CanJam NYC 2020: JPS Labs, XIAudio and HIFIMAN

JPS Labs – XIAudio

Like I mentioned earlier, when I’m at a CanJam I weave through the crowd down the isles – staying alert for what might jump out at me. This “JPS Labs stack” jumped out big time. Partly because it was the tallest object on any table, partly because it was sitting on the Abyss (JPS Labs) table . . . and everybody knows Joe Skubinski and his sons are always scaling some new headphone heights. But I recognized it mostly for what it might be: a peek into our collective headphone-listening future.

I’ve been forever saying that this CanJam phenomenon is simply a natural evolution from entire rooms overwhelmed by bulky crazy-money two-channel ‘gear’ – to a more discrete and elegant desktop architecture. But take a look at the gear sitting in this $3,999 USD StackZilla four-shelf desktop isolation rack. This modular-expandable rack was designed specifically to hold XIAudio’s Formula S headphone amplifier ($3,499 USD) its accompanying Powerman power supply ($2,399 USD), and Sagra DAC ($3,395 USD). That’s $13,292 USD worth of hardware designed to make the $4,995-$7,995 USD (depending on accessories) AB-1266 Phi TC headphones sound better than their competition.

JPS cable loom on 'StackZilla.'

But wait! Look at the back of the rack. There you’ll see a web of JPS Labs’ cables including the $7,999 USD/m/pair Super Aluminate balanced (XLR) interconnect, and Superconductor V ($999 USD/m/pair) balanced interconnect and the Superconductor V USB cable ($899 USD/m). Add in the $4,999 USD Aluminata AC cable, and the $1,299 USD Kaptovator AC cable; and all that wire adds up to $16,195. But we are not done yet. This $30K rack-of-stuff is meaningless without the $1,990 USD JPS Labs Superconductor HP upgrade cable set for the Abyss AB-1266. Total system cost: almost $37K.

I can hear all of you CanJamers whining and groaning from my desk in Bed Stuy – but! Think of it this way: that is about half what a pair of mid-level audiophile-quality floor-speakers cost. (And I doubt they could sound as good as the JPS stuff.) Not to mention, I could purchase all the amps and headphones in this entire ballroom – for less than one pair of top-tier floor-standing speakers.

HiFiMAN Deva (Bluetooth)

HIFIMAN Deva Wireless Headphone.

If I cut the wires and amps and DACs (and the wired headphones) out of the above system I can save 99% of that money; and maybe get a bigger percentage of that $37K sound quality than many CanJamers would imagine.

It was a treat to escape the noisy big-room tables and listen to Fang Bien’s latest creation, the HiFiMAN wire-less Deva planar-magnetic-open back Bluetooth headphones, on a nice couch, in absolute silence, in a deluxe “upstairs suite” – with a view of Manhattan. Add to this the fact the Devas look like $1 million, feel soft and luxurious, and sound like $1,000 - but cost only $299 USD. The Deva may sound a little better wired directly (without the detachable DAC/LDAC-AptX-HD Bluetooth dongle), but who cares? I can look good enjoying them in my fancy new car that I bought with the money I saved going wireless and box-less.

If you were impressed with HiFiMAN’s $999 USD Ananda-BT wireless model, I believe you will be bowled-over by how relaxed, finely-detailed, and dynamic the Deva sound is. These ‘phones showed me another vision of our CanJammer future.