Hitting the CanJam at RMAF is a highlight for me, and an instant reminder of the health and vibrancy of (at least one corner) of the high-end audio industry. This year, there were too many vendors for me to cover to even a remote level of accuracy or completeness, a fact that I grasped pretty much the moment I stepped into the room that Friday afternoon. C’est la vie.
Some of my favorite thing from this year’s show? Well, it has more to do with the kinds of things I saw more than what I actually heard, if that makes sense. Namely, I saw some serious, kick ass components for both the desktop and the portable enthusiast. I saw seriously high-quality bits at all manner of price points. I heard stuff that blew my mind. In all, it was a damn fine show.
I will offer, however, that CanJam still doesn’t feel like it’s part of anything else at RMAF. It’s this … barnacle. And with this year’s set of displays festooning the Atrium, CanJam’s hidden Bat Cave was even less obvious than in years past. I think that’s kinda silly, if you ask me, and since you have not, let me offer that I think the entirety of CanJam really ought to relocate. Somewhere central. Or, better still, scattered throughout.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of table-top demo displays. It’s economical both in terms of space and setup. But, like any poker dealer will tell you, the cards really ought to get shuffled in order for everyone to get a crack at what’s on offer. Folding CanJam into the whole of the rest of the show — that is, forcing vendors to find a way to eat an entire room by themselves, team up in order to afford/fill a room, or allow non-personal-audio vendors the same space and options in order to set up a demo (more like the open floor-plan models from the Atriums at the Munich show, for example). The latter, in my view, would be very interesting! But regardless, having “two-channel” divorced from “affordable” and “home theater” doesn’t make any more sense than having “personal audio” apart from “everything else”. Bring it all together. Make soup! It’s time for dinner.
So, here’s some stuff that I missed.
I didn’t actually miss Woo Audio, but their spectacular newest, the WA5 and WA5LE, were actually somewhere else.
I didn’t get to spend any time over at Westone, but I know they’ve got some new IEMs worth checking out.
Underscored on that seemingly endless list of things-to-check-out is the Vinnie Rossi/Ken Ball joint-project, the Continental Dual Mono portable DAC/amplifier from ALO. It’s got batteries. It’s got tubes. It’s all that and a bag of chips. I want one.
Also spotted in the wild, the new VI DAC from LH Labs, which hit the HiFiMAN table late in the weekend.
I want a Blue Hawaii from Head-Amp, with some Stax SR009 headphones. Yes. In electric purple, if you’d be so kind? Okay, fine, black will do.
George Cardas getting the tour of the Final Audio Design headphones.
Jerry Harvey of JH Audio may well be the most popular person in all of high-end audio today. No, seriously. All of it. Dude is a flippin’ rockstar.
Astell & Kern (covered here) make the best portable on the market today. No tubes, no, but the sound of the AK380 is out of this world.
I missed the Unique Melody guys entirely.
As for the Abyss, I still rank them as one of the greatest headphones ever made. Not perfect, no. But what they do best, no one else comes close.
I can’t wait for my Prestige Savants from Noble Audio. Those guys make magic.
CEntrance was out in the Atrium (not CanJam proper, the horror!), but they did have some prototypes of their upcoming case/skin for your favorite mobile phones — HiFi-Skÿn. Feels like we’ve been waiting on this one forever — but I will say, these look sweet. I’m ready!
Also in the Atrium area was AudioQuest (covered more fully here), but I did want to call out the sweet pairing with Quad’s headphone amplifier and the exceptional (and almost absurdly lightweight) Nighthawk headphones. Dead sexy.
Head-Fi reminds me of the ’70’s and early 80’s in two channel stereo, very much an “every man” hobby. Hopefully the “race to the top” in pricing (see Abyss, Audeze, Hifiman, etc.) doesn’t lead to the malaise found presently in the two channel world, would be a pity.