CANJAM LONDON 2019 SHOW REPORT AND GALLERY
We were at CanJam London 2019 to check up on what's new in the world of personal and portable audio. We came, we saw, we listened, and now, here's our CanJam London 2019 show report.
Chatting to the guys on the reception desks it sounds like last year's weekend numbers had already been smashed by the close of play Saturday, although Sunday did seem relatively slow when we were there.
It was great to see some familiar faces as well as make some new friends. However, we were there for the latest gear.
Mark and the team were positioned in their usual spot and showing a selection of Schiit kit, MrSpeakers headphones, iFi devices and accessories from Dekoni amongst others. The Ragnorok 2 being demo'd is an improvement on the original.
The new 60 Watt per channel Class A/B integrated amplifier, naturally, comes with a dedicated headphone amplifier. It seemed livelier than the original to us, and we'd definitely like to hear that Schiit plugged into some speakers.
Fiio unveiled no less than three new items – the K5 Pro desktop amp, the M11 Pro DAP and a new balanced Bluetooth dongle.
The new releases meant that the stand was generally packed whenever we swung by. However, we did grab some time with the Fiio FH7, the brand's new flagship IEM. Inside you'll find a beryllium-coated 13.6mm dynamic driver and a single Knowles DFK partnered by dual SWFK-31736 balanced armature drivers. We loved how these IEMs looked, and the all-metal build felt high-quality. The £450 earphones sounded decent during our short stint with them and further proved Fiio's bang-for-buck position.
We didn't get any time with the M11 Pro but, to us at least, it looks like a stealthier version of the existing M11. The Pro uses the AK4497 DAC as opposed to the 4493 used in the original M11.
JH Audio is a firm favourite amongst stage and recording musicians across the globe. The very cool and marvellously moustachioed Rich Sydney proudly stated that all but one of this year's Grammy winners and nominees were using JH Audio gear.
Now that Jerry has most of the pro-audio market wrapped up, it seems that he is looking at the personal audio market. This, of course, has already started with his collaborations with Astell & Kern.
We took the Roxanne II for a quick spin. The 12 driver IEM has a neat variable bass potentiometer on the cable allowing you to dial in or out the low-end to suit. We found that these brought you more into the song instead of being a mere observer. There was plenty of detail too to be enjoyed in the rich presentation. The original Roxannes are priced at £1,500, but we didn't catch the price of the new ones.
The £930-ish JH11Pro sports a four-driver configuration: dual low, single mid, single high; matched to a Dual-Bore with Freqphase time|phase WaveGuide. There is no bass tweakery present on this model so it instantly felt like a 'regular' IEM and something that most touring musicians would be familiar with. We were impressed by the amazing amount of bass presence given the whole balanced armature set-up; no doubt thanks to having a pair of them sorting the low-end out. The upper frequencies were as we would expect from BA earphones. However, after listening to the Roxanne II, there seemed to be some tiny details missing in comparison - but your pocket will be happier with the JH11Pro's price point.
Jerry Harvey has some excellent custom earshell designs too. We particularly liked the layered wood finishes. Apparently, the company's Freqphase driver and tubing configurations are not affected by the shell material, as the driver is tubed from spout to the IEM nozzle. So, this practically gives them carte blanche to use pretty much any material they fancy.
Astell & Kern
Having spent time with the new players and headphones from Astell & Kern at a couple of events this year, it was a case of having a quick catch-up. We hope to be bringing you some reviews of their latest offerings as soon as we can get our hands on them, so stay tuned.
Audeze had brought along their LCDi4 £2,399 planar magnetic earphones along with the Mobius gaming cans and LCD 4z headphones amongst others. Again, nothing new here for us but we did enjoy the LCD 4z through the dCS.
We arrived just as Angela and Josh were about to escape for lunch. After their long flight and, no doubt, long stint on the stand the day before, we didn't want to keep them talking. However, we circled back to check out what delights were in store. On the stand was the Cardas A8 30th Anniversary Edition IEMs as well as a pair of the Campfire Audio Cascade headphones.
Even though the A8 Anniversary IEMs have been out for a while, this was our first time listening to them. Firstly, we like the anodised black finished solid brass shells, and they were a great fit. These earphones don't mess around as far as punch goes. There is plenty of meat in the low-mids and below. If you like your dance, hip-hop or electronica, these may well suit.
Naturally, the Cardas Audio booth was showing off the company's new Parsec headphone cables. These looked very nice indeed and performed well with the Campfire Audio cans. However, it was the Conrad Johnson valve head-amp, and Hifiman Susvara connected up with the Cardas Audio cable that really did the business for us.
Yes, we have reviewed them, but we will never turn down the chance to spend time with the excellent Meze Empyreans, especially when paired with the equally lovely Benchmark HPA4 (£3,200) and DAC3 HGC (£2,295). Granted, a show isn't the best place to rock some open-backed cans, but they still sounded great. Santa had better be reading this!
You could find Hifiman headphones liberally dotted around CanJam London 2019, especially on the Innuos and dCS stands. However, on Hifiman's table was the new Jade II Electrostatics. With an RRP of £1,249, these are at the more affordable end of this style of earpleaser and did little to belie its modest price point.
However, for pure presence, the pair being employed with the Shangri-La Jr sat on Innuos's table was the one garnering the most attention. It is a pretty thing, though.
It was another case of a fly-by here. We do love Chord Electronics products and was armed with their Mojo/Poly along with the trusty iFi xDSD for testing purposes. As always, the Chord Electronics area was consistently full, which never fails to make us smile. Great kit and lovely people.
Rupert Neve Design
This was a must for us as Rupert Neve Design was debuting its three new products making up the Fidelice range. We thought this was worthy of its own article so check it out here. However, we love the retro-futuristic vibe of the Precision DAC, Precision Phono and Precision Headphone Amplifier. We spent a long while with the DAC and are hoping to get the opportunity to spend even longer with it at SNUK HQ in the not too distant future.
Where we are quite aware of some of oBravo's offerings hitting almost £10,000, it was their new more modestly-priced Cupids that we came to see.
The oBravo Cupid is a hybrid model that retails for the much more affordable price of £250 and, if we had that to spare, we would have surely nabbed a pair especially as they were on offer through Audio Concierge at the show for £225 making them almost a must-buy.
The Cupid is a dual hybrid sporting one 8mm planar magnetic driver and a 6mm dynamic driver. The drivers are encased in a classic-looking bean-shaped brass shell. Naturally, the oBravo Cupid comes with an excellent cable terminated in a 2.5mm jack and bundled with a 2.5 to 3.5mm adapter.
We were staggered by just how good the Cupids were through the iFi xDSD. We are currently reviewing some £699 IEMs, and these £250 earphones would not embarrass themselves in a sound off.
There was plenty of vibrant low-end and impressive clarity of separation.
We also took the £3,699 EAMT-1Cs for a test drive while we were there. This model is a dual-driver hybrid, pairing a dynamic driver with an Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeter to produce the high-quality sound. The “C' designates the use of ceramic, as this is what some of the driver housing is made of.
Presentation from these IEMs was well-balanced with plenty of low-end girth. It was at this point that we were asked to test a variety of different high-end cables with the EAMT as well as our review pair of IEMs. The cables did look remarkable as well as having quite different sound signatures. Perhaps something we should try away from a busy hall, though.
The Scottish brand has recently announced new colours for its excellent TrueConnect line of true wireless earphones. Having only tried them at the show they are remarkably comfortable, light and compact. Their charging case is also pretty nifty. The T20 wireless is also very much worth trying out should you be in the market for a pair of aptX Bluetooth in-ears.
It is always a pleasure to catch up with Aseem, although this time we caught him losing his patience with a food ordering app which appeared to be having its parentage questioned. Once the food had been successfully ordered, we spent some time looking over what he had brought down from the Midlands to the London show.
One of our favourite pairings was the Moon and Focal combo.
Also, had we not been travelling by tube on this hot Sunday, we would have bought at least one floorstanding and one table-mount Heads-up headphone stand. £30 for the floorstander and £20 for the desktop version? Total bargains! With deals such as this, Hifonix is well worth checking out if you're in the area.
With the recent news that 64 Audio now has a presence in the UK thanks to KS Distribution becoming the UK distributor of 64 Audio products, it was time to properly check out what they had this year.
The U12t, a 12 balanced armature driver model, sports the company's TIA open balanced armature driver that supplies these IEMs with the trademark 64 Audio high-end. The U12t has detail aplenty along with fluid, warm bass. Separation and clarity were also noteworthy.
In comparison to the U12t, the Fourte Noir lived up to its name. These earphones have a much richer and darker sound signature. Even though the edges may be a bit rounder and fuller, that does not appear to impact on detail. We felt that the Fourte Noir had a more analogue/organic vibe compared to the U12t we tried beforehand. Although, the Fourte Noir's $4,000 asking price did put our findings swiftly into perspective.
Beyerdynamic was showing off their €399 Lagoon ANC over-ears. As gamers, we did like the in-cup illumination, which not only makes them glow in the dark but denotes which function or mode they are in.
The headphones felt great on and well-balanced with enough clamping for us to be confident that a quick sprint for a bus would not see them dislodged. Sound-wise, it was refreshing to hear that Beyer hadn't gone 'full urban' with overblown bass. In fact, the sound signature of the Lagoon ANC doesn't seem that different to Sony's noise-cancellers. As far as we are concerned that's decent praise as the Sony ANC headphones are some of our favourites here at StereoNET. Additionally, on the subject of noise-cancelling, the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC did a sterling job of killing the noise and general hubbub of the show without dampening any of the sound quality.
You couldn't really miss Warwick Acoustics due to them having a soundproofed booth sat at the back of the downstairs exhibition space. This did a remarkably good job of blocking out the show enabling you to spend some quality time with the new Aperio. We heard the Aperio electrostatics in Munich where they were announced, and they still sounded terrific here in London.
Another chance to catch up as the company didn't have anything new to show. However, we did garner that there is something new coming around the corner. Also, and we don't think we're overstepping the mark here, stay tuned for a media player app coming from Innuos, too!
Guess what this German manufacturer does? The universal fit of their (£1,000-ish) Stage Diver 5 IEMs is impressive. The Stage Diver 5 is a three-way, 5-driver design with a strong presence at either end of the frequency range. This is made more palatable thanks to a slight nudge in the mid-range. Vocals and strings benefit significantly from this curve. Perhaps one for orchestral fans.
The Norcross, Georgia, USA-based Empire Ears came to the show rocking their new Valkyrie and Wraith IEMs.
The $3,499 Wraith boasts an amazing four e-stat tweeters. Joining them is a pair of Balanced Armatures for lows, a trio of Balanced Armature drivers for mids, and, finally, a brace of Balanced Armatures for highs working with those super high e-stats. Making everything sit where it should is a five-way synX crossover system. Empire Ears states that the Electrostatic Drivers have a remarkable range, from 4kHz to100kHz; and, although beyond what most of us can hear, the advantages of operational stability and greater resolution and detail are not to be overlooked. Additionally, for further optimisation, the drivers and internals are coated in with what they call ARC (Anti Resonance Compound).
The $1,599 Valkyrie is a tribrid IEM. Powered by a Weapon IX subwoofer and, using a 4-way synX crossover along with the company's EIVEC (Empire Intelligent Variable Electrostic Control), there is plenty of controlled range to be enjoyed. EIVEC helps tame the overly-bright treble that commonly causes issues with EST earphones. Taking care of the mids is a Balanced Armature with that Sonion e-stat tweeter looking after the highs.
We really enjoyed our time with the Valkarie but weren't sure if we would do more than the commute with them as, for our ears, the upper end was still too much on the bright side. Perhaps they still needed some time, or maybe a different choice of cable could tame them a tad?
Unfortunately, we didn't have time to check out the Wraith.
Jomo works from out of Singapore and had some eye-catching designs that enticed us over.
Here we took the Trinity Brass Black model, the brand's flagship IEM, for a test spin with its dual e-stat tweeter, 4 Balanced Armatures covering the midrange and an 8mm Dynamic Driver taking care of the low end. Also, within the attractive casement, there's some clever proprietary tech regarding the air volume in the driver chamber.
For all of that tech, the presentation was quite refined. At points, it sounded like the mids had been scooped out until the vocals came in; then, suddenly, it didn't seem like the mids were recessed at all.
The Trinity Brass Black possess a great level of control. Moreover, the Dynamic Driver ensures that there is plenty of full and rich bass. However, the highs sometimes became to edgy, especially when listening to pieces with a lot of brass or crashing cymbals. That said, the amount of detail and refinement found in the mids and lows somehow balanced that out. Fingers and wood came through on Mingus tracks, Rodrigo y Gabriela's frantic string work was mesmerising, and I could get lost Florence Welche's voice.
Perhaps our ears were getting tired, or the Trinity Brass Black does have a razor-sharp treble edge, but the overall presentation, once you've settled in, is quite dramatic. They are available for pre-ordering at S$3,799.
There were two sets of headphones that we were looking forward to checking out, and the RAAL-requisite SR1a was one of them. These are, as RAAL states, true ribbon earfield monitors.
These have been designed to allow mixing, mastering, and home listening with unparalleled accuracy and realism in a soundfield devoid of room acoustics. What you have here are some personal, wearable ribbon speakers.
They may look a bit mad, and they really do, but the special ribbon drivers have been developed that reproduce 30Hz to 30kHz bandwidth. The upshot of which negates the need for a sealed chambered bass and allows for open-air baffles for a real full-frequency soundfield. As they are using ribbons, the speed and timing from this headwear were incredible. However, the most bonkers thing about these is that they really work, even in the hall of the show.
For those of you unaware of the HEDDphones, just as RAAL has taken ribbon technology to create a full-range driver, HEDD has repurposed the AMT tweeter.
Klaus Heinz, the designer behind HEDD products, has developed a new technology called VVT, which is a new variable diaphragm geometry that replaces the regular geometric structure of conventional AMT tweeters. By varying the width and depth of the folds in the AMT driver, the performance can be extended down to cover the whole audio spectrum.
Unlike conventional headphone drivers, ATM drivers aren't pistonic, and due to their clever design they are more efficient, In fact, the AMT moves air four times faster than the diaphragm moves, conventional pistonic designs have a 1:1 relationship between the air-speed and the diaphragm speed. The single folds of an AMT driver squeeze the air in a 4:1 ratio.
We are looking forward to being able to check out the production models as soon as they are ready, which are still being aimed at being sub-€2000.
ZMF headphones always look glorious in their real-wood finishes. We did fall a little in love with the new $2,499 Vérité which is currently up for pre-order. With a frequency range quoted at being 10 Hz to 25 kHz, the Vérité uses a side-ported, beryllium-coated dynamic driver. They really did sound planar-quick and what really struck us was the dynamics and width of the soundstage. Our only issue with them was that we couldn't stop stroking the wood (stop sniggering at the back!).
Campfire had a stunning array of goodies to behold but, no matter how many times we circled the place, we never timed it right to get a seat at the table, and we aren't quite the people to bully our way to the front.
A short jog upstairs takes you away from the hustle-and-bustle of the main arena into individual rooms where the doors can be closed should it be required. Our first stop up here was to visit dCS and to spend some more time with their Bartok (£11,999 with head-amp) which we really enjoyed with the £2,750 Hifiman HE1000 V2 planars.
Woo Audio / Mysphere Headphones / Kimber Kable
Woo Audio from New York had plenty of ear and eye-candy on show, but it was the diminutive WA11 Topaz that we needed to check out first. This little Class A portable amp/DAC was well constructed, and we loved the chunky volume wheel. However, the sound was the really impressive attribute here. With the added benefit of the remarkable Myspheres headphones, we were totally immersed in the music from the WA11 Topaz.
Now, those Mysphere headphones. Chatting with Heinz Renner of Viennese LB-acoustics it turns out that the headphones here are the Mysphere 3, retailing at $3,999. Heinz Renner along with Helmut Ryback worked on the AKG K 1000 ear speakers. The main principles of the K 1000 have been carried over to the Mysphere 3, though enhanced by new materials and measurement technologies. What strikes you first is the fully open construction. Within the earpieces are a radial magnet system and quadrangular membrane. MySphere uses a two-part membrane made from glass, air, plastics, and resin, all designed to be rigid, well-damped, yet extremely elastic. The aim being “symmetrical linear movement with displacements that have not previously been achieved in headphone design.” The membrane is coupled with a fully radially aerated magnet system and a custom-manufactured, resonance-free, acoustic resistor to make a truly unique way of producing the “ear speaker” sound.
That's a lot of tech and, thankfully, most people won't give a jot about all of that. The fact of the matter is that they Mysphere 3s sound fantastic and, after using them with the Woo Audio WA11 Topaz and the $999 WA7 Fireflies tube amp and DAC we can't recommend a demonstration for yourself enough.
CanJam London 2019 Wrap Up
CanJam London seems to be gaining popularity if the Saturday numbers are anything to go by. We were a little worried as the weekend weather was warm and sunny, and the temptation just to mooch about Southbank or find a park must have been a challenging fight for a lot of people. However, attendance was strong, and Head-fi still remains a great gateway drug for people to find the joys of hi-fi.
High points for us were the oBravo Cupid, Woo Audio WA11 Topaz (although we still have much love for the Fireflies) and the ZMF Vérité.
Until next year, CanJam!
As always, there are more photos in the gallery below, so feel free to flick through.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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Posted in: Headphones HiFi Show
Tags: woo audio mysphere headphones obravo hifonix electromod schiit audio dcs campfire audio zmf headphones raal-requisite jomo audio empire ears inear innuos warwick acoustics beyerdynamic 64 audio rha audio rha rupert neve designs chord electronics hifiman meze benchmark cardas audeze astell & kern astell kern jerry harvey audio fiio
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