Showtime: Fujiya Avic Summer Headphone Festival 2024

Posted on 8th May, 2024

Showtime: Fujiya Avic Summer Headphone Festival 2024

Cheryl Tan returns to Japan to report on one of Asia's best head-fi events…

After attending last year's Fujiya Avic Summer Headphone Festival, I was ecstatic to realise that my recent trip coincided with the Spring Headphone Festival, making up for my absence from CanJam Singapore this year. It was a fantastic show, with quick demos available for many recently announced products just now coming to market. 

The show's highlight had to be Noble Audio's booth, where the American brand showcased the newly announced FoKus Apollo headphones, an array of IEMs, and some true wireless earbuds offerings. Announced just over a month ago, the FoKus Apollo is planned for a June release in the US, and this is the first time we're seeing the headphones here in Japan. The headphones were also available for demo at CanJam Singapore, so they've certainly been making their rounds in the Asia region. 

We managed to speak to the Noble team and give their wares a quick test. Claimed to be the world's first patented dynamic and planar magnetic hybrid headphone design, the FoKus Apollo had thumpy, textured bass with a good amount of sub-bass. The vocals felt airy, and the instrumental separation and staging were precise and well done. The ANC performance is rated at -35dB, and the headphones boast a battery life of 80 hours without ANC and 60 hours with ANC on, which is impressive. Priced at US$649, we expect this product to be released in Japan and Asia shortly after the US launch.

The FoKus Triumph was also on display. Announced in late March, these earbuds are interesting as they feature a Cowell xMEMs driver in addition to a 6.5mm dynamic driver. The former are relatively new and have been well received due to the improved sound quality they afford, thanks to faster transients and better treble. During a quick audition of the Triumph, it was clear that this driver helped to push the vocals a little more forward – while keeping them nice and clean, with distinct instruments and good stereo separation. 

Bass was less hefty compared to the more expensive FoKus Prestige, due to the larger 8.2mm dynamic driver in the latter, and the sound was a little cooler too. Priced at US$369, the FoKus Triumph has just started shipping, so we're looking forward to it being more readily available in Asia in the coming weeks. 

Moving on to another pair of earbuds, the new Final Audio Z8000 MK2 was also available for testing on the show floor. Released in late 2023, this new model was designed to be an improvement over the original Z8000 in terms of ergonomics, sound quality and more. The new 'Shield Fin' ear tips are comfortable and provide a secure fit. Even though I only got to try them for a brief listening period, it did feel like it wouldn't cause any fatigue or wearing pain even after longer periods. 

As for the sound, the treble range was the standout, with a sweet and energetic top end that had decent extension and provided detail and airiness in equal measure. Bass was impactful and delivered plenty of thump and warmth to the overall sound. The midrange felt a bit crisper than the original Z8000, and the vocals were slightly more forward, resulting in a more intimate soundstage.

There were also plenty of headphones and amps on the show floor, and it was a delightful surprise when I chanced upon the Austrian Audio booth showcasing the Full Score One amplifier paired with the brand's flagship The Composer headphones. The sound was stunning, with excellent clarity and openness. Mids and highs were rendered beautifully, with an expansive soundstage thanks to the open-back design. Unfortunately, this also meant that the music competed against the loud and noisy show floor, making for a less-than-optimal listening experience. Despite that, however, the headphones impressed me.

The Full Score One amp was also a delight; it had plenty of power and gave an incredibly clean sound with no noise. Of course, this was on a show floor and in quieter settings, perhaps one with more sensitive ears would be able to hear more clearly, but it pairs incredibly well with The Composer, as expected.

Another pair of high-end headphones were on display in the same room, and it's even more limited, with just 300 units produced and sold worldwide. I am referring, of course, to the newly announced Audio-Technica ATH-WB LTD. Announced on 4 April 2024 and released for sale just one day before the Headphone Festival, plenty of us had to wait in line to experience this headphone. Based on the ATH-WB2022 wireless headphones launched in celebration of Audio-Technica's sixtieth anniversary, the ATH-WB LTD is a wired offering that uses the same three-layer wood housing for the earcups with flame maple, walnut and mahogany. Inside is a new 45mm HD driver with a DLC-coated diaphragm that's tuned for wired connections.

The first thing that came to mind when listening was how incredibly smooth the sound was. It had a less bass-heavy inclination that let midband details such as vocals shine. There was a touch of warmth, thanks in some part to the wood used in the earcups, and the soundstage was spacious. This limited edition pair of cans is priced at S$2,339 or ¥286,000 (approximately US$1,816).

The new Meze Audio Liric 2 headphones were also present and looked even more stunning than the originals. Now equipped with Macassar ebony wood faceplates for the earcups and improvements to the sound quality, these headphones certainly live up to our high expectations for products from this brand.

A new Quarter Wavelength Resonator Mask has been fitted into the earcups behind the new magnetically detachable earpads, covering select openings in the driver frame to attenuate any high-frequency peaks from the closed-back Isodynamic Hybrid Array driver. Thanks to that, the Liric 2 now has a clearer treble presentation that shouldn't affect sensitive ears so much. The overall sound is warmer too, with a slightly recessed midrange that still retains detail and accuracy. Bass has been boosted slightly here, offering welcome punch without getting too boomy. The soundstage is phenomenal, with pinpoint accuracy when it comes to tracking moving instruments and percussion. The music feels like it's surrounding you rather than just in your head, which is bliss when you want to close your eyes and enjoy the listening experience. 

Finally, we have a little gadget from Lotoo that's being kept on the down and quiet for now. The LTTP Transmitter WT-1 is a dedicated transmitter that's developed to wirelessly connect the brand's high-end Mjolnir audio player to source devices like PCs and smartphones while enabling lossless connection. An important point to note is that the transmitter is technically still under development, although the product we saw is essentially the finished product and the brand is looking to launch it officially after the Munich High End Show, so most likely around June or July. 

LoToo has developed a proprietary transmission protocol that supports all music streams and provides hi-res audio up to 24-bit, 96kHz or lossless audio up to 24-bit, 48kHz. The device came with both a USB-C and a Lightning connector, and while the USB-C didn't work with my iPhone 15 Pro Max, the team noted this was a known issue to them specifically for this iPhone model. The USB-C connector worked flawlessly with an Android device.

Once everything was connected, I listened to the Mjölnir portable audio system, paired with the Sennheiser HD660S2 headphones, with music streaming from the Android smartphone. The connection was incredibly stable, with no lag or stuttering, even on the busy show floor. The team also mentioned that while support is limited to the Mjölnir for now, the LTTP Transmitter will eventually work with other Lotoo DAPs, although it will be only for new products coming out soon. We also heard that there's a new Lotoo DAP set to be announced in August, which should support the transmitter, so that's something to look out for. 

It was great fun checking out all these new products, even some that haven't been released in the West yet. The Munich High End Show is shaping up to be seriously special!

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    Cheryl Tan's avatar

    Cheryl Tan

    After diving down the custom IEMs rabbit hole since she was 18, Cheryl has embarked on a long journey trying out as many audio products as possible ever since. She’s still waiting for the day a company can create a pair of true wireless earbuds that sound just as good as wired earphones.

    Posted in:Headphones HiFi Show
    Tags: noble audio  final audio  austrian audio  audio-technica  meze  lotoo 

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