This is a continuation of a report on the Can Jam International Head-Fi Meet held on June 5-6, 2010 in Chicago, IL. I attended Can Jam as a representative of Playback and of The Absolute Sound and at the event was able to see and hear some of the most ambitious and musically satisfying headphone/desktop audio gear on the planet.
In Part 1 of my report (click here to read) I offered some thoughts on Can Jam itself and on headphone based music systems, and then began describing some of the products seen and heard.
in Part 2 of my report (click here to read) I continued with Can Jam product coverage.
Here, I’ll take up where I left off and offer more coverage of cool gear seen at the event, plus some final thoughts on the Can Jam event.
As always, let me offer an apology in advance to any manufacturers I inadvertently may have overlooked. Manufacturers/vendors are discussed in alphabetical order.
Music Direct is one of the nation’s leading distributors of high quality, audiophile-grade music software in all formats, and of high-performance audio components and accessories of all kinds. For Can Jam, Music Direct focused particularly on its superb Mobile Fidelity vinyl offerings, while also showing a good though somewhat small selection of digital audio discs.
As I thumbed through the MoFi disk racks, I turned to a Music Direct staffer and said, “If I stay here much longer, I’m liable to blow my kids’ college funds on my vinyl addiction.”
“Well, duh,” he replied, “that’s the general idea, isn’t it?” You’ve just gotta love the music-first attitude.
Nature Space specializes in highly accurate recordings of natural outdoor sounds geared specifically for headphone playback. Holographic Audio is a free iPhone app that comes with six sample Nature Space recordings (featuring various outdoor soundscapes, including a spectacular thunderstorm). Addition Nature Space recordings can be purchased through iTunes. Interestingly, a special earbud optimizer dramatically improves accuracy of reproduction for listeners who use box-stock earbuds.
One interesting aspect of the Holographic Audio app is that it can be set to loop, allowing users to organize very specific outdoor soundscape playlists to fit specific moods, etc. A company spokesman indicated that many listeners find the Nature Space recordings so realistic and compelling, adding that they have even been known to evoke extremely powerful childhood memories of specific outdoor events or settings. Interesting, no?
Neko demonstrated its D100 Mk2 DAC ($1395), which provides optical and coaxial SP/DIF inputs and both single-ended RCA and balanced XLR outputs. The D100 Mk2 was recently review by Dick Olsher in our sister publication The Absolute Sound (Issue 202), so rather than providing comments here let me encourage you to get a copy of TAS and to read the in-depth review. Olsher’s concluding comments were as follows: “Neko Audio’s d100 Mk2 represents a remarkable sonic achievement that redefined my expectations at this price point. It is able to effectively ‘defang’ a delta-sigma DAC chipset without lobotomizing the music.”
Headphone maker Phiaton was showing its new PS 20 NC in-ear monitor with active noise-canceling ($179). Phiaton's design for this headphone somewhat splits the difference between traditional in-ear monitors and earbuds. I found the noise-cancelling circuit was very subtle and worked beautifully, so that you didn’t so much perceive a reduction in noise, per se, but rather an increase in apparent clarity. Also on demonstration were Phiaton’s PS 210 in-ear monitor/eadbud ($119), whose physical design seems much like that of the PS 20 NC, but without the noise cancelling module. Finally, Phiaton showcased its MS 400 headphone ($249)—a traditional, high-performance, full-size design.