CanJam SoCal 2016 Report, Part 3

Earphones and in-ear monitors,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs

ModWright Instruments

Well-regarded electronics manufacturer ModWright Instruments rolled out its first-ever headphone amplifier, an all valve-powered unit called the Tryst, priced at $3,000. The Tryst’s tube complement includes two 6922 valves and four 12B4 valves. The Tryst features pure Class A operation with zero feedback, an extremely low noise floor, and three outputs: one 3.5mm mini-jack for IEMs, one 0.25-inch SE headphone jack, and one 4-pin XLR balanced jack. The unit ships with a solid-state rectified outboard policy and is capable of delivering 3Wpc into an 18-Ohm load. Claimed bandwidth is 20Hz – 50kHz, -0.5dB.




California-based MrSpeakers, which is best know for its successful range of high performance planar magnetic headphones, created a very substantial amount of buzz at CanJam SoCal by previewing its upcoming new Ether Electrostatic headphones, which represent the company’s first foray into that particular technology.

Company President Dan Clark actually had two subtly different versions of the Ether Electrostatic headphones on demonstration—one with relatively shallow flat ear pads and the other with MrSpeakers’ more traditional contoured or bevelled ear pads (as used on the firm’s to planar magnetic models).

In some brief listening sessions, I felt the Ether Electrostatic headphones offered a very impressive combination of natural warmth, good bass weight, and smooth and neutral mids and highs, with plenty of inner detail. This will, without a doubt, be a top-tier model to watch carefully in the months to come, and it was quite rightly the talk of the show.

Noble Audio

Noble Audio, a famed hybrid Asian/American maker of top-tier universal-fit earphones and CIEMs (custom-fit in-ear monitors) has been hard at work revising and renaming the elements of its extensive product line. Why the changes? In simple terms, Noble is concerned that prospective buyers are becoming so obsessed with tracking the ‘driver counts’ of the earphones and CIEMs they are considering that they sometimes forget to pay attention to the way the products actually sound. Consequently, all Noble models—save for the flagship Kaiser 10 model (reviewed in Hi-Fi+ issue 119)—now have names and descriptions that for the most part discourage ‘driver count mania’. But two other important changes are afoot at Noble.

First, Noble now offers all of its universal-fit earphones with machined aluminium earpiece enclosures created through an ultra-precise CNC milling process. Moreover, the exterior anodising of each model is colour-coded so that you can tell at a glance exactly which model is which. Noble’s colour-coding ‘decoder ring’ works as follows:

  • Red = the flagship Kaiser 10,
  • Navy = the Savant (Noble’s newest design and one said to be detail orientated and subjectively the most balanced-sounding of all Noble models),
  • Purple = the Django,
  • Teal = the Dulce Bass (or ‘sweet bass’),
  • Copper = the Savanna (an extremely neutral model with nearly flat frequency response, said to be ideal for acoustic music), and
  • Paris (a pale shade of gold) = the Trident (which provides somewhat elevated bass and treble response for what the firm terms ‘a refined take on what would normally be considered a “pop” sound’).

Second, Noble continues to promote its top-tier range of Prestige-series of CIEMs. Unlike typical CIEMs with earpieces moulded from acrylic or silicone materials, Prestige-series CIEM provide earpieces machined from solid materials. This difference in construction methodology not only affects the look of Prestige CIEMs, but (I think) also enhances their sound, owing to the exceptional rigidity of the solid earpieces materials used.

At CanJam SoCal, I took delivery of a review set of Prestige-series Savant CIEMs whose earpieces were fashioned from an exotic material called ‘snakewood’. At the risk of getting ahead of myself, let me say that those Savant CIEMs not only look great but sound very impressive indeed (the Prestige-series Savants may well be the best all-around Noble in-ear design I’ve tried to date, which is saying a lot).

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