ZMF Atrium Headphone Review and Measurements

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

  1. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    I thought I read everything but might have missed it: any comparison to the Utopia?
    I might be tempted to trade mine for these or the VO Blackwood.
     
  2. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    Having just heard the Atrium yesterday, and being a Utopia owner for 4 years, Atrium has that euphonic biodynamic timbre, while Utopia is more like a clinical razor.
     
  3. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Poopsmith

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    In direct comparison:

    Utopia
    • More resolving in the mids and highs
    • More refinement in the upper treble
    • More open-sounding
    • Faster
    • Beryllium timbre (neither a good or bad thing)
    Atrium
    • More resolving in the bass, especially bass textures
    • Larger sense of headstage
    • Slower but much more slam with the vented meshes
    • Biodynamic timbre (neither a good or bad thing)
    • More affected by amp power output
     
  4. Souldriver

    Souldriver Facebook Friend

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    A very nice rig, glad to see the DSHA plays well with the Atrium as it does with other ZMFs.
     
  5. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    What about tonality? Is it “closer” to Utopia than VO (timbre notwithstanding)?
     
  6. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Poopsmith

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    Tonality-wise it's most similar to a VO with the Verite pads.
     
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  7. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Very briefly - @Clemmaster - based on our brief conversations when you loaned me the B2, I personally don't think the Atrium would replace Utopia for you.

    However, I do see these being able to complement the Utopia very well for you. I also agree with @dubharmonic and @ChaChaRealSmooth about the general sound comments above.
     
  8. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Synergy note: with OG Yggdrasil instead of HQP>May, Atrium sounds more dense, closer to VO, losing some of the lightness, air I noted earlier. This difference between the two sources is not as pronounced with VO. I have to listen a lot more, different recordings, to be sure, but I may have lucked into an especially good pairing with HQP>May and Atrium.
     
  9. insidious meme

    insidious meme Ambivalent Kumquat

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    I think you're better off comparing the Auteur Classic with the Utopia in terms of tonality. Sure it isn't a "flagship" like the Verite and Atrium are, but it's much closer tonally.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Imma so confused now just like you. :( Imma just gonna grab teh pads that I like and not worry about what they are. Life is more fun when it's a box of chocolates.
     
  11. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Go team Beyerdynamic!
     
  12. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    The Auteur I used to own (Blackwood, IIRC?) wasn’t nearly close to the Utopia. It sounded quite muted overall*, actually. I was under the impression the Classic is not a huge departure form the OG, tonally (besides the better extension at both ends).

    (*) this was actually very surprising, considering I loved the Auteur at the ZMFestivus at ChaCha’s house! The one I owned sounded slow and congested to me.
     
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  13. Failed Engineer

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    The Verite Lambskin Pads to me compress the soundstage a good bit but have more slam and they image well within the smaller stage. It moves the Atrium in a "focal-ish" direction but still quite different from the Utopia.

    I think they are my favorite pads of those tested (All three Univ variants, BE2 Hybrid, and all the Auteur variants). Personally didn't like any of the Auteur pads as imaging suffered and bass became bloomy as compared to the Univ/BE2/Verite pads.
     
  14. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    Third time I’ve read this — felt compelled to reply as your impressions of Blackwood Auteur are very different from mine. I would never call them ‘muted’ nor ‘congested’. Plus, tonality-wise, they sound quite close to my Utopia—a bit more upper-mid/treble energy from Utopia, and more bass energy from Blackwood Auteur, but closer than any of my other cans.

    I do think their timbre is quite different, and Utopia certainly sounds more technical.

    I looked back through your postings, and it’s clear you did own a Blackwood Auteur. It’s very hard to understand how our impressions could be so different. I can only put it down to inter-unit variability. You know,

    Your ears/ My ears

    Seriously, perhaps our hearing is quite different and Zach carefully tuned the Blackwood Auteur perfectly for mine.

    Otherwise, an un-explained mystery.
     
  15. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    I was surprised too, especially considering I loved the Auteur at ChaCha’s house!
     
  16. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    I never had the Auteur but I owned the Eikon for a while (same driver). I have no problem calling this driver 'muted and congested' from a technical point of view, when compared to the Utopia (or Clear OG) - heck, it's almost like comparing a Volkswagen bug to a 911. I suspect the HD6XX is better at low level detail/dynamics (though the tonality is so different an apples to apples is hard), and I don't rate the HD6xx as most do around here.

    That said other aspects (e.g. timbre) certainly are more competitive (to the Focal's, etc.). As usual gear synergy and other aspects of the big picture come into play in any given impression, etc. etc.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 1, 2022
  17. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    Only a little time w/ Atrium but I agree with this. Atrium is notably smoother, with a warmer signature and more bass energy.

    Atrium are certainly the cans to reach for to enjoy ‘poorer’ tracks which Utopia makes unlistenable.

    <edit> Also a good option for tracks which seem a bit sharp or strident from Utopia. I’m specifically thinking of title track from Joni Mitchell’s Blue.</edit>
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2022
  18. Marko

    Marko Rando

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    Had to laugh when I saw this. If there was ever an album to test headphones for sibilance, this is it.
     
  19. rott

    rott Secretly hates other millenials - Friend

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    I realized that I'm shit at writing reviews of any kind so I appreciate the comprehensive ones posted here at SBAF. Still, wanted to provide some further observations..

    Focusing specifically on the Heavy Metal genre, while the Atrium really makes electric guitars come alive in their texture/distortion crunch, there are some recordings in which I think their frequency response/presentation results in too much emphasis that it drowns out the impact of the rhythm section and/or the otherwise goldilocks low end performance (across almost all other genres) just needs more heft in the mix.

    The Bob Rock produced Black Album (Metallica) and Dr. Feelgood (Motley Crue) sound great on Atrium, but I lean towards the VC for Master of Puppets; Primus' Frizzle Fry hasn't sounded better to me than on Atrium, but their Saliing the Seas of Cheese I prefer on VC - the drums have more presence. While darker for sure, the VC can make some recordings sound larger putting my head in the middle of the action and the comparatively boomy bottom end and (maybe?) the reverb-y effect makes the music more enjoyable. The Cult's Sonic Temple - likewise leaning towards the VC even though the Atrium sounds more "refined".

    Faith No More - overall I think I prefer VC though I can hear more details with Atrium.

    Dunno, feels like the difference between listening to studio monitors vs. sitting in with the band (with minimal hearing protection).

    I feel really lucky that I can flip between these 2 headphones based upon album or mood; they may not be everyone's cup of tea, and I think it's more than open vs. closed - not sure who else offers such complementary options in the same quality tier.

    Goddamn I've really started feeling the weight difference between these and the VC (stabilized).
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2022
  20. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    I love these headphones. Not an Auteur replacement, but rather a great complement; definitely closely related. Auteur are a bit brighter & airier, while Atrium are more relaxed with beautiful, more forward mids. I’ll be buying a set.
    Sources: Digione S/PDIF out / Cowon Plenue II mk 2 optical out / FiiO M15 S/PDIF out to mScaler
    DAC/Amps: TT2 / Audio-gd Master 11 / Hugo 2
    Amp: TT2 & Master 11 DAC out to DSHA 3F (nickel cores)

    Swapped Auteur and Atrium between ZMF 1/4 inch terminated cable and XLR Lavricables Grand — didn’t hear a difference which rose above the background noise of other swaps in chain. Certainly nothing as noticeable as Universe to Auteur pads.

    Tried Universe & Auteur pads extensively, BE-2 briefly. Preferred Auteur and used them for the last 4 days of trial

    Other cans: Blackwood Auteur, Utopia, HEKse, Hedd, Ether 2

    Music: Bliss, Gretchen Peters, Neil Young, Ray LaMontagne, Dead can Dance, Iron & Wine/Calexico, Miles, Freddie Hubbard, Thelonius, Jimi …Alt-rock/folk/country, 70s Prog Rock, classic 60s/70s rock, lots of acoustic, singer/songwriter shit, never got around to classical … Dead.

    I went into this audition wondering whether Atrium might take Auteur’s ‘Greatest Deadphone’ title.

    Personal prefs: I’ve always called Auteur my ‘Goldilocks’ headphone — not too warm, not too bright, not too analytical, not too relaxed. To my ears, Utopia took a long time to seem not ‘sharp’, and I’ve gone through tons of gear to get there. Even so, I occasionally hit a track where some higher-pitched percussion instrument is over-emphasized. Hedds are fun, but eccentric. HEK are great when I want to hear details without being hammered by them. Ether 2 is my relaxed/night-time bedphone.
    There have been a number of very good write-ups which I think describe Atrium very well. I generally agree with @futtbutts, especially when he calls them ‘…natural, engaging, resolving, warm, effortless...’ I will disagree that the midrange is ‘their strong suit’. Not that the mids aren’t great—they are. Vocals are presented beautifully, and fundamental tones of acoustic instruments exhibit really natural timbre. The reason I don’t wanna call them their strong suit is because I really think the biggest strength Atrium shows is the way they please through the entire frequency spectrum.

    I found that some tracks favored Atrium while others sounded better from Auteur. For example, I preferred Auteur for most London Grammar tracks. Hannah Reid’s vocals have an echo-y haunting character, but Atrium brings them forward and some of that character gets lost.

    On the other hand, there are lots of tracks where the top-to bottom smoothness of Atrium is sublime (e.g., Lucinda Williams ‘Rescue’).

    And there are tracks & albums which just seem like they were mixed using the Atrium — two examples are War ‘The World is a Ghetto’ and Jethro Tull ‘Aqualung’.

    Atrium excels at rendering ‘busy’ passages (e.g., last two minutes of It’s a Beautiful Day ‘Whitebird’).

    Atrium has a very coherent headstage. Instruments are well localized and and the image has good depth. The headstage varies a lot from track to track, and with some, the image can seem small.

    Some posts here have called Atrium bass slow and/or bloomy. I guess I can hear that compared to my HEKse and Utopia. But I would call it slightly bloomy and somewhat slower, meaning small deficits. ‘Course that may be somewhat down to my chain and pad preferences. But I hear bass that is well extended with good control and detail.

    Bass line under Plant’s vocals at beginning of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is a perfect example. From Utopia it’s very precise and controlled. From Atrium, it bleeds up a bit and seems ‘fuller’. Frankly, Utopia might be more ‘accurate’, but I’m certain that the Atrium presentation is closer to what you would hear live. And any bloom is certainly not enough to seem like a negative.

    Atrium does have more relaxed highs. Not nearly as much so as Ether 2, but it is noticeable. For example, there are snare drum rimshots (I assume) at the beginning of Paul Simon’s ‘The Obvious Child’. That’s wooden sticks hitting a metal drum rim. So wood and metal. From Auteur, it’s mostly metal while from Atrium it’s mostly wood.

    I mostly preferred Atrium over Auteur straight out of Hugo 2 — H2’s slightly brighter signature works well with Atrium. For example, Killers ‘Mr. Brightside’ is a bit strident, and definitely better from H2/Atrium vs H2/Auteur. Same with Cranberries ‘Zombie’. Which actually brings up ‘forgiveness’. Poor material or tracks with lots of distortion are more tolerable from Atrium.

    From the other chains, Atrium and Auteur ‘track’ pretty much as expected. When I compared mScaler ==> M11 (optical in) to mScaler ==> TT2, I found the image was airier with more depth from M11 while TT2 was more ‘in-your-face’. I thought ‘Ah, 1704 DAC’. But in fact, DAC-out from TT2 to M11 amp was about the same — maybe slightly less airy, but close.

    Bottom line, I really enjoyed my time with Atrium. They’re a lovely listen and I’ll be saving my pennies.

    Oh, and about the Deadphone thing … Auteur fought off a tough challenge. I need the little extra clanginess Auteur gives Jerry’s guitar, and for most shows, Auteur puts the band on stage better. Plus, the drums just sound more correct from Auteur. But I must admit that when I listened to M11 ==> Atrium I was worried :)

    <edit 7-19>Cocobolo/copper ordered</edit>
     
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    Last edited: Jul 19, 2022

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