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CanJam SoCal 2017 Show Report By Dave Hanson
CanJam SoCal 2017 Show Report
The high-end strikes back!
CanJam SoCal Show Report By Dave Hanson

 

 

  Back in February, I declared CanJam New York "a victory for audiophiles" with a surge of high-end audio tech trickling down into more affordable gear. And while the more affordable gear was still well represented at CanJam SoCal, we are also seeing some breathtaking new products on the very high-end emerging as well.

If there was one overarching theme to this show, I would say it's "The Best Get Better" as there were refined, mastered and miniaturized versions of several favorites on hand at CanJam SoCal 2017. There were also a few compelling new products and some emerging trends that I want to touch on here too, so without further ado, lets get started.

 

The Best Get Better

Abyss Headphones AB-1266 Phi
The original Abyss AB-1266 ($5,495 Deluxe Edition, as reviewed) was a landmark headphone considered by many to be the best on the planet. But during the development of the upcoming Abyss Headphones Diana ($3,000 estimated MSRP), Joe Skubinski and his team discovered there was still room for improvement. The result is the new AB-1266 Phi, and boy is it ever stunning. Offered for the same price as the original (with an attractively priced upgrade option for current owners), the new version offers better clarity, transparency, neutrality and dynamics with a more open soundscape to boot. As if that wasn't enough already, the Phi is also 50 grams lighter and a few decibels more efficient than the original. Overall, it's a very noticeable and positive improvement.

 

 

Wells Audio Headtrip Reference
One of my favorite parings with the AB-1266 Phi was with Wells Audio's new mega flagship amplifier, the Headtrip Reference ($15,000 MSRP). Having already scaled the $7K Headtrip's basic design down into the Enigma ($3,699) and Milo ($1,699, starting, reviewed here), owner Jeff Wells decided to try pushing the design to its limits with boutique components and a few design tweaks. The result may very well be the best amplifier I've ever heard, portraying three-dimensional space in a way that made the headphones feel incredibly speaker like. Listening to Dave Brubeck on the ZMF Eikon ($1,399, padauk), the depth projection was stunning, with loads of ambient detail painting the performance space with picture perfect clarity. With the AB-1266 Phi, the music was so engaging and transparent, removing the headphones was downright painful. It was probably my favorite listen of the show.

 

 

Cavalli Audio
On the other side of the show floor, Cavalli Audio brought their own brand of tweaks and experiments. Alongside a new chassis for their future flagship Liquid Tungsten, Alex Cavalli toted in two freshly built prototypes. The first was a miniaturized version of the Liquid Crimson amplifier. Now a fully balanced design, this tube hybrid amplifier will put out about 2.5W of power into 50 Ohms. Cavalli estimates this upcoming piece will retail in the neighborhood of $1,499. Having owned the Liquid Crimson myself, I can tell you this new version definitely sounds very much like the original, which was stunning. The second prototype was a miniaturized version of the flagship Liquid Tungsten's circuit. This little amplifier is tentatively being called the "Liquid Ambience" and has a sweet, tubey flow to it like its big brother. Pricing has yet to be finalized, but will likely be in the same range as the mini Crimson.

 

 

ampsandsound Kenzie Encore
Speaking of tubes, ampsandsound was on hand with their gorgeous lineup of tube amplifiers. I have not spent nearly enough time with their product lineup, so I had a good listening session with the flagship Agartha ($3,600), the popular Mogwai ($1,850) and their newest addition, the Kenzie Encore ($1,995 starting). This updated version adds a larger choke for a lower noise floor, plus several options like input transformers and custom resistors, to tailor the amp to the listeners specific needs. I found it a very enjoyable listen with absolutely gorgeous mids and a full-bodied sounds with plenty of depth and detail. The craftsmanship here is second to none.

 

 

---> Next Page.

 

 

 

Previous CanJam Show Reports
CanJam NYC 2017, CanJam Denver 2016, CanJam London 2016, CanJam Denver 2015, CanJam Denver 2014
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