ETA Mini C Review and Measurements (A new standard for closed headphones?)

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Aug 5, 2022.

  1. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    From the Mini S thread, which has identical size to the C -

    They also ship with a soft drawstring bag for transport purposes.
     
  2. spoony

    spoony Spooky

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    You can see them folded in this post.
     
  3. gotflute

    gotflute Rando

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    Thanks @spoony : I should have seen that. Not even buried deep in a thread. :( Will try to be a better "thread supporter" going forward.
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    LOL, it's OK. The downsides of a forum format. Feel free to ask questions in any of the pertinent review threads. You'll usually find plenty of people willing to answer.
     
  5. gotflute

    gotflute Rando

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    Well... I just pulled the trigger on the closed variety. Looking forward to getting them in a couple weeks, and I'll add to the impressions, with some comparisons to my existing (albeit small) collection.

    Glad to be back in the buying game, after a long break.
     
  6. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    Can anyone recommend a well fitting, not expensive, semi or hard case for transporting the Mini C that would provide a bit more protection that the soft drawstring bag?
     
  7. Gazny

    Gazny Friend

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  8. spoony

    spoony Spooky

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    Yep, ATH-MXXx carrying cases should fit nicely, ones meant for the MDR series should also work and be a bit more compact.
     
  9. loadexfa

    loadexfa MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Loaner Impressions
    I'll be adding to this over the next couple days before sending them off to the next person. Overall I think they sound great! I found the semi open a little fatiguing, I think there may be some peak(s) in the upper mids or something. For this reason I focused my time with the closed. I am picking up a small amount of this fatigue with the closed too but it's much better suited to my hyper sensitivity and I am still able to enjoy them.

    I think the Mini C is a LARGE improvement over ETA's previous offering and I am very tempted to buy the closed. If I ever need to work in an office again, these will probably become a must buy for me. The FR sounds mostly even to me and I'd categorize them as "neutral". They are a bit mid forward and the upper mids are a bit strong for my taste, especially the semi open version.

    They are super light and comfortable and I think they look cool. There is a bit of clamp, I think it's light enough that most people won't find it an issue. The pads are pretty small and fit a bit over and on my ears which doesn't detract from their comfort for me.

    iPhone
    Early thoughts:
    I first tried them out of my phone and I thought they sound good though after hearing the Mini C from the SFD-2/Stratus it's harder to appreciate them from my phone. o_O Obviously an absurd comparison and this doesn't say anything bad about the Mini C. They are enjoyable from a phone which is useful considering their portability.

    Round 2:
    After updating to larger earpads (see next post) the sound quality improved noticeably. Bass and slam are most noticeable but it's more than simply them. I tried comparing to my Airpods (3rd generation) and wow, thanks for making my Airpods sound like shit. The Airpods are very lacking in refinement, resolution, and aren't as cohesive. The Mini C has better timbre too. The iPods do some interesting "spacial stuff" which can sound cool but after listening to the Mini C this just sounded like weird fake staging. If I stop comparing the two and hear a new song on the Airpods they sound fine again. It's when I compare that their flaws jump at me. Of course this comparison is also absurd considering the price difference but whatever, I had to try a portable comparison. The Airpods are MEGA PORTABLE and I can use them for biking. The Mini C wins in every other way.

    After trying the iFi, I think direct from my phone gets you about 60% of the way there. They're good and can get even better. For the Stratus/SFD-2 I would say it was more like the phone did 40% and that was with incorrect fitting pads. I'm glad the Mini C scales. :)

    SFD-2 -> Stratus
    (Note this was before "Round 2" for the iPhone listening or any iFi listening)
    I was really pleased these scaled up after trying with my iPhone. I already thought they sounded good but wasn't sure about the price point. The Stratus put that concern to rest, now I feel their pricing is good. Their tone and timbre are very good, resolution and refinement are what I'd expect for this price range, they don't hit too hard as closed backs tend to, and I think they have good tuning. I compared with my LCD-4 (RD modded) and of course the price points between the two is absurd. Still, this helped me appreciate how well their tone and timbre held up which is great. Against the Auteur Classic they don't have as much bass but don't feel light in that area. They don't have the ZMF cozy blanket tone either but the Mini C still holds it's own. I'm good with tonal variety (makes for some fun flavor) as long as it isn't dry.

    For resolution and refinement, each of the headphones I mentioned fall in line with their price point which is expected.

    I tried various genres (jazz, pop, classic rock, among others) and the Mini C was good with each. I generally don't bother with classical because I'm too enamored with the HD 800 in this category.

    iFi micro iDSD BL
    I followed E_Schaaf's advice about trying the larger pads (see next post) and they are a noticeable improvement. Bass and slam are increased without either of them being too much. The Mini C sounds great with this iFi, a really good portable combo for an upgraded sound (over direct from phone). I compared against my HP-1 (RD modded) which is in the same price range once you factor in the modding cost. They both sound great and each have different strengths. The top and bottom extremes are more extended with the Mini C as well as harder slam. The HP-1 has a unique tonal richness and the mids sound more filled out, possibly due to more resolution. They are both excellent choices, it's more a matter of flavor preference.

    Minor Nitpicks
    The cable is terminated with a 3.5mm plug and an adapter for 6.35mm is not included. I have one so it's not a big deal but this feels like an oversight, especially earlier in my audio journey when I didn't have various cables and adapters. There also isn't a L/R indicator on the cable.

    Final Thoughts
    If you're in the market for good quality, neutrally-tuned, portable headphones these should be a strong consideration.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 4, 2022
  10. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    Thanks for taking the time to review :)

    Did you get a chance to try the larger earpads for the Mini C? I included those for folks who may have larger ears or who can't seem to put the whole ear into the earpads which is how they're meant to be used. Having a complete over ear seal is *extremely* important.

    In the future if anyone needs instructions to adjust the headband for fitment and clamp, I can send images with notes via DM. With correct adjustment it can fit virtually any size head from a child to a watermelon with any degree of preferred clamp.

    Edit - it would be cool if I could get some help from a moderator (@jexby ?) to merge impressions together into this thread, they are awfully spread out right now and I don't want things being confusing for folks reading from the front page. Other links: here and here
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2022
  11. loadexfa

    loadexfa MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Ahh, thanks @E_Schaaf I’m not done and will be sure to try the larger pads now that I know. Thanks! I’ll also add to/edit my original post to keep things clean.
     
  12. gotflute

    gotflute Rando

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    My order arrived, and I have had them a little over a week. Work/family invaded my free time, so I haven't had the chance to critically listen and share with the group. But I wanted to share something after some casual listening, as well as thank the group for the recommendation.

    @purr1n ‘s initial comments re: timbre are spot on. Most of the my listening has been to classical music, and the instruments sound natural and “correct”. This is the biggest takeaway, and I look forward to comparing them to my Stax.

    If I were to describe the sound, using these at the office through the dragonfly, would be polite.

    More to add when I run these with Gungnir—> Magnius.

    (thanks again for the recommendations and the advice)
     
  13. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    It depends on how they are driven: A&ultima SP1000M DAP: polite and a bit lacking in bass; Hugo 2: quite forward, muscular, firm bass.
     
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  14. gotflute

    gotflute Rando

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    Well: that is great news! I now even more looking forward to testing them with different equipment!
     
  15. spoony

    spoony Spooky

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    Be reminded that, like with many closed headphones, Mini C performs as intended with a proper seal, if you experience lack of bass double check that you are getting a good seal around the ear.
     
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  16. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth Damsel in distress, ZMF Whore

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    ETA Mini C Impressions

    While similar caveats for my recommendation of the Mini C are similar to the Mini S, in my eyes the Mini C is easier to justify and the one that I would recommend more. It really is as simple as the fact that the Mini C is closed, and most closed headphones I tried have some...issues...that prevent me from wholeheartedly recommending them. I'm just going to say it; I recommend Mini C over the old Focal Elegia and other closed headphones, so if you have a need for a closed headphone I feel Mini C contends with the best kilobuck options. If Mini S is a home run, the Mini C is a grand slam in my eyes.

    Sonics

    In direct comparison to its semi-open sibling, the C is a bit slower in transients and overall a bit more laid-back in both overall character and tone. The little dip the C has in the upper midrange is definitely real (and I would argue desirable), and the C in particular comes off as a bit mid-centric. For those in the two channel realm, it's a bit mid-centric somewhat similarly as the Aegir is somewhat a bit mid-centric as an amp (although obviously it's hard to compare an amp to a transducer). I absolutely don't mind the slight mid-centric nature of the C at all, as it's only a slight emphasis and I actually slightly prefer this to the tonality of the S. Those of you who know my tastes shouldn't be too surprised (ZMF whore anyone?).

    Just like the Mini S, the Mini C is amazingly normal, and I think the slightly more laid-back nature of the C makes it seem even more normal than the S. The C also just doesn't seem to do anything wrong (although you could argue that the C has slightly more sins of commission because it's mid-centric, although the S has a bass emphasis so they're probably tied in this regard). I've never heard a closed headphone before that just didn't have some wonkiness/sins to contend with, and that includes ZMFs (yes, ZMFness by nature is wonky). In a closed headphone, I'm mightily impressed. Seriously, kudos to the ETA team!

    Just like Mini S, the C just doesn't seem to scale; the C might scale slightly less than the S (the S I think is slightly more transparent to the chain due to its semi-open nature). However, in the case of the C, I think it's meant to be used portably and this is completely acceptable. Both headphones do a lot with what they do resolve; although just for the record, the old Elegia is "moar resolving" than the Mini headphones.

    The realm of closed headphones has had way too many turds, and some of them really expensive. The only ones that come to mind which I enjoyed is Verite C and Atticus, both which cost way more than the Mini C. And neither of the latter two can be stowed away and used with just about any source and sound good (plus some people just don't like the ZMF sound).

    Comfort

    I said this in the Mini S thread, and I'll copy and paste it here because I have the same observation:
    Again, I need to stress that this probably affects less than 1% of the population and it could probably be fixed with some manipulation of the headband.

    Conclusion

    I very much recommend the Mini C to anyone who has any sort of need of anything portable, or even just someone looking for a closed pair of headphones. Simply put, Mini C is pretty much everything you want in a portable headphone (okay, maybe minus the wireless stuff with ANC if you really need that, but if you're looking for that stuff why the fuck are you reading this).
     
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    Last edited: Oct 27, 2022
  17. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    @ChaChaRealSmooth speaks with the truth.

    returning to a couple days of "back to the office" the Mini C is a perfect musical companion, so much improvement over Apple AirPods Max.
    current simple chain is: iPhone 13 Pro running Roon ARC, lightning-usb-c cable to the superb iFi Gryphon and mini C headphone.
    such a small and transportable package delivering greatness, it's almost scary.

    One day a budget desktop DAC (TBD) + Nitsch Piety amp will likely become the rig to keep the Mini C flowing.
     

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