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The sights and sounds of CanJam SoCal 2016

  • California dreamin’. The leaves weren’t brown but the sky was grey as each of CanJam SoCal’s two day run in Costa Mesa kicked into action. Immediately across the road from one of the largest high-end shopping malls in America, the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel hosted over seventy of the biggest names in headphones and personal audio.

    For a $20 entry-fee attendees could audition veritable mountains of headphones, in-ear monitors, headphone amplifiers and DACs in a single location. No high street retailer could match this breadth of opportunity.

    Get a load of this lot:

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    1964 Ears/64 Audio
    Airist Audio
    Ampsandsound
    Aqua Hifi
    Astell&Kern
    Atomic Floyd
    Audiofly
    Audeze
    Audioquest
    Ayre Acoustics
    Beyerdynamic
    Bruel & Kjaer
    Campfire Audio
    Cardas Audio
    Cavalli Audio
    Cayin Audio
    Chord Electronics
    Comply
    DanaCable
    Darin Fong Audio
    Echobox Audio
    Emotiva
    Empire Ears
    Enigmacoustics
    Final Audio
    FiiO
    Gingko Audio
    Grace Design
    Headamp Audio
    Hifiman
    JDS Labs
    Jerry Harvey Audio
    JPS Labs
    Linear Tube Audio
    Listen Inc.

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    Meze Headphones
    Mitchell & Johnson
    ModWright Instruments
    Mr Speakers
    Noble Audio
    Onkyo
    Oppo Digital
    OSSIC
    Pendulumic
    Pioneer
    Puro Sound Labs
    Questyle
    Radius Earphones
    Radsone
    RHA
    RIVA Audio
    Schiit Audio
    Sennheiser
    SoundMAGIC
    STAX
    Taction Technology
    TekFX
    The Source AV
    Torque
    Ultimate Ears
    Verisonix
    Warwick Audio Technologies
    Wells Audio
    Westone
    Woo Audio
    WyWires

    And because listening is tucked away behind headphones, cross-talk between demos rarely becomes an issue, which in turn allows for tightly-packed rooms that lend the show more of an intimate, community-driven vibe than equivalent two-channel events. That particular C-word is thrown around LOUD and often. See this DAR Instagram post for exemplification.

    Could that be because CanJam Global is the commercial spawn of Head-Fi.org’s community meets and get-togethers?? Jude Mansilla, interviewed as part of the video below, heads up both companies but it’s one Ethan Opolion who takes care of operational matters (read: hard work).

    Pulled from the CanJam website: “Since 2006, CanJam events have been a community showcase for Head-Fi.org, as well as the best opportunity for exhibitors to share new product releases and have meaningful interactions with the enthusiast community and audio industry press.”

    CanJam Global now run shows in London, Denver (as part of RMAF) and, most recently, Singapore. There are rumours of an east coast event – maybe New York, maybe Boston. Louder than distant murmurings are plans for Hong Kong.

    In Costa Mesa, attendee numbers don’t reach the tens of thousands that show up to e-earphone‘s or Fujiya Avic‘s Tokyo-based events but CanJam SoCal certainly doesn’t want for vendors: four large rooms on Level 2, three smaller spaces on Level 3 and the odd upper-floor outlier doubled down on the number exhibitors showing in the large exhibition hall.

    The demographic at headphone shows in the US continues to mirror that of Japan: the average age is far lower than RMAF or T.H.E Show Newport. A slightly higher percentage of females show up to listen. As Mansilla himself concedes, “[CanJam] is still a dudefest though!”.

    As per the majority of weekend audio shows, Saturday is busier than Sunday; a blessing in disguise for those trying to get a sit down at the Schiit or Chord Electronics table. And as we shalll see from the manufacturer-specific coverage to follow, there was considerable buzz surrounding Mr Speakers’ and HiFiMAN’s forthcoming electrostatic headphones. Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser have reasserted their position in the high-end headphone game with warmer-sounding second gen takes on their respective T1 and HD800 planar-magnetics. Smartphone compatible DACs that don’t require rubber-strapping to the host device are also tipped by this commentator to become more of thing this year and next.

    Video and verbiage on these matters (and more) to follow.

    Further information: CanJam Global

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    CanJam Global’s head of operations Ethan Opolion.

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    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John is the editor of Darko.Audio, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is an occasional contributor to 6moons but has previously written pieces for TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile. John used to live in Sydney. Now he lives in Berlin.

    Follow John on YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter

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