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Canjam 2010 Meet Impressions


postjack
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I'll start since I'm home and finished my homework.

First and foremost it goes without saying that Team Chicago was on their game and delivered, to my perception, a seamless meet. Easily the best hotel I've canjammed in, in terms of great rooms, great on site amenities (large bar, coffee shop, consistent airport shuttle), great proximity to at least one tasty Italian restaraunt, great rooms, and friendly staff (Elma at the front desk totally flirted with me). The convention facilities were great, I liked the way the rooms were laid out.

Though it takes a lot of manpower to put together an event of this magnitude, I always try to make it a point to shake the hand of the head dude and thank him personally. I neglected to do this in person. Ryan, thanks for selflessly contributing so much of your time so we could show up and play. It was a pleasure meeting you, and I hope we get to hang out at a future meet when you aren't working on keeping a convention running. :)

Gear wise, the big winners were the JH-3A / JH-16 Pro and the Audeze LCD-2. Thats why they are in bold.

Audeze LCD-2: After Tyll said it was the best headphone he'd ever seen in terms of measurements, I went and checked it out. Source was just an iPad I think, connected to a Woo Audio amp of some kind. Of course most of the music they had available was worthless bullshit no one but assholes would listen to. They did have DSOTM though, and a Buena Vista Social Club album, so I did my listening from those two. I didn't read much about the LCD-2 before Canjam, but today I was browsing the old threads here at HC and came across some impressions Wayne posted this past Fall. He said they reminded him of the O2 in that they get out of the way of the music. This is exactly what I said to the Audeze guys after listening, who by the way were extremely friendly and socially competent, not at all the assholes you would expect based on the music selection.

The cans felt accurate and natural across all frequencies, without being overtly "remarkable" in bass/mids/highs. What was remarkable was the headstage, which felt very large and spacious. I knew the asking price ($950), but in the spirit of conversation I asked the Audeze guys anyway, and he told me $3,000. He then quickly said, "nah just kidding, but what would you say if I told you that?" and I told him I'd buy a brand new O2 first. :) Which isn't totally true since the O2 isn't PJ head friendly...

...which brings me to the next issue, comfort. Personally I found the LCD-2 quite comfortable. The rods stretched out at max fit my head perfectly. Make no mistake, these are heavy cans, but to my head not too heavy. I actually like the heft, it gives the impression of quality. Having said that, I would advise potential buyers to attempt to try a pair on before buying, because they could be to heavy for some. The pads seemed comfortable, but it was hard to gauge if/when the sweat factor would kick in.

I am a big fan of headphones coming in fancy storage boxes, and the LCD-2 comes in a very fancy box, wood lined with satin or a satin-like substance. Very nice touch at its price point.

In summary I found the LCD-2 a very interesting can. It's unfortunately hard to say with 100% authority if its all its cracked up to be, but what was so exciting about it was it reminded me so heavily of the first time I was listening to the O2. And with the O2, it took a long time of listening to many different recordings before I started to comprehend the magic coming out of the cans. It is this "O2 factor" that has me seriously considering a purchase.

For the sake of completeness, the LCD-2 was recabled with something from ALO, just like every other can at the meet.

JH-16 Pro / JH-3A: OK so I didn't listen to the JH-13 last year because IEMs are stupid, right? If I would've known prominent members of the hobbyist community would start dumping high end rigs left and right in the following months after catching Jerry Harvey Fever I might have paid closer attention at the time.

Well I still didn't listen to the JH-13, but I did listen to the JH-16 Pro. First listen was on an iPod with the Rx amp, by ALO or Red Wine or somebody. Surprisingly enough the iPod was full of an entirely unique array of bullshit only an asshole would listen to, not your typical audiophile vendor bollocks. However, the audio gods were smiling upon postjack this day, as their was an old Allman Bros SBD off what must be a collection called "Dreams". I listened to "You Don't Love Me No More" and it was simply magical. I had an almost immediate emotional response to the music, I mean tears really did start creeping up into my eyes, it was wild (caveat, this is a fairly regular reaction I have to music I love, but I can't recall it ever happening at a meet, or so suddenly and unexpectedly, or as the result of a first time listening to a piece of gear). Luckily I didn't weep openly, because then I would have had to challenge Jerry to a fist fight to reclaim my masculinity in front of his lovely assistants.

How to describe the sound? To people at the meet I just kept mumbling how "magical" it was like a tired dumbass. The bass was outstanding, the midrange was fracking awesome. It didn't have the absolute perfect realism my ESL-63's have, but what it did have was a creamy delicious richness with just the perfect amount of peakiness to tickle the audiobone in my brain. In general I love the way Grados do electric guitar, and these beat the shit out of any (John) Grado I've heard.

Then dude asked me if I want to hear them balanced, and I said sure. Listened to the same track, but apparently I didn't get the fit right because it sounded very different, the bass was way bloaty.

Later at Vicki's insistence I went to listen to the JH-3A with the JH-16 Pro. For those that don't know how this thing works it is very interesting. Basically there is a laptop and a iPad and an amp with a DAC in it and an ADC and a black box underneath the amp and there is a USB running from the laptop to the black box and then a line out dock running from the iPad to the amp and the headphones are connected with a proprietary plug which allows postjack to get confused and a little scared. Luckily JH is a super nice dude and his calming charisma put me at ease. Right before I stepped up his iPad died and was replaced with another iPad. No ABB on this iPad, in fact there weren't really enough recordings to get a good feel for the rig. I would go so far as to say it was mostly worthless bullshit no one but assholes would listen to. Of course I found my saving grace and listened to Metallica's Master of Puppets. While I love this record its not the best at judging rigs. Everything sounded great as best I could figure with unfamiliar recordings, but I definitely wasn't having the same emotional response I had with just the iPod and the Rx. I'm chalking this up to unfamiliar source material and possibly another bad fit.

You can get the whole kit n' kaboodle for $1750. Considering you just need to add a transport and you are good to go, it is a true hi-fi bargain. Even though I didn't get the full experience on this particular listening session, my first experience with the JH-16 proved to me their potential, and I'm assuming the amp/DSP makes them even better.

thats all the energy I have for impressions. I will say KG's T2 rig with the 404LE was outstanding, a real delight to listen to, toasty hot pot and all. :)

Edited by postjack
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I heard the LCD-2 in the Woo room and I get the SR-007 link since they were obviously using them as inspiration. I wasn't too happy with the sound though, the Thunderpants impressed me more and the HE-5 comes dead lastt. The LCD-2 bass was unimpressive at best, non linear to my ears but that's their only major flaw. The rest is simply not that good to my ears and that cable is a stupid idea and utterly terrible in every day use. The cables on each side dragged across my shoulders when ever I turned my head. The height adjustment on the Woo set was already worse for wear. so I doubt it will last long. Comfort was ok but not great.

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Pj, thanks for coming out bro. I actually preferred the jh13's as the 16's were a bit to bassy. But both excel in having that richness and ability to transport you to somewhere I have no idea where. The 13's just do it a little more linear for me, but the 16's do put you right in the club and have more bass and kick fo sho.

Howver the 16 w he 3a trumps it all as the thing had crazy soundstage and pinpoint imaging which was frightening, and the bass punched you in the chest. Duggeh and I agreed that the mids may have had a suck out or recessed somewhere and weren't as rich to me as the normal 13 or 16 but I believe Jerry is still tweaking the 3a. It is going to be a winner and with just a transport you have a killer rig.

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I saw Scott trying to get it setup Saturday (I think) and the issue was that it would only pass 24bit signals and his DAC (the EAD 7000) wouldn't accept them. So I don't know if he ever got it up and running or loaned it out to someone else.

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I saw Scott trying to get it setup Saturday (I think) and the issue was that it would only pass 24bit signals and his DAC (the EAD 7000) wouldn't accept them. So I don't know if he ever got it up and running or loaned it out to someone else.

That's very unfortunate. I did a quick search and the DAC seems to employ the 20-bit R2R AD1862 which indeed could raise compatibility issues.

Still, it looks like a great meet! One of these days...

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Since I know most people are talking about the LCD-2 and JH-3A in their impressions (which btw I love both), I wanted to mention my experience with the amps at the TTVJ room. I was there Sunday morning and had lots of time to spend listening to music all by myself since everyone else at Canjam was still drunk or hungover :)

I mainly focused on the HD800 since I'm very familiar with them and compared the headphones on the Luxman P1-U, Apex Peak+Volcano, Apex Pinacle ($10k amp). The was listening to Dire Straits 'On Every Street' CD which isn't that great of a CD but I was very familiar with it. I have a pair hooked up to a Woo 5 amp and I know how extremely finicky these headphones are and difficult to get to sound right. All mu

First of all, I wasn't a big fan of the Luxman P1-U and don't really understand why people keep raving about this amp with HD800s. To me added even more sterility to the HD800s and was overly bright to my ears (even with the HD800s being re cabled). Lows weren't anywhere near their potential on this amp and neither was there enough impact of notes to my ears.

Next up was the Apex Peak + Volcano (Hybrid tube amp) which will go for about $2k. The designer of the amp actually said he had never compared the standard wallwart vs. Volcano power supply which I find a little suspect but whatever, it should 'technically' be better :) The amp isn't extremely attractive and doesn't have any balanced outputs, but boy did they make the HD800s sing! The sound was very effortless and transparent, providing a great window into the music. Bass was extremely satisfying and right away I started bobbing my head with sheer enjoyment of the music. The mids felt more prominent and satisfying than on the P1-U and the highs were way more tamed. Overall, a great amp pairing for HD800s.

Next up, the Appex Pinnacle (307A Tube amp), which was hooked to the same source as the Peak/Volcano and running HD800s balanced. In terms of build, once again not the nicest designed chassis but it felt very solid and well built. To me though it looked more like a $5k amp in the ranks of the Balancing Act or Woo 5 than something twice the price. In terms of sound, I was very familiar with the sonic signature of this amp since it was extremely similar to the Peak next to it. I could tell they shared the same DNA and had the same effortlessness to the sound. To me the more expensive amp increased the detail level of the music and felt a little airier / more transparent sounding. Bass was a little bit tighter and mids sounded pretty similar to the Peak. It truly was a wonderful amp that could make the HD800s sing but in my book is nowhere near worth the $10k asking price, especially when the Peak/Volcano can do about 90-95% and only cost $2k. I think this amp would have been better off with some less fancy parts inside and a price drop to about $5-6k to make it competitive with other good tube amps out there.

So if I were to walk away with an amp after this meet, I would have definitely put my cash down on an Apex Peak / Volcano combo. It really won me over both in sheer musicality, compactness of the design, and great price point (especially with the flexibility of purchasing the power supply later on).

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What I mean is that they really sound like they are designed by the same person who has a certain sound signature that he is looking for. I talked to Todd in the room and he also agreed with me that their sound signature is pretty similar but obviously one performs a little better than the other. I'm thinking similar to lets say a BMW 1 series and a 7 series. One is a lot more expensive than the other and they don't share any parts but the handling is geared be behave in similar manners.

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I saw Scott trying to get it setup Saturday (I think) and the issue was that it would only pass 24bit signals and his DAC (the EAD 7000) wouldn't accept them. So I don't know if he ever got it up and running or loaned it out to someone else.

I got it to work a little later on. You probably watched me select usb dac or something, and later it gave bridge as one of the playback devices in the list. I didn't wait long enough for windows to do it's thing I guess.

I listened to very little, but boy did I like the T2.

Wasn't it though. Liked Kevin's nova basic better than my 404le. Didn't get much time with his O2 before they were defiled.

That's very unfortunate. I did a quick search and the DAC seems to employ the 20-bit R2R AD1862 which indeed could raise compatibility issues.

Still, it looks like a great meet! One of these days...

Can't remember off the top of my head, but I think the 1862 is used in the 7000 and/or mkII. My mkIII has PCM63s.

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Canjam 2010 Meet impressions #1: Vicki and Colin got them

Canjam 2010 Meet impressions #2: It was a good meet. I could see myself going to more of these.

#3: MPI is the motherfucking restaurant.

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Here are a couple of my few random pics from the CJ weekend:

We tried to include Stretch at Three Floyds after he posted the saddest of all pics.

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I saw a great bumper sticker among the many on the walls there.

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Gene with provisions for the trip back to the hotel.

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Vicki talking to one of the missing Travel Team members while we were at Giordano's having deep dish pizza.

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My once cool pocket camera is basically dead so I gave up on it early on. Plus, I was in no condition to take pics most of the time. I actually fear Peter posting his pics. :palm:

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I like the Lou Malnates better, there is one of each within about 2 miles of my house.

Ooooh I went there Friday night. Lou Malnati's is good indeed. But one of the biggest things I missed was going to Hot Doug's. I even planned before heading out to Chicago to stop by, but I somehow still missed it.:palm: For people to actually say that a 1-2 hour+ wait was worth it, they must be making some seriously outrageous creations.

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I managed to try Giordano's, Pizzeria Uno, Edwardo's, and Gino's East while I was in Chicago (and in that order too), and I have to say Pizzeria Uno and Gino's East were the best ones. The other two just weren't as good IMO.

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