Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Oct 3, 2018.
That might make for an excellent combination.
Marv, any thoughts on BHA-1 vs Phonitor for the ZMFs?
Too hard to say. I'd say Phonitor. Or maybe Rag 2 (I have not heard the production, but it's my guess). I honestly use Fulla 2 right now because I'm always moving around working at different locations. I kind of feel that the ZMF headphones deserve TOTL tube amps. It's cheapo or all-out for me. No middle ground. I wish the ECS7 was still being made.
Do ZMFs like super low output impedance? I know Zach likes ampsandsound amps with his headphones, and those are super romantic tube amps with fairly high output impedance.
I heard the Aeolus at TSAV using my RME ADI-2 DAC and their SPL Phonitor X (I have an XE, so I am familiar with the pairing). To be honest, I didn't 100% love the sound of anything I heard there that day. Part of it, I think, comes down to TIDAL's stupid 96kHz wonkiness on Android phones that I couldn't seem to fix.
Everything sounded a little wrong to me (as if 44.1kHz content got upsampled to 96kHz by a shitty algorithm, perhaps) and I recently wiped my phone, so I didn't have any proper files to test with (I made the mistake of making a TIDAL playlist and assuming that would work for my testing).
The Aeolus sounded good on the combo, but there was some sort of almost echo-chamber type vibe to the sound and the bass wasn't half as slammin' as I expected.
I want to head back up in the next couple of weeks with the ECP Audio L-2, Garage1217 Project Sunrise III, or Cavalli Liquid Platinum to get a better feel for the headphones.
I think the Verite does. I prefer it on SS amps. My Eikons, Aeolus, Auter all like tubes and higher OI.
You'd think so, but the pendant is actually pretty neutral.
Which really is to be expected, zach like metrum DACs and he does have working ears ...
Anyway, I'll play elnrik-echo-chamber-but-with-hair, Veritè likes the low z switch on the T4, the rest the high z, bur they all love th Af, and Veritè likes the Makoyi too, which is really designed for playnars.
ZMF Verite - Shootout with the HD650mod & Focal Utopia
They're a lovely pair of headphones to look upon and handle, photos do not do them justice. They're lighter than one would assume given the wooden cups.
I’ve been after something that addresses the small staging, bass extension, and poor timbre of the Utopia for some time now. The Verite addresses those failings well, whilst having some of it’s own. Which way each person will come down on things will depend on their personal priorities and price sensitivity. The HD650mod joined them in all my comparisons as after hooking them up to the Laconic Night Blues Mini (aka ZDT Jr) I was astounded by how much better they sounded, particularly in the area of dynamics.
The primary chain used was: Eitr -> DEQ2496 (Bypassed) -> Gungnir Multibit A1 -> Laconic Night Blues Mini (Low-Z output). I had a quick listen out of a Fulla 2 and it was a bloated smudged mess, evidently they need some juice.
Presentation - Timbre, Tactility, & Tone
They’re definitely not an open headphone, they’re as open as I’ve heard it without being fully open though. But there’s a sense of listening from within a barrel. Which may have some benefits in terms of timbre but can sound a little odd when comparing directly to other headphones. It’s something that is acclimated to quite quickly though.
Timbre sounds so much more natural, with only a mild Beryllium tinge. Take that as stated as it really is mild and I wouldn’t expect it to be an issue for most and is miles ahead of the Utopia which can be unbearable without other interventions. What is most impressive is that this timbre is achieved without the over use of damping materials or glaring flaws in performance. Resolution is notably better than the 650m, but is then curtailed by an overall slight blurring that pervades every area of its sound. Not to be confused with veil, as it isn’t a clarity issue as such. It isn’t a deal breaker and I fully expect better synergy can be found with another chain. It remains behind the Utopia in terms of resolution in any case.
Verite’s tonality is very neutral down low but runs into trouble the higher you go up the frequencies. Vocals sound right but are far too subdued, and then oddly things get shouty as we move higher causing me to wince at times. I’ve also found Sh sounds to be emphasised. I don’t think I could get along with them long term without EQ, and finding a synergistic chain that both brings the mids up whilst tamping down it’s shoutiness, and not blurring them further, may not be possible.
Presentation is fuller and more tactile than either and a real plus along with it’s natural timbre, especially with the Verite pads which are reminiscent of that tactile textured Fostex sound.
Plankton & Micro-dynamics - The Big Little Things
Not a lot to say here, they’re all pretty comparable. Low level information isn’t as well rendered as with the other two, but it isn’t far behind. Micro-dynamics I’d say are a pip ahead of the 650m and a step behind Utopia. Here again I find its presentation is taking away from it through the combination of a subdued mid-range, barrel like presentation, and general blur.
Dynamics - Those things that make your heart flutter
Unfortunately they are with 99% of other headphones in being dynamically flat. Vocals just do not soar, guitars struck with gusto are lacking said gusto. Orchestral highs are never elevated enough to move you. The Focals are well regarded in this area and with good cause, the HD650m prior to hearing them out of the NBM I would have lumped in with all the rest but with this combination, and I presume other non-hybrid or SS amps, they are neck and neck with Utopia, with some thanks to their larger imaging. Every headphone for all the merits they may possess has a trade off, this is Verite’s. A headphone with good dynamics feels alive like nothing else, everything else is dull and lifeless during the moments that should be bursting with it.
Bass - Thump, thump, thump.
Bass extension is really nice, probably the best I’ve heard from a dynamic that doesn’t over do it on bass quantity. Tightness is somewhere in between, though closer to Utopia. They do not slam even as much as the 650m, let alone Utopia, but the combination of better extension and the more solid presentation probably make them more desirable in this area overall.
Vocals - The most emotive of instruments
650m is still the King here with the Utopia just a little behind. Verite could have been right with them, but the subdued tonality and barrel effect take away from them, they’re not to the forefront or focused enough.
Treble - The Samurai sword of sound
Only just behind the Utopia, but a few steps ahead of the 650m. The lack of dynamics often mutes their treble, with the blur softening them. So they never quite achieve that sense of sweetness you get when an instrument soars and resonates.
Positional - The stage, and where everything is, or isn’t
Image height is good, none of the Utopia’s shrunken image size. Everything presents in a bigger way. Width seems somewhere between the other two but I didn’t do a direct comparison. Staging is overall better proportioned and larger, but the imaging is ill defined and vague. Lacking in instrument separation as well.
Universe - The least dense and most performant, but more on the ethereal side of presentation.
Verite - Tactile realistic texture reminiscent of Fostex cans. Comes at the cost of softened attack, slightly smaller staging, with less air and space around instruments.
Be 2 (Experimental) - Literally a halfway house between the two.
I liked the Verite ones, if I had these long term I would spend more time with the Be 2s to see if I can settle on them. I can see many preferring the trade offs of the Universe pads, they're closer to a HD800 or planar presentation.
Note that I had no time to compare tonality.
Unfocus your eyes and just take as a general impression. Click to zoom.
Conclusion - The Three Dynamic Kings
I would easily take the Verite over any planar I’ve heard, or dynamics such as the TH900 or HD800. Which puts it beside the best two headphones I personally know of (10k+ stuff aside, and baring in mind I haven’t spent time with the Aeolus, Auteur, Elear, Elex, or Clear). The HD650 modded and properly amped, and the Utopia with it’s timbre compensated for by way of damping materials, EQ, and tubes. The Verite also requires some special measures. It needs EQ to deal with the imbalance of the dark yet shouty vocals (in theory as I didn’t have time to test this out), and a DAC and AMP where clarity are more of a focus. Which order they go in will depend on what things you prioritise the most. For me the lack of dynamics is the one thing I don’t know how to compensate for and ultimately drags it down below the other two. It could be that something in the same style as the NBM but with much more power would do it, but others will have to chime in on that one. Also given that many are against EQ it’s upper tonal issues would probably be a deal breaker. HD650 and Utopia mid balance are pretty spot on, with a little brightness and some spikiness on the Utopia which are easier to compensate for without EQ.
So in summary. The HD650m out of the right amp is stellar, but has a glass ceiling on resolution, bass, and treble. The Verite at 2.5k with the correct interventions is better in many but not all ways whilst sacrificing dynamics, which for some is of benefit as they find highly dynamic headphones fatiguing. The Utopia is 1k on top of those with better overall performance whilst maintaining incredible dynamics, but sacrificing on timbre and image height/size. So pick your poison ladys and gents, and consider how far you are willing to go for a cure once you’ve necked it.
My thanks to @Taverius for his ample generosity in loaning them out, @MrButchi for running it, and @zach915m for throwing in the extra pads and cables.
Verite Strikes a Few Poses
19/04/19 - Pads were mismarked, swapped names for Verite and Universe. Clarifications pending re. dynamics, and blur descriptor following discussions. Update pending re. Attack/Transients, as I rated them but forgot to comment.
Thank you for the review. I wanted to ask if you’ve tried it on the LNBM on high-z setting? On my Liquid Platinum (low-z) it’s as exactly as you said when it comes to flat dynamics and the mids also sounding flat. On the OTL the mids fill out and micro/macro dynamics are much more present in my case. The barrel sound is also there but it becomes wider and you get a very textured and holographic sound. Instead of less air you get more from the Universal pads. Regardless, all of your points are spot on what I’ve heard on low-z amps.
I agree, first @BenjaminBore ’s great review, second that a great tube amp is required to get the best sound from the Vérité (or any f Zach’s dynamics), and that “High Z” may have been a better choice for it, and probably the 650 as well.
Almost forgot, @BenjaminBore , great photos, excellent Sir, please tell me about the “Ghost Ship” Beer?!?!
Started with the Hi Z as I prefer it with the HD650 and has some interesting effects on it not unlike those you mentioned, but I switched to Lo for the sake of comparison. The change was in line with other headphones, so my experience was not the same. Bare in mind the Lo and Hi impedence outputs are reportedly, though unconfirmed, around 30ohm and 60ohm respectively. So Lo is already much higher than your Platinum. Be that as it may if I have time I’ll take another listen from the Hi Z, and my Mjolnir 2.
During a recent outting I stopped off at The Seven Stars, a tiny pub near the courts and full of character, which happens to be the oldest pub in London. I asked for a recommendation and they gave me a pint of that stuff. It’s fairly strong in flavour whilst still being light and refreshing, with a touch of citrus. I spotted 500ml bottles on sale the other day so I bought a “number” of them. I cannot offer a connoisseur‘s perspective, but it’s most certainly better than the usual piss. In fact I think I’ll start early and crack one open
I have actually been to the Seven Star, when I was based in the London area in the early eighties! My wrangler jeans and cowboy boots led to some interesting conversations, which in turn led to trading rounds.
I’ll have to see if I can find Ghost Ship here in the States, I appreciate the recommendation!!!
I just don't think the NBM has enough power to bring alive the Verite. Even then, I wouldn't disagree with the above findings. It's a softer more rounded romantic sound while having good attack and transients.
@BenjaminBore: I equate the word "resolution" with microdetail / plankon / low level information.
The power requirements increasingly seem like a factor. Would it also be so with the HD800? As they didn’t quite wake up with NBM like the 650 did.
Thank you. More recently I’ve been feeling that I need to hone in a finer grasp on certain definitions. I have generally equated resolution with overall resolution/macro-detail, are there other terms this goes by, or am I barking up the wrong tree?
The HD650 seem highly reactive to output Z, err, or at least more than the HD800. High Z is kind of a cheap way to get more slam from the HD650 provided the amp does have enough power, e.g. Crack, ZDS, etc.
Nothing else. The way I think of macro-detail is edge sharpness. It's related to transients / attacks too. I'm starting to use the words "rounded" or "square" in this respect. I dislike presentations which are too square: PWD2, Benchmark, etc. Something like the X-Sabre Pro pushes toward the square sound, but it's within my tolerable good range.) On the other hand, too rounded might imply or at least coincide with warmpoo.)
Increased resolution is always a good thing. More macrodetail is not. I'm the guy who always turns down the sharpness setting of TVs a few notches.
Then I’m way off on those terms. What I’m trying to describe and find approriate terminology for is the overall level of audible information reproduced. Using TV output standards as an overly simplified analogy: If the Utopia and HD800 are 4K, then the HD650 is 720p with a little fuzz in the signal, and the Verite is somewhere over 1080p with the sharpness filter in the minus.
Output Z aside would you say the NBM has enough power to bring the HD800 alive, as I found with the HD650. Or is it in the same spot as the Verite where it needs more power to convey dynamics to it’s full capability?
I see that you have also the Schiit Mjolnir 2. How is the match between this amp and the Verite? Would you recommend it?
@BenjaminBore Thanks for the review, lots of good info there.
Curious, what are the two black boxes on top of Mjo?
Glenn OTL for the win ahah! The ZDS, Glenn, DNA, Pendant and other similar quality tube amps definitely add a "magic" scaling factor to the Verite and the rest of our line-up. Ofcourse I usually come to this conclusion as it's my taste, but at axpona last weekend there were a couple of guys who preferred listening straight out of our Hugo 2 to anything, so go figure!
I try to think of our headphones being chameleon like as being a strength, but I also realize it can be harder to nail down your subjective preference when they change some based on your sources.
I do wonder if in the review the Universe and Verite pads are reversed? (Universe are the deepest ones - Z-Axis) I read the same thing the same way...if that makes sense.
@BenjaminBore thanks for checking them out!
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