Sensaphonics also offers a cool product called dB Check, which is a volume-level measurement system geared for use with various Sensaphonics in-ear monitors. Users initially set up the dB Check system by indicating with Sensaphonics in-ear monitors they are using. In turn, the system measures the "dry voltage" fed to the earphones and then combines that data with "known information on Sensaphonics earphones" to calculate and display actual in-ear volume levels in dBA. Importantly, dB Check also displays "minutes of daily safe exposure" at the calculated in-ear volume levels "under both NIOSH and OSHA scales." So far as I am aware, Sensaphonics is the only in-ear headphone manufacturer presently offering such a system.
One construction detail that distinguishes Sensaphonics custom-fit in-ear headphones from competitors is the firms exclusive use of soft-gel silicone for its custom-made earpieces, whereas most competitors make earpieces from relatively hard acrylic materials. According to Sensaphonics, soft-gel silicone forces a much slower and more elaborate manufacturing process, but offers meaningful benefits in terms of wearer comfort and sound isolation.
Todd The Vinyl Junkie
Todd The Vinyl Junkie (TTVJ) is a well-respected distributor of analog and other high-end audio products, but it is also a manufacturer thoroughly involved in the world of high-end headphones. Three TTVJ products in particular caught my attention: the TTJV portable headphone amplifier ($349), the TTJV portable DAC/headphone amp ($449), and the way cool Portable Millett Hybrid headphone amp ($379).
Yes, you read that last item correctly; the Portable Millett Hybrid headphone amp is a tiny (and I mean really tiny) tube/solid-state headphone amp. Todd advises that the Millett isn’t necessarily the best solution for on-the-go (as in “listening while in motion”) applications, since its tube circuit is somewhat microphonic, but once you get the Millett where you are going, it sounds pretty darned great.
The Venture Craft folks plainly come from the burgeoning world of convenience-oriented iPhone accessories, but with a high-end twist. Accordingly, the Venture Craft Go-DAP is a combination clip-on auxiliary battery pack for the iPhone with—get this—a built-in headphone amplifier ($199). The packaging is so smooth and sleek that I could easily imagine leaving an iPhone “parked” in the Go-DAP on a regular basis, while still being able to slip the iPhone + Go-DAP combo into a pocket. Neat stuff.
Westone has been building high quality hearing-related products for what seems like forever, and the firm was showing its entire range of in-ear headphones, which comprise both universal-fit as well as custom-fit models. At Can Jam, Westone was particularly highlighting its new flagship ES5 custom-fit, 3-way in-ear monitor ($900). Westone had set up a pair of ES5’s to use universal fit eartips so that Can Jam attendees could try them, and when I took my turn I felt the new phones offered exceptional midrange nuance and clarity, among other virtues (I’m hoping to obtain a review pair for Playback).
Visiting the Woo Audio exhibit at Can Jam was, for me, a bit like becoming a little kid again and then being turned loose in the exotic, high-end headphone equivalent of a candy store. Company founder Jack Wu is a remarkably prolific creator of tube-powered headphone amplifier designs, with models starting at about $495 and ranging upwards from there.