You can find my Day 1 impressions in my coverage here: headphone.guru/can-jam-at-rmaf-a-magical-weekend-part-1-coverage-sponsored-by-noble/. Day 2 certainly held a lot of potential with many great products yet to come. Up and early (5:30am), Frank Iacone and I couldn’t sleep in as we were still on Eastern Standard Time; so we grabbed an early breakfast and headed over to the CanJam tent as early as we could.
I was glad to see that Audio Technica was next up for me. I do have to admit that I tried hard to persuade the sales person at their booth to bring back their 30th anniversary W3000ANV headphones. These were limited edition headphones released a few years back and took the community by storm. Not only where they just beautiful headphones, they had a very seductive sound. I unfortunately sold them off a few years ago and regretted it since. Resale value has exceeded that of the original MSRP of $1499. Fingers crossed my message will get back to the folks in Japan and we could see them back again!
I’ve been a big fan of Chord Electronics since they released their venerable portable Hugo. I was also lucky enough to review the desktop top (or rather table top version) the Hugo TT. This DAC impressed me so much that it passed the “put your money where your mouth is” test and I ended up purchasing the review sample. I couldn’t bare to send it back and it was a very solid upgrade over my current DACs at the time (Metrum Acoustics Hex and Bryston BDA-2). I finally got to hear their flagship DAC, the DAVE and boy, oh boy was I impressed! If you’re looking for one of the very best DACs out there and money is no object, I strongly suggest you give the DAVE a try. If you’re like me and it’s out of your price range by a good margin, don’t! Otherwise, you’ll be scheming of ways to pull the funds together to get one (and somehow get your significant other to sign off).
An incredibly impressive Chord stack with the DAVE on top (of course).
The Audeze XC headphones sounded brilliant from the Hugo TT here, very impressive!
And here is the the flagship DAC by Chord: Ladies and gentlemen, please meet DAVE!
Based in China, FLC Technology is a manufacturer of both custom and universal in-ear monitors. They had several of their products available for audition and I think I’m going to put this company on my radar. I heard some great IEMs that really impressed me with their transparency and clarity!
Next up was ONKYO. I’ve been a big fan of their Blu-Ray players for several years now and I was glad to see that they brought their new DP-X1 portable player. This was one impressive unit that has dual Sabre DAC chips and DSD & MQA compatible literally does it all. Throw in a large touch screen and balanced output, definitely worth checking out!
Lotoo Paw Gold
Next up is a new comer. The Lotoo Paw Gold DAP (portable digital audio player). This very small unit was able to even drive the JPS Labs Abyss orthodynamic headphones…and drive them quite well! How’s that for impressive?
At the main CanJam tent, the folks at JPS had a simple setup: a pair of their flagship Abyss orthodynamic headphones and surprisingly enough, the Lotoo Paw Gold. I was a bit taken aback that such a small player was used to drive these full sized planars. But to my surprise, the Paw Gold Diana Edition held its own! The Abyss have a huge sound stage and the Paw Gold(Diana Edition) didn’t hold them back.
I was however able to hear the Abyss on the very big and very expensive Woo Audio Monoblooks in the Woo/JPS Labs room and was equally impressed!
The folks at Cayin Audio brought one impressive array of their gear. The one unit that caught my eye and not just the Cayin booth, but the entire CanJam tent. Their new i5 DAP not only sounded sublime, offered one of the largest LCD screens, but comes in at steal of a price at only $499US! Initially I thought they said it was $1499 and I was totally ok with it based on my time with the player, when he clarified that I was off by an order of magnitude, my jaw dropped! Definitely worth checking out! Also present was their full sized desktop 1-2 punch: the iDAC-6 and iHA-6 DAC and headphone amplifier. This setup really impressed and definitely worth a consideration if you’re in the market for a full sized desktop setup!
The impressive iDAC-6 and iHA-6 DAC / Headphone Amp comboOne of the most impressive DAPs I’ve seen and a steal at $499, the new i5 by Cayin Audio
More DAPs and portable headphones at the Cayin Audio booth
I’ve been a huge fan of Noble’s IEMs and the folks at Noble had one of the most impressive booths at the show! I was able to re-familiarize myself with their K10 IEM and what I heard continued to impress me. A wonderfully rich and powerful IEM with amazing speed and transparency. Simply a magical experience. I was also fortunate enough to listen to their new Katana and what I heard upped the ante! The Katana was one of the most neutral/natural IEMs I’ve simply come across and brought what I thought possible through a pair of in-ear monitors to a whole new level! These IEMs were seriously good and really impressed. Their sound signature, as previously mentioned was a bit of a departure from the warmer and lusher sounding K10. The Katana’s are bang on neutral, but still grabbed my attention from the outset with their open and transparent sound that still retained a high level of dynamics and excitement! A definite candidate for one of the top IEMs out there. Well done Noble!
A new comer to the industry, Base-Audio was at RMAF displaying their new Reflex G7 portable open-backed on-ear headphones. If you’re thinking they’re reminding you of a pair of Grado headphones, then you’re not alone! I would actually describe their sound very much in-line with the SR-325 Prestige Series headphones by Grado. But with deeper sub-bass and treble that was more even and smoother sounding. The same quickness and attack was there, but with the improved construction and sound, I think these will be very popular headphones for only $299!
Darin Fong Audio
If you haven’t heard of Darin Fong Audio and play video games with your headphones, then you need to stop reading this article and google Darin’s software. I put on a pair of Sennheiser HD800 headphones (headphones I’ve owned for over 5 years) and couldn’t believe my ears! I was in my 5.1 home theatre back in Toronto! Holy moly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I actually removed the headphones and looked inside to see if Darin had doctored them in anyway. Nope…it was exclusively his software and for only $99 definitely worth checking out; especially if you’re a gamer! Simply the best $99 you’ll spend on improving your experience! I’ve also heard rumblings that Darin’s amazing software will have modules that can be upgraded on the impending Amarra 4.0 release in early November.
A huge selection to try Darin’s software with. I tried them all and was flabbergasted with every headphone. A must for any PC gamer!!!
E-Mu Teak Headphones
Ok, I’ve owned the TH-900s and appreciated my time with them, but I sold them after a few years due to their fatiguing treble. Yes, they were very quick sounding, with a huge sound stage and offered home theatre quality bass, but in the end, I decided to let them go. When I heard the E-Mu Teak at RMAF I was floored! All the goodness of the Fostex TH-900s where still there, but with a much more natural and neutral presentation. The earcups come in almost any wood / style you can think of! Each one is literally a work of art (think Lawton Audio quality here folks) and you can purchase different earcups for your particular pair. Actually it was a this booth that NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson and I got to talking about these beauties (and of course his time on the 1992 Olympics USA Dream Team). He too was very much impressed! For 1/3 of the price of the Fostex TH-900s, I strongly suggest you give these a try first if you’re in the market for a closed pair of headphones; they are seriously impressive!