Atomic Floyd takes its rightful place among a small handful of universal-fit earphone manufacturers who are determined to offer very high levels of sound quality at sensible, down-to-earth prices. (Although I am fairly sure the Atomic Floyd folks would not appreciate the comparison to a direct rival, this places Atomic Floyd on the same basic ‘flight path’ as the also value-minded RHA Audio). Atomic Floyd achieves its performance goals through use of sophisticated designs that leverage materials (e.g., stainless steel, titanium, etc.) many would-be competitors might find either to expensive or too difficult to use in their products. Happily, Atomic Floyd wades right in where lesser manufacturers fear to tread and the sonic results are both impressive and very enjoyable.
At CanJam, we sampled four Atomic Floyd models including the HiDefDrum ($199/£149), Mini Darts ($249/£179), Super Darts ($299/£199), and Super Darts Titanium ($399/£250). Of these models I personally favoured the Mini Darts and Super Darts models, although Hi-Fi+ Editor Alan Sircom has taken quite a liking to the Super Darts Titanium model. Either way, three hallmark of the entire range are evocative and involving sound quality, high quality materials, and beautiful machining.
Audeze had almost all of its models on demonstration at CanJam, but the highlights of the show were without a doubt the new EL-8 open- and closed-back models, both priced at a very accessible $699 (to give this comment more meaning, consider the fact that before this the least expensive AudezeLCD-2 model sold for $995, with others ranging up to $1945).
The EL-8s sport an extremely elegant industrial design created for Audeze by BMW Design Group and leverage three interlocking Audeze-developed technologies: the Fluxor magnetic flux focussing system, the Uniforce system for compensating for potential magnetic flux ‘hot spots’, and Fazor waveguide technology said to promote smoother wave launches.
But there are other tricks up Audeze’s sleeve in the new EL-8 design. For example, what appears to be the ear cup in the EL-8 design is actually the outer frame of the drive itself; in other words, there really is no ear cup, per se, nor is there any need for one; the driver frame serves double duty. This kind of creative, outside-the-box thinking is found throughout the EL-8 and is part of what makes it so desirable.
Audio Salon: Audio Alchemy – Aurender – Transparent – Wilson Audio
In a welcome twist on usual headphone show fare, the regional dealer Audio Salon decided to bring to CanJam a very high performance but not insanely high-priced—get this—speaker-based system, and one that featured Wilson Audio Sabrina loudspeaker. My thought: If traditional hi-fi shows can feature headphones, then why not have a headphone show that highlights a great new loudspeaker.
The system in question featured a new-generation Audio Alchemy DDP-1 Digital Decoding digital/analogue preamp ($1,995) with outboard PS-5 power supply ($595), an Audio Alchemy DPA-1 class D power amplifier based on Hypex nCore technology ($1,595), an Aurender N100 server, and the aforementioned Wilson Sabrinas ($15,995/pair). The result was astoundingly good, highly expressive, full-bodied sound that would put many a six-figure system to shame.
Some people think headphonistas don’t know or care about traditional high-end audio systems, but as the cleverly conceived Audio Salon demonstration proved, nothing could be further from the truth.