CanJam-RMAF 2010 Report, Part 1 of 4

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Headphones,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
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Products:
ALO Rx V2,
Audeze LCD-2 ,
Beyerdynamic T1 Tesla,
Burson Audio HA-160D
CanJam-RMAF 2010 Report, Part 1 of 4

Our  friends at HeadFi.org organized another in their ongoing series of popular CanJam events, this one held in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver, CO this past weekend (October 15-17, 2010). Below are some impressions from the event with photos.

As always with CanJam events, there was a wonderful, upbeat “vibe” among attendees and exhibitors alike—an ethos that reminded me of the way high-end audio used to feel back in the 1970s. 

All parties involved seemed to share a collective sense that, as members of the ever-expanding high-end headphone universe, we are indeed on to something good—namely, a hobby that brings participants huge amounts of musical satisfaction for sensible sums of money (especially by high-end audio standards).

I also observed a refreshingly pleasant, collegial atmosphere among CanJam vendors, so that even when there were rivalries they mostly appeared to be friendly and respectful ones—much like the unspoken spirit of “coop-etition” you might observe between makers of fine musical instruments.

If you are new to the world of high-performance headphones, let me say that there is perhaps no better way to “get your feet wet” than to attend a CanJam event at your next opportunity.

This is Part 1 of a four-part report.

·      Click here to read Part 2.
·      Click here to read Part 3.
·      Click here to read Part 4.

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ALO Audio

Ken Ball of ALO Audio formally announced his ALO Audio Rx V2 portable headphone amplifier ($449), which expands upon everything that was already good and right about the original ALO Audio Rx amp (click here to read my Playback blog on the original ALO Rx amp). Specific improvements incorporated in the ALO Rx V2 include:

·      A significantly larger Lithium-ion battery pack.
·      Playing time increased to a whopping 40-50 hours/charge.
·      A gain control switch (to better match the amp to high and low-sensitivity headphones).
·      A power on indicator lamp the now features “smart functions” to show charge status, etc.
·      More robust/higher quality I/O jacks.

The V2 was being demonstrated in conjunction with the Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo portable DAC. ALO and Cypress collaborated on their respective designs, so that their two products are exactly the same size and shape and can serve as a visually “matched pair” when stacked on top of one another.

Mr. Ball kindly arranged for Playback to take home a sample of the Rx V2 amp for an upcomingreview, along with a sample of ALO’s beautifully made, high quality LOD (Line Out Dock) cable.

Audez’e

Audeze’s Alexander Rosson and Sankar Thiagasamudram were showing off their stunning LCD-2 planar magnetic headphone ($945), which proved to be real crowd pleasers, judging by the attendee reactions I observed. This headphone is both a sonic and technical tour de force, with the Audez’e partners proudly showing documentation confirming that the LCD-2 headphone can do a quite convincing job of reproducing square wave test signals (something most other transducers would have a very hard time doing).

The LCD-2 has an extremely detailed yet also very warm and “organic” sound—a sound that reminds me in many respects of the sound of Quad’s top-tier electrostatic loudspeakers, but with better low-frequency extension and a much broader dynamic envelope.

The LCD-2 features beautiful wood-framed earcups with lambskin earcup pads that are cleverly tapered, from front to back, to provide a more comfortable fit. Even though the LCD-2 is a very large headphone, it feels amazingly comfortable and is easy to wear for long periods of time. Watch for an upcoming Playback review of the LCD-2.

Beyerdynamic

Under the auspices of the good folks at Moon Audio, the German firm Beyerdynamic (which prefers that its name be shown in all lower case letters—thus, beyerdynamic—though the AVguide/Playback style sheet says otherwise) demonstrated its impressive new T5p headphone ($1295), which leverages technology drawn from the flagship T1 Tesla but in a headphone designed specifically for “on the go” use.

Although this is an oversimplification, you could in a sense think of the T5p as a 32-Ohm version of the T1 that is exceedingly easy-to-drive, which is saying a mouthful (click here to read the Playback review of the Beyerdynamic T1 Tesla, to appreciate what I mean). I plugged the T50p into my iPhone to give it test spin, and found the iPhone was able drive it to quite satisfying volume levels with ease (something that would not, of course, have been possible with the much harder-to-drive T1). 

According to Moon Audio’s Drew Baird, the T50p shown at CanJam was the only sample in the US at this time, and—with the blessing of Beyerdynamic—I’m pleased to tell you it will soon be coming to Playback for review.

Burson Audio

Also exhibiting under the auspices of Moon Audio, the Australian firm Burson Audio showed its very latest product, the HA-160D desktop headphone amplifier/USB DAC ($1100).

Burson products are in one sense an anomaly in today's market, in that they offer the meticulous build quality and attention to circuit design, parts selection and overall build quality that typify uber-expensive high-end boutique electronics, yet are refreshingly sanely prices (especially in light of the quality they offer).

Playback is in the early stage of reviewing Burson’s HA-160 headphone amplifier ($695) and AB-160 tube buffer ($499). 

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