CanJam at RMAF 2014 Highlight: New Cardas A8 IEM

Over the last four years or so, I've watched George Cardas slowly but surely zero in on his own unique and unorthodox understanding of what makes for a good IEM. I thought his first product, the EM5813, was a laudable effort, one revision was particularly gorgeous sounding, but overall I felt it had some significant ergonomic problems—mostly too heavy and cables to thick—and I told him so. Discussions like that can be somewhat uncomfortable for all concerned, but I always try to be clear and honest in my criticisms. George, to his great credit, didn't get pissed, he just got busy re-thinking his approach.

The result has me giddy with excitement.

RMAF2014_Cardas_A8

The new Cardas A8 ($299, Jan 2015 availability) is a spectacularly cool looking IEM. The main part of the cable with it's colorful spiral braid is feather light and flexible, and is terminated with a slender 45 degree angle 3.5mm TRS plug. The molded "Y" split includes a slider; cables to the ear pieces is a thin, flexable, woven cover cable. RMAF2014_Cardas_BundtThe ear pieces themselves are a tad on the heavy side...just a tad...but for good reason: magnets are heavy. George has designed a completely new magnet configuration wherein there are no pole pieces. To the best of my ability to visualize what's going on after hearing George's description, the magnet is sort of shaped like a bundt cake pan where the central tower is one pole, and the surrounding edge is the other. The voice coils sits between.

George also has some theories about matching the diaphragm size with the size of the ear drum. I know many scoff at his ideas, but I find nothing wrong with a person of long experience taking a somewhat more intuitive approach to design than a more traditional engineering-based approach—it's the sonic end result that matters, right? Well, the new A8 is damned good sounding. Tonal balance is neutral, dynamics are terrific, treble is resolving without being tiresome—this is a great example of how a single dynamic driver IEM can deliver outstanding performance.

Yes, your awesome sauce is showing, George.

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