ZMF Atrium Headphone Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Mar 20, 2022.

  1. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Moving the Atrium loaner on to next person. Tweaked my impressions, giving it better headstage (on many tracks - but not all) and a bit more microdetail/plankton than I did at first. Really enjoying it with some rock (such as Perl Jam) that is not normally in my rotation, especially out of the more "relaxed" Lyr + (vs. Starlett). The lack of fatigue over long listening sessions is another real plus. I'm buying one, which tells you what I really think in the end.
     
  2. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    ZMF Atrium Loaner Impressions

    First of all, many thanks to @zach915m and @ChaChaRealSmooth for the opportunity to listen to these gems!

    Preamble

    I don't generally post lengthy impressions, mostly because I'm not as eloquent as most of the Friends here, but also because I feel like I can't convey everything I want to say about a particular piece of gear and rather than miss anything, I'd rather not say anything at all (I'm dumb like that :rolleyes:).

    However, I feel the Atrium deserve that I at least try! They are that good ;).

    I think @Tchoupitoulas's impressions and @Boops's comparison with Utopia are spot on and I'll refer you to their impressions for more detail.

    Preferences
    • I'm in my mid-30s and never had a proper hearing test :p
      I think I can hear up to 16kHz, but I don't generally care that much about such high frequencies
    • When it was time to choose between K701 and HD650 10 years ago, I went the former route (mostly because I got a good deal for them) and since then I tend to gravitate towards bright(er) headphones (HE-4, HE-500, HE-6, Utopia, LCD-R) paired with warm(er) electronics. I'm used to a bump in the presence region (4-6kHz).
      aside: I actually boost the Utopia a bit in that region with the Lokius
      Note: if I was to do it all over again, I would definitely pick Sennheiser... Most likely the HD600.
    • I have and love the Utopia and LCD-R
    • I briefly owned the OG Auteur (Blackwood), but sold them because I found them too muted for my taste (despite loving them at the ZMFestivus a few months back. Go figure.)
    • Critical listening = lying down in bed with lights off and eyes closed
    • Music selection includes a lot of rock (classic, hard), blues, folk and some OST (Gareth Coker, Thomas Newman)
    Setup
    • Media: Qobuz, FLAC files (Roon)
    • Source: Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra (USB) + LPS-1.2 -> Intona SuperSpeed USB Isolator + other LPS 1.2
    • DAC: Rockna Wavedream XLR Edition (USB)
    • Amps: ECP T4 (Utopia & Atrium), Jotunheim A (LCD-R)
    My DAC and headphone amps run off of a Furman P-2400 IT isolated power conditionner (90lbs of pure goodness :p). The source runs off 2 isolated LPS-1.2 from a separate wall outlet.

    I use the Schiit Lokius with my Utopia to tweak the sound a bit more to my preference. I'll post a picture of the knobs shortly.

    I use the built-in EQ of the Jot A with the LCD-R (too bright otherwise).

    Configuration

    I loved the sound of the stock Atrium so much that I didn't bother swapping pads. So the only configuration I listen to is the Vented mesh with Universe perforated lambskin Pads.

    Build quality / Looks / Comfort

    There's no question @zach915m creations are works of art! The Atrium is not exception and while I generally prefer a more modern "wood look" for furniture and other decoration (lighter wood with black metal trims), the look of the aged cherry cups with aged copper grills really resonated with me!

    Build quality is great and the comfort is much better than my Blackwood Auteur, both due to the lighter weight and the new Crescent strap. I can wear them comfortably for a couple hours at my desk before the weight becomes tiresome.

    The west coast loaner's headband was a bit looser than normal, but comfort wasn't impacted and the lesser clamping made it actually more comfortable while wearing glasses ;)

    The main downside for me is the bigger cup size (compared to Utopia), which makes them less comfortable to wear while lying down in bed. The cups push down on the pillow and they tend to sit a bit further in front of my head than I'd like. The LCD-R has the same issue (in addition to having knives next to your ears ready to bite your Helix :rolleyes:).

    Cables

    The first day I used the ZMF Stock 4-pin XLR cable (the one with a cotton sleeve). I found the headphones lacked clarity and I felt the overall technical performance wasn't worth the asking price, especially next to the Verite.
    After swapping cable for my Forza Noir Hybrid, I immediately changed my mind :cool:
    I'd recommend using at least the ZMF OFC cable with these. The stock cable won't do them justice.

    Impressions

    In a nutshell, the Atriums are the best stock headphones I've heard. The combination of an even handed presentation, the impressive slam and head-stage, the sublime timbre and the lack of apparent weakness makes for a compelling listen, especially in the long run.

    The things they wow you with at first (slam and head-stage) won't come and bite you later on, as is so often the case with premium headphones trying to wow you with certain aspects of their rendition.
    My main headphone being the Utopia, I'm all for slam and I never find it tiring on my setup. I find the Utopia and the Atrium pretty similar overall, although they both focus in different parts of the spectrum (upper-mid & treble vs lower-mid and bass).
    Head-stage, as long as it's not HD800-like, I can never get too much of and the Atrium deliver in that respect! They do sound a bit bigger than the Utopia (probably thanks to the bass extension) and both sound nicely 3D. The Utopia pulls ahead with its pin-point imaging that makes it a bit easier to hear into the soundstage.

    Timbre is the second thing that struck me, and it left such a lasting impression that I was really missing it when I parted with them. Like (I imagine) a drug addict in need of his fix, I felt in need of that glorious Atrium timbre. So much so... that I ended up buying a pair!
    I suppose it is a bio-cellulose thing, as I remember feeling the same way about the TH-900. Although it was much easier to let go of these, given how Fed up their FR was... :eek:

    The tonality is really spot on for me and I don't find them dark at all in the stock configuration. Like I said, they are the best tuned stock headphones. I EQ my Utopia to my preference and I use the built-in EQ in the Jot A with the LCD-R. These don't need any compensation and just sound great with most of my music. Only on some occasion did I feel the ~5kHz region was a bit too much, but I'll attribute it to shitty mastering :rolleyes:
    For comparison, the Auteur OG were too muted for me and the Vérité (especially the closed ones) sometimes sounded wonky with vocals, as if W-shaped.
    I'm curious to hear how the Auteur Classic and Atrium compare in that respect, as I have seen them both referred to as "ZMF neutral" and their FR is clearly not the same.

    As far as technicalities, yes, ultimately it is not quite up to Utopia (and possibly Vérité) level, but it is not far off and is certainly not something I would have picked out listening to the Atrium on their own. I think they are closer to the stock LCD-R and I consider both top-tier headphones, no question.
    I would probably rank the headphones like this: SR1a <= Utopia < Vérité <= Atrium = LCD-R < Stellia < Auteur OG = Clear

    Conclusion

    As a whole, the Atrium are probably the best stock headphones on the market today. Sure, they don't have the ultimate resolve or transparency of an Utopia, the openness (and planar timbre, for those who are into that) of an LCD-R or the speaker-like staging of the SR1a, but they are still very strong in all those aspects and they combine that with the most agreeable tonality and a timbre to die for that makes you want to listen to your entire collection (= they are not genre-specific) and get lost in the music!

    I think the fact that I ordered a pair within a week of parting with the loaner unit - despite owning both the Utopia and LCD-R - speaks volume about how much I enjoyed these ;)
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2022
  3. Pancakes

    Pancakes Friend

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    Thank you to @zach915m and @ChaChaRealSmooth for making this possible.

    Loaner impressions.

    Chain: Mac ALAC/Qobuz -> Pi2AES -> 1656 modded Bifrost MB -> WHAMMY

    This came at a bad time for me because most of my gear is packed for a move. I really wanted to try these with the SW51+ but oh well.

    My main comparison is with the Abyss Diana V2 (40% more expensive).

    This is my first experience with a ZMF headphone. I've never been particularly interested in trying them due to the weight. For comparison, the two headphones I use the most are the HD600 @260g, Diana V2 @350g. The Atrium is 490g +-30g. I'd always expected that to be too much. However, they're so damn comfortable that I feel no weight at all. I mean none. Pretty amazing. The Diana by comparison feels like a cinder block on your head and I don't listen to them as much as I want to for this exact reason. I can't say enough about the comfort of the Atrium (and I assume, all the other ZMF models).

    Listening impressions with Auteur pads. This is a pretty neutral headphone to me. Nothing in the FR stands out. I could listen for hours without fatigue and with the amazing comfort, I pretty much forgot I'm wearing headphones. The Diana by comparison has a mid bump (ala HD600) that can produce fatigue during busy passages. Couple this with the terrible comfort and I'm generally not using them for more than 45 minutes max.
    Atrium feels lighter and more responsive though not faster - the Diana planar driver is unquestionably quicker.
    Ultimate detail is behind the Diana though clearly ahead of something like the HD600. Diana does micro dynamics better while Atrium does macro better. Except in the low bass. It feels like it runs out of gas when trying to slam anything below 60-ish Hz.
    I mainly listened to electronica and rock/metal. Electronic music was a bit of a disappointment due to the lack of low end slam. Metallica and Rammstein however were awesome. Guitars are very satisfying on this headphone.


    The Universe pads were my preference. Basically everything is the same as above except the frequency response goes from neutral to a shallow "M". There is a bump in the upper bass and another one in the upper mids/lower trebble. Both of these end up turning some of macro dynamics up a bit and making things more exciting. They border on being too much of a good thing but stop just shy. Sort of like a cat that is pawing an object closer and closer to the edge of a desk but stopping before knocking it off. It gets close to being fatigueing but never getting there. An enjoyable experience if you're looking for excitement.

    It's been an interesting headphone to try because it's making me evaluate what I prioritize. The speed, detail and, bass of the Diana or the comfort, lack of fatigue and, general enjoyment of the Atrium. Oh and the extra grand in my pocket. I need planar bass so my fate is sealed. But if I didn't, the Atrium is the easy choice.


    Edit. A couple of things I forgot to mention. Headstage is wider than Diana. Not HD8.. level but also not diffuse. I'd say it's "right". In other words, it's not weirdly wide and not abnormally narrow. It's what I expect is "correct". The imaging is not quite Diana level and instrument separation is a bit behind Diana. I'd still choose it over Diana if it wasn't for the low bass.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2022
  4. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    Cocobolo Atrium delivered today. Burning in w/ a little Steely Dan from my FiiO M15. Yay!!!

    IMG_2435sm.jpg
     
  5. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    After some burning and time under your belt, I would interested in how much of a hit the bass/dynamics take out of your M15 compared to your more powerful desktop rigs.

    With the loaner, the Atrium was pretty hamstrung IMO when driven by the bal out of an Shanling M6 pro (older AKM version) dap I currently use. I'm thinking that they don't make a dap that can do much about this, but perhaps I'm wrong.
     
  6. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth 2000% biased Planar Hater

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    Having spent time dicking around with the Atrium I bought, I can definitively say that it definitely requires a fair bit of juice for it to really come into its own. Starlett is good, but even the lowly Cavalli Liquid Carbon gets the lows to really fill in and deliver sonic textures (which the Starlett just can't quite do).

    I suspect @penguins can comment more on this since he's heard it on my Starlett and then his Stellaris.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2022
  7. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    M15 is pretty powerful for a DAP (balanced out, 280 mW into 300 Ohms). I'm having a hard time finding specs for your Shanling, so I don't know how that compares. But Atrium sensitivity is either 96 or 98 dB/mW -- I see both on different sites and I don't see an authoritative answer on the ZMF site. But 96 or 98, still reasonably efficient. If you take 96 as the correct figure then 280 mW should result in 120 dB. Given that I listen @ much lower volume than that, the M15 seems powerful enough.

    I did listen to the loaner a bit from the M15 and didn't find it 'pretty hamstrung' by inadequate amplifier power. There is a notable difference listening to mTT2 ==> DSHA-3F ==> Atrium, but it's hard to sort out the causes (higher res fed from mScaler, TT2 FPGA vs AKM 4499 DAC, amp differences).

    I'll poke at it again when I have the chance, maybe over the weekend.

    Honestly, I've always been pretty happy listening to most of my full-size cans from the M15, and from my Hiby R6 Pro before that -- seems like adequate power for everything but my Hedds and my Ether 2. That use-case is about wandering around the house doing chores, when 'critical listening' isn't the point.

    I will say that, even only burned-in about 5 hours, they sound pretty damn good from the M15. Just listening to 'Heaven' from Emma Ruth Rundle. There's some very deep percussion on that track, and it definitely seems like I'm getting full thump, but again, that's without any comparison to a desktop system. Next 'Deacon Blues' came on (eclectic mix playlist) and I have to say the sax really jumps out at me. Love that album :)

    Then came 'Anywhere' from Beth Orton, and the horns are really impactful. Actually, 'Anywhere' is a really good showcase for these cans. Lots of different stuff going on, and you hear it all -- her vocals, the horns, the strings in the background, the rhythm section, the staging -- sublime.

    Apparently I like these just as much as the loaner set -- maybe more since they're mine. Mine. ALL MINE!
     
  8. jnak00

    jnak00 Friend

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    I agree. I’ve run mine off an Ifi Go Blu’s balanced out and it’s ok, but definitely held back. The Go Blu powers Aeolus better than Atrium.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 14, 2022
  9. sp33ls

    sp33ls Facebook Friend

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    When I had the Atrium, I played around with hooking it up to a Firstwatt-based VFET amp (25WPC) and it somehow took it to yet another level. So, I think you're right -- these powerful magnets must enjoy being fed with more than enough power to really shine.

    I do miss the Atrium from time to time. Excited for the day Zach drops the Atrium Closed. I have a feeling it'll be just as special. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2022
  10. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Yes, more power definitely makes a big difference here. I mention this in my initial posts about the atrium earlier in this thread. Just to rehash, between Starlett and Stellaris (approx 3-4x more power I think??) - I actually changed my impressions of the Atrium based on this. I don't think I've experienced another dynamic headphone recently that so clearly benefited from this level of an increase in power. A similar level of "come alive" was also seen on the Schiit Folkvangr I tried with an Atrium at Austin show (IIRC Folkvangr and Stellaris have similar levels of max power output although for sure they have different topologies and probably amounts of voltage vs current, so not a total direct comparison). Chacha and I each have one other headphone amp that can deliver significantly more power than either of the above, but I would say that neither have the same level of technical performance as the above, so it's hard to say how much of the difference was due to more power vs loss of other technical performance.

    In short, this hp benefits from both "more power" and "more performance", but I can't definitively say at what point it got better b/c of more power vs more technical performance. I would actually say that if a high powered amp is not possible, I would actually consider an Auteur classic instead - based on my brief listen of the (sample of 1) new Auteur Classic, to me it actually sounds like ~50-60% Atrium, ~30-40% OG Auteur, and ~10-20% something new but it didn't sound drastically better with "more power". Just me though - anyone who really wants an Atrium - don't let some guy on the internet stop you.
     
  11. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    I’ve got close to 100 hours on my Atrium now and I’m going to modify this answer.

    I already would have talked about Atrium being more ‘refined’ with more precise headstaging from my full system. But now I’m definitely hearing a punchier sound from desktop rigs vs direct from M15. Seems to mostly be about the amp, as energy is noticeably better from:

    M15 (LO) ==> Romi BX2+ ==> Atrium
    vs
    M15 ==> Atrium

    To my ears, the proof is that I’m listening at lower volume out of the BX2+.

    Definitely loving the sound — Zach’s got me divesting other cans ‘cuz they’re just not needed and not going to get much head time.
     
  12. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    From a good desktop setup, ZMF headphones deliver at low volume. The staging and layering all come across great. I do find ZMF to be engaging at low volume from a good desktop amp.
     
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  13. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    I don't have a ton to say about the Atrium. It's very good, and has an "air infused resonance" that gives the sound a uniquely lifelike feel. Bass slam is abundant. It's about as resolving as Verite, possibly a bit less. Stage is good, large and precise. Typical ZMF wood-y, organic tone.

    But my HD6xx (which performs at TOTL levels on summit-fi gear) is $2300 cheaper and nearly as good, so I can't stomach recommending it to anyone budget conscious.

    I wish I had more to say I'm but not super enthusiastic about the hobby anymore. I'm grateful to the community for the opportunity to demo it. I'm using a Gungnir Multibit A2/Zana Deux setup.
     
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  14. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    I get this, for sure. We pay 2x … 3x … 5x (or more), to get relatively small improvements, or even side-grades.

    So easy to rave about the ‘new toy’. But a few days, weeks, months later you realize your overall system sounds slightly better, or possibly just … different.

    Your post made me A/B my HD-6XX & Atrium using the two jacks on my TT2 (dBNC from mScaler). Definitely better headstage/imaging from Atrium vs (stock) 6XX. Somewhat more treble & clearly better (more extended and fuller) bass from Atrium. Overall, a solid 10% sound quality improvement :)

    I guess the improved looks/build will have to account for the other $2k.

    I know, tubes, right? But that would eat the other $2k, and then some.

    < sidebar > Some music makes the improvement more noticeable. For example most Loreena McKennitt really benefits from the better imaging, and her vocals are significantly more compelling (say on ‘She Moves Through the Fair’), just as Mick’s voice is punchier on ‘Paint it Black’. But there are also tracks where it’s hard to find much difference at all, and certainly not $2500 worth. I know, tubes. < /sidebar >

    Anyway, here’s hoping your disenchantment with ‘the hobby’ doesn’t interfere with your enjoyment of music.
     
  15. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    Now I don’t have much experience with ZMF. I am most utterly confused as to all the different models and names, and then you can get the different model earpatds to fit other models (eg. Aeolous pads on Verite). And the cost of entry to ZMF is fairly high, so even harder to keep up with. So to be completely honest, this is my first experience with ZMF headphones. So let me get the other stuff out of the way.

    tldr; slightly airy presentation with a good low end warmth. Very spacious although the top end bite might bother some. Very microdyanmic, and really shines with higher output amps.

    The first thing about ZMF is that they are quality exteriors. Very nice to look at. Very simple headband that seems solid. About the only thing to be concerned with here is the weight. They remind me of planar weight, like LCD-2 type weight. Clamping force and fit is good (better than HD800, but not quite as secure as HD600/650). Very spacious cup with breathable sheepskin type pads. There is a double headband with a leather strap, but that strap just protects the main padded covering from getting worn down. And Mini-XLR connectors for the cups.

    For the cables, this loaner set came with three. One for ¼” connection, one balanced Pentacon, and one XLR 4-pin balanced. Now the ¼” and Pentacon are the same type and the XLR 4-pin is some kind fo black braided type. The black cable is very sturdy, but not extremely flexible. Solid build that seems like it will last awhile. It feels a bit plasticy, but that also means it is durable, not prone to tangles, and easy to clean. The XLR braided cable is very supple and flexible.


    Sound

    Source: Theta DS Pro Prime II
    Amps: Black Widow, Quicksilver Audio, SW51+

    For the sound, first thing I noticed was the spaciousness and all around sound. Very uncongested sound. Reminded me somewhat of ETA Genesis-G at first, but we will get to that later. There is a bit of upper end bite in the upper mids. Some cymbals and snares did sound slightly harsh. The low end seemed to provide a good layer and had a tendency to reach down very low at times, but mostly the low end was there, but quick and not boomy - very controlled, but not quite super textured.

    Overall, the mids seemed slightly recessed for a more pleasant all around sound. Kind of U-shaped, without the top end getting out of control. It would make my Denon AH-D2000’s sound more V-shaped. However, this lent itself to really good low level listening. I could turn down the volume and still feel somewhat balanced and evenness and not feel like I was missing something.

    These are not particularly slammy or super dynamic headphones. I would actually call them hard to drive. Out of tube amps, such as the SW51+, the dynamics just seemed lacking and kind of congested with a stiffer sound. They are 300 ohms, but behave like planars as my solid state amps (Black Widow and Ragnarok) really made them seem more alive. It seems they need a grippy amp to get all the goodness and details out of them.

    With Auteur pads, the top end bite seems slightly subdued and more even across the board. The low end sounds about the same, just the top end is not quite as bity. I would probably call this configuration more neutral to my ears.
    Given the measurements of these, I would say this almost does not represent them completely. This is Crinicle’s measurement and mine looked about the same.

    ZMF-Atrium-Crinicle-1.png
    But then I checked this measurement against the Harman 2018 target (vs. the target) and this is more or less what I think they sound like with a good amp and source. Side note: I have actually found that somehow the Harman target is kind of what I am hearing, but then when you flatten the Harman target out, it is not that likable…I dunno - a subject to discuss at another time.

    ZMF-Atrium-Crinicle-2.png
    Mostly above 500hz, these two graphs are the same. However, below 500hz, this Harman compensation shows a bump at 200hz and not quite as even on the bass as the other compensation graph shows. I will say, I did hear it reaching down low in that last octave, but it was a bit more down compared to the mid-bass.

    In the end, I felt like it was pulling enough details for the price tag and very spacious to boot. It may not have the top end sparkle with that downward slope in the highs, but it was pretty pleasing with warmer higher end tube amps. The 5k peak made them seem somewhat scratchy and not as well balanced out with the lows. I found them slightly fatiguing after awhile due to this, but I can also see their appeal with the very deep soundstage and details.
     
  16. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    That was my experience, too, although I also heard another loaner pair with the solid mesh, which made a big difference in taming this emphasis in the upper mids and making the Atrium much less fatiguing. I should note, though, that the solid mesh does make the Atrium a bit darker in tonality - something I happened to like a great deal.

    Anyway, I mention this just in case the peak might give someone pause if they were considering a purchase.
     
  17. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    That is some GTK info. But yes, the loaner pair was the mesh-mesh or holy-mesh and was not to be removed or swapped.

    And yes, if you did tame that peak, there is still the downward slope from 7k-10k or so.
     
  18. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    You might have noticed in the loaner a third mesh, one with a radial patter and larger center hole. That one is the "marv" mesh (OG Aeolus mesh maybe?) that is even more open/bright (despite looking like a 'middle' mesh) then the stock mesh.

    I asked Zach if there was an inbetweener option between the fully closed mesh and the stock (I wanted something about 2/3 of the stock), but a business decision has been made to offer only those three meshes - an understandable one.

    That means I going to be hacking my own meshes, hopefully with decent results.
     
  19. ckhirnigs

    ckhirnigs Almost "Made"

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    I just wrapped a nice week with the Atrium. Many thanks to the generosity of @zach915m and efforts of @ChaChaRealSmooth to bring this opportunity to all of us.

    First off, I’ve been on the ZMF bandwagon for about 3 years now. I started out with a used Aeolus, then saved up and bought a Verite Closed during one of the ZMF November sales, eventually bought an Auteur on a whim and ended up liking it even more than the VC. All this to say, I had high expectations for the Atrium.

    Setup

    Tidal Connect > iFi Zen Stream > OG Bifrost 2 > Quicksilver Headphone Amp / SW51+

    I compared the Atrium to my OG Auteur and Meze Elite. To eliminate one more variable, I used the same ZMF 2K Copper cable with all 3 headphones.

    90% of my listening was done on the Quicksilver because it played nicely with all 3 headphones I had on hand.

    I stuck with the Universe Lambskin pads for the duration of my time with the Atrium mainly because I forgot to try anything else after liking what I heard on the stock pads that were already installed.

    Build Quality / Fit and Comfort

    I have always admired the look and feel of ZMF headphones. This stock Cherry wood Atrium is no exception. It’s classy all the way through. This was my first real experience with the new Crescent Strap headband. It was indeed more comfortable on the head than the previous design. Then again, I always found the old headband design extremely comfortable. The Crescent Strap distributed the weight of the headphones nicely, and there were no hot spots at all, even after a few multi-hour listening sessions.

    Sound

    The Atrium did not surprise me in what it brought to the table. I wasn’t wowed or amazed during my time with them. This sounds like a dig, but I assure you it’s not. I really like the Atrium a lot. Coming from the Auteur, I expected a more resolving bio-cellulose sound with a more impressive soundstage thanks to Zach’s new damping system. Sure enough, that’s what I got. It felt more like an evolution than a revelation.

    Versus the Auteur, the Atrium took the technicalities up a notch or two across the board. I could definitely detect the family resemblance between these two. What stood out the most to me was the soundstage improvements. The Auteur (at least my OG) is a more intimate listen. Certain genres and songs are better-suited to this presentation. I feel the Atrium is a better all-rounder because it literally sounded great with everything I threw at it. Very much a jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none kind of thing. The Atrium is a nice dependable choice for most musical genres I tried. Every once in a while though, something magical happens with the Auteur and things sound amazing.

    Against the Meze Elite, it was a tougher matchup for the Atrium. I’ve mentioned it in passing recently here, but the Elite has really won me over unexpectedly. I’ve been basically 100% loyal to ZMF dynamics for the past few years, so the strange sequence of events that led to me acquiring a $4K planar from a Romanian headphone company was surprising to say the least.

    I think what tempered my impressions of the Atrium the most was having been spoiled by the Elite’s sound for the last few months. The Elite has a huge soundstage and excellent imaging just like the Atrium. The Elite is better at separation though, especially when it comes to things like vocal harmonies and hearing the individual backup singers in a track. Bass has a bit more impact/slam on the Atrium. I do give the edge to the Elite as far as bass texture and resolution are concerned. I also think the Elite digs a little deeper into the sub-bass while there’s more bass quantity overall on the Atrium. Both headphones have exceptional mids. Vocals are incredibly life-like on either of them. I think treble might be a little more detailed and extended in the Elite, but neither headphone would ever be called bright.

    Conclusion

    I really enjoyed my time with the Atrium and am very thankful to have been given the chance to try these out. I think my reaction would have been quite different if I had demoed these 3 months ago, before I got the Elite. Hearing the Atrium would have probably convinced me to sell my much-beloved Ash Auteur to scrape together some funds to get myself a pair. I think the Atrium does almost everything I like about the Auteur but at a higher technical level.

    I’m very interested in the Auteur Classic and new Caldera as well. I think a ZMF planar has the potential to sway me away from the Elite. I would love to support Zach and Bevin as well as get that awesome lifetime warranty on the drivers. Not to mention how much I prefer the look of ZMFs to the space-age styling of my Elite.
     
  20. zach915m

    zach915m MOT: ZMF Headphones

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    So - I don't want to get into a discussion of "your graph my graph," as that's not my purpose of this post, nor is it to invalidate anything anyone has heard from the Atrium (listening is listening!); BUT - after "reading the room" lately between talking to many people at CanJam, including Crinicle himself, reading customer emails all day, and seeing what is posted on Reddit, SBAF, Head-Fi etc AND to our dealers. I think the Harman target and measurements in general are doing more harm to the hobby these days than good (I mean just look at ASR). I even saw a reviewer post on Reddit today when asked about his impressions of the new DCA headphone that he didn't want to get into it until he sees more measurements. I mean, come on man.

    Measurements are valid, but only in the context that we as listeners can understand them based on a specific system and relate them to our subjective preferences.

    At CanJam I asked Crinicle when is 5128 was coming in because I had heard he ordered one, and he replied that he "ordered another version just like it."

    My issue is this: JUST between 711 couplers and the B/K 5128 we are seeing VASTLY different measurements, I literally had to stop using the 45CA with the Caldera because the measurements were so different for R/D, it made my mind melt (more on this at another time maybe)

    The measurements I get are openly posted on our site here, and except when noted are shown on my 711 coupled 45CA type unit because even though not as accurate as the B/K 5128, more general measurements have been done on 711 couplers: https://www.zmfheadphones.com/measurements

    Our measurements, especially in the 5k and above area is FAR different that how the 5128 measures. And take in mind the 5128 was not what the Harman study was done on, then throw in that Crinicle is getting a unit "just like" the 5128 and you have a *sh***ton of variables. This is overall just bad for the community IMHO, as all of it leads to lots of confusion.

    This isn't to say there's not a peak between the 5/6K area on the Atrium depending on pads and like in my graph and Crinicle's, but the way it's presented on Crinicle's graph is about a 13 dB spike to the dome that makes it look like the Atrium murders you with that, then a fall-off a cliff. I have NEVER seen Atrium measure this way once, and we've invested over 100K to make sure our measurements are accurate.

    I have spoken with other MFR's about Crinicle's measurements and why they may be coming out so differently from industry standard equipment, and between him using the 43AG for headphones which is not a proper dual sided setup (why he posts both sides with this setup I do not know) that uses the headband clamp force correctly, and the way he normalizes (or doesn't) things, and doesn't use sources like the target audience of said products - he is confusing a lot of people.

    So why do I care?

    This ends up with us getting tons of emails, and people walking into our dealers stores with people saying their hearing "adhere's to the Harman" or to the "Crinicle" curve. And to me, I've released a number of headphones, and messed around with a ton of other designs and stuff that hasn't been released, and I can confidently say, especially since developing the Atrium Damping system and how it interacts with different closures, air-flows, and open and closed designs, that human perception of response varies so much based on the individual, design, listening volume, and source gear, that what you get is real life experience that doesn't hardly ever match these moving measurement targets we're constantly being presented with by reviewers. And I shouldn't just call Crinicle out because it's becoming industry wide, his graphs were just used above.

    Measurements should not be a "good/bad" target adherence tool, but one where users can see general trends they enjoy based on their experience within a graph database. That's where Crinicle has done a great job, I just wish the presentation of information led to less confusion. Tyll did a great job with all this stuff, the guy was indeed a legend.


    EDIT: Feel free to move this out of here if necessary since it's clearly somewhat off topic.

    EDIT 2: As a MFR all I want is our audience to have access to information on whether a headphone will suit their preferences or not, that doesn't come from us, but comes from an unbiased source. Hard to do I know.
     

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