CanJam SoCal 2016 Report, Part 2

Earphones and in-ear monitors,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
CanJam SoCal 2016 Report, Part 2

Below, please find Part 2 of our four-part SoCal CanJam 2016 report highlighting—in alphabetical order—a set of exhibitors ranging from Cavalli Audio to HiFiMAN.



Cavalli Audio

Austin, TX-based Cavalli Audio wowed show attendees and journalists alike with two new products—one on display and demonstration in the main Cavalli demonstration area and the other shown on an appointment-only basis in a private suite.

For the public at large, Cavalli introduced its smallest and least expensive amp to date, a beautiful little portable unit that—via a recent contest open to the Head-Fi community—has been named the Liquid Spark. The Spark is a fully discrete (that is, no op-amps, anywhere) portable amp that can put out a very conservatively rated 350mW @ 50 Ohms, and that plays for 15 hours per battery charge. The final price is yet to be determined, but should fall in roughly the $500 range. Best of all, the little Spark provides a full-sized measure of the famously neutral and authoritative Cavalli Sound.

Upstairs in its private demonstration suite, Cavalli also showed a prototype of its upcoming flagship Liquid Tungsten amplifier—an all valve-powered, OTL amplifier that could be considered an update on classic Futterman OTL amplifier designs from the past. The sound: well, the sound is to die for so that, for the lucky few who got to hear the amp in action, the Liquid Tungsten became very much the talk of the show. Pricing has not been established yet, but expect it to come in well above the roughly $4,000 price of Cavalli’s present top model, the Liquid Gold.


Chord Electronics

Owing in large part to its forward-looking and very high performance Hugo and Mojo portable headphone amplifier/DACs, the British firm Chord Electronics occupies a special place of honour in the hearts and minds of many veteran headphonistas. This is due, in no small parts, to the efforts of designer Rob Watts, whose thinking on DAC designs and especially on digital filter designs has turned many a head of late, and for all the right reasons.

But, at the very top of the Chord ‘product pyramid’ we find the spectacular Watts-designed DAVE DAC, whose name is an acronym that stands for ‘Digital Audio Veritas Extremis’. The DAVE takes everything Watts has learned about DACs and ultra-long tap-length digital filters to levels never before imagined, and it incorporates a very fine analogue output stage/headphone amplifier as well. The result is a top-class, tour de force product that is equally at home in both speaker and headphone-based audio systems of the first rank. DAVE sells for $13,300, or for $16,000 if fitted with its optional sculpted aluminium rack/stand (which is not only functional, but a work of art).



As many of our readers already know, the firm Comply is a spin-off from the giant 3M Corporation (creators of Scotch-brand tape, Post-It notes, and many other familiar household products). Comply’s specialty is building compressible foam ear tips offered in sizes to fit most any universal-fit-type earphone on the market and in fact the firm holds all the core patents on using compressible foam materials in this application.

Ah, but here’s the rub. There are no fixed industry standards for the diameters of the ‘barrels’ or sound outlet tubes used on universal-fit earphones, meaning that up to this point Comply has had to offer an extensive (but also somewhat confusing) array of sizes of foam ear tips to cover the many earphone models on the market. Now, however, Comply has arrived at an idea whose time has surely come: namely, a new stretch-to-fit “Universal Tip” design that can accommodate virtually any earphone barrel size.  The new “Universal Tips” will sell for $12.99-$14.99/pair, depending on configuration.  Three configurations will be offered: Isolation tips ($12.99/pair), Sport tips ($12.99/pair), and Sport + tips ($14.99/pair).

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