Audio shows are back with a vengeance, which I can attest to having attended four shows in three months, with a fifth falling on the heels of that which we won’t be covering due to the lack of a sponsor for that show. The Texas Audio Roundup was a different type of show than the others in that it had more of the feel of a Head-fi meet than a full-blown high-ticket audio show as there was a greater sense of community, of audiophiles just coming together to have a good time and listen to different audio products rather than a money-making event. In fact, it was free to the attendees, as well as, the exhibitors I believe. The event was sponsored by Schiit Audio and Emotiva and I send out a rousing high-five to Denise, Jason, Dan, and their crews for hosting such a spectacular and enjoyable show. I would also like to thank Denise and Jason for sponsoring my coverage of the show.
The fun started at the gate as both Schiit and Emotiva were handing out free T-shirts with the approximately 300 attendee badges, and Emotiva was also handing out Raffle tickets for drawings on both days of the show (I drew my attendee numbers from the Raffle ticket numbers called out the second day of the show as they were sequential and started with 001). The intimate nature of the show was exemplified by the fact that they handed out one-page maps rather than show booklets.
Schiit Audio High-End Headphone Room
I started my tour of the show in the Schiit Audio High-End Headphone Room which featured a host of headphones including a sampling of the fantastic Grado Headphone line brought in by Rich Grado himself, and offered the amazing new Schiit Folkvangr 10 tube Headphone Amplifier as centerpiece. Despite its ridiculous over-the-top appearance, listening to the Folkvangr and Bifrost 2/64 (which offers a NonOverSampling switch to bypass the Schiit digital filters for those who prefer a less musical and lifelike sound) through the Dan Clark Audio Stealth Headphone and ZMF Atrium Headphones was an unmatched experience in natural and realistic at-the-performance sound. Another exciting find was the new Lyr+ which was shown with a choice of two tubes to demonstrate the advantages (and ease) of tube rolling with the Lyr+.
Zampotech North America
Zampotech North America is an importer who intends to bring in the Shortest Way 51+ Tube Headphone Amplifier from Russia which was designed and is built by a hobbyist who goes under the moniker of Zampotech which became extremely popular on the headphone forum Super Best Audio Friends. The sound quality of the Rockna Wavedream DAC through the Shortest Way 51+ driving the ZMF Atrium Headphones was very impressive and is something to look forward to if they come to market, best of luck guys.
Donald North Audio
Donald North Audio (DNA) was showing their wonderful Starlett Headphone Amplifier and Stellaris Headphone Amplifier using a Schiit Yggdrasil as source. Eye catching and musical.
Another company to grow out of the hobbyist community is NITSCH the brainchild of Christian Tanimoto, III who was formerly Custom Products Senior Product Manager for Massdrop. He currently has two products he intends to bring to market, the first of which is a limited run of the NITSCH Schiit Magni Piety Headphone Amplifier, a fully discrete amplifier based on the Jotunheim 2 in a Magni chassis, which did not see the light of day due to parts availability, though there was apparently enough to make a small run. The second project is a recreation of the extremely popular ECP Audio DIY DSHA-3FN Headphone Amplifier (an original ECP was on display for your listening pleasure). Changes to the original include the addition of a single-ended RCA input and switch, and a more compact case with wood side panels rather than a wood top (this may in fact provide better ventilation). In keeping with the hobbyist theme, Christian had a large selection of custom-modified headphones provided by friends in the community. Of note was a pair of Audeze LCD-X that offered a much more balanced and natural tonal balance than the originals, and a spectacular pair of Sennheiser HD800s that sported custom 3d printed hear cups that had all the open airiness of the originals with actual bottom-end.
Eddie Current was showing their fabulous Studio B Headphone/Loudspeaker Amplifier with a pair of KJF Audio Frugel Horn Mk 3 DIY Loudspeakers using Fostex FE-E Sigma drivers, and Grado RS-1X Headphones, with a Schiit Yggdrasil as source. The sound was simply sublime.
Schiit Budget Headphone Room
Schiit had a second Personal Audio area presenting their more budget-oriented products including my all-time favorite headphone amplifier the Schiit Vali (at this price no one should not own a tube amp).
Talk about big splash, apart from their main showroom that displayed their extensive comprehensive product line including, preamps, surround-processors, mono-bloc amplifiers, two-channel amplifiers, multi-channel amplifiers, amplifier modules, DACs, CD players, DAC/headphone amplifiers, loudspeakers, subwoofers, headphones, Bluetooth receivers, wireless subwoofer systems, and cables, they had a theater room demonstrating a Dolby Atmos system with four 12″ subwoofers. You can say they shook the house. As an added bonus, they had a separate two-channel room to show that they perform as well with music as home theater.
As mentioned above they had two drawings where they gave away a ton of gear including cash certificates, headphones with DAC/amps, processors, amplifiers, speakers, and subwoofers. They even had a moment where they let the audience choose the prize. Dan seemed to have a great time giving away his hard-earned money.
Schiit Gaming Room
There was a room with three gaming computers set up with Schiit Hels driving various headphones.
The best sound of the show definitely goes to the Magnepan using a system similar to the one I used for my first review for HiFiAudio.Guru (Here) composed of the Schiit Vidar Amplifier and the new improved Magnepan LRS Plus Planar Magnetic Speakers, along with a Schiit Freya Preamp and a Marantz CD6007 CD player. Wendell Diller was also demonstrating a new prototype Dipole Subwoofer with twelve 6″ drivers using a second Vidar. The sound was simply jaw-dropping and one could only imagine how great the sound would have been with a high-resolution source.
Dan Clark Audio
No Hi-Fi show that touches upon Personal Audio would be complete without Dan Clark Audio, and Dan himself was in attendance demonstrating his spectacular headphones including his unmatched Stealth Planar Magnetic Headphone, my vote for the best sounding headphone out there (with the possible exception of the Dan Clark Audio VOCE). Never to sit on his laurels, Dan gave me a preview of a new upcoming headphone that has to be heard to be believed, so keep an eye out for great things on the horizon.
Schiit Two-Channel Loudspeaker Room
Emphasizing the community side of things as well as the intent to just have fun the Schiit two-channel loudspeaker room featured an enormous pair of home-built speakers that were very reminiscent of professional PA speakers in both appearance and sound. Driving these were two Schiit Tyr Nexus™ And Continuity™ Choke-Input Monoblock Amplifiers being fed by a Schiit Freya Noval or a Schiit Freya+ (both were available for use) and a Schiit Loki Max Remote Control, Pure Lc, Relay Potentiometer, Fully Discrete Nexus™ EQ, from a Schiit Yggdrasil DAC. Of note, after hours on Friday, a DAC shoot-out was held where several DACs were swapped out proving just how wrong some DACs can be, as at least one had a completely different tonal balance from the others (DACs should simply not make as much a difference in the sound as was experienced).
Audeze was also in attendance with the extensive selection of headphones including their two flagship reference headphones the Audeze LCD-5 Planar Magnetic Headphone and Audeze CRBN Electrostatic Headphone, and their brand new MM-500 Studio Monitor Headphone.
Last on the tour was ETA Headphones who were showing two versions of their 50mm graphene diaphragm headphone, the ETA Mini Closed a closed-back version with Sheepskin Leather earpads and the ETA Mini S a semi-closed-back version which had velour earpads.
Needless to say, a great time was had by all, and I for one look forward to future such endeavors.