What a weekend in Denver. RMAF was a blast. A wonderful weekend indeed. World class products and world class community! Kudos to Jude and Joe (from Head-Fi.org) for setting up CanJam at RMAF and their tireless efforts made for a spectacular show. As an added bonus, the Admiral himself (David Robinson) was there carefully auditioning nearly every booth over the three days. I got to speak to him a few times (first at the Hifiman Booth) and very quickly realized he was not just one of the greatest Hall of Famers of all time, but a avid member of our community as well.
Just to put things into perspective, I am 5’10”. Not just 1/2 of the twin towers for the San Antonio Spurs and NBA Hall of Famer, David was a gentleman who appreciates good sound.
So I was equally lucky enough to cover the aisle with Hifiman. That meant I got to be one of the very first to cover the completed new Shangri-La Statement Product by Hifiman. Speaking with Fang Bian (founder of Hifiman), he revealed that the Shangri-La would be coming in at a heft $50,000. That includes the headphones and dedicated amplifier. They certainly looked uber-high end and sounded quite spectacularly. Alas, they were way out of my budget range, but I think they where well within The Admiral’s wheel house.
The Shangri-La Headphones and Dedicated Amplifier
Also present where the new HE-1000 V2 headphones. I have these headphones currently with me as I will be doing a full review/write up on them. I love them. As much as I was impressed with the original version, the V2s offer the energy and dynamics that were somewhat missing on their predecessors. I am very impressed with Hifiman’s pursuit for better sound and all while keeping the price point set. This was a wonderful start to my coverage of RMAF!
No sub-$50,000 headphone made such an impression with so many folks at RMAF as the new flagship Utopia headphones by Focal. They could be found at almost every headphone amplifier booth at RMAF and the vast majority of people I talked to about them; loved them. I’ve had my pair for about a month now and they are definitely in the top 3 or 4 headphones I’ve heard. I also had the opportunity to finally audition the new Elears. And boy was I impressed. Think perfected Sennheiser HD650 and for $1000 likely my “go to” recommendation for anyone looking for a pair of headphones in this price range. Focal has really made a profound statement in the world of personal audio with these two new brilliant additions. Please look for my review of the Utopias on Halloween…they are scary good!
Dan Clark has been very busy indeed. Not only has he been working on a new pair of electro-static headphones (price point to be in the $3000 ball park), he’s updated his already impressive Ether and Ether C headphones. The new Ether C Flow and Ether Flow sounded very impressive. In fact, the Ether C Flow was my favourite new closed headphone at RMAF. You no longer have to sacrifice sound quality for noise isolation. They are very much “have your cake and eat it too” headphones. I was able to spend some time with the new electro-static headphones with both the Cavalli Audio LL2T and HeadAmp Blue Hawaii. I really, really liked what I heard and would love to be able to review them when they are released.
Dan Clark with the Ether Headphones
The Ether Flow (Open) Headphones
The Ether C (Closed) Flow Headphones
Warren Chi (former Headphone.Guru review and current President of Cavalli Audio) showed off the soon to be released Liquid Tungsten tube based amplifier. When coupled with the MrSpeakers Ether C, I was floored! This is easily one of the very best tube amplifiers I’ve heard…period. Warren ensures me that the new case work will “blow my mind” and boy am I ready to have it blown. While I’ve been a solid-state kinda guy for the past few years, this amplifier has me reassessing that position. I was also able to hear the new V2 of the Liquid Carbon and for such a small amplifier, it packed a lot of punch and dynamics. I hope to review this new version soon, but from what I heard at the Cavalli booth I was very much impressed. I briefly spoke with Alex Cavalli and as usual, the word that pops into my mind when talking with Alex is just how much a gentleman he really is. That’s what makes this community so special; not just the great products, but the good people in it.
The Liquid Carbon V2
The Liquid Lightning 2T (Tube version)The proto-Liquid Tungsten
I’ve been a longtime customer of Moon Audio. Drew Baird’s cables are some of the very best out there. They offer outstanding sonics, construction and ergonomics. A particular favourite of mine has always been Drew’s Silver Dragon series. I was so impressed with these cables, I picked up a pair for my Focal Utopias at home. As deep as the Utopias can mine a recording, the Silver Dragons help them get that much more information that I never thought possible. Throw in the fact that I could ditch the extremely long and cumbersome stock cable from Focal, I was sold! As with previous years, Drew brought a very impressive array of different headphones, amplifiers, DACs, cables. You name it, Drew likely had it at his booth. Look for his annual upcoming sale for some great killer deals of the products he brought with him to Denver.
The new Pass Labs HPA-1 Headphone Amplifier…just what you’d expect from the folks at Pass Labs…a real beauty!
The Hugo TT from Chord Electronics. I own the black version of this little beauty and love it to death. Please see my full review here: headphone.guru/the-chord-hugo-tt-a-table-top-wonder/)
The Inspire by Dennis Had: Truly Inspiring SoundAll the cases for all your DAP needs The MyTek Brooklyn DAC (with included headphone amplifier)
Please look out for Part 2: Coming Soon