Head-Fi meet in Austin, TX

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

...and Hi-Fi+ gets into the act, too.

Although we’re not technically Head-Fi members (or at least the author is not), we decided that we, too, would participate in the sharing, free-flowing, “show-and-tell” spirit of the Head-Fi meet. To this end, we brought along two pieces of headphone-related equipment that are destined to become the subjects of upcoming Hi-Fi+ reviews. The products in question were iFi’s recently announced iCAN Nano portable headphone amplifier ($179) and Chord Electronics’ brand new Hugo high-res DAC/headphone amplifier ($2,395).

The tiny iFi amp got passed around amongst various Head-Fi members and the general consensus was that the little portable offered astonishing performance (and thus value) for the money. Many were floored by the amp’s rich, vibrant, full-bodied sound. One member, in particular, tried the iCAN Nano with a set of relatively demanding Sennheiser HD800 'phones and was shocked to hear the bold, muscular, and eminently musical sound the tiny portable amp produced. 

The Chord Hugo, in turn, wowed many attendees. One Head-Fi member nicely summed up the sentiments of the majority of listeners who tried the Hugo, saying,  “I went into severe temporary ‘sticker shock’ when you told me the price, but once I heard the Hugo in action everything started to make sense. It really is a viable replacement both for expensive high-performance DACs and for costly desktop headphone amplifiers.” The DAC section of the Hugo, in particular, came in for very high praise for its smooth, clean, and yet highly detailed and resolving sound.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Our decision to bring along products drawn from Hi-Fi+ reviews in progress should not be construed as favouritism or bias in favour of iFi or Chord Electronics. Rather, we hoped to show that Hi-Fi+ was not just reporting on but also actively participating in and contributing to the Austin Head-Fi meet. Besides, both the iFi and Chord components have their roots in Europe (and specifically in the UK), as does Hi-Fi+, so we felt it made sense to introduce Austinites to some new components that help to show what headphone-minded audio manufacturers have been creating in our part of the world.


Summing Up

We had a great time at the Austin Head-Fi meet and, as always, learned a lot, too. If you ever have the chance to attend a Head-Fi meet in your local area, we strongly encourage you to do so. You will be impressed, we think, by discovering audiophiles of all ages and genders united in their passion for great music and for putting together high-quality music systems based on headphones and earphones. Besides, it's almost impossible to envision a more friendly and welcoming group of music/audio lovers; their enthusiasm is downright contagious!

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