CanJam London 2016 was a resounding success, and it was great being able to show gear as well as being able to highlight certain equipment that may not have been listened to. Meaning, if you weren't able to listen to certain equipment that I brought, you can read my thoughts on some of the equipment a little later in this impressions post.
I would like to say thank you to the organizers (in alphabetical order) – Ethan (@third_eye), Joe (@joe), Jude (@jude) – all from Head-Fi.org, and the Park Plaza staff, thanks to all of the Head-Fiers and non-Head-Fiers that attended over the two days, and thanks to those who were instrumental in me arriving to CanJam before and during my stay in the beautiful country. It was great meeting people for the first time, as well as seeing those that I met last year.
Let's talk some products that I have had the opportunity to spend extended time with, that also had booths at CanJam:
In-Ear Monitors (IEMs)
The C1002 Capsule Dual Driver (hereby called the Capsule) is a somewhat uniquely designed in-ear monitor. The weight is very light and is feels like a quality product. The housing is made just like a capsule (like a medicine capsule you consume), and what makes the housing so special is that there are magnets on each end of each housing, which means when you aren't listening to music, you can have the housings connect to each other without it going anywhere! You would have the housings magnetized behind your neck if the Capsule's cable is in front of your neck, and you would have the housings magnetized in front of your neck if the Capsule's cable is in back of your neck. Pretty cool as I haven't seen another IEM with this specific built-in feature from what I've seen.
Fit is pretty straight-forward, feels very comfortable, and the Capsule also comes with silicone extension sleeves if you want to have another way to fit the housings in your ears, similar to earbud foam sleeves. I tried the extension sleeves, but found that without the extension sleeves felt the best to my ears. The extension sleeves may be of better use for use in the gym, so it's good that there are options for attempting to find the best fit for each individual's preferences. I didn't find the cable microphonic, either.
The sound signature of the Capsule is polarizing, where you may adore the sound, but some may not adore the sound as well. What the Capsule does well, it does well in spades, which is the smoothness and treble. Areas where it may be debatable are the bass to lower midrange. The bass is light and not impactful, most especially when compared to its sibling, the Dual Driver. What the Capsule does personify is a quality of bass, but it isn't very apparent. You can attempt to add bass by either using foam or hybrid tips, or add in EQ to taste. The midrange is very smooth and coherent, and is a little cold in nature. The treble continues in this trend and sound very extended, but is a little cold sounding – transparent is what I would use to describe the treble. Spatial capabilities are better than average when it comes to perceived soundstage.
The overall signature sounds a little distant, but is clear in nature. The Capsule is unique and is a choice for listeners mainly because it does not sound anything like the other 1MORE IEMs that I own, and someone may actually adore the tonality of the Capsule.
This is an in-ear that has looks and great sound to back up those good looks. Let's talk about the looks for a moment. This is a dual-pack (there is a single pack as well) that comes with one black and one pink Crystal Piston earphone. The back of each housing comes with chessboard faceted Swarovski Crystals. As you move, you sparkle and bling. It looks pretty darn snazzy, if I say so myself. The cable is made very well and the Pink has a criss-cross shiny highlights which shimmers in the light, and the Black has a much more subdued sheathing below the Y-connect.
Fit is very comfortable as the Swarovski Crystals rest on your ears (depending on your specific fit), and the housing is small enough that when paired with your favorite tips, you shouldn't have an issue with obtaining a good fit. Microphonics aren't too much of a concern, as you can always use cable/shirt clips if you have an issue.
The Crystal Piston utilizes a triple layer diaphragm for each driver, and is tuned by Grammy Award winning Sound Engineer, Luca Bignardi. Cool story, but how does it sound? Well, the Crystal Piston sounds like a wholly tonally accurate presentation. Not neutral, not super bassy, not super trebly…just right. I should call the Crystal Piston the Goldilocks -, it simply sounds just right. The bass is punchy enough but is not a basshead earphone to my ear, but has just the right about of bass to make me bob my head if listening to some Daft Punk or Kendrick Lamar. Midrange is intimate, but not stuffy. Very reference/balanced sounding to my ears. The treble is apparent, but is right under sibilant, so that tells me the treble extends just enough to not fatigue the ears. The spatial capabilities are that of a vibrant, juicy nature, intimate soundstage, but with good imaging and adequate spacing between each instrument. The Crystal Piston is a just a hair bit more vibrant sounding than the Piston Classic, which will be discussed after the iBFree Bluetooth. For the price of both in-ears, it's a great buy, and a great way to introduce your significant other (or family/friend) into in-ears that look great as well as sounding just right.
1MORE iBFree Bluetooth In-Ear Headphone... I first felt these in my hands at T.H.E. Show Newport earlier this year, and I thought to myself "Wow, this looks like a substantial piece of Bluetooth equipment!" I was curious to hear how they sounded, and came to a revelation pretty quickly: these are some great sounding Bluetooth in-ears! More about that a little later, though. The aluminum housing and construction isn't just substantial in creation, but is IPX-4 water-resistant as well, which is perfect for as sweating workouts as you could possibly muster and still not put a dent into the iBFree's sound or performance. The only thing I didn't like very much was the fact that it takes about 3 seconds of holding down the middle button press to turn the unit on, and about 5 seconds of middle button holding to turn the unit off. Now that we have that out of the way, onto the fit!
I used the included "Sports Grip", which is a soft shark fin-looking attachment/sleeve for your helix of your ear to rest on. It works quite well to keep a very comfortable, snug fit where the in-ear may have not been the deepest in my ear canal, but was not going to go anywhere with relatively vigorous use (I did not try front or back flipping to make sure that the iBFree wouldn't budge). Battery life when listening to music is rated at 8 hours. It is better rated than the similarly priced Brainwavz Audio BLU-200 Bluetooth 4.0 aptX Earphones, which offers 4 hours of battery rated life.
One of the first facets that I noticed was how bassy the iBFree was. I was told by the representatives that the reason why it was tuned to be pretty bassy was because when you work out or move about, the bass diminishes somewhat, so the added bass makes up for lost bass due to ambient noise from yourself and/or others around you. The midrange and treble are smooth, but have that intimate feel, with just a touch of vibrancy to the range. Bass is pretty heavy in quantity, similar to the 1MORE Dual Driver, and is not the most diverse and detailed in nature, but the notes that it does emit, the iBFree sounds pretty punchy and enveloping. For the price, the iBFree is a very good sound, and is a recommended buy if you love oodles of bass, are in the market for a Bluetooth earphone, but don't want to break the bank in the process!
The Piston Classic is similar to the aforementioned Crystal Piston, with some key differences. Firstly, the fit is similar but doesn't have the super smooth feel of the Swarovski Crystals, but the housing is still small enough where it fits without any issue for my ears. Second, the remote of the Crystal Piston has a remote several inches from the right monitor, but the Piston Classic has a remote in the middle, acting as a Y-connect. Third, and what may be the telling result of the slight change in sound signature between the two in-ears, is that the Crystal Piston has the Swarovski Crystals with no visible vents, but the Piston Classic has an approximately 3mm grill that acts as a vent for the internal driver.
The Piston Classic, even though it has the vent, doesn't sound as open-sounding as the Crystal Piston. The Piston Classic is warmer sounding, with more emphasis in the bass registers. Since the construction of both in-ears are similar, the sound of both are more similar than dissimilar. For the price, you really can't go wrong with the sound, especially if you are looking for a slightly warmer than neutral presentation with commendable overall tonality, in a small and lightweight package.