Even though the economy is still rumbling though it’s recovery, you couldn’t tell by looking at the new products coming out this year. There was no shortage of audio diversity at the Rocky Mountain AudioFest. Even the classic headphone company Sennheiser had a booth brimming with new entries over last year. Lined up on a glowing pedestal one could find the latest flagship IEM the IE 800 ($1k) and the newly-released HD700 ($1k). Looking even deeper you could find the new svelte $300-something mainstream consumer “Momentum” ($350 to be exact) sandwiched in-between. Apparently audiophiles love their acronyms and numbers while the general public prefers something a little more palatable.
But the real “goods” may rest in a classic silver audiophile box housing. Symbolizing a stark departure from the company’s traditional headphone production roots, the new HDVA 600 headphone amplifier ($1,600) is set to compliment the wide assortment of premier headphones the company already manufactures. Complete with balanced outputs the new amplifier includes a peek-a-boo glass viewing window on the top of the housing. The HDVA 600 is analog only, but Sennheiser also plans to release a digital-friendly version that includes an on-board DAC called the HDVA 800 ($2k).
We covered a few the new prototypes from Wyred 4 Sound at T.H.E Show in Newport Beach this year and it was nice to see the new DAC units all buttoned up at this year’s RMAF. The new uDAC-HD ($500) sports 24/192 asynchronous USB input powered by a separate source or USB. The other side includes a headphone output in addition to the stereo outs.
The uLink ($300) sports a similar look and feel, taking 24/196 USB out to BNC, optical and Coaxial outputs.
Wyred’s always-hospitable VP Clint let me know that DACs were not the only new products at the show. Also on display for the first time was the company’s new mPre ($1,100) and mAmp monoblocks ($900/each). I’m a big fan of getting the most BFTB (bang for the buck), and the price range that these new products fall into is very refreshing. A complete monoblock setup for $3k? There are very limited choices available in this window and it’s great to see companies liked Wyred 4 Sound fill in the empty space left between pricey top-tier audiophile speaker setups and Head-Fi.
The new mAmp monoblocks do 250 watts into 8 ohms and the mPre includes a 24/192kHz USB DAC, headphone, balanced outs, home theater bypass and a remote. All the new unit’s design still fit into Wyred’s iconic half-size chassis and take up less space than your typical hifi component.
For those who like analog to digital as much as digital to analog, the Hilo Lynx ($2,500) once again made an appearance at Rocky Mountain. Channel D has been known to pair their Pure Vinyl software with these units at shows and the results have been fairly pleasing to my ears. The Lynx naturally has USB input and can act as a preamp and headphone amplifier.
ALO audio brought it’s brand new (still in prototype) statement headphone amplifier the Studio 6 ($4k). This tube amp featured four headphone outputs and a connection for a future phono stage. Booths from both Cypher Labs (featuring the new Algorhythm Solo) and Audeze (new closed-back LCD prototype) were in close proximity and kept a solid crowd captivated around that corner of CanJam the entire weekend. ALO also had it’s new Pan Am headphone amp/DAC combo ($600) on display which we reviewed in full [here].
I got a chance to talk to Jason of Schiit about his diverse line of headphone amps and DAC. Schiit offers tube, solid state, singled ended, and even balanced outputs and inputs in it’s newest amplifiers and DAC the Mjolnir and Gungnir all made in the US that deliver plenty of BFTB. Jason’s DACs are all upgradable in case a new digital standard come to fruition. He also hinted at another release making its way down the pipeline so you can expect even more to come from the headphone company with the most entertaining ad campaign in audio.
In what was one of the most closely guarded secrets and a complete surprise to me, Audeze revealed a new prototype of a closed back headphone to complement their popular LCD line. The whole experience was reminiscent of an audiophile version of an Apple announcement in the Steve Jobs era of yesteryear, before all the leakage of recent iPhone launches. The new prototype is still in it’s early stages, but fans of the Audeze brand will no doubt be excited to get a listen to this headphone.
Audeze also had a fun piece on display made from a pair of LCD-3 headphones. This tricked out headphone had a steampunk theme and while not functional, definitely made for a good conversational piece.