Show Report: CanJam SoCal 2015 – Part 3

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

Pendulumic was winning friends with its very good and very affordable Stance S1+ wireless aptX Bluetooth headphone ($199). Unlike many of the breed, the Pendulumic sounds less like one of those typically foggy and diffuse-sounding Bluetooth headphones we’ve all encountered at one point or another and more like a good quality wired headphone. Fit and finish on the Stance S1+ are also several cuts above the norm for this class. Finally, the Stance S1+ provides built-in rechargeable batteries capable of about 30 hours of playback time plus—get this—a set of conventional AAA back-up batteries that can be brought into play if the main batteries happen to run out of charge at an inconvenient moment.

Putting together good sound, good looks, good build quality, great functionality, and a sweet price, the Stance S1+ is surely ‘dressed for success’.

Some of the most diverse and varied product offerings at CanJam came from the Chinese firm Questyle Audio Engineering. On display was the firm’s CAS192D high-res, Wolfson-powered 24/192 PCM and DSD64 DAC ($2,000), which fed signals to a pair of the firm’s distinctive CMA 800R wide-bandwidth, balanced headphone amplifiers ($2,000/each). The CMA 800R's use the firm’s patented Current Mode Amplification circuit technology.

In a separate display, the firm also showed its CMA800i desktop headphone amp/DAC ($2,500), which leverages design elements of both the CAS192D and the CMA 800R, but in a more compact, all-in-one format. Also shown was the smaller and less expensive Q192 compact (but not portable) PCM-only headphone amp/DAC ($800).

Then, Questyle gave CanJam attendees a preview of prototype versions of its very cool QP1 portable high-res digital music player ($600) and the upscale QP1R, which offers more on-board memory and even higher quality parts ($900). Both models feature Questyle’s signature Current Mode Amplification, provide both high-res PCM and DSD 64/128 decoding, and include card slots allowing use of up to 128GB Micro SD cards. Questyle asked us not to photograph the units with their graphical user interfaces powered up, but suffice it to say Questyle is doing some interesting work in that area.

Finally, in a separate, speaker-orientated display area at the show, Questyle demonstrated its 5G wireless amplification system, which used the firm’s T2 transmitter unit to communicate with Questyle's R200 wireless-enabled class D monoblock amplifiers. The Questyle electronics were used to power a set of ENIGMAcoustics Mythology M1 monitors and they sound quite good (more like a wired system than a wireless one).

RHA Audio
The Scottish firm RHA Audio has two clear-cut winners on its hands with its MA750i and flagship T10i earphones, both of which are value-for-money leaders, but at CanJam the firm was showing a prototype of a potential new model called the T20. At first glance the T20 appears to be a lightly revised T10i, but as it turns out the big differences are actually on the inside.

Specifically, RHA has created for the T20 a radical new dual voice-coil dynamic driver, whose diaphragm actually provides five discrete, concentric-ring type driving surfaces. Based on a brief listen to the prototype, it appears the new driver taps much deeper reserves of resolution and low-level detail than can the already good T10i. At this stage, though, the open-ended question that RHA continues to research is whether or not its dual voice-coil driver can be mass-produced at a sensible cost. Let’s hope so…

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