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Found 8 results

  1. George 47

    CanJam 2018

    On a sunny Sunday, I visited CanJam 2018 in central London. CanJam is an exhibition organised by Head-Fi, a US headphone forum and was held in the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel. This hotel is a very modern hotel close to where I worked many years ago when it was a roundabout of all things. The journey was eventful due to engineering work on the rail and tube and of course, the Bakerloo line has no air-conditioning. Phew, what a scorcher! The hotel was a great place for the event and the whole of floor -3 was a magic cavern of headphones and head amps. For the more select guys, there was a quiet area on level -1 with some really great sounding headphones. As you might expect for a classy hotel in London prices were on the high side for food with a diet coke and a cake costing £6. CanJam is a unique headphone audio show with events in New York City, Singapore, Los Angeles, London, Denver, and Shanghai. There were over 60 exhibitors in the main exhibition area and when I arrived not too many people. But the crowds were having a lie-in as they all started to turn up after lunch. There were a large number of non-UK companies but some big names did not attend such as Sennheiser. Manley electronics were there with a new snazzy headphone amplifier and what a visual treat it was. I chatted to the designer Zia Faruqi, whose English accent betrayed his origins. This piece of art is based on a human head with the volume control being the tongue sticking out at the base of the amp. It uses 2xECC81s (12AT7) and 4 xEL90s in either PP or single-ended mode with switching done on the fly. The input sensitivity and load can be changed to match a wide range of headphones. Volume is controlled by a round disc volume control on the front of the amplifier or via a remote. Headphones are connected via XLR or 3.5mm jacks and there are a set of RCA outputs as the amp can work as a line stage. As Manley also works in the PRO field the amp has Baxandall tone controls that can be switched out for purists. It even had variable feedback which made quite a difference to the sound. I started listening through a set of Focal headphones and have to admit they were not to my taste. A quick switch and there was a glorious sound, warm, enveloping without that sharp in the head type of sound you get from some headphones. There was a great wealth of details but in a natural sound. Changing to some livelier music and changing the feedback gave a much more dynamic sound that had great detail and a natural and fast sound. A great looking product that has great sound, what else what you expect from Manley? Also in the main hall Chord were demonstrating the new Hugo TT2 streamer/DAC and the Hugo M Upsampler. These products were launched at the show the previous day and were generating a lot of interest. They had three set up with the Hugo TT2 placed on top of the M Streamer as they are the same size. Having heard all the theory in a seminar by Rob Watts this was a chance to hear them. The first set up I tried had a set of Focal headphones and they were not for me. I tried a second set up and this sang. The soundstage was very 3D and probably the least ‘in your head’ sound I have heard through headphones, and I use Stax. As well as a large and enveloping soundstage the amount of detail was superb. This was a great sound. My only reservation was the sound was a little stark and I thought the decay of notes was not the best I have heard. But this was at a show with their choice of music and their headphones. Certainly, I heard enough to follow this up when I can. Right having sampled a lot of headphones and amplifiers downstairs I was time to go to the exclusive boutique rooms upstairs and hear what can be done when the boundaries are pushed. The first room to really impress me was the Meze room. In this room, they had demonstration pairs of the new Empyrean headphone. These headphones made an appearance at Munich but at CanJam it was developed enough to hear them. The Empyrean is the first headphones to feature an isodynamic hybrid array driver. The driver has two voice coils, one is a spiral coil and provides the mid and treble. The second coil is a switchback coil and occupies most of the space of the driver to get deep bass. Listening was a real surprise, the sound was incredibly natural, very 3D, with really deep real bass and an electrostatic-like attack. In fact, it sounded like a great cross of the best of electrostatic with the bass of dynamic headphones. The price was ‘between £2,500-£3,000 and when released in September is a headphone I would like to hear again. Certainly one of the best at the show. A few doors away the enigmatic Dan Clark, founder and designer for Mr Speakers was in fine form with his new headphones, the Voce electrostatics. These electrostatics have a really large 88mm diaphragm for extended low-frequency output with a 2.4-micron driver, optimized for stability and resolution. They are driven by 580V head amplifiers and are therefore compatible with Stax-pro amplifiers. Mr Speaker was also demoing his Aeon and Ether headphones and certainly, the sound from them with the Trilogy amplifiers was sublime and a real highlight from the show. One of the better sounds there and not at a drop dead price either. The Voce electrostatic with the Trilogy amplifier was exceptionally good. It had the real electrostatic sound with superb detail and a very natural tonal balance full of intense tonal colours and an ultra-powerful and fast bass. In fact, it was so good I would have made this the best sound at the show but there was one set up that was even better. Whatever these two companies are doing they are really doing it right. I was not surprised by Trilogy as I had heard their amplifiers in a hifi setup, using Sonus Faber Guarneri speakers, which was the best and most natural sound at a previous Windsor Hifi Show, embarrassing some systems costing over £500K. Mr previous view of Mr Speakers headphones was they are good high-value headphones, not these headphones. They are state of the art. Opposite Mr Speakers were Head amp whose Class A solid-state amplifier caught my attention and provided a very natural sound that was well worth listening to. But the sound of the show by some margin was: the Blue Hawaii head amp. This two box stunner uses 4xEL34s, with low noise JFET drivers. This amplifier not only looks the part its sound quality was er….rather good…(British understatement). The first surprise was the Mr Speakers Voce, to my ears, saw off the Stax 007 and 009 headphones in sound quality. I am a Stax fan but the Voce was better. Having done that comparo I just settled down and listened. The naturalness and solidity of the soundstage reminded me of the master tape. Yes, it was that good. If you like headphones and want one of the best there is, then this it. Do what you can to hear this beauty. And it can be made to work with 240V. Yes, it is expensive but not the priciest headphone set up at this exhibition and you would have to spend an awful lot of money on a full hifi set up to get anywhere near this level of sound quality. Think of over £500K, for under £10K. Rob Watts Presentation on DAC Design One of the highlights of the show was a presentation by Rob Watts on how to design a top quality DAC. I liked his approach and he got my attention from the off. DACs are not there to convert digital data into analogue they are there to reproduce the original analogue signal. If you do not think that way then you will not succeed in producing a top quality DAC. Interesting. He then talked about psychoacoustics and our perception of sound. The ears provide a small percentage of what we hear and the brain does the processing. This combination allows us to hear a guitar in front of a band separated by 1 foot from 100 metres away. He then challenged the generally accepted audibility of errors. Can we hear distortion at 70 dB below the signal level? How about 120 dB or 150 dB? Rob Watts says yes especially if it is modulated with the signal. And how sensitive are we to timing errors? He said that most audio chip amplifiers are made to measurement specifications without listening tests. His approach is to reduce the errors/distortions and then hear if it makes a difference to the sound. If it does then he reduces it even further until he cannot hear a difference. So he designs by computer simulation, measurements and then confirms what he has done with listening tests. He then went through his observations of what makes a difference to the sound quality and at what levels they were no longer audible. The levels were incredibly low and as far as I know, no-one else is working at these incredibly low levels. Of course, he spent a great deal of time talking about the filters used in digital audio and he was not very complementary about what others were doing. There are some older videos on You Tube where he describes his findings. At CanJam 2018 he provided his latest data and he was rather pleased that at long last he had managed to develop a 1,000,000 pole sinC filter, which provides 16-bit data perfectly. I found his newer look at measurements refreshing rather than the old THD, noise and frequency response to standards set in the 1960s. Of course, all this theory would be nought if the product did not produce the goods. What I heard from the Hugo Streamer and Upsampler means I MUST hear them at home.
  2. Hello. Has anyone with a Bryston BHA 1 headphone amp tried both the Single Ended Jack Plug socket and the 4 pin XLR Balanced Socket and noticed any difference? Thankyou.
  3. A REALREVIEW Of The Little Dot Mk III Headphone Amplifier by George Sallit Headphones have seen significant growth in hifi over the last few years. This was started by itunes and people using various portable devices with those awful ear buds. Yeuch. These headphones sounded awful and were very uncomfortable to wear. However, along comes Dr Dre with Monster Audio and they bring out the Dr Dre headphones. They were an instant hit and still dominate the headphone market. When I used to commute, people using full sized headphones were common and it no longer looked geeky to use proper headphones. Great. I started to use full sized headphones again and when away from home used one of the little USB thumbwheel players, which used full resolution CD files and had a dedicated amplifier with an analogue volume control. And they sounded very good. As I was isolated from others I was not a pest with that awful tssh tshh sound coming out from the headphones. Despite all that, for me, headphones were still very much an accessory. Yes, I had a set of Stax electrostatics but did not use them that much. Fast forward. A few weeks ago I got to hear a really nice pair of headphones with their own amplifiers (Audeze) and they sounded really, really good. As the sound goes directly into the ears there are no room effects and the sound quality per pound was exceptional. I am a fan of valves and my two main systems are both valve powered so were there any valve powered amplifiers around. Well lo and behold, there on the internet was a Chinese company selling valve powered headphone amplifiers. The Little Dot MK III is a SEPP (single-ended push pull) OTL design operating in Class-A. Well no big deal there has always been a few amplifiers around. But these were about £200. Can’t be much good. After a good internet search, I found a guy in Maidenhead who directly imported them into the UK and was selling them at £180. He said if it was faulty then he would immediately replace it with a new one. What’s to lose? The Little Dot Mk III headphone amp is actually solidly built and has the capability to run a whole range of alternative valves including 6H30Ps. (the super tube of ARC, BAT and other premier amp companies).The amplifier is fairly weighty and has a nice transformer. So, I turned them on and gave them a little bit of time to warm up and I then put on a few test tracks. The mid-range was very good and natural with a spooky voice quality that sounds real as opposed to a very detailed but thin papery cut out of a person. Now this is a strength of valves but that can come with a soft bass and a rolled off top end. Well the bass went fairly deep and was not soft and waffly. In fact, it was quite good and kept the pace of the music going especially on rock music. The top end was a little rolled off but there was a reasonable amount of sparkle and cymbals still sounded metallic but without the air you hear with electrostatic headphones for example. I took the amp around to a couple of audiophile friends and both were really impressed and bought the amp from China. I could be really critical and say they do not go really deep in the bass, the top top end was rolled off and the dynamics were slightly softer than I hear with other high quality amplifiers. But for £200, getting a valve headphone amplifier that sounds this good makes them a bit of a Billy Bargain. Hopefully we can get some more headphones/amplifiers in for review. I am now convinced that provided that you can deal with the different feel of headphones compared to speakers then you could get ultra high quality sound quality for not a lot of money. Recommended. My US colleague recommends getting them direct from China via David Zhe Zhe as his service is excellent. He is at : http://www.littledot.net/forum/index.php
  4. Trafomatic are currently bench testing our Head1 and Head2 Headphone Amplifiers ready to dispatch to the UK next week. More when they arrive.... Head2 by Jack Durant, on Flickr
  5. I am selling my Mcintosh MXA 70 as a headphone amp of this caliber is no longer required for my needs. It is in spotless, like new condition and comes with all the included original accessories including speakers cables, remote and original packaging. The amp was purchased new and wants for nothing save to give you hours of listening pleasure. This is a system which needs no introduction and is doubtless one of the finest headphone amplifiers in the world. Any questions are more than welcome and more photos will follow shortly. Shipping is available to elsewhere in the world but this amp is eu/uk spec 230v so that is worth knowing before considering purchase. For full specification please visit http://www.mcintoshlabs.com/us/Products/pages/ProductDetails.aspx?SystemId=MXA70MusicSystem&Systemcatid=Lifestyle&CatId=LifeStyle&ProductId=MXA70
  6. I have a brand new pair of Audeze EL-8s, I was given them as a present but I would rather use the money towards something in their LCD range. I am looking for £450 but I'm happy to look at offers. I will be shipping this via my shops Interlink account so that they arrive safely and are insured, however collection would be preferred!
  7. Outstanding Headphone Amplifier / Preamp designed by Colin Wonfor. Transparent and refined. Very rare - only 12 made! Can drive two pairs of headphones at the same time and functions as a preamp too. Automatically selects input which is nifty. This is the higher gain HE version and the volume pot has been upgraded to an ALPS Black. Originally retailed for over £1200. Bought from Dan on here about a month ago but need to raise funds again due to a sudden change in employment status! Looking for £380 inc. RMSD Cheers Ian p.s. having trouble with images but you can see the amp here on the Ebay listing *** SPECS: Two 1/4" headphone Jack outputs. With either output able to drive loading from 8 ohms, to 64 ohms simultaneously. - Headphone output driven by single ended class A power amplifier stages - Thyristor memory controlled & automatically selected inputs controlled with a fifth isolated regulated power supply to further reduce the interface and noise floor. - Hum rejection technology. - Quad regulated power supplies. - Input loading impedance 47 ohms for all inputs (so will take pretty much any input) - Three RCA phono stereo inputs and one MP3 input via 3.5mm socket. Specifications: HE Version L Version 32Ω 1.6WRMS 32Ω 140mWRMS 51Ω 1WRMS 51Ω 100mWRMS 64Ω 1.3WRMS 64Ω 200mWRMS 300Ω 500mWRMS 300Ω 500mWRMS Physical specifications: - Size: 170mm X 185mm X 55mm - Weight: 1.95kg
  8. I have a brand new pair of Audeze EL-8s, I was given them as a present but I would rather use the money towards something in their LCD range. I am looking for £450 but I'm happy to look at offers. These are brand new, never opened and come with full warranty. I will be shipping this via my shops Interlink account so that they arrive safely and are insured however collection would be preferred!