Day one was a big hit and day two didn't disappoint either. Let's start with some Headfi. Two of my favorite headphones with two of my favorite headphone amps, and two very sterling headphone guys were found making music in Audeze's booth. The Audeze LCD2 and LCD 3 were omnipresent at the show. In this case, the two exquisite amps running them were the Bakoon HPA-21 and the Mal Valve Head Amp 3. The Mal Valve was on the LCD3 while the HPA-21 was on the LDC2. We're talking headphone heaven. I have never heard either headphone sound better. The Mal Valve I heard twice at the show. Being one of the best headphone amps I'd ever heard, while possessing the most versatility of any headphone amp I'd ever seen, meant that soon I would be breaking out the check book.
In fact, I was stung twice in quick succession in this headphone room. The other bee was in the form of Dan Clark and his Mad Dog headphones...both balanced and single ended. I listened to them for a few minutes. Then I asked Dan, what else he had for music. I made a selection, and listened some more. Then I found myself leaning into the back rest. I had fallen out of Audio Show mode. I stayed there longer than I had any right to...about 3 songs in, I queried Dan with a quick, "How much, out of curiosity." When he told me $299 or $399 depending on the termination, it was all I could do not to pull out my credit card. Rash decisions and all.
It was a no brainer and I had an order a few days later. Astell and Kern AK100 had a great display going on, and I really got a tactile feel of their player. It fits in the palm very comfortably and can be placed with ease in just about any pocket. Then there was the new amp/dac combo, the Sennheiser HDVD800. It has a bevy of capabilities and sounded excellent on Sennheiser's HD800's. Manfred Stein was there making great music with his Jecklin Float QA's. No one loves quad quite like Manfred and the sound of those headphones was beguiling...it's why they're on this site.
Amidst a room of headfi was camped the rep from Sound and Vision. In a showpaux, this good sport of a lady was put in a room with no other print media,
left to fend for herself amidst a bunch of unruly headfiers. Down the hall was the Allnic HPA5000. We had a moment. I ran my hands along it's edges, gently brushed a tube or two, but it was a static display so things couldn't progress like I had hoped. Next to the Allnic was the fantastic HiFiMAN EF-6, powering the HE-6 also fantastic. I have that set in house now, and in fact wrote a blog about it. Suffice it to say, that it is world class, and would fulfill any expectation and exceed most. Coincident, whose room proper had one of the best sounds of show, (wait for the next installment) had this little gem. The Coincident Dynamo SE34. As you've guessed, it's an SET EL34 integrated, that soon will be sporting a headphone output. I had a great discussion with,(or was given a class) by Israel Blume, and it was most informative. The Dynamo will be a very reasonable $999...not bad for nice tube integrated that should do a stellar job with most cans.
Woo Audio had a large room...make that almost two rooms, (the first room also had the wonderfully recording work of producer/recording engineer, Todd Garfinkle of MA Recording. I picked up a few of Todd's recordings featuring, eh umm, Todd Garfinkle, and another with Harvie Swartz and Sheila Jordan. The music was wonderful, and the sound quality of the highest order. Evidently Todd knows what he's up to. Also in that first room was Chris Sommovigo. If you've ever relaxed on a porch, popped a cold one, and sat and talked to an old friend...well that's what talking to Chris is like. Hell, I just met the man. Maybe it's because we were talking about beer, but what we really talked about was music....then everything else. Of course Chris makes some killer cable and also some of the most elegant speakers I've ever heard or seen. You can find him at www.thesignalcollection.com We really want to sample his cables, as everyone seems impressed. Chris also shared information about the great Susumu Sakuma (you gotta read about Susumu-then you've gotta head to Japan) I've always wanted to go to Tateyama, Japan and visit Sakuma sans coffee house...it's a sort of religious pilgrimage for hifi. The next room was Woo Central. Take a look at the candy store.
The Family Woo has established a full line of headphone amps and paraphernalia...the girth of their display and models was impressive.
What better way to cap a day of juggling headphone listening, than to head over to Classic Album Sundays and listen to a full album of Bowie on a tremendous reference system, (Spiral Groove, VTL, Transparent, and Wilson-sorry missed the cartridge as the lights were out when I went in). CAS's tag line is "A Communal and Audiophile Listening Experience." What a wonderful idea. It was founded by Colleen Murphy and enjoys groups in many major cities around the globe. If there isn't one in your area, why not start one. Check the above link in your area. I'm up in Boston, and was pleased to find there's a gathering on the 5th of this Month at a fantastic beer bar near MIT...my kind of gathering. (though my background is in wine) Here is the schedule should something be happening in your area.
Colleen, many thanks, Being forced to maintain for an hour was just what the doctor ordered. By the way, attendance for all of the sessions was SRO...in fact you'll see that I was on the carpet, stage right, with 80 people in chairs behind me. A big thanks to Steve Rochlin and Enjoy the Music for the photo of Colleen...like I said it was pitch when I went in.