Alpha Design Labs by Furutech (aka, ADL) had a small personal-audio table dotted with some tasty bits, including the new A1 and X1 portable headphone amp/DAC designed to pair with Android or Apple devices, respectively. These were shown with a pair of the very comfortable ADL H118 headphones ($269, reviewed by Brian Hunter here).
Also on the table, the $479 GT40 USB DAC/headphone amplifier/phono stage and analog recording device (think: ripping vinyl!) along with the new $499 ADL Esprit, an upgraded ADC/DAC model that drops the phono input and adds 192kHz playback (over S/PDIF only).
Mark Waldrep of AIX Records had a full table of multi-channel audio to wander through.
One of my favorite demos of the weekend came courtesy of Darin Fong and his Out Of Your Head software. This package lets you adjust the playback of your headphones to mimic the sound you might hear from non-headphone stereo or multi channel systems. Like, the sound booth at Skywalker Studios. Or the orchestra pit at the Met. That kind of thing. Guess what? It sounds pretty awesome. I’ve heard systems like this before, but this was the most elegant presentation I’ve ever heard of. An all-too-quick 15 minutes was way more than enough to tell me that headphone playback is still in its infancy and gents like Darin are showing exactly how much farther we can take these platforms. Very exciting. I’m hoping to spend more time this package in the future.
HiFiMan has a headphone that’s causing many headphone enthusiasts to get whiplash — it’s the new $899 HE-560. The ‘phone is a planar-magnetic, and unlike some others in their lineup, this one is particularly easy to drive. Sound was very open and lifelike — I’m hoping to get more time on this to compare with some of my references, but the build-quality and comfort on this headphone are just excellent.
LH Labs’ Gavin Fish was waving around a prototype of the upcoming Geek Wave digital audio player. It’s not much to look at yet, but the Indiegogo campaign is proceeding apace. Achieving the next level of funding will “unlock” the next big upgrade — the aesthetics. I think this is a necessary level, so I’m hoping they hit it. As with all things Indiegogo, nothing is decided until it’s decided, but the specs on this new player could be show-stoppers. As a backer myself, I’m very excited to see this project emerge.
Mytek Audio has a new DAC — the Manhattan. Shipping this summer, the $4,995 DAC is one of the few that supports quad-rate DSD (DSD 256). It’s also one of the few wrapped up in such a pretty enclosure. Quite a departure from their earliest products that took the DSD-DAC market by storm, this new platform has all the bells and whistles, including a headphone jack and a preamp function. Playback here was via a pair of Audeze headphones — my impressions? Extremely favorable. Nice move, Mytek.
Questyle had a full table, stuffed with headphone-related goodness and a nice selection of headphones to enjoy it with. I did not get a chance to do more than squat and crank, but the reports of fidelity and joy seem warranted. I’m hoping to explore more in the future!
Alex and Nina Sventitsky were showing off their newest wiring wonders — headphone cables. Schiit Audio and LampizatOr gear was covering the table, with the scarlet wires crossing the gap to the listeners’ headphones. I’ve been privy to their efforts since RMAF, and I’ve been using WyWires as my personal reference wire for several years. Does it matter? Yes. Yes it does — and the improvements in noise and grain reduction, though small, are worth exploring, especially with your reference headphones. WyWires is now offering a full suite of connectors, so most popular brands will be supported.