ZMF Headphones

zmf

#1

Beginning with highly regarded wood-cup modifications to well known headphones like the Fostex T50RP, ZMF Headphone owner Zach Mehrbach has progressed his work and designs from those modified OEM units into developing his own lines of headphones from scratch - using his own drivers, chassis, bands and, of course, continuing the use of artisanal quality high-end wood-cups.

Expanding beyond headphones, ZMF now also offers cables and a new tube-based headphone amplifier, the “Pendant”.

Per the ZMF website:

In the USA, near Chicago Illinois. I have a small workshop and each set is made to order, specifically for each customer.

You can think of us as your local farmers market type of headphone builder or a small instrument building workshop who values its customers and makes an extremely high quality artisan product.

Our goal is to make the best sounding headphones for the best price possible. Cater to each person’s needs, as each headphone is made for a specific individual, and careful attention is paid to requests, for no extra charge, unless a material cost is required. Above all, we take pride in what we do, and want to make sure each headphone lasts its current owner a lifetime.

This is the spot to discuss ZMF and the brand as a whole.


#2

In the last week, ZMF launched pre-orders for two new lines of open-backed dynamic headphones … first the “Aeolus”, billed as an “open-backed Atticus”, and then the flagship “Vérité”… which features a Beryllium coated PEN driver unique to ZMF.

The Vérité was my favorite headphone of the recent Canjam at RMAF 2018, and I’ve already placed my pre-order for the LTD version (in Pheasantwood) with polished steel hardware.

Very much looking forward to getting those, especially as I get so much listening pleasure out of my Eikon … I have to be careful using them in comparison reviews as I have a habit of just sitting and listening to them and not getting any more reviewing done …


#3

Oh wow, what a stunning setup.


#4

I’m a huge ZMF fan. Currently I’m looking to pick up the Verite and compare it to my Auteur. I may end up selling the latter just because I can’t afford to own both, but currently it’s my favourite can. Something I’ve always wondered about too is how they do on tube setups vs my balanced SS amp. I like the fast transient speed that it gains on my IHA-6, but I still feel like there’s some experimenting to do with that Pendent, or if possible Glenn OTL.


#5

It’s been a slow day at work, and I’ve been listening to the Aeolus (LTD Ziricote version) and comparing it to my Eikon. The Eikon has been my favorite headphone since it released.

Despite the Aeolus being billed as an open Atticus, I think the description isn’t as apt as some might think. It does keep that Atticus emphasis on mid-bass, but it’s much less thick sounding and definitely has a more neutral production than the “Neutral? Yeah, I’m not even going to pretend I’m neutral” freq response of the Atticus. Sub-bass is represented well, but like it’s big brother the Atticus, it is less present than the mid-bass. Despite this, I feel the Aeolus presents a more even, rich but not thick, laid back signature. I feel the Atticus goes the other way, and unapologetically lays the gravy on thick and heavy.

Aeolus seems to be on par with the Eikon on treble quantity, and it presents a more spacious presentation to the music as well. It does have less treble and headstage than the Auteur though. Overall, the Aeolus doesn’t seem peaky or overdone in any area of the treble, and provides enough oomph here to keep things exciting and alive while still remaining a safe choice for us treble sensitive folk.

The Eikon has more sub-bass rumble, a benefit of being closed and a Bio driver headphone, but the Aeolus is still very enjoyable for electronic music and feeling that deep rumble. Aeolus also seems a little more even in the mids than the Eikon. Mids just have a touch more presence to them, again owing to it’s Atticus bloodlines, whereas on the Eikon some things get emphasized and some things don’t. Don’t get me wrong, that’s part of the Eikon’s charm, but the Aeolus just seems more cohesive here.

I can see people calling this a dark headphone, but I think there’s more to it than that. ** The Aeolus isn’t trying to be neutral, but it’s FR is still smooth and has a pretty even response. It just seems to gradually slope down from the mid-bass into the treble.

If I had to sum up the Aeolus, I would say it is the love child of an Atticus and Auteur. The Auteur family traits have tamed the wild side of the gene pool, while also lending a more open and spacious quality, and more comfort too. The overall family resemblance is unmistakably Atticus though.

Now… here’s a confession. I owned the Atticus. I eventually moved on from it, as I thought it was too tonally thick and syrupy, and ultimately didn’t fit my preferences. The Aeolus on the other hand is NOT like this, and I’m having a wonderful time listening to this for hours at a time. If you were not a fan of the Atticus, don’t be shy on the Aeolus. I’m willing to bet that it will really surprise you.

** I also think the term Dark gets overused way too damned much. As in, WAY to bloody much. It’s like, anything that isn’t a HD800, Beyer, or Utopia is dark. You freaking treble-heads… just stop it! I think there should be a Dark baseline we can use for meaningful comparisons. Let’s call it the AQ Nighthawk scale, and start doing comparisons from there. eg. - The Aeolus is only 4/10 on the Nighthawk scale. =P Anyway… enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving everyone!


#6

My favorite way to run the Eikon’s is off my big tube-amp.

And I generally find all higher-impedance cans do extremely nicely with a good OTL tube amps. Even with the basic Bottlehead Crack, on it’s stock tube, the Eikon is an intoxicating listen.


#7

That was very informative thanks. I learnt a good deal of information. :+1:


#8

I just recently jumped on the Verite pre-order (couldn’t resist). I had the same confusion about some impressions thus far describing them as “dark”. Like, if you look at measurements, there’s more air up top when compared with the Auteur (which is fairly neutral), and yet it has slightly less treble energy at around 7k. Does that make it dark? or bright? I agree 100% with your assessment that the term is overused and not entirely helpful, but in my mind the only thing the Auteur was lacking by just a hair was that extra air up top, being a semi-open can. So my guess is that “warm with a bit of air up top” is maybe the better description of the verite if that’s even possible, considering there is a bit more midrange emphasis and W shape. I’ll be doing a thorough review when I get mine in.


#9

I have the Verite back and hope to begin finalizing my review and comparisons with the other ZMF cans I own. Hope to start that after the Thanksgiving and Black Friday stuff is over.


#10

#11

I stumbled across people talking about them last week. I almost was ready to get them, but fortunately for my wallet they were all spoken for. They look like they could be serious contenders for " Kill of the Hill ". I’m sure you’ll let us know when you get them.


#12

It’s kind of interesting and an embarrassment of riches for our industry (and us as consumers that we can consider buying $2000+ headphones and all of the negative compounding that goes with them, i.e., amps, dacs, etc), but I have a feeling Zach’s stuff will never be king of the hill. I think this, mostly because you’ll always have a detail monster competitor like the Big Company utopia or Senns, etc. Zach’s dynamics seem to have a unique sound (and style) that people either like or move on.

I’m surprised at the number of people that have both moved on from their ZMF Original closed-backs, and then those that have kept them:

  • Surprised at the number of people who’ve sold, say, Eikons, because why would you want to get rid of Eikons? For me, you either know you want an heirloom closed-back or you don’t, but hey we’re all fickle.

  • Surprised at the number of people who’ve kept them because there are so many great new offerings, it did seem like the Eikon/Atticus could get left in the distance as that thing that was cool for a few minutes.

In any event, I’m super glad to have my Eikons & Atticus, won’t be selling them, and would probably consider only the Verite for an open-back if I ever have a need for one (which I can’t see happening any time soon).

I’m actually hoping Zach creates a new top-of-the-Zach-line closed back based on the Verite. Hint @zach915m Hint. I’d love to see this before any planar, but … business is what it is …


#13

No doubt headphones have reached extremely high prices. By the same token, research, engineering, voicing and marketing must cost a tidy sum. Including the fact there will always be the next one that is even being thought of to replace the new one. I’ve never had any ZMF products. My comments about King of the hill are only about the hype I’ve read. I am too often a victim of that. I will reserve that comment until I listen to them. Who knows they may even make it to the Loaner Program @torq (hint, hint)

I do think the Big Companies Focal, Sennheiser and Audeze ( I had to add them ) since I ove their bass, imaging and other aspects. I’ve owned the Utopias and always thought overall they were not worth the $$$. They were one of the fastest phones I’ve ever heard, but I was not fond of the lack of depth for me. I can say I loved the Clears and no doubt think they are one of if not the best value for the $$$ in the industry. In fact I loved them more than the Utopias. I regret having sold my Clears and know they will soon make a return visit to my home.

My apologies for getting close to hijacking an intended ZMF thread to anyone who might be offended,


#14

It’s a nice idea, and I’d love to see them there - but unless Zach wanted to put gear into that program it’s unlikely to happen, at least in the short term. Community Preview Program gear is currently all provided by headphone.com - so if it is not something they’re a dealer for then it’ll come down to the manufacturer wanting to put their gear out there.

That may change in the future, but I imagine it would be heavily dependent on there being a lot more participation in general, and a larger Core Team base, to make it happen.


#15

I agree with you here, the Eikon is still one of my favorite closed back headphones to date!


#16

Came across Dave Hanson’s review of the Verite: http://enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/1218/ZMF_Verite_Over_Ear_Headphone_Review.htm

I’m getting more and more excited for mine to arrive.