There was so much to see and do at the first ever Southern California CanJam that there wasn’t really enough time to cram every new product and vendor into their own posts on the site. With AudioCon/AXPONA right around the corner (April 24-26) there will be ample opportunity to follow up with a few more of the biggest news items of the season, so expect to see even more news coming your way on Audio-Head very soon. As a wrap up for the final post, we decided to include some of the most prominent mentions as well as some really cool extras that rolled our way over the course of the weekend.
The first product that deserves a mention here is the headliner pictured above. The new planar magnetic series from Oppo started with the open back PM-1 ($1,099) but has matured into a full featured spread, including the newest closed back headphone called the PM-3 ($399). The new cans come in black and white and utilize a 55mm planar magnetic driver with a nominal impedance of 26 ohms. If you order from the company’s website, the headphone ships with a detachable 3 meter cable (with 3.5mm termination) and your choice of Apple or Android inline controls and mic for phone use.
Oppo also brought along the new HA-2 portable DAC/Headphone amp that we first saw at [Rocky Mountain Audiofest] last year. I really dig the sleek thin design and stitched leather look of the DSD, Android and Apple-friendly pocket rocket. The digital duties are controlled by the impressive ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018-K2M chip which handles high resolution like a champ. Like so many of the company’s other products, Oppo really does a fine job of packing a high end feature set into a budget-friendly price. The HA-2 is available directly from Oppo’s site for $299.
Jerry Harvey of JH Audio is building a reputation as one of the nicest guys in the head-fi circles. He made time for a quick pit stop in between Van Halen rehearsals (for which he is the stage tech) to hang with some of the fine folks of the head-fi community. Pictured above with Head-Fi moderators third_eye and Currawong, Jerry continues to push the boundaries of custom in-ear manufacturing with his new Siren Series. The newest additions to the collection include the Angie ($1,295) and Layla ($2,595) which can be made to fit as a custom as well as a universal.
Co-founder and CEO Xuanqian Wang of Auralic had the very well received VEGA DAC along with the new DSD streamer ARIES at his table on the second floor. The ARIES can control media playback via mobile apps and also features a USB OUT for connecting to a remote external DAC (like the company’s own VEGA). Xuanqain let it slip that the company may have something new coming down the pipeline, but he would give me no indication as to what category it may (or may not) fit into. Perhaps we will be able to squeeze something more out of him at AXPONA.
I also got a chance to hear Schiit Audio’s designer extraordinaire Mike Moffat talk solo on a “panel” on Saturday. His running monolog was pretty entertaining as far as audio show seminars go. Colorful and witty, Mike put on quite a show for attendees and even entertained questions a few minutes past the 1 hour mark he was allotted. Most of the talk was oriented around the design of his new flagship DAC named Yggdrasil. While the name itself doesn’t quite roll of the tough with the same linguistic finesse as Mike’s presentation did, the story of its development was quite intriguing.
The “Yggy” as Mike referred to it, sports a custom DAC chip that is not one of your typical off the shelf components. Mike also helped design the proprietary digital filter which is carefully applied to the processing. Preliminary pricing for the new DAC should should land somewhere around the $2,299 mark. Surprisingly, the new DAC does not allow for DSD decoding, but handles all manner of traditional PCM high resolution files.
Phillips also brought along a great cross section of their Fidelio line of high resolution headphones for attendees to sample. The slightly mainstream-focused brand features headphones under $299 for the most part, but still gets a good reception for its headphones that land in that $299-$199 sweet spot. The one that caught my eye this time around was the new M2L (~$320), which is the first headphone I have seen that features a Apple Lighting connector instead of the standard 3.5mm connection. Implementing the new Apple protocol entails offloading both the digital decoding as well as amplification duties to internal components within the headphone. The closed back M2L has 40mm drivers and manual volume adjustment available on the right ear cup. The internal DAC capabilities top out at 24/48 kHz which should be more than enough for most iDevice interactions.
AudioQuest had the new NightHawk hooked up for listening in the room they shared with Woo Audio on the main floor of the show at the Westin. The semi-open headphone drives sound care of two unique 50mm biocellulose pistonic diaphragms. It might just have been the outside environment seeping in, but the headphone sounded a little different to me than when I heard it at last at CES. It just goes to show that it is not really fair to base critical impressions off of audio show prototypes, as hard as that may be to deliver. In any case, AudioQuest might still have a real winner on their hands with the new $599 headphone given their track record with the budget Dragonfly DAC. The company known mostly for its cable creations has had some pretty good executions breaking into new product categories in the past.
I got to spend a little more time with the new Hugo TT ($4,795) from Chord. The original “portable” version ($2,445) made some waves last year and it has been fairly exciting to see the next evolution in the series come to market. While the british-based company chose not to upgrade the digital components much from its little brother, but the TT does offer up more fun in terms of power supply upgrades and input/output options. I’ve been fairly impressed with what I’ve heard from this high end family, even though the cost puts it near the top of the pile in terms of raw functionality vs price.
One of my favorite surprises of the show was running into this little guy. The original high end portable known as the Tera player is rarely seen on this side of the ocean. The sans display DAP retails for a staggering $3,360 Euro and plays only WAV. No DSD, no MP3, and no Apple files. The unit does not carry any internal memory, but relies solely on the SD slot which tops out at 32G. The build is a bit rough (especially when the device is lined up next to today’s options) but you can’t deny the tenacity of the product from just a few short years ago.
I got introduced to the elusive DAP from this friendly lady who was comparing to one of the newer Astell & Kern players at the JH Audio table when I ran into her. It was a great way to round out an informative and satisfying weekend with tons of cool gear surrounded by genuine enthusiasm for the hobby. Its time to dust off the old camera phone and prepare for Chicago, show season has officially begun.