CanJam at RMAF2016: Day 2

Day two in the big top. Man there's a lot of IEM makers in here. Maybe it's because the barriers to entry are low, but I sure wouldn't want to be in that business...the competition is fierce. Worse, each manufacturer has numerous products in the line, oft times touting a different tuning for each product. Headphones have gotten a lot better over the last few years, but I don't see the same progress on the in-ear side...or not as much anyway. Too many bright IEMs, it seems to me. I want to see someone who has a line that's nicely tuned throughout...and guess what, I did find a company with such a line. We'll get to that down the page.

RMAF2016_Day2_Photo_CavalliDan Clark and Warren Chi of Mr. Speakers and Cavalli Audio respectively were cuddled up together in adjoining booths. I sat down for a listen to the Ether Flow ($1799) driven by a bare-naked Cavalli Liquid Tungston (~$4000). A luscious pairing. It was all I could do not to lick my fingers and poke them in for a nice jolt.

Spent some time with the new Mr. Speakers prototype e-stat headphone. I'll report on it later this week once I get home.

RMAF2016_Day2_Photo_SonyNaotaka Tsunoda was manning the Sony booth showing off their new high-end MDR-Z1R ($2299) closed headphone and NW-WM1Z Walkman ($3199). I thought the Z1R was a significant improvement over the previously released MDR-Z7. I know it's a bit of a contentious issue, but Naotaka also revealed their new intermediate sized, balanced headphone plug that comes as standard issue on the Z1R and Walkman. I like it because it's more durable than a 3.5mm jack, smaller than a 1/4", and easier for folks to solder than an XLR. On the other hand, you're still left with a plug that can short contacts when being inserted. It's an open standard the Sony hopes will catch on...we'll see.

Also in the booth was Sony's new MDR-1000X ($398) wireless noise canceling headphones. Though a little V-shaped in response the sound was quite good. Bose better watch out, after hearing these and spending quite a bit of time with the Sennheiser PXC550 I'd say we're entering a new era of pretty darn good sounding wireless noise cancelers.

RMAF2016_Day2_Photo_BeyerBeyer brought their new DT 1770 Pro ($599) sealed and DT 1990 Pro ($599) open headphones. I found them a little V-shaped tonally, but a clear step forward in sound quality from the maker. Pretty nice for low-volume listening. I'll have to get some in for measurements and review consideration.
RMAF2016_Day2_Photo_ZMFZach Mehrbach has jumped the Fostex T50RP driver shark! After spending months and months of time sorting through many dozens of drivers he's settled on a TPE diaphragm for the Atticus ($999) and a biocellulose driver for the Eikon ($1299). These semi-closed headphones reek of headphone enthusiast sensibilities, and sound just lovely. More on these later this week.
RMAF2016_Day2_Photo_SennheiserNo new high-end stuff from Sennheiser, but they were showing the new mid-priced line-up of full sized cans including: HD 559 ($149) open; HD 569 ($179) closed; HD 579 ($199) open; and HD 599 ($249) open.

I went down the line plugging each into my Astell&Kern AK240 and, boy howdy, I've not heard a line of cans so consistently tuned in...well, forever. Just straight down the middle, this is exactly the type of thing Sennheiser is capable of, and man, I'm glad to hear it. You bet, I'll be bringing these into the lab as soon as I possibly can.

RMAF2016_Day2_Photo_SonomaAfter a quick listen to the prototypes at CES early this year, I was quite excited to hear how the Sonoma Model One ($4995) electrostatic headphone system would turn out. This very unusual headphone uses what they call a High-Precision Electrostatic Laminate Transducer (HPEL). That's right, the entire driver—diaphragm, stator, and all—is a thin, flexible laminate part held in a frame within the headphone. My SBAF buddy Tyler Shrank and I sat for a listen and we were both mightily impressed. Review unit to arrive when available.
RMAF2016_Day2_Photo_oBravoWhen David Teng showed me a Heil Air Motion Transducer at CES earlier this year that was about an 8mm square with the intention of putting it in an IEM I just couldn't believe it would work. Wrong! The new EAMT-1W is a dual driver IEM with a coaxial configuration pairing the novel HAMT driver with a Neodymium Dynamic Driver. The sound was jaw-droppingly good. My jaw also dropped at the $4000 price tag...but hey, it did sound really good.
RMAF2016_Day2_Photo_RadiusWere it not for my next post, the Radius IEM display would have been my scoop of the day. As I surfed the entire line-up of IEMs ranging in price from $100 to $450 I was stunned by the consistently neutral and pleasing sound bottom to top. Their flagship Wn4 dual driver IEM couples a beryllium coated TPE electro-dynamic driver for mids and lows with a piezoelectric ceramic tweeter able to deliver high frequency extension to a claimed 45kHz, allowing it to be Hi-Res Audio certified. The sound was smooth and very well balanced. I asked them to send me everything they had. This is good stuff.
RMAF2016_Day2_Photo_NightOwlOkie dokie, here's a scoop for you: AudioQuest requested I show up at their booth for a little private demo of a new sealed headphone. There's a lot to like about their NightHawk—extremely low distortion, for example—but it's sound signature was a little too laid back for my taste. Enter the upcoming NightOwl—a sealed version of the NightHawk. This time around the tuning has come more forward and sounded very tasty to me. I had to beg and plead to get permission to post this pic...folks need to know this can is coming down the pike. Can't wait to get my hands on a production unit. Wheeeeee!

steaxauce's picture

Cool! I'd love to hear more about the MDR-Z1R.

ultrabike's picture

Would definitively love to hear about the Sonoma products and the new Sennheisers.

xtcfan80's picture

I also gave a listen to the Sonoma Model One system, it was amazing. The sound combined the best traits of dynamic and stat/planner sound to my ears. The folks at Sonoma were on the SACD development team at Sony and are real pros that know sound, not just another company jumping on the headphone bandwagon...nice guys as well.

DrForBin's picture


very much hope you review these:"DT 1770 Pro($599)sealed and DT 1990 Pro($599)open". would love to see beyerdynamic become competitive as their industrial design is top notch.

roscoeiii's picture

How about the Shure KSE1500 electrostatic IEMs? Clarity of electrostats with the isolation of IEMs?!?!?!?! Yes please. They are incredible, and I'm frankly surprised that they have not yet been reviewed on Inner Fidelity yet.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Wooot! Thanks Tyll for all the great updates from the canjam. Im stoked to see your pic and write up on the AudioQuest Nightowl. Did they say anything about when they will formally announce it? Street date/price? This is the 2nd show they've shown it at but no formal write up. Fingers crossed that this one
hits all the beats and provides a solid mid-range closed back headphones. Hopefully you'll get some to review early on. I'll be interested to hear how they stack against the Oppo PM3 (which i think is the current reigning mid-range closed-back champ? others chime in and let me know if you have a different take)

Keep the reports and pics a-comin!

Peace .n. Living in Stereo


Richard D. George's picture

Should have been called "Can Camp" this year, in the tent. Perhaps some So-mores and ghost stories.

EisenerBart's picture

I can't wait new AudioQuest model. NightHawk is one of my favourite phones.

veggieboy2001's picture

I can't tell from the pics, but I'd be willing to bet that the 1770's had the leather(ette?)pads...everything I've read about them seems to point to the velore pads being more neutral...less "V" shaped. Enhanced to be sure, but more balanced overall.

I hope you get a pair in,to measure too!!