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CanMania 2014: Stereodesk with Heed, Viva, Crayon and more, is personal audio heaven

CT6A7407 CanManiaStereodesk's Fred Crane and Profundo's Bob Clark were on hand with some extremely fine imports, including an update from Heed Audio and the magnificent Viva Audio line up. The Viva gear I'd just seen -- and seen for the first time -- at Newport. It's incredible. The center piece here for CanMania, of course, was the ginormous Egoista ($9,500), which uses a pair of 845 output tubes to drive 15 watts into the headphones of your choice. I love the Steelers colors, but apparently that automotive paint is custom, so I suppose you could put your own NFL version together. This amp is inspiring. And when I say, "ginormous", I mean it -- plan on a lot of rack space and make sure that space has plenty of ventilation. That chassis gets rather warm, and the metal all gets used for heat dissipation. Sorry -- not a desktop option, there. But still, who cares? Look at that thing!

Sitting with the Egoista was the Numerico, a $10,000 matching DAC/CD transport. Sitting next to the Egoista, it’s pretty easy to over look the breadbox actually cranking out the tunes, but if logic is any guide, at least half the work being done by that system starts there — and given the fine sound coming out of every headphone I used with it, that’s one sweet pairing. Oh, my, but wow — $19,500 is a lot of dough for a headphone rig ….

Happily, Bob and Fred had a couple of other very interesting options on hand. First up, the new Heed Audio products from their Obelisk line — here wired up in two completely different combinations.

The first was sourced from a little ASUS T100a Transformer notebook running J-River ($300). This jumped into a Heed Audio Dactilus DAC ($750), feeding a CanAmp headphone amplifier ($480), with playback courtesy of HiFiMan’s excellent new 400i headphones ($499).

The second system was using a Heed DT digital transport ($1900), playing into a Heed DA DAC ($2100) with newest Dactil 2.1 card (this combo was also driving a MalValve amp that I completely overlooked). A Canalot ($750 standalone) headphone amp with optional Q-PSU power supply ($1200 for the combo), cranked into a pair of Audeze LCD-2 headphones ($995).

Of the two, the latter was very clearly more refined, but the “little guy” system was surprisingly satisfying — two price points, two signatures, two things to compare with that giant Egoista mocking you from around the table.

In between was a couple of other amps, the Crayon Audio CHA-1 ($10k) that was bogarted and the MalValve amp ($7500) I didn’t even see. Ah, me.

Anyway, here’s what I took away from the Stereodesk table — Fred Crane is really into super high-end personal audio. He’s got the goods — if you ever get the chance, he’d be the guy to talk to about headphone systems that go way past eleven.

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Fred Crane, trying not to laugh as I drool on Frank Iacone’s new Egoista headphone amplifier

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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.