Great vibes at this year’s SoCal CanJam! I had an awesome time kicking it with familiar faces and making new friends. The booths were swarmed by Head-fiers from all around. Special thanks go out to Jude Mansilla, Ethan Opolion, and the rest of the Head-Fi crew for making these CanJams possible. These shows help facilitate the journey of curious audiophiles while birthing new ones. They provide a space to educate and experience great sounding gear for every budget.

Although champions will remain champions (64Audio Tia Fourte IEMs, Astell & Kern SP1000 DAP, etc), we have a few new soul-capturing products.

Show Standouts

  • Headphones/IEMs
    • 64 Audio tia Trio ($2,299) – Accurate timbre and acoustic body. Doesn’t have the treble energy and resolution of the higher-end models but perfect for genre-independent listening.
    • Audeze LCD-2C ($799) – This headphone sounded fantastic off the bat. Doesn’t have the luscious mids of the LCD-4 but man, it’s fun and engaging.
    • Hifiman Susvara ($6,000) – I thought this headphone sounded great paired with the GS-X Mk.2 and especially the Woo Audio WA33 Elite. It was a bit bright/clinical in a previous setup with a Hifiman amplifier. With these amps, there was a nice balance of warmth and clarity.
    • Ultrasone Edition 15 ($2,999) – These are Ultrasone’s best sounding headphones ever. I’m going to need to get a review demo in but this headphone performed very well across the board.
    • Campfire Audio Comet ($199) – I’ll be honest, I enjoyed this IEM more than some of Campfire’s higher priced stuff. I think it has a deeply resolving yet full quality to them. At $199…I would recommend a listen. It is a top performer at this price point.
    • PSB M4U 8 ($399) – I really liked the sound of this Bluetooth headphone. It’s very musical with the right amount of resolution. It also sounds pleasantly natural and smooth. I’ll have to get one in for review.
    • ZMF Auteur ($1,899) – A very coherent, natural, and fun headphone. There are a delicate musicality and creamy flow to these headphones that makes for a very enjoyable listening experience.
  • Amplifiers
    • Benchmark HPA4 Headphone amplifier ($2,995) – This thing is a beast and provided the punchiest sound from the show (LCD-XC). The speed and dynamic capabilities of this amplifier were apparent and most welcomed.
    • Woo Audio WA33 Elite Edition ($14,999) – Not sure how it could’ve bested the WA33 I reviewed a while back but it does. Improved timbre, body, and resolution. The internals is quite different as far as capacitors and wire used. Check out their product page for more information.
    • Dragon Inspire IHA-1 Tube Headphone amplifier ($1,699) – Designed by Drew Baird of Moon Audio and Dennis Had of Cary Audio, this amplifier rocks. I liked how clean this amplifier sounded. It was quiet, unintrusive, and just has this very pristine and pure quality to it. I expected the price to be much higher.
    • HeadAmp Gilmore Lite Mk2 ($499) – This brought life to the Mr. Speakers Aeon Open as well as a few other headphones at the show. It benefits enormously from their flagship amplifiers and is made stupidly affordable at $499.
  • Accessories
    • purRezAudio cable amplifier ($400 for analog version) – This could be the most effective mod for all Head-fiers. It seeks to fix the problem with cables by including an amplifier in the line.


Best of Show

  • Meze Empyrean (~$3,200) – A very special headphone with a sound unlike any other. Incredible depth and layering/separation capabilities. I’ll need to take a closer look at this one. Right now, I’m calling it the “Undisturbed musical multi-tasker.” Pricing hasn’t been finalized yet. Check out the sexy photos and story behind this fascinating headphone.

Gear porn starts here. As always, please excuse the earwax.

Ultimate Ears Revols at-home impressions system. With a use of an in-home app, impressions are done in 60 seconds.

SIMOT EN700 BASS, PRO, EM1/3/5, ET1000, APT2/1 PRO

Echobox Explorer ($699.00) – Had a nice chat with Sam and Corey at Echobox. The genuine solid hardwood body is a nice touch. A very clear and resolving player.

The ZMF Auteur (starting at $1,599.99) – There was never an empty seat at this table so I had to pay a guy to leave (jk, but yeah it was busy all the frickin’ time). It was worth the wait. One of the most organically balanced and coherent sounding headphones I’ve heard so far. Voices and instruments were full and sweet. Treble was smooth and articulate. It does the right amount of musicality from the bottom to the top of the entire spectrum. No glaring faults whatsoever.

BluDAVE: The best digital source on the planet. If you’ve ever wondered why it doesn’t quite sound like someone’s singing in front of you, you haven’t heard the M-Scaler.

Final Audio Design IEMs

The Source AV rolling deep as always.

Chord Qutest sighting…

Dunu’s in the house! The DK-3001 is their best sounding IEM yet.

Empire Ears – X and EP series

Audio Bacon’s Tracy rocking them Audeze LCD-4s

Audeze ain’t skimpin’ on nothin’. NAGRA HD DAC ($22,130) with the LCD-2C

Same chocolatey smooth sound, much lighter. Those mids are just so addictive.

It’s nice to see Audeze tapping into the gaming market. The Mobius sounded very spaciously “out-of-the-head.” Reminded me a little bit of the MySphere 3.1. They were comfortable and sounded great.

Campfire Audio Atlas – Gorgeous

Mojo + Poly made evaluating headphones a breeze. The Go Figure app is now released on iOS! Thank you Tom Vaughan from Chord for helping me out.

Audio Technica ATH-ADX5000 – Transparent, clean, clear, great imaging, and highly resolving while being smooth. Super comfortable as well.

Tested Sonarworks’s True-Fi with some Philips Fidelio X2HR and Sony MDR-1000X wireless headphones. It works. Supports 138 headphones. Get a free trial here

The Dragon Inspire IHA-1 Tube Headphone amp sounded incredibly quiet and transparent while being full-bodied and articulate. A great value at $1,699 IMO.

Schiit Lyr 3 – Always providing great value to their customers. $499

JH Audio – Allow Roxanne, Layla, and Lola whisper sweet nothings in your ears.

It ain’t no CanJam without the Sennheiser HE-1

Smyth Research Realiser A16 – Unfortunately, I didn’t sign up for the demo in time but everyone looked pretty dumbfounded by its trickery. I have a physical Atmos 9.1.2 setup at home so it would be interesting to compare. Next time!

Great sounding Violectric stack with the Ultrasone Edition 15

Woo Audio 3ES Headphone Amp ($8,999) + Stax 009s – Spent a good amount of time on this setup. A very inviting and acoustically nuanced sound. A fantastic pairing indeed.

Best tube headphone amplifier I’ve ever heard. The WA33 Elite Edition was leaps and bounds more fuller and accurate than the original WA33. A/Bing was easy between the two and the differences weren’t subtle. It paired beautifully with the Hifiman Susvara.

A fascinating experience with this MySphere 3.1 headphone (the AKG K1000 replacement). Heinz Renner will be sending a review unit soon and I can’t wait. Learn more about it here

Ultimate Ears doing their thang and making impressions…

Abyss Phi – Another nice pairing with the Woo Audio WA33

This production Diana is simply seductive. It’s balanced, not overly sweet, and just comfort food for the ears.