This is Part 2 of a report on the recent Southern California CanJam event held on March 28-29, 2015 in the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel in Costa Mesa, California.
Covalent Audio – Synergistic Research
Covalent Audio teamed with the famous cable and accessory maker Synergistic Research for a fascinating demonstration, or more accurately two demonstrations. At the heart of each demonstration was Covalent Audio’s excellent yet quite affordable Nucleus headphone amplifier ($399). In one system music was played through a ‘naked’ Nucleus with no supporting accessories, while in the adjacent system the Nucleus was augmented by a host of Synergistic accessories including the firm’s Tranquillity Basik equipment platform ($995), an HOT headphone optimised transducer $299), an ECT electronic circuit transducer ($75), MIG tuning feet ($150), and a Powercell 6 ($1,999).
First, the results of the comparison suggested to us that the Synergistic elements really do make an audible and beneficial difference (although they might arguably be overkill for such a system), though their effects were subtle enough in some instance that as crowd noise in the room increased the effects became harder to discern clearly. Second, though, the result suggested that Covalent’s little Nucleus amp is a pretty fine device in its own right, even without help from the Synergistic accessories.
ENIGMAcoustics showed its new Dharma headphone ($1,200), which features a dynamic main driver and a supplementary self-biasing electrostatic (or electret) high frequency driver, with Dharma driven my ENIGMAcoustic’s lovely triode-powered Athena A1 headphone amplifier.
The general consensus among attendees was that the Dharma is a very special headphone indeed, one that offers an almost ethereal high end that conveys layer upon layer of subtle spatial information, making for unusually broad, expansive soundstages. One sure sign of the Dharma’s innate goodness is one amplifier maker after another expressed interest in borrowing the demo pair of Dharmas to try with their own amps. It’s a good ‘un indeed.
ENIGMAcoustics – Questyle – AnnaLyric
As a sign of the growing eclecticism of the high-end headphone community, one portion of the display area was set aside for speaker-based systems, and one of the most fascinating of those was a system comprising a pair of ENIGMAcoustics Mythology M1 stand-mount monitors with self-biasing electrostatic super-tweeters as driven by—get this—a wireless amplification system from Questyle, with speaker cables (pretty much the only cables in the system apart from power cords) from the Chicago-based firm AnnaLyric.
The truly impressive part was not just how good ENIGMAcoustics’ Mythology M1s sounded (I’ve heard them several times before and they never fail to impress), but how finely resolved and focused the Questyle wireless amplification systems turned out to be. If you’ve thought that the terms ‘wireless’ and ‘high-performance’ are mutually exclusive, the Questyle system might well make you think again.