The buzz was palpable as I stepped off the escalator onto the conference floor at the Marriot Marquis hotel, where CANJAM New York City 2022 was revving up within shouting (or at least screaming) distance of Times Square.
Many of the major headphone (and a few non-headphone) brands—Abyss, Audeze, Cardas, Dan Clark Audio, HiFiMan, Meze—were present, as were some upstarts and less well-known companies: Ambient Acoustics, Auribus Acoustics, BGVP, Denoki Audio, Eletech Cables, Grell, In Ear, Jerry Harvey Audio, Linsoul, MusicTech, See Audio, Soundcore, Strauss & Wagner, and several others.
Headphone amplifiers were nearly as abundant as headphones. Ampsandsound, Centrance, Chord Electronics, Eksonic, Mytek and Rupert Neve were busy pumping out tunes. And let us not forget show-sponsor Qobuz, the source of many of those tunes.
I began my day, after much caffeination, with Brooklyn-based Mytek Audio and its founder, Chief Design Engineer, and CEO Michal Jurewicz. Introducing the much-anticipated (footnote 1) Empire Streamer DAC ($24,995), Jurewicz gave me his million-words-a-minute product description—where’s the fire, dude? Accurately dubbed “the tall wizard” by Herbert Reichert (footnote 2), Jurewicz, is a graceful individual, always upbeat.
Jurewicz’s cost-no-object advance on state-of-the-art streaming DACs, the Empire is the result of five programmers working for two years. It’s milled from a single block of aluminum. Its DAC is isolated from EMI/RFI with a Faraday cage. The Empire uses two ES9038PRO 8-channel chipsets, one chip per channel, in a dual-mono, balanced configuration. The Empire has three power supplies.
The Empire Streamer is not just Roon Ready; it comes with a Roon Core installed. It is MQA capable, has no moving parts, and plays back PCM up to 32/768 and DSD up to DSD512. The Empire includes nine analog inputs including up to four phono inputs, both MM and nickel transformer-based MC, and two balanced line-level (XLR). The Empire has two independently selectable outputs, one each balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA). DAC inputs include S/PDIF (electrical and TosLink), USB, HDMI, and “Roon End Point,” which is Ethernet. Storage is an internal 8TB solid state drive. The Empire weighs 20lb.
The Empire is beautiful, its sculpted façade tilted upward toward the operator so that it’s no longer necessary to crane a neck or bend a body to see the controls.
Jurewicz was also showing the Liberty DAC 2 ($1495) and Liberty THX AAA Headphone Amp ($1495)
Footnote 1: It certainly is much anticipated by me, since I’ve been looking to review it for more than a year. As with many other products, its development and production were delayed by pandemic-associated parts shortages.—Jim Austin
Footnote 2: I could definitely be wrong, but it seems like I’ve seen Herb refer to more than one hi-fi designer as “Tall Wizard.”—Jim Austin
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