Sorry it’s taken a while for me to get this post up. You can see the first set of impressions here. I had a job interview for a job that may enable more paying the bills and more fun purchases. Wish me luck!
At the end of the first day of CanJam London 2017, I realised that I had only visited a few stands and talked with a few people. They were great visits with great people listening to great gear, but I need to go Pokemon on this stuff. Gotta catch ’em all!
I’ll apologise in advance for not having photos of some items, Advanced comes to mind. I was running out of time on a busy busy day. As in the last post, I’ll be posting by vendor starting with:
So I’ve now had the privilege to listen to a lot of different cables and I can confirm that they don’t sound the same. I have substantial experience with the Effect Audio Ares II+ and the Double Helix Cables Symbiote SP v3 8-braid, and a little bit of experience with Trinity Audio’s quad braid silver plated copper cable and PlusSound’s gold-plated copper X-Series cable. At volume matched levels, they all have differences.
With that said, I wasn’t able to volume match at CanJam, so I asked Eric Chong a technical question: “how much impedance difference is there between cables in your line?” Eric’s answer was not much. So I proceeded with rapid fire switching on the same tracks with the Noble Encore and the Audio Opus Opus #3.
Thor II+ ($399)
Bright, incisive, sharp sounding silver cable. The DHC Symbiote SP Elite v3 is smoother sounding, less fatiguing and just as detailed. Advantage Double Helix Cables Symbiote SP Elite v3.
Smooth, easy-going tonality. Less detail than the DHC, still detailed. DHC sounds better, but is less ergonomic given that my Double Helix Cable has 8 wires.
That is a fun cable. It is immediately recognizable as being lively and v-shaped. It was nice sounding, but I tend more towards a reference sound, so it wasn’t really for me.
I think a lot of people forget that the Mars exists because of the Leonidas and now the Lionheart in the prestige series. The Mars was my favourite out of all of Effect Audio’s cables. It is detailed, but it takes a little bit of sharpness off the treble of the Noble Encore. It has fast speed and a more reference sound. Like the prestige series it is incredibly soft and comfortable on the ear. I’m hoping for an opportunity to review this in the future. It was easily my favourite Effect Audio cable. I can imagine that on some headphones I’d prefer the Mars, and on others I’d prefer the Double Helix Cables Flagship. The Mars does come at a premium price of $999.
I stopped by FiiO and had a brief listen to the X7ii. It is so much better than the X5iii on sound. It is a detailed, dead neutral kind of sound. On ergonomics, it doesn’t pass the pocket test either, as the volume knob is on the top and the headphone outs are on the bottom. The design of the side of player now has nods to the X5iii design with a horizontal orientation volume wheel (I prefer vertical), and buttons in a similar layout, but with better spacing than the X5iii. The power button and line-out are on the top of the device, which is really good. With the X5iii, the power button and the play-pause button were parallel, which led to annoying presses. I’d love to review an X7ii, but I’m afraid to ask, as I wasn’t a fan of their X5iii, and didn’t review two cables because I really wasn’t a fan of them (they tell me new cables are planned, stay tuned). Oskar, whom I met last year was delightful again, and Gary Perry was a big help with good honest discussion. The new version of the X3 looked great, but I didn’t have a listen. So little time, so many places to go.
That’s my lovely lady having a listen on my Noble Encores with a DHC cable to the X7 Mark II. My daughter’s having a nap. Baby carriers are awesome.
I paid a brief visit to Calum and his lovely lady at the RHA stand—really good job, mate! They are some of the nicest people you could meet at the show. They also have the charm of youth on their side—I’m still working on getting to the charm of crotchety old man. I only had a listen to their new MA750 wireless. It sounds just like the MA750, good job. I also was surprised to find that the neck band is a soft, lightweight, very comfortable band. From appearances it looks like it will be like the hard collar on some Sony wireless solutions, but it is soft and pliable. I think if people are cool with the looks, they are going to find the MA750 wireless very comfortable. In other news, you can now buy RHA stuff in airports, and if you desperately need a headphone and are at an airport, RHA headphones are probably one of the better values you can get. Stay away from the Beats and SkullCandy, get something good from RHA.
I love RHA’s kit briefcases and took a picture at Headroom in February. They have a new one designed specifically for holding the DACAMP L1 and the CL series IEMs.
From what I was told from the folks at the CustomIEM Company, the distributors for 64 Audio in the UK, they just got the U18 Tsar and the Fourte. I listened to both.
I wasn’t much of a fan of the Tsar. I found it had a slightly recessed mid and a smooth sound listening to Michael Jackson – Billie Jean. There was uneveness in the mid response that created an artificially layered sound. It sounded like things were being divided into compartments rather than being a naturally cohesive soundstage. The bass was warm. I found the stage width to be average-ish, and the height to be similar. I was not impressed at all. I mentioned this to Alex Twister in conversation, and he told me that he thought that the one at the show must have been faulty because he lurves the U18. He lurves it more than the Tia Fourte.
I heart the Tia Fourte big time. It was one of the three best things I heard at the show alongside the Empire Ears big prototype, and the Stereo Pravda SB7. It was incredibly natural and coherent with a free-flowing life-like stage with excellent width. The Fourte had extraordinary realism. It sounded like live music in miniature, not an affectation of live music, which is the greatest compliment I can give a headphone. It was freakin’ awesome.
I’ve reviewed a lot of 1More gear: the original Dual Driver, the Triple Driver, the 801, the 802, and the iBFree. I’ve been consistently impressed with their price to performance ratio. They kick butt at value.
At the show I sat down on the sofas and had a listen to the 1More Quad Driver and the 1More on ear Triple Driver. The Quad Driver has a big shell that felt heavy in my ear. I’d probably use it with a pair of Spinfit CP220 biflange tips as these have the most secure fit of any pair of tips I’ve used. I found the Quad Driver thick, warm, and bassy. The treble was a bit rolled off, with a narrowing of the stage as a consequence. For those into a big, bassy, dark signature, this will be right up their alley. It is a pleasant signature, and certainly easy to get lost in, but it doesn’t really move me like detail and upper mids/lower treble emotivity.
The on ear Triple Driver, however, that is some seriously dynamic headphone. As far as I know, it is the only production Triple Driver on ear headphone. It is sexy looking and the sound reminded me of a scaled up Triple Driver in-ear (E1001). I’ll be reviewing that for the Christmas rush (stay tuned for the lead up to Black Friday, I might have a few cool things lined up). The 1More over ear Triple Driver takes a bit of juice to drive—this is not for your cellphone, don’t do it. Mids were very clear and natural, really excellent mids. Bass is deep and not overdone. Cymbals had a bit of tizz to them. Overall the sound was very balanced and very good. In another note, these have detachable cables with 2.5mm connector, which means I already have a cable on hand to listen to these in balanced configuration. I’m eager to review them.
I had a listen to 1More’s Dual Driver earbud. It has the same problems I usually have with earbuds—damn the fit sucks for my ears. However, it does sound excellent. It was like a mini version of the on-ear Triple Driver. If earbuds work for you, this is definitely one to consider. It looks cool too, like a race car wheel.
At iBasso I finally got to listen to the DX200. It sounds excellent, but it’s pretty hard to comment on it’s character from my listening time because I only listened to new IEMs. On ergonomics, the DX200 is big and chunky, and doesn’t pass the coat pocket test. Because the amp is on the bottom of the player and the volume knob and player controls are on the top, the controls won’t be accessible when it goes in your average inner jacket pocket (think stylin’ blazers). I sent a message to Paul of iBasso to let him know what I thought of this and how it could be fixed. If the amp can be put on the top of the player, which I thought was possible due to the screen bezel being in front of the amp module assembly, then all would be right with my DX200 using world. Alas, Paul let me know that the size of the volume knob assembly makes this currently not possible. I’m still hopeful that they’ll come up with something in their next design.
The booth at iBasso had five products that aren’t on the market yet: the IT01, IT04, Amp #3, Amp #4, and their over-ear. So keep your eyes peeled for these new developments. I didn’t note much about the amp modules, as I did most of my listening with Amp #2.
I was impressed with each IEM I listened to at the iBasso stand. The IT04 had great power and space with a good full-bodied wholesome bass. The pseudo-custom fit was supremely comfortable and secure. I think these are going to sell well at around $500 (price still not 100% determined). The real steal, though, is IT01, a single dynamic driver IEM with the same dynamic driver of the IT04 that comes in at only $89. It’s got a nice full sound that is a little richer on the low end and less detailed on the top compared to the IT04. The mids are excellent. Sound stage is limited but at $89 this is a worthwhile trade-off.
The IT03 was also a very nice sounding IEM. It has better width than the IT01. It has a nice natural tonality, awesome isolation and fit, and really nice natural sounding treble.
I listened to the iBasso over-ear out of their Amp #4. I listened to Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight, and came away feeling the guitar was a bit sweet and not totally natural sounding. Eric Clapton’s voice was bang-on. However, the frequency response in the mids was uneven, much like the U18 Tsar, which caused some issues with coherency. There was a solution, though: the over-ear needs more power! When I hooked the headphone into the P5 Falcon all of the coherency issues went away and the sound wasn’t too sweet. The new headphone then sounded like the other iBasso offerings, but with a bigger stage width. The P5 Falcon worked wonders on this headphone.
I gave a brief listen to the Final D-8000. I found that it had good full-throated bass, a natural sound, and that while it sounded good, it didn’t really stand out to me.
Advanced had one of my biggest surprises of the show. The folks at the stand were really nice and they have a really interesting line-up.
I listened to a ton of IEMs at the stand, more than I thought I would. The first IEM I listened to was a four driver that they are building for another brand (they are the OEM). It had warm vocals, aggressive mids with good snap on drums. The treble on these had a touch of warmth. The stage had good depth. It was on interesting tuning.
Next up was a six driver for this unnamed brand that I found quite excellent. I really want to review it. It had serious rumble on the bass. It was bass that was felt and experienced, not just heard. Listening to Pink Floyd – On the Run, I felt that helicopter coming for me.
I then listened to the biggest shocker of the entire show, the ADV S2000. The IEM is designed to just ergonomically melt into your ear. It is flat with a perfectly angled nozzle and body that will allow it to remain unobtrusive even whilst sleeping. It has a fixed cable and a sleek black body. It is supremely comfortable. On sound, I listened to Norah Jones – Feelin’ the Same Way. I found that snare was little thin, that vocals had a touch of sweetness for Norah, and that the soundstage was wide with good height (impressive). Then I heard the price. $20. Twenty friggin’ bucks. I thought the sound of these would compete with many $200 offerings. I think that once these come out, everybody and their dog needs to get a pair. Shoot, at this price, my daughter’s dolls might benefit from better sound. I told them that I thought the price was too low, and they might cannabalize some of their higher model sales. They didn’t seem concerned. That’s some mighty confidence in your other offerings. Also, clever name S2000 ($20.00), they’ll have to stick with the price now. 😉
Next up I listened to the cleverly named ADV 747, so named for the noisy old Boeing airplane. The name is because the IEM has what they call Pitch Black Noise Cancelling. The noise cancelling changed the tonal balance slightly with a bit of a warmer bass tilt, but the sound wasn’t really degraded much to my ear.
I also had a listen to their over ear headphone, the ADV Alpha. The Alpha had delicate treble, cushy pads, and a comfortable band. The mids were nice and fluid.
I’m really excited for all that Advanced is doing. I can’t wait to get some of their line-up in house. These are just excellent work.
My final stop was having a listen at the Kennerton stand. I had promised Valentine that I would come back and have a listen when I had been having a go with the Stereo Pravda gear on Saturday. I made good on my promise on Sunday, having a listen to the Odin, and a new Odin prototype.
The Odin is heavy, with a hard band and fairly high clamp force. It isn’t comfortable for my head at all. It has soft plush pads, but I would like to see even plusher given the clamp strength. Overall, the ergonomics are bad. It is beautiful to behold with gorgeous wood and great looking industrial design. It also sounds beautiful. I listened to the Odin out of the Violectric HPA V2∞1. The Odin was very life-like on Pink Floyd – Hey You, and Patricia Barber was just silky and gorgeous.
Valentine also handed over a new version 2 of the Odin. The ergonomics were the same, but the sound had a bit more air to it with excellent depth and detail whilst maintaining a smooth tonality. People are going to love this sound.
For the whole show here were my Top 3 listens on sound quality (these are not ordered, need more listening for that):
- Stereo Pravda SB7
- Empire Ears big prototype
- 64Audio tia Fourte
From a value perspective, there was nothing anywhere that I listened to that could compete with the ADV S2000—that needs to get to market now, I want one for everybody I know.
My personal highlights of the show from an non-sonic perspective were as follows:
- Dinner with Axel Grell of Sennheiser
- Finally meeting Jack Vang, Dean Vang, and Eric Chong (Vangs of Empire Ears, Eric of Effect Audio)
- A long and enlightening conversation with Misha Kucherenko of Stereo Pravda
- And the splendours of the Advanced (ADV) stand.
I’m eager to get to reviewing some of these wondrous gear I heard!