Now in its second year, the Headroom show ran at the end of January at the Metropolis Studios in Chiswick, West London. With almost every exhibitor at last year’s show turning up again for this year, and more companies trying to squeeze into the limited studio space, the show was filled to bursting. No wonder – it’s a friendly, inviting show run by people who are genuinely passionate about their music and their products, and enthusiasts who are enthusiastic, not simply there to score points. For those more used to conventional audio shows, this is a more exciting and dynamic place: among the larger, more established audio shows, arguably only Bristol and Munich get close to providing the same buzz.
Once again, there were a lot of products that were already seen at CES or at previous shows, so we decided not to go over freshly trodden ground. Nevertheless, there were some surprises and new product launches, as well as some little-seen gems worth talking about.
It's been a long time coming, but the ADL Stratos DAC/ADC recorder/headphone amp/preamp has finally made it! It changed a little since first seen in prototype form back in 2013, but the new £995 Stratos is densely packed, with phono input and up to QuadDSD replay performance.
Beyer Dynamic now has one of the strongest high-end ranges it has ever pitched, with a prototype of the revised T5p alongside the T1 and DT1770 Pro. New drivers, removable headphone cables, a better headband and a host of 'Gen 2' technology learned from the T1 should filter through to the revised £849 headphone.
The Chord Company has developed a cable that is both flexible enough to work in a headphone setting, and yet offers the advantages seen in the company's best loudspeaker cables. The secret seems to be that the twisted pair cable uses an extruded carbon-fibre shielding, is expected to cost between £200-£300, and fits all current conectors. Other cable brands at the show included Nordost and Vertere.
Chord Electronics was running its popular demonstration of its trio of 'good', 'better', 'best' DACs with the Mojo, Hugo, and DAVE. But in the same room, Chord supremo John Franks was more taken by another Hugo, one that is owned and used by the studio itself. Ed Sheeran's X (pictured just above the Hugo) was said to be mixed on that DAC in that control room.
Not a lot was known about these two new lower-cost headphones from Final, save that they bear a striking similarity in design, build, and even sound to the Sonorous VII and X models in the line that cost significantly more!