Head-Fi and its merry band of CanJammers continue to play an ever-growing role in the activities at RMAF. Now more than ever, the CanJam segment of RMAF decisively demonstrates why high-performance headphones, earphones, and custom-fit in-ear monitors must now be considered a legitimate part of the broader high-end audio pantheon – not just on the basis of convenience, price, or popularity (although headphones/earphones enjoy all three of those advantages), but also on the basis of sheer sonic performance. This year, CanJam ably represented what was arguably the single most energetic and vibrant product segment in all of RMAF.
About this report: Discoveries
It perhaps goes without saying that at any show audio journalists will see and hear more than they can write about, and that they may well miss more than a few worthy manufacturers and demonstrations along the way. Or at least that’s the way it usually works out for me. When asked during an event how the show is going my standard response is to say, “Great, but there’s too much show and not enough me to cover it all…”
Still, in retrospect, we remember shows by the discoveries we make – the new (or new to us) products that stick in our minds long after the event is over. This report is an attempt to give you a taste of some of my favourite discoveries from this years RMAF/CanJam event.
From Osseo, Minnesota (from the greater Minneapolis area) come Alclair – a firm specialising in building comparatively affordable custom-fit in-ear monitors and a distinctive universal-fit earphone called the Curve ($249), as shown here. Based on a brief cursory inspection, we think the firm’s three-driver Reference Custom CIEM ($399) and four-driver RSM Quad CIEM ($649) are the models most likely to find favour among audiophiles and critical listeners.
Audeze introduced a new flagship: the LCD-4 planar magnetic headphone, which follows the industrial design motif of the original LCD-3, but features an all-new driver and delivers a more neutrally-voiced and transparent sonic presentation than the LCD-3. At the same time, Audeze showed a prototype of an upcoming Bascom H. King-designed headphone amplifier, which fittingly was shown with the working title of “The King”. Both units are projected to sell for $3,995.
The British firm Atomic Floyd was demonstrating a working prototype of its significantly updated Hi Def Drum universal-fit earphone (£150 or $199), which offered more neutral tonal balance and a more taut and revealing sound than some earlier Atomic Floyd earphones have done.
AudioQuest showed its adorable, palm-sized Beetle DAC ($199) with optical, Bluetooth, and USB audio inputs, and that comes with a small linear power supply said yield better sound quality that typical switching-type wall-wart supplies might do.