What follows is a mostly pictorial survey of new headphone, earphone, and related products seen and heard at RMAF—some of which will become review subjects in Hi-Fi+ and/or our US-based sister publication The Absolute Sound in the months to come.
To access Part 1 of this report, .
The Virginia-based firm HeadAmp was showing its newest product, which is the two-chassis, fully balanced, solid-state GS-X Mk2 headphone amplifier ($2780, or $2980 with upgraded DACT volume control), based in large part upon a design created by the acknowledged headphone amplification guru Kevin Gilmore.
Gilmore typically offer his designs as schematics for DIY (do it yourself) projects and HeadAmp founder Justin Wilson told us he once built a sample of the amplifier upon which the GS-X Mk2 is based as a DIY project for his own personal enjoyment a number of years ago. However, the original Gilmore design called for circuit devices that are no longer readily available, so that—in order to bring the GS-X Mk2 to market—Wilson adapted the original design to use more contemporary amplification devices, whilst adding a few additional refinement touches of his own.
Like all HeadAmp products, the GS-X Mk2 offers a very high level of fit and finish, with the sort of attention to small details that would not seem out of place in, say, a Bentley. Plainly, pride of ownership is spoken here.
· For a review of HeadAmp’s Blue Hawaii SE electrostatic headphone amplifier, click here: http://www.hifiplus.com/articles/headamp-blue-hawaii-se-electrostatic-headphone-amplifier-playback-56/
For CanJam, the HiFiMAN booth mostly showed the firm’s extensive range of previously released headphones and earphones, while focusing on the firm’s flagship HM-901 high-resolution player/DAC/headphone amplifier.
The HM-901 has followed a relatively slow path toward production, perhaps because it is so ambitious in its conception. Basically, the HM-901 is a high-res file player (much like the Astell & Kern AK120), but one based on ESS Sabre DAC devices such as those used in any number of high-end disc players and DACs. What is more, the HM-901 allows user-selectable amplification (including an available balanced output module), and will—eventually—be offered with an optional tabletop docking station that allows the HM-901 to serve as the main, high-res DAC in a conventional audio system.
At present, our understanding is that the HM-901 hardware is finalised as are the HM-901’s three optional flavours of available amplifier modules, so that all that remains are a final set of firmware revisions, plus the hoped-for outboard docking station.
Whilst Astell & Kern have clearly stolen a march on HiFiMAN by bringing their gorgeous AK120 high-res player to market ahead of the HM-901, HiFiMAN plainly hopes that discerning audiophiles will find the HM-901 offers offsetting advantages in terms of sound quality and versatility. But will this really be the case? Only time will tell…
· See the capsule description of the HiFIMAN HE-6 planar magnetic headphone in the 2014 High-End Audio Buyer's Guide section of The Absolute Sound issue 237.
· For a review of the HiFIMAN HE-6 planar magnetic headphone, click here: http://www.hifiplus.com/articles/hifiman-he-6-planar-magnetic-headphones-playback-37/
· For a review of the HiFiMAN HE-500 planar magnetic headphone, click here: http://www.hifiplus.com/articles/hifiman-he-500-planar-magnetic-headphones-playback-47/