CanJam SoCal 2017 –Part 3

Earphones and in-ear monitors,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
CanJam SoCal 2017 –Part 3

On the weekend before Easter, Hi-Fi+ Associate Publisher Pete Collingwood-Trewin and I took the opportunity to visit CanJam SoCal, which was held at the JW Marriott hotel in the middle of downtown Los Angeles.

The event was popular with manufacturers and with show-goers, it seemed, so that at times there were lines of enthusiasts queuing to hear the enticing products on demonstration.

What follows is the third of what will ultimately be a four-part report on the event.

IMPORTANT: As always, we apologize to any manufacturers we were not able to visit. No slights of any kind are intended. Then again, please note that on more than a few occasions we visited manufacturers only to be turned back by the crowds of people surrounding their demonstration tables (which is, as the old saying goes, a ‘high quality problem to have’).


FiiO’s primary emphasis at SoCal CanJam centred upon its X5 3rd-generation Android-based digital audio player ($399), which features dual AKM AK4490 DAC, uses a Rockchip quad-core RK3188 processor, provides 32 GB of internal storage, capacity for up to 512GB of external storage, offers Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi support, and provides both single-ended and balanced headphone outputs. The name of the game for FiiO, then, is to offer huge functionality at much less than the going rates expected for such an advanced technology device: mission accomplished.


Focal did not have a genuinely new headphone model to show for CanJam, but what they did have is arguably the most ostentatious, most blinged-out, and most over-the-top headphone ever in the form of the Utopia Tournaire headphones, which will sell for the eye-watering sum of $120,000/set. What’s more, no self-respecting Tournaire owner would want to go without the matching Tournaire headphone stand, which is offered for a mere $12,000. What’s behind these sky-high prices? Well the Utopia Tournaire is basically a standard Utopia headphone done up with gold (not ‘golden’, but actual gold) trim pieces inset with diamonds (lots of diamonds). The stand, in turn, resembles a mask that might be worn at a formal costume ball and is also treated to gold-plated outer surfaces.

Head Amp

Head Amp did not have any truly new headphone amplifiers on display, but it was showing its famous Blue Hawaii SE electrostatic headphone amp ($5,800 - $6,800 depending on configuration) in conjunction with a set of world-class Stax SR-009 electrostatic headphones. For Hi-Fi+ Associate Publisher Pete Collingwood-Trewin, this represented a first opportunity to hear the Stax flagship headphones at their best and it would be no exaggeration to say that, for Mr Trewin, this quickly proved to be a case of ‘love at first listen’.

Also on demonstration was Head Amp’s GS-X MkII two-chassis headphone amplifier for conventional—that is, non-electrostatic—headphones, which sells for $2,999. The only thing that consistently throws me off about this latter model is that its nomenclature makes me think it must surely be a blisteringly fast sportbike from Suzuki (whose go-fast motorbikes are commonly and collectively known as “Gixxers”).


For CanJam SoCal HiFiMAN renamed its upcoming flagship planar magnetic headphone as the Susvara (previous exhibited as the Edition 6). The price: ~$6000. For HiFiMAN, the Susvara is the last stop on the performance ladder before reaching for the stars with the mighty Shangri-La electrostatic headphone system.

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