This year’s 7th annual ChiUniFi Head Fi meet was a unique conglomeration of first timers, old veterans, manufactures and even a few surprise product reveals. Attendees started to file in the Northfield Sheraton Willow room at the 10 a.m. mark. It didn’t seem like anyone was overtly nursing a hangover, but the cheerful vibe and unbridled enthusiasm for all things audio really started to pick up by the time lunch rolled around. There was fine selection of the best personal audio gear available to check out among the rows of tables set up for the event.
This gentleman brought along a pair of Woo products to amplify an excellent collection of flagship headphones including the Audeze LCD-3, Beyerdynamic T1, and Sennheiser HD800s. The WA2 amplifier (located on the left here) and the Woo audio WA6SE (on the right) provided a flushed out true tube lovers experience for those who stopped by to listen.
Even with the portability advancements Head-Fi, digital wasn’t the only source pumping out tunes to the attendees. Vinyl still made an appearance connected to an Audio-gd amplifier and the classic AKG 701.
Dan, also known as Mr. Speakers within the forum crowd, was gracious enough to fly out all the way from the Mad Dog headquarters in San Diego to show off his latest iteration of his popular Fostex T50RP mod, the brand new “3.2″. This latest version retails for $300 for an unbalanced connection and $400 for a balanced 4 pin pair. Dan let us know that he will also be offering a pick-your-own-cable-connection option in the near future as well.
CEntrance had their upcoming portable Apple-compatable DAC & headphone amplifier called the HiFi-M8 on display. This long awaited, Head-Fi crowd-sourced product should be ready to ship within the month. The internal DAC chip is an AKM variety and the unit should be firmware upgradable upon release.
Along with a wide selection of tone augmenting options located on the back, CEntrance will also offer several options for the front faceplate connections. Two varieties are pictured here, but the final lineup will also include the RSA balanced minijack option commonly found on Ray Samuels and ALO portable gear.
Ray Samuels does an excellent job of attending the local headphone events here in Chicago, and Saturday was no exception. In a surprise move, he also brought along his newest balanced creation called the “Lighting”.
Lighting is a end to end balanced portable headphone amplifier with a significantly smaller footprint than his popular Intruder combo. The new amp sheds the DAC section of the Intruder and focuses its efforts solely on powering headphones. From the demo I experienced, the power it was able to provide proved to be quite substantial.
Ray will be offering the new product in both of this traditional finishes, white and black.
The long awaited Cardas EM 5813 IEM also made a surprise showing at the meet. The “Ear Mirror” is a universal fit In-Ear Monitor that retails for $425 and is currently available for pre order.
One of my tube amp personal favorites, the Eddie Current Balancing Act paired very nicely with the Audeze LCD-3.
The duel balanced and SE output from the Balancing Act allowed Head-Fi user Fraggler to A/B his DYI Sennheiser Momentums (that he balanced himself) against our single ended pair.
The meet up was not without its truly upper high end presence. The Abyss headphones (~$5k) shown below have bit of girth to them, but big sound to match. The very generous individual who brought them along also had his own DYI modded version of the LCD-3 on display.
In another big surprise, there were several products from the boutique amplifier manufacture Cavalli available to listen to, including a pre production unit.
Arnold from Tweak Studios even brought along a loudspeaker setup located in room just off to the side of the main headphone room. Pictured here with a pair of ELAC bookshelves atop Music Hall speaker stands, the experience was a welcome one to those looking to branch out to more public displays of audio affection.
A special thanks to Head Fi user Audio Addict for setting up and organizing the whole meet. A great time was had by all who attended, I look forward to numero ocho!