CanJam SoCal 2017 Show Report
The high-end strikes back!
CanJam SoCal Show Report By Dave Hanson
Back in February, I declared CanJam New York "a victory for
audiophiles" – with a surge of high-end audio tech trickling down into more
affordable gear. And while the more affordable gear was still well represented
at CanJam SoCal, we are also seeing some breathtaking new products on the very
high-end emerging as well.
If there was one overarching theme to this show, I would say
it's "The Best Get Better" – as there were refined, mastered and miniaturized
versions of several favorites on hand at CanJam SoCal 2017. There were also a
few compelling new products and some emerging trends that I want to touch on
here too, so without further ado, lets get started.
The Best Get Better
Abyss Headphones AB-1266
The original Abyss
AB-1266 ($5,495 Deluxe Edition, as reviewed) was a landmark
headphone considered by many to be the best on the planet. But during the
development of the upcoming Abyss Headphones Diana ($3,000 estimated MSRP), Joe
Skubinski and his team discovered there was still room for improvement. The
result is the new AB-1266 Phi, and boy is it ever stunning. Offered for the same
price as the original (with an attractively priced upgrade option for current
owners), the new version offers better clarity, transparency, neutrality and
dynamics with a more open soundscape to boot. As if that wasn't enough already,
the Phi is also 50 grams lighter and a few decibels more efficient than the
original. Overall, it's a very noticeable and positive improvement.
Wells Audio Headtrip
One of my favorite parings with the AB-1266 Phi was with Wells
Audio's new mega flagship amplifier, the Headtrip Reference ($15,000 MSRP).
Having already scaled the $7K Headtrip's basic design down into the Enigma
($3,699) and Milo
($1,699, starting, reviewed here), owner Jeff Wells decided to
try pushing the design to its limits with boutique components and a few design
tweaks. The result may very well be the best amplifier I've ever heard,
portraying three-dimensional space in a way that made the headphones feel
incredibly speaker like. Listening to Dave Brubeck on the ZMF Eikon ($1,399,
padauk), the depth projection was stunning, with loads of ambient detail
painting the performance space with picture perfect clarity. With the AB-1266
Phi, the music was so engaging and transparent, removing the headphones was
downright painful. It was probably my favorite listen of the show.
On the other side of the show floor, Cavalli Audio brought
their own brand of tweaks and experiments. Alongside a new chassis for their
future flagship Liquid Tungsten, Alex Cavalli toted in two freshly built
prototypes. The first was a miniaturized version of the Liquid Crimson
amplifier. Now a fully balanced design, this tube hybrid amplifier will put out
about 2.5W of power into 50 Ohms. Cavalli estimates this upcoming piece will
retail in the neighborhood of $1,499. Having owned the Liquid Crimson myself, I
can tell you this new version definitely sounds very much like the original,
which was stunning. The second prototype was a miniaturized version of the
flagship Liquid Tungsten's circuit. This little amplifier is tentatively being
called the "Liquid Ambience" and has a sweet, tubey flow to it like its big
brother. Pricing has yet to be finalized, but will likely be in the same range
as the mini Crimson.
ampsandsound Kenzie Encore
Speaking of tubes, ampsandsound was on hand with their
gorgeous lineup of tube amplifiers. I have not spent nearly enough time with
their product lineup, so I had a good listening session with the flagship
Agartha ($3,600), the popular Mogwai ($1,850) and their newest addition, the
Kenzie Encore ($1,995 starting). This updated version adds a larger choke for a
lower noise floor, plus several options like input transformers and custom
resistors, to tailor the amp to the listeners specific needs. I found it a very
enjoyable listen with absolutely gorgeous mids and a full-bodied sounds with
plenty of depth and detail. The craftsmanship here is second to none.
---> Next Page.
CanJam NYC 2017,
CanJam Denver 2016, CanJam London 2016,
Denver 2015, CanJam Denver 2014.