I have dealt with Uncle Wilson and Claire of Jaben since I was only 16 with them supporting me since day one but with them being in Singapore I have never had the opportunity to meet them. With them attending the CanJam in London though they were finally coming to my neck of the woods and Wilson got in touch to arrange a meet up. Unfortunately I was busy the weekend of the show but I really wanted to get to meet Wilson and he also seemed really keen to show me these new earphones, which he claimed was a new type of hybrid. I was obviously intrigued so made the short trip on the train into London to see what Jaben are up too and also by chance I was introduced too Mr. Pendulumic (Chris Chia), which was a great surprise. Both men were good guys and it was great talking to them and getting a background from both men and their respective companies. Wilson especially is crazy to talk to as he is THE headphone collector. I mentioned the new orpheus (?) and he was telling me how he owns two of the original. He also owns 4 sealed AKG K1000 (a headphone I still hope to try one day), an Abyss, two Final Audio Design Murumasa which are one of the rarer headphones out there. You could say I am a bit jealous and I would love to visit Singapore one day just to wonder at this amazing collection.
This was the new hybrid he wanted to show me and it was certainly worth the trip. It was being marketed at the show as a hyperdynamic earphone but the actual technology is that a standard dynamic driver is mounted behind a Piezoelectric transducer, which is commonly used in buzzers and the likes and never before in an earphone. The design is without a crossover and the two drivers just synergising, I don’t know exact numbers of frequency ranges but naturally the piezo driver handles higher frequencies.
Now looking at the picture you can see they are a simple earphone and that is because they are an early prototype and the shell is purpose only, they will look different when a finished product. Depending on how much that will end up costing the price is still not decided but I know the designer is hoping for under $200, which let me tell you is just bizarre. My first impression of this was of the soundstage, it was SO wide, I am talking as good as I have heard in any CIEM, maybe even JH Audio Roxanne levels. On top of that it had great balance, something that is needed for an earphone to be great, not trying to be bassy to fit in with their price range. The whole earphone seemed at ease with what it was doing and only showed off great ability, the demo was quick but the sound did not show limitations of price and even using two drivers it sounded coherent. I listened before asking a price and was expecting him to say this new brand will be going in at the deep end with a top tier priced model, well apparently not.
Hippo are one of Jaben’s brands along with GoVibe and hippo always make great value gear such as the ProOne IEM and the DAP that came before this, the Biscuit. Like this Biscuit this is a tiny music player but this outing we have gained a screen. I also believe this too support more file formats, most of the common ones such as FLAC, WAV and MP3 (No ALAC) and also up to 24/96, which is not shabby for the size and the $88 price tag. The navigation seemed basic and the sound seemed clear and linear but was a bit of a hard comparison seeing as I had just been listening to my reference rig (PWAK120-B and ALO RX), which as you would hope sounded light years ahead. That being said, it will be interesting to take a longer journey into the performance of this as while it probably will not be a giant killer, value might end up being really nice.
It also had a really cool feature in having micro SD card holders, so it has 1 working slot that takes up 64gb card and two pseudo slots for storage, smart right.
GoVibe PortaTube II
The original PortaTube ha been around from before my time so it makes sense that this DAC/amp gets a modern update. It has ticked off some boxes like DSD capability through a new DAC chip and also had the analogue section tweaked for better performance although the tubes remain the same. The front plate was also unchanged with the gain switch remaining and the option to use either a 1/4 inch output or a 3.5mm jack. I only tried with my Heir Audio 10.A and while the gain was on low power was still a bit high for IEMs, it hissed a lot less than I expected for something I know has some power (although will not quote exact specs). The sound was warm and bold and there was a great size to the soundstage. I think this could end up being a cheaper alternative to ALOs CDM, hopefully I can compare the two in the future.
The surprise of the day was to also get to try these wireless cans that I have see quite a bit of excitement about over the last 6 months. Chris had the original Stance S1+ full sized circumaural model with him as well as the brand new prototype of the superaural Tach T1. I will only do a quick impression of the S1 as my sample has already arrived but it combined light and comfy with very acceptable sound, going up against any wired options in the sub £200 category I can think of, such as the Sennheiser Momentum etc. The T1 was actually a more expensive model that at first I found a bit off seeing as it was an on ear design that are normally cheaper than over the ear but with the additional features you start to understand why. It was still super comfortable with no clamping pressure, folded down nicely and had some cool stuff like being able to output the BT signal it is receiving so you can daisy chain wireless headphones, how uber cool is that. The sound is still being fine tuned and while it was more controlled in the bass the the S1, I found the mids a bit further back but I am told this will be sorted and it will likely end up sounding superior to the S1. More on this company and product in an individual review anyhow, there is a lot to say but I will save that for another day!
Tach T1 Pictures
Volume Control Knob
Reviews Coming Soon
All this stuff will find its way to me in a finished form so we can expect much more detailed reviews over the coming months but it was still worth bringing to your attention some of the new gear that will be coming available soon.