The Koss Porta Pro KTC ($80/pair) are tiny little on-ears with some integrated iPhone/smartphone functionality (integrated mic and volume control). For this money, you could expect flimsy with thin sound and you wouldn’t be far from the mark. That said, these little cans were better than I was expecting and if you’re looking for an ultraportable, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Sennheiser was showing off their new-ish head-amp/DAC combos. I spent only a bit of time on these as they seem pretty much unchanged since the last time I heard them.
The big news here, I already posted about — the PHA-2 portable is slated for a CES release and I’m going to be lining up to get one. A DAC with support for up to double-DSD and PCM up to DXD, I think this is a must-audition portable.
Above and beyond this were a few desktop form-factor DAC/head-amp combos. These will be some all-in-one units, and do sound pretty good (prices end at $2,000, and features drop along with prices), though I was still more impressed with the portable.
Schiit Audio was showing a couple of their more common amps — but with the big prototype Ragnarok (price $TBD) on one end and the tiny Vali on the other ($119), it was hard to remember there was anything else there to even look at. The big guy was a lot of fun — seeing the evolution of a work-in-progress is exciting, even if there’s just no way of knowing where the final sound will end up.
But the Vali was another matter entirely. Tube sound for just over $100? Seriously?
Todd The Vinyl Junkie had a couple of sweet amplifiers from Apex on display (gimme gimme gimme!), but it was the table full of headphones that had me checking for a way to stuff the entire table into my camera bag.
Andy Reagan was manning the Cardas Audio booth, and showing off some fine wire and very shiny pair of universal IEM EM5813 “Ear Speakers” ($425/pair). Gorgeous look and they sound pretty sweet for a universal. More to come on these, I hope.
For those of you watching the pics, yes, that’s a Manley Stingray and a Sony PHA-1 portable amp. Both are sweet — and that Manley will very ably drive your floor standing loudspeakers, too.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to make of any company that offers Swarovski crystal versions of their IEMs. Very … bling.
Beyerdynamic was showing off the $289 T51p, and I thought it was really nice on-ear ‘phone. Sound, at least preliminarily and based on my listening with the paired A20 amplifier ($679), was excellent. I may have to get a pair of these — the look and feel is pretty high-calibre. Lots of metal, with a comfy fit and a warm sound.
In other news, the Custom Pro One was showing off it’s new white paint job and custom inserts.
V-Moda was showing off the Versa amp and the custom iDevice cases.
Final Audio Design
Final Audio Design had a couple of displays at CanJam, including some headphones and IEMs up in the Astell&Kern room. Down on the floor, the entire lineup was available for fondling and listening. I got some time on the new Pandora 6 ($600), and was very pleased with the fit (I have a big head) and the finish. The sound was quite refined for a closed-back design. Definitely on the plan to try again — asap.
Cavalli Audio is like a Head-Fi Corvette. You’re going to pay top dollar for the anything in the lineup, and quite frankly, you’re going to wonder why. Right up until you strap one on. Then, you’re likely to say “Ohhhhh, that’s why”. Yeah. Great googly-moogly. The Liquid Lightning ($6,500), here paired with uber-phones from Abyss ($5,500), pretty much rocked my world.
I’m going to do you all a solid and just tell you that the Alpha Dogs were sounded so good that I went ahead and ordered my very own pair. They sound here was just too good to pass up. I’ll have more on this whenever they finally ship — I’m told that they’ll be here before the Christmas holiday.
This was the highlight of Day One, and seeing Tyll Herstens boogie down was only half the fun. But it was about half. In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s true — he is having more fun that you are.
Alex Rosson of Audeze was manning the
Holodeck DJ duties, and he and Mercer had a pretty sweet bromance thing going on.
Beer was plentiful, the tunes were awesome, and the crowd generally pleased with both the vendor turnout and the attendee turnout.
I thought it was hilarious.