Welcome back to the continuing coverage of CanJam NYC 2020.
I sat down with AT’s representative-supreme, Bill Poteet, for a walk through their new introductions. First up was the AT-0DAC100. This is a $699 DAC that will decode and deliver PCM to 768MHz and native DSD to 512! Conversion is handles by AKM AK445x series DAC chips.
This was feeding the new $999 AH-BHA100 balanced headphone amp. This tube hybrid amp features 2 balanced outputs…one XLR and one 4.4mm as well as 2 SE outputs all with separate volume controls! The BHA10 will deliver 1.2W into a 32ohm load via the balanced outputs for those harder to drive cans. Included tubes are (4) JJ ECC83Ss
As to new headphones, they were showing the gorgeous ATH-WP900 portable over-ear headphones whose cups are made at the same factory as Fender guitars. These beauties will only set you back $650.
Two other new introductions were the $1899 ATH-AWKT (yes, I gave Bill a ration of grief over their naming scheme!) and the $1399 ATH-AWAS. The AWKT over-ear headphones feature Kokutan (striped ebony) wood housings and 53 mm drivers while the AWAS use the same 53mm driver with a different magnet Array and a Japanese Cherry finish on the cups.
More info at: https://www.audio-technica.com
AME is an IEM maker from South Korea who is now launching in the USA. They offer a fairly unique arrangement of balanced armature drivers with electrostatic drivers.
I listened to their $1,450 ‘Argent’ universal IEMs and found them to be very good. My notes complimented their bass, but found it a bit ‘forward’ while the treble was very extended, but never bright. The finish work on the backs were excellent. More at https://amecustom.com
Next stop was another Korean launch, Ear Studio. Emily Park showed me a TINY phone powered HUD100 DAC (think Dragonfly alternative) and an equally tiny ES-100 bluetooth receiver to turn your IEMs into a bluetooth headphone.
The ES-100 is available now for $99, while the HUD is currently only available in Korea, but is expected in the US soon for a price below $199.
The buzz at the Lenbrook booth surrounded the launch of DALI headphones. Designed and engineered in Denmark, the IO-4 ($399) and IO-6 ($499) models are designed with the same care as the DALI speakers. They are both wireless with exceptional battery life (60 and 30 hours respectively).
The primary difference between the two models is the Active Noise Cancelling built into the IO-6s. My listening notes mention their exceptional comfort and solid bass response.
Next stop was the iFi booth where it was tough to get to the booth because of the throng of people checking out the new intros. First up is the Hip-DAC. Resembling a small hip flask, the Hip-DAC delivers a Bur-Brown based DAC and both SE and 4.4 Balanced output. Oh…and it hardware decodes MQA! This MUST be a $499 introduction, right? Hell no! This is available now for $149. Yes…ONE FORTY NINE!
But that’s not all! They were also showing their brand new Zen series. This includes a $129 Bluetooth receiver called Zen Blue to add bluetooth capability to any stereo system. It has a built in 24/96 DAC. The Zen DAC is a USB input only DAC that has a headphone out as well as line out. It can be bus powered and deliver 300mW or add a power supply and get 600mW. The Zen DAC is also $129.Coming in May is the Zen Can. This is a 4watt amp with SE and balanced outputs that will retail for just $199.
Final IEMs were all about their new $1,999 ‘ultra-thin Beryllium foil’ driver A8000 IEMs. They claim a higher dynamic range while offering greater detail and more spacious soundstage.
In my brief listen, I found them to be very good, but I had a difficult time getting a proper seal to get the most out of the headphones. More listening will be required to give a proper impression.
Next stop was the Audio Valve booth where they were showing the Solaris amplifier.
This OTL amp (using EL85 tubes) delivers 8Watts (!) into an 8ohm load…sufficient to drive efficient speakers and any dynamic headphone ever made. It also features preamp outs as well as 2 balanced outs and 2 SE outs. You can customize the Solaris with a DAC and a Moving Magnet phono stage. Pricing without the DAC is $4,600 and with the DAC is $5,600.
They also offer a model called the RKV that has a DAC, but no phono stage nor speaker outputs for $3,500. The sound through the HifiMan HE1000SE’s was layered, textured and wonderfully warm.
NX-Ears is a startup company from industry veteran Casey Ng. They will be employing a direct to consumer approach and will launch with three models, the Single-BA $199 Sonata, the 4-BA $499 Basso and the 8-BA $799 Opera. I listened briefly to the Operas and found them to be very clean and detailed sounding. Look for them to begin shipping in April 2020.
One of the most intriguing launches at this event was the new headphone from HEDDphone. Thanks to a new geometry, this new headphone uses a full range AMT (Air Motion Transfer) driver to deliver a flat response from 10hz to 40,000Hz.
From their site, “The Air Motion Transformer (AMT) is an electrodynamic transducer that allows to move air significantly faster than common voice coil, magnetostatic (planar) or electrostatic systems. Their traditional piston-like movement is overcome by a folded diaphragm that squeezes out air four times faster: A breakthrough for capturing more details in a musical recording.”
The fit and finish and comfort of these headphones are fantastic. They are open back, so critical listening in a meet environment is challenging, but the time I spent with the $1,900 HEDDphone showed that they are solid sounding; open with great imaging.
This is one to watch…and hear.
Scottish IEM company RHA was showcasing their TrueConnect true wireless IEMs. These feature 5 hours on a single charge and 20 hours of playback time between the headphones and the charging case.
They now come in three colors and are $170/pair
I visited the ZMF booth and had a chance to speak with Bevin, Zach’s wife. She was enthused to show me the new ‘Stabilized Wood’ designs available on the Veritae closed-back headphones. The process that involves dehydrating the wood and injecting it with a polymer created some VERY cool effects.
These are among the most striking headphones at the show…both audibly and aesthetically…especially when heard through their amp, designed by ampsandsound.
At the Empire booth, they were showing 2 new electrostatic hybrid headphones, the $1599 Valkyrie and the $3,499 Wraith. The Valkyrie uses a single dynamic driver, and single balanced armature and the electrostatic driver. My notes include comments like ‘fun sound!’, ‘very forgiving’ and ‘non fatiguing’. I could live with these for a long time!
Then I listened to the Wraith. Now a wise man once told me to never try cognac that you can’t afford to drink on a regular basis, because it will ruin everything else for you. I suggest the same about the pricy Wraiths. These are truly state of the art in IEM tech. The detail retrieval was 2nd to none and no portion of the FR seemed missing nor over-emphasized. If you have the money…listen to them and revel in the sound. If not, be warned…they may ruin everything else for you.
HeadAmp/Dan Clark Audio
After seeing Justin last week in Florida at the Tampa Audio Expo, I was greeted this week by Peter James, the usual show face for the company. While they weren’t showing anything new, the booth sounded exceptional with Dan Clark Audio’s (formerly MrSpeakers) headphones running with the HeadAmp amplifiers. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better value in high end audio than the GSX-Mini balanced HP amp when driving the DCA AEON2 headphones. And the state of the art in electrostatic combos is the Blue Hawaii amp driving the VOCE headphones. Be sure to check them out.
Woo Audio was next door in a room they shared with Stax headphones. The $5,000 WA33 and $7,649 ES3 Electrostat amps remains their flagship and were on full display here!
JPS Labs, makers of the Abyss and Diana headphones were on hand showcasing their new rack system for organizing your headphone rig…Stackzilla! Machined out of solid aluminum, these modular shelf units are well made and look great and are priced accordingly at $999/shelf!
Mark Sossa was on hand to walk me through the Zen Mk3 Music Server Series along with the new Phoenix USB Reclocker. The ZenMini Mk3 with its optional outboard power supply gives you a relatively attainable music server that includes a 1TB drive, CD ripping capability and USB, Coax, Opti and analog outputs all for $1,250. The optional outboard linear power supply adds $649.
The PhoenixUSB reclocker promises to recheck and regenerate the USB signal from any source, not just their servers. The box actually includes a USB regenerator and an external master clock…each with their own internal LPS! The price for better USB sound? $3,150.
Cheban from Mytek was demonstrating their line of DAC’s and Streamers. The Brooklyn Bridge was feeding the Brooklyn DAC/Amp and sounded as good as usual!
Also on hand was their TOTL Manhattan.
The crew from Benchmark were showcasing their exceptional HPA4 Headphone Amp/Preamp. This amplifier serves up 6 watts into 16ohms with high current and the cleanest output specs I’ve seen. It features 4 analog inputs so you can switch between your favorite sources. It offers both balanced and SE headphone outs as well as balanced and SE line level outs. They offer both standard and rack mount faceplate options. The HPA4 runs $2,999