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 fourth and final segment of our 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’).
Noble Audio’s CanJam SoCal showpieces mostly focused on the top and bottom of the firm’s product range. At the top was the firm’s new flagship Kaiser Encore model which is based on ten purpose-built and custom spec balanced armature-type drivers sourced from Knowles ($1,850 in universal-fit earphone form, or $2,199 in CIEM form). The Kaiser Encore sounded superb and will soon be the subject of a Hi-Fi+ review.
At the bottom end of the range was a new Noble model developed for sale through Massdrop, which is called the Massdrop by Noble X, which is offered in universal-fit earphone form only, is based on dual balanced armature-type drivers, and sells for the very reasonable sum of $250. The Noble X is derived from Noble’s ‘Classic Line’ series of earphones, meaning it uses a moulded thermoplastic inner earpiece with machined aluminium outer earpiece caps. Based on a brief listen, we felt the Noble X offers huge value for money
Somewhat confusingly, Onkyo and its sister company Pioneer have both upgraded their premium, Android-based portable digital audio players from the past, while at the same time releasing now non-Android-based models. So, let’s take things from the top.
Pioneer has upgraded its Android-based XDP-100R digital audio player to create the XDP-300R digital audio player, which features a new audio board, dual DACs, dual amps, both single-ended and balanced outputs, and revised cosmetics, at a price of $699.
Onkyo has upgraded its Android-based DP-X1 digital audio player to create the DP-X1A digital audio player, which features a bump in standard on-board memory from 32GB to 64GB, a new audio board, higher quality parts in the audio signal path, and 3x larger storage capacitors, at a price of $799.
Then, in the interest of achieving lower costs of entry, Pioneer and Onkyo are both offering new non-Android-based players called, respectively, the XDP-30R ($399) and the DP-S1 ($499). Both players feature milled aluminium chassis, 16GB of standard on-board memory, 2x MicroSD cardslots for external add-on memory, and both single-ended and balanced outputs. The amp and DAC sections of the new Pioneer and Onkyo offerings are essentially the same as those used in the XDP-300R (for the Pioneer) and in the DP-X1A (for the Onkyo). One trade off, though, for these non-Android models is that they cannot download apps from the Google Play store, which the higher priced Android-based units can do. On the other hand, there’s no question that the new cost-reduced non-Android models offer an awful lot of sonic ‘bang for the bucks’. One other interesting point is that the non-Android models can support PCM files at 44.1kHz rates, whereas the Android units have to upsample 44.1kHz files to play them at Android’s native 48kHz rates.
The new firm Ossic was demonstrating a new headphone said to be capable of creating “immersive 3D audio”. Using proprietary processing techniques, the Ossic headphone is capable of a form of situational awareness, where the user can specify a room location where an external sound source—say, for example, an in-room stereo loudspeaker system—would be, and where the headphone tracks to that location even when the listener’s head is turned. The result is impressive; when facing the ostensible sound source, the stereo image appears directly in front of the listener as it should do, but when the listener rotates his or her head, the sound source stays right where it was, with the sound source seeming to shift to the listener’s right or left, as it also should do.
While I wouldn't call the Ossic headphone the last word in high fidelity reproduction, its 3D technology really does work, which is very impressive. The Ossic headphone can be pre-ordered for $299, but the MSRP will go up to its normal $499 level later on.