The Gungnir DAC not only supports high-resolution digital audio files and provides balanced outputs, but also offers a distinctive “adapticlock” feature. The adapticlock feature analyzes jitter-levels of incoming digital audio streams and then applies either of two onboard re-clocking systems as appropriate. Somewhat humorously, when digital source have really awful jitter levels, the Gungnir will do its best to fix things but will also trigger a “Caution: you-need-a-better-quality-digital-source” warning light on the Gungnir’s front panel (and no, I solemnly swear I am not making this up).
As you may have surmised, Schiit has a fondness for product names drawn from Norse mythology. A company spokesman explained that Mjolnir was the name of Thor’s indomitable hammer, while Gungnir was the name of Loki’s spear that never misses its target.
For Can-Jam the German firm Sennheiser showed two previously announced (but now on the cusp of release) top-tier products, plus a new mid-priced model. The top-tier units included the firm’s flagship IE 800 universal-fit earphone ($999) and flagship HDVA 600 headphone amplifier ($1599), while the new product is the firm’s Momentum headphone ($349).
In a move that might seem odd to some earphone aficionados, Sennheiser has opted to fit its top-of-the-line IE 800 earphone with a single, 7mm dynamic driver (which Sennheiser calls a “dynamic linear phase ultra-wide bandwidth (UWB) driver”). The IE800’s UWB drivers, in turn, are fitted into earpiece housings that sport “dampened dual-chamber absorbers,” which I gather are something akin to miniature damped transmission line-like enclosures. What’s unusual, here, is that the IE 800 bucks the trend toward basing top-flite earphones on multiple balanced driver arrays such as those used in flagship products from Phonak Audeo, Shure, Ultimate Ears, or Westone. A Sennheiser spokes told us, though, that the firm is convinced that the IE 800’s single dynamic driver actually offers higher overall performance, superior sonic purity, and greater unit-to-unit uniformity.
The HDVA 600 is, along with the firm’s HDVD 800 ($1999), one of the two most ambitious headphone amplifiers Sennheiser has ever offered and as such it is intended as the ideal companion for the firm’s four top tier headphones: the HD 600, HD 650, HD 700, and flagship HD 800. Both the HDVA 600 and HDVD 800 are fully balanced amplifiers, but what differentiates the models is the fact that the HDVA 600 is an all-analog design, while the HDVD 800 is a “digital” amplifier that incorporates a 24/192-capable DAC.
The Momentum headphone is an iDevice friendly full-size headphone that combines, in roughly equal parts, an emphasis on sound quality, upscale materials and fit and finish, and minimalist “urban” style. Importantly, an optional signal cable with built mic/remote control functions allows the Momentum to serve not just as a headphone but also as an iPhone-compatible headset.
Todd Green (the vinyl junkie, himself) works in very close association with Apex Hi-Fi Audio, and is effectively Apex’s sales and distribution partner. At Can-Jam, Mr. Green proudly showed Apex’ latest creation: the Apex Glacier portable headphone amplifier/USB DAC ($495). A big part of the draw for the Glacier (or really any Apex Hi-Fi component) is the firm’s time-proven sonic know-how: Apex products have, in the past, been favorably reviewed in both The Absolute Sound, where the Apex Pinnacle received a 2012 Editor’s Choice award, and in Playback, where the Apex Peak amp with Volcano power supply is highly recommended.