While Fujiya Avic may host the most crowded headphone event in the world, e-earphone put on the most comfortable one: elbow room all around, space to walk, recess tables, and loads of space to chat it up with your favourite geek manufacturer. The showroom ladies, too, are a big step up from Fuji's geezers.
Things started at 11 AM on 25 May. I showed up at 15:00 sharp. I wasn't fashionably late. I was sick. Still am. I managed to dribble snot around the seventh floor, which had some pretty damn hot products on display.
I took copious notes, and drank not a drop; my verse should have been clear. Alas, the clean streak I rocked for a couple of weeks ended this evening in more than a bottle of wine, and some strangely toxic Thai curry.
Apologies all around.
Here are products of note from Day 1.
As rabid as my aunt Launa, this company turn out new DACs and amps for your portable almost every six months. The big news this show was the new Raytheon 5703WB-powered DAC/headphone amp for your portable and computer. Venturecraft call it Go-DAP TT. It's big, beefy and sports the above Raytheon valves in a socketed pair. The socket allows them to be switched out - rolled - like socketed op-amps.
TT has all the goodies you expect from recent Venturecraft devices: iDevice charging/synching, PC USB DAC, some sort of EQ, and decent build quality. TT gets warm and has the typical Venturecraft background noise. It does a pretty good job of keeping its channels tracked at low volumes. It is supposed to keep up its warm goodness for up to 8 hours.
I was told that it will go for 79.800¥.
Raytheon is getting love from this year. TU-HP01, EK Japan's soon-to-be released portable headphone amp, sports a single 6418 and the Muses 8820 op-amp. HP01 has good tracking, pretty decent sound stage, and doubles as a mitts warmer in the winter months. EK Japan also have a nice case for your source and amp. Obviously, TU-HP01 is a hybrid. Unlike the half-arsed automobiles boasting the same nomenclature, HP01 won't cost a small fortune. It will ring in at a paltry 19.950¥.
It was nice to croak a bit of English on through my dissolving vocal chords. C&M's Ms. Yoko speaks Taiwanese, English, and Japanese- I'm not sure in what order. She walked me through a new range of earphones called Major 9'13. The models come in typical flavours with typical names: Jazz, Rock, Classical. But they sound and look great. Lots of bass and wood. Jazz comes in walnut; Classical in palisander; Rock in maple. Each have strong bass and boast excellent housing and cable construction- this despite the fact that they are made in Taiwan, come in damn fine wooden boxes, and tip the scales at a smooth 13.500¥.
Rather than showing something new, AT brought their historical line of wood headphones starting with the storied ATH-W10LTD, the headphone that, in the late 1990’s, kicked off AT's love affair with wood. Comparing it directly with every hitherto wood release in front of some of the engineers who actually developed the headphones - priceless.
Love Harmony make DACs and degaussers. Their DAC lineup supports either 1-bit sampling and/or DSD decoding. Perhaps the most interesting component is the AX-W3 MK II combo degauss/DAC. It's worthy of lust but comes at an unsexy price point.
The unit that really caught my eye was the AX-M3, a degauss-only unit for headphones and guitars. Okay.
"First thing's first," said the rep. "You got to listen to the before... then we'll let you hear the after."
I spent about five minutes with the before, some sort of quasi-classical elevator music. I took notes. I did the eyes-closed thing that proves to the outside world that I know how to listen to headphones.
"I'm a professional, dammit!" emanated from my in-the-music face like the microbes from my nose and mouth.
Then, I was asked to remove my Sleek Audio CT7s. Glad I did.
“It’s going to get loud,” was the curt warning I received prior my earphones thrashing under the weight of rebellious square waves. If they break-
Fortunately, they’re still kicking strong.
I was directed to put the CT7s back in my ears. I turned the amp down and put my thumb up. "Go ahead," I said in croaky-throated foreigner Japanese.
The two seconds or so it took me to re-calibrate the volume were tense. Love Harmony were all frowns as I did my best Swedish impression. Let's face it, that was a long time ago- and I'm anything but stoic.
I listened for a minute or so. But it took much less time for my self-respect to melt. I squealed something like "Holy shizmononger uck uck uck!!" and met the worried face in front of me with wild, feverish eyes.
“Shizmonger!” I croaked again.
The CT7 is a detailed, fast, attack-friendly custom earphone that I rate ahead of many pricier options from competing companies. De-gaussed, it's wider, clearer, sharper than my Zeiss Makro Planar 100/2 stopped down to f/5,6.
It's not placebo. Something happened. I can’t tell you whether or not Love Harmony's rep switched an impedance switch at the back or a engaged a software EQ.
What I can tell is that ‘before’ sounded okay. ‘After’ sounded great. Holy frack.
Four days later, here's what’s rubbing me: I should have done the degauss-before and after with from my iPod, with my own music. Whatever. Whether magic, or tricksy tricksy poofery puffery, my CT7's sounded way better after degauss.
And there goes my credibility. All in a day’s work.