CanJam at RMAF2016

Right then, time to enter the Big Top!

Seemed like it was pretty busy all day, but it didn't feel cramped. Temperature was good and the air felt clean; nice that Denver's weather cooperated, and the mile-high mountain air was fresh and dry—just like home in Montana, I guess. The only trouble I had with the tent...err, pavilion, was that it was too dark to take good photos. Please excuse any blur or grain in the pix.

It's boring, but I've decided it's best practice to simply start at one end of the room and work my way to the other aisle by aisle. So, I walked straight to one corner of the ten....err, pavilion, and sat down in Audeze's booth.

RMAF2016_Day1_Photo_iSineEarlier this year during T.H.E. Show Newport, I visited Audeze HQ for a quick listen to an iSine prototype. It was heavier; didn't have the proper ear hooks; was 3D printed; and...well it was a prototype and in the midst of tuning. It sounded okay and didn't fit very well; I walked away thinking it was an answer to a question nobody had asked.

This time was a completely different story. It was light, comfortable, and secure on my ears; I could shake my head around and it seemed near-weightless. And though I couldn't tell how good—because these are essentially open in-ear headphones and it was fairly loud in the tent—I could tell they were quite good indeed.

As for the question that hadn't been asked: The thought of a really good sounding, open headphone for quiet use at home or office, that you can answer your phone with, and you're completely portable with your iPhone in your pocket, suddenly seemed really appealing. I can totally imagine being able to walk around a work space or kitchen doing stuff and being able to talk with people around me, all the while listening through a quality DAC and DSP EQ in the cable and being able to answer my phone. The idea is certainly growing on me.

Oh yeah, I'm reviewing these.

RMAF2016_Day1_Photo_HiFiMANNext up, HiFiMAN and Fang's new Shagri-La electrostatic headphone amp. My what a sexy looking beast! Normally I don't comment much on looks, but holy cow this thing looks terrific. In the darkness of the tent it was difficult to tell what I was even looking at until I walked up close and gawked from numerous angles. Really sweet.

Sound quality? Oh geez it's hard to tell on an open headphone in a noisy room, but yeah, it was good. I'm going to have to listen to one for a while in the quiet before I could say anything useful. But you bet, I want to do that.

RMAF2016_Day1_Photo_WestoneWestone was featuring their new W80, an 8-driver universal-fit IEM that goes for a cool $1499. I found it surprisingly good sounding. But the thing that really caught my eye was their Bluetooth Cable. It paired easily to my phone, and once I got used to where it was, it was easy to use the button functions on the remote just behind and below my right ear.

The really cool thing is that it will work on most any MMCX connected IEM...and there are a lot of those out there.

RMAF2016_Day1_Photo_MezeHaving really enjoyed their 99 Classics I was pleased to see Meze introduce a line of affordable in-ears: the 12 Classics ($69) and 11 Neo ($49). Both are dynamic driver IEMS, with the 12 classic having a slightly better driver with a titanium coated diaphragm and copper clad aluminum voice coil.
RMAF2016_Day1_Photo_MojoI tend not to spend much time on amps at a show. It's hard enough to get impressions of headphones; differences in amps are even more subtle. None the less, I was curious about the little Mojo from Chord and gave it a little listen. A quick swap back and forth from the AK240 to the Mojo using the optical digital out from the AK240 revealed an audible improvement in smoothness and tightness of response. Seems like a potentially worthy little amp.
RMAF2016_Day1_Photo_64Ears64 Audio released a a couple of new high-end custom IEMs. THe big news for me here is that they've abandon their relationship with Asius due to quality problems with the Adel module and are now delivering their own Apex pressure relief module. Current customers will be glad to know the new modules are completely compatible with previous product and can be easily retrofitted.
RMAF2016_Day1_Photo_StereopravdaMisha Kucherenko of Stereo Pravda reminds me of me 20 years ago. Driven to get the best sound possible from a portable rig. It's a big bag of stuff by today's standards, but there's no denying a lot of widgetry is happening in that bag. It sounded good and the IEMs were more comfortable than they's going to be interesting to see what the end product looks like when truly complete. You can learn more about the products here.
RMAF2016_Day1_Photo_JH3XAnd last but not least for today, had a listen to the new JH13 Pro V2 and JH 16 Pro V2. On quick listen I felt they were both incremental improvements over previous models. But the one that caught my ear was the new JH3X Pro, a $599 3-driver custom in-ear. Really a nicely balanced, straight down the middle, entry level custom. After hearing the Astell&Kern Michelle universal fit, I've got to believe it's based on this new JH Audio model.

And that's it for yesterday. A lot of IEMS, and lots more to get to today. I think I'm going to have to go into triage mode and hit the stuff I really want to hear. Man, there's a lot of exhibitors at CanJam this it a tent or pavilion, Jude's one hell of a cat wrangler.

OldRoadToad's picture


How someone or something looks is important. People that say otherwise are either sightless (i.e., blind) or are lying. What is the very first thing you notice about anything?

How it looks to you. Is it attractive or not? The Shangri-La is to my mind, very attractive in a neo-retro 1950s Bug Bunny cartoon look at the future way.

All cats are gray in the dark but this device probably glows like a black-light poster circa '71. Cool.

Nice Austin Powers take on the name..."Shagri-La". Sweeeet!


tony's picture

You nailed it! It looks like some sort of elaborate Ear Jewelry a Goth might wear in public as a 'statement' sort of thing.

That Chord Mojo device doesn't have an Amplifier ( I'm told ) so you might just be listening to the differences in DACs, it's interesting how you seem to like the Mojo sound over the A&K, there might be some truth to the nice things people are say'n about the Mojo and it's FPGA system. Hmm

Tony in Michigan

jim in cheyenne's picture

It was indeed noisy in the tent,
I had no luck when it came to evaluating the sound from different headphones or amps--even when using the Mr. Speakers Flow closed units.

That’s why we need guys/gals like you to listen to these units in home-like settings and give reviews we can rely on.
Many thanks for those reviews--and the headphone measurements.
I find the latter very helpful for equalizing my 'phones.

BradT's picture

Tyll, it was great to meet you in the CANJAM tent today... After listening to the difference between my stock Sennheiser HD600's compared with the balanced cable units, I've ordered a Schiit Jotunheim amp with the DAC module, and a balanced cable. I look forward to reading your impressions from what you see at the show.

Paul Krason's picture

Had a great time yesterday in the tent as well. Listened to the JH3X Pro also and thought they sounded great for the price. Seemed that the JH booth was pretty popular, lots of folks lining up to listen.

Stopped by Westone's booth and also test drove the W80s, they sounded fantastic! Brought my Mojo with me to the show (BTW, it's both a DAC and headphone amp) and listened to some Bassnectar. I think the bass is where these IEMs really surprised me. Great extension. The overall sound was very impressive. On top of that I mentioned to the Westone reps that my old W3s don't work anymore because the cable near the earpiece got frayed (this is before replaceable cables) and that I was SOL since the W3s were out of warranty. They told me to send them a follow up email which I did when I got home. Blake Gaiser, the marketing director for Westone responded right away and told me to send the W3s to him and he'd get them fixed. Wow!!! Didn't expect that at all. Much thanks, admiration and props to Westone for helping a customer out!!

Also, after listening to the Focal Elear 3 separate times over the day I now know what my next audio purchase will be. These things are simply wonderful sounding. Still can't get over how much I loved the sound of these cans. I urge everyone to check them out.