Odds and Ends – CanJam SoCal 2016


This year’s CanJam in Los Angeles was good time. The manufacturer turnout was diverse and their were several outliers that brought some interesting color to the event as well. The were even trace amounts of loudspeaker influence to be found sprinkled around the event. A few audio rooms and wireless devices mirrored some of the trends from January’s CES event and the general movement of the tide for the audio market.


Wireless audio is sharing a deeper influence into the audiophile crowd with its obvious convenience but even moreso now that technology is slowly creeping ever closer to more acceptable sound quality standards. It may still be a very long time before the traditionalist decides to give up the wire altogether, but in the meantime it won’t stop the bread-and-butter audiophile companies from taking part in all the fun.


Oppo knows how to make a great CD player. They also make a heck of a planar headphone. Now they are throwing their hat in the ring with the like of Sonos with a new bluetooth enabled loudspeaker. Like Sonos, the loudspeaker will have an mobile app, and be capable of TIDAL HiFi natively and 24/192 streaming (DNLA, also Airplay).


The new space-age-looking device is called Sonica ($299) and you can run more than one unit into different rooms with a wide variety of sources and also create unique zones based on speaker groupings. Two speakers can even be paired together for a larger stereo presentation. The back of the device also holds many notable options, including USB for an external drive (very cool) and a 3.5mm hardwire connection for sourcing the system from any point close to a speaker.


We [recently got a peek] at the flagship of flagships from Astell and Kern in their AK380 player with a copper frame. Now the attachable external headphone amplifier set up is getting ready for prime time. The separate accessory adds another 3,400 mAh battery and 8.1 VRMS of gain to the equation without breaking the svelte aesthetic design of the DAP.


The unit runs headphone amplification in both the 3.5mm SE and 2.5mm balanced configurations, same as the player. Aside from the promise of better sound quality, the unit also brings along the capability to run in two gain levels to better fit a wide variety of headphone pairings. The volume for the external amp can be controlled though the player and both units can also be charged simultaneously together.


Mr.Speakers had a new electrostatic headphone prototype out for show and tell. No official name yet and no price other than it will be more than the current Ether lineup and less than Sennheiser’s wallet-bursting Orpheus. Expect more on this front before the end of the year.


Perhaps one of the coolest, out-of-the-box but yet totally appreciated tables at the show was this headphone testing station by Bruel & Kjaer. Utilizing a software called SoundCheck to test headphones, attendees could bring their personal headphones to be measured during the show. The company did a live demo for me and it was an interesting experience to say the least. It may come as no surprise that I would love to get my hands on one of these babies for the lab, but collectively the experience is quite a bit out of our budget unfortunately.


The dummy head has removable ears for different applications. Separate receiving devices can also be inserted into the head depending on your needs and the unit can even be used for recording binaural tracks.

The team at Riva was kind enough to give us a walkthrough of their portable bluetooth Riva S loudspeaker ($249) outside their room on the 3rd floor. The company has made some significant leaps in sound quality from the old days that started with the likes of Jawbone and others. The attention to detail on the internals of this device were quite impressive, even down to the passive radiators that help contribute to the 7 drivers-worth of effort being made to create sound from the small enclosure. The Riva S model also includes a turntable mode for those who want a truly real estate-friendly desktop system for vinyl.