CanJam RMAF 2017: Audiophiles Second Home

It was an 11 hours’ drive from Ames, IA to Denver, Co. Since we have five of us from Ames, we decided to just drive all the way to Colorado; but hey, what can I say, attending such magnificent event like CanJam will always worth the effort for an audio lover. Plus, it saves cost than buying 5 flight tickets to come to Colorado. We only attend the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) 2017 for one day due to the restrictions of normal weekend. Well, in the heart of audio enthusiast, we are still student in real life. A normal weekend does not help us to stay for the whole three days. Maybe in the future we will. In this year RMAF, they have a lot of new products introduced to the market. Some of them are upgrades from the previous version but there are other products that are totally new to the market. Although, I am more excited to hear the synergy of the system than focusing only on one or two new products.

The event starts at Friday (October 6, 2017) until Sunday (Do the math) but we only managed to go to Saturday event. On Saturday, it started at 9 AM and we arrived ten minutes after nine. After registration we went to our first booth ever in CanJam and that is iFi audio because it was the first booth setup outside the main auditorium.  Then, we went to the main auditorium that we spent for about 4-5 hours before move around the building to listen to speaker setup.

Disclaimer: I might not include everything they have in the RMAF but will try my very best to reel most of them. I am also a fan of full size headphones; thus, there might not be a lot of IEM impressions in this write up.

Sightseeing

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Before anything, we took our pictures in front of the main auditorium to mark our first CanJam visit ever! Of course, it would be in front of the banner.

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Calm before the storm. At 9 AM, it would be less crowded, and this is the view when you first entered the auditorium. Although it’s early in the morning, most both are already occupied.

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This is the view from the other angle and as I said before. It’s already this busy early in the morning. I guess that’s a pretty common CanJam vibes.

Here goes some of my impressions on CanJam RMAF 2017:

iFi Audio
Their main setup is iDSD micro SE connected to PRO iCan via RCA and PRO iESL. They also have Beyerdynamic T90 and ZMF Auteur in both single-ended (SE) and Balanced output. Personally, I was impressed by how good the PRO iCAN is and was not expect that it could deliver a smooth, clean and impactful bass in that small box. It’s a hybrid solid-state (SS) and tube top-of-the-line (TOTL) amplifier from iFi with the PRO iESL that focus on electrostats headphones. While the iCAN focus on Balanced and single ended output for both headphones and IEM, the iESL focus on electrostats, balanced and SE output for full size headphones. Both deliver a similar sound signature but I felt the PRO iCAN is more livelier and pleasing to listen to even with shrilling highs headphones like Beyerdynamic T90.
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They also have numbers of connector that focus on cleaning the connection between the source and the output. I was interested in the iFi earbuddy ability that could improve jitter and distortion coming from portable source directly to your IEM or headphones. They also have product like iGalvanic, ione, iusb, ipurifier etc. that like I said focus on a cleaner signal transfer. Unfortunately, in a short one day, I do not have the opportunity to audition all of them but will contact iFi Audio themselves in the future regarding that. The cool thing is, you can always contact iFi and tell them what your setup is and they will give suggestion whether you should or should not have the extra items for a cleaner connection; they might as well say that you not need them.    

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Audeze

A little about my history with Audeze’s LCDs line. I am a huge fan of LCD2 preFazor to a point where I sell my LCD2.2 prefazor a month after I had them. Weird huh? I am a huge fan of the sound and love every single part of engineering that is going on inside the cups; but, the exterior was the reason I sold them or to be exact the weight. I am listening to it every day and I even bought Alo Audio green line 4-pin XLR to test driving them full balanced. Good enough, Audeze came up with the solution, Carbon Fiber Headband. Personally, it doesn’t help as much, to me at least. I decided to sell the can and I am pretty sad about it. Now, Audeze came up with a better solution by having both LCD-MX4 and LCD-2C in their collection. Well, I am intrigued. A lot! But, how do they sound?

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LCD-MX4: What an amazing headphone! It was paired with Chord Dave at the Audeze booth and it was breath taking. The bass is pronounced from the low end all the way to the midrange. The bass thump makes you tipping toe and being paired with Chord Dave really brings out the bass detail. Mids, yeah, the mids. This has always been the strength of LCD4 and it sounds much smoother with amazing microdetail with Dave. Well, I haven’t a/b the LCD4 and MX4 with Chord Dave, so I am not sure how the synergy going with LCD4 and Chord Dave. Treble extension is polite and engaging although I felt like it’s a little shallow. The soundstage is spacious both width and height, but I think LCD4 has a better height. Probably due to the surrounding sounds but I can hear that the MX4 a little smaller in soundstaging. They are close although I would not say that they sound exactly the same. But the MX4 is a clear winner when comparing both comfort and weight. It felt right on my head. Not too heavy but of course not too light either. The weight distribution is improved especially with the carbon fiber headband. Overall, at $2995, it is a terrific value when its able to grasp the LCD4 sound at a much lighter weight (and price too!)

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LCD4: I guess this LCD need no introduction. It is paired with INVICTA MIRUS Pro Dac and Audeze’s own class-A amplifier, The King MKII. Out from the $11000 setup, the $4000 price tag seems fair. The sound was amazing, and this setup really focus on the midrange. While the bass and treble well extended, the midrange takes the center stage here.  The vocal is crystal clear and engaging, one of the best I have heard so far. I never thought that it could go to that extent but, I still prefer Stax Sr-009 with Blue Hawaii Special Edition. I am not saying that the Stax better, but the tonality representation is slightly different between those two. The soundstage is magnificient although not as wide as HD800. The LCD4 has its own space. It’s like walking in 5 equivalent size rooms and when you walk to the sixth room that has a wide space, you have a different sense or feeling. The LCD4 gives me that feeling and when the music starts, the sound flow smoothly across the room. Overall, it is an amazing headphone but after spent a fair amount of time with MX4, I still prefer the MX4 over the LCD4. I guess the weight plays a huge roll in this.

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This picture is taken by @thirdeye, CanJam moderator (Five of us in one picture)

LCDi4: While most company relates the quality with size and price, Audeze tend to look for a portable solution that grasp every quality out of their current flagship, the LCD4. With that, they came up with the LCD-i4. The smallest and lightest in the LCD range with amazing TOTL full can sound. The LCDi4 use the same double fluxor magnet from LCD4 but at small partition. So how does it sound? Well, amazing of course! What else the best portable solution if not paired with Chord Hugo 2. None! At least at this point of time. It has every bit of the LCD4 sound quality compacted in a 30mm planar magnetic driver. Although it has similar sounding with LCD4, it still lacks in certain areas like bass and midrange. When I say lack, at this price point, I didn’t mean that its terrible. Not at all. In fact, it sounds better in many full-size headphones at sub $1000 price range. But the LCD4 has a better clarity and midrange as if it let you immerse into the music while the LCDi4 has a limitation that you are somehow aware that you are using a gear to listen to the music. But in terms of weight, YES! You felt like the music playing smoothly without having you care about the gear. If I decided to get a truly portable solution without sacrificing much of a quality desktop setup, the LCDi4 (and Chord Hugo 2) is a great option.

LCD2C: Sad enough, the LCD2C hype only started after I am on my way back to Ames. I didn’t even realize that it was there. Thus, I haven’t had chance to try it at all. I guess I just need to buy it myself. Well, $599 for Audeze LCD line is a terrific deal indeed especially at a lighter weight and Pre-Fazor edition. Kudos to Audeze with the Fazor technology but if anything, I still prefer Audeze Pre-Fazor compare to the newest LCD2. It seems like the LCD2C will fit the bill. We’ll see.

There’s a lot of other remarkable things in CanJam RMAF 2017 but I guess I’ll continue this on the next post. Thanks for reading! I hear what I hear. Period.

Wait! What about Shangri-la, Susvara or even Sundara!?

Like I said, IN THE NEXT POST.

P/S: will add more pictures if I collect all of them. Most pictures are taken by @Crayon Studio Photography aka Husaini Ahnal

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