CanJam at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2017 – Part 1, Headphones


Dekoni ‘Blue’ headphone

Dekoni is best known for it’s high quality aftermarket ear tips and ear pads, which are available for many popular earphones and headphones, but at CanJam RMAF 2017 the firm previewed a new headphone of its own. The headphone is called the Dekoni ‘Blue’ and is a hybrid Fostex/Dekoni design loosely based on the former’s popular T50P headphone, but with numerous Dekoni-developed modifications. The price will be $199 with availability projected for March 2018.

Echobox Audio Vanguard (prototype)

Echobox showed an early prototype of its upcoming Vanguard full size headphone that uses dynamic drivers featuring PEEK (Polyether Ether Ketone) diaphragms. PEEK is a light, strong material that is potentially ideal for use in driver diaphragms, although our practical experience has been that PEEK diaphragms tend to require a considerable amount of run-in time before their full performance potential can be realised. It is still early days, but the Vanguard prototype sounded promising to us. The project price: ~$349.

Final D8000

Final previewed it’s first-ever planar magnetic headphone, now called the D8000, at Munich 2017, but for CanJam RMAF 2017 the very good news is that the D9000 design has been finalised and put into full production. The D8000 will sell for $3000.

A big part of the excitement surrounding the release of the D8000 centre’s on the fact that the headphone’s distinctive planar magnetic driver uses an industry-first air film damping system whose technology owes much to Sony consulting technologists who assisted Final with the D2000 design and who had deep expertise in using air film damping systems for ultra-high-end microphones. As a result, the D8000 seems to strike a nearly ideal balance between a sound that is highly expressive, yet always beautifully controlled.

Expect a Hi-Fi+ review in the not too distant future.

Focal Clear

Focal added a new middle-model headphone called the Clear ($1,495) to round off its top-tier range, which now comprises the Elear, Clear, and Utopia headphones. The Clear’s design owes much to that of the Elear, but with several key changes including a switch in voice-coil material (from aluminium in the Elear to copper in the Clear), a shift in overall impedance from 80 ohms in the Elear to 55 ohms in the Clear, inclusion of both single-ended and balanced signal cables (where the Elear ships with single-ended cables only), and revised ear pads that—on a visual level—appear more similar to the pads used on the Utopia. The Clear’s dome-shaped driver diaphragm and suspension system are identical to those found in the Elear. Last but not least, the Clear gets a distinctive soft grey colour that helps differentiate it from the all-black Elear and Utopia models.

Most listeners who tried the Elear and Clear side by side noticed sonic differences, but the perceived magnitude of those differences varied quite a bit from listener to listeners. On the whole, our take was that the Clear sounded more like ‘an Elear on steroids’ than like a Utopia, meaning the Utopia’s status as the top performer in the Focal line-up remains unchallenged.

HiFiMAN Sundara

HiFiMAN has been focusing on launching a series of upper tier products of late so that it was refreshing to see the Chinese manufacturer launch a new value-minded model at CanJam RMAF: namely, the new Sundara planar magnetic headphone, whose price is yet to be determined but is projected to come in below $500.

Basic specifications for the Sundara include claimed frequency response of 6Hz – 75kHz, nominal impedance of 37 ohms, sensitivity of 94dB, and weight of 372g. The Sundara will replace HiFiMAN’s very well liked HE-400i and HE-400s models, meaning it will have some big shoes to fill. In a brief conversation with HiFiMAN founder Dr Fang Bian we learned that Bian regards the Sundara as a direct descendant of the his firm’s critically acclaimed HE-560 headphone, but one deliberately made easier to drive.

Klipsch Heritage HP-3

Klipsch showed its first-ever entry in the upper-tier headphone marketplace with its lovely new Heritage HP-3 headphone, priced at $1199. The relatively high-sensitivity features 52mm dynamic drivers with bio-cellulose drivers mounted in the triple-vented ear-cups. Other construction details include an aluminium frame, a cowhide headband pad, and sheepskin ear pads. Watch for the HP-3 to launch around the end of October.

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