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CanJam NYC 2018 Show Report
CanJam NYC 2018 Show Report
So many toys, so little time: a whirlwind weekend of high-end headphones.
Show Report By Dave Hanson

 

  Last year's inaugural CanJam NYC 2017 show was a huge hit, and this year seemed poised to be just as successful with several new and intriguing personal audio products on the horizon. I think the crew over at Head-Fi somehow managed to surpass the high bar they set for themselves last year, planning an even bigger and better show this year.

CanJam NYC 2018 was absolutely jam packed on Saturday afternoon, and Sunday was pretty busy this year too, thanks in part to the show not being double-booked with the Super Bowl as it was in 2017.

From old-school stalwarts like Sennheiser to exciting upstarts like Meze and Periodic Audio, there were waves being made across the industry at any and every price point. We've got a ton to cover, so without further ado, let's get to the highlights of the show.

 

Headphones

Sennheiser
This has been a big year for Sennheiser, who has just launched updates of two legendary headphones with the HD820 ($2,399) and HD660S ($499). The HD800 has been my personal reference headphone for several years, so I was interested to see what the new closed version, the HD820, would bring to the table.

 

 

I found the HD820 to be very similar to the popular HD800S with a very slightly warmer tilt. Bass response was a little more robust and the treble was also a bit less splashy relative to the HD800S. I was surprised to find that the soundstage and imaging on the HD820 were very close to its open counterpart, projecting the wide-open feel the 800 series is known for.

The HD660S is an update of the classic HD650 and a nice improvement overall to my ears. While the frequency balance is essentially the same, the HD660S seems a little faster in decay relative to the occasional sluggishness of the HD650. The HD660S also just feels a little airier overall without straying too far from the HD650's classic dense presentation.

 

Meze
In the span of only a couple of years, Meze has become a community favorite with their popular 99 Classic and 99 Neo ($309 and $249, respectively). After much development, Meze is now looking to write the next chapter with some fascinating technology in their new flagship Emperyon (Price TBD, $3,000+ projected). While some might be stunned at such a high-buck product coming from these budget darlings, there is a lot more to the story.

 

 

Meze's Emperyon is the first headphone of its kind, utilizing two different trace patterns on its planar diaphragm to align frequency response with ear position and varying levels of efficiency across the driver. The larger pattern (further away from the ear) emphasizes bass response, while a smaller trace pattern (closer to the ear) emphasizes treble. This allows treble to be smoother and more detailed due to cleaner decay patterns, and keeps distortion levels low across the whole frequency range.

Sonically, the Emperyon was hard to fault in any area. The frequency response was smooth and easy with good dynamics. It didn't blow me away in any one area, but it definitely is the type of headphone you appreciate more and more as you listen to it. But what excites me even more than the headphone itself is the potential of the technology as it trickles down into other models. The folks at Meze are looking at the Emperyon like a concept car it is here to show what the technology can do. They know that their customers want headphones at a more accessible price point, and already have big plans to deliver with the next generation of products.

 

Abyss Headphones
At last year's CanJam NYC I got an exclusive preview of the still-in-development Abyss Diana ($2,999) and was absolutely floored by it. Now this year it is fully finished and finally shipping. While the technology has evolved since last year, the production version was no less impressive.

 

 

Listening on XI Audio's new transportable amplifier, the Broadway ($2,299), the Diana threw a stunningly wide and transparent stage. Physical impact was absolutely top notch here just a hair behind the full-size Abyss Phi, but well ahead of most. Tone and balance were terrific as well, with just slightly relaxed upper mids and perhaps an extra little notch of sub-bass presence it's very slightly laid back to avoid being fatiguing making it easily one of the most pleasing tunings I've heard overall.

Of course the Abyss AB-1266 Phi (starting at $4,495) was readily available at just about every end-game-quality amp at the show, and it was more than ready to show its stuff.  More on that later on in the report.

 

Audeze
Audeze was on-hand showcasing several pieces from their line-up, including their professional series flagship, the LCD-MX4 ($2,995). Incorporating several pieces of technology from their consumer flagship, the LCD-4 ($3,999), the MX4 offers a more neutral tuning, a tougher build and a higher efficiency rating for studio applications.

 

 

I found the LCD-MX4 to be clean sounding and relatively neutral with good speed on the bottom end and a slightly relaxed transient presentation. But I also felt it was missing some of the magic of the LCD-4, and had a slightly rough upper midrange that seemed like it could get fatiguing. I don't know if I would favor it as a mixing tool personally, I would have to hear more of it to be sure.

On the other hand the new LCD-2C ($799) was a huge win for Audeze, to my ears. The 2C brings back the warm, bass-centric magic of the original pre-Fazor LCD-2, and it is a beautiful thing. It is a chill, relaxed and musical sound that you can just float away with, and this headphone would make a killer addition to just about any collection.

 

 

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