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CanJam SoCal 2018 Show Report By Dave Hanson
CanJam SoCal 2018 Show Report
Hi-Tech Hi-Fi: CanJam SoCal offers a sneak peek into the industry's future with loads of cool technology.
CanJam SoCal Show Report By Dave Hanson

 

 

Campfire Audio
Few, if any companies in the high-end personal audio space are as red hot as Campfire Audio. Their table was absolutely packed at CanJam SoCal with a stable of critically acclaimed IEMs and a handful of compelling other products: their new Cascade over-ear headphone ($799) and two brand new IEMs, the Comet ($199) and the flagship Atlas ($1,299).

 

 

The Cascade is an impressive debut in the over-ear space. It's a closed back with beryllium dynamic drivers, and the visceral impact is among the very best I've heard at any price. Look for our upcoming review. The entry level Comet is a single balanced armature IEM with a well-balanced sound signature. It was light and fast sonically, a nice buoyant counter punch to some of the top performers at its $199 price like the dense sounding 1MORE Quad Driver IEMs.

The new Campfire Audio flagship IEM, Atlas, was one of my very favorite listens of the show. It utilizes a single dynamic driver, made from ADLC, which is synthetic diamond substrate, like the former flagship Campfire Audio Vega I reviewed. Atlas pushes the Vega's technology to the max and increases the driver size from 8.5mm to 10mm. From what I could tell, Atlas seemed to offer more balance, detail and even bigger impact compared to Vega. The bass is absolutely exceptional here, and quite possibly the best I've heard from any IEM, especially in terms of being massive and visceral. Atlas begins shipping May first.

 

Chord Electronics
The Source AV's many tables represented a veritable buffet of high-end goodies. Without question the setup that stuck with me the most from this table was the Chord DAVE DAC and Blu MkII CD player paired with the Focal Utopia headphones. This combo will run you about $25,000, give or take, depending on your dealer and current exchange rates. Most audiophiles are relatively familiar with the Utopia and DAVE at this point nearly universally praised as being among the very best at what they do.

 

 

The Blu MkII is the new element in the equation, a CD player that is much more than a CD player. The Blu MKII features Chord's M-Scaler technology, which when combined with the DAVE, offers a 1+ million tap interpolation filter. In layman's terms, calling it "a ton of resolution" is an understatement of the most epic proportions. Listening on this combo was an "I might need to change my underwear" type of moment. The resolution was as close to reach-out-and-touch-the-music reality as I've heard. Timbre was rich, organic and emotionally riveting. Unparalleled transparency and imaging made the music hauntingly real. In my opinion, this was one of the most stunning end-game audio rigs I've ever heard.

 

Echobox
On the other end of the price spectrum, the EchoBox Ti-22BT ($129) has all the makings of a budget steal. This reasonably priced Bluetooth IEM has a phenomenal tuning and a surprising amount of refinement. The Bluetooth performance was rock solid from what I heard, and I'm looking forward to testing it further. Bass was full and robust and the frequency response overall had a slightly warm tilt without being overly rounded. In my opinion, these look like they will be a nice all-rounder for rock, EDM, metal, hip-hop, R&B or whatever you like. If you're looking for a good Bluetooth IEM, definitely give this one an audition, I think the price-to-performance ratio is going to surprise a lot of people.

 

 

 

Empire Ears
Empire Ears has refreshed its whole lineup, and I made sure to take time to listen to the entire X Series at CanJam SoCal. The entry level offering in the series is the $599 Bravado. This dual driver IEM has a fun, slightly U-shaped signature and a great groove factor overall. Bass slam was very good, mids were sweet and emotionally engaging, and treble had a nice little dose of sparkle. Definitely one of the better IEMs at the price for rock and metal lovers. 

Next up was the Vantage ($1,199). This three-driver design had a much different sound very warm and smooth. Chilled out and laid back all the way. In my opinion, this one was a little more potentially divisive than the Bravado some people will see it as smooth and forgiving, while others may find it to be dull and warmed over. I didn't like this one as much as the others for my own tastes, personally, but people who like a very warm sound and have a bit of treble sensitivity are probably going to be quite fond of it.

 

 

Providing a solid counterpunch to the Vantage is the Nemesis ($1,599). This five-driver design has two bass, one midrange, and two treble drivers. The result is a super engaging sound with big bass and a perfect little dab of sparkle up top for excitement. The midrange absolutely oozed with soul. Nemesis was ultra clear and cohesive compared to the two models below it in the lineup. An extremely impressive entry.

Finally, the Legend X ($2,299) features a seven-driver design with a 10-way crossover. Like the Nemesis, the midrange on the Legend X was truly exceptional, walking the tightrope to perform the rare act of sounding both rich and sweet at the same time. Bass slammed with exceptional power and treble was sparkly and detailed. These top two models really impressed me quite a bit. Refreshing an entire lineup is a tall task, so congratulations to Jack Vang and co. for bringing out a truly impressive line.

 

 

---> Next Page.

 

 

Previous CanJam Show Reports
CanJam SoCal 2018 Show Report, CanJam NYC 2018, CanJam Denver 2017, CanJam SoCal 2017 Show Report, CanJam NYC 2017 Show Report, CanJam London 2016, CanJam Denver 2016, CanJam Denver 2015, and CanJam Denver 2014 during the RMAF. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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