade and exotic wood. ZMF Headphones offer both Dynamic and Planar Magnetic style headphones individually tuned with custom wood shells. As both a manufacturer and a retailer, ZMF is also extremely proud to be able to offer the fantastic Ampsandsound Tube Amplifiers
ZMF THE ORI Planar Magnetic Headphone, ZMF ATTICUS Dynamic headphone, ZMF BLACKWOOD Planar Magnetic Headphone
Gary Alan Barker is a writer who has been a member of the Audio Industry since 1978, having acted as technical writer for several high-end audio companies, and been an electronics hobbyist since 1960. He has also been a musician and writer since the mid 1960s.