I don’t know of a better way to spend my Saturday afternoon after my son’s hockey game but at the TAVES Consumer Electronics Show here in Toronto, Canada. The personal audio market space has really grown over the years and this year continued in that trend with even more exhibitors and products.
One of my favourite headphone companies was there displaying some of their most impressive gear. Audeze’s booth had quite the long lineup of folks wanting to hear the LCD-3 ($1945 US), LCD-X ($1199 US) , EL-8 ($339 US; reviewed here: https://headphone.guru/the-open-audesze-el-8-headphone-the-baby-lcd-x/ ) headphones and LCDi4 in-ear headphones ($2495 US). The LCDi4’s ( https://headphone.guru/the-audeze-lcdi4-in-ear-headphones-simply-the-best/) are game changers for me as they were truly the first time a pair of in-ear headphones reached the sonic heights of so many full sized open-backed flagship headphones.
1More was there in full force and if you think you need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for high end audiophile quality sound, then you really need to check out 1More’s product offerings. My review of their newly released Triple Driver in-ears $99 US) will be out next week here on Headphone.Guru and they did not disappoint!
FiiO and Grado:
I was really excited to see that both FiiO and Grado headphones were at the show. They shared a booth and I was able to hear FiiO’s new F9 multi-driver in-ear monitor ($99 US) with the most their X5 Gen 3 DAP ($399 US). I was very impressed with the build quality, comfort, noise isolation and the sound quality was very impressive! I’m looking forward to reviewing these promising IEMs soon. I was also finally able to hear Grado’s new flagship headphone: the PS2000e ($2695 US). The sound staging was greatly improved over the PS1000e ($1695 US) and these might be the very best John Grado headphone I’ve ever heard.
DanaCables were at the show and had a wonderful A-B comparison of their most excellent Lazuli Reference Cable ($1199 – $1399 depending on length/configuration) to compare it with the stock cable offered on Hifiman’s impressive HE1000 V2 headphones ($2999 US). The differences were quite profound and as with my review of their cable with the Focal Utopia Headphones (https://headphone.guru/the-dana-cables-lazuli-reference-headphone-cable-for-the-focal-utopia-headphones-the-ultimate-in-transparency/), very similar improvements in transparency and sound staging were easily apparent with the HE1000 V2 headphones. I was also shown a new product that Dana Cables is working on and I’m going to be able to give it a try over the next few weeks. The folks at Dana Cables aren’t ones to rest on their laurels and are continuing to move the bar even higher. If you are looking for one of the very best audio cable upgrades I’ve ever come across, I strongly suggest you check out Dana Cables Lazuli Reference Line!
HiFiman was there in full force as well with many of their great products. Everything from the most impressive HE1000 V2 ($2999 US and reviewed here: https://headphone.guru/the-hifiman-he-1000-v2-a-brilliant-update-to-a-classic/ ) to the HE-X V2 ($1299 US) were all there. I finally did get to hear the updated V2 of the Edition X headphones and was quite impressed with the improvements over the original version. Build quality too has been improved upon; along with improved dynamics and sound staging. Simply some of the best portable headphones I’ve heard.
Bluewave is a relatively new comer to the world of personal audio. They manufacture a VERY portable amplifier/DAC unit for only $99 US that also has wireless capabilities (including Bluetooth 5.0). I was able to listen to the Fostex Purpleheart headphones with this little wonder and I was very impressed with the Bluewave amplifier/DAC’s ability to drive these headphones with full authority and dynamics! The fact that it’s Bluetooth means you can very easily stream music off of your mobile phone, DAP or any other wireless device. I hope to be able to review this unit in the next few months.
While I love Sony’s flagship Z1R headphones ($2299), their stock cable is quite disappointing. I found this out by upgrading to the Sony/Kimber aftermarket cable. But today was the first time I was able to hear Kimber’s Axios cable ($995 US) with these headphones and I was thoroughly impressed with the beautiful build quality and sonic performance. The stock Sony cable is a little rough around the edges when it comes to treble performance. The aftermarket Sony/Kimber cable is a very worthwhile upgrade (especially for only $250). But the Axios is on a whole new plain of existence. Build quality is something that has to be seen in person to truly be appreciated and the sonic refinements are immediately apparent.
JPS Labs/ Abyss Headphones / Wells Audio:
What a great booth to stop by! Not only was it great to meet up with Jeff Wells of Wells Audio, but sharing the same booth was JPS Labs (of Abyss Headphones). I finally was able to hear their soon-to-be released Diana portable headphones ($3000 US). I was impressed! Comfort was quite good and the sound was B-I-G! These small on-the-go headphones sounded quite a bit bigger than many TOTL desktop full sized headphones. Tonally, they are what you have come to expect from Abyss; balanced, with speaker-like bass and incredible imaging. Out of the Wells Milo, this pairing was very impressive!
I was also able to spend some time with the new Abyss Phi headphones ($4499) out of the impressive Wells Audio Enigma ($3699 – $4000 depending on configuration). The Phi’s do indeed take things to a whole new level. I was very impressed with the improvements to the treble response. I am hoping to review these at home soon, but from what I heard at TAVES today, I strongly recommend you check them out!
Mitchell & Johnson:
Mitchell & Johnson displayed their hybrid headphone lineup. Unlike pretty much every other headphone at TAVES, the MJ1 ($529.99 US) and MJ2 ($829.99) are hybrid headphones with a combination electrostatic driver and traditional dynamic driver. And the best thing of all, you get a lot of that stat-like quickness without the need of a dedicated electro-static headphone amplifier! The comfort and noise isolation from both of these closed headphones was very impressive. The sound quality was equally impressive and these headphones look quite sexy!
I could think of no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon! I’ve been going to TAVES the past several years and initially the world of personal audio was very minimally represented. But with each passing year, the number of exhibitors has grown and this year was definitely the best year thus far! If you live in the GTA (greater Toronto area) and love great audio, I highly recommend you take some time out of your weekend; you will not be disappointed!