CanJam SoCal 2016 Report, Part 4

Earphones and in-ear monitors,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
CanJam SoCal 2016 Report, Part 4


Riva Audio

At last year’s CanJam SoCal event, Riva made waves with its then new Riva Turbo X Bluetooth surround sound speaker ($299, as reviewed in Hi-Fi+ Issue 133). We (and many others) regard the Turbo X as a fine solution for those seeking a fun, easy-to-use, and accessibly priced entry point to the world of high(er) performance sound components. For this year’s CanJam gathering, however, Riva brought us something new in the form of its cost and size-reduced Riva S Bluetooth speaker ($249), which in many respects can be considered a ‘junior’ version of the larger Turbo X. 

Why isn’t the new model called the Turbo S? The short answer is that on the S model Riva decided to omit the ‘Turbo EQ’ power-boost switch from which the Turbo X derived its name. Fear not, though, the Riva S provides a so-called Power Mode that provides equivalent power boost functions to those provides by the Turbo X’s more elaborate ‘Turbo EQ’ mode. In any event, just bear in mind that the new model is called the Riva S, pure and simple.

Like its bigger brother, the Riva S incorporates: a seven-driver array (three active ADX drivers and four passive drivers, but drivers somewhat smaller than those in the larger Turbo X), a three-channel amplifier with 30 watts of total output, and the all-important DSP-driven Trillium and Trillium Surround processing modes that make the Turbo X such a joy to hear. But, in an interesting new twist, the Riva S actually adds one highly desirable playback mode that the original Turbo X didn’t have: namely, Riva S offers a Truewireless mode that enables “syncing two Riva S speakers wirelessly to create left and right channel stereo.” The Riva S also provides a Party Mode through which it is possible two “pair two (Bluetooth) devices to one Riva S for multi-user control.” One further nice touch is that the Riva S automatically comes with a heavy-duty canvas carry case, whereas the carry case for the Turbo X was an extra cost option. Nicely done, Riva.

Watch for an upcoming Hi-Fi+ review of the Riva S. (In fact, I’m listening to our two Riva S review samples operating in stereo Truewireless mode as I write these words.)



This venerable German offered a display highlighting its two newest headphones, not including the mega-mega-dollar second-generation Orpheus system, which costs more than a very, very nicely equipped BMW 4-series. Thus, the display focused primarily on the HD630VB ($499.95, where VB stands for Variable Bass) and the new HD800S ($1699.95, and a meaningful update on the HD800, which is an acknowledged classic).

It was good to get a chance for a few minutes of careful, concentrated listening with the HD630VB—a model that, in my view, is very often misunderstood and thus under-appreciated by some enthusiasts. Because the headphone provides a user-controllable bass contour control on one of the HD630VB’s ear cups, there has been some tendency to regard the feature as more of a gimmick than a useful tool and so to avoid taking the HD630VB seriously. But I believe that if we listen to the HD630VB with an open mind and open ears, it will quickly become apparent that it is a worthy and full-fledged member of Sennheiser’s upper-tier HD-series family of headphones. The VB control, far from being a gimmick, turns out to be very useful in helping the headphone adapt to environments where there may be greater or lesser amounts of low-frequency noise present. Watch for an upcoming Hi-Fi+ review of the HD630VB.

Sennheiser’s lone HD800S sample at the show was shared back-and-forth, depending on the time of day, between the Sennheiser demonstration table on the main floor of the show and a local Sennheiser dealer’s demonstration room on the next floor up. Thus began a comedy of errors of sorts through which I pursued the elusive HD800S upstairs and downstairs a couple of times, only to hear, repeatedly, “we just moved the HD800S to our other demo location.” Rinse, and repeat. You get the idea. The fact is that I never did catch up to the HD800S at CanJam SoCal, though not for lack of trying. (Happily, I did have the opportunity to hear the headphone at CES this past January). My thought: Next time, Sennheiser, please send two sets of the HD800S headphones, if you can spare them.


64 Audio (1964 Ears)

64 Audio (previously better know as ‘1964 Ears’) is a Vancouver, WA-based maker of CIEMs and universal-fit earphones, most of which feature the firm’s ADEL (Ambrose Diaphonic Ear Lens) technologies, which we’ll explore in a bit more depth in a moment. For now, though, it helps to know that the firm offers and eight-model range of A-series CIEMs with ADEL technology, a corresponding eight-model range of U-series universal-fit earphones with ADEL technology, and a two-model range of stage/live-music-orientated V-series CIEMS that do not incorporate ADEL features. CIEM pricing ranges from $599 for the two-drive A2 model to $1,999 for the 12-driver A12 model.

What the concept behind ADEL technology? ADEL is the brainchild of Stephen Ambrose, who claims to have created the world’s first in-ear monitor in—you guessed it—1964.  Ambrose has actively followed research on hearing and on noise-induced hearing loss and has come to the conclusion that—in many cases—hearing problems related to earphone use are not necessarily volume level-related (as is commonly supposed), but rather are caused by the pneumatic overpressure conditions to which most earphones and CIEMs are prone. To address this problem, Ambrose developed ADEL, which in simple terms is a mechanical, secondary ‘eardrum’ created to absorb excess pneumatic pressure while still allowing sound waves (and earphone voicing characteristics) to be preserved and to sound natural and normal. Most 64 Audio models incorporate automatically adjusted ADEL modules, while some also provide ADEL MAMs (manual adjust modules), which allow even finer tuning of sonic characteristics.

In the not too distant future, Hi-Fi+ hopes to review 64 Audio’s ten-driver A10 CIEMs ($1,799), which are said to offer the most neutral and thus audiophile friendly voicing of any of the 64 Audio models.