ZMF Atticus Measurements and Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by purr1n, Mar 14, 2017.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    ZMF Atticus Measurements and Review

    This would not have been possible with @Aleatorius, who graciously sent this headphone to me for measurement (1)


    Right at beginning of the main lick, played as single notes on electric guitar, on Paul Simon’s Under African Skies: BAM! Ho Lee Fuk!

    Wow, that drum hit hard (2). That impression has stuck with me over last night and this morning. The Atticus hits hard, very hard, with a ton of slam. While mid-bass emphasis (with a little upper-mid bite) does contribute to the Atticus’ sense slam, the exceptional macro-dynamics are still inherent with headphone (we only need to EQ to a more neutral sound to realize this).

    Atticus.JPG

    The Atticus is lively – it wants to get up and go. It kind of reminds me of the Andromeda IEM in that way. Both transducers happen to be very efficient. Another behavior that surprised me was the Atticus’s lack of congestion. There was never a wall-of-sound or wall-of-mush. The little guitar riff would keep going along with the vocals, the drums, and everything else – all the instruments were distinctly rendered. Finally, the Atticus scales with better gear!

    Normally I start out with a Schiit Vali or Jotunheim and move up to my custom 45 amp, only to be disappointed usually. Yesterday, I happened to get yet another copy of the Graceland LP (purple vinyl with the RTI sticker) so naturally, I wanted to listen to it. Since I already had the TOTL system set up, it wasn’t much trouble for me to just plug the headphones in. The Atticus is impressive. It scales. Sure the Sony MDR-Z1R or TH-X00 sounded better from this rig than my entry level rigs, but these headphones were never quite as impressive. They didn’t scale like the HD6X0 or HD800. The Atticus certainly scales. Maybe not up to HD800 levels, but at the HD6X0 level more or less.

    I AM PISSED OFF! No, I am not pissed at Zach. I am pissed off at all the shitty sounding and overpriced headphones around, complete with all the BS audiophile marketing. When I said in my profile post “Atticus in the house. Throw your Sony MDR-Z1Rs away!” I was serious. I almost want to make fake marketing materials for ZMF to mock what the state of the hobby. My materials would entail BS technical interviews, technical diagrams with exploded views of parts, citations to measurement authorities and target curves, shallow DOF photos of Zach proclaiming him as a genius, quotes from Zach on how the Atticus is not merely an upgrade to the Omni or Blackwood, but “perfections” of them.

    Of course I am not going to do this. What I find appealing about the ZMF brand is its authenticity. No bullshit. Great products. Fair prices. No tweaks or treatment kits necessary.

    To those not familiar with the ZMF house sound (think Blackwood or Omni), the tonal signature of the Atticus has elements of the HD650 and TH-X00. HD650-like with a mid-bass boost and a touch of upper-mid (yes, the HD650 does have a little bit around 5kHz). X00-like with more overall bass volume and extension, along with a middle midrange emphasis. The Atticus’ treble is smoother than the X00, but not as refined as the HD650. The timbre of the Atticus is spot on – the presentation surprisingly has elements of planar smoothness, as opposed to the more grainy sounding HD6X0 headphones (3). I wonder if the diaphragm material has anything to do with this. Like the Omni and Blackwood, there is some internal cup reverb and decay, which plays off the wood cups and baffle. It’s a nice touch along the lines of the R10, although this is very much Zach’s implementation.

    I don’t want to fool anyone into thinking the Atticus is a neutral headphone, but I do like its sensibilities. It’s readily apparent that Zach had a vision, an idea of where he wanted to proceed, and he made it happen. This is so refreshing because I honestly get the sense that some other headphone manufacturers just make random sounding stuff without a clue to the sound – it’s like they chase the tech, but they don’t chase the sound. In other less polite words, they are deaf. Zach is definitely not deaf.

    I am not abandoning the objective approach. Measurements after lunch. I will say that the headphone sounds much better than what the measurements present. Again, measurements don’t explain everything. They “lie” sometimes.



    (1) This is how it worked at Changstar. We need more people to volunteer their headphones for a few days. The loaner program is nice and all; but it’s still not a substitute for obtaining more objective data (measurements).

    (2) On EC gear from an LP source. Lesser gear or inferior compressed “hires” digital masters need not apply.

    (3) The debate on grain between planar and traditional dynamics will go on forever. I tend to prefer a grainer presentation as it makes the difference between digital and vinyl sources more distinct; but I'm not held up on it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    ZMF Atticus Stock Pads (?) Frequency Response (0db line = 100db SPL)
    ZMF Atticus Frequency Response Stock Pads.png
    The mid-bass bump isn't anything extreme. It's actually well localized and only goes up to 200Hz which by then is totally leveled out. This is even more localized than the HD650's bump, which is broader and extends all the way to up 500Hz. The fact that the area from 200Hz on up to the midrange is flat does give the Atticus a better sense of clarity. Upper bass or lower midrange emphasis can sometimes cloud or muddy up the sound. I would hesitate to call the Atticus lush or warm - maybe a little bit. I actually like this effect because there's no wall-o-warmth effect which I am not a big fan of.

    I wouldn't get too hung up on channel variations, especially in the bass. Measurements with thick pads like this tend to vary quite a bit and are difficult to replicate.

    There is a spike near 6khz with eventual ringing (ridge) at 5kHz. Personally never been sensitive to spikes or ridges near 5kHz. The HD650 actually has a small bump here too. Honestly, I'd prefer emphasis here rather than a suckout (think Elear and how it is laid back. lacking bite, and muting textures and harmonics in the presence region). The height of the peak would at first glance seem rather bad, until you realize that the tip of the peak at the same level of the mids. Perhaps a better way to think of this is instead of a peak near 5-6kHz, there are dips at 4khz and 8Khz. The narrow dip at 8kHz might be a measurement artifact related to cancellations at the wavelength of the internal cup dimensions. Dips are typically harder to hear than peaks.

    Looking at the CSDs below, there appears to be some of that cup reverb and decay going on between 500Hz and 2000Hz after the 1-2ms point. Another observation is how the 5kHz ridge sort of splits off into different smaller branches around the 1ms. Could this be the resonance play of the wood. I've seen this effect on Grado woodies.

    ZMF Atticus Stock Pads (?) CSD
    ZMF Atticus L CSD.jpg
    ZMF Atticus R CSD.jpg

    ZMF Atticus Distortion (at above FR levels)
    ZMF Atticus L HD.jpg
    ZMF Atticus R HD.jpg

    The distortion is a little bit surprising. Bass distortion has characteristics similar to the Z1R with highish third order, but overall THD distortion of the Atticus is lower than the Z1R from 50Hz on up! There are some distortion spikes in the upper mids, but these are second order and I don't feel they are that audible. High distortion in the bass and lower mids (mids distortion is a problem with the T50RPs) seems much worse from a perceptual stance.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
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  3. AMW1011

    AMW1011 Friend

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    Very nice, I'm really looking forward to trying one. The Eikon has more than impressed me. Zach honestly embarrasses this industry with what he's able to do with seemingly so little. A very smart man, a good collection of reference gear, good ears, and some genuine passion seems to embarrass what many larger companies with "teams of engineers" can do.
     
  4. metal571

    metal571 Rando

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    Wow, I can't wait to do a review of these now. That sound description and my already existing undying love for the Omni Blackwood version would lead these to most likely become one of my all time favorites...
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
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  5. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Eikon and how it compares. I haven't heard the final tuning of the Atticus, so I should see if I can demo that somewhere as well.
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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  7. spwath

    spwath Pubeless Playboy

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    In the op you have a second (1) instead of a (2).
     
  8. AMW1011

    AMW1011 Friend

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    Very neat. The tuning of the Atticus doesn't seem that much different from how I perceive my Eikon. A lot less treble mostly. Hopefully the Eikon measure cleaner, though the Atticus doesn't seem offensively distorted. I imagine with the same cups the ringing/cup resonance will be similar between the two. There is some edge around 5khz on the Eikon.
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    ZMF Atticus Frequency Response Comparison to Sony Z1R and Sennheiser HD650
    Atticus = Orange
    HD650 = Blue
    Z1R = White

    Atticus FR comparison.png
    1/3 Octave Smoothed
     
  10. spwath

    spwath Pubeless Playboy

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    Closed HD650 with more sub bass but less treble?
    Seems pretty good. And not overpriced compared to the Z1R there with what looks like a pretty harsh treble spike.
     
  11. PacoTaco

    PacoTaco Friend

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    I think you may love the Atticus more than Zach and I combined, Marv. The Atticus was a treat for me (though, personally, I knew I wouldn't be able to hear that kind of signature day-in and day-out.)

    I ended up choosing the Eikon though, and I don't regret it. I'll miss the review Atticus I had, but I think the Eikon is a better all-rounder (and therefore a better "this is the only headphone I have.")

    Either way, I can't wait for you to pump out the Eikon review.
     
  12. Serious

    Serious Seriously uninformed pain in the ass

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    Looks like there are resonances at 1.5 and 4kHz, including rising distortion, but it seems you didn't find it to be audible. It does look concerning on the measurements, though.
    I gather it's more dynamic and lively sounding than the HD650. How does it compare to the HD800 or Utopia? What about your Moth Cicadas?
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Yes, seems more dynamic than HD650 which is what I compared to to most of the time. The HD650 has that bit of "cloud" whereas the Atticus is meaner and leaner. HD650 response has smoother transitions throughout and obviously more open without the cup coloration. I'm sure Zach could tame the wood coloration more if he wanted to (it wouldn't be that hard to make metal baffle), but I rather like it.

    I'll give the HD800 more time against the Atticus tonight (I only use the HD800 for certain recordings, and also because I don't want to get acclimated to a bright signature), but that localized bass boost is going to give Atticus a huge advantage for certain things. The Cicadas really need to be mated with a big woofer for true dynamics. I'm keeping it simple (Cicadas + sub) in the "vinyl room", also because my wife won't like big speakers in every room of the house. It's sort of getting out of hand with the Altec horns / woofer box in the "dynamic room" and all these Lego / Lepin sets I'm leaving around.

    As for speed and clarity, Atticus doesn't quite compete against Utopia. Plankton and microdynamics gets close to HD800 and Utopia. HD800 I never considered a fast sounding can.

    Wood / internal cup cavity reverb / resonance? Need to explore more.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
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  14. GettingBuckets

    GettingBuckets Almost "Made"

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    Definitely interested in seeing the Eikon measurements and review after this. Always liked what Zach was doing even from his first renditions of his ZMF T50RP mods. He is putting these headphone companies with their half-assed new innovations and teams of engineers to shame with what he is doing.
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Here is a measurement with the alternate pads on the R channel. Are these the Ori pads?

    ZMF Atticus Frequency Response
    Stock Pads = Red
    Alt Pads = Yellow
    ZMF Atticus Oris Pads Frequency Response.png

    ZMF Atticus R CSD Stock Pads
    [​IMG]

    ZMF Atticus R CSD Alt Pads

    Atticus Oris Pads R CSD.jpg

    Not a big difference in sound, but I did prefer the Ori? pads. Don't quote me yet. I'm not sure which is which. The Ori pads are the slightly smaller harder to fit ones right? Haha. They look so similar once mounted on the headphone.
     
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  16. AMW1011

    AMW1011 Friend

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    Quick pad run down:

    Ori pads are what come on the Atticus and are what it was tuned around. Eikon pads come on the Eikon and are what that was tuned for. The major differences are size related, same leather and foam material. Ori pads are thicker with slightly small ear holes. Annoyingly you have to measure em side by side off the headphone since the pads get stretched out on the baffle.

    I find the Ori pads work much better for my anatomy than the Eikon pads on the Eikon. I wouldn't be surprised if on a flatplate the differences measure minimally, and mainly being up to the individual's anatomy. Apparently I'm a mutant.
     
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  17. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    This makes me want to try the Eikon even more. Oh, nice amp! :cool:
     
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  18. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    How much does the "closedness" manifest in the sound, subjectively?
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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  20. Mystic

    Mystic Mystique's Spiritual Advisor

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    Eikon pads come with both Atticus and Eikon by default, though I'm sure you could ask Zach when ordering to pack the Ori pads instead.

    Extra Ori pads were included for people who pre-ordered.
     
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