CanJam SoCal 2016: Best In Show

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Seal_FINAL_CanJamSoCal2016CanJam SoCal was a fantastic show.

I’ll be honest — I wasn’t expecting much. CanJam, for me and many others, has always been an entirely embedded affair, tucked away in a hidden corner at a much larger audio show.

But here at the Westin in Costa Mesa California, there was (finally?) enough room for the delightful sprawl to happen. There was the Big Tent — a brilliant way to set things up, for whatever it’s worth, with demos falling along either side of a false “hallway”, and no snaking through cramped tables and poking around awkwardly placed signage — and there was also a couple of floors of “traditional” rooms, where actual/serious listening could happen. I was into it — I felt that the layout worked well, and that the substantial foot-traffic never really got bogged down in any one place.

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It was almost as if they’d all done this before.

And of course, they have. This is the second CanJam in SoCal, and other than the annual RMAF extravaganza, this team has also mounted CanJams in Singapore and London. They’re figuring this thing out, kids.

Noble Audio

Noble Audio is a proud sponsor of CanJam SoCal 2016 and Part-Time Audiophile

Want to hear a prediction? They’re gonna wipe out the regional audio shows. Wanna hear a hot tip? If you’re a dealer or manufacturer of a product that is even remotely “personal audio”, you need to contact CanJam Global and get on the roster for the next show and see if you can lock them into an absurdly low price on a multi-year agreement. Don’t feel me? Fine — no worries. You can come back here and weep a couple years from now.

If I could offer up a suggestion, it’d be to try and recapture something of the joy of the old Newport Show, where there was this whole after-hours, tent-party-by-the-pool thing. The after-hours — arguably one of the most important aspects of any audio show is the quality of the down-time gathering — at the Westin was lame. This hotel just isn’t set up for that.

Second suggestion: think about refreshments. The water-everywhere approach was genius. Next, add coffee. The best thing I’ve seen — again, at THE Show in Newport and elsewhere — is the whole food truck scene. It’s cheap. It’s tasty. It’s kind. Just do it. Or at least keep it in mind — when the “AudioJam” (combo hi-fi/head-fi shows, under the CJG label — trademarked, bitches!) starts to really swing at 3k attendees flowing through on any given day, food trucks will be a godsend, trust me.

A special thanks to show-sponsor Noble Audio — their support is the how-and-why of my being able to cover this sweet little event.

Best in Show

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Digital

BestInShow2015v1Chord Electronics DAVE

It’s been a couple of weeks, and I’ve gotten a fair bit of fan mail about my claim — with plenty of clever and creative suggestions — but I’m still not certain you can do better in the personal audio segment.

Yes, the DAVE is $13k, and you still need headphones. But if you have headphones that you love, this is the toy that will make them utterly brilliant.

Bonus: this is a totally touch-able device. So pretty … and with that big, looking-glass peek-a-boo window, it’ll look absolutely mesmerizing on any desk it lands on.

Headphones

Meze Headphones 99 Classic

This was hard, because I was also struck by the sound of the electrostat hybrid from Verisonix as well, but in the, the 99 Classic from Meze was just less expensive and wrapped in a more elegant package. I want one of these headphones.

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Noble Audio Universal In-Ear Monitors

It’s a little cheesy to nominate Noble here as they’re the PTA sponsor for the show, but the fact of the matter is, they had an incredible display. For marketing brilliance alone, it’s worth calling attention to Noble — their new designs will be instantly recognizable from 50′ away. But their entire line of universal in-ears not only got re-packaged, they all got retuned. And they sound better. Mind = blown.

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Amplifier

Amps&Sound Kenzie

I said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a sucker for this design aesthetic. Simple, retro, with vintage tubes — I loved it at first sight and I’ve been jabbering about it ever since.

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Ultra-Portable

Onkyo DP-X1

The portable segment is heating up. I have no idea why. But it is. And the new player from Onkyo is here to show what a big company can do in a small segment — which here amounts to a ton of features in a flexible-as-hell platform. I want one. Please?

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Everything else

Riva Audio Turbo X

This was something that had to be heard to be believed. And given that the room was packed all weekend was a testament to what they were working. Tiny, powerful, portable — I’m getting one.

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