The audiophile hobby will always have a healthy contingent of purists – those who eschew things like DSP (digital signal processing) and EQ for a pure, unmolested signal. But as the industry continues to evolve, the technological possibilities keep getting more compelling.
Once a dirty word to audiophiles, Bluetooth has made major strides in recent times with aptX and LDAC, which allow for lossless and high-res wireless transmission. 3D DSP technologies like the Smyth Realizer A16 and now the new Audeze Mobius do an incredible job of fooling our ears, arguably bringing us closer to the original recording with speaker-like sound in our headphones. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.
CanJam SoCal was filled with fascinating new tech to bring us closer to the music. From the aforementioned pieces, to Sonarworks intriguing True-Fi software, to Paul Barton's painstakingly researched work with NAD and PSB, there was a very compelling look into the future of hi-fi.
And on top of all of that, there were gobs of new products that impressed, from in-ears to full-sized headphones, amps, DACs and more. We've got lots to cover, so without further ado, let's get started!
Audeze's Mobius features very good 3D sound and room emulation complete with gyroscopic head tracking for astonishingly pinpoint virtual surround sound. Directional cues during the demo were fantastic and the deep rumble of Audeze's trademark planar bass had me absolutely absorbed in the demo. The Mobius also features Bluetooth or USB connectivity in addition to an analog input, a volume dial and a boom mic, among its many features. I've preordered this one and I'm looking forward to hearing more soon. If you're an audiophile and a gamer, this is a must audition.
Flying somewhat under the radar, given the huge announcement of Mobius, Audeze also launched a new variant of the flagship LCD-4, the LCD-4Z ($3,995). The LCD-4Z offers a significantly lighter magnesium housing and a lower impedance of just 15 Ohms versus the 200 Ohm LCD-4.
I got a chance to sit down and listen to these, and like the LCD-4, they are nearly perfect in every way. Visceral bass, sweet and sophisticated mids, velvety treble with phenomenal detail, holographic soundstage with pinpoint imaging – it's the total package, as a $4,000 headphone should be. If you're a fan of the LCD-4, but couldn't deal with the weight, this is definitely great news.
The new Benchmark HPA4 and DAC3 ($2,995 and $2,195, respectively) offer up an incredibly refined and neutral sound that lives up to their moniker as a reference tool. From a technical standpoint, these products check all the boxes with top-flight performance. Musically, I thought they left a little to be desired, but I don't think the headphone pairings were very good, as the only options were the Sennheiser HD650 and the HiFiMAN HE1000.
A week later at AXPONA 2018, I got to hear it with the HiFiMAN Susvara and came away much more impressed, as the Benchmark combo showcased Susvara's wide-open and transparent stage and its powerful dynamics very well. With the HE1000 and the HD650 it felt a little warmed over and compressed. I'd definitely recommend giving it an audition to see how it pairs with your own gear, but when the sound is good, it is very, very good.
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