CanJam at RMAF 2013 – Part 1

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Categories:
Digital-to-analog converters,
Headphones,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
CanJam at RMAF 2013 – Part 1

Aurisonics

Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Aurisonics is a new, high-performance earphone maker that, by design, offers both generic-fit (that is, universal fit) and custom-fit in-ear monitors. In fact, for most of Aurisonic’s custom fit models there is an equivalent generic-fit version available. The entry point for the line is the ASG-1 ($300), which features a 15mm dynamic driver, with the ASG-2 ($549) serving as an upper-end model that features the hybrid combination of a 15mm dynamic bass driver and two balanced armature-type tweeters (for both models, the “G” in the model number denotes the generic-fit version).

Interestingly, Aurisonic produces all of its earpieces (both generic and custom-fit) on a 3D printer. A very wide range of finishes is offered, as indicated by the nickel-plated ASG-2 shown here.

 Beyerdynamic

The German firm announced two new (or at least new-to-the-US) products at CanJam: the A20 headphone amplifier ($649) and the Tesla T51p headphone ($289), which is an improved and updated version of the original T50p headphone.

The T51p features a revised load impedance (60 Ohms), revised clamping pressures, improved padding, and significantly upgraded signal cables—all with essentially no price change vis-à-vis the predecessor T50p model.

BMC

Our friend Drew Baird and Moon Audio introduced us to a very clever and elegant new product from the German firm BMC: namely, the BMC PureDAC ($1,690), which is a combination headphone amplifier, preamplifier, and DSD-capable DAC. What sets the BMC apart is the fact that—please note—the preamplifier and headphone amplifier sections of the PureDAC are independently controllable (e.g., you could play the preamp at low volumes while running the headphone amp at high volumes, or vice versa). It is Mr. Baird’s expert opinion as a distributor and reseller of many different brands of headphone amplifiers that the PureDAC offers extraordinary value for money.

Cambridge Audio

Under the auspices of a booth run by its US distributor Audio Plus Services, Cambridge Audio showed its tiny new DacMagic XS—an asynchronous USD DAC priced at a manageable $199.

Cardas

At CanJam as at the Munich High-End show, the big news for Cardas involved the release of the firm’s long-awaited and thoroughly delightful EM5813 Model 1 Ear Speaker ($395).

Cavalli Audio

Cavalli Audio has been on such a roll of late that we wonder if company founder Dr. Alex Cavalli ever has time to sleep. For CanJam, three current production Cavalli amplifiers were on display: the Liquid Glass hybrid tube/solid-state amp ($3,950), the Liquid Lightning MkII solid-state electrostatic amp ($4,850), and the brand new Liquid Gold fully-balanced solid-state amp ($6,450).

What is impressive is that each of the Cavalli amplifiers is, within its respective class, a legitimate state-of-the-art contender. In particular, many show attendees felt the combination of the Cavalli Liquid Gold amplifier and the Abyss AB-1266 planar magnetic headphones constituted the finest headphone-based music reproduction system they had ever heard.

UK and EU customers may wish to note that all Cavalli amplifiers are CE-certified and that Cavalli Audio will happily build any of its present models with power supply voltages to suit your country-specific requirements.
 

CEntrance

For CanJam, CEntrance was essentially celebrating the full production release of its long-awaited (and oft-delayed) HiFi-M8, which is an exceptionally versatile portable product that combines an iDevice, Android, Mac, and PC-compatible, high-res, asynchronous USB DAC with an extremely powerful fully balanced headphone amplifier ($699). The end result is a DAC that can connect to just about anything coupled with an amp that can gracefully drive almost any headphone you’d care to name (except, of course, electrostatic headphones).

Frankly, the design of the HiFi-M8 was completed a long time ago, but what delayed release until now was the fact that Apple qualification testing seemed to take forever. Happily, that’s all in the past at this stage so that CEntrance is now busily filling back-orders as swiftly as it can.

Final Audio Design

The brilliant Japanese headphone and earphone maker Final Audio design showed two newly released headphone products that had been previewed at the Munich High-End show earlier this year, plus a welcome new addition to the firm’s earphone lineup.

Specifically, Final showed both its Pandora 6 headphones ($699) and upscale Pandora 8 headphones ($1,600). Our take: both models are appealing, but we expect the big winner will be the Pandora 6, which offers levels of sonic suppleness and finesse rarely heard in headphones selling at a sub-$700 price point.

As a surprise offering debuting at CanJam, Final also introduced its new Heaven 2 earphones, which at $149 are by far the least expensive models in the Heaven range.

Focal

Following up on initiatives launched at the Munich High-End show, Focal was demonstrating its expanded range of full size headphones, which now comprise the Spirit One ($279), the Spirit Pro ($349), and the Spirit Classic ($399). What are the differences between these three? Well, the Spirit One, which is basically the original Focal headphone offering, is designed for portable use and is to be powered directly from mobile phones, tablets, etc. Accordingly, the Spirit One has the warmest and, in some respects, most accessible voicing of the three—especially appropriate for use with less-than-perfect source components. The Spirit Pro, on the other hand, is Focal’s professional-grade monitor headphone—one that is said to offer ruler-flat frequency response. Finally, the Spirit Classic roughly splits the difference between the One and the Pro, with voicing that is said to “Audeze-like”.

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