Interesting, the bundled price for the JH16 Pro/JH3A combo is just $1748, which is pretty reasonable once you consider the fact that the standard JH16 Pro sells for $1149—meaning the triamp rig is really no more costly than many other top-tier headphone amps. Cool. Watch for an upcoming Playback review once the initial backlog of JH3A pre-orders has cleared the factory.
• Silver Dragon-series Analog and Digital Audio Cables—A range of hand-built, high-performance analog and digital audio cables with specialized terminations geared for various desktop audio, headphone, and high-end audio applications.
o Silver Dragon IEM ($65)—a Moon Audio/Silver Dragon silver-conductor replacement signal cable for high-end in-ear monitors such as the Ultimate Ear In-Ear Reference Monitor.
o Silver Dragon USB ($150 - $175)—a Moon Audio/Silver Dragon 3’ USB cable.
o Silver Dragon V3 ($75)—a Moon Audio/Silver Dragon digital iPod-USB adapter cable.
Here’s the point: If you like the core sound of your headphones and portable or desktop audio system, but suspect the have untapped performance potential, Moon Audio can build you a set of high-end (but not terribly high-priced) cables for almost any application you can dream up. Watch for an upcoming Playback review of Moon’s Silver Dragon IEM cable.
• PFE 232—Flagship universal-fit earphone/iPhone-compatible headset ($599)
Long-term Playback readers know that we hold Phonak’s mid-priced PFE 122 earphone in every high regard, and now the PFE 232 comes along with the promise of even higher sound quality. What’s different? Well, from the outside the earphones look fairly similar, though astute observers will note that the back side of the 232 sports what appear to be tiny vent grilles where the 122 has none. On the inside, the PFE 232 is a high-end design all the way, sporting dual-balanced armature-type drivers fitted within its earpiece enclosures. The 232 offers, as did the 122, Phonak’s signature acoustic filter (color-coded in gray, black, and green), which allow users to dial in the voicing parameters that sound the most natural and realistic to them. One significant difference, though, is that the PFE 232 ships with a set of all three types of filters, which the 122 does not. Recognizing that high-end users are divided on the question of whether to choose the convenience of a a headset with matching mic and remote control switches, or to choose the sonic purity of a straight, high-quality signal cable sans mic module, Phonak ships the 232 with both types of cables—giving users the freedom to choose. I got a brief chance to listen to the 232 at Can Jam, and when asked what I thought I replied that the 232 “sounded a fair amount like the 122, but with the imaginary ‘Resolution’ and ‘Refinement’ knobs both turned up to 12.” That off-the-cuff assessment will have to stand for the time being, until a full Playback review can be completed.
• M4U 2—Circumaural, closed-back, self-powered headphone with switch selectable noise-cancelling circuitry. ($399)
The Canadian speaker manufacturer PSB was not exhibiting in the Can Jam area proper, but upstairs in one of the standard RMAF demo rooms the firm was proudly showing its cool new M4U 2 self-powered headphone ($399)—or at least the ‘phone was on display for the first two days of the event.
Designer Paul Barton had given me guided tour of this exciting new headphone at the recent CEDIA Expo 2011, and I can vouch for the fact that it is chockfull of thoughtful design touches that effect both sound quality and ergonomics. Barton explained that the target frequency response curve for the M4U 2 was born out of extensive research into the characteristics of human hearing as conducted at the NRC research facility in Ottawa, Canada. But the headphone also pays careful attention to usability factors. Thus, the amply-sized ear cups are positioned in gimbal-type mounts that allow the ear cups to swivel side-to-side and up-and-down to obtain a comfortable fit. Moreover, the ear cup pads, as viewed from above, are asymmetrical (thicker toward the rear of the head than towards the front), again with an eye toward achieving an ideal fit.