BLOG #34. A Saturation Point? - Some Personal Impressions From RMAF/CanJam-2017

We decided to pause a little and not to exhibit at the CanJam@RMAF-2017 in Denver (6th-8th of October).

The decision was based not only on our general exhaustion from recent travelling or financial consideration; it was based mostly on the plan to spend more time at the show looking around and to have several important meetings there – I’ll provide details on those in a due time - without being chained to manning a booth.

Actually, this time the ”main” show, that is Rocky Mountain Audio Fest’s home audio part of it, was much better – in demoes sound quality and in terms of the number of visitors there – than I anticipated.

Some demoes there were, really, quite exceptional, for instance, Vandersteen/Brinkmann (digital)/VTL/Audioquest demo.

The only question I could not find an answer for at the show was where all the money that keeps this “circus” above the water comes from.

Nevertheless, my main focus was on the “portable” part of the show – The CanJam@RMAF-2017.

On the opposite, the expectations from it happened to be true: not much unexpected (considering that we’ve been exhibiting at the previous CanJam in London in July).

From all the new offerings at this show, for me, the only significant one happened to be the new Campfire Audio “Polaris” IEMs ($599 Retail in the USA).

I auditioned it a few times during the show, and every time I was hugely impressed by their resolution and seamlessness (considering its “hybrid” design).

My only reservation is that its fit (despite all the attempts to change the materials and sizes of their tips) meant that all the time I had to constantly press both IEMs to the ears with my fingers; otherwise, they just wouldn’t stay in my ear canals, let alone to isolate them…

Which brings me to the general complains on the wearing comfort of our own IEMs: every IEMs’ manufacturer claims 100% “universality” of their designs, but they – with just a very few exceptions, notably, ER-4 – never deliver it.

While we, never promising such “universality” of our IEMs, deliver their 100% (sonic) “optimality” in a package in which, if they are, OK,  successfully inserted in an ear canal and isolate it, at the very least, then in a such a state they securely stay there.

One lasting impression from this show is that an “Arms Race” in portable audio is full on: every new event sets a new price record almost in its each category.

Is this “positive” dynamics reflected sonically?

I am afraid not.

In my opinion, like for many last years in home audio, the main reason for that lies in the fact that the vast majority of the manufacturers are stuck in going through the (same) motions in terms the technologies they use.

Beating the same horse, that is “squeezing the last drops of quality” from the established technologies, will never bring any sonic breakthroughs.

And even compared to the stagnant home audio part of RMAF, where real innovation is unheard of – particularly, cutting edge deqx demo comes to mind - at this CanJam I didn’t see anything that can be qualified for some new and radical approaches.

The latter seems to prove that portable audio, as a whole, actually, still can’t break from its pedigree of being largely a “mid-fi” industry which, whatever the sonic cost of such an inertial disposition, always tries to avoid any attempt to “rock the boat”.

  That’s why it comes as no surprise that I heard some numerous talks at the show about a saturation point, allegedly, reached by the portable audio industry.

  Although, personally, I’ve got all the reasons to disagree.

  But if I analyze my own impressions from a perspective of an “average” CanJam@RMAF-2017 show visitor, you just can’t help but to (reluctantly) agree with that last statement.

17.10.2017 // Author:  (Bigmisha) // Number of views:  210

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