The most impressive thing I heard at CanJam I think would have to be the new JH-3A system from JHAudio. It’s a system because the JH-3A consists of a chassis containing a DAC/amp and an IEM — buyer chooses either the JH13 or the JH16. What makes this such a revolutionary, first-of-its kind device is the fact that the crossovers that feed certain frequency ranges to one of the 3 (low, mid, and high) registers are no longer passive ones built into the IEM shells themselves, but are active ones that reside within the chassis.
This allows the DSP to dynamically reassign certain ranges of the frequency spectrum to different drivers as the music plays, which apparently is lifting a very significant bottleneck that passive crossovers impose. Correction: While the crossover points can be tweaked in the software, they are apparently NOT changing as the music plays as I assumed from the word “active”. See The Active Crossover for a better idea.
When I put the demo pair of foam-fitted JH16’s in my ears (each of the 4-5 times I did) I was simply floored. I mean I’m already used to the superb performance of the JH13, but the sound from this system was nothing short of breathtaking. The detail was some of the most impressive I’ve ever heard; the soundstage was truly beautiful — and not just for and IEM. The sound was wonderfully clear as crystal, in a very good way. It was analytical and euphonic at the same time. The bass knob lets me choose how much bass I want to hear. (Jerry says it can be made to sound essentially just like the JH13 this way.) The DAC/amp is portable with 20 hours of battery life… It’s… exactly what I was looking for.
I got to spend some time with Jerry Harvey, chatting about the system. Since the system wasn’t quite production-ready, the demo included some sort of development box underneath the unit and a netbook that was using some emulation software to allow us to manipulate the volume and bass sliders that will ultimately be controlled via the physical controls on the front panel. They were feeding the JH-3A box with an iPad via an analog line-out dock.
The unit has a 24bit/192kbps capable DAC and a 3-channel amp. Each of the three amps is dedicated to each of the 3 registers of sound in the IEM. In the case of the JH16, we have 2 drivers for the high end, 2 drivers for the mid range, and 4 drivers for the bass. That bass control I mentioned is now able to act not as an EQ as such controls typically do, but actually manipulate the level of the bass amp discretely, entirely independent (literally and audibly) from the rest. The rear of the device will have a mini-USB input, and the front has a minijack input that will accept a digital coax signal, or an analog one. Since the device is manipulating the amp levels all in realtime to pull off the active crossover, the signal must always be digital before the amps. So consequently, even an analog input must be converted to digital inside the device before becoming analog again for your ears. So, a fancy DAC will not help us at all here — we’ll always rely on the D to A abilities of the device. Thankfully, they seem to be very good.
And speaking of restrictions, because the IEMs are without crossovers themselves, they rely exclusively on the box, and the box relies exclusively on the IEMs. In fact, the box is digitally tuned specifically for the IEM shells. No two people will get the same IEM or box.
In the end, this system sounded just too damn good to pass up. I plunked down the plastic and am eagerly awaiting some quality time with Jerry’s new innovation.
More info can be found on this Head-Fi thread.