NYC CanJam Makes Sweet Sounds

In Gramophone Dreams #51, I flat-out raved about Feliks-Audio's made-in-Poland "Arioso" integrated amplifier ($6999). This black, stealthy looking, single-ended 300B stereo speaker amp mated extremely well with my Falcon Gold Badges. During the months I worked on my review, I tormented engineer-designer Lukasz Feliks with at least 100 questions via email, but I didn't meet him in person. So what a joy it was to see the face behind all those emails—he's on the left in the photo above—and the smiling faces of his two partner-brothers, Piotr (center), and Michal (right). I like meeting the minds behind the gear I review.

The Feliks Audio Envy

The second big surprise was seeing Feliks Audio's newest creation: an 8W 300B headphone amp called "Envy," which comes in an exquisite wood chassis that supports one Psvane CV181/6SN7 voltage amplifier/driver tube and one TJ 300B power tube per channel. The Envy costs $7999 in standard oak and $8799 in what Feliks calls "Performance Oak."

The Wi-Fi in the Marriott's auditorium was weak and intermittent, so there was no Tidal or Qobuz at the show; exhibitors were forced to use whatever local files they brought with them. My search of the Feliks Brothers' hard drive revealed no Yuja Wang or Patsy Klein, so I used HiFiMan's power-hungry Susvara headphones to listen to the Doors' "LA Woman" and "People Are Strange." What I heard using dCS's $13,650 Lima DAC-Streamer as a source and Cardas cables inspired me to ask for a review sample asap.

The Dan Clark Audio Blue Hawaii

Dan Clark Audio

I auditioned Dan Clark's original Voce electrostatic headphones when they were first introduced, using Headamp's spectacular-looking and spectacular-sounding Blue Hawaii electrostatic headphone amplifier. If memory serves me, the Hawaii's saturated, satin blue faceplate was made extra-luminous by these same violet-blue Marriot hotel lights. I remember perfectly though how the Voce added a satisfying breath of human warmth and rhythmic persuasion to a to a Stax-like experience (specifically a Stax SR-009S–like experience). At the time, I thought the Voce was probably world's best electrostatic headphone—until the supernatural-sounding Stax SR-X9000 arrived and beat it to the championship wire by a nose.

Dan Clark Corina

Now Dan Clark has a new flagship electrostatic called the Corina. It costs $4995, and, based on my brief listen in a noisy room using a green Blue Hawaii ($6999) and a silver Schiit Audio Yaggdrasil+ DAC ($2299), it may have taken the lead in the 2023 Electrostatic Derby.

In the world of headphones, competition to be best-in-class is fierce and keeps these annual CanJams exciting.

In concert with Andy Regan, President of Dan Clark Audio, and Richard Tydings of AB&T Sales Corp., I arranged for my review of Dan Clark's new Corina to include a Blue Hawaii amplifier, in any color as long as it's blue.

THE Woo Audio Meze Audio system

Meze Audio, Woo Audio

Before I show you more pricey, fancy-britches audio, you must see and grasp the sheer beauty and wonder of what I considered the #1, highest-value system at CanJam NYC. This system consisted of three pieces: Meze Audio's new $799 "109 Pro" headphone, Woo Audio's classic $1499 WA2 OTL headphone amp, and Woo Audio's brand new $399 "Phantom DAC Cable," which almost invisibly connects your laptop's USB output to the WA2's line input. Yes, you read that right.

I dragged at least five experienced-listener friends in to hear this modest system, and they all agreed: The system was delivering a major portion (maybe 80%?) of the sound quality of the best stuff at the show. In concert, these three components were my biggest discovery at CanJam 2023.

Woo Audio's cable DAC

Woo Audio's plug-n-play Phantom Cable DAC—a DAC in a cable—deserves a big chunk of the credit, because at $399 it has no right to make music that flowing, supple, colorful, and un-digital. It wasn't soft or hard sounding. Color, tone, and texture-wise I liked it better than almost any under–$2k DAC I can think of. If you think I'm exaggerating, you must listen for yourself.

The stylish, sensitive (112dB/mW) Meze 109 Pro's dual-membrane 50mm open-backed dynamic driver headphone outplayed and out-comforted any under-$2k headphone I can remember using. This much resolve and musicality at only $799 is top show news all by itself.

And then there was that tube-rectified Woo Audio WA2 6080 tube OTL amplifier. It is a perfect example of what I love about today's best headphones: They make 2A3, 300B, and OTL tube amps (my favorite kinds) a viable choice for discriminating headfi listeners. This amp could be an end-game model for headphoniacs favoring high impedance headphones.

Maybe if I had looked harder, I would have found more setups of similar value and quality; but even being at the show all day both days was not enough time for me to try every one of the scores of amp-DAC-headphone combinations available for audition. My apologies to all the other crazy-good ones I missed.

rschryer's picture

...for that Woo Meze combo. It sounds like my cup of tea.

Hopefully, I'll get to hear it at the Montreal show later this month.

Anton's picture

Woo/Meze, I agree!

I had been saving up for the REL/Schitt combo, but you provide strong motivation to rethink.

Herb Reichert's picture

the RAALSR1a/b – Schiit Jotumheim

that's a whole different ballgame

I'd keep saving and buy both


Anton's picture


I have been jones-ing for those RAAL babies since I read your review.

Plus, 'slip in and slip out' replacement or future upgrade panels is such a great idea.

ok's picture

..means actually delicious.