ZMF Caldera Review and Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Vtory, Sep 12, 2022.

  1. ilikebananafudge_

    ilikebananafudge_ Facebook Friend

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    Has anyone tried these with the LAuX? Curious if they have the same synergy that a lot of planars seem to have with that amp.
     
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  2. MuppetFace

    MuppetFace Sultana of Seafoam Green - Moderator

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    I’m rather interested in these and the Final D8000.
    Thanks for the insights as always, Marv!
     
  3. takato14

    takato14 God of Ruin

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    Not quite.

    Isodynamic and Magnetostatic are the names used by the original designers of the principle, one of which was an engineer from Wharfedale.

    Isodynamic specifically refers to a planar which has an isometric magnetic field: symmetrical, dual-sided magnets. This was a necessary design choice when the ID-1 came out at the tail end of the 1960s, since it used what were essentially refrigerator magnets to drive a rather heavy membrane.

    For instance, HE-6 is an isodynamic. HE-1000 on the other hand, is not, because it has an asymmetrical magnet structure.

    The rest of them are interchangeable, if you don't mind breaking patent laws. ;)
     
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    Last edited: Nov 16, 2022
  4. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Going further OT here, but it's interesting, so...

    I don't believe the term 'isodynamic' necessarily refers to a dual-sided magnet arrangement. 'Isodynamic' means 'equal force', and was first used with respect to magnetism in the 1830s (eg here's an early example, and here's an early global map of isodynamic lines, ie contours of equal magnetic force).

    In their product literature, Wharfedale did indeed refer to their dual-sided magnets; but their main point in using 'isodynamic' to describe the drive principle appears to have been that the driver membrane is subjected to equal force over its entire area (iso = equal, dynamic = force), aka the 'flat-field' principle, as distinct from (what we loosely call) dynamic-driver (moving coil would be better) constructions in which the magnetic force is supplied only near the centre of the driver by a ring magnet.

    In a 'planar', there's equal force over the entire membrane area whether the magnets are on two sides or just one. So IMO 'isodynamic' is the best general term for these sorts of drivers, with the others, as @takato14 says, being trade names introduced by other manufacturers to highlight their special tweaks - eg Yamaha's 'orthodynamic' referring to the spiral conductor windings in their membranes (which btw were corrugated and hence not 'planar') being perpendicular to the circular radial magnetic fields of their magnet plates at all points, so that Fleming's law (electrical current, magnetic field, and resultant force being mutually perpendicular; the 'left-hand rule') applies everywhere.

    TLDR: the best general term for these types of drivers is isodynamic. Fight me. :p

    Edit in red.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 17, 2022
  5. sp33ls

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    I'm wondering if the Caldera (open or closed) will be the perfect complement to my VC.

    I loved everything about the Atrium, but the mids were just a tad too forward for my [sensitive] ears.

    Marv's comments about having the Atrium's qualities in the bass region have me real excited.
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    So following up on synergies and with more in-depth technical analysis to come.
    • Peity from MOTU Ultralink out. Gorgeous with simplified material (Sinead O'Connor's Black Boys On Mopeds) but falls apart with busy bassier stuff (typical test track from Daft Punk RAM). I found the 300Bish bloom to interfere with clarity. Also felt a but underpowered and soft. The Caldera takes some voltage / power to drive.
    • Magni 3+ from MOTU Ultralink out. CFA but more or less a traditional solid-state design with good highs that may still be too grainy for some. This offered the clarity that I wanted, but I found the highs a bit sharp and too disjointed from the best of the band. It wasn't needling or spotlit, but rather broad bump maybe around 7.5kHz which is my guess.
    • Asgard 3 (with ESS DAC module). Overall tonal balance is dark, but this had the oomph in the lows that the prior two did not have. Despite being known as slightly syrupy rounder transients and rich sounding, was able to maintain good clarity. The huge positive is that it took the edge off the highs. I like dark and rich, but not overly so. With the ESS DAC module, this felt just right with the Caldera.
    • EC Studio B (WE 300B) with LiM. Some 300B bloom of course, slamming. However this amp has a bit of the EC edge in the upper-mids and highs particularly when paired with vintage USA type tubes. A bit V-shaped and didn't quite do it.
    • Custom 445 with LiM. This a somewhat mellow amp with deep staging. It works with the Utopia while still letting the Utopia being the Utopia if that makes any sense. This was the best combo.
    The Atrium mids are indeed forward in the mids depending upon mesh. The very open "Marv Mesh" in particular very much so. I'm used to it or deaf at the peak, so it works for me. The Caldera is very different, opposite to the Atrium in the mids / upper mids. Caldera has laid-back upper mids. Atrium's got that spotlit peak in the upper mids. Caldera's got a broader peak in the lower-treble.

    Atrium does hit harder though.

    D8000 has a bit of sizzle in the mid-treble. Caldera some sharpness in the lower-treble. Both I find tolerable (or not even noticeable) on the right setup without EQ. I don't listen as loud as I used to anymore because everything goes downhill with age and I'm trying to save as much as I can even though I'm loathe to wear hearing protection when I jam with my daughter on the drums (at this stage, she only hits with one volume: loud, hey - a lot of rock drummers are the same way). Both are super resolving or resolving enough for me with the music that I want to listen to. D8000 is more articulate, truly open-back sound for modern times. Very appealing to me. Sort of the classic Japanese ortho deal. Caldera is more romantic, sort of like what I would imagine Sony would do if they made a planar proper (and not the crap they've been making the past few years). Also very appealing (or gross depending upon one's tastes) because of the ZMF approach.

    Will follow up with measurements...
     
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    Last edited: Nov 18, 2022
  7. Raidersfan8118

    Raidersfan8118 Rando

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    Hey purr1n I’m curious how the caldera upper mids are in comparison to vc upper mids?
     
  8. Paul Scandal

    Paul Scandal Rando

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    So it is more detailed. Yet what of the often spoken of musical sound from bio-cellulose drivers? My Grado lacks the detail of my planar but I still sounds more like live music in a room; quicker, more immediate.

    It feels like I'm hearing more than exaggerated treble, but maybe that's all there is to it.
     
  9. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    There are definitely some headphones that exaggerate treble to mimic detail resolution. I can't speak to your Grado, but the Caldera isn't one of them IMO*. Keep in mind if you hear one of the more respected member make a claim of more detail, you'll more than likely find that to be true. At least that's been my experience.

    The bio-dynamic musicality doesn't necessarily translate to moar detail either. It usually results in a certain timber that sounds very natural & quite appealing to many (depending on tuning/quality of driver I imagine). I am finding the speed & resolution of the Caldera to be very engaging, but my preference is still for the Atrium overall.

    *I have a Caldera on loan from ZMF, I own the Atrium
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Caldera is more laid-back in upper mids than VC. VC is more even in the highs.
     
  11. lagadu

    lagadu Facebook Friend

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    This description makes it seem like the Caldera has a lot of similarities compared to the VO: some energy in the treble, relaxed upper mids, very fast speed. Is this accurate?
     
  12. sp33ls

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    I'd begun to arrive at a similar impression -- like a VO with a bit more bass extension?
    Tho, I wonder if the VO (& VC) still edges out the Caldera wrt timbre.
     
  13. zach915m

    zach915m MOT: ZMF Headphones

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    The Caldera kind of sounds like a combination of the VO and Atrium mids to me, with other obvious planar differences due to driver type. It ofcourse depends on what you're listening to/listening volume/listening preferences/age and all that stuff. It's definitely not a Planar version of a VO or Planar version of Atrium.

    Edit: In thinking - the Caldera is more an evolved Ori maybe than anything else. Just in terms of the sonic characteristics. Albeit quite evolved.

    Here's some graphs I just swiped from the B/K 5128 with diffuse field weighting:

    Atrium (dotted) Vs Caldera (solid)
    Calderas_SOLID___Atrium___DOTTED.jpg

    Verite Open (dotted)VS Caldera (solid)

    Calderas_SOLID___VERITE___DOTTED.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Nov 18, 2022
  14. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    From my admittedly faulty memory it actually reminds me of the OG Blackwood dialed up to 11 in headstage & treble extension. I am finding them umputdownable.....
     
  15. zach915m

    zach915m MOT: ZMF Headphones

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    I agree with that, the tuning is definitely more alike the Blackwood overall.
     
  16. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Fight Wualta, Kabeer, Faust2D, ericJ, dBel84, Gurubhai, Boilermakerfan, and a whole bunch of other og ortho pioneers who knew a lot more about them than you do and called them “orthos”
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    • Ortho = rectangular, straight (diaphgragm)
    • Iso = equal (force across diaphragm)
    I propose Iso-Ortho-Dynamic, at least for the ones with the magnets and traces that are even on the diaphragm and not super weird.

    I think planar works too, namely because estats are so niche that no one thinks of them.
     
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  18. Biodegraded

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    In this case I think 'ortho' is used in the sense of 'perpendicular', because Yamaha's main bag in its description (and trademarking of the term) seemed to be about how the spiral conductor and circular magnet geometries allowed conductors and magnetic field to be perpendicular at every point on the driver membrane - as opposed to a serpentine conductor / straight magnets config in which the conductors have to turn through the field near the driver's edge.

    I'd be fine with 'planar magnetic' as long as it's understood to be referring to the magnet or magnetic field geometry and not the driver geometry (the Yamaha drivers being corrugated). Yamaha seems to be explicit about this in the specs of the new one ("drivers - planar magnetic field type") as was Wharfedale in the description of theirs ("flat-field principle").

    And really, despite it starting life as a trademark, if people want to call them orthos I'm fine with that too. I mean depending where we're from, we'll happily talk generically about sellotape or hoovering. Apologies for diverting the thread into pedantry. :rolleyes:
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2022
  19. zach915m

    zach915m MOT: ZMF Headphones

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    Seems legit. I'm happy to conform to whatever is correct.

    Here's some earpad graphs, stock lamb Caldera pads are always solid red.

    Stock VS Suede
    Calderas_STOCK(RED) VS Suede DOTTED.jpg

    Stock VS Cowhide

    Calderas_STOCK(RED) VS Cowhide DOTTED.jpg

    Stock VS Thin Lamb
    Calderas_STOCK(RED) VS thin DOTTED.jpg

    Stock VS Thick Lamb

    Calderas_STOCK(RED) VS THICK DOTTED.jpg

    Overall I don't know that I hear them exactly as they measure, as the cowhide definitely sounds the smoothest/darkest to me despite the measurements. these are al DF by the way. Generally I think the stock lamb and suede are a good place to start with the Cowhide as a good "hit or miss" pad. The thick and thin are for those who find the headphone either generally too bright or too lean in stock form. The thick pushes them towards the Verite in the mids but with slightly less treble peak than verite, albeit higher up as well near 7.5/8KHZ.
     
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  20. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Zach's Caldera video is out.



    Unlike other ZMF new product announcement videos, this one spends quite a lot time (roughly 50% of the whole playtime) in contextual backgrounds -- by explaining t50, zmf mods, and his general thoughts on planars/orthos, which I believe are independently meaningful and interesting.
     
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