RMAF 2014

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Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 08, 2014  |  9 comments

And so it begins....

Looks like a chock-o-block full plate of headphone and personal audio companies showing up for CanJam at RMAF this year. So many, in fact, that they've had to expand the CanJam ballroom to now include exhibitors out in the atrium area. It's going to be hard for the old guard audiophiles to miss us now!

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 20, 2014  |  5 comments

Woo Audio brought a prototype of their upcoming W8 portable headphone amp/DAC. Boy, this thing is heavy! I'd call it transportable, the sort of thing you put in your bags and use in your hotel room. Well, that's fine, I sat down for a little listen....which turned into a rather longer listen than I had expected. This is a lush and yummy amp.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 23, 2014  |  0 comments

Over the last four years or so, I've watched George Cardas slowly but surely zero in on his own unique and unorthodox understanding of what makes for a good IEM. I thought his first product, the EM5813, was a laudable effort, one revision was particularly gorgeous sounding, but overall I felt it had some significant ergonomic problems—mostly too heavy and cables to thick—and I told him so. Discussions like that can be somewhat uncomfortable for all concerned, but I always try to be clear and honest in my criticisms. George, to his great credit, didn't get pissed, he just got busy re-thinking his approach.

The result has me giddy with excitement.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 22, 2014  |  1 comments

It's always a pleasure to visit with Mike Dias of Ultimate Ears. It's doubly a pleasure when he has such an interesting topic matter: How to produce a custom IEM very quickly. Mike walked me through the process, and I have to say it was an excellent experience.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 23, 2014  |  12 comments

I knew going in that Sony's booth would be an RMAF highlight for me. Their new MDR-Z7 headphone with optional cables by Kimber Kables (here, here, and here) driven by the PHA-3 portable balanced headphone amp/DAC were a must hear. I heard, and I was very, very impressed. Samples for review consideration are winging their way towards Montana as I type.

But, as good as that was, there was something else in the Sony booth that absolutely blew me away!

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 17, 2014  |  33 comments

Here's something I bet you didn't see coming: A 1200 Ohm impedance planar-magnetic headphone from Audeze.


Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 15, 2014  |  2 comments
Earlier this year at CES I reported on the Aurisonics Rocket and their Kickstarter campaign. Well the cycle is almost complete with the first production Rockets currently slated to ship to backers on November 17.

The Rockets are built like a tank, and the sound is quite good!

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 20, 2014  |  0 comments

This year, Beyerdynamic brought two new products to CanJam, the T 51 i ($299) and DTX 350 p ($69). I reviewed the DT1350—a similar looking headphone—about three years ago and loved it. After having heard the T 51 i at the show I've come to the conclusion I need to revisit these cans and get a pair in to consider for review. They sounded pretty nice to my ears; gotta see if they'd knock the DT1350 off the Wall of Fame.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 20, 2014  |  0 comments

Alex Cavalli unveiled his latest creation here at RMAF: The Liquid Crimson ($2850). This pre-production unit is a hybrid amp centered around a single 6922/6DJ8 tube; the stock tube will be a Genelax 6922. A removable grill makes tube rolling fairly easy. This is an unbalanced amp with two sets of RCA inputs, and three headphone outputs—3.5mm low-gain jack; 3.5mm high-gain jack; and a 4-pin XLR for headphones wire for balanced operation. Output is claimed to be about 6Watts into 50 Ohms.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 14, 2014  |  5 comments
Yet another offering from CEntrance ridding enthusiast listeners from the need to strap together a block of portable gear (their Glove Audio products do a similar thing for the AK100/120), the i5 promises iPhone protection, extra battery life, and significantly improved sound while retaining that all important characteristic for a phone: the ability to put the damned thing in your pocket!
Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 14, 2014  |  3 comments

Most headphone enthusiasts have likely not heard of Concert Fidelity, a small Japanese company specializing in high-end home audio gear. Well, this year at a couple of Head-Fi and LAOC Audiophile society meetings, Concert Fidelity has been showing prototypes of a new line of headphone amplifier products to garner feedback on their development efforts. I wasn't there at the time, but Warren Chi told me impressions were quite positive. Evidently, positive enough that Masataka Tsuda, President and CEO, forged ahead to produce pre-production units to show off at RMAF and gain a last bit of feedback prior to their product offering, which should be available by year's end.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 15, 2014  |  0 comments

We saw the early prototypes last year at this time, and now the new Fostex TH500RP is available for sale! This new headphone is the latest in the long-lived line of Fostex planar-magnetic designs that includes the much loved by DIYers T50RP. The TH500RP uses a similar driver further refined for this introduction, and also inherits some of it's mechanical structures from from their TH-900/600 series of headphones.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 16, 2014  |  17 comments
If you go to the JDS Labs website and go to either the Objective2 or O2 with ODAC pages and select the configure option, you can configure an O2 with numerous connection options. How does LDS Labs do this without breaking the license? Simple, all the connectors are panel mounted and hand wired to the circuit board. No mods to the board, no lisence broke...but oh-my-goodness, all that hand work is expensive compared to simply modifying the board and using board mounted parts.

Thank JDS Labs for putting in the hard work to make the O2 a better suited amp for folks with varying needs!

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 20, 2014  |  2 comments

As an audiophile I sometimes find myself slipping into some rather over-simplified assumptions when I come to the Koss booth. "Aren't they the folks that make a lot of the Radio Shack headphones?" Meh, goes my mental interest meter, and I tend to want to walk past.

Well, wait a minute, aren't these the folks that make the classic low-cost Porta-Pro ($49.99) and KSC75 ($19.99)—a favorite recommendation amongst headphone geeks. Or the ESP950 ($999) a long time favorite as an excellent entry-level electrostatic headphone system. And the Koss ProDJ100 ($79) enjoyes a solid fan-base in the headphone world. No, just like Sennheiser, or Beyerdynamic, or even Beats, I think it's a good idea to keep an open mind about Koss—they've made some very good headphones before, I'm quite sure they'll do it again.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 15, 2014  |  1 comments

Caught wind of this just before the show began...and I couldn't wait to get a little ears-on time. Well, this was one of those "I'm not sure I can stop listening moments." Smooth, organic, something so right, was all I could think as I pried the Audeze LCD-3s off my head to begin my chat with Drew Baird.