CanJam at RMAF 2016 – Part 4 of 4

This is Part 4 of a four-part report on CanJam at RMAF 2016.

Earphones and in-ear monitors,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
CanJam at RMAF 2016 – Part 4 of 4

Part 4 of our report covers:  Onkyo, Oppo Digital, Pioneer, Questyle, RHA Audio, Rupert Neve Design, Schiit Audio, Sennheiser, Sonoma, Sony, Stereo Pravda, Ultrasone, Unison, Wells Audio. Westone Laboratories, and ZMF.

Find Part 1 of our CanJam report here:

Find Part 2 of our CanJam report here:

Find Part 3 of our CanJam report here:

Over the past year or so Onkyo’s highly capable, Android-based DP-X1 high-res digital audio player ($799) has been winning friends and influencing people through its combination of flexibility, performance, and advanced features.  Specifically, the DP-X1 supports virtually any PCM or DSD format you’d care to name, provides 32GB of built-in memory, and provides two Micro SD card slots (each slot supporting Micro SD cards of up to 200GB capacity). Moreover, the DP-X1 provides MQA decoding and incorporates dual DACs in support of the DAP’s balanced preamp/headphone outputs. The Onkyo’s user interface is remarkably flexible, aesthetically pleasing, and straightforward to use, too.

Oppo Digital

Oppo Digital showed a range of products that took different approaches to the notion of personal audio.

First up was the Oppo HA2-SE high-res portable headphone amp/DAC ($299) which provides PCM decoding at sampling rates up to 384kHz and that also decodes DSD files at resolutions up to DSD256. The HA2SE is Apple/Android/PC/Mac compatible, incorporates an ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9028-Q2M DAC device, and can even be used to charge mobile devices on the go.

Next, Oppo showed its cool new Sonica Wi-Fi/Bluetooth speaker system ($299), which features one 3.5-inch long displacement bass driver, two 3-inch balanced bass radiators, and two 2.5-inch wideband drivers with Neodymium magnets. The Sonica is compatible with AirPlay, Bluetooth, DLNA, Tidal, and other music playback sources. The unit can be used as a standalone 2.1-channel single-chassis speaker, or it can be configured for multi-room use, or use in setting where two Sonicas will serve as a stereo pair. Oppo promises that the Sonica can deliver “amazingly strong bass” and that it can be optimised to several different placement scenarios (for example, open room placement, or placement near walls or corners). Oppo also previewed an upcoming new larger Sonica model to be called the Sonica Grand, which will sell for about $699.

Finally, Oppo also previewed its upcoming Sonica high-res DAC/streamer (projected price, $799), which is said to offer even better audio performance than Oppo’s critically acclaimed HA-1 headphone amplifier and BDP-105 universal disc player. The Sonica DAC will be based on an ESS ES9038PRO SABRE DAC and will provide decoding for PCM files up to 32-bit/768kHz and for DSD files up to DSD256. The DAC will provide both single-ended and balanced outputs and is set up so that it can serve as both a high-res player via attached USB driver or can serve as a high-res streamer. We cant’ wait to hear it in action.


As many Hi-Fi+ readers may already know, Pioneer and Onkyo are sister brands that from time-to-time share product concepts and topologies. So it is that Pioneer’s original XDP-100R digital audio player borrowed many—but not all—of the technical features of Onkyo’s DP-X1 player. Specifically, the XDP-100R was a single-ended only DAP that did not incorporate the Onkyo’s desirable dual DAC, dual amp, balanced output features.

All of this is about to change with the arrival of Pioneer’s new Android-based XDP-300R DAP, which—like its Onkyo sibling—now sports dual ESS DACs and balanced outputs. The XDP-300R actually debuted at the recent Indulgence Show in London, with a promised price of £599. The DAP should sell for about $799 in the US. Visually, the XDP-300R is quite different to Onkyo’s DP-X1, so which you prefer may well be a matter of personal taste.

A tantalising offering demonstrated at the show was Pioneer’s full-size, UO-5 headphone amp/DAC—a model that is available in the UK at a recommended retail price of £699, but that is not offered in the US at all! (The reason: Pioneer did not feel it could justify the considerable expense of having the unit tested to achieve a UL-listed rating, which is an expectation of most mass-marketed consumer electronics products sold in the US.) Based on a too brief listen, I felt the versatile UO-5 offered excellent value for money, so I hope Pioneer will re-think its choice not offer the model in the US.

Finally, I got a chance to try out a very serious high-end headphone from Pioneer and one not commonly encountered apart from trade show environments: namely the SE-Master 1 ($2,500). The SE-Master 1 features a distinctive 50mm dynamic driver consisting of a 25μ-thick aluminium diaphragm with a Parker Ceramic Coating as supported by a PEEK (poly-ether-ether-ketone) film surround with ribbed edges said to help eliminate distortion. The driver was modelled extensively through computer aided engineering techniques and is said to afford superior high-resolution reproduction of low-level details in the music. This is a model that I think will definitely bear further listening in the future.

Questyle Audio Engineering

Questyle’s two main points of emphasis for CanJam RMAF 2016 were to demonstrate the firm’s cost-no-object ‘Golden Stack’ headphone electronics suite ($12,500) as reviewed in Hi-Fi+ issue 137 and to continue the roll-out of the firm’s new CMA600i fully-balanced headphone amp/DAC ($1299). As many of our readers already know, the ‘Golden Stack’ consists of the performance-enhance Gold-edition CMA800P preamp, the CAS192D DAC, and a pair of CMA800R amplifiers used in a left/right monoblock configuration.  In turn, the CMA600i provides a high-res PCM and so-called True DSD-capable DAC, plus a fully balanced headphone amp/preamp based on Questyle’s signature CMA (current mode amplification) circuit topology. The result, says Questyle, is the finest-sounding single-chassis amp/DAC the firm presently makes. Look out  for an upcoming Hi-Fi+ review of the CMA600i, coming soon. In fact, I’ve been listening through our review sample of the CMA600i as I am writing this report and can vouch for the fact that it is a very special unit indeed.

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