RMAF 2014

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Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 24, 2014  |  12 comments

All I can say is "Wow". CanJam this year was impressive. The main CanJam room was pack to the gills and about eight exhibitors overflowed out into the atrium area. The aisleways between booths seemed smaller to me this year, but the truth is more likely that it just felt that way because they were crowded with attendees much more often than in the past. Booths were so well attended that getting face-time for a report was not very easy in some cases. Yes sir, the level of interest in CanJam seemed stronger than ever.

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 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 22, 2014  |  2 comments
I just love checking in with Val Kolton, CEO of V-MODA, he's always working on something cool. Don't let the whole focus on fashion thing throw you off, V-MODA is sound and build quality first. The fact that their designs are so striking is icing on the cake.

This year Val was showing of some limited production run (500 units each) headphones: The Master Edition M-100 Over-Ear and XS On-Ear. These aren't just cosmetic makeovers, but essentially a platform for V-MODA to introduce some new technologies their working on.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 22, 2014  |  4 comments

I guess I first talked with Lionel Goodfield, Simaudio PR & Marketing Mgr, about this product development effort at least two years ago. He was quite excited about Simaudio moving into the headphone space, and spent quite a bit of time talking with me about headphone amps and the type of things headphone enthusiasts were looking for. Well, the Moon Neo Series 430HA is here, and it's a doozy!

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 21, 2014  |  0 comments

This year's CanJam had Todd and Pete showing off their latest creation: The Spire ($1495). This 12AU7-based hybrid amp has a microprocessor controlled, relay switched stepped attenuator before the tube for volume control, which Pete claims delivers excellent left-right volume matching at all levels. The Spire will be delivered with a a JJ Electronic ECC802S. Other tubes that work include any type of 12AU7 or ECC82, 5814, 6211, 5963, 6680, 7057, and 12BH7 tubes.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 21, 2014  |  3 comments

It seems like every nine months or so RHA sends me something new. And every time it just gets better and better. This is a company to keep your eye on!

Just before RMAF this year I got a set of RHA T10i in the mail but didn't have time to open it before the show. So, I'm wearing them as I type. I think this is a damned good showing for a dynamic IEM.

Tyll Hertsens  |  Oct 21, 2014  |  5 comments

Having spent quite a bit of time emailing back and forth about my PM-1 review, it was a great pleasure to meet Igor Levitsky in person at RMAF. Igor is the chief designer of Oppo's planar magnetic headphones and, in my view, has done a bang-up job innovating an unusual driver design and producing musical headphones.

This time around, Oppo was showing of a prototype of their upcoming PM-3—a sealed planar magnetic intended for portable use.

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 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 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 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 17, 2014  |  0 comments

The folks at Pendulumic poked their heads in the audiophile door earlier this year at the Newport show. I stopped by the booth for a listen and felt like it was a good attempt, but there were some things needing improvement. I thought the sound was somewhat uneven, and the comfort and fit a bit off. Mike Johnson, CEO, was sincerely interested in my feedback, took some notes, and thanked me for being open with my comments.

I think he was paying a lot more attention to the feedback he got from people at that show than I had expected.