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RMAF 2018: Can Jam – highlights and high-sounds

KEF R Series

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I am not a headphone guy. Even in my youth, I was all about the room filling stereo experience. Seeking to learn more about the culture of head-fi that has sailed far off port without me, I tap my friend Jameson to be my guide.

Campfire Audio

This is a sound I can really get used to. When we talk about loudspeaker voicing we talk about the sound a brand is often known for, the way they blend and present the various frequencies of the music. The Campfire sound is in many ways more reminiscent of the best two-channel experiences I’ve had than the best with headphones. Their Cascade ($799 USD) closed-back headphone uses 42mm Berylium PVD drivers, includes four custom fit acoustic dampeners, comes with a pair of quick changing ear-pads of leather (the non-leather option does change the sound). And with the Cascade by Campfire Audio — I think I may have found my new closed-back headphone reference under $1K

Chord Electronics

I got the chance to experience the new Hugo TT 2 DAC/Pre/HeadAmp along with the new M Scaler. The Hugo TT 2 is based on a custom cooled Artix 7 FPGA chip, houses a new super-capacitor based power supply unit, delivers five times the processing power of the original Hugo TT, and as a point of contrasting canvasses go, the Hugo TT 2 has an extremely low noise floor of -178dB with no measurable noise floor modulation. The M Scaler when used with the Hugo TT 2 is by Jameson’s ear, a new level of heaven, a sonic VIP section behind the second set of golden gates. I played with the two for only a few seconds and was astonished by both, and left more confused as to how it all works so well when I left.

dCS / Focal

dCS’s new Bartók DAC with Headphone Amplifier could be all the heat you need to keep your ears warm this winter. With updated digital processing, dCS’s Ring Dac (same as used in the Vivaldi of the same brand), clean twin mains transformer power to isolate the headphone and dac sections, along with support for TIDAL and Spotify Connect, it’s something to get hyped up about.

What really thrilled me about using them with Focal’s headphones (among others we had on hand) was just how immediately powerful the amplifier section was along with the refinement that dCS is known for.

HifiMan

The new Jade II Electrostatic headphone system is a ($2,499 USD) beast of a listen. The Jade II was an exciting draw for the HifiMan booth, which was already crowded with existing HifiMan products and listeners to boot. Getting a seat at the HifiMan demonstration table, was almost as hard as getting an 8:30pm dinner reservation at Dorsia. The Jade II is inspired by the Shangri-La systems from HifiMan (reaching $50K USD), and more directly the Shangri-La Jr. system. The new Jade II system (headphone and amplifier) offers up a healthy slice of sonic paradise. Also on debut was the new HifiMan R2R2000 ($2,500 USD) portable HD streaming audio device. Which is the world’s first high-resolution capable bluetooth streaming device.

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