We've been buzzing about iFi Audio's Pro iCan ($1699) for a year now, but in that time, iFi Audio has been quietly growing their soon-to-be released Pro lineup to include the Pro iDSD, and now they've even slipped an electrostatic energizer into the mix. The Pro iCan ESL electrostatic energizer is especially compelling, given its wide range of outputs and voltage settings, not to mention its fantastic sound. In combination with the iCan and iDSD, this stack gives you the ability to drive, quite literally, any headphone on the planet. That includes sensitive IEMs, low and high impedance dynamics, impossible-to-drive planars like the HIFIMAN HE-6, and any electrostatic headphone.
And that is barely scratching the surface. The Pro series also allows you to switch between tube, solid state and tube hybrid driving options on the fly, and offers options to boost the bass or widen the soundstage with the twist of a knob. Top to bottom, this lineup is truly impressive!
Arguably one of the most impressive products to debut at CanJam at RMAF was the yet-to-be-released DanaTone Head-Space amplifier (price TBD). Developed by Dana Robbins, who is best known for his fantastic lineup of cables, the Head-Space uses a proprietary selective current feedback technology to deliver tight and impactful bass, euphonic mids and well-controlled treble. The soundscape was quite spacious, with very precise variations in imaging depth, width and height. Through the HIFIMAN HE1000, the Head-Space exuded lush musicality without sacrificing an ounce of accuracy.
Sharing the table was the new flagship DanaCable Lazuli Reference Cable (starting at $1199). The ultimate end-game cable, the Lazuli Reference features 1200 strands of OFC copper for the lowest possible resistance between the headphone and the amplifier. I've done extensive testing with this cable (review forthcoming) and it offers the most beautiful, natural midrange and the absolute best bass of any cable I have ever tested. Combined with the Head-Space amplifier and the HIFIMAN HE-1000, the sound left very little to be desired.
The quality of products in the personal audio category continues to improve at a rapid pace. And though we have seen the high-end products take a tremendous leap forward in fidelity over the last two years, there has been a growing concern within the personal audio community about the soaring prices of flagship products.
It is important that the industry continues to grow not only upward, but outward. At this year's CanJam at RMAF, we started to see some encouraging signs that these recent leaps in quality are beginning to trickle down into some more affordable products. This can only help to further expand the community – at both ends of the price spectrum. After all, few people set off to buy their first headphones with a $4000 budget. At CanJam 2016 in Denver's RMAF, I found that no matter where you stand, in terms of taste or budget, it's a great time to be an audio enthusiast.