ZMF Auteur Classic Review

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Sep 1, 2022.

  1. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Borrowed an Auteur Classic for a few days earlier this year for but only had time to listen on 2 days. Consequently, these impressions will be shorter.

    Chain:
    rpi2aes > Yggdrasil A2 / Spring 2 > Stellaris. Didn't have time to use with my smaller amps. I normally prefer the Spring 2 > Stellaris, but with this HP, I preferred the Yggdrasil A2 due to the overall sound signature of this HP.

    Pads / wood:
    I think I liked the original Autuer perf lambskin pads vs about 4 other pairs. Don't remember the details of why. Also, I don't remember the wood this pair had right now, only that it wasn't a darker colored wood such as ironwood, bocote, ebony, etc. - I mention this as the wood makes "enough" of a difference with ZMF headphones for me.

    Sound:
    If I had to sum it up, it's an Autuer with Atrium tonality, timbre, and tuning with similar or better technical performance vs the original Auteur.

    To me, it sounds more like the new Atrium than the original Auteur. Much like the Atrium, this is also a tuning with "less ZMF sauce", more energy, euphoria, and "overall brightness" (not bright sound like more highs, but bright like the sun is out - I don't have better words for this right now). Not as dry, doesn't have as much that sort of organic granular sound, and tighter / cleaner transients and overall more focused (but not extremely focused relatively speaking) sound vs the original Auteur. Personally, given that these are closer to the Atrium, I would rather keep my original Auteurs and get an Atrium to go with it.

    Performance was at least par with the original Auteur but again, with a different sound signature. Except for the staging - it's probably a half step down. Also, because of the more euphoric in your face sound signature, you have to focus a little bit to hear plankton now where as with original Auteur it was just kind of there - like walking into a hot room - you don't have to think about it - it's just hot.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 23, 2022
  2. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Auteur Classic Loaner Short Review: Part 2 of 2 (Measurements)

    Descriptions
    1. Calibrated at 94db SPLZ@300hz
    2. Each channel was measured 5 times at respectively different positions (center, front, back, up, down) then averaged to control positioning variance in FR
    3. Readers should take extreme care of the fact that acoustic measurement results are subject to variability caused by numerous confounders or modifiers


    Frequency Responses (w/ Auteur Lamb pads) : Left vs Right

    [​IMG]

    Notes
    1. Overall well-balanced tonality
    2. Gradually boosted midbass at 100hz: Similar pattern was observed in my Atrium measurements
    3. Moderate dip around 2khz: Audible, but not in annoying ways (making neighboring frequencies more nuanced)
    4. Generally boosted upper midrange at 3khz
    5. 4.5khz peak is not as audible as the graph suggests. I've seen this pattern commonly among ZMF headphones I recently measured. Suspecting it's more like an artifact caused by internal structures.


    Frequency Response: w/ Auteur Pads

    [​IMG]

    Notes
    1. Less bass hump
    2. Less 2khz dip
    3. #1 and #2 (along with damped reflections with suede pads) in perception might be pleasing or annoying. It's highly subjective depending on individual tastes


    Frequency Response: w/ Caldera Pads

    [​IMG]

    Notes
    1. Both Caldera pads cut lots of mids and highs
    2. Caldera lamb pads are more enjoyable than Cowhide by comparison
    3. Caldera pads must be precisely tuned for Caldera headphones, rather than for general uses


    Frequency Response: vs Auteur OG

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Notes
    1. Auteur OG was surprisingly neutral on EARS coupler and this target
    2. Suede pads make the OG-Classic gap closer


    Frequency Response: vs Atrium

    [​IMG]

    Notes
    1. Similar bass response between the two
    2. On measurements, Atrium is even more proactive around 3khz. But 2khz dip in Auteur Classic seems to give itself an extra forwarding character in upper mids.
    3. 9khz dip shown in Atrium is still puzzling. I have no clue why this drastic pattern is shown with certain simple couplers. So far, to my knowledge, using Type 4620 ear simulator (B&K) is the only way to get more realistic response in this region with Atrium.


    Frequency Response: vs Caldera

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Notes
    1. Caldera has more neutral bass response and extends deeper in the low ends (regardless of pads; top graph doesn't show this clearly -- possibly due to leak issue). Note that my Caldera measurements are more attenuated in sub-bass than it actually sounds on ears
    2. Caldera has smoother response in highs and upper mids


    Frequency Response: vs Others (HD650/Arya-Stealth/MM-500)

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Notes
    1. Auteur Classic's response looks rather similar to HD650 and Arya Stealth which is not too different from what I hear.
    2. Particularly for mids and highs, feels like a middle ground between the two in both measurements and perceptions.


    Distortions/CSD (can be inaccurate or experimental)

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Notes
    1. While I don't think my measurement environment is not suitable for reliable results for non-FR stuffs, high D2 around 2khz look interesting (4.5khz is usual EARS artifact confounded by compensation).
    2. I don't think #1 is EARS artifact because It's also shown in Zach's 5128+4620 measurement (see below) -- ignore distortion level and focus on relative patterns by frequency

    [​IMG]
    Source: https://www.zmfheadphones.com/measurements
     
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  3. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    Auteur Classic Loaner Review

    Anner Bylsma Prélude to Bach’s Suite for solo cello No. 1 in G major
    The 5 Browns Malagueña from Andalucia Suite
    Pamela Frank/Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra Mozart’s Serenade No. 7 for orchestra in D major
    John Williams/John Etheridge Extra Time for 2 Guitars
    Duplessy & The Violins of the World Kung Fu
    Tool Chocolate Chip Trip
    Kaki King Ingots
    The Beatles Norwegian Wood
    Eagles Hotel California (from Hell Freezes Over)
    Carl Anderson Heaven on their Minds
    James Brown It’s a New Day, Pts. 1-2
    Earth Wind & Fire Shining Star
    Los Lonely Boys I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love (Live at Blue Cat Blues)
    Led Zeppelin Moby Dick (from How the West was Won)
    Daft Punk Giorgio by Moroder
    Cream Badge
    Ben Harper & The Blind Boys of Alabama Take My Hand
    Horace Silver Quintet Finger Poppin’
    Maynard Ferguson Birdland
    Phil Woods Rain Dance (Live from the Showboat)
    Bill Evans Trio Detour Ahead [Take 2]
    Ray Charles/Count Basie Orchestra Oh, What a Beautiful Morning
    Macy Gray Redemption Song
    Joni Mitchell California

    My primary listening was to H2H vs my Cocobolo Auteur, to decide whether I wanted to send my OG in for the upgrade to the Classic. So take the following ramblings as more of a comparison between the two on my different rigs… rather than a discussion of what the Classic specifically brings to the table. I used with the stock Auteur pads on the Classic and the Lambskin Eikon pads I have always preferred on the OG.

    USbridge Sig -> USB -> Walnut X.3 -> SE -> A&S Mogwai SE -> Classic/OG
    Listening on the 32ohm tap only. The Classic vs the OG on this combination is really different flavors. I don’t consider either “better”, just different. The Classic brings an apparent increased resolution/clarity, but I think it may really be that the classic is sounds slightly v-shaped relative to the OG. The OG definitely has a slightly richer/thicker/wetter sound to my ears.

    My preference between the two changed with the piece played. Anner Blysma – OG. 5 Browns - Classic Daft Punk – Classic. Maynard Ferguson – OG. Ray Charles – OG. Led Zepplin – Classic. And so it went.

    Pi2AES -> HQplayer embedded -> i2s -> Holo Spring 2 KTE -> SE -> EC Studio B -> Classic/OG
    Here there was no competition to my ears… I dramatically prefer the Classic over the OG. The OG sounds slightly veiled in comparison and the classic’s increased treble energy and bass impact offer improvements to an amp that I consider can be somewhat sleepy sounding.

    Pi2AES -> aes -> SFD-Mkii -> bal -> ECP 3F -> Classic/OG
    Here there was also no competition to my ears… I dramatically prefer the OG over the Classic. The 3F has no need of the increased apparent resolution, treble energy or bass impact coming from the Classic. The Classic gave me the impression of a slightly oversharpened photograph while the OG’s richness was welcome enhancement to the 3f.

    Ergonomics
    My OG set was previously upgraded with the newer Crescent Strap, so ergonomically the only difference between the two are that the Classic is noticeably lighter than my OG. I suspect this is due to the difference between the cocobolo vs maple, but I won’t discount that there also could be something internally that reduced the weight. In any case, the lighter version was appreciated.

    Conclusion
    My decision on OG vs Classic? I’ve decided to hold-off upgrading for the time being. I do believe the Classic offers an apparent improvement in clarity and resolution, but the trade-offs make the ultimate decision between the two system dependent. As often stated… synergy is everything.


    Thank you @zach915m and SBAF for putting these out on loan, and @ChaChaRealSmooth for organizing. The loaner program is truly a wonderful thing!

    ----edit----
    I should really use a spell checker before posting
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2023
  4. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    AUTEUR CLASSIC LOANER IMPRESSIONS

    Thanks for the reminder to post impressions, @dasman66.

    Chain was: Pi2AES --> Mogami 3173 AES cable --> Yggdrasil Analog 2 AES input --> Mogami 2497 RCA cables --> brand spanking new Nitsch x Schiit Magni Piety --> Auteur Classic headphones via 1/4" cable and with leather earpads. (I don't know anything about ZMF earpads so just used what was on them when I received them.)

    Note that my Magni Piety had not been used before the evening when I used these headphones. I listened for around three hours total, so I guess give more weight to my later impressions than my earlier ones given the amp hadn't really warmed up until then.

    tl;dr: While I can recognize some strengths in the Auteur Classic vs. my Focal Utopia (which I've owned for 6-7 years now), I prefer the Focal Utopia overall.

    Summary of listening impressions:
    • First Listen: My initial impression was that there was lots of bass, but that it was not as detailed as the Utopia's. Also that the Auteur Classic had less treble presence and sounded a bit splashier to me. Vocals had a weird edge, which may be attributed to the amp not having been warmed up.
    • Physical Weight: The Auteur Classic felt physically heavier than the Utopia. Looking today, I see they are both rated at 490g, so my impression must have been purely subjective. Perhaps they sit a little different on the head.
    • Subbass: The Auteur Classic subbass was truly noticeable vs. the Focals. It really threw me off at first, and took a while to adjust. If you love bass heavy music then ZMFs seem great for that. Bass guitar riffs sounded awesome and full on these.
    • Resolution: Though the Auteur Classic was pretty resolving, they were not as resolving as the Utopia. I noticed this on the trailing end of cymbals. Amp could have something to do with it too.
    • Switching to Low Gain: My initial listening was all done on high gain. I had hardly any play on the pot. Was listening at around 8 o'clock. I then switched to low gain and listened to some of the same songs. On low gain, the sound didn't sound as heavy. It was a little more even and enjoyable. The pot was then at around 9 o'clock on low gain. Vocals sounded more authentic and real to me on low gain. Not sure if this was because the amp had burned in a bit, or if the synergy was truly better on low gain with these headphones, but I enjoyed listening more on low gain.
    • Reminiscing about Lyr+: My last headphone listening experience was using the Utopia with the Lyr+ loaner. That was my best headphone listening experience I've had at home. (see Lyr+ loaner impressions here). The Auteur Classic + Piety was disappointing in comparison. They didn't seem to do as well together when music got complicated and I didn't enjoy listening as much. Vocals didn't sound "right" to me like I remembered on the Utopia + Lyr+ combo. I also didn't enjoy the Utopias as much on the Piety either (more on that below)
    • Overall ZMF Impressions: These are the third ZMFs I've tried. Many years ago I was on the Atticus and Eikon loaner and didn't love either. The Auteur Classic were better to me, but I think I'm just not a fan of the wood cup + reverb effect of ZMF headphones.

    After listening to the Auteur Classic on low gain for a while, I switched to the Utopia (also on low gain). The transients on Utopia were crazy fast compared to the Auteur Classic. I noticed this especially on fast drum rolls. Cymbals sounded more real and metallic on the Utopia. The Utopias did have less bass (particularly subbass), and vocals on the Utopia did sound a little wonky for a while after switching back to them. The overall sound on the Utopias was less weighty. After a while, I got used to the vocal presentation again and the slam and energy was back. Felt a bit like returning home.

    Unfortunately, I did not have time to try the Auteur Classic again to confirm whether my initial findings were headphone-related only or also were affected by lack of warm up for the Piety. So please take all of the above with a grain of salt, except for overall impressions between the Auteur Classic and the Utopia at the end of my session.

    Thanks for letting me participate in the loaner!
     
  5. Ksorota

    Ksorota Friend

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    Auteur Classic Loaner Impressions:

    I apologize for the delay in getting these out, but my overall conclusion is that its my favorite ZMF headphone (at least that I have tried out)

    I have not been able to experience any of the Verite's or Caldera, but have listened for a good time the Auteur og and Atticus and was on the Atrium loaner previously. The og Auteur and Atticus were a bit too laid back for me and I ended up leaving ZMF and going down the HE-6 path for a while, enjoying the more zippy performance, air and treble energy. I was on the Atrium loaner, and while they have some of that zip, it didnt give me the same feeling of joy that the Auteur Classic did for what they were good at. The Auteur classic on the other hand seems to be a solid mix of the Atrium and the OG, meaning that they are the sweet spot in my mind.

    The Auteur Classic is a warm leaning neutral headphone in my opinion. It has a great sense of body and soul and kept me very engaged during listening. I had them at the same time as the RD-X loaner and I was having a hard time picking a favorite. The RD-X was a better technical performer, but the Auteur Classic being more intimate and romantic sounding stole a lot of head time.

    The wood choice of the loaner was very good and fairly light. I did not notice any head fatigue with them which was a bit of a problem with my OG BW Auteur. They were light enough and the newer headband is well balanced.

    Most of my listening was done with the leather pads...i tried the velour but didnt like the way they change the sound to less energy.

    The Auteur Classic to me represents the goldilocks zone ZMF IME, (though my experience of the lineup is limited) and are on the short list of headphones I would purchase as a single set to own. Great Job with the update Zach, I am always excited to see what products you will be releasing. The work is wonderful.

    Chain: Mac Mini > ECP Walnut X.3 > EC Black Widow
     
  6. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    I'm a little late to this party so I'll try for a shorter review. There are many here that were able to go into more detail than I'm able to but I did want to jump in, especially since I feel this is such a capable headphone. I'll also include some comparisons to my Atrium. Many thanks go to SBAF and all those organizing this loaner. I don't think it can be said often enough nor emphatic enough what a boon the privilege of home demo is.

    Fit & comfort are standard for ZMF, and for me that's quite good. Construction is solid and I can wear them for hours. As far as weight, they felt like they were in the same ballpark as my Cherry Atrium, though I didn't weigh them. I'm not sure of the wood but I'm guessing It's the stock Ambrosia Maple, which would make sense since they're both in the 490 gram range.

    Keep in mind the usual preamble:
    My chain for playback is various WAV, FLAC, & MP3 files from my refurbed HP Elite Desk via USB to a Bifrost 2 to either my ifi Pro iCan (1st version) or ZMF Pendant (also 1st version). The Auteur Classic also sounded fantastic from both amps, but I still felt the best sound was from the Pendant & the majority of my listening was done with that. The fully closed Titan Mesh was used with the Atrium and stock pads were used with both headphones (Auteur pads for the Auteur Classic & Universe Pads for the Atrium.)

    The Auteur Classic is a wonderfully engaging headphone for my tastes. If The Atrium is considered "ZMF neutral" The Auteur might be "ZMF incisive" since it pulls back the midbass a bit while still maintaining the ZMF warmth I enjoy. Atrium slams harder, but Auteur Classic is no slouch. It sounds to me that there's more of a sub bass focus with the Auteur Classic,though Atrium has good reach,and there was more mid bass with the Atrium though the Classic is quite far from being bass shy.

    The mids sound slightly more emphasized on the Atrium than the Auteur Classic, though it's not a huge difference. Vocals and strings et al were never edgy or brittle with either headphone, constantly drawing me in with "one more song...".

    I never gave the OG Auteur a fair enough shake as I found a bit too much energy in the treble. This was before Zach had committed as deeply to creating as many pads as he has to help tailor the sound. Interestingly even with the solid mesh on the Atrium, I felt the treble to be similar, with a touch more energy coming from the Auteur Classic. I imagine that would change with one of the more open mesh options available for the Atrium. Either way the Auteur Classic might have my favorite treble presentation I've heard from ZMF yet.

    Not surprisingly, I found the Atrium to have a wider taller headstage, but again the Auteur Classic isn't closed in or small. It's just that the Atrium is bigger all around. Still the Classic has a coherent stage and great imaging.

    As you would expect, the Atrium does resolve details better as well, but the Auteur Classic never left me wanting. I'm at a point where I'm not chasing the finest nuances anyway. Neither headphone is really lacking unless you directly compare it to the uber resolving headphone elite. When I sit down & just plain listen, I am thoroughly drawn in.

    The Atrium & the Auteur Classic share quite a bit of sonic DNA, but they are voiced differently to be sure. With the Classic I'm hearing more Sub Bass, more even (still ample) mid bass and a bit more treble sparkle. With the Atrium, the bass hits harder, mids sound a bit more forward with a more relaxed treble presentation. Both are incredible sounding headphones IMO and personal preferences will play a part, but I have a hard time saying which one is "better". For my preferences the Atrium ticks the most boxes, but as they say 'I wouldn't kick the Auteur Classic out of bed for eating crackers' either. Zach did a fine job with the Auteur Classic, it's definitely worth checking out if you're in the $1500 headphone market.
     
  7. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    Thanks to SBAF for loaner. I had good time with Auteur Classic and it has impressed me a lot. I will miss it.

    My Chain

    Roon -> Ambre(I2S) -> Sonnet Pasithea -> EC ZDS (Philips 6SL7 WGT)

    99BF490E-B5C9-44E1-A83C-898D5C42D8E8.jpeg
    [​IMG]

    I am a fan of ZMF and own Verite. However for past few months I only have HD800s and 650 with me so I was excited to get Auteur as I have only heard it in Show condition. As soon as I put Auteur on my head, the DNA of ZMF headphone was palpable. In simple terms Auteur is warmer tilted headphone with tamed upper mids and high treble. Now when I say warmer, it’s in comparison to neutral headphone. It’s not as warm as say Verite closed. But just enough to make it sound wet. The bass goes deep and is very textured and clean. I feel the bass was cleaner then my Verite and bass decay was just great. I loved it. Mids is as romantic as it can get. Lower mids of Verite closed is denser and Auteur is much cleaner or neutral in lower mids compared to it. Now when we go to high mids - Verite closed I feel has some energy in this region and I don’t necessarily like it and Auteur is polite and I preferred it. It is a good thing in a way that vocals will never be shouty but those who want microscopic view on vocals may miss some energy in upper mids. For me it was perfect. I don’t want too much energy in my upper mids.

    Overall mids of Auteur gave me lot of goosebumps moment while listening to my Bollywood music.

    Treble is where I felt Auteur lags behind some TOTL. I mean only thing that is missing in treble is some sparkle and bite. Every instrument will be there in music just that they won’t sparkle or startle you. Transients felt rounder and that made me think Auteur will work so well when you want to play music while working. For eg. If you listen to Rooster in Alice In Chains Live album the guitar plucks via 800s and Auteur will demonstrate slight lack in sparkle.

    The sound is pleasant with good bass and lovely mids and treble is non fatiguing and won’t demand immediate attention to music.

    Soundstage is not as wide as Verite closed but is wider than HD650. Each and every instrument is placed with space and are not mushed together like it can be with HD650. No complain for soundstage and imaging. There was good depth as well. Verite has better height for sure. Yes, since trailing edges of notes are mutated so sometime in busy passages background instruments may not be clearly heard but not a major issue with properly recorded music. For my music preference I simply loved it. For Rock and Metal or for faster paced music, Verite is a better headphone as it provides some sparkle in treble and is faster as well but for everything else I would pick Auteur.

    Comfort is great. I guess this stock wood is on lighter side and there are lot of options available like crescent pads, B.B.B straps for even weight distribution. Go crazy with customization.

    As far as pads go, I used the default Perforated Auteur leather and didn’t change to suede as that would have taken away the sparkle and bite further I felt.

    I’m so impressed with it that if this is my only headphone I won’t miss anything and will I trade my HD650 for it? Yes, without a doubt. It does everything better.

    As closing thought I would say Auetur is easier headphone then Verite to integrate with any system. The tuning is very safe. Pair with Neutral chain or slightly warmer or brighter chain as per your preference and it will perform with aplomb. Nice to see a headphone that doesn’t shove upper mids in my ear.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2023
  8. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    Took the weight just before packing and it is around 550gm and I guess the demo unit has Aluminum chassis? So it will go down by 30gm with Magnesium Chassis
    134AB183-B791-4C69-B68B-037A17B10AD1.jpeg
     
  9. Aklegal

    Aklegal Friend

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    Many thanks for allowing me on this tour. I had been wanting to hear a ZMF pair of headphones for years.

    Chain: Pi2AES-->Yggdrasil OG-->Piety or Audio GD Master 9

    Headphones: Senn HD 58X; Senn HD650 Kiss; AKG Q701

    tldr: A great neutral set of cans that I prefer over OG Focal Clear, LCD2C and JAR650OG. These are probably my second favorite pair of headphones after the JAR650B.

    What I liked
    - These are smooth and clear. They are not uber-lit up clear like the JAR650B, but seemed free of grain throughout the range.
    -The bass and sub bass was just fantastic and a clear step up from every HD6X0 or HD580 variant I have heard. Bass was strong and didn't veer into warmish, bloomy, fuzzy, undetailed bass.
    -Didn't lose composure on complex passages. I used some classical for this, but my main weapon of choice is Patty Griffin's song "Flaming Red" - The Auteur Classic stands up here managing to delineate between what seems to be a million electric guitars, an electric bass, a hamonica, drums and Patty's voice without becoming a total wall of sound mess.
    -They are sexy.

    What I am neutral on
    -Can rich, neutral, and dry co-exist. It kind of does with the Classics armed with the Lambskin pads.
    -Tight sounding transients and notes. @Vtory mentioned their issues with the Classics' ending trail of notes. I agree. Notes seemed to disappear quicker than I am used to. Above I mentioned that I liked how the Classics kept their composure during complex music passages, well maybe these sort of truncated notes or transients are the reason it is able to do that. I don't know.
    -I am probably being Captain Obvious with this one but while I think these are neutral sounding cans I don't think they are transparent. I never forget that I am listening to a pair of wood-cupped ZMFs.
    -Treble isn't as lit up or airy as I normally like, but it is very good and nowhere near a deal-breaker for me.

    What I didn't like
    -I spent most of my time listening with the lambskin pads. On ZMF's website, they are described as being closer to their house sound. They do seem to bring out the sound of the wood more than the perforated suede but I think they dull the dynamic punch of the classics. The suede pads are where it's at if you value midrange and treble dynamics.

    Questions:
    - @zach915m , Any chance the Classics will see some driver mesh variations like the Atriums?
    -I keep reading how these compare to the Atriums, but do the Atriums have more air? A pair of Classics with more air in the upper midrange and treble would be the only headphone I would ever need.

    Summary: With the perforated suede, I love these headphones. Everything just kind of sounds right through them. I would switch out to my modded HD650s and re-discover some treble energy and air, but it would only take about 5 minutes to re-acclimate to the Classics. I am pretty sure that if I had a pair of these and a pair of JAR650Bs, I wouldn't shop for another pair of headphones.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2023
  10. zach915m

    zach915m MOT: ZMF Headphones

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    Oh - we use the solid mesh on the auteur Classic, so you could go anywhere from atrium mesh, aeolus mesh or no mesh and pull a little to a lot more upper mids and treble. The different meshes are on the shop part of the site under "diy."
     
  11. ckhirnigs

    ckhirnigs Friend

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    First of all, thanks to @zach915m as always for the opportunity to try out one of his new creations! Thanks to @ChaChaRealSmooth for coordinating the loaner tour as well.

    I was originally signed up to send my OG Auteur in for the Classic upgrade right when spots became available but ended up changing my mind last minute. There were multiple reasons for this, but it really came down to how much I was preferring my Meze Elite to my Auteur. I didn’t foresee the Classic upgrade offering enough of a difference from my OG to sway me away from the Elite.

    Despite this decision, I still really wanted to hear the Classic to see if I had made the right call. Thanks to the loaner tour here, I got my wish. It was really fun comparing my OG to the Classic. I spent the first few nights with only the two Auteurs. Towards the end of the week, I put the Classic up against the Elite.

    Chain used was Tidal > Zen Stream (USB) > Bifrost 2 OG > Quicksilver Headphone Amp and SW51+. I used my ZMF 2K Copper cable with all three headphones to eliminate that variable.

    I enjoyed the Classic and quickly noticed some technical improvements over my OG. Bass seemed a bit more extended and punchier. Soundstage was clearly better, especially depth. Imaging was more precise as well. Other than that, it was obviously still an Auteur, and that’s a good thing.

    Against the Elite, the technical improvements of the Classic weren’t quite enough to win me over. Weirdly, the thing that struck me every time I switched between the Classic and Elite was the vocals. Human voices sounded richer and more realistic on the Elite. It almost seemed like something was off with the Auteur each time I switched to it, though my brain adjusted after a few songs and things sounded natural again. To sum it up, voices sounded more ethereal and breathier on the Classic. The Elite presents voices in a meatier way if that makes sense. In the end, I preferred the Elite on every song I compared.

    I don’t think I’ll be upgrading my OG Auteur anytime soon. I like it for what it is, and even though the Classic is better technically, it’s not worth it to me to spend $600 for the improvements. This is all because I have the Elite. If the Auteur was still my primary pair of headphones, I would seriously consider doing the upgrade. As a secondhand owner of a very rare pair of Manchurian Ash Auteurs, I would love to have the piece of mind of a lifetime warranty on the drivers. That being said, if a driver ever fails on my OG, that will be a perfect excuse to get the upgrade done.

    As always, I’m so appreciative to get the chance to sample a pair of $1500 headphones in my house for a week. It’s such an awesome perk we get here at SBAF. Now I’m really looking forward to getting my week with the Caldera. I think it might have a serious chance to dethrone the Elite. We shall see!
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2023
  12. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    I had the pleasure of listening to a pair of Auteur Classic outside the SBAF loaner tour, thanks to Zach's generosity, and as a gesture of thanks, I thought I'd add some brief impressions here. Chain was Yggdrasil A2 and Stratus. Comparisons were with HD 600 and the Vérité.

    Navigating to this thread just now, I saw Marv's first post in which he described the Auteur Classic as like the HD 600 in the ZMF lineup. That's how I hear the Auteur. As it happens, it had struck me as I listened to the Auteur Classic that it's a natural upgrade to the HD 600 (which I own). I'd say the technicalities and timbre are superior with the Auteur Classic, and I wonder if the Auteur Classic is one of the best headphones I've heard for presenting the timbre of acoustic instruments in a realistic and beautiful way.

    I'd heard the original Auteur only briefly a couple of times at CanJam, so with less than ideal show conditions, and had been reluctant to buy a pair because the treble had seemed a bit hot for my tastes. I'm not sure that was a legitimate take but, regardless, I have no trouble with the Auteur Classic's treble. Instead, I find it to be nicely extended and pretty smooth, with nice sparkle to acoustic guitars, the right amount of zing to cymbals, and enough air to make for a nicely open and airy sound. The mids are a pleasure, as is the bass, which I find to be surprisingly robust and rich, without being overdone. I'm also surprised at how low down it goes. And the bass has lovely texture; double basses have a nice woody sound to them.

    The staging, speed, resolution, macrodynamics, and slam are all excellent. There were moments when I missed the speed and resolution of the Vérité or the bass and spacious staging of the Atrium, but the value proposition of the Auteur Classic put those thoughts to rest, and, well, ultimately, the Auteur Classic just do everything so right that it's churlish to want them to do anything differently, given my preferences.

    Overall, I'd say these are some of the most pleasantly tuned and enjoyable headphones I've heard. I hear nothing to complain about, which is to say I can't find any sins of commission. I prefer their tuning to those of the Vérité, which I own, and the Atrium, which I lust after. The Auteur Classic are, simply put, one of the best pairs of headphones I've ever heard. I sometimes wonder which headphones I'd take with me if I were to quit the hobby and could have just a single pair. The rhythmdevils-modded LCD-X are on the list; now the Auteur Classic joins them, supplanting the HD 600. I might have to get a pair!
     
  13. Mystic

    Mystic Mystique's Spiritual Advisor

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    Auteur Classic Loaner Impressions

    Chain: Arcam CD73 - Soekris 2541 - Studio B


    Preface: I have owned a blackwood Auteur since they were first launched. It is easily one of my favorite headphones I have ever owned. Going into this, the classic has some big shoes to fill for me.

    Being that my Auteur is an early blackwood model (serial #001), I have read that they are a smidge darker overall in signature than later Auteur models.

    Vs Auteur OG in blackwood:

    Neither headphone is really better than the other imo. They both do some things better and some things not so much. The overall tonality is very similar, just a little bit tipped upwards with the classic having clearer and brighter highs. The classic also has a better punch in the lows, drums have a more distinct prat compared to the sometimes mushy OG. Not to say the OG has mushy bass, just as a point of comparison with the classic. Bass quantity seems very similar.

    One thing I really miss about the OG when listening to the classic is the ethereal quality the mids and upper mids have. Maybe it’s the blackwood, or something else. I just get a more emotional connection to the music with the OG. My blackwood Verite C has this quality as well, to a smaller extent.

    Overall they are very similar. Despite the differences I noticed when dedicating listening - if I were casually listening to music while doing something else I would probably forget which one I had on my head.

    Conclusion:

    I would never upgrade my Auteur to a classic. The classic is VERY good, but after 5 years of listening to my OG, I could never bring myself to change it. However - the classic is a very good headphone. I would absolutely consider buying one if I didn’t already have an OG. The classic brings a more technical and detailed Auteur to the ZMF lineup.

    IMG_1381.jpeg
     
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  14. StageOne

    StageOne Friend

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    I’ve previously owned the Aeolus a few years ago and had the chance to try the Atrium while it was on tour and while they are both good, they didn’t hit my sonic preferences. I was hoping the Auteur would, and I was not disappointed. Of the three I’ve heard they are easily my favorites.

    Chains
    Pi2AES > Yggdrasil A2 > Freya+ > BH Crack/SW51/ECP T4/ Starlett
    Mac > Modi 3 > Nitsch Piety

    The Auteur Classics (AC) reminded me of the Focal Clears but with the ZMF sound. Both have good bass extension. I think the Clears may have a slight technical edge but I know many find the treble an issue. Comparing to my JAR650s, the ACs have better bass in both quality, extension and texture. They also do a better job in fast/busy sections ("Pirates" - Live in Prague album) keeping better instrument separation and more control with less smearing. Swapping between the two the differences in staging is evident with the JARs being more forward.

    I tried the Auteurs on a number of different amps I had on hand, Starlett, ECP T4, SW51, Piety and BH Crack. It played well with all of them but the biggest shock for me was how well it played on the Crack. The Mids and treble were fantastic though the bass was a little bloomy since it’s a stock unit. I’m sure if you have a speedball update it’ll be even better with more bass control.

    I listened to both pars of pads and slightly preferred the perforated leather but didn’t dislike the suede as I have on other headphones. I tend to like a lively presentation but the suede did have a tighter focus on staging and placement.

    Comfort wise, the ACs are fairly heavy but the headband design really works to even the load and I had no issues with listening sessions that where an hour long.

    Beyond the details, I really enjoyed just listening to the ACs on any amp and with any music. I tended to forget about listening the the headphones and just got lost in the music. To me, these are a winner. Thanks @zach915m for the opportunity to give these a listen.
     
  15. Joshvar

    Joshvar Almost "Made"

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    Thanks to @zach915m and the always enjoyable SBAF loaner tour. I try to not read impressions before writing these, but going back through what’s been said - a lot of this is a repeat. All listening was a BF2 OG → mid-level Bottlehead Crack build, but a lot of comparisons are from memory due to moving and a factory-fresh HD600.

    Auteur Classic is pretty close to my (very fond) memory of the Auteur OG. Separation is a bit clearer and the bass extension is better than I remember from the Auteur - whatever sorcery was done with the Atrium seems to have been applied here. My “beloved songs but crap recording tolerance” test also seems to have gained a few tricks from the Atrium as well, but I wasn’t quite as in-tune with that in my first go with the Auteur. Aside from that, it’s playing to the strengths of the Auteur OG - pleasant, well-balanced, and this weird mix of forgettable while you’re listening but unforgettable when you’re not. I absolutely intend this as a complement - there’s not much wow factor while listening, but I think that’s more due to the across-the-board competence that they possess (causing no one thing to stand out) rather than being boring.

    Pads! So from brief, non-controlled comparison the Auteur perforated lambskin and Auteur perforated suede came with it - with the lambskin skewing it closer to HD650, and suede skewing it closer to the HD600. The DIY roots are in his craft, and this is something that I think is a massive value across his line - pads and mesh can really tune something in to your tastes that’s close while maintaining the core capabilities. This takes me by surprise even after 4 go arounds with ZMF headphones.

    My takeaway is that I prefer the Atrium, but the Auteur Classic is an easy recommendation for a starting point in ZMF’s line to get a feel for what is on offer. From a “frequent reference” angle, I think these can be a (rather large) next step for either a HD600 or HD650 enjoyer looking for a bit more balanced lows (less midbass bleed/more subbass extension) with better staging and separation, but while not losing the famed HD6-series midrange and smooth but clean highs - just choose the right pads. For HD600 tuning, I feel that the Auteur perforated suede pads are really close. For HD650 tuning, the Auteur perforated lambskin gets the balance more in line with that slightly dark flavor.
     
  16. RestoredSparda

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    Thanks @zach915m for the loaner!

    I will keep this short as I feel this thread has so many good impressions that it's pretty easy to get an idea of how these will sound.

    I currently have an Atrium Open and Verite Open and directly compared those to the Auteur Classic.

    These don't have the resolution of AO or VO, but are still decently resolving - think stock HD600.

    Speaking of which, these were the first ZMFs that I preferred the velour pads. They helped to refine the treble a bit compared to the leather which I felt were a bit etched or splashy up top. (Pad rolling with ZMFs is very personal so take my impressions with a big grain of salt. I prefer a warmer sound sig but didn't feel the leather were warmer, just a bit more pronounced sub bass and more attack).

    These are definitely a more linear tuning compared to both AO and VO. I mentioned in my status a few weeks ago that (with velour pads) they really remind me of an OG pair of HD600, except they actually have sub bass when needed. AO and VO have a thicker sound due to more elevated mid bass, which I really enjoy.

    To me, I was a bit disappointed with the headstage and imaging compared to the AO. I was hoping for a bit more in these areas with the Atrium Damping System in place. I have never heard an OG Auteur so I can't comment on how it's different there.

    TLDR: If you prefer HD600 frequency response and tonality over HD650, and are interested in getting your toes wet in ZMF land, the Auteur Classic are a really great option.

    I still think Atrium Open and Verite Open are worth their price, especially on the used market, and are a sizeable improvement over the Auteur Classic. But, for $1,500 and under (used) these are hard to beat when it comes to build quality, cohesive sound, mids to die for and a musical but linear and more accurate sound sig.

    I really have no complaints with them. If I didn't own the bigger brothers I wouldn't even know what I was missing (or care).

    Obligatory pic or it didn't happen...(my god I love the stock Ambrosia Maple wood on the Auteur Classic).

    20230504_121145.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2023
  17. Aklegal

    Aklegal Friend

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    I decided to revise my thoughts on the Auteur Classic after purchasing a pair.

    Read my post above for my old chain.
    My current chain has the same source BUT Yggdrasil GS--> Schiit MJ3

    Comparing the above two setup was the first time I have experienced such drastic synergistic changes in headphone or speaker performance. Its not that the Auteur Classic sounds like a completely different headphone, its just that everything improved by varying percentages.

    For instance from the "what I am neutral on" section of my post:
    WTF I don't agree with the majority of this anymore. Same headphone, same pads. Yes they are still neutral but they are far more transparent than I remember. Treble can get to fatiguing levels BUT it depends on the source material. They have far more "air" than I remember too.

    Now I love these headphones without the pad caveat. When I switch back to my modded HD650s, what I hear is a more prominent and forward midrange. I now prefer them over the JAR HD650B which had been my favorite headphone.

    I might have to revisit my long gone headphones. Particularly the Elex, Clear and the LCD2C. I have experienced synergy in smaller degrees but this combo has spooked me a little.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2023

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