This year’s Chicago Head Fi meet brought a nice collection of the audiophile world together. I think this gathering of the headphone faithful is best showcased by the equipment, so this post is going to be a little light on the words and heavy on the imagery.
The O2 DAC and amp pictured above is perhaps one of the most beautiful versions of this DIY amp I have put my hands on. The maker (head-fi user Fraggler) designed and implemented the see-through casing himself. A very nice touch that compliments the DIY-ness of the project.
One of the most interesting outliers was a unique component that takes personal headphone audio to a whole different level. The Smyth Realiser A8 is not your ordinary simulated surround-sound headphone amplifier. This unit includes a few very cool add-ons that attempt to make a pair of headphones feel like loudspeakers.
The first device sits atop your favorite pair of headphones and allows the Realiser to simulate your head turning in relation to a two speaker set-up. In other words, if you turn your head to the right the headphones will emulate an experience where your left ear receives a majority of the sound from both channels and vise versa.
The second adds on simulated bass response that you can feel with your body via two corresponding vibration units that shake your seat along with the music.
Another popular Do-It-Yourself kit among headphone enthusiasts is the BottleHead amplifier line. The one below is simply called “Sex” and is being fed by a Calyx DAC.
Two amazing setups appeared on one table with the Audeze LCD-3 to a Woo Audio WA22 amplifier and the new Fostex flagship paired with Lehmann Black Cube Linear, both driven by a Wyred 4 Sound DAC. Also included (but not pictured) was the current king of the universal fit IEM category, the oddly-named the Fitear TO GO! 334. ($1,350)
In addition to his trusty Grant Fidelity TubeDac-11 Head-Fi user Keithpgdrb brought along a vintage STAX SR Lambda rig that he restored himself. The delicate process of replacing all of the old components in the amplifier took him weeks to complete, but the end result was well worth the effort by my measure.
One attendee was generous enough to lug a vinyl setup to the meet. In addition to the AKG headphones below, you may notice a nicely-modded color pair of the popular Sennheiser HD 25-II.
Inner Fidelity writer and headphone review extraordinaire SkyLab brought his Leben amplifier setup along with his custom headphone stand that bears the mark of his Head-Fi insignia.
The Audio Head table included a plethora of DAC combos to sample from. The Arcam rPAC, Calyx Coffee and the AudioQuest Dragonfly DACs were all featured in addition to the [portable audiophile rig] that made an encore appearance.
Their was a solid selection of Ray Samuels new Intruder DAC/Amp combo to pick from (review upcoming). Ray brought the Intruder in three colors for attendees to check out. I’m really looking forward to spending some time with the new combo. My limited experience with the Intruder at meets leads me to believe that this little unit has some serious potential (especially for IEMs).
Overall it was quite a showing for Chicago. If you can get a chance, I highly recommend you check out your local audio meets. It’s one of the few places you can audition new gear and meet up with like-minded audiophiles.