CanJam New York 2019: The Show in Review Page 2

I am presently engaged in a long study of headphone amplifiers because I believe the mediocre quality of most headphone amps is keeping many of us from experiencing the full potential of the current crop of high-quality high-impedance and/or low-sensitivity headphones (like the Abyss AB1266 TC and HiFiMan’s Susvara). I had not yet tried Benchmark Media Systems’ brand new $2,995 USD HPA4 headphone amp and I wanted to get a feel for it. Likewise, their new $1,695 DAC3 B.

Interestingly, Benchmark was demonstrating with the high-sensitivity (100dB/1mW) low impedance (20-ohms) Audeze LCD-XC closed-backs ($1,799 USD). I listened at length to a 24/96 file of “Pharaoh’s Dance” from Miles Davis’ fantastic Bitches Brew. Clearly, the HPA4 had plenty of oomph: near zero-ohms output impedance, 6-watts into 16-ohms and 11.5Vrms into 300 ohms. The sound was dead quiet, clean (but very dry), and well-damped. I would have paid money to hear the HPA4 + DAC3 B combo driving HiFiMan’s exquisite-sounding 83dB/1mW, 60-ohm, Susvara. Maybe next time.


I just finished reviewing Pro-Ject’s tiny-but-over-achieving $399 USD Pre Box S2 Digital headphone amplifier/DAC. So today I had to try Pro-Ject’s fancy-pants DAC, the DS2 Ultra which costs $799 ($699 without wood panels) and Head Box DS2 headphone amplifier which costs $699 ($599 without wood panels). Together, they cost $1,300 (w/o wood). At that price these handsome Pro-Ject boxes should play music in a much more refined way than the humble Pre Box S2. And they did. Enough to make me curious what a longer more studied audition would reveal.


My geezer friends take great pride in being anti-wireless. Most of them won’t even try Bluetooth – so how could they praise it? Worst of all, they see all wireless audio devices as low-fi; and a clear, easy-to-recognize, dividing line between their lofty realms of high-fidelity and the mostly-younger un-initiated masses. I say raspberries for them. Because every day wireless improves and every day I find more products that do well with it. Sennheiser’s new $299.95 USD Momentum “True Wireless” in-ear buds were the cherry on top of my CanJam New York 2019 experience. They were total fun to use. After I placed the expensive-looking Momentums in my ears and twisted them just right, they locked on (via Bluetooth) to first some Bach organ music (surprisingly good bass) and then Frank Sinatra singing “My Way” (excellent tone and voice-articulation). It is interesting to me that Sennheiser named these “Momentum” because momentum, rhythm, and boogie-factor are typically wireless’ greatest fail. They must have known, because these things could swing quite well.

Besides boogie, the Momentum had fun-to-use-factor. Sennheiser’s Wally Kilgore showed me how to tap the logo on the right ear bud to raise the volume. Tap the left bud’s logo to lower it. Hold the left one to pause. And! If you are riding your bike or crossing streets, Sennheiser (a respected microphone manufacturer) has included a microphone outside the buds that users can use (via the Momentum’s iOS control app) to add adjustable amounts of local sound to assist in safe passage. (The Momentums are not noise-canceling.)


Obviously, I love CanJams because I love headphones and use them more than box speakers. But more than that, I like participating in worldwide headphone culture. I like the age, ethnic, and gender diversity of headphone people. I like the good-vibe of CanJam’s open rooms with high-ceilings, and tables filled with sweet DACs, exotic amplifiers, and leading-edge transducer technology. I can’t wait, I am ready now for the next one.


Simply Nobody's picture

Looks like HR missed the RAAL ribbon headphones, which can be directly connected to the loudspeaker outputs of a power-amp/integrated-amp ....... Did they display those at the show? :-) ..........