A detailed look at (and listen to) the newest IEMs and portable sources.
Last year, CanJam Singapore 2022 was a subdued affair. The world was gripped in the throes of Covid. Thankfully, one year later, most countries have “opened up.” Indeed, CanJam Singapore 2023 came at a highly opportune time – the country just downgraded its Covid framework back to normal as of February 13.
The event occurred at the 5-star Pan Pacific Hotel in the heart of the country’s Central Business District. Many tourist attractions abound, and this area is highly accessible to the country’s excellent public transport system.
Singapore is known as an audiophile mecca because of the vast number of audio retailers dotting the island. Some adventurous folk flew in earlier to explore the eclectic selection of audio shops before the actual CanJam started! I truly hope they had enough money left over for the event itself!
The exhibition was well-organized, the vendors were well-spaced, and no hiccups were encountered. Despite large crowds, it was orderly, and the waiting time to test out popular gear was acceptable.
Without further ado, here are (in alphabetical order) some of the booths containing new products and prototypes! This is a sneak peek at some of the up-and-coming hype-trains!
The Jam are a more expensive brother, with an added BA.
I concur that these two siblings are fine options for musicians.
Legend has it that an audiophile has to sell 64 kidneys just to afford a pair of 64 Audio IEMs. Having tried some of their TOTL IEMs, I actually wouldn’t mind selling a kidney or two to get my paws on one of them!
The U4S come with four Apex modules to vary the sonics. Technically, these hybrids are no slouch, but when stacked against some of the more expensive 64 Audio brothers, the U4S are notably less resolving.
The A&ultima SP3000 is considered TOTL, and this CanJam debuted a copper chassis variant of this renowned DAP.
The usual stainless steel version has the Astell&Kern technical house sound with excellent detailing and an expansive soundstage. This new (gold-hued) copper SP3000 is warmer, with a thicker note weight, slightly less resolution, and more silky mids.
The Empire Ears Odyssey IEMs are a collaboration with Astell&Kern.
The Odyssey are bassy. Technicalities are okay but not class-leading when compared to similarly-priced big boys. There was also driver flex present, and I wasn’t too impressed on first listen.
The Supermoon, a custom planar set, feature top-notch technicalities and transients, but the timbre was a bit unnatural.
The Andromeda Emerald Sea have the quintessential green shells of the Andromeda lineage, though they have smaller housings and an updated tuning.
Compared to the predecessor Andromedas, the Emerald Sea are very thickened in the lower midrange, which muddies music. Technically they were up-to-scratch – imaging is a headline – though vocals are pushed behind, and the treble is lackluster. The usual complaint of BA bass found in the previous iterations is still present.
The Trifecta have iffy fit, horrendous driver flex, and sub-par technicalities. I laud Campfire for trying to chase a more adventurous tuning choice with something more bassy than a “reference” sound. However, the execution is poor, with mid-bass bleed and a wonky tonal balance marring the Trifecta’s soundscape.
Elysian Acoustic Labs
The Elysian booth had reprises of the critically-acclaimed Annihilator and Diva, showcasing 2023 variations with the same namesake. These updated models have cosmetic and internal wiring differences, but the tuning is generally untouched.
The Diva 2023 are just a step behind in technical chops, though they are a bit less in-your-face.
The bone conduction tech seems to be no gimmick, as the Raven have a visceral sub-bass rumble!
Despite the copious bass, this frequency band is implausibly controlled without impinging much on the midrange – this is a really tough line to balance!
The big kahuna, the flagship Grand Maestro, are an upgrade over the Maestro SE. They feature switches to activate vocal and stock modes. In stock form, they are a laid-back L-shaped pair with a huge yet agile bass.
If Fatfreq could find a midpoint in bass quantity between the Scarlet and the Maestro Mini, that would be the bee’s knees!
Two newer models designed for gaming were displayed.
The higher-end Black Moon are thicker in note weight with a more laid-back tuning.
Even though the Black Bronze and Black Moon are meant for the gaming crowd, they are fine specimens for music appreciation and critical listening!
The Studio 4, as per their namesake, have 4 BAs per side and are designed for professional audio work.
The Radon 6 are compatible with Fir Audio’s ATOM venting modular system, which changes air pressure and bass quantity. Thus, the Radon 6 can be tuned with four modules, providing a palette of different nuances to the sonics.
The limited edition Jomo Alpha TI are truly exclusive – only 39 units will be sold worldwide. Sporting a diverse configuration of Knowles BAs, 2 DDs, and a piezoelectric tweeter, the Alpha TI are tonally balanced with exemplary technicalities.
The Linsoul booth was constantly packed.
The 7Hz Legato can literally rattle the jaw with gigantic bass reverberation!
While they aren’t a technical tour de force, bassheads will definitely have a field day. The Legato are perfect for bass-forward genres such as hip hop and EDM.
A well-known recommendation for budget connoisseurs, the neutral bright 7Hz Salnotes Zero have a legitimately superb price-to-performance ratio.
Nowadays, it is truly amazing what sub-USD$20 can provide in terms of sonic fidelity.
The Kiwi Ears Orchestra Lite are an 8 BA set, espousing an agreeable neutral-warm tonality with good technicalities.
The Viking Ragnar are a bright U-shaped pair with good sub-bass extension.
The Ronin are a smooth neutral monitor-type transducer with first-rate technical chops.
Astonishingly, flatheads made an appearance!
Earbuds – AKA flatheads – have a cult following; they are neglected orphans overshadowed by more mainstream IEMs and headphones. In essence, earbuds are closer to open-backed headphones than IEMs, providing a spacious soundstage at the expense of isolation.
Pislo brought three earbuds to the show. Granted, a showroom floor may not be the best place to audition something with negligible isolation, but I easily spent an hour at this booth!
The PXVV are Pislo’s entry-level earbuds, fashioned from wooden shells. While 99% of earbuds contain cheaper DDs, these puppies accommodate a full-range piezoelectric driver, which is extremely rare for a flathead. Costing USD$674, they also come packaged with a DSP dongle.
Pislo’s flagship, the PXTI, also house piezoelectric drivers and are a PXVV on steroids.
The company intends to release the Totem, a USD$400 pair of earbuds with traditional DDs, in the latter half of 2023.
The Navigator is neutral and powerful; its estimated price is about USD$200.
The Final Audio counter was also incessantly thronged with crowds. Other than a spread of Final’s well-regarded gear, there was a Getcha raffle that drew many curious audiophiles.
These tips are highly sought by audiophiles for taming treble, and some of these latest tips even glow in the dark!
Have you ever wanted to tinker and tune your own IEM? The Final Make 4 can let you do that, with nearly endless possibilities.
In stock form, the Make 4 have a warm and pleasant Harman profile with a wide soundstage.
Beyond the stock tuning, these bad boys have 3000 (yes, you read that correctly) permutations in the tuning via rear and front nozzles (adjusted via variations in the screw depth), dampers at the vents, and different placement of the driver and chambers.
It is no exaggeration to call the Final Make 4 a mind-boggling Final Fantasy for DIYers!
Sadly, the Final reps report that only limited quantities of the Make 4 will be produced worldwide.
The ZE8000 are one of the more impressive pairs of TWS IEMs I’ve come across.
The Melodic Artification Eclipse are a USD$1400 dual DD prototype; these were placed at the Project Perfection kiosk for user feedback.
The Tiger are a safely-tuned U-shaped hybrid with a sub-bass focus.
The Kara are a smooth mid-centric hybrid, though the final tuning is not finalized. They have great technical chops, and vocals are very addictive.
“Soothing” is the keyword to describe the Kara.
Crinacle’s Project Red are a sub-bass focused dual DD set with average technicalities. The eventual tuning is up in the air, but from what I hear, there’s a big mid-bass scoop, so these IEMs may not suit bass-forward genres like EDM and hip hop.
Overall, I found the IE200 to be nothing special. The treble is grainy with a lack of excitement, and technicalities are bang average.
Singaporean brand Subtonic has drawn much interest with the Storm IEMs. I hear the Storm as neutral with a sub-bass boost. Bass is fast and clean, the technicalities are exceptional, and they are absolutely well-tuned.
The Meteor are a 4 BA set that are L-shaped. Technicalities are quite good (other than an intimate soundstage), with an agile bass presentation.
Their planned sequel, the MEST MK3, have good coherence with first-rate technical prowess. They are a worthy successor to the MK2, as the MK3 are even more technical!
Vision Ears needs no introduction, and this brand is one of the big boys at the SummitFI peak. The company intends to launch a 10th-anniversary model this August called the VEX. Consumer feedback was garnered at recent CanJams regarding two different tunings the company has in mind.
The different tunings were covered with red and blue foil.
Wired For Sound
There are five different acoustic chambers to play with:
- Stainless steel + birch wood module
- Brasa wood module
- Aluminum module
- Brass module
- Copper module (stock)
A local Singaporean brand, KITO, was also present at this booth. KITO makes its own bespoke earpads from protein leather, lambskin, and velour.
Zeppelin and Co
Last but not least, I paid a visit to Zeppelin and Co’s vast array of berths, with the company covering a large multitude of brands.
Various AAW prototypes were displayed and planned for release in the coming months.
The ASH+ are a sequel to the original ASH.
There were two Canary Pro specimens with different tunings. The AAW rep wanted to obtain critique from respondents. Variant A have class-leading technicalities with a “reference’ tuning, and this was preferred by most of the floor (including myself). Variant B were more “fun” but not as technical, and the latter weren’t as fancied.
The PW Audio Biscuit are a 6 mm single DD pair retailing at USD$748. I found them overpriced, as although the tuning was quite safe, with reasonable technicalities, the soundstage was intimate with poor bass texturing.
The newly released Cayin N7 DAP features a musical yet resolving sound with outstanding technicalities. Imaging and soundstage stand-out in particular – the N7 truly gives an expansive stage that surrounds the ears. Additionally, the timbre is exceptionally organic.
The Hiby Zeta are a mild V-shaped pair with above-average technicalities and good clarity.
The NW-A306 is a spiritual successor to the nostalgic NW-A55. It is sleek and light, and very portable.
Caveat Emptor! The NW-ZX707 DAP is volume-locked, with no high gain option available for Singapore, EU, US and Canadian versions!
Singapore has no volume regulations, so I’m not sure why Sony imposed a volume cap on this DAP – it is literally not usable beyond easy-to-drive gear. On forums, it seems some die-hard Sony fans have resorted to importing international versions at additional cost to bypass this volume-lock conundrum.
I previously tested the higher-end WM1AM2 and WM1ZM2, but my other half wouldn’t let me buy those (haha, some battles cannot be won). Well, temptation calls like a siren, and there’s no harm in taking a small listen to them at CanJam, right?
These TOTL DAPs are successors to the first editions of the original WM1A and WM1Z respectively, with the WM1ZM2 boasting greater soundstage, technicalities, and dynamics than the still excellent WM1AM2.
Argg, my ears have been spoiled after hearing the W1MZM2, and it seems the humble DAPs in my home can’t measure up to it! I still dream about the W1MZM2 every night (sigh).
CanJam Singapore 2023 was a well-attended and successful event, with hordes rushing into a frenzied rabbit hole of audio toys. Many up-and-coming gems and delightful tastes of audio pearls are on the horizon.
Undoubtedly, many audiophiles temporarily scratched their Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) itch during this convention. There will surely be gnashing of teeth, though, once the CanJam visitors return home, only for their significant others to discover how much money was burned on their new shinies.
I’m joking! This event is priceless, and it was great catching up with friends and fellow audiophiles. Wherever we are in the world, we are all united with our love for music and gear!
Until the next CanJam, take care and enjoy the music!