General Information

XTC.png


New headphones from John Massaria Audio (JMA), famous for modifying Kennerton and Hifiman products. See below for product description from their webstore:

JM Audio Edition XTC 50mm BioNano Wool/Beryllium Dynamic

CONTACT US FOR COLORS AND STYLES AVAILABLE and TUNING AVAILABLE

We use two different drivers (Berrylum and Woven BioWool both Cast Baskets not stamped using N52 magnets). We also offer upgrades to 7N (What is OCC 7N? Basically the best copper wire you can buy in terms of both sound quality and physical properties.) We can use this on your XTC for internal wiring- Material: OCC 7N (99,99999%) copper- OCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) a casting process developed to help defeat annealing issues and virtually eliminate all grain boundaries in copper. It is the best of the best available and we beelive we are the only headphone company offering this option. We also use WBT silver solder with these upgrades.

If inquiring for custom mods on the XTC- we can personalize the email to show you what is available and how we can help. We will help you select the correct ear pads and wood styles that meet you needs or desires for sound and esthetics.

We don’t mass produce anything. We custom tailor our products to suit what an individual wants and that takes skill and time. Even our most basic mod will get the utmost time and dedication from us until we are satisfied with the sound quality. We have to meet all of the typical qiality we feel is necessary We don’t simply mod away, slap a sticker on it and call it a day…we take our time on each individual headphone until it is ready to be loved and used. JM Audio Editions specializes in headphone modifications, accessories, and in stock headphones ready to ship that come with a full warranty. Every headphone we mod or make gets tested before we put our signature logo on it- Frequency response, sound sweep, spectral flatness test, dynamic range, bass shaker, driver matching, wiring in phase, absolute phase check for all internal driver wiring.external wires, Harmonic Distortion Test, and Binaural Test - then we audition each set of headphones with 10 test songs. We ship direct from our headquarters here in New York USA worldwide. Look around and email us with any questions at massariaj@yahoo.com

JM Audio Edition XTC Open Back 50mm BioNano Wool/Beryllium Dynamic

I have spent the better part of this last year and this year searching for the best measuring dynamic driver… one that can be customized and tailored for warmth and extraordinary detail - and can be further dialed in any way a user may like before they order. I found what I consider the finest driver on the market - an all forged/cast not stamped basket utilizing N52 magnets and an occ copper coil system with a very fast and agile nano sized 50mm diver - one of the best I ever measured.

Utilizing our patent pending fractal fiberglass mesh system to open and extend the soundstage and create more depth emulating an open back along with our proprietary new nautilus spiral sandwiched between layers of fractal mesh - this allows a new amazingly open sound unlike any we ever heard before- it sounds so correct and so close to the best open backs that practical money can buy no matter the size of the cup.

We also wired the very precious drivers with OFC copper wire - the best I have ever seen in the headphone business available that I know of especially in this price range. We do offer internal wiring using OCC 7n wire as well for a slight upcharge w/silver WBT solder ($50).

The XTC Is tuned to reveal all the details deep inside your recordings. You can expect deep tight bass with no bloat yet at the same time the XTC is even and smooth through the mid range and treble. The XTC has precise timbre and has a knack of digging out sublime details with air as light as a feather; while remaining composed and never harsh or sibilant. Each song you play you will dive deeper into the recording and immerse yourself like no other headphone I know of currently - a very light weight headphone (14-16 ounces - as a comparison the Hifiman Arya weigh in at 404g / 14.3oz.) and extremely comfortable headband - yet is now a heavy weight in performance- utilizing JM Editions patent pending fractal mesh technology for a wide spread out soundstage. Ez to drive at 32ohms and 114 db efficiency!

We are including a practical Waterproof Flight Case to protect these during transport and storage.

You also get a choice of 2 (two) sets of ear pads. We have 3 choices : (1) Vegan Leather Exterior Pad with Microfiber suede Fabric that touches skin with slow moving but not dense memory foam for a light airy feel both on your head and for your music sessions. A real favorite of mine is the (2) ‘Fluffy Memory Foam Angled’ for a more bassy dynamic experience with ultimate comfort- like two soft pillows on your ears. We also can recommend a very (3) light leather like perforated ear pad for the most air and spread out stage and less bas option. Can’t decide on which ear pads? Email us and we will help you select the best choices for your music tastes. Its easy!

And for the ultimate ear pad choice - we just added two very premium choices - top of the line deep cushion perforated angled sheepskin leather (more open sound than solid but slightly less bass) for $50 additional or solid top grain deep cushion supple soft leather (more bass than the perforated sheep leather) for $50. Both of these are my personal favorite both for comfort, sound and ultimate luxury. Email me for more even more recommendations if you are looking for personal guidance on ear pad choices and your sound preferences. This is my passion and I can help you get exactally what you are looking for... email me at: Massariaj@yahoo.com

The XTC series also Includes a beautiful 2mm cable- braided w/36 strand 26AWG high purity OFC (Oxygen-Free Copper) cable, Litz structure which means some strands will be mixed diameters yielding best performance. Each ear cup gets a dual 3.5mm male plug for direct wiring to each ear cup driver- termed in 3.5mm for amp end, 2 m XLR cable or special request by email - the 2m TRRS end. Email me for more options or questions at massariaj@yahoo.com

Please note: Black color is $75 addtional.

You can purchase them from: https://www.jmaudioeditions.com/shop

XTC.jpeg

Latest reviews

Zhon

Head-Fier
Simply Excellent
Pros: - Incredibly lifelike timbre
- Control, extension, transparency
- Comfort
- Versatility: Free retunes, free upgrades, pad rolling
- Perfect soundstage for full immersion
Cons: - Too revealing of bad recordings depending on tuning, can be mitigated with a smoother amp
IMG-0527.jpg


Background: I am relatively new to the audiophile world, but in terms of music exposure, I have played the flute for close to a decade now. This is the first review I have ever written, compelled by my wonderful experience listening to the XTCs. This is also my first open back, of which I am glad that these were the first, though I plan on going to CanJam SoCal this year to see how these compare with the more popular options, such as the HE1000s, Focals, ZMFs, etc.

Customization Journey: With John, you can send these back for free retunes (I sent them back twice), since I did not have previous preferences when I first ordered them, and John tried the best he could the first time based on what limited information I gave him about my tonal preferences. I was very impressed the first time I received them, but felt that something was missing in terms of refinement and personal enjoyment; the first tuning was missing some top-end and the second made vocals too harsh and forward upon further listen. The third time I received these, John switched to an upgraded driver and tuned these to his "preference reference" tuning, and I was mightily relieved by the fact that I didn't have to send these back anymore! I will describe the wonderful sound of the reference tuning below, and explain how every characteristic of the headphone contributes to overall enjoyment and immersion. Tuning info: Slightly warm but detailed -> Warm with elevated detail -> Reference.

Bass: These headphones have heaps of bass for a 'reference' tuning. However, it is very well-controlled and tight. Well-extended and incredibly textured, natural bass that still sounds neutral with respect to the other frequencies, reminding me of a Yanyin Moonlight with way better bass quality, but only slightly more quantity. Incredibly engaging, and satisfying, but never boomy and uncontrolled. Reference bass does not have to mean flat and boring, these hit the exact spot between neutrality and enjoyment; the bass is the best of both worlds. The reference tuning doesn't turn these into bass cannons, but it exemplifies the ability of these drivers to reproduce such high-quality bass.

Mids: I have never listened to a tube amp before, but the tube mode on my Cen.Grand DAC/amp makes vocals and instruments sound euphoric and detailed at the same time. There is a very slight touch of smoothness, that, when combined with the reference tuning, gives them just the right amount of bite and attack, but also produces plenty of overtones and just makes them sound incredibly 'correct'. Violins in the Waltz of the Flowers never sounded so lifelike, so real, with just a touch of smoothness added to help with the euphoric experience and enhance immersion. The Cen.Grand is one of the most musical solid-state sources I have tried, and if this is what the 'tube sound' is, count me in. The reference tuning, when combined with a clean musical-sounding source, makes everything sound real.

Highs: I am very sensitive to sibilance, and the treble on these is close to the borderline of what I would deem sibilant. However, I am happy to report that I have experienced no fatigue whatsoever from hours-long listening sessions. The reference tuning, along with the drivers' great extension up top, allows treble to shimmer and sparkle, but in a natural way that is not overdone. Again, it sounds real. I would describe the treble tuning as neutral, leaning very slightly bright. It is like everything is covered in a soft shimmery glow. Musical, and real, yet incredibly detailed, with the perfect amount of edge to the sound for most tracks. Poorly recorded ones will sound harsh, as this tuning results in incredible detail retrieval.

Comfort and soundstage that tie everything together: The soundstage on these perfectly matches the tonality of the headphones. Imagine you are at the center of a campfire, and the seats are arranged around the campfire at a bit of distance from the center, not too far away, but not in your face. And then the music starts playing. The staging is holographic, deep, and tall, but not artificially wide. You are not sitting at the back of a large concert hall or standing in a long school hallway, but instead, you are surrounded by the music. It's incredibly engaging, and detailed, yet relaxing and euphoric. The soundstage is effortless, and immersing yourself in the music has never been easier. Additionally, these disappear on your ears when using the fuzzy pads, which only adds to the already incredible experience.

[Added imaging & separation section]: The imaging I would describe as coherent. It is close to pinpoint imaging, though the tuning seems to slightly 'blend' the sounds together for an incredibly coherent listen. Separation is also good, again slightly 'blended' for an effortless and natural presentation. It is very easy to pick details out if desired, but I like the slightly laid-back way it presents the music, adding to the immersion and effortless nature of these headphones.

Sources: I would pair these with a transparent, yet musical source. I have tried these on my little MoonRiver2 Ti, and it didn't sound bad, though I felt that I was listening to the source instead of my headphones, with a noticeable digital glare from how Moondrop implemented the Cirrus DACs. However, with the Cen.Grand, everything fell into place and I felt that I was listening to the headphones themselves, despite it being a solid state with the ES9038 Pro and LM49720 op-amps. It is transparent, but also musical, which is what a good source should be. These headphones will reflect the source, being so transparent, so choose carefully.

Pad rolling: John usually provides a few sets of pads with your purchase that you can switch out to see if you like the sound better. I will note that, based on my experience with how each re-tune sounded, depending on which pads he had on when he re-tuned the headphones, those will sound the best, though pad rolling only takes a few minutes and it doesn't hurt to try. Currently, I am using the original fuzzy pads with the fabric still intact, as other pads ruined the reference nature of the tuning.

Conclusion: For only $799, these beat out my $650 Yanyin Moonlights no contest. In fact, I look forward to demoing other stuff at CanJam knowing that they may not even come close to the sheer quality and value of these headphones. It is like XGeneX88 said: "This is a $3000-4000 "sounding" headphone that can be had for under $1000." Absolutely incredible value for anyone starting out, and guess what? If you didn't like it the first time, send these back to John until you get the perfect sound that you imagined these would have. He might even throw some free upgrades in if you ask, such as the new upgraded driver (I didn't even ask! Greatest customer service I have experienced, ever). You will not be disappointed.
Last edited:
Zhon
Zhon
I got the beryllium ones. Smooth and detailed, with a refined quality to them.
B
bencha
Where does the "reference tuning" fit in the most warm all the way to most detailled tuning adjustment spectrum? :

From warmer to colder adjustment:
Warm yet detailled->warm very detailled->Almost scalpel->scalpel tuning
Zhon
Zhon
As for the tuning hierarchy of warmest to coldest, I would say warm but detailed -> slightly warm but detailed -> warm with elevated detail -> reference, the other scalpel tunings I have not tried yet.

Jaytiss

100+ Head-Fier
“A Long Time Coming”
Pros: Very light to wear, and comfort is fantastic.
Bass is nice and thumpy and fully extends down.
Incredible sound stage
Midrange is niiiiice
3.5 mm headphone connections (should be standard)
Comfort and value are insane as the earpads and cables are expensive.
Cons: No Frequency response graph to mess around with EQ
The highs need some eq as they sound a little light.
1IG3T74k1UkUM0rUrHfvKLoM5hF1HhiE-3K46B7w3HjNtvwE0Zx5IQAgCn3Xzmxlyw6rLVKHzQTkRnCQnunKOfPWvHl9UWIxUEXgcUZ75NUAUrQTGFDk6wo-kYVCEuFenX2bm4wKTsGpSteWtEvJe8I

7zNI97vI1g5ko4NI49eSb26PvM5gX6vgB7iIemJCRX2-9f_BDLMBkmmwBFRUCXm4sEHU3ei7eTzaMhJjs54pHlWh24uUjP-3zAanOTmJyuuKU7UcPhBj3a-lTJ69G-3A5PzeqMvKRnh1LfFrZXkJTuA

U8c6JMgXNF56b1Eue5GKx07MldPDBhnCvRD0KYnRkT8dBMuBNC6Tgxft19UDhfDn4GQIehKP2lwXSVPsx_e9kkCwczLke6mXq8d9zc4oGC-VHRDNirTXsfdprUVQtg2i0J3Me4Ooc_zprp-iGuBVAR0


About me, I’m pretty new to the hobby and I made a post a while ago on reddit pre-head fi days and asked “What is the best open back under $1000?” I got the usuals but a few guys recommended the JM audio editions XTC. So for me the XTC has been on my radar for a long time. I consider myself an overear headphone guy first, speakers when available, but iems have a fun place in my heart as well.

I’ve probably sent Jon 100 messages asking him about things over the last six months and a few days ago I saw a picture of one of his headphones and asked for one similar to it (the one pictured was sold), and I quickly had my headphone to me.

I bought this headphone with my own money and I bought it directly from JM Audio Directly.


Song Choice: Tidal list here:
I listen to a wide variety of music. I pick the songs because of various reasons. But I picture myself locked away like Andy Dufresne from Shawshank blasting music and shut off from the world. It’s a blissful image.
The Marriage of Figaro -The opera song from Shawshank Redemption, terrible recording but fun and gets me in the mood to listen to music.
O mio Babino caro -This is a modern less operatic version but a song with great female vocals.
Video Rigoletto - “La donna e mobile” Sung by one of the three Tenors, great song for high-performing male vocals. Pavarotti is the greatest classic singer maybe ever. Fight me!
Iron man - The sound at the beginning is hard to make sound great, great drums, and cymbals, and if done right it feels like an old-school band.
I Will Survive (1981 recording, I like her voice, and the old vocals, the drums, and various natural instruments really make this a favorite for me.
There is a light That never goes out - Smiths ( A classic, I just love it. It’s mellow, and I can tell a lot of the tuning if this song is done right.)
Jump (I like how the sound effects are in this!)
Star Child Someone recommended this song to me, and I like how funky it sounds and has nice vocals and a mix of music and things going on.
Dicke Titten Ramstein The beginning is amazing and the bass hits hard. Great song. I love rock and metal. The German language fascinates me
Master of Puppets: Very fast song. Helps me determine if the driver can keep up.

Cable- This comes with two cables, both are of high quality and neither disappoints. I personally would value the cables at about 100 dollars each, so for a 800-dollar headphone to come with not one but two really nice cables, is very high value.

Ear Pads - The stock pads on this headset are so cozy, but beyond that you get two extra sets. This adds a great deal of value for me. It's a really nice setup. So not only do you not need to replace the pads, they give you extra options. Very strong value to be found here. Easily adds 100 dollars or more to the value of this headphone.

Case The case that the headphones come in is very nice, and can fit all the extra pads and cables. It defiantly adds value as it is not too large, but a good size.

Quick-Fire Comparisons

In this section, I'll quickly compare the edition XS to other Headsets near this level.

JM Audio Editions XTC vs Arya Stealth V2 (999)
Overall Tuning:JM Audio Editions XTC
Details: Arya Stealth V2 (Slight Edge in the treble, but XTC is better base and mids)

JM Audio Editions XTC VS. Meze 109 Pro (800)
Overall Tuning: JM Audio Editions XTC
Details: JM Audio Editions XTC

JM Audio Editions XTC VS. Audeze LCD-XC 2021
Overall Tuning: JM Audio Editions XTC
Details: Audeze LCD-XC 2021

Value:
I find solid Value in this headset. To me it competes with other headphones near this price that I’ve listened to or beats them. But what is special is the packaging. This is packaged better than any headphones I’ve got the opportunity to open. It has two beautiful audio file cables and 3 sets of pads, a nice case, and looks amazing to me. I find strong value in these headphones.

Graph:
As far as I know there isn’t a graph of the XTC out in the wild. If I find one, I would be happy to share it with you.


Bass

The base sound really good, and has no major issues. I feel it is pretty strong.


Midrange

The Midrange and timbre of this headset are just mint. The upper mids seem a little recessed but it's hard for me to say exactly.


Treble

The treble is sparkly and airy, and delightful to listen to. Details are out of the box very good for me on this headset. My music sounds very good. It doesn’t sound shrill or cut. But I find when I eq the base, sometimes I do miss out on some details and it’s difficult to get the right sound out of the gate for this headphone. But it’s magical Treble, and extremely enjoyable. I have found other headsets that pull a slight bit more detail but lack in the soundstage.

Comfort: The comfort of this headset is quite amazing. I usually put my headphone on my entire family so they can try it: two boys and the wife. Everyone seemed to like it. It’s very cozy.

Recommended EQ:
For my tuning I did EQ the treble up a bit, and I do enjoy it. I don’t think the headphone needs EQ but this is what I came up with: I did ask Jon for a graph, but he tunes by ear mainly which from what I understand is pretty common.



Gifting/who is it for: This is an expensive headset, but it’s a great headset for anyone who loves audio and wants to see what the latest and greatest headset is. The comfort is much better than the Hifiman’s or Audeze’s that I’ve tried. The ability to try different pads is a cool feature in itself.


Pairing: I used a Quidelix 5k for mobile, my dongle dac iBasso DC04 for my laptop, and my JDS labs Element III MK2 Boosted for my Desktop PC. This is a very easy-to-drive headphone and has no major issues with anything I tried it with.

Summary-
The headphone game is different from iems in many ways. Comfort is important as well as something to look at and feel good about on your head. This headphone checks all the boxes. I have been looking at other headphones for a while like the new Mod House Planner, maybe a HE 1000 v2, Audeze MM-500, or even a ZMF headphone. This one has the pads, the cables, the carrying case, and is only 800 plus 30 for the premium wood. I am super happy with what I purchased to be able to support Jon in his audio journey and I honestly feel this product is well worth the money. I’ve heard a lot of headphones and have a personal list of headphones in which I Rank them. This headphone is competitive or beats anything that I’ve heard. It’s really great sonically, but more importantly, it is packaged well and has high value. My only regret to this purchase is that I didn't purchase one earlier.

Overall I am giving this an S- for tuning and an S- for technical abilities. It is fantastic.

Thanks for reading. Any feedback is welcome.
Mhog55
Mhog55
How would you compare and contrast it with the 109 Pro?
Jaytiss
Jaytiss
@Mhog55 The comfort is much better. The 109 pro takes some getting used to. The XTC not as much. The sound is just better out of the box as is the build quality.
Jaytiss
Jaytiss
So, as far as comfort goes. The Meze 109 has very nice pads and I do enjoy the stock sound. The issue is any movement will vibrate the headset and jostle it a tiny bit. Think of having an antenna on your head that will wiggle frequently create a slight humming sound and add additional bulk. I showed by XTC to my parents, they were very impressed. It looks and feels great. Both are sonically good, but The Meze felt like it had a slightly better timber at times and the XTC is much darker. The Meze just has an insane peaky treble for me. XTC is smooth and easy. I use it a lot for iem fatigue or for just a quick listen. @Mhog55

eugene2

100+ Head-Fier
JM Audio XTC Open Legend Series
Pros: Extension
Musicality
Bass Control
Ability to go from ppp to fff
Cons: Headband microphonics

General Information​

My first exposure to John Massaria came while browsing through some Kennerton blogs after purchasing a set of LSA Diamond headphones. I enjoyed his writing style and descriptive prose on Kennerton JM Edition Gjallarhorn headphones as well as other related equipment. This makes sense especially with his background in marketing, he can draw you in with his enthusiastic writing. After trading some messages with him I decided to let John perform his MK II upgrade on my JM Edition Ghallahorns.. The upgrade included removing all the foam inside the cup. Some extensive reinforcement of the surround where the driver meets the wood, included in the mod were two carbon fiber black fractal mesh parts. According to John the fractal material does not mute or subdue any one frequency, however, it distributes the sound in a wider pattern.

There is a lot of controversy wrapped around the use of fractal mesh in closed back headphones, John uses the material in both open and closed back headphones. Fractal meta materials have unique properties that can manipulate sound waves, potentially enhancing soundstage and other acoustic characteristics. However, the specific requirements for interior volume in a headphone to implement fractal meta materials would depend on the particular design, materials, and intended acoustic effects. Many engineers believe headphones do not have the internal volume necessary for fractal materials to have an effect on soundstage. My personal experience is the soundstage in the JM Gjallarhorns became wider and deeper, so much so they replicated open backs and no longer had the claustrophobic effect of their original design. It wasn’t placebo, it was more like wow. So I decided to continue with John and his mods, let him mod the headphone strap and pads of both the LSA Diamonds and the Gjallarhorns and play around with his recommended earpads. Needless to say the experience was positive. That was my first experience with John Massaria.

John is a graduate of New York Institute and has experience in marketing. Though, It appears he has always had a passion for innovating and inventing. He developed technical designs and applied for patents and trademarks as early as when he was 14 years old. He grew up with sound engineers in some of the most prominent NY studios such as, Electric Lady, the Power Station and Platinum Sound recording. He later became an audio engineer and an engineer for on location sound mic and recording. He also has experience as a Director for on set interviews. He became obsessive with sound and how poor engineering can color sound. So he began tinkering with headphones, specifically Kennerton who liked his mod so much they adopted it as part of their design and branded his creation the Gjallarhorn JM Edition. Without getting too deep into his engineering experience it seems to have come from self-study, apprenticeship and experimentation. With the release of the Gjallarhorn II John began getting rave reviews in the “bloggish sphere”. He also began modifying other headphones and experimenting with different pads (i.e. Hifiman closed HP).

If you type in the word Ecstasy you get the generic pharma descriptors of the drug used at raves, dance parties and electronic music. Digging into vast articles on the drug I pulled the following; “Euphoria can occur as a result of dancing to music, music-making, and listening to emotionally arousing music.[4][37][38] Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that the reward system plays a central role in mediating music-induced pleasure.[38][39] Pleasurable emotionally arousing music strongly increases dopamine neurotransmission in the dopaminergic pathways that project to the striatum (i.e., the mesolimbic pathway and nigrostriatal pathway)”. Thus “I guess” the name of the new JM Branded headphones X-T-C. John chose this name specifically intended to express the sonic calibre of these uniquely designed transducers. The fact that he will design them to meet your personal preferences and allow you to reach that emotionally arousing state while listening to your favorite tunes is something his customers must tell you about and is rare in the world of mostly house tuned headphones

There is a lot of competition in headphone land especially with the top of the market being controlled by brands such as Focal, Audeze, Meze Audio, Hifiman, Sennheiser, ZMF, etc. Creating headphones in the under $1500 market and claiming they are competitive with headphones above $3K is a tall order. John decided to give it a go hunting down and sourcing the best Beryllium and Woven BioWool drivers he could find to build his headphones. His current line consist of the open back XTC and his 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 (soon to be discontinued) and newly designed statement 2.5. Unfortunately for me after stating his closed backs could not reach the performance of the open back and fulfilling my order, within days he introduced the 2.5 thus robbing me of being able to upgrade to that model…

Design

Directly from the website:

“I have spent the better part of this past year and this year searching for the best measuring dynamic driver… one that can be customized and tailored for warmth and extraordinary detail - and can be further dialed in, in any way a user may like, before they order. I found what I consider the finest driver on the market - an all forged/cast not stamped basket utilizing N52 magnets and an occ copper coil system with a very fast and agile nano sized 50mm diver - one of the best I ever measured.

Utilizing our patent pending fractal fiberglass mesh system and newly developed and very expensive porous carbon graphene - both used together to open and extend the soundstage and create more depth emulating more space and air while helping create a pin point accurate stage. Fractal porous carbon graphene used in conjunction with the fractal fiberglass mesh allows a new amazingly open sound unlike any we ever heard before.

We also wired the very precious drivers with OFC copper wire - the best I have ever seen in the headphone business available that I know of especially in this price range. We do offer internal wiring using OCC 7n wire as well for a slight upcharge w/silver WBT solder and it includes the COPPERHEAD 1.5M 7N OCC External Wire avaialble in 3.5trs or 4.4 trrs- the same wire and solder we use internally.

The XTC Is tuned to reveal all the details deep inside your recordings. You can expect deep tight bass with no bloat yet at the same time the XTC is even and smooth through the mid-range and treble. The XTC has precise timbre and has a knack of digging out sublime details with air as light as a feather; while remaining composed and never harsh or sibilant. Each song you play you will dive deeper into the recording and immerse yourself like no other headphone I know of currently - a very light weight headphone (14-16 ounces - as a comparison the Hifiman Arya weigh in at 404g / 14.3oz.) and extremely comfortable headband - yet is now a heavy weight in performance- utilizing JM Editions patent pending fractal mesh technology for a wide spread out soundstage. Ez to drive at 32ohms and 114 db efficiency or 64ohm at 113.5 db efficiency.”
JM Audio Edition Wood XTC Open Beryllium or BioNano Wool DynamicThis Option includes One of 3 Different Choices of Exotic woods and finishes: Polished Black, Brazilian Black Wood or Brazilian Zebra Wood.

This option ALSO includes 3 Ear Pad Sets: You get 1 set of Angled Premium Leather Ear Pads and a 1 set of angled memory foam fluffy ear pads AND 1 set of Velour Ear Pads. If you have a preference against the Fluffy Ear pad we do have other options, however the Fluffy is our most loved ear pad by owners. The premium leather is my personal favorite as well.

You also get a choice of our best hand selected custom made drivers: 32, 64 and 300 ohm in a 52nm magnet Beryllium or a 32 Ohm Biowool driver wound with ofc copper specified for JM Audio - we also customize your headphones by discussing your preferences for tuning just for you.

The XTC open also Includes a beautiful 2mm cable- braided w/36 strand 26AWG high purity OFC (Oxygen-Free Copper) cable, Litz structure which means some strands will be mixed diameters yielding best performance. Each ear cup gets a dual 3.5mm male plug for direct wiring to each ear cup driver- choose your amp end as either trs 3.5mm, trs 6.3mm, 4.4 trrs or XLR. Get a second wire plus the ultimate in internal and external matched wiring - - we hand solder your XTC with internal 7N occ and WBT silver solder. This option also includes our own Copperhead (the same wire we use to solder the drivers) in a 1.5m braided wire in your choice of trs 3.5mm or trrs 4.4mm on the amp end. The 7N OCC option gives you the ultimate matched wiring inside and out.

We are including a practical Waterproof Flight Case to protect these during transport and storage.”


Before getting into the sound, a little about myself and my setup. I’m a former musician, specifically a sax player. Yes I still tinker nothing serious. I can tune a sax by ear or using a tuning device. I can generally tell if an instrument or voice is in tune or on/off key. I understand why drummers contantly tune their drums especially the snare and how cymbals like Zildjian sound. More about that later. I’m an audiophile since childhood owning many different brands of speakers from Thiel, Vandersteen, Avalon, Legacy, Talon, Swan, Vapor Audio etc. Currently I have a decent speaker by Swan M5A self-powered I run through my Sonnet Dac.. Headphones I have heard them all, I’ve owned Focal, Sennheiser, Kennerton, LSA, ZMF, Hifiman planar and electrostatic, Stax, JH Audio, Thieaudio etc. My current system includes Schiit Mjolnir II with upgraded tubes heavily dampened with spikes and grounding, Sonnet Morpheus Dac, I2S into Sonnet Hermes with significant power management. I also used a Flux Labs FA 22, Fiio M17 and a Hifiman Ef400 Dac amp.

The ordering process

It starts on line. I pm’d John first and asked a few questions, specifically closed back or open. That’s where he stated the closed backs could not match the “magic” of the open back. I then went to his webpage and picked the Beryllium driver, upgraded solder and wiring and the recommended earpads. Placed the order and sent him this message listing my tuning preferences, “ My main listening is through ZMF Atrium. I want to balance the system with a more reference headphone similar to ZMF Caldera or Hifiman Susvara. I would like it transparent and detailed allowing me to hear the subtle nuances and sonic characteristics of each saxophone model accurately. Wide frequency response: That can accurately reproduce the full spectrum of frequencies produced by the various woodwind and brass instruments from the low end of the instrument to the higher harmonics. Precise imaging and soundstage, Instrument separation and focus, Dynamic range and transient response (I'm choosing Berylium because of it's reputation of being fast) ensuring that the subtle variations in volume and the quick attack and release of notes are faithfully conveyed (especially piano and cymbals) also, allowing me to distinguish between various woodwind and brass instruments in terms of their expressive capabilities and dynamic performance. Lastly, vocals the HP should faithfully capture the nuances and subtleties of the singer's voice, allowing me to perceive the natural timbre, texture, and tonal qualities that make each vocalist unique. As closely as possible faithfully reproduce the microdynamic subtleties of vocal performances. It should capture the delicate changes in volume, breath control, and vocal inflections, ensuring that the nuances and emotional nuances conveyed by the singer are preserved. This level of detail retrieval for me is essential for conveying the intimacy and expression of a vocal performance while maintaining the center focus and depth of soundstage. My musical preferences are jazz, classical (mostly Heifetz and Perlman), rock (guitar focused) and old school bands like Tower of Power, Chicago, B.S&T, Zep, Sly, James Brown, Nile Rodgers, etc. I think you get it. Closed or Open whichever you think you can capture in a headphone to fit my preference. If you can do it in a closed I may go in that direction. I was going to call but I figured I could handle it in a pm... A week later John sent me a message. That he made a set tuned to his preferences in cherry and it was one of the best measuring units he had ever made. He would send me that set from his XTC Legend series.

Upon arrival I opened the box and saw a very nice touch, a hard case with the headphones and accessories stuffed inside. I removed all accessories and put the headphones on. The first thing I do with any headphone is check for microphonics. I tap and rub the headband starting up top on the metal surface, with my finger. The XTC bearing very noticeable microphonics, whether rubbing or tapping on the headband. The balanced fabric wrapped cables fared much better only noisy when rubbing after the Y splitter further up near the cups. Also The headphones sprung off my ears a couple of times, if not for my fast hands they would have landed on the floor. My advice is to make your adjustments, use the supplied allen wrench and tighten them down near the left/right indicators. Also, there is a small plastic screw on the very bottom make sure that is good and tight. I do not move around a lot when listening and do not lean my head against any surfaces so the microphonics do not bother me as much. John is also sending me a piece of dampening material to assist in mellowing out the issue. The build otherwise is ok, especially for the price and weight. The headphone are very nicely finished. As the price moves up I believe the quality of the headband will improve. I like the cups and screens very nice job.

I usually let headphones burn in even though I am suspect of burn in because of the small drivers in headphones. So two days no listening, though I did cheat and take a quick listen.

After two days I started my listening with the fuzzy open ear pads (meaning there is no material over the opening), they are not perforated. A few words about earpads. The ear pads on a headphone can have a noticeable effect on the sound, comfort, and isolation of the headphones. Different ear pad materials and designs can alter the way sound waves interact with your ears, resulting in various changes to the sound profile. Here are some common effects of different ear pads:

Sound Signature: The sound signature of headphones refers to the overall tonal balance, including the bass, midrange, and treble frequencies. Ear pads made from different materials or with varying thicknesses can influence the headphone's frequency response. Some ear pads may enhance bass, while others might result in a more neutral or brighter sound.
Soundstage: The ear pad design can affect the perceived soundstage, which is the sense of space and depth in the audio. Open-back ear pads, with their more breathable and perforated designs, tend to create a wider and more spacious soundstage, while closed-back ear pads might produce a more intimate and focused sound.
Comfort: The material and padding of the ear pads impact the comfort of wearing headphones for extended periods. Softer and more breathable ear pads often provide better comfort and reduce heat buildup during long listening sessions. The most comfortable earpads are JM’s fuzzy open pad.
Noise Isolation: Closed-back ear pads usually provide better noise isolation by blocking external sounds from entering your ears and reducing sound leakage. This makes them suitable for use in noisy environments or when you don't want to disturb others nearby. On the other hand, open-back ear pads allow more sound to leak in and out, reducing isolation but providing a more natural, open sound.
So for the purposes of this review, for now we will stay with the fuzzy non perforated ”open” ear pads. I will test the leather perforated screened earpads shortly. This is day 4 of constant running and having properly adjusted the headband, no more flying off the head. Hiromi Live in Montreal “For Jaco” composed by Edmar Casteneda, talk about clarity and realism. Through the XTC the attack and decay of Hiromi’s piano is amazing, clear and concise the right hand speed of Hiromi is captured in all its glory! The interplay with Casteneda’s Harp is dynamic while exhibiting speed and airiness without being overblown. Tonality is on point and I mean, the way his harp sounds live. On the wrong headphone the right hand of Hiromi may sound harsh, not here I played this track four times, amazed at how well it played compared to playing this song on Focal Utopia’s. Checking my notes from listening to the famous Utopias “right hand on upper register sounding a little harsh.” Not here it slams hard real hard on the XTC without the ear pain. The recording has it’s softer passages delicate pianissimo to thunderous fortissimo and the XTC handles them with the utmost accuracy where powerful chords explode through these headphones. I’m not fanboying I’m calling it as I hear it! Listen at around 10:15 mark you can easily distinguish between the two instruments (by the way I’m using Roon). I felt like I was finally getting what this album is capable of giving. Resonances are captured, providing a sense of spatial depth and recreating the natural ambiance of the live piano performance.

Moving on to Diana Krall’s On Live In Paris, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” with the frequency response of these headphones you will get sibilance from this recording. In other words if the S is pronounced in the recording you will hear it in the headphones, this does detract somewhat from the experience, the ringing effect can blur and extend further out then on something like the Atrium that rolls the frequency extremes. John can dial this back for you, probably losing some of the headphones extension. You will hear it in this recording especially since the piano is not as well recorded as on Hiromi’s live recording displaying a little upper right hand harshness. These things are a microscope into the recording. The ZMF Atriums actually mellow this out due to their roll off making it a less critical but more enjoyable listen. The XTC’s still demonstrate good clarity allowing me to hear the nuances, intonation, and articulation in the singer’s voice. The XTC reveals more detail in the vocals, such as breaths, vibrato and micro dynamics. Listen to August Rush Soundtrack “Raise It Up” and Patricia Barber’s Mythologies, “Orpheus Sonnet” not only will you understand, you’ll also get the emotional aspects of the vocals. Capturing the singers emotions and delivering an intimate connection between the artist and the listener. Another recording that will demonstrate the capability of the XTC to dig deep on vocals is Jacinta’s On Autumn Leaves, “Moon River” though also a little sibilant, displaying none of the harshness.

Male vocals are smooth, Eric Bibb’s Needed Time, “In My Fathers House” the interplay between Baritone and Tenor vocals ar spot on, with not a hint of sibilance. Also projecting left side vocals further out and not bunched together. If the width of the soundstage is further out to the side they will portray it for you. Not as exaggerated as on say an HD 800/S, the dimensions seem to be as intended with lots of depth. Again the same thing on Hugh Masekela’s Hope, “Stimela” this is an emotional song and will tell you a lot about a piece of equipment. I found this cd years ago in the cutout bin at Tower Records for $1.99 and brought it over to the high-end audio show at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago I believe in 1999. I started at the Merlin Audio room with my buddy the late Bobby Palkovic and we played Hope and completely filled the room. He made me go back to Tower and get another copy, luckily I found one, next taking it to the Pipe Dreams room, same thing the room became completely packed it was astonishing. Then in the Swan Acoustics room, the sound was dead conveying none of the awesome emotions of this great song. Well the XTC’s handle it with abloom, conveying all the emotions of the live recording. With such complex rhythmic interplay, few headphones can make it portray the intended passion as intensely as the the Merlins or PipeDreams, the XTC can. The thing that I notice most is how these phones call up the bass. The bass is neither overblown in terms of scale nor overemphasized in terms of volume.

Next up is a fun recording of various woodwind instruments by Kip Hanrahan All Roads Are Made Of the Flesh, “The First And Last To Love Me”, demonstrating the proper interplay of various instruments at the 7:23 mark with separation, air and tonality. Listen to Michael Riessler’s Bass Clarinet interplay with saxophone and Dino Saluzzi’s Bandoneon and Allen Toussaint’s piano nice work. Easily distinguishing the difference between the bass clarinet and the sax, this is a great test few headphones make this sound like music.

Another recording I’m intimately familiar with is Victor Jones C.A.F.E. Trio: Live at Bradley's in New York City
as Victor is one of my best friends. The now defunct Sensible Sound named this recording one of its recommended albums. It was recorded with a Dap in a chair, go figure. The XTC’s demonstrates the intimate nature of this trio recording while portraying all of its detail. For example Victor’s drums portray a great sense of air and space through the XTC. During the setup Victor’s drum set sat on the right rear, Essiet’s bass forward and to the left and Kikowski piano even more forward. The XTC gave a great sense of instrument placement, and provided a pretty clear delineation of soundstage boundaries. Essiet’s bass, shows off how this HP handles the lower frequencies. It has an articulate, immediate and commanding presence, delivering low frequencies with an authority, weight and impact, only when called upon. I can’t tell you how well the XTC’s lower octave performance matches up to the JM Audio's closed backs especially his newly introduced 2.5’s, though I can say the opens make for an undeniably compelling physical performance. We do know that any extra bass comes from the closed shell and it’s design rather than from the recording’s instruments. I was enthralled by the headphones ability to take you from fff to ppp without any hesitation, deviation or repetition, one musical phrase growing literally from the decay roots of another. To pull that off takes both bandwidth and unfettered dynamic range.

Then I did it, I pulled the popular fuzzy pads off and put the top of the line perforated leather pads on and in this authors opinion everything got better. Especially soundstage depth, air, articulation, they even seem to reveal more of the recording as I played them all over again. Listen, I’ve written enough, I guess you can tell I really like, no love theses headphones. My suggestion is don’t believe me try them for yourself. Remember I gave John my requirements and he sent me his pair.

John has done a great job with the XTC, especially in the areas of their overall weight and sound quality while maintaining an incredible price point. This is an amazing value even for the most discerning audiophile. Is it the best headphone I’ve ever heard? No I can’t say that, but it is one of the best headphones I’ve heard. Nothing touches it at anywhere near its price, an amazing value. It’s different from my ZMF Atrium, a kinder gentler headphone. Where the XTC goes hard and deep, the Atrium warms and romantically covers some of the detail. The Atrium is a better built (at 3X the price) not better sounding headphone, it’s different, depends on my mood. Do I like it better than the Hifiman HE6 Mk II yes as well as most if not all of the other headphones I’ve owned or heard.

The strength of this headphone is speed and agility, no, it’s not as fast as some of the best estats I’ve heard or the Raal tweeter estats, though its ability to dig deep into a recording is phenomenal , I’m digging it. The plusses out weigh the few negatives John may be able to fix the sibilance without killing the extension (I’m not sure how) or quiet down the microphonic headband. I’m leaving these alone for now. As I mentioned, a phenomenal entry for a startup company competing with the big boys at an astonishing price point. Can’t wait to hear his XTC 2.5 which he claims is a world beater. I will be ordering soon, as I think these have beaten the world….

Attachments

  • Case2.jpg
    Case2.jpg
    510.2 KB · Views: 0
  • Open Case2.jpg
    Open Case2.jpg
    762.9 KB · Views: 0
  • Letter2.jpg
    Letter2.jpg
    716.2 KB · Views: 0
  • Headphones Cables2.jpg
    Headphones Cables2.jpg
    648.1 KB · Views: 0
Last edited:

Comments

RLES974

New Head-Fier
Hi all,
Do some one have any advice comparing XTC-O and zmf open verite and hifiman he1000 se stealth?
 

XGeneX88

100+ Head-Fier
Hi all,
Do some one have any advice comparing XTC-O and zmf open verite and hifiman he1000 se stealth?
XTCO is a very intimate sounding headphone compared to the Hekse. Personally I find the tuning to be the best on the XTCO but Hekse sounds larger, has more immersion, stage, space, and detail while XTCO has better bass, and a super engaging “intimate sound”. I tried the VO and found it sounded boring to my ears. Good sound but nothing really amazed me.. just sounded like a good all-rounder. The build quality on ZMF is outstanding though and they are a work of art - however I found the XTC sounded more emotional & engaging for my preference. The XTC just has such a good tuning.. it’s crazy. It does have great detail, mids are gorgeous, bass is fantastic and I enjoy an intimate sound so they worked really well for me. I’d say for the price, go XTC.. if you can afford 2k$ then hekse is probably worth it in my eyes, but I just can’t recommend the ZMF VO from my personal experience because it just left me feeling bored with my songs.

My XTC was tuned warm but detailed with biowool driver.
 
Last edited:

RLES974

New Head-Fier
XTCO is a very intimate sounding headphone compared to the Hekse. Personally I find the tuning to be the best on the XTCO but Hekse sounds larger, has more immersion, stage, space, and detail while XTCO has better bass, and a super engaging “intimate sound”. I tried the VO and found it sounded boring to my ears. Good sound but nothing really amazed me.. just sounded like a good all-rounder. The build quality on ZMF is outstanding though and they are a work of art - however I found the XTC sounded more emotional & engaging for my preference. The XTC just has such a good tuning.. it’s crazy. It does have great detail, mids are gorgeous, bass is fantastic and I enjoy an intimate sound so they worked really well for me. I’d say for the price, go XTC.. if you can afford 2k$ then hekse is probably worth it in my eyes, but I just can’t recommend the ZMF VO from my personal experience because it just left me feeling bored with my songs.

My XTC was tuned warm but detailed with biowool driver.
Hi,

Thanks for sharing experience !

I aleardy have XTC-C x2.5 ,and I am very happy of this, now for classical music, I will chose something else like XTC-O or He 2nd Ed stealth . For folk, rock, soul ,R&B,even jazz XTC-C 2.5 is marvellous.
 
Back
Top