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CanJam Denver @ RMAF 2018 Show Report
CanJam RMAF 2018 Show Report
Page 2

Hi-Fi At High Altitude
New personal audio products that impressed at CanJam RMAF 2018.
CanJam Denver Show Coverage By Dave Hanson


ZMF Headphones
Chicago-based ZMF Headphones has been red hot since introducing their lineup of dynamic driver headphones two years ago. Coming fresh off their Blue Note Award-winning Auteur ($1,599), ZMF introduced a pair of new 300 Ohm dynamic models at this year's RMAF with the Vérité and Aeolus.



Vérité ($2,499) takes the reigns as the new flagship for ZMF with an ultra-fast-sounding beryllium-coated dynamic driver. The Vérité had a super effortless quality about it, projecting an almost electrostatic-like floating 3D stage. I gave Vérité a listen paired up with ZMF's Pendant tube amplifier ($1,999), and dynamics were very powerful and bass was well extended, giving the headphone an overall presentation that was both neutral and very exciting.



Aeolus ($1,199) takes the popular ZMF Atticus and puts it in an open shell, expanding the soundscape and giving the headphone an airier feel. Fortunately, Aeolus keeps my favorite parts of the Atticus: the lush, creamy midrange and big bass impact. This is one very easy headphone to listen to, with a signature that accomplishes the rare feat of being both exciting and non-fatiguing.



The folks at Sony had a big coming out party at RMAF two years ago, launching their popular line of DAPs, a new amplifier and the their flagship MDR-Z1R headphone. This year was nearly as big for Sony, launching a trio of new high-end IEMs and an all-in-one desktop player, DAC and amp.



First up, was their impressive spread of in-ear monitors ( IEMs). The entry level product to this new Sony elite tier is the IER-M7 ($799), which features 4 balanced armature drivers. This one has a warm and easy-going signature, but lacked some dynamics compared to both of the higher-end models. Sony's IER-M9 ($1,499) was a lot more to my liking, personally. This middle model in the line offers 5 balanced armature drivers. The signature is much more fun than the entry-level model, with big punchy bass. A very likeable IEM, for sure.

The new flagship model, IER-Z1R (pictured above) sits at $2,299 – a big jump up in price that also comes with a big jump in transparency. The IER-Z1R retains the more "fun" and dynamic sound of the M9 while adding lots of subtle detail and refinement. The IER-Z1R combines a dynamic driver, a magnesium balanced armature and a super tweeter that extends up to 100kHz. Imaging was especially sharp here and the sound was grain-free, so it was quite impressive overall.



Along with those IEMs, Sony debuted the DMP-Z1 ($8,500), which combines a player, DAC and desktop amp into a very impressive package. The interface for the player was nice and smooth. The DMP-Z1 will come stock with 256GB of storage, plus two MicroSD card slots to ensure plenty of space. Impressively, the unit offers independent power for amp and DAC sections, with a total of five independent battery cells for best dynamics and lowest interference. I got to listen for a bit and found the DMP-Z1 to have a punchy, full, and clean presentation with a good sense of slam. A very impressive sound, but at a very steep asking price at $8,500.


Abyss Headphones
Abyss continues to evolve their core models and the latest evolutions are the Abyss AB-1266 Phi CC and the Diana Phi. The AB-1266 Phi CC (starting at $4,999) is the third major revision to the Abyss flagship, adding a new ceramic coating and revised ear pads, which further refine the sound of one of the world's best headphones. The AB-1266 is simply on another level from everything else when it comes to dynamics and bass delivery, and each respective revision has made the headphone increasingly transparent sounding. It's hard to imagine where they'll go from here!



I spent most of my time at the Abyss booth focused on the new Diana Phi ($3,995), which improves upon the original in every possible way. The new version of the Diana incorporates the Abyss Phi drivers, which adds a whole new level of clarity, detail and dynamics to the headphone. The earpads have also been revised in a newer, more spacious shape that is a good deal more comfortable than the original. Listening to the Diana Phi, I was very impressed with how much more effortless the presentation was. Clarity was razor sharp and the headphone felt very open and spacious. Dynamics seemed more open than the original and the engagement level was really something special. Just a very fun and exciting listen all around.



Another fun new headphone was the Audeze LCD-2 Closed Back ($899). If you're a fan of big sub-bass rumble and deep extension, take note, because this sucker will absolutely rattle out your dental fillings. I had a blast playing with hip-hop and EDM tracks at the booth. Clarity and definition down low were absolutely exceptional. But this wasn't a one-note affair. The LCD-2 Closed Back really had a very good sense of balance across the board, making it a solid all-rounder for anything.



Audeze was also demo'ing their Mobius gaming headphone ($399), with the first batch now shipped to its IndieGoGo backers. I've had a lot of time with this headphone now, and I must say, it is very impressive. I feel like I've only scratched the surface of its capabilities. The Mobius incorporates more technology than you can shake a stick at ,with virtual surround sound processing, head tracking, onboard microphone, selectable EQ settings, Bluetooth and so much more. And that's not even to mention the fact that there's a really, really good sounding headphone at the foundation of it all!



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