Getting back to more affordable fare, few names are as synonymous with value as 1More, and it looks like they've done it again with their new Triple Driver Over-Ear Headphone ($299). With separate tweeters, woofers and passive bass resonators, these are an extremely solid entry at a popular price point. They are easy to drive and even easier to listen to, with punchy bass, sweet mids and well-controlled treble. It will be interesting to see how this fares against other headphones in this price range such as the $249 Focal Listen and the $399 Oppo PM-3.
Equally impressive is the new 1More Quad Driver IEM ($199). It offers a slightly downward-sloped signature with clean and robust bass, nice mids and well-tamed highs. While I usually like a bit more sparkle in my treble, I can see how the warm and non-fatiguing sound of this IEM would have instant appeal for many listeners who are in search of an IEM they can listen to for hours on end.
Another encouraging value came from Periodic Audio, who debuted three new IEMs, each using different driver materials: Beryllium ($299), Titanium ($199) and Magnesium ($99). The clear star of the show here was the Beryllium driver, which featured outstanding punch, dynamics and clarity. This one is a very easy recommendation at the $299 price point. The less expensive Titanium driver was tuned to an extreme v-shape and was very much not my taste, but the $99 Magnesium driver was also pretty darn good, offering a warm sound signature and a solid value overall.
Echobox Audio also had a solid set of value products, displaying their flask-shaped do-it-all player, the Explorer ($599) and their brand-new IEM, the Nomad. At $399, the Nomad is Echobox's highest-end IEM to date and it is truly excellent. For the price, it is hard to knock it in any area: the bass hits hard and fast, the midrange is sweet and revealing, and the highs are well-controlled with enough sparkle to keep them interesting. And it offers a variety of tuning filters that allow you to tweak the sound to your preferences. As a total package, I'm quite sure the Nomad can stand toe-to-toe with some IEMs that are twice the price and hold its own.
On the opposite end of the price spectrum, Empire Ears was in attendance showcasing their high-end lineup of IEMs with ADEL. The ADEL feature allows the listener to open a pinhole-sized port in the IEM to the outside world with the flip of a switch, alleviating some pressure in the ear canal and giving the listener and alternate sound signature. I tried it with the Zeus-XR (starting at $2,399), and found that opening the ADEL port shifted the sound from slightly warm to neutral. I can see how this would be very beneficial to someone who uses IEMs for long stretches daily, as opening the port is a great way to get rid of ear fatigue. I personally found the warmer sound of the closed port to be a bit more satisfying.
Keeping with the high-end theme, Chord Electronics brought a killer spread of goods that can work equally well at home or on the go. Headlining their lineup was the new Hugo 2 ($2,249), which represents a remarkable step-up from its predecessor. While I found the original Hugo to be quite bright, the Hugo 2 offers a warmer, richer, more analog sound. There are now four selectable analog filters, each one progressively warmer than the last. I found the orange filter to be my favorite of the four, which bears a strong resemblance to the Chord Mojo's slightly warm frequency balance.
Chord also brought the Poly ($625), an innovative new accessory to go with their popular Mojo ($529). The Poly acts as a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth hub for the Mojo, allowing you to stream music to the Mojo wirelessly, or control music on the Poly's onboard SD card reader from the convenience of your phone. This is a very cool product, and I expect it will become quite popular once people begin to realize its vast potential.
Speaking of convenience, FiiO came up big at CanJam NYC with the debut of the new X5 Gen 3 ($399). This is the DAP many people have been waiting for, as it is a tremendous value and truly does it all for a very reasonable price. It offers a very nice AKM4490-based DAC, balanced and SE outputs, a touchscreen, Wi-Fi streaming, DSD decoding, dual SD-card slots, analog and digital outputs, and even Bluetooth. What's more, it actually sounds good! I think this player is going to be very, very well-received with so many features at such an attractive price point.
Acoustic Research also brought its exciting lineup of DAPs, including the M2 ($1,199), M20 ($699) and a prototype of the upcoming M200. The new player will have a target price between $299 and $399, and if it is anywhere near as good as its bigger brothers, it should be quite a steal. Acoustic Research also debuted their first planar magnetic headphone, the H1 ($599). While the headphone wasn't quite done yet, it showcased a tight and snappy bottom end and lively, sparkling highs. I thought the highs could be toned down a little bit, but I think it's well on its way to being a nice piece.
Finally, CanJam NYC wouldn't be complete without New York's own Woo Audio. Jack Wu brought an excellent selection of flagship headphones to go with his lovely tube amps, and I really enjoyed taking some time to listen to the Focal Utopia ($3,999) on Woo's transportable WA-8 Eclipse amplifier ($1,799). The combination is simply masterful, as the WA-8 offers some rich, organic low-end presence to accompany the Utopia's supremely detailed and refined sound. I'm always impressed with what this little amp can do, and I could have probably sat there and listened to this combination all day.