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MrSpeakers ETHER Flow and ETHER C Flow -- Inspired by Electrostatic Headphones

post #1 of 4179
Thread Starter 

An interesting happened while Dan Clark of MrSpeakers was developing his upcoming electrostatic ETHER--he came up with an idea to make a better planar magnetic ETHER. While it is thought by many that the ultra-low-mass nature of the traceless electrostatic driver is what gives it its key advantages over its planar magnetic counterpart, Dan and his team came to an additional conclusion, and a resultant theory. Listening to his electrostatic ETHER prototypes, Dan and his team felt that a lower-mass diaphragm couldn't fully account for the electrostatic performance advantages they were hearing--that there had to be other advantages with electrostatic driver assemblies.

 

(Above) MrSpeakers ETHER Flow with included DUM Cable

 

What they eventually determined was that one very significant advantage that electrostatic drivers have, versus planar magnetic ones, was air flow. Though both planar magnetic and electrostatic motor assemblies use planar diaphragms, electrostatic drivers do not use magnets at all. The only things, then, between an electrostatic's planar diaphragm and air on either side of it are typically very thin, flat, perforated stators.

 

Planar magnetic headphones (as the name suggests) do require magnets on at least one side of the diaphragm (sometimes both sides, depending on the design). The magnets used are typically bar magnets or magnets in trays that in either case are far thicker than an electrostat's stators, and that present a slew of thick- and flat-walled channels and right-angles for air to move past and around. What Dan and his team determined was that the diffraction and reflection of air as it moved around these magnet assemblies was a likely cause of distortion and lost resolution (especially low-level detail), so they set out to fix that. They aimed to make the their planar magnetic motor structure look more like an electrostat's stators to the audio waveform passing through it.

 

To accomplish this, the team at MrSpeakers developed waveguides to sculpt and smooth not just the areas immediately outside the magnets (something that others have also worked on), but also to sculpt and smooth the spaces between them, on both sides of the diaphragm. What MrSpeakers developed they're calling TrueFlow. To help you understand it, here are some illustrations showing magnet structures without TrueFlow, and then (in color) those same components with TrueFlow waveguides--it'll make more sense after you look at these:

 

                                           

 

(Below) This is a cross-section view of a magnet in the tray without TrueFlow (left) and with TrueFlow (right). Notice that TrueFlow waveguides are added on the other side of the tray (again, to minimize right angles):

 

 

Here's an animated simulation showing the movement of air between magnets without TrueFlow installed:

 

(Below) In these animated illustrations, the movement of air through the driver structure is shown, first without the TrueFlow waveguides (top) and then with TrueFlow (bottom):

 

 

 

So, after all this, does it work? While it all seems to make perfect sense to me, I have to admit that I'm not qualified to answer the question. What I do have is a pair of my own ears, as well as a pair of artificial ears on a G.R.A.S. hearing simulator hooked up to an Audio Precision APx555 audio analyzer.

 

Let's start with what I hear with my own ears from the new MrSpeakers ETHER Flow versus the standard ETHER. What I hear with the ETHER Flow is a substantial improvement in low-level detail retrieval versus the standard, non-Flow ETHER. While I cannot say TrueFlow brings the ETHER planar magnetic platform to the level of effortless sonic scanning electron microscopy that the Stax SR-009 is capable of, it does bring the ETHER Flow into the top tier of the non-electrostatic world in this regard--that I can say very comfortably. 

 

Also, the ETHER Flow brings greater dynamism and presence to the bass (versus my first-generation ETHER)--something I expected would be easily visible in the frequency response measurements (which we'll get to in a minute), but wasn't. I asked Dan about this, and he said it was part of a new tuning, and also that perhaps reduced turbulence due to TrueFlow results in less back pressure, which could improve dynamics. The ETHER Flow's bass sounds more impactful, as well as faster, whatever the reasons.

 


 

In terms of measurements, if TrueFlow was supposed to result in lower distortion, then mission accomplished. Look at the THD measurement for the new ETHER Flow (below, click to see larger version).

 

 

Here's the ETHER Flow's frequency response plot:

 

 

NOTE: The measurements reflect diffuse field correction applied via the APx555's input EQ.

 

Audio measurements were made using:

  • Audio Precision APx555 audio analyzer
  • G.R.A.S. 45CA Headphone/Hearing-protector Test Fixture
    • G.R.A.S. KB0072/KB0073 small pinnae; G.R.A.S. RA0045 IEC 60318-4 ear simulators including G.R.A.S. 40AG microphones; G.R.A.S. 26AS 1/4" microphone preamplifier; G.R.A.S. 12AP microphone power module
  • Rupert Neve Designs RNHP headphone amplifier
  • Herzan acoustic enclosure (custom)

 


 

Simply put, the ETHER Flow possesses a certain effortlessness with how it goes about its business--it heaps resolution at you, but never punishes you with it. It has slam, but never overcooks it past reference levels. Will I be updating my ETHER to Flow? I'd be silly not to, and am thankful there's expected to be a reasonably priced upgrade path for current ETHER owners like me (more on that below).

 

With the performance gains MrSpeakers has given its planar magnetic ETHER platform withTrueFlow, their upcoming electrostatic ETHER has its work cut out for it. The ETHER Flow brings extraordinary clarity while still being impactful and smooth. I think it's a really neat story that improvements in MrSpeaker's planar magnetic technology came from their work on their upcoming electrostatic headphone.

 

  • NOTE: The ETHER C Flow (the closed-back version) arrived just before the time of this writing, so I'll give the ETHER C Flow more listening time before I say much more about it. What I will say now is that my first impression is that MrSpeakers' TrueFlow waveguides have made what was already one of my favorite closed-back headphones better.

 

As for availability: ETHER Flow and ETHER C Flow will be demonstrated on Thursday evening July 14, 2016 at Audiovision San Francisco, and on Saturday, July 15, 2016, at the San Francisco Head-Fi meet.  ETHER Flow and ETHER C Flow come with MrSpeakers' hand-made DUM (Distinctly Un-Magical) Cables, and are available for immediate purchase at https://mrspeakers.com/ for $1,799.99.  Shipments will begin in volume within four weeks.

 

Effectively immediately, ETHER and ETHER C Headphones with a DUM Cable are now $1499.99, and the standard cable option is no longer available.  

 

Upgrades to ETHER Flow and ETHER C Flow will be available for existing owners in the near future; upgrade price is to be determined.

post #2 of 4179
Thread Starter 

MrSpeakers ETHER C Flow frequency response and THD measurements below, including direct comparisons to the MrSpeakers ETHER Flow.

 


 

(Above) Frequency response: MrSpeakers ETHER C Flow. (Click on image to see full size.)

 

(Above) Total harmonic distortion (THD): MrSpeakers ETHER C Flow. (Click on image to see full size.)

 

(Above) Frequency response: MrSpeakers ETHER Flow (blue) and ETHER C Flow (black). (Click on image to see full size.)

 

(Above) Total harmonic distortion (THD): MrSpeakers ETHER Flow (blue) and ETHER C Flow (black). (Click on image to see full size.)

 

 

NOTE: The measurements reflect diffuse field correction applied via the APx555's input EQ.

 

Audio measurements were made using:

  • Audio Precision APx555 audio analyzer
  • G.R.A.S. 45CA Headphone/Hearing-protector Test Fixture
    • G.R.A.S. KB0072/KB0073 small pinnae; G.R.A.S. RA0045 IEC 60318-4 ear simulators including G.R.A.S. 40AG microphones; G.R.A.S. 26AS 1/4" microphone preamplifier; G.R.A.S. 12AP microphone power module
  • Rupert Neve Designs RNHP headphone amplifier
  • Herzan acoustic enclosure (custom)
post #3 of 4179

Thanks Jude for taking the time to test and listen to the headphones, and for sharing your impressions!  

 

I will add a few additional comments later but I want to address one point right up front.  If you look at the measurements you will see a "double dip" in the bass response.  While all headphones show some pad bounce (it's a mechanical oscillation of the headphone at it's resonance frequency) the ETHER headphones show 2 on most test fixtures.  The reason there are two dips and that they appear deeper than one would expect is the NiTinol headband.  

 

Our system is designed to be worn on a head, naturally.  Our headband is designed so that the leather strap actually damps the NiTinol headband when it's worn.  Unfortunately, many test fixtures do not actually support the leather headband at all, or only for a few inches.  This prevents the head band from damping the bounce in the headband assembly.  We have the same issue on our GRAS 45 test fixture as well as our custom fixtures that have no headband support. 

 

To verify that this is mostly a measurement artifact (obviously physics apply and some bounce will happen in use) we're more than happy to run sweep tones for skeptics during the SF meet.   You'll hear a nice, smooth progression through the bass without the dips you'd expect based on the measurements.  

 

So with that out of the way, please let me know if you have any questions, and for those who can join us at Audiovision SF tonight or the meet on Saturday, we look forward to your impressions!  


Edited by mrspeakers - 7/14/16 at 12:28pm
post #4 of 4179

First of all, congratulations to everybody at MrSpeakers on a stunning sonic achievement!

:beerchug:

 

Here at Cavalli Audio, we've been auditioning them for some time now, and we're excited that you'll finally be able to hear them for yourselves!  :smile:

 

 

At the 2016 Official San Francisco Head-Fi Meet, MrSpeakers will have their new ETHER Flow and ETHER C Flow headphones for audition at the Ultimeet Showcase, a special event within the meet.  If you're in the area, please come down for an audition!

 



Edited by warrenpchi - 7/14/16 at 12:46pm


Home of the Liquid Carbon, Liquid Crimson, Liquid Glass, Liquid Gold and
Liquid Lightning headphone amplifiers... and the upcoming Liquid Spark!

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post #5 of 4179

Reserved for a pending announcement about a special event.  I'll update y'all soon!  :smile:

 



Edited by warrenpchi - 7/14/16 at 12:32pm


Home of the Liquid Carbon, Liquid Crimson, Liquid Glass, Liquid Gold and
Liquid Lightning headphone amplifiers... and the upcoming Liquid Spark!

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post #6 of 4179
I have a full review that will be ready later this afternoon.
post #7 of 4179

Wow, thanks for all the info and impressions @jude!  @MattTCG, I'm definitely looking forward to your thoughts buddy, as I know we both share similar thoughts about the original ETHER.  :smile:

 

I'll be updating this post with my impressions as well, but that might take a little time, especially since things are pretty hectic today.  For now, I'll simply leave an excerpt from some stuff I've already jotted down:

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
“Experiencing the difference between the ETHER and the ETHER Flow is like f****** without a condom for the first time.  The eargasms come faster... harder... and all you can do is let them take you through undulating waves of ecstasy until you’re absolutely spent - or until the next track begins.  If you love the original ETHER, and you don't get the new ETHER Flow, you’re simply afraid to let yourself be happy.”_

 



Edited by warrenpchi - 7/14/16 at 12:39pm


Home of the Liquid Carbon, Liquid Crimson, Liquid Glass, Liquid Gold and
Liquid Lightning headphone amplifiers... and the upcoming Liquid Spark!

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post #8 of 4179


Edited by Uberclocked - 7/14/16 at 12:21pm
post #9 of 4179

Preface

Before I hop straight into my impressions, I would like to just briefly describe my amazing opportunity to be one of the first to listen to the production Ether Flow. I came into LA on Friday thinking that it was a chance for me to catch up with guys such as Warren (@warrenpchi)  and Maurice (@moedawg140) while attending (the awesome) Cavalli Audio CIEM event down at The Source AV before heading on for the San Francisco meet.

 

Now the initial plan was for Warren and Dan (@Stillhart) to pick me up from the airport and then move from there. The day before however, while conversing with Warren, he told me that the plan had to change. He proceeds to say, and I quote:

 

“I’m expecting a special overnight shipment tomorrow… one that I know you are going to be interested in.”

 

Now if you know this man Warren Chi, whenever he starts talking about cryptic stuff you know for sure he has something up his sleeve, something you’ll not expect but surely something good. For him to say it’s something I am interested in made it even more exciting.

 

So when I finally checked in into my hotel in Marina Del Rey and was planning for lunch with Warren, he finally let slip what it was:

 

 “I am now holding, in my hands, the new Ether”

 

You could totally imagine how my jaw dropped then. As a huge fan of the Mr.Speakers brand of products, and a proud owner of both the Ether 1.1 and Ether C 1.1, which the C I happened to bring along, I jumped out of my seat with this announcement. What came next was even more amazing to me.

 

“Just so you know, we’re intending to bring Dan’s DAC-19, and my Liquid Gold (LAu), to your room so that you can AB the ETHERs. SURPRISE!”

 

“Whut”

 

Shock. Awe. Those were my exact feelings. This trip just became something extra. And to add on more Liquid Courage (see what I did there), Warren decided to bring along the Liquid Tungsten (LW) as well, along with his original Ether 1.0s, and left everything in my hotel room for a couple of nights to burn in and allow me the time to develop my impressions. And quickly in the afternoon, we set up what would probably be one of the best rigs in the world right now in the room.

 

Warren listening to the new Ether Flow through the DAC-19 and the LW in my room while Dan and Maurice looks on.

 

The rig: Macbook using Tidal HIFI into Audio-gd DAC-19 into either the LAu or the LW, with the Ether 1.0s and Ether Flow.

 

While everyone had time to pose for the camera, Warren still can’t stop smiling listening to the Ether Flow.

 

Ether Flow: Physical Impressions

 

I started listening on the new Ether Flow without asking Warren or Dan the specifics, including the changes, as they knew about the project so I could try to keep myself in the mindset of a consumer who previously owned the other Ethers. From what I could tell from the outside, there weren’t any major changes for me. The new rims are of the dark blue shade, anybody that saw the Ether Electrostatic would definitely know the colour. The pads however, were of the angled pads used on the Ether C’s. I’m not exactly sure if it’s the same exact pads, but from what I could tell it is.

 

Now, previously in the Ether thread, I commented that the straight pads on the Ether were better for me, not only did they sound better than when angled pads were on it, it was also more comfortable for me. I will now retract my comment, as having spent some time with the angled pads Ether Flow it was definitely more comfortable. Maybe having to swap the pads back and forth previously while testing the difference created a placebo in my head that the angled pads were worse off in comfort, but not anymore. It also helps that the overall weight of the Ether Flow to me felt very similar to the Ether, it is just that tad bit heavier (estimate around 5 to 10g), though I may be wrong about that.

 

After discussing it with Warren and Dan, and as I did not (and dare not) pry open the Ether Flow to see what is inside, I found out the other changes. First off, there’s a brand new internal damping system. Secondly, the baffle is also brand new. Now these changes could not be judged physically, but would ensure there would be a change of sound.

 

Sound Impressions

Ether Flow vs Ether 1.0

The Ethers were both equipped with WyWires Red Series cables and driven through the LW with the volume controlled to be as close to each other as possible (without the use of a decibel meter) to create an equal (or as close to equal) playing field. Tracks played from Tidal are of my own choice so there would be none of that “It’s good but I don’t know the music” kind of situations.

 

Ether Flow >>  Ether 1.0

 

Impressions are done here. Thank you.

 

Okay now. Just joking. The new Ether Flow to me felt significantly wider in soundstage. It’s depth in soundstage has improved as well. However, the one biggest change is the separation I can get from the new Ethers. It separates so well, and along with the ability to retrieve detail better, be more resolving, makes the overall music picture that much clearer. I really like my headphones to be clear, and hence this change alone would make me choose the new Ethers over the old.

 

But there’s more. Yes. MORE. Both the bass and treble extension has improved as well, which was the second biggest improvement for me. The mids are just a touch richer, and I meant that in a good way, so it made the vocals sound that much more lush and fluid as to not make the headphones become coloured and maintain its neutral-ish signature with just that hint of warmth. I found no peaks whatsoever, at least on the model I was listening to. The bass impact has also significantly improved, hitting that much harder but never ever felt over the top.

 

I did not want to mess with Warren’s Ether so I did not make the change from the 1.0 the 1.1 but from what I could tell having the 1.1 as my main headphone in my house rig it’s still a big step up even from the 1.1. The 1.1 to me tamed the treble peaks a little, not to say it was bad to me at the start anyways. But the Ether Flow is just an upgrade in all directions. If I were to give an illustration for the leap in performance, the Ether would be Economy seats on a flight, Ether 1.1 would be Economy Plus and the new Ether Flow is the First Class seats that everyone yearns for.

 

Ether Flow vs Ether C 1.1

Unfortunately when I wanted to do a thorough comparison between these two the LW started to have some bias issues so I had to switch to the LAu. What a sad situation. Okay no the LAu is still an amazing rig to test with and WAS my favourite amp of all time for a long while, until I heard the LW. To re-balance the playing field, both were equipped with DUM Balanced XLR cables.

 

For the first time in my life, the Ether C felt congested to me. Maybe it was because the impending threat of being dethroned originated from its sibling, hence feeling like a much bigger change than when compared to other headphones. Now in no way the Ether C is congested at all when driven well, but that’s just the prowess of the Ether Flow. The soundstage width and depth felt night and day, and although this might hark back to the open vs closed discussion of headphones, the Ether 1.1 never made me felt that way and that is saying something.

 

The Ether Flow maintained its advantage of having that more luscious mids I was referring to before but also having a smoother treble. The mid bass bump, while obvious on the original Ether, and less so with the Ether C, was definitely smoother and more controlled, thus sounding better to my ears. It’s still there if you listen closely, but it’s no longer as easy to tell when comparing the open and the closed side by side. The original sub bass difference in terms of quality and impact is no longer there to me as I felt the new Ethers had at least equal if not even better sub bass than the Cs. So if you had chosen the C because of that sub bass you might have to reconsider when listening to the Ether Flow.

 

Ether C Flow vs Ether C 1.1

Moe, Andre (@shiorisekine) and I took a trip down to San Diego for a short meeting with Dan Clark at his office. From there we were told about the design philosophy behind the new Ether Flow series, and were given the chance to listen to the Ether C Flow.

 

The Ether C Flow, to my ears, running through WyWires Platinum Series cables and the Liquid Glass, brought in mostly the same improvements of the Ether Flow. The amazing separation improvement is still there, so is the extension of the bass and treble regions. It felt like there is just more of everything, it being fuller, and the resolution and detail just got a rocket boost upwards while maintaining the same Ether C signature that most if not all of us love.

 

Is the improvement starker than with the improvement from the Ether 1.1 to the Ether Flow? To my ears, they are not. To me, the leap shown by the Ether Flow is much higher. This, according to Dan, is due to the improved technology if you will, that was incorporated into the original Ether C and not the original Ether as it was develop during the Ether C’s development process, which was finally incorporated in the new Ether Flow, along with the new updates, making it, at least to my ears, the best edition of the Ether yet.

 

We were told that the cups on the Ether C Flow were to be different that the current Ether C. However, due to difficulties during the production of said new cups, we did not manage to catch a glimpse of the new cups. It will still, to my knowledge, maintain as carbon fiber cups but the patterns on the cup would be different.

 

Final Thoughts

I vaguely remember once, when talking to Dan Clark at CanJam London, that I told him that I felt the Hifiman HE-1000 was just slightly technically better, but I would have (and eventually did) chose the Ethers any day of the week. The combination of comfort and sound signature and quality made them just right for me, and made them being my favourite headphones of all time. No it is not the most expensive, and many might think there are others such as the Focal Utopia or the HD800 to be the best but to me the Ethers were able to perform with little to nothing but also have huge upside in terms of scaling when a nice rig comes along, packaged together with a superb comfort factor. To improve in both aspects made the new Ethers have more than enough to solidify my opinion. I no longer think there are any planar magnetic driver based headphones that are better than the Ether Flow. I have yet to be able to compare the Ether Flow side by side with my new favourite dynamic headphones, the Focal Utopia, so I shall not comment about that.

 

I know I’ll no longer be satisfied with my 1.1s. That is for sure. When I had the Ether Flow in my room I always switched back after a while listening to the Ether 1.0s and Ether C 1.1s. I felt like I lost something every time I go away from the Ether Flow, just that little more clarity, that wider soundstage.

 

Overall, the Ether Flow and the Ether C Flow is just that much better. If you had like the original Ether and Ether C sound signature to own one of each like me, or if you were a prospective Ether or Ether C owner and was thinking about it, the new one is just a no brainer. Anyone who didn’t like the existing Ether or Ether C should also have another go as this really is a head turner. I just can’t believe such a stark improvement could be made on the Ethers just about more than a year after it was introduced.

 

Finally, I would like to congratulate @mrspeakers for coming out with such an amazing product. Thank you for the effort from you and your team for the community.


Edited by ejong7 - 7/14/16 at 12:51pm
post #10 of 4179
So, after listening to the Ether Flow and the C Flow over the weekend at the Source AV, I have come to the conclusion that I need to have one of these.

The Ether Flow compared to the Original Ether is leaps and bounds better in my personal opinion. To me it is just more full sounding and the Ether sounds like it is missing something when I compare them side by side. When comparing them I had the urge to turn the original up because to my ears it was just missing something and it bothered me. The Flow open is just more engaging over the original IMO, it seems to engulf me with the music and makes me feel warmer. While I do like the Original one I would pay the extra for the Flow.

As for the Ether Flow C, I am glad I waited until the Source event rather than posting my impression after the San Fran meet. Admittedly I didn't like the C or the first C Flow I heard, however Dan spent the week before the event tuning and tuning until he got what is the final sound. And I have to say, THANK YOU DAN, I think out of the 2 I would rather get the C because of the way it sounds now. It to me sounds as if it has better separation and it sounds like a Reference piece but it also still very musical. I think the C is going to be one of my all time favorite headphones until the Ether E comes out.
Edited by shiorisekine - 8/3/16 at 12:16am
post #11 of 4179

Brilliant! Is the light weight still the same when more material was used?

post #12 of 4179

Brilliant news. Hope to hear them in London soon :L3000:

post #13 of 4179

I want to congratulate Dan and Peter and the gang at MrSpeakers for another truly fine product. I have been listening for a couple of days now, and have been forced to dig out recordings I haven't listened to in a while, just to see how the new Ether C Flow headphones handle them. This is the most Fun headphone experience I have had in quite a while. The bar for planer magnetic headphones has just been raised.

post #14 of 4179

My unit came in a little late so I probably won't have a full review ready until next week some time (after the SF meet) but I'll be posting impressions and answering questions.  

 

Spoiler alert:  they're not muddy.  

 

Both the Ether Flow and Ether C Flow are big steps up from the previous iterations.  The performance for the price is unprecedented.  Dan could have charged much more for these headphones but he's actively trying to buck the trend of charging more just because he can.  All of his headphones are priced as a function of cost, not performance.  Kudos to Dan for taking a stand on that! 


Edited by Stillhart - 7/14/16 at 12:27pm
post #15 of 4179

Interesting! I have never been a fan of the Ether or Ether C (thought they were over hyped) but maybe this will be an improvement!

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