Covering the latest, greatest, and most interesting portable hi-fi equipment available at CanJam Singapore 2022.
After 2 years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the 5th edition of CanJam Singapore returned to the Pan Pacific Hotel. In over 20,000 square feet of exhibition space, CanJam Singapore 2022 featured more than 100 leading brands showcasing a wide variety of headphones and personal audio electronics at all price points – from $50 earbuds to $50,000 headphone audio systems.
Pan Pacific Singapore is situated in Marina Bay, the heart of Singapore’s business, entertainment, and shopping districts, which is the ideal starting point from which to explore the city’s many attractions. Popular attractions, including Marina Bay Sands, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay, and part of the Formula One racing circuit, can also be reached on foot.
CanJam proclaims “Experience your music in a new way and #ListenLikeNeverBefore!”
My Show Favourites
- DAPs: Lotoo PAW 6000, Sony NW-A105
- Dongles: Lotoo PAW S1, Venture Electronics Megatron
- Portable Amplifier: ALO Audio RX Nickel Edition
- IEMs: Nostalgia Audio Benbulbin, ItsFitLab Fusion, AAW A3H+, Origami Audio Silver
Astell & Kern
While Astell & Kern has worked with companies like JH Audio and Campfire Audio, they have never released a fully branded earphone under the A&K name. A&K has recently moved away from being exclusively a DAP manufacturer with the release of the A&K Zero 1, the company’s first pair of IEMs.
With its own unique design, A&K’s IEMs immediately stand out. They share a similar rigid design as some of their DAPs, which already makes A&K as an IEM brand recognizable.
Despite their angular shape and large housing, they have a small spout which makes them easier to insert into the ear. Initially, you can still feel them, but after a while, they become less bothersome, and their support is one of their best qualities.
It’s time for A&K to show off their abilities with their first branded IEMs, following other successful collaborations in the past. When I started playing a few test tracks to see how the soundstage works, I found the results to be less than ideal. Their width allows them to provide adequate immersion, but panning elements to the extreme left and right would improve the imaging.
Celebrating their 10 year anniversary, DITA Audio showcased their latest release, the Perpetua. There are lots of new implementations in the Perpetua, such as a new PPT-D 12mm dynamic driver, coil/over cable, silver internal cable, and new interchangeable plug.
With the implementation of DITA’s new 12mm PPT-D Driver, Perpetua’s bass sounds warmer, enveloping, and bolder than ever. Rather than starting and stopping immediately, the mid-bass hump is more naturally decayed, creating a more emotional and realistic listening experience. Perpetua’s sound signature is enriched by a greater musicality, and even the lower end of the spectrum is able to be heard clearly.
The midrange is vulnerable to being crowded as this is where the majority of major instruments reside and vocal melodies are heard. In Perpetua, one finds a well-resolved, well-layered, and spacious midrange. They assist the listener in savoring the finer details, even in already familiar tracks.
High-frequency sounds are airy and well-extended. In a seamless manner, Perpetua’s sound is enhanced with well-defined, high-definition imaging. These two elements give Perpetua a cohesive presentation.
EarMen has been developing tube amplifiers for more than a decade. They are focused on achieving a neutral, clean, and natural sound that is packaged in a stylish and quality design. EarMen was born from the desire to make sound available to a broader audience.
In fact, they realized long ago that it’s not all about measurements and results from paper, thus they don’t even compete in this format, as perfect sound isn’t about measurements, it’s about the personal experience of something pure that performers bring to us. Their motto is “sound above all”.
Apple and Android compatible, the EarMen Eagle USB DAC & Headphone Amp is a high-performance pocket-friendly solution. With ESS ES9280 C PRO on the Eagle, you can enjoy high sound quality with a Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise (THD+N) < 0.002%.
The EarMen Eagle sounds marginally off neutral with a bit of added warmth. It is warm enough to work with natural sounding earphones, while neutral enough to work with warm earphones. Therefore, it is flexible with pairing. The soundscape is very wide, while the timbre is very natural, with no harshness or grain.
There is a sense of ease in the voice, the image has a natural timbre, and the clarity and transparency are great. Ultimately, the presentation is quite musical, nothing is in any way rigid or artificial.
There are no shortcomings of the Eagle, sonically, but rather everything is perfect.
The EarMen Sparrow is a USB dongle-like, high-quality DAC and amplifier, similar to the AudioQuest DragonFly and the Lotoo PAW S1. In EarMen’s definition, the Sparrow was designed to process digital sound for enhanced clarity and precision. The Sparrow delivers audio close to the original studio recording.
When running in single-ended mode, you get a noiseless, clean, detailed, and clear sound. It’s a very linear, balanced sound, but it’s more intimate or inside your head. It has a good balance between bass and highs. Bass is tight, deep, and fast, vocals are excellent, and the treble region is energetic and lively. There is good layering and depth to the recording as well. The tuning is linear and neutral.
The balanced mode creates a more natural, spacious, out-of-your-head presentation, with greater extension from top to bottom. As well as note extension, decay, and micro details, the depth, and layering have all improved dramatically. Although the bass goes deep and well rumbled, the tightness of it is lost a bit. I love the smooth, well-blended texture and timbre.
The mids are intricate, dynamic, and extremely musical, and the vocals are smooth, memorable, and addictive. There is an extended treble section with subtle nuances and a high degree of energy. There is less linearity in the balanced output, but a higher level of musicality and technicality.
In conjunction with CanJam Singapore, Effect Audio brought their 6 prototypes of the Signature Series cables to gather opinions from fellow audiophiles. Ultimately, they will choose 3 prototypes that are more well-received by audiophiles. I had an opportunity to audition all six of them.
The P39 is a 24WG four silver-plated copper wire braided cable. It is an open-sounding cable that improves spatial audio capability and imaging. The sound signature is neutral and with good transparency. It does not change the sound signature significantly but improves aspects like the separation and the strength of each note. The P39 is a great choice for those who are looking to retain the stock sound signature.
It helps to tighten the bass too!
The P38 is a 24 AWG four pure copper Litz wire braided cable. It is a more polite and reserved option compared to P39. The overall sound signature touches slightly on the warmer side. However, as compared with other typical copper cables, the warmth is not drastic. It retains the neutrality of IEMs well and adds a touch of warmth.
On the other hand, the 24 AWG four strand pure copper wire braided cable P36 is more tame and obedient compared to P38. The sound signature touches slightly on the warm side too, but less so than P38 and is closer to neutral. The notes on IEMs are more distanced with P36. It’s relaxing to listen to it. For those bright and aggressive IEMs, this would be a good cable.
The P32 is a 26 AWG eight pure silver and a pure copper hybrid braided cable. Its characteristics are in between the bolder P39 and tamed P38. The sound signature retaining capability and transparency is the best. I find the layering of my IEMs is improved by the P32. It definitely has my vote!
The P32 color scheme is special!
The P31 is a a 26 AWG eight pure copper wire braided cable, and sounds very engaging, very very engaging. It pushes the staging closer to the audience. For those IEMs that are already pretty forward, it might not be a good choice. However, it will be a perfect choice for those IEMs that are more conservative in tuning.
Last but not least, the P37 is bold but controlled. It is not as aggressive as P39. The overall presentation is definitely more comfortable. The signature is close to P39 but more refined. It is a 24 AWG 4 silver-plated copper Litz wire braided cable.
I cast my vote for three models, namely the P32, P38, and P36. I am looking forward to seeing which models will be the finalists of the Signature series.
Element Technology (Eletech)
Located in Singapore, Element Technology (Eletech) is a cable manufacturing company driven by innovation. Eric Chong, a prominent figure in the cable segment of the head-fi industry, and Wang, a material specialist with decades of experience in the arts of materials engineering, founded this company together. Using the perfect symbiosis of musicality, technology, design, and innovation, Eletech explores unconventional approaches to developing the zenith of cables.
In CanJam Singapore 2022, they brought three prototype cables for their upcoming “L” series – Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. After listening to all three of them, I provided my honest feedback to Eric. Alpha has a good boost in the sub-bass region, making the IEMs paired with it to be very energetic. It could be a great pairing for those IEMs that are more analytical or colder sounding.
Beta focuses more on the upper midrange and treble, making the sound signature turn bright. This could be a savior for those IEMs that are warmer and too textured. However, I find that some of the details were compromised to achieve the airy and spacious kind of sound signature.
On the other hand, Gamma is probably the combination of Alpha and Beta. Its sound signature is more conservative, boosting every spectrum equally, without biasing towards any of them. Personally, I find the Gamma to be the best choice as I always prefer a cable that is not overly aggressive in altering the IEM’s signature.
FiR Audio is a relatively new IEM manufacturer. It was founded in 2018 by Bogdan Belonozhko, a longtime IEM pioneer. He was the CEO of the well-known 64Audio comapny. He left it to his brother, Vitaliy Belonozhko, and founded FiR Audio with 2 partners, his younger brother Alex Bolonozhko, and a long-time colleague, Daniel.
Initially, FiR Audio produced a variety of necessary and essential accessories such as IEM vacuum tools and a IEM cable tester. In CanJam Singapore 2019, FiR Audio debuted prototypes of their M-series IEMs, from the entry-level M2 to the flagship M5.
In CanJam Singapore 2022, they exhibited their new IEM lineup – the Neon 4, Krypton 5, and Xenon 6. The major selling point of these three models is that they are powered by FiR Audio’s in-house developed Kinetic Bass module. The bass produced by the Kinetic Bass module is entirely different from a conventional dynamic driver’s bass. It has greater penetration capability and it can maintain control of the amount of energy it produces.
Kinetic Bass uses a 10mm dynamic driver that has been ported and opened in an optimized manner directly facing the outside of the IEM shell. Low-frequency sounds are directly transmitted to the ear cartilage and its surrounding area with this method. Via bone conduction, these low frequencies are converted to kinetic energy and reach the inner ear.
A lover of smooth and creamy sounds will appreciate the Neon 4, which do so without sacrificing resolution. In their rich, upper midrange and treble, the Neon 4 stand out from the competition. In addition, their ATOM XS module provides stellar positioning and spatial awareness. These characteristics make for a detailed and immersive listening experience when combined with fast, snappy bass.
In terms of sound quality and clarity, the Krypton 5 provide outstanding performance by delicately handling each note, instrument, and layer. The Krypton 5’s textured presentation is well-anchored by snappy bass with an impactful punch. They are a pair of audiophile IEMs that deliver clear and enjoyable sound. In comparison to the Neon 4, the overall presentation is more open, wider, and detailed.
With Andreas Schmitt at the helm, who has more than 25 years of experience in the production of individual hearing products, InEar provides a comprehensive service under one roof. As far as ear monitoring is concerned, they work according to the principle “by musicians for musicians”. New InEar monitoring systems or enhancements to existing products can be tested live immediately, as well as performing all of the usual laboratory tests.
InEar introduced a pair of entirely new custom IEMs, the ProPhile 8 custom. They have the same sound and features as the standard ProPhile 8, but they are fitted specifically to your ears. The custom model is available in three different faceplate colors: matt black, matt black with “IE” (the initials of our logo) laser engraved, and matt black with a real 24K gold inlay – handmade by InEar’s goldsmith.
Personally, I think it is a good idea for InEar to develop a custom version of the ProPhile 8 because the universal model did create some discomfort due to their deep and sharp insertion. The ProPhile 8 were released as studio-use IEMs, with a clean and balanced sound signature. The 8 BA drivers in the ProPhile 8 are snappy, in fact, they one of the most agile and responsive BA drivers that I have tested so far.
JOMO Audio is founded by a broadcast engineer, Joseph Mou. Joseph has long experience in Audio & Video (AV) mixing as well as signal broadcasting. Inspired by the Japanese word “Takumi” or Craftsmanship Spirit in English, Joseph extended his expertise to the audio industry. He works with experts from the hearing-aid business to craft wonderful IEMs that sound decent in-ear and look splendid in the hand.
In 2021, JOMO Audio refreshed their lineup with three new models, the 304 Boxster, 306 Supra, and 308 Spyder. I had a chance to audition all three models after a short chit-chat with Joseph. Besides these three models, JOMO Audio showcased their new single dynamic driver-powered IEMs, the Cappuccino S100, and a prototype, GT.
The Cappuccino S100 have agile performance with a balanced sound signature. They will be available in mid-April, as both universal IEMs (UIEMs) and custom IEMs (CIEMs). Currently, this model is not listed on the official website.
- Driver: Single 10mm dynamic driver with liquid crystal polymer (LCP) diaphragm in a double harmonic acoustic chamber.
- Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
- Impedance: 15 Ohms
Powered by quad balanced armature (BA) drivers, the 304 Boxster are a pair of mid-centric IEMs with good treble extension. The overall texture is richer as compared to the Cappuccino S100, due to the limitation of the single driver in Cappuccino S100. However, the bass is not as punchy. They have a better layering in the midrange.
The 306 Supra are a more balanced option as compared to the 304 Boxster, with a wider soundstage and even better treble extension. The attack and decay response is agile too. They have snappy bass with thin notes to reduce the coloration in the sound signature. This tuning makes them perfect for monitoring.
The 308 Spyder have a W-shaped sound signature with very precise and noticeable bass performance and a more three-dimensional soundstage as compared to Supra and Boxster.
Personally, I feel that the 308 Spyder embody all the strengths from their younger brothers, making them an almost perfect pair of IEMs.
For those who are interested to know more about JOMO Audio’s lineup, you can visit their official website. The CIEM builder integrated into the webpage is user-friendly and every time I have the urge to make payment for the CIEMs I build.
Kotori Audio is a Singapore-based company founded by Ray Tan, an audiophile and audio hobbyist. Ray can relate to the typical audiophile journey: trying out different products, buying some, regretting a few of them, and accidentally destroying a couple along the way.
Looking at the audio industry over the years, Ray feels that many manufacturers are churning out “new” products simply for business gain and profit, without considering the user’s needs and wants. With all his experience as a consumer, audiophile, and hobbyist, he founded Kotori Audio to offer products and services that minimize the unpleasant feelings that the current market can create with consumers.
Ray brought the prototype of his new IEMs, named Vampire, for fellow audiophiles to have a listen to. There are currently a total three versions of the prototype. I tested all three of them and I find the Prototype II is to my liking as they have a more unique tuning. The bass has more energy compared to the more conventional sounding Prototype I. I am looking forward to listening to the finalized version of the Vampire.
MoonDrop, founded in China, is an IEMs manufacturer that is growing in popularity. There are plenty of raving reviews about this brand – especially highlighting the Blessing 2 and Starfield. These are both highly recommended models by the audiophile community due to their attractive pricing and physical appearance. Besides these two reasons, MoonDrop is well-received by the community because they tune most of their IEMs based on the Harman Target Curve.
MoonRiver 2 Dongle
Moodrop is launching Moonriver 2, a portable DAC/AMP dongle designed for use with mobile devices, tablets, and PCs. The Moondrop Moonriver 2 will compete directly with similar products such as the Lotoo PAW S1/S2, Shanling UA5, and Cayin RU6.
Moonriver 2 features dual CS43198 DAC chips and a fully balanced audio circuit. Premium DAC chipsets offer virtually noise-free background performance and ultra-low distortion.
3.5mm single-ended (SE) and a 4.4mm balanced (TRRRS) outputs are provided. Additionally, the Moonriver 2 uses a dual OPAMP design on its four-channel balanced architecture to provide more output power supporting full-sized headphones with an impedance up to 300Ω.
I “wow-ed” after listening to MoonRiver 2. It is special – with the significant bass boost in the upper bass to create a more musical and fun sound signature. It reminds me of the Chord Mojo after several minutes of auditioning. However, the fun and musical sound signature compromises its detail-retrieval capability. The edge of notes is smoothened to create the musical profile. Nevertheless, it is a great choice for casual listening after a long day of work.
In the Moondrop Variations there are three driver types: a 10mm Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) dynamic driver, dual Sonion electrostatic tweeters (EST), and Softears-designed dual midrange balanced armatures. Each has its own unique sonic properties. It’s theoretically possible for driver flaws to be compensated for by the harmonious interplay between competing transducer technologies.
In addition to the 3D-printed chassis, Variations are made up of a stainless steel panel etched with sashiko-like stitching patterns. Even though they don’t stray too far from acrylic-shelled IEMs’ traditional design, they are a tasteful modernization that feels well-built, durable, and novel enough to distinguish themselves from their competition.
With regard to bass, the Variations’ triple hybrid configuration allows deep penetration into the sub-bass registers while not overpowering the entire sound signature. They offer a well-rounded finish that does not decay rapidly or bleed into their midrange. Moondrop has essentially avoided being too conservative or too liberal in their tuning of Variations’ dynamic driver.
Among the Variation’s best features is their midrange, which features an accurate presentation that promotes clarity, speed, and cleanliness. Even when your attention is diverted elsewhere during listening sessions, the Variations are able to provide above-average levels of detail. In the Variations, the highs are evident and audible, but it is a distant second to the FR’s signature mid-range and robust low-end.
As one would expect from an IEMs in this price range, the Variations display a reasonably large lateral width. They are not a narrow, claustrophobic centered image; vocals and instrumentation have space to breathe and expand.
I am really glad to attend the biggest and most happening audio show in Singapore again, after several postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kudos to all the fellow audiophiles and manufacturers who made CanJam Singapore 2022 an unforgettable one. Besides that, I am excited to see how the prototypes will transform into real models after gathering opinions from fellow participants.
See you guys again in CanJam Singapore 2023. Yong Shun, out!