CanJam at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2017 – Part 4, Personal Audio Cables & Accessories, Best of Show

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Effect Audio Horus earphone cables

The personal audio cable specialists at Effect Audio were showing a new flagship earphone cable called the Horus, whose conductors are made of pure OCC silver with gold external plating. The cables are expensive at $1599/set, but arguably worth the effort for those who own true top-tier earphones.

iFi Audio Ear Buddy

Have you ever found yourself on a long plane flight and thought it might be nice to listen to music or watch film through the aircraft’s entertainment system using your own high-quality earphones or CIEMs?. We have and the results typically are not pretty, largely because the lowest volume setting on the plane’s A/V system will typically be so loud as to fry your ears when you listen through high quality and high-sensitivity earphone and CIEMs. What’s to be done?

iFi offers two answers in the form of its original iEMatch device (which is very full-features but perhaps a bit pricey for some users) or the brand new Ear Buddy device, which sells for just $20. In essence, the Ear Buddy is a high fidelity, sensitivity compensation device that lets you use top-tier earphones with in-flight A/V system, but at sensible and pleasurable volume levels. As a result, in-flight entertainment goes from “Meh” quality levels (‘cause freebie airline earphones sound, let’s face it, pretty darned awful) to “Wow!” quality levels.

Speaking as an enthusiast iFi iEMatch user (I never go on long flights without an iEMatch device tucked in my earphone case), I’m glad to see iFi offer the scaled back (but equally high quality) Ear Buddy at a price almost anyone can afford.

iFi Audio Gemini 3.0 cable

The iFi Audio Gemini 3.0 cable is the finest quality USB cable the firm knows how to make provided that your source device absolutely must at least two USB ports. The reason this is so is that the Gemini 3.0 deliberately separates out USB power lines from USB digital audio data lines, with heavy-duty shielding/isolation in between the two. Accordingly, on the source end, the Gemini 3.0 cable provides dual USB connectors—one for the power lines and the other for the signal lines. Pricing for the iFi Audio Gemini 3.0 cables starts at $379.

iFi Audio Mercury 3.0 cable

If the Gemini 3.0 is iFi’s finest USB cable for use with multi-USB port-equipped digital audio sources, the Mercury 3.0 cable is the firm’s best USB cable for applications where only a single USB data output port is available.

The Mercury uses very high quality shield conductors, iFi’s new Final USB audiophile connectors, and the firm’s RF3 custom-made metal oxide ceramic noise silencers. Pricing for the iFi Audio Mercury 3.0 cables starts at $209.

Schiit Audio The Gadget real-time music processor

See “Coolest Innovation”, below

Wireworld Pulse, Nano Eclipse, Nano Silver Eclipse, and Nano Platinum Eclipse

Wireworld offered an eye-opening demonstration, which it dubbed the “Audio Cable Polygraph Test’. The test is designed so that listeners can compare the sound of high quality headphones fed from an extremely short (and cable free) mini-jack to mini jack adapter vs. the sound of four different grades of Wireworld headphone cables. The concept is that the cable-free adapter should sound best of all (because no cabling is involved) while the various grades of headphone cables should, in theory at least, come progressively closer to matching the sound of the cable-free adapter.

In fact, these are precisely the results I observed while listening through four grades of 1-metre headphone cables: Wireworld Pulse (OFC conductors, $58/metre), Wireworld Nano Eclipse (OCC copper conductors, ~$150/metre), Wireworld Nano Silver Eclipse (OCC silver-clad copper conductors, ~$200/metre), and Wireworld Nana Platinum Silver Eclipse (OCC solid silver conductors, ~450/metre).

The beauty of the demonstration was that it offered a useful standard for comparison (the adapter with no cable at all) and showed how that both cable materials and geometry do have a tangible impact on sound quality. 

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