Los Angeles Audio Show 2017 PT – 3

It’s no secret that I am a fan of electrostatic headphones, in fact, electrostatic speakers in general. Their extremely fast response time and general phase coherency gives them a realism that is impossible to match with other driver technologies, but they do have their drawbacks. The primary problem is due to the limited travel of their diaphragms, they tend to lack dynamic range and low bass response. Sonoma Acoustics has found a cure for this problem by developing a new type of electrostatic driver for their Model One (M1) Electrostatic Headphone System ($4,995 USD), that only employs one stator which means longer diaphragm travel among other things. Sonoma’s drivers require twice the bias voltage of most electrostatic headphones meaning they had to design their own amplifier, but Sonoma used this to their advantage by incorporating dual Sabre Reference DACs in a special mono mode and a 64bit DSP into their pure Class A amplifier to fine tune the sonic characteristics, producing one of the finest sounding headphone systems I have heard.

The long awaited production version of the Sonoma Acoustics M1 Electrostatic Headphone System in its attractive shipping container
Sonoma Acoustics M1 Electrostatic Headphone System Amplifier

One of the most unusual IEMs I have encountered is the StereoPravda SPearphone SB-7A In-The-Ear Monitors ($3,000 USD). Employing 7 Balanced Armature Drivers in a linear configuration so that they are all on the same axis and using a custom made Stereolab IEM cable which is terminated into dual mini-XLRs for use with their StereoPravda DACCA DAC/Amplifier ($6,000 USD), the SB-7A is meant to enter the ear canal so that the midrange driver in the tip has a direct line to the ear drum.

StereoPravda SPearphone In-The-Ear Monitors
StereoPravda SPearphone SB-7A In-The-Ear Monitors
StereoPravda DACCA DAC/Amplifier
StereoPravda DACCA DAC/Amplifier

New to the High-End scene is Cleer Audio, who were introducing their new, soon to be released, audiophile headphone, the Cleer NX NEXT Headphone ($699 USD projected price) employing ironless magnetic drivers with magnesium diaphragms and offering sheep skin and memory foam ear pads along with a balanced audio cable using LEMO hardware. Keep an eye out for this up and comer, they definitely produce a must hear product.

Cleer NX NEXT Headphone
Cleer DU Dual Driver Wired Headphone
Cleer DU Dual Driver Bluetooth Headphone

Another Pro-Audio company to enter the Personal Audio world is Rupert Neve Designs, who were introducing their RNHP Precision Headphone Amplifier ($499 USD). Designed for the studio and based on their 5060 Centerpiece Desktop Mixer, the RNHP is a 24V reference-quality headphone amplifier that incorporates both +4dBu balanced line and RCA single ended inputs. Not only can you hear what they intended in the studio, you can actually listen to what they listened to.

Rupert Neve Designs
Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Precision Headphone Amplifier
Rupert Neve Designs Shelford Channel Transformer Gain Mic Pre, Inductor EQ, Diode Bridge Compressor

Periodic Audio were exhibiting their Ni (Nickel) Portable DAC/Amplifier prototype (TBA), designed for use with their extrodinary IEMs. If history is anything to judge by, the sound should be epic.

Periodic Audio Ni (Nickel) Portable DAC/Amplifier prototype
Periodic Audio  Mg (Magnesium), Ti (Titanium) and Be (Beryllium) IEMs

Out of Germany we have Ultrasone Audio who take a unique hardware approach to 3D audio. Ultrasone’s S-LOGIC utilizes multiple transduces to create a multi-dimensional soundscape, so not only are Ultrasone’s models designed to have different sonic signatures, they have differing soundscapes as well, culminating in their new Edition 8 EX Headphones ($2,199 USD) which offer a more natural soundstage as opposed to their new Signature Studio ($599 USD) which have a more clinical approach.

Ultrasone Edition 8 EX, Edition 5, Signature Pro and Studio Signature Headphones
Ultrasone Edition M Plus Black Pearl and Performance 880 Headphones
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 DAC/Headphone Amplifier

No audiophile show would be complete without a showing by Kimber Kable, one of the very first audiophile cable designer/manufacturers. Kimber had a small presence in the HeadGear Planet room demonstrating their new AXIOS USB cable ($1,000 USD for 1 meter) and their new AXIOS AG (Silver) and HB (Hybrid Silver & OFC) headphone cables (price dependant on application) and directing folks up to their room on the second floor where they had a plethora of Personal Audio systems to audition their product, and where they were in fact making cables to order for those so inclined.

Nate Allen of Kimber Kable with a length of Kimber AXIOS AG headphone cable
Kimber Kable AXIOS USB cable
Denon AH-D7200 Reference Headphones with Kimber Kable AXIOS HB Headphone cable, MrSpeakers ETHER C Flow Planar Magnetic Headphones with Kimber Kable AXIOS Headphone cable, Sony TA-ZH1ES DAC/Headphone Amplifier and Sony NW-WM1Z DAP
Up in the Kimber Kable room, Questyle Audio CMA800P Golden Current Mode Preamp, CAS192D Golden True DSD DAC, and two CMA800R Golden Current Mode Headphone amps in dual mono configuration, Sony Z1R Premium Headphones with Kimber Kable AXIOS AG Headphone cable
ETHER Flow Planar Magnetic Headphones with Kimber Kable AXIOS headphone cable, Denon AH-D7200 Reference Headphones with Kimber Kable AXIOS HB Headphone cable and Metaxs Marquis Headphone Amplifier
Sony Z1R Premium Headphones with Kimber Kable AXIOS Headphone cable, Meitner MA1 DAC, Pass Labs HPA-1 Headphone Amplifier
Woo Audio WA33 Elite Edition Fully Balanced Headphone Amplifier, EMM Labs DA2 and Kimber AXIOS AG Headphone cable
Kimber Kable while you wait
Also in the Kimber Kable room, WBT connectors
WBT connectors
WBT connectors

Jerry Harvey Audio once again showed why they are one of the most respected IEM manufacturers with their recent launch of the new Lola Hybrid IEMs ($1,745 USD) which have eight drivers, four balanced armature for high frequencies (using JHA’s proprietary Quad High B.A.), two balanced armature for bass and two 4.9mm dynamic drivers in JHA’s special D.O.M.E. (Dual Opposed Midrange Enclosure) enclosure to create a classic analog sound with tight authoritative bass, extended high frequency detail and silky midrange.

Jerry Harvey Audio Lola Hybrid IEMs
Jerry Harvey Audio Lola Hybrid IEM case
Jerry Harvey Audio Lola Hybrid IEMs
Jerry Harvey Audio JH3X PRO IEMs
Jerry Harvey Audio JH13V2 PRO IEMs
Jerry Harvey Audio JH16V2 PRO IEMs
Jerry Harvey Audio Layla IEMs
Jerry Harvey Audio Roxanne IEMs
Jerry Harvey Audio CIEMs
Jerry Harvey Audio CIEMs
Moon Audio’s Drew Baird getting fitted for Jerry Harvey Audio Custom In-Ear Monitors
Jerry Harvey Audio IEMs

At the end of the second day of the show, Saturday night, there was the ALFIE Awards Ceremony, judged and voted on by a panel of select industry celebrities established by The Los Angeles & Orange County Audio Society.

The Alfie Award Winners: for Best of Personal Listening: 1MORE USA – Quad Driver In-Ear Monitors, AudioQuest – DragonFly Red In-line DAC, AudioQuest – NightOwl Headphones, Campfire Audio – Andromeda In-Ear Monitors, Echobox Audio – Explorer Digital Audio Player, HeadAmp Audio Electronics – Blue Hawaii Special Edition Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier, MrSpeakers – ÆON Planar Magnetic Headphones, Periodic Audio – Be In-Ear Monitors, and for Best of Xtreme HeadGear Showroom: MrSpeakers – ETHER ES Electrostatic Headphone.

Marine Presson Show Director for the Los Angeles Audio Show
Bob Levi (President and CEO Los Angeles & Orange County Audio Society
The Alfie Award Winners

To be concluded in PT – 4 of our LAAS coverage.

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Gary Alan Barker

Gary Alan Barker is a writer who has been a member of the Audio Industry since 1978, having acted as technical writer for several high-end audio companies, and been an electronics hobbyist since 1960. He has also been a musician and writer since the mid 1960s.


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