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E-mu Teak Headphones

Rating:
5/5,
  1. AT Khan
    The EDM Listener's Audiophile Cans
    Written by AT Khan
    Published Aug 25, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Price (comparatively, against competing products), Comfort, Sound Quality, Instrument Seperation, Bass, Make (Metal & Wood), Nice Soundstage
    Cons - A bit towards the V-Curve, a bit fragile (yet still). Non-detachable cables (and challenging removable cable mods), Accessories, Average Isolation
    PS: Some content here may be a no-brainer for most but is just there for the less-informed. Please also ignore any errors, judgements. If you'd like to add something or comment, please feel free. It's possible that I may have missed something or have perceived something else differently.
     
    Disclaimer: This is not a loan unit. I am not affiliated with EMU Systems in any way. The following review comprises my personal opinion and understanding of the product, and my own experiences. I have not been compensated or paid or influenced in any way while having written the following content. This review is strictly to be judged according to the retail price I got this for: $475. My final thoughts and take-away or any recommendations should be valued at that, and the whole game changes if the price goes higher, as naturally, more competitive options will have to be considered.
     
    I'd like to thank our friend Chan from E-MU, our go-to guy for these cans, through and through for helping me here. I'd like to commend him for being a bona fides provider of these cans to many before me. Coordinating with him was silky smooth, and his support throughout was great. He gave me options to choose from (amongst the wood types) and thoroughly followed the whole order and delivery process. More people like him and E-MU will have a great audience.
     
    These are the same cans as the E-MU Teaks, which is the brand name. They're officially called E-MU Wooden Series, I think the naming scheme isn't quite there yet, as these don't have a discrete product name; though don't be confused. They come with mainly the Teak wooden cups (hence the name). Alternate options are Rosewood and Ebony (the main competing option is the Massdrop/Fostex collab, which comes with Mahogany, Rosewood and Purple Heart, and just recently, Ebony, where their wood is much darker than E-MU's).
     
    The following are with Ebony ear cups (chose this over Rosewood and Teak). People do actually say Teak are the best sounding, but I like the rarity and the dark, dense look of Ebony. In the end, it's not a night and day difference, but Ebony felt more... valuable to me. More cups with other wood varieties can be purchased later, though a privilege for existing E-MU Wooden Series owners only.

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    My pair was shipped from Asia-Pacific (Singapore) and I got them the next day here in Dubai. Thanks to FedEx, shipping was lightning fast.

    SPECIFICATIONS:
    50mm neodymium magnets with bio-cellulose/fiber diaphragm drivers.
    Circum-aural (over-ear) design
    Sensitivity: 106 dB
    Impedance: 25 ohms
    Max Input: 1800 mW
    Cable: 3M OFC
    Weight: 370 grams (without the cable)

    The magnetic Flux is between 1 to 1.2 Tesla, similar to those Beyer Dynamic's Tesla drivers, and then some.

    Aluminum + Magnesium alloy frame with a steel headband. Metal is incorporated in the band, the yolks, and the cups. The only plastic parts are actually the driver baffle and ear cup frame.
    The design looks closed. It almost is... except they're not sealed. Through and through, these cans pay homage to the Denon D5000/7000 series, and overall, by all counts, they sit between the two, so you could probably call them the D6000. The frame is Denon spec, unlike the Fostex spec frame on the x00 series, and hence the frame and yolks are silver as opposed to Fostex's black.

    PACKAGE CONTENTS:
    Not much. 1) A pair of custom headphones. 2) A 3.5mm to 6.5mm jack. That’s it. But of course, I couldn’t ask for more... or could I?
    Packaging was minimal. The headphones were well protected inside the package though. Foaming was nice - no bumps at all.

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    REVIEW:
    The first thing any person would immediately notice after putting these on is how delightfully comfortable these are, despite the contained and relatively narrow room for your ears in the pads. Yes, the pads are not as open from the inside as Fostex TH-600/900/x00, but still very comfortable. How they’ve achieved this is with egg-protein based ear pads with a lot of smooth, comfortable cushioning inside the pads. It isn’t quite memory foam, but comfy. The foam is much thicker at the back end, kind of fluffiness that helps even more, angling the drivers towards the ear, and handling much of the weight behind the ears rather than balancing it around it.

    The headband is not too thick and pretty straight, but again, I hardly felt any pressure of their weight. It’s astounding what they’ve achieved without any extra padding, and it’s simply not needed. Again, another feature that looks inadequate to the eyes but feels just fine.
     
    The second most obvious thing a listener will feel is that they’re… almost open back. You’d be amazed by the openness and airiness of the sound-stage. So, even though it apparently looks closed-back, it’s not. The baffle has holes in it, which let sound out, reflected by the inner frame and then let out by a this seam-like gap between the frame and the cups. Very thoughtful design (I think this design is just ideal for electronic or bass heavy music - retains both bass and sound-stage, well as much sound-stage as it can). The air leaks via a continuous gap where the wooden cups and the frame meet around the most widest edge of the headphones. It’s ingenious. Interestingly enough, they combine the openness, natural tone and sound-stage of open backs with the bass texture and punch of closed backs - a hybrid design aiming to achieve the best of both worlds.

    I did check the Hifiman 400i at one time, and a lot of other AKGs, Beyer Dynamics and Sennheisers. Even the Audeze LCDs (2 & 2.5), though equally great sounding, have sound-stage and comfort issues. LCDs are indeed too heavy and longer sessions may be questionable. Hifiman HE-560, HE-X and HE-1000, have great sound but still lack that bass-ey punch, and of course, are not the same price-tier either. Most other closed-backs will have a much narrow sound-stage and sound less natural in the mids and highs. Then again... that price-point is another class.

    These seem much lasting and much classier than most out there. They don't look vintage, but timeless. The metal + wood finish is very eye-catchy and aesthetically put together, and as practical as it is much visually appealing. Although there are more competitive headphones out there, but that’s the $1000+ league.

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    BUILD:
    Needless to say, the build is great. The hardwood Ebony ear-cups are nice looking with a dark finish, and are strong and dense. The weight of the cups speaks for itself. The metal frame is solid. The wire is so thick and braided; such heavy cables are not quite rare for headphones of this price anyhow, and it reaches to the point of feeling like an overkill. Still, great from start to finish. Though these headphones aren’t mean for taking too much abuse, and care must be taken. I don’t think any owners would want to test their limits anyhow, after the amount of money they’ve spent.

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    SOUND:
    This is where the buck stops. How do they sound? Phenomenal. I must tell you that I didn't have any burn-in on these. Apart from that, I have always witnessed that a good product is good, regardless of burn-in time. It should be great out of the box. If a product is bad, it'll be terrible out of the box and will remain terrible forever, so burn-in obviously plays a role, but with time. I guess it will help later in probably the easing up of the drivers and the cups and frames adjusting with use, and these are only expected to get better.
     
    The sound is indeed very tight, because of the superior drivers as well as the high magnetic flux. Vocals are bliss. Sound stage is fantastic, for an almost closed-back pair of cans. It’s so good, it’s almost deceiving sometimes if I'm even wearing them or the sound is just coming from the speakers. Now again, good open-backs may still have a more open sound stage, but at the price of bass, so it's a trade-off really. These, however, fight very hard to be on par with openness. They attempt to satisfy all urges and never fail. The highs are great. The sound overall is indeed Hi-Res. The highs are a tad bit sibilant, but in a good way. There is no fatigue, which is great. The sound is very natural compared to most closed-back headphones. People would suggest that the sound may be similar to some good Beyer Dynamic cans. I wouldn’t disagree. But most of their builds are plastic-y, and I’m a sucker for better materials.
     
    Bass is great. Just great. I have the JVC HA-SZ1000s which are… almost bass-gods. These are almost there. In extreme cases, the JVC will win, but I don’t miss much of the bass or punch with these on. Though one main point of comparison is that the E-MUs have a very forward sound. The bass hit and punch is right upfront. On the JVC though, the punch isn't there. Naturally, since the low-freq driver is housed BEHIND another driver, the lower-mid bass feels incomplete. On the E-MU it's very upfront, crisp and quick. Close up sounds are very intimate, again, without overpowering or muddying anything else, regardless of the frequencies.

    With an open sound, almost bass-head level bass, and good, upfront, clinical sound, they’re just fun and glorious to listen to. They're towards a V-curve, so they're not flat.

    Listening to most music that I have, regardless of the genre was great. Movies and soundtracks were great. Vocals are quite forward. Instrument separation is very nice. Stereo separation is extravagant. You can easily tell when the sound is in the middle, sideways or completely around in the ambiance.
     
    COMFORT/ISOLATION/LEAKAGE/PORTABILITY/AMPING:
     
    Due to not being completely sealed, there would be sound leakage, though still less than fully open-back headphones. The passive isolation is below average. They will not block outside noise. These are almost wear-and-forget types. Besides the weight, the balance and design is comforting enough for several hours of continuous, scot-free use. Though some sweating may occur in warmer weathers; the pads are not very breathable.

    The stock cable is really, really thick and heavy. It’s quite long too. Portability with this cable is simply out of the question; too long, too heavy. The cable modding though, is the biggest catch here. I looked inside and made a few attempts, but the baffle and the frame have such a narrow space, there's no fair chance of having a jack inside the frame. Modding is gonna be tough, and I think in almost all cases, be an installation outside the frame rather than inside.
     
    UPDATE: E-MU is bringing out an installation piece based around the 2.5mm female jack which will attach to the outside of the frame, so there. $50 extra for that, if you'd like it.

    Amping is quite receptive on these. The run okay off a reasonable phone. In fact, the my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 feels almost like 95% of what I need in juice when I turn it all the way up in my PowerAmp App. A friend's iPhone 4 actually felt overpowering the cans, so Apple users rest assured by my standards.
     
    Though the lack of portability (with stock cables) clearly makes it obvious these are a desktop/studio/home solution. For amping though, any average fiiO to any higher, more powerful is just fine, as not a lot of power is needed. Don’t worry if you don’t have one. DACs? Well, take your pick there.
     
    TAKE-AWAY:
    If you’re an electronic music enthusiast, look no further, at least for this amount of money. These, or the Massdrop/Fostex x00, even the TH-600/TH-900 (though much pricier), or the bloody Mr. Speakers Ether (the pinnacle) may just be too good for electronic music. But like I said before, anything besides these, if better, is the $1000+ league. I can proudly say that these are ideal and best bang for the buck at this time for electro/dance fans. If you go to Massdrop though, then there is a wait time; the purchases take more than a month to about three to eventually ship.
     
    If you can spare the cash, and want em this week (which you should), go for these. You won't be disappointed... at all. In fact, you may as well give yourself a pat on the back that you did. Talk to Chan. Get em in 3 days. And then just enjoy 'em.

    Are they worth it? Definitely. Sound and build both vouch for it.

    At the end of the day though, sound is a very subjective domain, and my review and opinion is strictly to be taken with a grain of salt. Some may find solace in something else, but reality couldn’t be too farther from the truth. Though I’m certain they’re almost as good as I say they are.

    Guess what you’d need after buying this kind of stuff though: A damn good looking headphone stand; probably one of those wooden ones to suit this masterpiece.
     
     
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    5 DAY UPDATE: The single best thing about the Fostex/Foster OEM phones is the driver. A bio-cellulose/fiber/paper cone composite (depending on which one it is) driver is being used in these and those Denons, new ones and old; they're all using similar diaphragm-based drivers and not those standard PP or mylar ones. This diagram and the driver as a whole is simply superior. The build of the phones is nice, I admit. Metal and wooden backs. But the acoustics being used are nothing extra-ordinary or too different from standard engineering designs. It is the drivers playing the most important and critical role and dominating the science behind the sound here. I've had A/B listening with these and all my other cans. These are like miniature speakers. I couldn't tell if my speakers were playing or if it were these. Well part of that was because of their non-sealed enclosure... but the sound resolution was very high. The sound and feel was like that of the paper or Fiber or Kevlar cone of speakers. With these diagrams, it's like they've the shrunk speaker sound into headphones. I believe those other walnut ones by emu as well as two good cans Denon still makes have this may have that speaker-like punch at the bass and great hi-res sound.

    I think even the hd600/650 may remain slightly inferior as they don't have these cones. These cones help with the bass... the kick... the resolution... the vocals; instrument positioning and separation is simply stunning on these. It's like having surround sound, and during moments when bass was punch, quick and dead center, it felt like they had a dedicated bass unit or a sub. But the bass was never too slow. The kicks were thick and tight. Bass on my other cans... even if I raise the volume on them... is simply thin. And the resolution is different and a lot inferior. The mids are either veiled or too piercing otherwise. The smoothness and naturalness in the bio-cellulose drivers is simply... Oh la la.

    I will not abstain from recommending looking into Denon AHMM400, AHMM300, EMU Walnut for your next upgrade, tomorrow or next year or ever if you want more portable cans with a very similar sound signature (although with a closed back I believe).


    I remember when I once demo'd the AH-D7100 at a meet. I felt this in the sound. And now listening to the Fostex/EMU I'm reminded of that speaker-like sound feel. Due to 1) such drivers, 2) a leaky design and 3) Tesla magnetic flux, the E-MUs conquer the best of both, open and closed worlds. I believe it will be hard for Hifiman cans and even other planars to compete with these at this price-point, open back or closed.

    These are end-game class headphones. The sound and the build is so nice that you may not be wanting to upgrade for years on end once you have these, unless you really mess them up somehow. They will ask for some respect and careful handling though, as though not quite indestructible (like those V-Modas, and definitely not German Maestros), they're one hell of a purchase and well-worth the money.


    TESTING EQUIPMENT: ASUS Xonar DX/XD, chained with a fiiO E07K / Creative E5 (yeah, not a complete audiophile yet, but this gear is enough for these cans, trust me).

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    UPDATE 1:
     
    Finally modded the removable cable on the cans, and made aesthetic mods to the cups:
     
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    UPDATE 2:
     
    I just had a cup-less drive of my cans. And damn, am I impressed.
     
    Bass is often compromised with no cups. Bass, you ask? Damn, it's all the same. Still tight, and they will shake your ears just the same. Neutrality is added, and I had some improvement in sound-stage too. Damn, these 50mm bio-cellos are the sh!t man.
     
    At this point, I will declare, cups or no cups just have 5% difference in sound. I'm gonna say for me, it's just a cosmetic thing and protects the drivers. I would even have just a mesh over the drivers instead of cups and still be happy all the same.
     
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    UPDATE 3:
     
    Finally modded the damn stock serpent/anaconda **** with mmxc connectors. The stock cable is great, no doubt, but it's a good damn anaconda.
     
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    UPDATE 4:
     
    Hopefully my final rendition of all mods... there's too much going on in there (dampers and stuff) which I just can't list here... Anyhow, it's semi open.
     
    Despite how much l loved them, in longer sessions, they sounded veiled compared to say the Hifiman He400i or the Massdrop/Sennheiser HD6XX, so I tested them cup-less. Few things here, few things there, and here's my findings:
     
    - Bass is still the same. Yup. Even without the wooden cups, these beautiful drivers deliver the same amount of low end. In fact, I'm thinking maybe the bass has increased in volume... (shhhhh). I don't feel it's any less tight. It's the same good damn bass. And they still shake and give you eargasm... ahh... ah that's the stuff.... aaaahhh.... 
     
    - Long term fatigue: gone. I used to have some sort of a choking or claustrophobic feeling before at louder volumes. No more. Sound can leak, so my ears can breath better, and there's no choking anymore.
     
    - Airiness: gone up. It's more airy now, and much better, pretty much like my open back cans.
     
    - Stage: improved. Things sure have opened up a bit more. More outside the head now, and more enjoyable.
     
    - V-Curve: It's become more flat... i mean, they're still V, but it's much, MUCH better.
     
    - Highs: tamed. Yup. The slight... offness in the highs that used to bug me once in a blue moon, will not bug me anymore.
     
    - Naturalness: Yup, they sound more natural now.
     
    - Weight: Much less... I can feel it much less, and that adds to comfort. Yup. FTW.
     
    So overall, things have undeniably improved, and I will keep my [prized] ebony cups in the drawer for occasional use I guess.
     
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      jaco61, iamjaymo, Wilashort and 5 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. dpump
      What is Chan's email address? I will try that to see if I can get an answer.
      dpump, Oct 1, 2016
    3. Bykhoff
      These let sound in, but how much sound is leaked out? Will someone six feet away hear what you are listening to?
      Bykhoff, Jan 12, 2017
    4. AT Khan
      Good question. Most probably, yes.
      AT Khan, Jan 12, 2017