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CanJam Denver 2016 Show Report
CanJam 2016 Show Report
CanJam & Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest 2016
CanJam 2016 Denver Report By Dave Hanson

 

 

  Rounding out the best values of the show is the outstanding Wells Audio Milo. While the Milo's $1699 price tag is nothing to sneeze at, the level of performance relative to that price is borderline ridiculous. Trickling down technology from his excellent flagship Headtrip amplifier ($7000), the Milo obliterates nearly every headphone amplifier I've heard within spitting distance of its price point. This powerful headphone amplifier pumps an estimated 18 Watts into 46 Ohms, driving the Abyss AB-1266, HIFIMAN HE-1000 and the new ZMF Eikon like a dream. The presentation is clear, spacious and uncompromisingly dynamic, with crisp transients and powerful impact. For hard-to-drive planars and high-impedance dynamic drivers, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find comparable performance until you enter into the $3000 price range.

 

Noble Audio
Enjoy the Music.com's CanJam 2016 Denver Show Report Is Sponsored By Noble

 

 

Full-Sized Headphones

 

Among the most buzzed about products of the show was the impressive new premium line of personal audio products from Sony. Alongside the excellent NW-WM1Z Walkman ($3199, read our World Premiere review) and TA-ZH1ES amplifier, Sony introduced their new flagship headphone, the MDR-Z1R ($2299). I found the MDR-Z1R to be tremendously impactful, detailed and euphonic, bringing out a tremendous sense of joy in the music. While it may not be the first choice for accuracy, it certainly makes a good case for the first choice in pure fun. The headphone seemed to perform its best with the TA-ZH1ES amplifier, though I only heard a couple of select amplifier pairings. No matter what kind of music I threw at it, the Sony kept a smile on my face during the whole listening session.

 

 

 

Speaking of fun, ZMF Headphones was in attendance with two new flagship headphones, the Eikon ($1299) and the Atticus ($999). Both headphones offered an interesting take on Zach Mehrbach's dense and tonally rich house sound. Inspired by the design of Sony's legendary R10, the Eikon also uses an angled cup geometry and biocellulose drivers. The Eikon's sound is warm, thick and euphonic with robust bass and mids. I found the 300 Ohm Eikon performed best when paired with a high-powered amplifier, and really delivered the goods when paired with the Cavalli Liquid Gold and Wells Audio Milo.

The ZMF Atticus uses a similar housing, but a molded thermoplastic elastomer driver, the same material used to manufacture the drivers for the much-revered Sennheiser HD800. I found the Atticus gained a certain sense of magic when paired with OTL tube amps, which brought out a powerful sense of impact, holographic soundscape and glorious midrange. It is certainly possible for either one to be the subjective favorite, based on personal preference and associated equipment. After years of building a sterling reputation as a top Fostex T50RP modder, it looks like ZMF has really knocked it out of the park with their first two fully-original top-to-bottom designs.

 

 

 

While we're on the topic of manufacturers who launched their careers as T50RP modders, Mr. Speakers line of original headphones continues to grow more and more impressive. As development continues on Dan Clark's newest creation, the Ether ES electrostatic headphone, new technology has trickled down into his popular planar magnetic Ether models. The new Ether FLOW and Ether-C FLOW (both starting at $1799) feature design enhancements that increase airflow from the driver, and in turn, provide a clearer and crisper sound. Paired with the excellent Cavalli Liquid Tungsten tube amp prototype (price TBD), the Ether Flow delivered jaw-dropping detail and spot-on tonal balance. This was easily one of my favorite combos of the entire show.

The Ether ES (price TBD) has also seen a significant amount of improvement since I last heard it at AXPONA 2016 this spring. I tested this lovely headphone on a variety of amps, and it performed beautifully every time. Since this spring, bass has become more robust and the treble even more refined. The Ether ES soundstage is tremendously open and the tonal balance is perhaps the best of any electrostatic I've heard nailing the Goldilocks zone between the brighter Stax SR-009 and the darker SR-007. It will certainly be interesting to compare the finer points of these three excellent headphones at length in a quiet listening environment after the ES is released.

 

 

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