WESC, aka “We Are the Superlative Conspiracy”, is a trendy Swedish clothing/accessories brand that also happens to make a broad range of headphones. For CES 2012 WESC’s biggest news centered on the rollout of two distinctive Chambers by RZA-series headphones, which are endorsed by the artist/producer RZA (Robert Diggs), who is best known for his work with Wu-Tang Clan.
Chambers by RZA ‘phones come in two forms: the RZA Street on-ear model ($170) and the RZA Premium (or “Cranium”) over-the-ear model ($270). The RZA Street is a passive headphone equipped with a 3-button, Apple-compatible remote/mic module, while the RZA Premium is an active noise-canceling headphone with 3-button remote/mic module, and LED-display equipped equalizer, and a distinctive music sharing function. During a very brief listening session at the WESC booth, I was struck by how well made and nicely finished the Chambers models seemed (they’re much nicer than some of the mid-fi-grade rapper-endorsed ‘phones on the market).
Long-term Playback readers know that I regard Westone’s flagship True Fit 4 earphones as falling among the three or four best that I’ve ever heard, regardless of price. Well, for CES 2012, the Colorado based firm has introduced a second version of the flagship, called the True Fit 4R ($499), where the “R” in the name signifies that the earphone supports user-replaceable signal cables. You might think this would be purely a convenience where if, heaven forbid, you should happen to break a cable you could simply buy a new one and plug it in. But the replaceable-cable feature has more far-reaching sonic implications, especially for an earphone as good as the True Fit 4, in that it opens the door to explore ultra high-quality audiophile-grade signal cables from reputable third-party specialists such as Moon Audio, ALO Audio, Cardas, and others.
Joining the True Fit 4 in the move to “R” status is Westone’s Talk Series TS-1 earphone, which is now offered as a TS-1R ($129), which comes fitted with user-replaceable signal cables complete with an in-line mic module installed. Note: In principle, I believe this user-replaceable mic-module cable could also be installed on the True Fit 4R if users so desired.
The specialty headphone amplifier manufacturer Woo Audio had a wonderful demonstration station set up at T.H.E. Show, featuring Woo’s gorgeous, two-chassis, vacuum tube-powered WES electrostatic headphone amplifier (start at $4990 and ranging up to $7730 with all available Woo-recommended parts and vacuum tube upgrades). Company President Jack Wu was using the WES as a demonstration platform for the superb Stax SR-007 MkII and Stax SR-009 electrostatic headphones (see comments, above). Pictures, I’m afraid, don’t fully do the WES justice; it exudes a certain polish and fineness of fit and finish that seems to shout, “This amp was made by people who approach their work as a labor of love.” ‘Works for me.
The Woo/Stax combos sounded simply terrific and there is no doubt that the WES is one of the three or four finest electrostatic headphone amps being made today, though I imagine some Playback readers will immediately ask if Woo’s WES is the best of them all. To seek answers, Playback will soon begin a series of reviews of top-tier electrostatic headphone amps to see where things stand. Stay tuned.