CanJam at this year’s Rock Mountain Audiofest was outstanding. There is a great community feel surrounding the Head-Fi hobby that is almost palpable throughout the room. Although their was a subtle shift in manufactures over last year (especially in the CIEM department) most, if not all of the big players came back for another round.
The hobby’s biggest personalities all made the trip out to personal audio’s largest show, and could be found shuffling (or stumbling depending on the time of day) about the rows of tables. Tyll, Steve Guttenberg, Michael Mercer, tons of Head-Fier’s and of course Jude all converged together on the show floor for good times with great tunes. All the major headphone manufactures had a presence (Beyer, Senn, Audeze, even Sony). There was little emphasis on the AKG brand (I only saw the classic 701 in one setup) and no Beats/Monster table. DSD was all the rage among DACs and portable balanced headphone connections are starting to appear more frequently on new products. The premium-priced Abyss was more prevalent in setups, including a dedicated room the loudspeaker area. There was a significant buzz around the show regarding its pairing with the Cavalli audio line of amplifiers. There was also a bit more of an international presence with the first-time introduction of Violectric (a Germany-based amp company) and the new universal IEMs from the british RHA. New products launches and prototypes are always a highlight of RMAF, so we will start off the coverage with a few interesting options:
Jerry Harvey’s newest flagship CIEM creation dubbed Roxanne ($1.6k) features adjustable bass like the JH-3A/JH16 before it, but this time the controls are all fully contained within the connecting cable alone. This allows the ear speaker to work seamlessly with your amp and connection of choice. Look for custom cable upgrades from other companies to quickly follow. The 3 quad drivers (12 total on each side) all feature Jerry’s Freqphase technology and can be individually controlled by frequency grouping (low, mid, high). The prototype Jerry let me listen to wasn’t a finalized product, but from what I did hear I was very impressed. The sound stage was simply amazing for an IEM. Focused and tight, the total experience felt very much out-of-head, quite a substantial achievement considering the universal fit demo doesn’t share the same seal as a custom mold would. Roxanne’s bass adjustment will allow the listener to start the low end presentation at a true zero launching point and increase from there. While this may seem like an uneventful feature, very few CIEMs actually offer truly flat bass. Most in-ear manufactures prefer a more boosted, bass-friendly signature. The carbon fiber case for the monitors was extremely well built to match the craftsmanship of the ear pieces. Undeniably one of the best I’ve seen for such a product. The Roxanne should be available around the holiday season and can be ordered directly from Jerry’s site www.jhaudio.com.
Schiit audio had a working prototype of their new Ragnarok flagship on display. This sizable amplifier drives both headphones (4 pin-balanced and single ended) and loudspeakers (100w/4 ohms) and will retail for $1,500. The amp on display was solid state but Jason let me know that a tube version will be available for $500 more. A matching statement DAC will eventually accompany the amp (Ragnarok is launching first) called Yggdrasil and will cost $1,900.
On the other side of the spectrum, Schiit is also launching a small tube amplifier that fits the footprint of the budget Magi and Modi models. The Vali will retail for $120. Jason and the team seem intent on punching traditional audiophile pricing in the face with their products and I think most of the head fi community is content to sit by the wayside and watch the fight go down. Check out the videos at the end of the post for more coverage of the most affordable american headphone tube amplifier on the market.
HifiMan is known for their diverse set of headphones and digital players. With the flagship 901 DAP already in place, the company just announced a new entry-level player called the HM700 at the show. It will come packaged with the HifiMan’s matching RE400 universal IEM for $250. A package with also be available for their step up RE600 in-ear.
See more of our RMAF 2013 and CanJam coverage here: