By: Fredwill Hernandez
The CanJam SoCal 2018, the world’s largest community of headphone audio enthusiasts sponsored by Sennheiser, Headphone.guru, and Hi-Fi+, was held April 7- 8, 2018, at the JW Marriott Los Angeles [LA Live].
Among headphones, high-resolution players, new technology, and just cool things that caught my attention were products by Astell & Kern, Focal, Sennheiser, Shanling, bluewave, FiiO, Ear Sonics, and Sonarworks.
“We are a music tech company that’s coming from recording studio industry. Right now there are more than twenty- thousand recording studios using our tech and we are finally releasing this technology to anyone who listens to music, and that means that through our technology people can [finally] hear the music through their headphones as close as possible to the way the artists, music producers, and recording engineers intended it to sound,” eloquently explained Janis Spogis, Partner, VP Products, Sonarworks [SW]. “So Sonarworks true-fi technology brings studio reference [sound] into consumer headphones and that is already available now. The way the technology works is by correcting frequency response, we measure each headphone model to find out how it sounds, and we can tell and hear how it differs from studio reference sound, and use high-definition filters of 4k to 16k points to bring the sound [frequency response] of headphones back to studio reference, so that way we ensure whenever you listen to your favorite music with [Sonarworks] true-fi on, it’s as close to the way it was created. Right now our product app is available for Mac and Window’s, the cost is $79.00 [US] dollars, that’s a lifetime license, you pay once and get all the upgrades, and we’ll be releasing [complimentary] apps for iOS and Android cell phones in June .”
As I made my rounds, I ended up at the Focal booth, where I was impressed with their [new] Clear headphones marketed as “The Emotion of Infinite Space.”
“These open-back high-fidelity headphones are made in France and what makes them unique [aside from their sound quality] are their aluminum yoke and a leather headband which remains constant spreading the weight of the headphones evenly over the head to prevent pressure on the head or ears. This is achieved with 20 mm memory foam ear cushion[s] covered with perforated microfibre fabric,” eloquently explained David Anthony, Account & Product Manager, Pro Audio, Audio Plus Services [US Distributor for Focal]. “They have a frequency response of 5 Hz – 20 kHz, and have a low impedance of 55 ohms, they come with a rigid carrying case, and three cables: a 4 pin balanced XLR, a 6.35 mm stereo jack plug, and also a 3.5 mm jack plug for portable Hi-Res players in mind.”
Speaking of headphones, Sennheiser was showing off their [new] unreleased HD820 hi-res headphone.
“This is our new HD820 our newest close back headphone unveiled at the 2018 CES in Las Vegas, it will be debuting in June 2018, suggested retail price of $2399.00. It’s our new closed back reference [series] headphone, it’s precision made in Germany, Hi-Resolution with 56 mm drivers, they use very light weight materials, similar material they use in the aerospace industry, it will have a 2 yr. warranty on parts and labor, it comes with a [4.4 mm] balance pentaconn connection, a standard 1/4″ (6.35 mm) stereo [unbalanced] jack plug, ” explained David Denson, Area Sales Manager, Consumer Electronics, Sennheiser.
A cool small gadget to make any headphone wireless was being exhibited by bluewave.
“Our first product is the Get, is a wireless headphone amplifier that connects through Bluetooth [5.0] through your portable device being your cell phone or your [Hi-Res] player as long as it supports Bluetooth, it supports every codecs, out there [be it] SBC, MP3, AAC (iOS), AptX, AptX Low Latency, or AptX HD, more than anything it has a powerful amp in there. Such a small portable device you won’t find in the market, something more powerful, so It can literally drive anything. It connects through Bluetooth to your device, now days that new cell phones don’t have a headphone jack anymore, so Apple was the first, but now Google, and they’re all coming that way, they’ve provided an adapter for now, but their gamble is that everybody is going to buy Bluetooth headphones,” explained Pierre Lelièvre, President, bluewave. “We are trying to tell people keep what you have, the best headphones are wired headphones, it gives you the freedom to use any headphone you want, you can plug it in to your home system at home, and have your music on your phone, connects wirelessly through your phone, it’s a really convenient device. It has a few [music] controls on it, since it’s a Bluetooth device you can skip forward, skip back, play and pause, it has a microphone so you can take phone calls, and the volume is analog with high quality potential meters for the volume, it retails for $129.00, we have a [CanJam] show special for $100.00, and you charge it through a micro-USB port, two-hours for a full charge, and [the 1.25″ X 2.25″ amp] has an eight-hour battery life.”
Among things that stood out at the show was the [new] and impressive Astell & Kern, [A&ultima] SP1000 Hi-Res player.
“I believe our Astell & Kern SP 1000 [our flagship model] is the best Hi-Res music [portable] playback system that is available at the moment, either in copper, stainless steel silver or stainless steel black finishes. Our SP1000 is designed to playback digital music without any compression or losses, so you can listen to the very details that were exactly captured at the recording moment, either in the studio or stage. The SP 1000 is available as a flagship device, it retails at $3500.00, we have other models, like the KANN [for $999.00], or the AK 70 MK II [for $699.00] through astellnkern.com,” eloquently explained Owen Kwon, President, IRIVER, parent co. of Astell & Kern.
Other features of the SP 1000, according to Astell & Kern, is 256GB of internal memory, a microSD card slot for additional storage, a new, upgraded DAC chipset and faster octa-core CPU order to provide listeners with the ultimate sound experience. The device features two AKM AK4497EQ DACs, a bezel-less design, a 5 inch, HD-resolution screen, a redesigned GUI and intuitive menu system that is centered on music playback. It also boast a USB Type-C 3.0 support which allows data transfers that are twice as fast as other Astell & Kern players. The SP1000 also provides 12 hours of music playback and with support for fast charging.
Another Hi-Res player that caught my attention due to its size and price, was the 1.54″ touch-screen MO, by Shanling.
The MO which [starts at $99 USD] fits in the palm of your hand supports 32 bit/384 kHz [or DSD 128], LDAC high quality Bluetooth, it supports 512 GB TF cards, it has a 3.5 mm headphone jack, 30 day standby [when not in use], it charges in 2 hrs, and it boast according to Shinling, a 15 hour battery life depending on usage, which I predict [flawlessly] works for 12 hrs.
Another Hi-Res player by FiiO, which I can describe as an in-between Astell & Kern’s SP1000 or Shanling’s MO is [FiiO’s] M7.
According to Shanling, the M7 boast a 3.2″ [400 x 800] high resolution in-cell touch screen, Bluetooth 4.2 [aptX/aptX-HD], a 20 hour battery life, which I also predict equals to 17 hrs. of flawless use, FM radio [is] supported [through 5 broadcasting regions available from 76-108 MHz], 40 days deep stanby, it has a Samsung Exynos [dual core] 7270 processor, ES 9018 [a 32 bit audio DAC solution], and LDAC, an audio coding technology developed by Sony, which allows streaming audio over Bluetooth connections up to 990 kbit/s at 24bit/96khz.
As I made my rounds, I also ran into the cool and impressive EarPad[s] by Ear Sonics, which I can describe as ear plugs which lower the volume by 15 db [SNR] without any sound deformation. These ear plugs protect your hearing allowing you to simultaneously hear, a product Celine Dion believes in, purchases and personally hands out to her “Green Room” VIP [concert] attendees.