Going into the CanJam, 64 Audio team announced the release of a new A18s, a custom only model which supposed to be the update of their original A/U18t flagship. As expected, that triggered a lot of speculation about changes in sound, and quite a few people were stopping by the table to try it out. Even for their custom-only models, like N8, 64 Audio makes universal demo version for people to try it at the shows. They even make a custom modular cable, which I personally wish they would sell as a separate product, where you have interchangeable pigtail terminations to switch between single ended and balanced connectors.
While A18s still has the same driver config of BA tia high, BA high-mid, and 8BA mid and 8BA low, according to 64 Audio some of the drivers were updated. I suspect it was probably bass drivers since in comparison to 18t I heard more low end impact and thicker lower mids, giving the sound more overall body. Of course, I had U18t with me for a direct comparison, but didn’t take into account that I was using different apex module. Hopefully if I get a chance to review 18s, I will eliminate as many variables in that comparison. Also, to my pleasant surprise, A18s was updated with LID tech, so no more worries about pair ups with high output impedance sources.
Another buzz at the table was around a mystery hybrid IEMs with a “question” mark on the faceplate which many were referring to as K9. Apparently, 64 Audio already teased this IEM at some of the previous shows, and many assumed it is the universal version of custom-only N8. I still consider N8 to be one of their most underrated IEMs since it had quite a unique tuning, and I think it didn’t get as much attention in the past due to being custom only. I didn’t have N8 with me for comparison, but by memory, K9 sounded similar to N8, with a very wide soundstage, balanced signature with a natural tonality and extra emphasis on punchy extended bass, natural detailed mids/vocals, and clear non-fatigue treble. Btw, as I was told, K9 is only a temporary placeholder name.
It has been a while, since I tested and reviewed ATH iems. Last year they introduced ATH-CK2000Ti flagship with a dual push-pull driver config using 9.8mm and 8.8mm DD. It was a great looking IEM, but had a bit of too much treble energy for my ears. To my surprise, this year Audio-Technica stepped it up with an upgraded hybrid version of that flagship, named ATH-IEX1, where they added 2BA drivers in addition to 9.8mm and 8.8mm DDs. The new flagship IEM still uses A2DC (audio designed detachable coaxial) connectors and comes with 2 cables, 3.5mm SE and 4.4mm BAL terminated. It also features a fine-looking titanium housing and the nozzle has a clever design with two-position eartips post to allow the adjustment of eartips position.
I had a quick listening to IEX1 and noted a tastefully tuned v-shaped signature with a deep bass impact, neutral revealing mids, and crisp airy treble which I didn’t find to be fatigue. The sound does change depending on eartips selection and positioning, and I was pleasantly surprised when I tried Symbio W eartips which changed the sound to be more balanced, more natural, and with lower treble peaks being noticeably smoother. While I was less eager to come back to CK2000Ti, here I’m actually looking forward to spend more time testing IEX1 if I get a chance in a near future.
As I was going from one table to the other, a sign with “Horn-Shaped Tips” caught my attention. I never heard of E-Pro eartips before and since they were offering free samples, I decided to give it a shot. Upon closer examination, I did notice that a stem part of the eartips indeed had a unique shape, resembling a horn. Two types of eartips were being offered, a regular one with a more traditional deeper insertion cap, and a truly wireless model with a smaller shallow cap.
The regular pair of eartips did enhance upper frequencies when I tried it with U18t. But due to cap being softer and less springy, I felt it lacked a seal and attenuated the bass, a problem specific to a shape of my earcanals since I require large or extra-large size eartips. But to my big surprise, the truly-wireless shallow eartips version was just perfect, providing a very good seal to keep the bass and opening up upper frequencies with more micro details. For now, I’m keeping these eartips to use with U18t.
I have to admit, I’m not too familiar with JH line of IEMs, even so heard many people praising them. And that is a beauty of attending CanJam shows, you get a chance to hear and to compare the latest gear with your own ears, instead of relying on other reviews/impressions or making a blind review commitment.
While JH table had all of their current models available for auditioning, the spotlight was on their latest two, Roxanne Aion series flagship and another JIMI model. Both of them are now featuring a new 7-pin cable connector, a solid quality German-made military grade parts, and come with a silver-plated premium cable with a built-in variable bass adjustment. In both cases, I was surprised how effective this adjustment worked. It was definitely not a marketing gimmick, you can adjust the bass by 12dB, and it was very noticeable to the point where it changed the signature of IEM sound.
Roxanne is their 12BA model with quad lows, quad mids, and quad highs, 3D printed chambers housing all the drivers, and machined carbon fiber shells. While auditioning it, I heard a very deep out of my head soundstage expansion, definitely more depth than width, typical for musician-tuned monitors. The bass had a very powerful impact and deep extension, to the point where I had to turn the dials somewhere around 3/4 of the way to give my ears a break. Mids have a full body natural sound, and treble was crisp and a bit peaky for my taste. I had to play with a bass adjustment to find a more optimum sound balance.
JIMI is their new 7BA IEM, as mentioned already, sharing the same new 7pin connector and the new silver-plated cable with variable bass adjustment. Also, I was hearing a similar soundstage expansion with more depth than width, something performing musicians will appreciate more. For my personal taste, I preferred its tuning over Roxanne since it had a less fatigue treble, a decent bass impact which responded quite well to cable adjustment, and thicker fuller body mids/vocals. It was not as resolving as Roxanne since it had a smoother more natural tuning, and I think it offers a good sound alternative depending on your personal preference.
A visit to Meze Audio table is always a treat because their products have focus not only on the sound tuning, but also on the design aesthetics. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sound shallow and without a doubt, the sound tuning is the most important aspect of earphones and headphones. But it’s hard to ignore the eye-candy looks of Meze products where they put as much effort into the design as they do into the tuning.
I’m already quite familiar with their Empyrean planar magnetic headphones, designed in joint venture with Rinaro Isodynamics and featuring Rinaro Isoplanar Diaphragm with a symmetrically placed hybrid magnet array on each side of the diaphragm, forming a unique dual voice coil arrangement. I also recently had a chance to review their RAI Penta 5BA flagship IEM, but wasn’t to familiar with their more budget friendly RAI Solo offering.
RAI Solo is a single dynamic driver IEM in a stainless-steel shell with a shape very similar to their flagship RAI Penta. It even comes with a similar quality silver-plated cable wires and premium accessories package, including a custom protective EVA hard shell case (the same as in Penta). Of course, you shouldn’t expect the sound tuning as refined or detailed as their 5BA flagship Penta, but at a fraction of the price Solo looks as premium, has a wide soundstage expansion, more laidback sound presentation with a deep impactful bass, neutral natural thicker body smooth mids/vocals, and non-fatigue clear detailed treble.
Page 2 – Moondrop, BGVP, DUNU, MusicTeck, Hiby.
Page 3 – Unique Melody, Luxury & Precision, Cayin Audio, Effect Audio.
Page 4 – Westone, Eletech, MMR, Campfire Audio, Audio 46, Final Audio.
Page 5 – 64 Audio, Audio-Technica, E-Pro, JH Audio, Meze Audio.
Page 6 – Beyerdynamic, Soundcore, Noble Audio, Sony, Empire Ears, Astell & Kern.