CanJam at RMAF 2013: Wrap up!

Alex Rossen spinning discs for the crowd Saturday night.

As impressive a showing as the n00bs to CanJam were, the many long-time exhibitors also brought some cool stuff to the show. Sorry no pix or videos, just my impressions.

Schiit Vali ($119)
In the never ending story of Jason Stoddard having his Schiit together, CanJam at RMAF saw the introduction of their latest movement: The Vali. This dandy little amp matches the size, shape, and price of their diminutive Magni and Modi amp and DAC, but adds a couple of 6088 tubes in the gain stage, and a discrete solid-state output stage delivering about 650wM into a 32 Ohm load. It's already raising quite the buzz in the headphone world.

At the other end of the spectrum, Schiit brought their Ragnarok prototype ($1499, expected late 2013) to the show. This 100W/ch integrated amp is touted as a "universal amplifier" capable of driving speakers, custom IEMs, and everything in between. Outputs include: binding posts, 4-pin balanced XLR, unbalanced 1/4" TRS headphone jack, and balanced and unbalanced pre-amp outs. Ragnarok's boasts a Crossfet(TM) Circlotron-style output; a quick check on Wiki says this topology, originally used as a tube circuit, was patented by Electro-voice in the late '50s. Schiit's implementation uses solid-state this baby is gonna light up some planar-magnetic cans real nice.

It's not often I feel like I can recommend just about anything a company makes, but it seems like everything these guys do is good Schiit.

JH Audio Roxanne ($1599)
I've got huge respect for big-time audio researchers figuring out how to make headphones sound good by the numbers...but it's not the only way. Sometimes making a good sounding product is simply a matter of spending years making them sound good. Jerry Harvey is a guy like that. Now, I've been to his plant, he's got plenty of scopes and gizmos measuring headphones—and he knows how to use them—but it seems to me he's mostly on a search for better and better sound. He spends a lot of time sticking prototypes in his ears and thinks a lot about what he's hearing. And every year when I go to CanJam, I can hear it.

This year, Roxanne showed up. She's a curvaceous, carbon-fiber black, 12-driver, custom in-ear monitor (CIEM), that seems to be just as bad-assed as the custom booty implies. Custom booty in this case being adjustable bass controls on the cable, and a perfectly matched carbon fiber negative impression for storing your CIEMs in it's killer storage and carry case. I say "seems" because at a show one can only hear the generic versions of these earmonitors. In my experience, the only real way to know what a CIEM sounds like is to get one...and I am gonna get some of this booty. I'll let you know all about it when I do.

Todd the Vinyl Junkie, Apex Teton ($5000)
This amp is a phoenix rising. Its long-ago incarnation was the Wheatfield HA-1, which was first available on Pete Millett's DIY page, and then commercially for a short while through HeadRoom. Evidently, the design has been tickling the back of Pete's brain, and has poured some special ju-ju into the old amp and reincarnate it as the Apex HiFi Teton.

I'm certain to get a personal audition of this amp soon, Todd is only thirty miles away and, just like Saturday night at CanJam, he'll have good beer there. Until then you can check out the amp at

Fostex RP50 Prototype...and TE05!
In my mind, this may be one of the most interesting stories of the show. You see, the RP50 prototype uses the same planar-magnetic driver found in the Fostex T50RP headphone that headphone DIYers love to modify. It is a really competent driver when placed in a well-designed enclosure, and I think Fostex has something very special in this driver alone. The show was too loud and commenting on prototypes under the circumstances would be silly, but I know these drivers can sound very good. I hope Fostex finds ways to use use them in a lot of products...even products made by others. Mr.Speakers uses them in his Alpha Dogs, which really are a spectacular headphone. The point is: The story of what Fostex does with its killer planar-magnetic driver might be very, very lots of ways.

Despite my blathering about their cool driver, the Fostex story of the show might be their new TE05 in-ear monitor. I, and apparently lots of other folks, completely missed the TE05 in all the excitement about the planar-magnetic prototypes, but a number of respected enthusiasts have been gushing sweet praise on them. Gotta get me a pair to have a measure.

That's it!
CanJam was a bit of a whirlwind, but it's put to bed is the Ultimate Headphone Guide, which I think starts printing tomorrow. I'll be sure to let you know when it goes on sale.

Most exciting for me is the number of headphones cued up for review including: the NAD VISO HP50, Bose Quiet Comfort 20, Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear, B&W P7, Philips L2, and the Audeze LCD-X. I like all of them!

See you soon!

johnjen's picture

I have owned the Mojo (as I call it) amp for some time now and really enjoy it.  It also has the "Crossfet(TM) Circlotron-style output" circuitry which has both simplicity and elegance all wrapped into a nice design.

The Ragnarok has been in my sights since it was initially announced.  I eagerly await to hear the differences…

One interesting factoid is the Mojo's 2Hz, -3dB low frequency power bandwidth limit, which I assume will be improved upon with the Ragnarok.  

This ability to deliver useable output to these very low frequencies can lead to extraordinary audible experiences.yes


Hifihedgehog's picture

Yep, The Ultimate Headphone Guide is what I'm talking 'bout! I know this may seem a little strange, but is there a way I could get an autographed copy from you, Tyll? It was your brainchild, and HeadRoom, that really got me into the hobby more than anything else when I was a teen, especially from all the informative and entertaining reviews you wrote. Innerfidelity continues to be a main stopping point for me to glean new information and dive into much more technical facts than ever before about headphones. I wouldn't mind paying a bit extra and waiting a bit longer for the trouble, either. :)

RPGWiZaRD's picture

Looking forward to your upcoming reviews, that's a very impressive list you got there of headphones that are right now very "hot" products. You always seem to pick the right headphones to put under your scoop and I appriciate that.

For me I'm especially interested in Philips L2, if the small quirks with it is fixed with L1 then I see this as a very good option at its price range.

EDIT: What about Ultrasone Signature DJs? Did you ever look into these. I know a lot of "audiophile bassheads" swear by Signature DJs as "The" headphone to get for bass aficionados or well EDM music listeners.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Its always a treat to come to Innerfidelity and find a gaggle of new postings.   Thanks bunches for all your great updates from CanJam.    Of course its always dangerous to hear the latest and greatest from a show like this as I start clicking on the vendor links and start asking myself "hmmm...maybe i need a new Amp?...or some new/different headphones?".   Doah!

And, like others have said,  I cant wait to see your reviews from the listed headphones!!    Im very intrigued at the Sennheiser Momentum on-ear.  I have the over-ear headphones,  thanks to your seal of approval, and dig them.    When it comes to on-ear,  ive reallllllly been enjoying the Vmoda M-80s these days (and occasionally the nonotech zoro's or UE4000 for more casual listening).    Im wondering how the momentum on-ear will stack up. 

    Peace &    Keep on riding, listening, and posting.

                3ToF..livin in stereo.