ETA Ada Headphone Review: Don't Worry, Be Happy

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Feb 17, 2024.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Buy this now.

    Just a mere two days ago, the ETA Ada headphone made an unexpected appearance at my doorstep. Not a whisper from Tommy or Evan preceded its arrival***; it simply materialized out of thin air. Frankly, I had no inkling of its contents; it could have easily been another delivery of delectable Korean snacks for all I knew.

    eta ada.jpg

    Every now and then, a product emerges to fill a void unbeknownst to many. The ETA Ada embodies precisely that notion. These days, my enthusiasm for headphones is rather subdued. Marketing teams often hype up new technology, touting it as a "real" game-changer – yet to me, it often boils down to, "Does it produce sound? Oh, just a different sound." Different, not necessarily better. Then there's the monthly parade of super-expensive orthodynamic headphones, necessitating special components to rectify one or two vexing issues. By the time the setup is complete, we've likely spent enough to put down a sizeable down payment on a scarcely available MSRP C8 Corvette.

    The allure of the ETA Ada headphone lies in its affordability and distinct niche. Its tonal signature is neutralish (with a slight midrange emphasis), while the timbre and transient response are both captivating and natural (those acquainted with Fostex and Sony biodyna drivers will grasp this). The form factor is compact and incredibly lightweight, reminiscent of the Sennheiser HD25 or Beyer 1350. The presentation is open, free from any cup or pad reflections, and the comfort is exceptional, owing to minimal clamping force and soft, smooth earpads.

    In essence, the Ada takes a model like the HD25/DT1350, enhances its openness by discarding closed cups, introduces a slightly mid-centric tonal response without any treble nasties, incorporates a lively sounding biodyna driver, and scales almost as well with better upstream gear as an HD650/600*. This exceptional combination did not exist until now.

    This is why I urge readers: seize this opportunity and buy this now** (if it aligns with your needs). Another reason for this urgent call is to support young innovators like ETA. Companies such as ETA and Nitsch offer us unparalleled sound experiences. Being youthful and focused on direct sales (value), such companies do not benefit from exposure from retailers or resort to paying off reviewers. In recent years, the personal audio landscape has mirrored that of the two-channel gear realm, with prices soaring while returns diminish – it feels like we're taking two steps forward and one and a half steps back. The ETA Ada may never grace the front page of Head-Fi, but it is a gem. Ultimately, we must ask ourselves: do we truly want another shitty overpriced, high-end orthodynamic that only the wealthy can afford?

    IMG_1666.jpg

    * Here's my experience moving from the Piety/MMB1 to the Mjolnir3/MIB using the Ada. Surprisingly, I discovered that the Ada scales remarkably well, reaching a satisfying level almost comparable to my experience upgrading from the HD600/HD650 with better upstream equipment. What's even better? Unlike the HD600/HD650, the Ada performs admirably with very modest gear, such as the iFi GoBlu, laptop outputs, and iPhone dongles.

    **By now, you're familiar with my approach: if I don't enjoy a piece of gear, I won't linger with it for long. Conversely, if I'm fond of it, I'll continue using it. Typically, it takes some time for the Mjolnir 3 to reach its optimal performance level (as owners can attest). Given that the Mjolnir 3 serves as my bedside setup, I usually power it down around ten minutes after it hits that magical state. Sure there is the wanting to experience a new toy factor. However, I didn't bother turning off the system. I drifted off to sleep with the Ada headphones on, likely drooling—a noteworthy departure from my usual routine.

    ***It's truly telling that the ETA team sent this to me unexpectedly, without any pre-planned press release or requirement for a review. I believe they were confident they had a genuine winner on their hands. That level of confidence takes some balls.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 17, 2024
  2. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    not that we want to know the details of your "usual routine" at your beside-
    but who in Shivas name NEEDS or is allowed a MJ3 in the bedroom??
     
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Once upon a time, it was all about the big-boi tube amp next to my bed. But now, the Mjolnir 3 is here, compact and less likely to singe my arms or electrocute the cat. And as for who or why, let's not forget: I'm a minor social media influencer in the personal audio realm. Believe me, it's not the highest-paying gig, but it's definitely a labor of love.

    Measurements coming up...
     
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    Last edited: Feb 17, 2024
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    ETA Ada
    Frequency Response
    (compensated to DF)
    upload_2024-2-19_9-49-4.png

    ETA Ada
    Frequency Response
    (compensated to DF 1/db downward slope)
    upload_2024-2-19_9-49-53.png

    Commentary:

    Bass: Despite a somewhat flat bass response and an early onset of rolloff (albeit gradual, only -3.5db at 60Hz - better than the typical performance of 5" desktop monitors), there's a noticeable warmth and satisfactory midbass punch. There may be indications in the CSDs that suggest the rolloff isn't as pronounced as indicated by the frequency response measurement. (Again, FR only provides partial insights.) I will mention that the Ada doesn't quite deliver the third bass drop (~37Hz) in Daft Punk's "Doing it Right.", but that's OK. Hey, there is a reason for orthos.

    Midrange: While I anticipated a midrange emphasis, I subjectively expected it to occur at a lower frequency around 1.5kHz, rather than the measured 2.5-3kHz. Surprisingly, this bump didn't bother me as much as I would have thought (I generally dislike peaks at 3kHz). Upon reflection, I realized that Grados also exhibit this characteristic. The rationale is clear: supra-aural designs bypass the pinna, which accentuates this range. In essence, a modest bump in the upper midrange from 1.5kHz to 5kHz (peaking near 2.5kHz) is beneficial for supra-aural designs, and the ETA Ada exemplifies this perfectly.

    Treble: It's common for biodyna drivers to exhibit a peak around 7-8kHz, which can be bothersome for many readers of the Super Best Audio Friends (SBAF) community without modifications. However, ETA has successfully addressed this issue. Personally, I didn't perceive any problems with the treble. I tested it using typical tracks from Dua Lipa's "Future Nostalgia" and Alanis Morissette's "Unplugged." If there were any issues with the highs not being smooth, these tracks would have highlighted them. If anything, the treble presentation of the ETA leaned slightly towards the mellower side. Analyzing the Cumulative Spectral Decay (CSD) plots will indeed be intriguing, particularly regarding treble performance. These plots can provide valuable insights into how quickly different frequencies decay over time, which can help identify any lingering resonances or irregularities in the treble region. By examining the CSDs, we may gain a deeper understanding of how well the headphones manage treble energy and whether there are any potential areas for improvement in terms of clarity, coherence, or resonance control.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 19, 2024
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    ETA Ada
    CSDs
    upload_2024-2-17_21-5-5.png
    upload_2024-2-17_21-5-55.png

    Commentary

    • The remarkable cleanliness of the Cumulative Spectral Decay (CSD) floor reinforces my earlier observation about the Ada sounding exceptionally open, free from any influence of pad or ear cup reverberations or refractions.
    • As anticipated, there are some ridges around the 2.5kHz region due to the frequency response bump.
    • In terms of the highs, they appear muted compared to the mids and lows. There are two minor ridges, one just below 8kHz and another at 13kHz. Both of these are minor and dissipate in less than 1ms. I didn't perceive any sibilance or sharpness in the highs with the Ada.
     
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  6. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    I've always wondered whether supra-aural headphones really ought be given the same FR compensation as circum-aural ones, not just because of potential seal issues resulting in earlier bass rolloff but for the same reason you outlined here. Maybe it'll lie somewhere between circum-aural headphones and IEMs, or lean rather heavily towards the latter?

    I haven't gotten ears on the Ada (... or any ETA for that matter, lmao) but impressions of the low end were shockingly irreconcilable with the FR trace you published earlier. CSD definitely bares the limitations of FR out, at least with most rigs below USD 50k in price. Lack of extension (and mud) aside, how'd you characterise the overall bass litheness and tactility against something like the Klipsch HP-3 or AQ Nighthawk, both modded cuz stock is bloated for the both?



    EDIT: Also you still have "bokeh" on the L/R trace names. Maybe just have the title updated and use "LEFT Channel; RIGHT Channel" so you don't have to keep updating those? Minor nitpick, sorry
     
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    Last edited: Feb 17, 2024
  7. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Depends on the coupler :p
     
  8. imackler

    imackler Key Lime Pie Infected Aberdeen Wings Spy

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    I can’t not ask: How is the clamp? More or less than hd25/DT1350? Edit: oops. Missed: “ minimal clamping force”
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    I would expect so, just like how IEMs, that bypass pinna and concha would have their own compensations. It’s problematic because of individuals’ differences of pinna/cocha and corresponding inverse to brain transfer functions, which can vary quite a bit based on existing research.

    Coupler price has nothing to do with it. Witness a while ago when Jude argued there was NO mid-treble peak to the TOTL POS Sony closed headphone. There was a dip in his GRAS measurements, which turned out to be a peak in disguise. Note this happens with regular speaker measurements at times too.
    AQ I just can’t tell. It was tuned to be so bass-poo that no one could tell. In hindsight the marketing that AQ around used around it being voiced by some master tuner is LOLZ.

    ETA Ada does not have the heft of HP-3 or TH900. The Ada is a small lightweight headphone.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Yeah. Barely any clamp. It just rests and the foam material is smooth, not itchy scratchy. I was surprised at its comfort.
     
  11. Josh Schor

    Josh Schor Friend

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    I have an unmoddied HD600 how would this compare to it? I was not crazy about the other ETA that was on loaner.
    best,
    Josh
     
  12. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    That should not be the case.
    Nowadays I think that's just a problem with the HATSs. The B&K 5128 isn't perfect, but its DF target works for both over ears and IEMs for me. This is not the case on couplers using IEC 60711 based middle ear compensation. With a simple straight tube it doesn't work at all.

    That's one of my main goals of my own dummy head.

    However you're right regarding the pinna differences. People with smaller ears will experience less pinna gain, which should translate to less upper mids needed for IEMs and on ears.

    But I really think the inner ear part is the most important bit, at least based on my experiments so far. The outer ear has less of an effect.
     
  13. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    The industrial design of these has He-Man vibes.
     
  14. Beefy

    Beefy Friend

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    Forgive my ignorance, but how are the cups in Eta headphones formed? It looks like SLS 3d printing, in maybe poylamide/nylon....?
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Yeah 5128 is noice. I had saved up enough, planning to buy one, but realized that would be incredibly stupid. Considering how secondary “accurate” FR measurements are to me, that money can be better spent on mid-engined sports / GT cars or paying off a mortgage.

     
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    Last edited: Feb 18, 2024
  16. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    Looks like a casting

    Edit: Looking at their website it appears 3D printed. The O² is also similar looking and the layers are easily discernable
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2024
  17. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    I love how the MDR-Z1R was so bad value that, up to now, people still poke fun at it (I do too cuz I've had the opportunity to demo it several times over the years in store settings). Treble peak aside, it was the weird midrange and superfuzz bass that really ruined the overall presentation. I feel like using a nicer upstream would have ameliorated a lot of those complaints I have with it, but... meh.

    Also I keep forgetting about tone in text: my jibe about coupler price was facetious :p
     
  18. spoony

    spoony Spooky

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    It's still FDM but perhaps it is carbon-reinforced nylon (Or polycarbornate?)
     
  19. tommytakis

    tommytakis MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    FDM 3d printing with Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polycarbonate :headbang:

    we spent a lot of time tweaking the parameters and material type to get to the quality we have for Ada :)

    We’re considering a similar process to SLS for our TBD flagship, code name “purple”
     
  20. Beefy

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    Awesome, thanks. It didn't look like either FDM or polycarbonate on first glance, but the carbon fibre definitely explains the look. I also thought PC would be a bit stiff and brittle, but again, carbon fibre solves that.

    If it's not a trade secret, I'd be curious what printer is producing these. I run an Ultimaker at work....
     

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