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MrSpeakers' ETHER headphone is an all-new design that makes use of several technology and...

MrSpeakers Ether Planar Magnetic Headphones

Rating:
4.7/5,
  • MrSpeakers' ETHER headphone is an all-new design that makes use of several technology and manufacturing innovations to improve performance.

    ETHER is built around MrSpeakers designed single-ended planar driver. To optimize performance the planar has been processed using our patent-pending V-Planar technology.

    NiTinol Headband

    ETHER also uses a NiTinol "memory metal" headband to reduce weight and improve comfort. NiTinol is Nickel-Titanium allow that is heat-treated to a geometry we set that's ideally mated to our ear-ads to deliver a quality seal with minimal pressure.

    V-Planar Driver Processing

    Simply stated, a conventional planar driver is usually assumed to move as a flat surface. In reality, this is not possible as the driver substrate is inelastic and “locked” at the boundaries so the driver will move more as an arced surface then a flat plane.

    Over the years, different approaches have been developed to address nonlinear planar motion and the artifacts it can cause. Fostex patented their RP technology, used on all their drivers used in our headphones, to reduce panel nonlinearities. Another approach, known as knurling, was patented in 1997 by Bruce Thigpen, founder of Eminent-Technology and pioneer of numerous planar magnetic speaker technologies. We felt it would be possible to improve on the solutions available to date, so we collaborated with Bruce to develop V-Planar knurling technique (we filed for a patent with Bruce as a co-inventor). In simplified form, V-Planar technology addresses nonlinear driver motion by more deeply creasing the diaphragm to increase compliance. Much as pleats allow an accordion to expand and contract without stretching the fabric, the creases in the driver "open" slightly during larger excursions as illustrated in Figure 2. When the driver is processed, the resultant peaks and troughs are deep enough to maintain more of their physical structure even after the driver has been tensioned.

    Increasing the driver compliance allows it to behave as a more idealized planar surface and also improves it's acceleration. With more of the driver surface in linear motion, V-Planar can not only push more air at low frequencies, but with greater acceleration also delivers better dynamics, high-end frequency response, and measurably lower distortion. The Sound We are committed to avoiding too much "marketing speak," and so we are deliberately going to avoid a lot of prose and to simply say we love the sound of our drivers post V-Planar processing, they do sound more natural and engaging to us.

Recent Reviews

  1. money4me247
    Clinical Presentation with Smooth Treble & Soft Delicate Touch results in a Musical Reference Pair of Headphones
    Written by money4me247
    Published Aug 16, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - well-balanced neutral-orientated tuning, outstanding comfort, extremely lightweight, looks sexy, form-fitting travel case
    Cons - less subbass presence, softer impact, proprietary connectors prone to wiggle (can cause cable noise), short stock cable, no headband size markings
    MrSpeakers Ether Review
     
    2015-08-1620.59.02.jpg
     
    1. I personally purchased these headphones at full MSRP from MrSpeakers.
    2. Primary testing set-up consists of Spotify/Tidal/assortment of FLAC files > via AmazonBasics USB 2.0 cable > Schiit Bifrost Uber > via Monoprice RCA cables > Schiit Lyr 2 > via stock headphone cable > MrSpeakers Ether
    3. I do not believe in headphone burn-in, but I refrained from taking critical impressions of the Ether during the first week. I have totaled approximately 7 weeks of listening time on the Ether at the time of first posting this review.
    4. I did critical music listening impressions first. Only after I wrote all my listening impressions did I listen to test tone sweeps. I took measurements last. I did things in that specific order to prevent myself from getting biased.
    5. My headphone collection currently includes: HE-1000, HE-560, LCD-X, K7xx, K553 Pro, Alpha Prime, and the PM-3. Notable favorite headphones previously owned include ATH-M50x, Q701, K545, HE-400, and PM-1. Owned the EL-8 (closed) as well. Notable headphones extensively demoed include HD800, LCD-3, K812 Pro. My current favorite headphone prior to listening to the Ether is the HE-1000. I enjoyed the HE-560 for its great clinical micro-detail retrieval and neutral-oriented sound sig that maintains solid bass quality with great extension and I liked to use the LCD-X as a complimentary genre-specific pair of headphones due to its outstanding bass quality, visceral bass impact, and organic texture-focused presentation.
    6. Favorite musical genres include everything from electronic, edm, house, trance, hip hop, r&b, rock, female vocals, pop, alternative, metal, classical, instrumental, piano, acoustic music, soundtracks. I have very wide & varied listening habits depending on my mood.
    7. These are just personal subjective sonic impression. I am NOT a professional reviewer. I am not associated with MrSpeakers and I have no financial stake in the Ether. As always, YMMV and I hope you enjoy my review!! :)
     
    Intro: Founded by Dan Clark in 2012, MrSpeakers is an American audio company based in San Diego, California. An avid hobbyist always tinkering, Mr. Clark studied electrical engineering at Swarthmore College and gained recognition in the high-end audio industry for his work on commercial loudspeaker designs. MrSpeakers was born during Dan’s personal quest to create his own ideal pair of closed headphones. Specializing in providing modifications to the closed-back planar magnetic Fostex T50RP*, MrSpeakers released four variants that included the Mad Dog ($299.99 MSRP), Mad Dog Pro ($449.99 MSRP), Alpha Dog ($599.99 MSRP), and Alpha Prime ($999.99 MSRP). Considering his Alpha Prime to reach the maximum potential he could achieve with a Fostex T50RP-based headphone, Mr. Clark stated he will no longer be pursuing further T50RP modifications, boldly venturing in a new direction.
    The Fostex T50RP is quite popular within the enthusiast community for modding due to and their high sonic potential and low price point (often can be found below $100). ZMF Headphones also currently produces modded variants and @bluemonkeyflyer has a quite in-depth guide for DIY mods on the T50RP. Link HERE. Fostex recently discontinued their beloved T50RP with a new line-up consisting of the T20RPmk3, T40RPmk3, and T50RPmk3 which also factored into MrSpeakers decision to stop offering T50RP-based modified headphones. MrSpeakers is currently having an end-of-life sale for all their entire modified T50RP line-up. MrSpeakers also recently announced the Ether-C, a closed-back variant of the Ether at the same MSRP of $1499.99 (estimated arrival in October-November 2015) to replace their closed T50RP line-up.
     
    Applying their modifying expertise and 3D printing background, Mr. Speakers is now creating their own in-house designed and built headphones from the ground up. Their first product is the MrSpeakers ETHER. (Its official name is in full caps, but I will be referring to it as simply Ether). This ushers in very exciting times for MrSpeakers as they transition from modification-based tuning specialists to gaining full control of every single detail of their headphones.

     
    While well-known and extremely popular within the enthusiast head-fi community, Mrspeakers often remains under the radar for newcomers and non-headphone-geared audio enthusiasts. Currently with just a team of 6, MrSpeakers is a small company that has made some impressive strides over the past three years. The Ether (open) does shine as a crowning moment for what is accomplishable through tireless dedication and a strong passion for this hobby.
     
    Tech: The MrSpeakers Ether is an open-back, over-ear planar magnetic headphone retailing at $1,499.99 MSRP. It uses all new in-house-designed rectangular single-ended planar magnetic drivers (2.75” x 1.75”) with their V-Planar “knurling” diaphragm.
     
    Official Specifications:
    Weight: 370g
    Impedance: 23 ohms
    Efficiency: 96dB/mW
     
    2015-08-1522.51.12-Earcupcloseupcropped.jpg
     
    Best source for further explanation of their patented technology can be found at their website under the innovations tab of their Ether product page HERE.
     
    Design:
     
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    The outer support structure of the headband is comprised of two thin black curved nitinol rods. Nitinol is a nickel titanium alloy exhibiting pseudoelasticity which allows the metal to retain its original shape even after extreme stress. This headband can be easily flexed outwards and side-to-side to quite extreme degrees without losing its original shape after the force is removed. It should be quite easy to adjust these headphones to find a comfortable fit. Despite low clamping force, the headphones will sit quite securely while worn.
     
    2015-08-1522.59.23.jpg       2015-08-1523.00.04.jpg
     
    The headband strap is comprised of Italian leather with microsuede on the inner surface. The outer surface of the leather is embossed with L and R markings and the MrSpeakers brand name. Very nice change from their previous products that were modded and kept the Fostex logo on the headband for practical purposes. The leather strap is attached to a plastic slider that moves up and down the two nitinol rods. Due to the adjustment mechanism attaching directly to the nitinol rods, there are no markings to show the exact headband settings. I’ve personally found the best way to ensure that both sides are adjusted to the exact same height is to use my fingers to measure out the space underneath the slider on both sides. It would be nice to see some size markings on the nitinol band for more exact headband adjustments.
     
    2015-08-1522.56.48.jpg       2015-08-1523.02.25.jpg
     
    The earcups feature a glittery red plastic outer rim with black metal earcups. The bottom of the earcups feature the unique MrSpeakers proprietary cable connector, angled forward to prevent the cables from hitting the shoulders even during side-to-side head tilts. It is the same dual-entry designed connector as with Alpha Dog and Alpha Prime and cables made for those headphones will also be compatible with the Ether.
     
    2015-08-1523.08.00.jpg       2015-08-1523.01.17.jpg
     
    I did find that the cable connector design has room for further improvement. There is just enough wiggle with this connector style that certain cable noise (especially thudding and rubbing sounds) can be easily transmitted and exaggerated. This is especially noticeable if the cable lightly taps or rubs against any object. This can be remedied thoughtful cable routing and securing excess cable length for desktop setups, but the Ether is more prone to cable noise than my other headphones using mini-XLR or mini-2.5mm or the Hifiman hex-screw connectors as those cables attach securely without room for any movement.
     
    2015-08-1523.02.53.jpg       2015-08-1523.07.20.jpg
     
    Featuring a functional and practical light-weight design with nice eye-catching red accents, these headphones look extremely gorgeous and appealing for my tastes. The curved circular suspension design follows the natural contours of the human head for an aesthetically-pleasing look when worn.
     
    Comfort: The comfort and fit is excellent for a planar magnetic headphone. While the lack of headband size markings make precise adjustments a bit more tedious, there should be no problem finding the right settings regardless of your head size and shape. Extremely light-weight with my measured weight of the Ether was 361 grams without the cable, which is lighter than their official weight.
     
    The lamb-skin leather earpads have a non-angled circular design with a rectangular inner space for ears. The inner dimensions of the earpads measure to be 2.5 inches x 1.5 inches x 1 inch (height x width x depth). The earpads fit my ears very comfortably. I do personally prefer velour pads for comfort reasons, so I do hope that accessories like velour pads or hybrid leather pads with velour lining may be something that MrSpeakers explore in the future.
     
    Accessories: The Ether comes bundled with the following:
    1. (x1) 6 feet cable terminating in the termination of your choice
    2. (x1) Brown Form-fitting Hard Case (approximately 9in x 7in x 5in at longest parts)
    3. (x1) Black Draw-String Velvet Bag (11.5 in height x 10in width when lying flat)
     
    2015-08-1622.05.34.jpg       2015-08-1622.23.50.jpg
     
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    2015-08-1622.08.19.jpg       2015-08-1622.09.15.jpg
     
    The included velvet bag can be useful to prevent dust or minor scratches if planning on storing these headphones away. The coolest accessory included is definitely the form-fitting hard case. I strongly appreciate the inclusion of a hard carry case. An extremely thoughtful addition that I hope other high-end headphones companies follow. Besides Oppo including a hard travel case for their closed-back portable PM-3, I am not currently aware of any other planar magnetic headphones that come bundled with a nice hard sleek travel case. Audeze does includes a large heavy-duty travel case with their LCD-series, but the large size makes it more of a storage option or put-in-the-trunk type option than a carry-in-a-bag type case. I see this offering being much more practical for transport compared to the travel case bundled with Audeze headphones. With Hifiman headphones, travel-sized hard cases can be purchased from their store.
     
    2015-08-1622.11.06.jpg       2015-08-1622.11.43.jpg
    Image of stock cable (top & left) vs DUM cable (bottom & right). Only one cable is included. The DUM cable is an additional $110.
     
    I would like to see an additional cable being offered at this price point. The majority of high-end planar magnetic headphones come with at least two cables standard nowadays with Audeze bundling a XLR and ¼” cable and Oppo bundling ¼” and 3.5mm cables with all their models. No additional adapter is included with the Ether either. The Ether’s stock cable length of 6 feet is definitely on the shorter side and may not be able to accommodate certain desktop arrangements. Will likely need to purchase an extension cable or MrSpeakers’ longer 10 feet cable option for an additional $40 if routing the cable behind a desk.
     
    2015-08-1522.52.42.jpg       2015-08-1522.53.06.jpg
     
    Sound Quality:
    Note: While I wrote the majority of my sonic impressions prior to frequency response sweeps, I felt like the most informative way to approach an objective in-depth sonic analysis was to incorporate my FR sweep findings into this section. For further information on audiophile terminology, use the guide HERE.
     
    With its well-balanced and linear sound signature, I would categorize the Ether to have a neutral-orientated*, clinical presentation. The most interesting thing about the Ether is that it offers that detail-focused clinical tuning while minimizing the peakiness in the treble region that is often common among neutral-orientated clinical/analytical presentations. Its sound signature reminds me very strongly of the HD800 with a more-refined, less peaky treble.
    The word “neutral” means various things to various people. I do personally think there is a range of frequency response variations that can be considered “neutral.” The Ether will fall somewhere in the “neutral to brighter-than-neutral” spectrum of “neutrality” depending on preferences in relative comparison against other neutral-orientated flagships. The Ether may sound neutral or bright or bass-light depending on personal taste. Hard to see anyone calling the Ether warm or dark unless coming from an extremely bright headphone background. Extremely similar overall sound signature and stylistic presentation to the HD800 and HE-560 with a few key differences.
     
    Treble Tuning: From multiple high frequency sweeps, I was able to detect treble extension up to 18 kHz (which is typically as far up as I can personally hear) and the treble response was exceptionally smooth and linear to my ears with the smallest of dips around 9-10kHz and two small peaks around 11 kHz and 15kHz. Possible among the least peaky treble presentations I have had the pleasure of hearing.
     
    Treble peaks are often incorporated to highlight the edges of notes, bringing an additional sense of clarity and definition of notes. Certain peaks can often be effectively used to give the treble notes a “sparkling” effect, add additional “crispness,” or present an “airier” sensation to the treble extension. However, depending on personal tastes, those same changes in treble tuning can also be considered too piercing or overly strident, causing sibilance or harsh brittleness. The Ether does not partake in adding any extra treble “sparkle” to its delicate and smooth treble response. Despite having a sense of brilliance and clarity to its treble presentation, its treble is the least aggressive of the treble of the “clinical” family of headphones that I have heard. With less forward treble energy in relative comparison to other similar neutral-to-bright sound signatures, the Ether is not as vivid and sharp compared other clinical-orientated cans. Its treble tonality does lie more on the relaxing side of the spectrum instead of displaying a vivid and sharp bite. There can be a subtle bit of perceived dullness due to the smooth response of the treble depending on sonic preferences, but the Ether’s treble tuning is likely most to be perceived as pretty on-point and a sonic strength by the majority of critical listeners.
     
    Shimmering effects will not be emphasized on the Ether, but will appear if present in the source. A well-done sense of airiness and breathiness without any piercingness shining through the upper registers. There is an extremely good sense of definition and clarity to treble notes. I never experienced any edginess, brittleness, harshness with the Ether’s bright but gentle treble presentation. No additional “sizzle” to my ears that would be caused by peaks in the 5kHz to 10kHz region, so I estimate an extremely even response in that region. The term delicate, sweet, and precise characterize the Ether’s treble presentation quite well and I personally consider the treble to be the Ether’s strongest frequency region.
     
    Mid-range Tuning: The Ether’s overall midrange sounds extremely linear to my ears, not seeming overly emphasized or recessed relative to the bass or treble. Its midrange is quite well-done and articulate with an realistic tonality and timbre to instrumentals and vocals.
     
    Presence range (generally covering 2-5 kHz or 4-6 kHz depending on instruments) is extremely well done for my personal tastes. This region is responsible for the ‘intimacy’ or how close the music sounds. The Ether definitely does not emphasize this region, resulting in an non-intimate presentation which is my personal preference. There is no extra emphasis in the upper midrange, which prevents any hardness to its presentation. The Ether presents that characteristic slight dip from ~1kHz to ~4kHz that is typical of the majority of high-end headphone tunings to compensate for the human ear’s increased sensitivity to the upper mid and low treble region.
     
    I would say that the Ether has a bit more focus on the lower mids over the upper mids for a smallest touch of thickness underlying its notes. This is an extremely subtle effect, creating a small sense of natural “richness” to its sonic presentation. Instruments (such as piano, violin, trumpets that I am more experienced with) and vocals sound exceptionally realistic with a very nature timbre and tone. There is never any raspiness or hardness to female vocals. The underlying roughness of certain male vocals in the lower tessitura is presented accurately with a very full-of-life sensation. Flutes and saxophones have that effortless breathy quality that allows for detection of subtle breathing patterns of musicians. Rather than presenting a liquid smoothness to the sonic profile, the Ether really highlights the low-level micro-details and presents good note spacing without too much abruptness between notes. Subtle textural shifts are sharply defined. I never got the honky or tinny sensation with the Ethers midrange. The midrange of the Ether is quite articulate and clean with very high-fidelity detail resolution. The Ether effortlessly glides through complex passages in the midrange with an exceptional good tonal balance.
     
    Bass Tuning: The Ether’s bass response is generally quite linear during a frequency response sweep. It does lose out quite a bit in bass extension with 20 Hz being quite close to inaudible at normal listening volumes. There is a noticeable but very small increase in volume going from approximately 30 Hz to approximately 60 Hz. This tapering effect of the sub-bass can be preferred as the rumbling of the lower frequencies can sometimes cast a shadow over the frequency response with a perceived sense of diminished clarity. The trade-off is that the Ether has a relatively lower sense of that powerful presence and weighty rumble underlying notes.
     
    At approximately 70 Hz, there is an abrupt jump in emphasis (though still relative subtle overall for a generally linear bass presentation), giving the Ether more of an midbass focus that centers at approximately 120 Hz to my ears. I would characterize the Ether having an almost imperceptible hill from ~70-170 Hz to my ears with a relatively more noticeable tapering down drop-off in the sub-bass region (30-60 Hz) for a subtly more emphasis on the midbass over the lowest bass frequencies.
     
    I would not characterize the Ether as ‘rich’ or ‘lush’ as those terms imply some level of additional coloration to me, but the Ether does present a realistic sense of underlying fullness and body to its notes. There is definitely no additional emphasis of fullness or warmth though. While the Ether does sometimes capture that ‘felt’ low-end sub-bass, there is no sense of visceral weightiness or that seismic sensation provided by the extremely low frequencies, which does give the impression of diminished power behind notes. The Ether is also a bit lacking in impact compared to other flagships. However, the Ether does give a very well-done sense of punchiness to its bass notes. Bass notes are extremely clean and tight without any blurring effect or muddiness. Definitely not blanketed by a warm presentation, the Ether sits more on the bright side of the neutral spectrum to my ears, but presents an adequate quantity of bass to satisfy the majority of non-basshead audiophiles.
     
    Other Sonic Attributes:
     
    Soundstage is large and spacious though not particularly remarkable for an open pair of headphones. Its imaging on the other hand is exceptionally precise. Often can perceive pinpoint sense of height to live recordings with the perception that the music is coming from above on an elevated stage, which is an unique phenomenon not always found even in flagship headphones. While its soundstage width and depth does not seem exceptionally large, the Ether presents a balanced doughnut-shaped sound stage that sounds quite natural. Soundstage size is competitive for an open pair of flagship headphones.
     
    Speed is excellent with the Ether ranking well among some of the faster-sounding planar magnetic headphones. Attack transients of the Ether are not extremely hard-hitting, but do present quite cleanly. There is an extremely subtle thickening to the perceived decay, but not to the extent of Audeze and Oppo headphones. I estimate the Ether to be give the perception of a faster transient response than current Audeze and Oppo offerings due to its clean edges and no extra warmth that can contribute to a sense of bloat to the decay of notes. On the other hand, Audeze and Oppo flagships will provide a stronger sense of impact and a weightier presence. There are some other flagship-quality dynamic and planar magnetic headphones that I view to be faster in relative comparison to the Ethers, but the speed and transient response of the Ether is definitely not be lacking and I consider those sonic attributes to be among its strong suits.
     
    Clarity and detail resolution is quite high-quality and on-par with other flagship offerings. These headphones will easily pick up the low-level micro-details and subtle textural shifts in the tonality of notes that is expected from a summit-fi pair of headphones. Dynamic range is solid with a very good sense of control over the subtle micro-dynamic changes and coherently responds to large abrupt shifts in volume without sounding strained.
     
    The Ether is not missing the “organic” textural element, but definitely more clinically-tuned with the emphasis on subtle micro-detail elements and note spacing. There is minimal additional “richness”, “lushness”, or “liquidness.”** The Ethers can display those elements if that presentation occurs within source tracks, but the focus is accuracy and detail retrieval rather than adding any “smoothening” effect or additional underlying warmth for an increased sense of fullness. The Ether does provide a subtle sense of thickness underlying the body of its notes with a smoothing of the treble response that results in a non-fatiguing sense of ‘musicality.’ With its relatively lighter impact, subtle thickness, and sweet treble tuning, the Ether does give a more relaxed overall presentation (instead of a high-energy approach). The most unique thing about the Ether in my opinion is that they provide that clinical/analytical sound signature without any of that extra treble peakiness that is often associated with that presentation style.
     
    **Due to its softer impact and extremely subtle sense of thickness relative to other clinical headphones, I can see some characterizing its sound as “liquid,” but without that sense of “smoothening” of the edges of notes that results in an unique texture, I personally do not think the Ether has a “liquid” presentation. The Ether’s overall frequency response is quite “smooth” as in there are no offensively glaringly abrupt peaks or dips.
     
    Sonic Considerations: (possible critical areas depending personal sonic values)
    These findings were made primarily based on direct comparisons [audio memory will be explicitly stated in brackets]. All gear was volume-matched by ear based on a 500 Hz test tone. When not volume-matched, the Ether will sound louder than the rest of my headphones with all frequency response regions sounding boosted in comparison. The louder sounding headphone will seem inherently better due to the way our brains perceive sound. Do note these are only my personal opinions in an attempt to try to identify all possible relative sonic differences that may sway preferences. People all have different sensitivities and reference points of their ideal, so YMMV!!!
     
    1) Softer presentation-style: I found that the attack edges are not as hard hitting as my other planar magnetics, the LCD-X and HE-560. A bit similar to the PM-3’s attack in sense with a “smoother-feeling” attack to notes. Attack is still quite snappy and clean. Gives the Ether a ‘lighter’ presentation with relatively less weight and power behind its notes. [The HD800 and HE-6 likely to also be harder hitting though unable to do direct comparisons to confirm]
    2) Bass Impact: Noticeably less than the LCD-X. Subtly less than the HE-560. [I would predict less than all Audeze headphones in general and less than the HE-400, also likely less than the PM-1 with its underlying tonal warmth and richness]
    3) Bass Extension: Not as much of that seismic-type rumbling lower sub-bass. Most noticeable in comparison to the LCD-X. I did find that the lowest bass extension and textures to be more vivid on the HE-560. [There are many other planar magnetics likely to have more linear bass extension, but the Ether is likely to be more competitive against the majority of flagship dynamics, so may can be an improvement depending on comparison point. Note: I do not personally think the bass extension of the Ether is lacking, just noticeable differences in relative comparison]
    4) Relatively thinner presentation: I do not feel like the Ether sounds “thin,” but it shares a similar presentation to the body of notes as the HD800 and HE-560. Thicker than the HE-560, but still more thin than thick compared to the broader high-end headphone market. Not as thick as the LCD-X. [Likely will not find that additional warmth/fullness or more liquid-type smoothing to textures on the Ether that is present on the Audeze LCD-series or Oppo PM-1/PM-2 headphones]
    5) Relatively brighter presentation compared to the majority of my other current headphones. [I would estimate its sound signature to sit closest to the HD800]. I personally would not call either the HD800 or the Ether to be overly bright pair of headphones. The Ether is sonically very similar to the HE-560 (which the relatively brightest headphone in my current collection). I do feel the Ether gives the perception of a more prominent treble region overall with an upper treble focus while the HE-560 has a more prominent lower treble peak in relative comparison.
    6) Possibly light in bass for certain preferences: I am not going to get into what sound signature is most ideal or ‘most reference’ as there is quite a lot of solid headphones with subtle variations in FR that I still consider relatively quite neutral. I think the Ether is quite neutral overall and displays adequate bass for non-bassheads. It does not feel lacking in this department for my preferences. I will note that I have found these have less bass quantity and brighter overall presentation in direct comparison (volume-matched based on a 500 Hz test tone) relative to the rest of my headphone collection.
    7) Soundstage is competitive for an open-back flagship [though likely not larger than the HD800]. Comparable to the HE-560 and I can see it being called either way depending on the specific cue and frequency response level that it occurs at. I’ve personally found from rapid switching volume-matched comparisons that the Ether has a better sense of depth while the HE-560 has a larger L-R width.
    *****I do want to stress that critical points that I listed above are simply just more flavor and preference considerations. I do think the Ether is an overall very competitive and well-tuned pair of headphones without any glaring sonic weakness.*****
    This list comprises many of the songs I typically use for critical listening with a lot of genre variation (arranged by alphabetically by artist). These songs are useful for testing multiple sonic strengths. These are songs I am quite familiar with so I can take requests for more detailed song analysis via PM if interested.
    Treble characteristics: “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele, “Skyfall” by Adele, “One Last Time” by Ariana Grande, “Blow Out Your Candles” by Adrian Hollay (interesting combo of warmth with coolness), “Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20” performed by Anne-Sophie Mutter, “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, “Haru Haru” by Bigbang, “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, “Trumpet Voluntary in D Major: The Prince of Denmark’s March” performed by Clerkenwell Baroque String Ensemble, “I Bet” by Ciara, “Titanium” by David Guetta, “Let It Go” by Demi Lovato, “The Look Of Love” by Diana Krall, “May It Be” by Enya,  “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding, “Your Song” by Ellie Goulding, “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence, “Concerning Hobbits” from The Fellowship of the Ring Soundtrack, “When I Grow Up" by Fever Ray (Scandinavian coldness), “Worth It” by Fifth Harmony, “The Glass Menagerie” by Henry Mancini (good example of a cold song), “Manners” by Icona Pop, “Want to Want Me” by Jason Derulo, “Blue Train” by John Coltrane (brass and cymbals), “Your Love” by Jim Brickman, “A Time Before” by John Fluker,“How Long” by Kaskade, “Heartbeat Song” by Kelly Clarkson, “My Life Would Suck Without You” by Kelly Clarkson, “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Rey, “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis, “My December” by Linkin Park, “Euphoria” by Loreen, “I See the Light” by Mandy Moore & Zachary Levi, “Execute Me” by Medina, “Our Love Is Easy” by Melody Gardot, “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” by Nancy Sinatra, “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones, “Easy To Love” by Patricia Barber, “Lone Ranger” by Rachel Platten, “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, “Elastic Heart” by Sia, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” by Taylor Swift, “Nobody Love” by Tori Kelly, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, “Undercover” by Zara Larsson
    Midrange characteristics: “Life Goes On” by 2pac, “All Out of Love” by Air Supply, “Mr. Saxobeat” by Alexandra Stan (brass), “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse, “Honey, I’m Good” by Andy Grammer, “Wild Wild Horses” by Atmosphere, “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” by Brand New, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Beegie Adair, “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles, “Atlas” by Coldplay, “Yellow” by Coldplay, “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio, “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows, “7 Days” by Craig David, “The Wind Beneath My Wings” by David Hamilton, “Vindicated” by Dashboard Confessional, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie, “Vincent” by Don McLean, “Sunrise” by Doug Hammer, “Energy” by Drake, “I Didn’t Know About You” by Duke Ellington, “Hotel California” by the Eagles, “Bright” by Echosmith, “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeren, “Sing for the Moment” by Eminem (hip hop with male vocal recession), “Do You Know? (The Ping Pong Song)” by Enrique Iglesias, “Uma Thurman” by Fall Out Boy, “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra, “Moon River” by Frank Sinatra, “Shot Caller” by French Montana (hip hop with brass), “Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile)” by Gato Barbieri, “Budapest” by George Ezra, “Sweet Child O' Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, “Lips of An Angel” by Hinder, “Take Me To Church” by Hozier,“Better Together” by Jack Johnson, “Dark Blue” by Jack’s Mannequin, “Goodbye My Lover” by James Blunt, “Papa's Got a Brand New Bag” by James Brown, “If” by Jamie Conway, “Evening Whispers” by Janie Becker, “Want To Want Me” by Jason Derulo, “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz, “Tornado” by Jay Chou, “Lights Off” by Jay Sean, “Show Me What You Got” by Jay-Z, “Naima” by John Coltrane, “Lake Erie Rainfall” by Jim Brickman, “Winter Morning” by Jim Brickman, “The Dreamer” by Jose James, “There Will Never Be Another You” by Lester Young, “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, “Touch the Sky” by Kanye West, “Songbird” by Kenny G, “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars, “Maps” by Maroon 5, “Sugar” by Maroon 5, “Speed Demon” by Michael Jackson (brass instruments), “The North Sea” by Michele McLaughlin, “So What” by Miles Davis, “Believe” by Mumford & Sons, “So Sick” by Ne-Yo, “Songs I Can’t Listen To” by Neon Trees, “The Godfather Love Theme” by Nino Rota, “Suicidal Thoughts” by The Notorious B.I.G., “Ice Box” by Omarion (cold song), “Let Her Go” by Passenger, “Radioactive” by Pentatonix, “Tears of the East” by Philip Wesley, “The Cello Song” by The Piano Guys (cello), “Canon in D Major” performed by Pimlico Quartet, “Us and Them” by Pink Floyd, “Love Song” by Rain, “Californication” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Savior” by Rise Against, “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones, “Hallelujah” by Rufus Wainwright, “Take Your Time” by Sam Hunt, “I’m Not The Only One” by Sam Smith, “Geronimo” by Sheppard, “Round Midnight” by Sonny Rollins, “Your Man” by Smash Mouth, “So Far Away” by Staind, “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder, “Wedding Dress” by Taeyang, “Diamond Rings And Old Barstools” by Tim McGraw, “The Dream of You” by Tim Neumark, “How Do I Say” by Usher, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “Riptide” by Vance Joy, “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon, “Heartbeat” by Wang Lee Hom, “Can’t Feel My Face” by the Weekend, “Just the Two of Us” by Will Smith, “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth,“Kiss the Rain” by Yiruma, “Renegades” by X Ambassadors 
    Bass characteristics: “Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin, “Burned With Desire” by Armin van Buuren, “The Nights” by Avicii, “Waiting for Love” by Avicii, “Sail” by AWOLNATION, “Brass Monkey” by Beastie Boys, “Come Together” by The Beatles, “Stand by Me” by Ben E King, “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath, “Outside” by Calvin Harris, “Straight To Hell” by The Clash, “Lullaby” by The Cure, “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie, “Tron Legacy (End Title)” by Daft Punk, “Ghosts 'n' Stuff” by deadmau5, “Get Low” by Dillon Francis & DJ Snake, “Monster” by DotEXE, “You Know You Like It” by DJ Snake & AlunaG, “Dubstep Killed Rock n Roll” by Ephixa, “Deviance” by Excision, “Blood Red” by Feed Me, “Trap Queen” by Fetty Wap, “GDFR” by Flo Rida & Lookas & Sage, “I Can’t Stop” by Flux Pavilion, “Elements” by Fractal, “Concrete Angel” by Gareth Emery, “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses, “Aggressive Expansion” by Hans Zimmer, “Rise” by Hans Zimmer, “Time” by Hans Zimmer, “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons (bass texture), “I Want You Back” by Jackson 5, “Limit to Your Love” by James Blake, “N*ggas in Paris” by Jay-Z, “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix, “Caravan” by John Wasson [Whiplash OST], “Act a Fool” by Ludacris, “Love Lockdown” by Kanye West, “Be Real” by Kid Ink & Dej Loaf, “Alive” Krewella, “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin, “Lean On” by Major Lazer & MO, “Teardrop” by Massive Attack, “Our Story” by Mako, “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor, “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson, “Remember the Time” by Michael Jackson, “You Made Me Realise” by My Bloody Valentine, “Everybody Talks,” by Neon Trees, “Lonely Girl” by Oceanlab, “Spottieottiedopaliscious” by OutKast, “The Island” by Pendulum, “Money” by Pink Floyd, “Time of Our Lives” by Pitbull & Ne-Yo, “I'm Gonna Be(500 Miles)” by Proclaimers, “Know Your Enemy” by Rage Against the Machine, “Full Force” by Rameses B, “FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna & Kanye West & Paul McCartney, “Children - Dream Version” by Robert Miles, “1812 Overture” performed by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, “Love is Darkness” by Sander Van Doorn, “I Need Your Love” by Shaggy, “All Star” by Smash Mouth, “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder, “Break Your Heart” by Taio Cruz, “No Mercy” by TI, “Secrets” by Tiesto, “Hipsta” by Timmy Trumpet (viscerality of bass yo!), “Slow Motion” by Trey Songz, “Another Bites the Dust” by Queen, “Heartbeat” by Vicetone, “Earned It” by The Weeknd, “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, “On My Level” by Wiz Khalifa, “Stab Me In the Back” by X-Japan, “Min Ojesten” by Xander, “I Want You To Know” by Zedd, “Nuclear” by Zomboy
    Imaging/Soundstage: “Back In Black” by AC/DC, “Will Hunting Main Title” by Danny Elfman, “Book of Days” by Enya, “Caribbean Blue” by Enya, “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses, “Spirited Away - One Summer’s Day” by Joe Hisaishi, “Star Wars Main Theme” by John Williams, “The Dreamer” by Jose James, “Somewhere I Belong - Live in Texas” by Linkin Park, “Now We Are Free” by Hans Zimmer, “The Thin Red Line” by Hans Zimmer, “Time (Live in London 1974)” by Pink Floyd, “Yellow Submarine” by Ringo Starr (Ringo Live At Soundstage), “Whispers In The Dark - Comes Alive Version” by Skillet, “Futile Devices” by Sufjan Stevens, “Words” by Yiruma, Classical music performed by London Philharmonic Orchestra and recorded by Abbey Road Studios, Royal Festival Hall, and Henry Wood Hall including: “Adagio for Strings” by Barber, “Bagatelle In A Minor, WoO 59, Für Elise” by Beethoven, “Nocturne No. 2 In E-Flat Major, Op. 9” by Chopin, “Suite bergamasque, L 75: Clair de Lune” by Debussy, “Symphony No. 5: Adagietto” by Mahler, “The Magic Flute, K. 620: Overture” by Mozart, “Canon In D Major” by Pachelbel, “Finlandia, Op. 26” by Sibelius, “The Four Seasons, Op. 8, Spring: Allegro” by Vivaldi, “The Valkyrie: Ride of the Valkyries” by Wagner.
    Speed and control: “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, “Invincible” by Adelitas Way, “Flower of Life” by Au5, “The Diary of Jane” by Breaking Benjamin, “Can You Keep Up” by Busta Rhymes, “Eurodancer” by DJ Mangoo, “Bitterphobia” by Eminem, “Rap God” by Eminem, “Renegade” by Eminem, “The Might of Rome” by Hans Zimmer, “Point of No Return” by Immortal Technique, “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane, “Faint” by Linkin Park, “Elements” by Lindsey Stirling, “Raver’s Fantasy” by Manian, “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, “The Magic Flute, K. 620: Overture” performed by Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra, “William Tell Overture” performed by Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra, “The Tsar Of Saltan, Op. 57: Flight of the Bumblebee” performed by Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra, “Last Resort” by Papa Roach. “Testify” by Rage Against The Machine, “Snow” by Red Hot Chilli Peppers,  “Everything Is Awesome!!” by Tegan & Sara & the Lonely Island, “That’s All She Wrote” by T.I., “Let’s Go” by Travis Barker, “Frum Da Tip Of My Tung” by Twista, “Kill Us All” by Twista, “River Flows In You” by Yiruma, “Silent Jealousy” by X Japan
    Dynamics: “Path” by Apocalyptica, “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor I. Moonlight” performed by Bernhard Jarvis, “The People” by Common (very well-balanced male rapper vocals here), “American Pie” by Don McLean, “Everlong” by Foo Fighters, “Estranged” by Guns N’ Roses, “Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer, “1973” by James Blunt, “Aspenglow” by Jim Wilson, “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, “Eptesicus” by Hans Zimmer, “Dream Is Collapsing” by Hans Zimmer, “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, “In the Closet” by Michael Jackson, “Dying” by Hole, “One Mic” by Nas, “Down By The Water” by PJ Harvey, “Suite No. 3 in D Major” performed by the Pimlico Quartet, “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” Pink Floyd, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Passions” by Rachel Currea, “The Suite Bergamasque: III. Clair de Lune” performed by Robert Einstein, “Angie” by The Rolling Stones, “Je t'aime moi non plus” by Serge Gainsbourg (romantic whispering), “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, “The Girl From Ipanema” by Stan Getz, “Bring Em Out” by TI, “Hooker With A Penis” by Tool, "Art of Life" by X Japan, “Wait (The Whisper Song)” by Ying Yang Twins (low level male vocals)
    2015-08-1522.47.14.jpg       2015-08-1522.52.03.jpg
     

    Measurements:
    *******Important Notes*******
    • Measurements only done after sonic impression notes were written.
    • Measurement chain: PC with Windows 10 > ARTA Generates Sine Sweeps > Steinberg UR-22 USB Interface with Yamaha ASIO > Line Out > Oppo HA-2 Amplifier > headphones placed upon my own head (left ear being measured) > Pannasonic WM61-A Microphone > Steinberg UR-22 > PC > ARTA analysis
    • I used a Panasonic WM61-A microphone in my measurement set-up. The WM61-A does actually measure very flat until the upper treble range when calibrated. Its unequalized response should be flat within +/- 1.5 dB to 20 kHz. Frequency response curves are smoothed to 1/24 octave.
    • The dip occurring at approximately the 6 kHz region is an artifact from the interaction from the mic placement with the shape of the ear folds. This artifact appears in all my measured frequency response curves via my current personal measurement set-up.
    • You can NOT directly compare my personal measurements to other frequency response curves made by other people!!! There will be inherent discrepancies due to differences in measurement set-up, so comparing measurements from different sources is not reliable!!
    • For frequency response curve comparisons, I would recommend Tyll’s extensive database. Tyll's Ether measurements HERE. Full list of all his headphone measurements found HERE. (credit: Tyll Hertsens at Innerfidelity)
    • Reference HERE for frequency response correlations to instruments and audiophile terms. (credit: Independent Recording Network)
    • I am not a professional, so my personal measurements may not be as accurate as other sources. May update measurements as I run more trials. Any feedback or suggestions for improvement appreciated. Please let me know if you spot any errors.
    ***********************************
     
    Screenshot2015-07-1816.45.36etherstockcableIR.png     Screenshot2015-08-0119.19.13EtherStockIR.png
    MrSpeakers Ether (stock cables) Impulse Response (x2 different trials 7/18/15 & 8/1/15)
     
    Screenshot2015-07-1816.45.54etherFR.png     Screenshot2015-08-0119.19.53EtherStockFR.png
    MrSpeakers Ether (stock cables) Frequency Response Curve (x2 different trials 7/18/15 & 8/1/15)
     
    Screenshot2015-07-1816.46.10ethercsd.png     Screenshot2015-08-0119.20.17EtherStockCSD.png
    MrSpeakers Ether (stock cables) Cumulative Spectral Decay Plot (x2 different trials 7/18/15 & 8/1/15)
     
    Direct Comparisons:
    *******Important Notes*******
    • There are just some subtle differences between competitors that will really depend on personal preference. Differences written about sound often reads to be more dramatic than the differences heard in real-life (just the nature of writing really detailed comparisons over subtle variations). I would strongly caution against making any snap judgements without a personal audition as people do have different sensitivities to different sonic attributes.
    • Please remember these are my own personal subjective impressions. YMMV!!!
    *********************************
    I could not fit my direct comparisons in this review. Link HERE for full comparisons.
     
    Amplification: Basically, these headphones are so easy to drive that an amplifier is unnecessary from a technical standpoint.
    1. Requires 1 mW to reach 95 dB (typical upper range of normal listening volumes and the volume level where long-term exposure will result in gradual hearing loss)
    2. Requires 79 mW to reach 115 dB (volume of a loud concert)
    3. Requires 794 mW to reach 125 dB (threshold for pain)
    Link HERE for a great resource for calculating power requirements.
     
    Due to their very neutral overall sound signature, colorations from tube gear should be quite readily apparent and easily revealed. I don’t think there needs to be any worry about source component matching as their sound signature does not require any major adjustments or flavoring to my ears (though I would avoid components that exhibit a bass roll-off). Unlikely to be very picky with source gear (imo). Does not require any expensive components to sound ideal, though likely to ‘scale up’ in a similar manner to other very resolving nice headphones. I do feel like the Ether is quite transparent and will allow for good perception of differences between external components if interested in critically listening for those sorts of variations. I tested the Ether to work quite well with the Oppo HA-2, Aune B1, and Lyr 2 + Bifrost Uber combination.
     
    Cables: I personally could not detect any notable consistent sonic differences switching back-and-forth between the stock cable and DUM cable during blind testing. Do note that I personally never really have been able to hear any difference with various cables that I’ve experimented with. YMMV. I am not interested in a cable debate. Please NO cable debate in the comments section. Remember, YMMV!!! Comparative measurement trial between cables without changing the positioning of these headphones included for those interested below.
     
    MrSpeakers Ether Measurements on 8/1/15 with Stock Cables on Left and DUM cables on Right
    Screenshot2015-08-0119.19.13EtherStockIR.png       Screenshot2015-08-0119.15.09EtherDUMIR.png
    Impulse Response (Stock Cables vs Dum Cables)
     
    Screenshot2015-08-0119.19.53EtherStockFR.png       Screenshot2015-08-0119.16.31EtherDUMFR.png
    Frequency Response Curve (Stock Cables vs Dum Cables)
     
    Screenshot2015-08-0119.20.17EtherStockCSD.png       Screenshot2015-08-0119.17.23EtherDUMCSD.png
    Cumulative Spectral Decay Plot: (Stock Cables vs Dum Cables)
     
    Only FR measurement trial with a significant variation between cables occurred on 7/18/15. I ran this measurement trial twice to confirm, but I have been unable to duplicate this result since then.
    Screenshot2015-07-1816.45.54etherFR.png        Screenshot2015-07-1816.47.22etherdumcablefr.png
    FR Trial #1 on 7/18: Stock on Left, DUM FR on Right
    Screenshot2015-07-1816.50.41etherfr.png       Screenshot2015-07-1816.49.15etherdumcablefr.png
    FR Trial #2 on 7/18: Stock FR on Left, DUM FR on Right
     
    Value Judgement:
     
    The planar magnetic headphone product category is currently rapidly growing and getting quite crowded. Previously dominated by staples from Audeze and Hifiman, Oppo Digital recently joined the headphone game with three planar magnetic models including the PM-1 at $1,099, the PM-2 at $699, and the PM-3 at $399. Fostex has revitalized their planar magnetic line-up with the TH500RP (currently can be found at $650ish) and their replacement T##RPmk3 series (open, closed, and semi-open designs). A relatively less well-known the Russian company MyST released their IzoPhones line-up ($1,100 to $1,200) and Kennerton Audio recently announced an upcoming planar magnetic called the Odin ($2,250).
     
    With consideration to the $1k+ luxury headphone category, the $1.5k Ether sits right around at the price point standard for flagships set by the Sennheiser HD800 (original MSRP of $1.4k, current MSRP at $1.6k, I’ve seen deal pricing for new HD800 at sub-$1,300 price point). This makes it a relative good overall value compared to the MSRP of other flagship-level headphones. Due to diminishing returns in the luxury headphone product category, I view the Ether to offer a much better overall value than the majority of headphones priced higher for shoppers primarily concerned with overall sound signature balance and enjoy a neutral clinical-orientated tuning. While the Ether is an extremely competitive all-arounder, there are other flagships that outperform it in specific technical areas, so for buyers with very specific sonic desires, there may be more suitable option for their individual tastes.
     
    For value-oriented enthusiasts who are uncomfortable going too high above the $1k price point, there are still many competitive options that may be preferable to the Ether. In terms of performance:price, I do think that the Hifiman HE-560 does achieve a flagship-level sound quality with very close overall sonic presentation at a much cheaper price point of $900 MSRP, making it the overall better sonic value. The classic highly-regarded HE-6 planar magnetic also retails at a lower price point of $1.2k and can often be found cheaper on sale. Oppo offers their PM-1 planar magnetic flagship at $1.1k with the PM-2 achieving similar sound at $699. Upcoming flagship headphones that will sit at a lower price point include the ENIGMAcoustics Dharma D1000 electrostatic-dynamic hybrid at $1.2k (August release date) and the 2nd generation updated version of the dynamic-driver Beyerdynamic T1 at ~$1.1k (estimated end of August release date). Hifiman is also currently developing a HE-6 successor with an unknown price point that be something to consider.
     
    For really money-conscious enthusiasts who really place a heavy emphasis on value and like to avoid diminishing returns, I would recommend staying in the sub-$500 price option as there are currently a multitude of extremely capable mid-tier planar magnetic options out there (the HE-400i and PM-3 are my personal favorite planar magnetic in that price range and Hifiman recently released the new HE-400s at the $299 price point).
     
    For $1k+ flagship option, the Ether is an extremely capable neutral-orientated headphones with extremely minimal coloration to my ears. If looking for that type of sound signature, the Ether will deliver great satisfaction. I find its overall tuning to be extremely competitive compared to the current market offerings by competitors. Its price point is fair considering the current MSRP price trends. With this newest flagship addition, fans of planar magnetic headphone are now faced with an even larger myriad of extremely capable summit-fi choices.
     
    My Scoring: (the green bar ratings on the side seem to be an average of all review scores, this is my personal scoring)
    Note: I do not typically give out full scores unless the product achieves a new ground-breaking high standard for its price bracket
    Audio Quality: 9/10
    Comfort: 9/10
    Design: 9/10
    Value: 7/10
    Overall Rating: 4.5/5; Overall, extremely solid and competitive entry in the flagship market.
     
    Conclusion:
     
    The Ether is an outstanding new flagship offering by Mrspeakers to a crowded high-end planar magnetic field. With no significantly notable flaws, the Ether presents an extremely well-balanced overall sound signature that can be described as a tight bass, clean midrange, and smooth treble.
     
    The Ether excels in all non-sonic attributes, engineered with a light-weight, gorgeous-looking design. It is easily apparent that great attention to detail was paid to its styling and comfort. The Ether’s greatest sonic strength in my opinion is how it maintains a clinical presentation while maintaining an even treble response. Offering a hyper detail-focused presentation without falling victim to some of the negative stereotypes associated with the word “clinical,” the Ether never sounds screechingly sharp, edgily harsh, or sibilant on good source material. The midrange of the Ether is quite a joy to listen to as well. I view the Ether’s overall sound signature tuning being the primary reason to choose this pair of headphones specifically.
     
    Flaws on the Ether are few and far between, unlikely to be deal-breakers for the majority of enthusiasts interested in high-end headphones. The cable microphonics due to the connector design is my personal biggest non-audio concern. The bass response of the Ether is its relatively weakest frequency response region, but this can be appealing to more neutral-oriented detail-focused preferences as increased bass extension or emphasized bass can often blur out other aspects of the music. I would estimate that the relative sonic attributes most likely to be commented negatively upon would be the Ether’s bass extension and dampened impact. With less sub-bass presence and a softer impact to its notes, the Ether has a very light touch, delicately floating through the music. There is less weight and power behind the sound of the Ether compared to some of its contemporaries. I honestly don’t think that this difference in sonic style will always be considered a sonic flaw, but depending on what headphone background that the listener is coming from, these sonic differences may be more pronounced and noticeable for certain preferences.
     
    I see the Ether’s overall sound signature tuning being extremely appealing to many audiophiles seeking a neutral-orientated but non-fatiguing reference-level sonic balance that is always pleasurable to listen to. Its technical sonic attributes are competitive enough to satisfy the majority of listeners who are simply looking for overall flagship-level performance rather than focusing on maximizing the performance of a few specific qualities. Extremely solid all-arounder in its performance, the Ether should be appealing to all audiophiles who are looking for reference neutral tuning.
     
    2015-08-1620.58.23.jpg
     
    Official Product Link: https://mrspeakers.com/ether/
      gevorg, fmuller, Currawong and 15 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Thorbs
      Awesome review Money! Thank you. i just have 100 hours on my ETHERs and fully agree with your review and impressions. Exactly what I was looking for in a HP. Your review helped me select the right one for me. Thanks!
      Thorbs, Nov 16, 2015
    3. WhiskeyJacks
      This was a very well written, enjoyable, and informative review. I especially like how you talk about other options to other price points and values for other perhaps newer audio lover's. Thanks for taking the time to write this
      WhiskeyJacks, Jan 23, 2016
    4. uhhmike
      very good and accurate review. i love my ethers. as for the bass, i find that if the recording itself has alot of bass, the headphone shows it. it doesn't add or exaggerate bass though. thats my two cents. nice review.
      uhhmike, Jul 12, 2016
  2. akatyay
    Should you buy it? Maybe. End-game? You betcha.
    Written by akatyay
    Published Jul 15, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Transparent, Detailed, Quick....pretty great
    Cons - Costly, Sound Signature *NOT* for everyone
    Long-term lurker here.  But I've committed hard to this hobby and recently purchased an OPPO HA-1 + Ether as an end-game setup.  Received my Ether yesterday - order 4758 with DUM cable (initial impressions below, I'll update this review upon burn-in - if you believe in that sort of thing):
     
    TL;DR: Neutral, detailed, transparent. Great headphones, bit costly.
     
    Build: Very nice, the red is far more subdued in person and this set is lighter than my pair of Mad Dogs.
    Comfort: Excellent. Again, the headphones are quite light so comfort is not an issue.
     
    Soundstage: Huge. Not the biggest side to side, but big enough with lots and lots of depth.  The most "out of the head" experience I've had thus far with headphones.  I haven't heard much talk around the soundstage of these, but it's seriously impressive how life-like it is.    
     
    Lows: Accurate and tight.  There isn't excessive bass here, but all my test tracks sounded accurate with great life-like texture.  I don't think the impressions of "visceral" bass are quite right, but these cans gave about as much as the track called for.  If you want to hear the lows shine, you gotta listen to some music with deep bass. 
     
    Mids: AWESOME, extremely articulate and clear. I've heard the mids described as "where the music lives" and the Ether does not disappoint.  My favorite mids up until now were on the HD650s (though I have a soft spot for the Mad Dogs 3.2) but the Ether is a clear winner here in imaging and overall detail.  The presentation is a *tiny* *tiny* bit recessed, but it creates a very nice impression given the huge soundstage (the singer sounds like he/she is right infront of you, more so than any other cans I've tried).  This isn't to say the Ether blows either of these out of the water, but they are definitely *better*.
     
    Treble: Impressive. Not sure if all amps can control the treble as well as the HA-1 (I don't think the HA-1 is "thin", I perceive it as mostly neutral), but the combo shined here. The highs on my test tracks went up and up without much sibilance (unless the original recording was sibilant) and sounded very accurate.
     
     
    Pairing with the HA-1: I've seen a few people say they don't like the combo, but I had absolutely no issues.  The HA-1 has enough power to control the treble on most headphones and drive the bass hard, and the Ether doesn't seem to require too much help.  I usually can't tell much difference between DACs/Cables, so I can't comment here. The Sabre chips seem up to the task, and the combo was a peach to listen to.  
     
    Overall impression: Great headphones, bit costly. I'm honestly not sure if these were "worth it" in the traditional sense, but I can't imagine a pair of cans sounding much better than these (I haven't had the pleasure of trying any of the LCD line or other TOTL cans like the T1, AKG812, etc. etc.).  Given the reports of comfort issues with the Audeze line, the Ether seems like a winner to me in the TOTL market for those looking for transparency and true "audiophile" quality from a planar headphone. 
     
    Should you buy it?  If you're happy with your current set up, or are happy with 90% of the sound-fi, get some HD650s or Beyer DT880s or Soundmagic HP200s and be happy. However, this is an *excellent* TOTL set of cans, and they are certainly better than the aforementioned sets (I didn't think any headphone would ever definitively beat the 650s, but these do IMO). All that said, the sound signature on these is borderline analytical.  There's a bit of musicality to it, but it's mostly neutral (warmth lovers beware!!). 
      MrPanda and Hal X like this.
    1. reddog
      A great, informative review sir
      reddog, Jul 16, 2015
    2. Wilashort
      Great review
      Wilashort, Jul 18, 2015
  3. reddog
    a fantastic open ended headphone that is detailed and yet so so musical.
    Written by reddog
    Published Jul 10, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - light weight, extremely comfortable, ear pads breath well, sounds bloody great.
    Cons - a bit expensive, DUM cable a tad stiff, does not isolate from outside noise, no unicorn dust
    MrSpeakers new open back headphones, the ETHER is fantastic headphone. Dan has created a work of art, that combines artistic beauty, with a superb sounding set of cans. I love wearing these sexy cans everywhere and have worn them to the grocery and the mall, and I did not feel like a escaped nerd, from a sci-fi convention. Plus these cans are so comfortable to wear, yea forget you are wearing them, and get lost in the music. The comfort comes from the the headband, created by Dan. The headband works so well, no hot spot upon my head, and no uncomfortable clamping at all, just pure comfort. Furthermore the headphone is solidly built, nothing flimsy about them. The space age plastic i used on the ETHER is top quality. Furthermore the ear pads are so soft and comfortable, yet they are very breathable. I wear them next to my main rig ( a Yggdrasil/ Ragnarock) and my ears rarely sweat like they do with my other headphones, such as the HE1K and MrSpeakers Alpha Primes.

    Once you have put these puppies on, the listener will be floored by the vividly detailed and textured sound signature that is ever so musical to hear. The bass, the mids and treble are spot on perfect.
    The bass has that planar impact, yet the bass is tight and controlled, no bloat. The bass in Frank Zappa's album " One Size Fits All" is deep, and detailed, especially in the song San'Ber'dino. I have never heard the bass sound so good on San'Ber'dino. Likewise the ETHER's tight detailed bass made Led Zepplin's Bron Y Aur Stomp come alive, never heard it sound so well.

    The mids on the ETHER are just brilliant, so smooth, so textured and deataied, yes so musical, not dry or analytical sounding. The mids on such albums Flood by They Might be Giants; Nights in White Satin by The Moody Blues and Time Out by Dave Brubeck sound so detailed and smooth as well as very musical. To my ears the treble is perfect, its detailed and revealing, yet its not bright or sybilant. Such albums as Nightmare Before Christmas and Henry V just sound great no sybilance or undo brightness.

    The soundstage on the Ether is nice and large as well as very holographic. The detailed bass, mids and treble created a very holographic soundstage, that has very detailed imagery. The imagery of the holographic soundstage allows one to precisely place instruments or vocals with the soundstage. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon sounds so three-dimensional, I was floored by this effect. The three-dimensional, holographic sound stage allowed Classical albums by Mozart, Beetoven, Holst and Wagner to sound great.

    The great sounding bass, mids, treble and soundstage allow for the overall sound signature, on the Ether to be so musical and intoxicating. Vocals by Kate Bush, Zappa, David Bowie, and Sting sound so natural and musical, that I am slowly relistening to my audio library. I get into the music so much I forget about the time. The Ether sounds great with all types of music from rock to the blues to jazz and classical, as well as edm.

    The Ether headphone scales nicely with other amps. I have used the ETHER my yggy and rag and its sounds devine. However I have used the ETHER's with my Lyr2, Asgard 2 and my e12. The ETHER'S sound bloody great through the lyr2 and my Telefunken E88CC platinum tubes. This combo is just great, very intoxicating. The Asgard 2 drives the ETHER'S pretty well, not as detailed as the lyr2. And finally I was surprised how well the Fiio e12 drove the ETHER, when I was at the mall. The sound signature was very musical through the e12, though not as textured or detailed. When compared to my desktops amps.

    The ETHER comes with a great traveling case, that fits nicely in my leather travel bag. I feel the ETHER can be used for semi portable use. They are not bulky and they do not get sweaty like other headphones The Dum Cable is a bit stiff, but that is no big problem. I feel the DUM cable sounds much better than the stock cable.

    I used the following equipment for this review
    OPPO BDP-103,
    Schiit Audio's Yggdrasil
    Ragnarock
    Lyr 2 with Telefunken E88CC platinum tubes.
    Asgard 2
    Fiio E 12.
    P.s. The Ether might be expensive but its well worth it, these cans are rock solid, sound great and are very comfortable. I have never had headphones as musical sounding as these cans.
    Andrew Reddog Jones.
      Wildcatsare1 likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. oneway23
      good stuff, reddog..congrats on your new audio puppies!
      oneway23, Jul 10, 2015
    3. rgs9200m
      Uh oh, Nights in White Satin, not Satan. (Not nitpicking, loved the review, just thought you might want to edit that typo). Thanks again for the great post.   :)
      rgs9200m, Jul 11, 2015
    4. BassFanatic
      Thanks for the review. i love to look around to see everything that's available. 
      BassFanatic, Jul 12, 2015
  4. Currawong
    The MrSpeakers' Ethers are all of outstandingly detailed, neutrally-toned and very comfortable. Dan Clark has made a winner.
    Written by Currawong
    Published Jul 2, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Highly resolving, effectively neutral, awesome treble, light-weight, comfortable and flexible, yet fairly easy to drive.
    Cons - Bass impact is lacking, very sensitive to source and amp quality.
    MrSpeakers_Ether_IMG_0997.jpg
     
    Note: This review was primarily conducted with a pair of Ethers using the DUM cable.
     
    An early welcome greeted me when I arrived in Los Angeles for the 2015 CanJam SoCal meet: A new pair of MrSpeakers headphones. Dan Clark, having spent many years modifying the inexpensive Fostex T50RPs, up to and including 3D printing his own cups and modifying their drivers, was working up to something even bigger as it turned out. The Ethers are 100% unique, using no parts from other headphones, but encompassing all the technology Dan had developed making his previous models, having taken the T50RPs to their limits.
     
    In the Alpha Primes, we not only saw his cleverly 3D printed cups, but the “V-Planar” stippling applied to the drivers to make their performance more even across the driver itself. Sonically this brought out a better treble response. Working with Bruce Thigpen, Dan came up with a new driver that is both larger and more sensitive, which would allow good performance from more devices, especially portable ones. Originally code-named the Dreadnaught and intended to be closed-backed, the Ethers, thanks to Dan’s ability to 3D print any design he wanted to experiment with, went through a number of iterations, including a version where closed cups could be removed on the spot. 
     
    MrSpeakers_Ether_IMG_0992.jpg
     
    Aside from the main metal chassis, gimballs and headband, the cups, grill and many parts of the driver enclosure are 3D printed in the MrSpeakers workshop, after which they are spray painted with automotive paint by hand. One of the most tricky parts of a headphone to get right, the headband and arc is one area where Dan hit a home run. Trying different materials, one of Dan’s employees suggested a metal alloy known as NiTinol. Used in denistry, NiTinol is a memory wire, one that will always return to its original shape, even after being severely bent. It is so effective at this that Dan even considered shipping the Ethers twisted into a long tube. NiTinol is also relatively lightweight for its strength, meaning that the headband could be light, yet extremely flexible and strong. For fit, the Ether uses a fairly common system with a neatly carved chunk of metal to connect the two NiTinol wires for the arcs to the gimball and offset swivel that holds the cups. On my prototype pair the cups can swivel all the way, allowing them to fold flat, but the final versions have a protrusion that prevents this. 
     
    MrSpeakers_Ether_IMG_0989.jpg
     
    Along with a simple headpad system, a piece of shaped leather screwed onto a block that slides up and down the arc wires, with adjustable stoppers limiting the movement. How readily the blocks slide can also be controlled via the tightness of the headpad screw, so while my prototype loaners would slip too easily, tightening the screw fixed that. After initial customer suggestions, a smaller headpad will also be offered. Finally, the earpads are leather and foam and remove and replace easily and are flat rather than sloped. 
     
    Most important, the overall combination of materials results in a pair of headphones that weigh only 370 grams and adjust very easily, but still sit reasonably firmly in place on your head. That means excellent comfort while listening, though air guitar practitioners might find them too loose.
     
      MrSpeakers_Ether_IMG_0977.jpg  
     
    Even though the drivers are smaller compared to those from Audeze and Hifiman, they are larger than the T50RP drivers and the presentation from the headphones isn’t small at all. If anything their imaging is closest to that of the Stax SR009s, with very precise imaging that represents the music well. Tonally they come across as monitor flat, with no emphasis anywhere in the range. At the same time music comes through with an uncanny precision. They had no trouble revealing the character of any equipment, from DACs and amps through to cables, that they were connected to. Schiit Audio’s Yggdrasil, for example, has an uncanny degree of resolution compared to anything in, and quite a bit above its price bracket that I have experienced. This was as apparent with the Ethers as it was with the Hifiman HE1000s. The lively character of Cavalli Audio’s Liquid Carbon and the Liquid Crimson were immediately obvious, as was the greater capabilities of the latter. 
     
    MrSpeakers_Ether_Driver_Foam.jpg
     
    What is more, the Ether achieves this with a very present, but very clear treble, lacking any harshness. The amount of treble has been dialled in just right to my ears, neither with an excessively strong peak, nor rolled-off. Compared to Audeze’s LCD-X, they overall sound feels lighter, all the way from the bass through to the mids and treble. If the Audeze house sound is a bit too dark, then the Ethers are light, but without overdoing it. A better comparison to the Ethers might be the AKG K7XX. The Ethers are more like a very resolving version of those. The K701s always had a reputation for uncanny imaging and the Ethers are the same, but dialled up to a vastly greater degree of resolution. 
     
    Shirley Bassey, singing what I believe was her best song, the Rhythm Divine by Yello is brought out in full glory through the Ethers, including her ability to deliver a slow vibrato in her voice while singing long notes, something I’ve only heard from the very best headphones. In fact, the Ethers are simply ridiculously precise, able to deliver a pinpoint treble that has not the slightest harshness or grain. While the soundstage seems to be somewhat intimate and in comparison a bit in-your-head at times, when the venue moves to a hall, they easily switch to presenting a sense of space. 
     
    The bass on Kids with Guns by Gorillaz on their Demon Days album comes through with such precision I look up to double-check I haven’t left my speakers on. My brain is telling me that my body is feeling the bass, but this impossible. It’s a disturbingly convincing illusion though and one I don’t recall happening with other headphones. Similar things happen with Bostich (Reflected) from the Touch Yello album, at the end of which is a recording of a thunderclap. For a moment I thought that the sound was coming from outside and not the music!
     
    MrSpeakers_Ether_IMG_0994.jpg
     
    Though I sometimes wish I could have the bass from the HE1000s, as soon as any singer starts up, all is forgiven and forgotten. Be it Patricia Barber, Samantha Crain or Fiona Bevan, the delivery is nigh on perfect. This is awesome I can only recall experiencing with the best of the best when it comes to vocals — Stax’s SR009s and SR4070s and Sony’s MDR-R10s. 
     
    At $1500-$1610 depending on options, I expect these headphones to become a favorite of the high-end headphone crowd.
     
    Thanks to Dan Clarke for lending me a pair for review.
     
    MrSpeakers_Ether_IMG_0995.jpg  
      getclikinagas likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. TumbleButt
      Have you tried them with the DUM cable?
      TumbleButt, Jul 16, 2015
    3. Currawong
      I might have forgotten to add it, but the review pair was using the DUM cable.
      Currawong, Jul 16, 2015
    4. reddog
      A good insightful review sir
      reddog, Jul 16, 2015
  5. MattTCG
    Stunningly musical neutral
    Written by MattTCG
    Published Jun 8, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - neutrality, class leading mids, comfort/design, engagement factor
    Cons - cost, not yet available (end of June)
    The ETHER:
     
    Fit Finish and Build Quality:
     
    I have not encountered many problems with regard to quality control with previous Mr. Speakers products, but of course this is a ground up project which introduces a whole new realm of potential problems. While it is pretty early, let me say this. The Ether is an incredibly well thought out design. The execution of the design in terms of fit, finish and materials are some of the very best I've seen. I grilled Dan for the better part of an hour at the Nashville meet about the build process. One thing I came away with from that conversation was just how important build quality was to his process. He has scrutinized every last piece and screw and considered how each piece connects to the whole. I was impressed then as I am now that they are in my hands.
     
    I've only seen one other company in this arena truly impress this much right of the gate in the first time/ground up headphone game...Oppo. So.....I wouldn't worry to much about quality control or build quality...it's stellar.
     
    Most headphones looking somewhat goofy when worn. It seems the more expensive they are, the goofier they look, at least in most cases. Personally, I find the ETHER to be a very attractive looking headphone. The claret red against the black pads and headband look nice. And the diminutive NiTinol band gives the headphone an overall smaller look than most others.
     
    The pads are a little different here than the typical Alpha Pad. First of all the are flat instead of angled. When I asked Dan about the choice of a flat pad he simply said, “flat pads sound better.” That explanation was good enough for me.
     
    The pair that I have here came with the DUM cable. Honestly, it didn't matter much to me what cable came stock with the ETHER because I knew that I'd get an aftermarket cable. That being said, I'll go on record to say it would be a mistake to overlook the DUM cable. Dan has put a lot of effort into bringing out every ounce of performance with ETHER and the DUM cable plays more of a role into the overall performance of the headphone than I previously realized. After a few days with the ETHER I loved them but thought that they have a little less bass response than they did in Nashville. I switched from the aftermarket cable to the DUM cable, and viola, problem solved. They DUM cable is a nice performer and well worth the cost IMO.
     
     
    After hearing these headphones in Nashville, I knew that they were special and I also knew that I wanted to own a pair. Going through my first few test tracks put a big Cheshire grin on my face. Damn, the ETHER was sounding wonderful...but a little different than what I'd heard in Nashville. Not a huge change but an appreciable one nonetheless. And the more I listened the more I recognized and appreciated the change that I was hearing. Not being able to properly comprehend the improvement I was hearing, I decided to reach out to Dan and just ask. The easiest way to do that was to just pick up the phone and call him. What Dan explained is that he'd made a small discovery that produced better air and staging without adding any harshness or brightness to the treble. That was it! That's just what I was hearing. It was impressive to listen to. What a difference such a subtle change made to the overall experience and enjoyment.
     
    This headphone has given me the most emotional response that I've ever had to reproduced music with the exception of the Sennheiser he90/Orpheus. The musical engagement factor is off the charts good. At least five times during my first series of test tracks with the ETHER,...my jaw would drop open, then I'd try to repress a big smile and then, finally, I'd chuckle with joy at how I felt listening to music with these.
     
    This particular ETHER is a demo pair now with approximately 200 total hours on them. So, they are in fact completely burned in. They do have final production tuning according to Dan including a late recent change. More on the change later.
     
    TREBLE:
     
    In a word, fantastic. I'm not a treble head by any means. I've owned the hd800 (more than once) and still say that it gives maybe the best classical experience out there period. BUT, given other genres of music and particularly less than expertly recorded music the hd800 can be very fatiguing and a sure trigger for my tinnitus. The first day with the ETHER resulted in the longest listening session that I've had in many months. When I woke this morning I had zero listening fatigue and no sign of tinnitus. YES!
     
    The treble on the ETHER is impressively extended and offers a similar type of treble to the hd800, but just adds a splash of musicality. Strings and guitar are gorgeously rendered and held me captive song after song as I cued up the likes of Chloe Hanslip and listened to her elicit those incredible tones from that million dollar violin. The resonance of that instrument when I listened to her play La Campenella was intoxicating. Before I even realized it, I was listening to the last song on the album an hour later.
     
    Guitar riffs and plucks are equally entertaining. I grew up listening to live acoustic guitar. Since I was three or four years old, I can remember listening to my dad and his friends strumming away on acoustic guitar on Friday and Saturday nights. I love the sound of acoustic guitar played live. Listening to Julian Lage: Worlds Fair on the ETHER took me back to my childhood. The detail and tone of guitar reproduced through the ETHER is exceptionally good. The added air and transparency from the Ether took the sound of guitar to the next level for me. It connected me to the music easily and left me utterly engrossed until the last note was played.
     
    Next, I used Rodrigo Y Gabriela tracks from their first album for testing. Going back and forth between ETHER and hd650, I found the difference to be quite dramatic. The first two aspects that jump out at you are that the veil of the hd650 is lifted and that sound stage is considerably larger. Also the speed of the Ether handled the lightening quick dueling guitar licks with aplomb, effortlessly. The hd650 could not generate the same speed and passages and were often somewhat smeared together.
     
    MIDRANGE or WHERE THE MUSIC LIVES:
     
    The ETHER is a very balanced and neutral headphone. But if I were pressed into nominating the most special aspect of the frequency response, it would have to be the mids. They are gloriously good. If you enjoy vocal centric music you are in for a special treat. Jazz vocals (some of my favorite recordings) such as the likes of Cassandra Wilson, Patricia Barber and Diana Krall with the ETHER took these favorites of mine that I've cued up many hundreds of times and took them to a new level of enjoyment.
     
    Vocals here are natural and contain a wonderful resonant quality. Often it comes down to tone of the mids and specifically vocals that make or break a headphone for me. If a headphone can't get tone of voices and instruments right in the mids, then it's missed the mark for me. I'm happy to say that the ETHER hits the bullseye with the mids. These are some of the most enjoyable mids I've had the pleasure to listen to. I often like to use K.D. Lang to test mids. I've heard her several times live and love the tonality of her wonderful effortless voice. In my opinion, her album Drag is a great example of one of her best efforts and is expertly recorded. Listening to this album through the ETHER made the hair on my arms stand up...several times. There are moments when you really can't put into words how listening to music made you feel, not exactly. You become intoxicated and forget that the music is recorded. You feel that you've been transported to the place where you are there with the musician. We all long for these moments. Listening to the ETHER with some of my favorite Jazz vocal recordings gave me several of these moments. For me, the music lives in the mids and is where the magic happens. Thankfully there is plenty of magic to be found here with the ETHER.
     
    All about that BASS:
     
    This is typically where hairs are split and enemies are made among us audiophile types. I'll try to be as direct and forthcoming as possible here. First of all, this headphone has very nice bass. The sub bass response is linear to the recording with tightness and texture. The ETHER is not a bassy headphone or a basshead heaphone. The signature here is more about neutrality. The bloom typically associated with bassy cans is just not there with the ETHER That being said, the ETHER does very well with electronic music. The speed, tightness and precise imaging makes for a really fun experience when I cued up Daft Punk: RAM. The he1000 will go deeper and with better impact. The he-6 features more visceral slam in the bass region.
     
    I am admittedly a recovered basshead. Back in the day I loved the AT m50 and later the Denon AH-D2000. But the days of “v” shaped signatures no longer appeal to me. These days my affection goes to headphones that offer a more neutral response with a dash of warmth. The ETHER fits this description quite well, to these ears.
     
    MISCELLANEOUS:
     
    Imaging with ETHER is stellar and with the largish sound stage make a nice presentation of the “area” where the music is represented on stage. It's very easy to distinctly pickup where vocals and instruments are located within the sound stage. The height, width and depth are generously represented, only to be slightly outdone by the hd800 specifically in the category of width.
     
    The ETHER offers a modest level of isolation. More so than a typical open headphone. Also it doesn't leak as much either. For example, it was difficult for me to hear my phone ringing just on the other side of the room when listening with the ETHER. I would have no trouble hearing this with any of the other open headphones that I've owned. I can some people benefit was this modest isolation in a work setting or slightly noisy home environment.
     
    WRAP UP:
     
    The ETHER is an impressive effort by Dan and his team. To consider that this is their first offering built from the ground up increases my appreciation of the accomplishment even more. But at the end of the day,5 it doesn't come down to my appreciation of a pair of headphones but rather how much they connect me to the music. I'm happy to report that the engagement factor is what makes me the happiest with the the ETHER. The musicality of these headphones connects me to the music and keeps me listening and enjoying music for hours at a time, as much as any headphone that I've owned.
     
    I found ETHER to work well with all genres of music and not just specific types. I listen to a lot of Jazz vocal recordings. Also newer folk, acoustic and live performances are often on my playlist. Less frequently classical and rock are too my liking. The ETHER handled all of these types of music equally well.
     
    What don't I like about the ETHER? Well, they are not cheap. But they are, in my opinion, a good value based on what is currently being offered on the market at similar performance levels. Remember that the ETHER does offer impressive “scale” with amps, dacs etc. While mega buck amps and dacs will offer appreciable improvement, the ETHER will also deliver an impressive experience from mid-fi gear. The bifrost proved to be a good dac pairing, but the Gungnir offered better dynamics and resolution. The lyr 2 with NOS tubes was exceptionally well paired to the Ether bringing out the best in the mid-range and explosiveness in the bass region. I also used the Gustard h10 to good effect, getting beautiful tonality and finesse across the frequency, while extending a little deeper but with less weight than the lyr 2. I tried the ETHER with more expensive amps, but I'll go into that at a later date.
     
    At the end of the day, the ETHER hits all the check boxes for me. A neutral headphone is a different experience than most of the headphones that I've owned. It also happens to be the most enjoyable headphone that I've ever owned. It takes some slight adjustment to get used to the ETHER and truly take in it's offerings. The level of distortion is so incredibly low that it may cause you to re-evaluate what reproduced music can sound like. It did for me.
     
    1. View previous replies...
    2. aqsw
      Just ordered a pair with Dum cable , xlr balanced. I thought my end unit would be the lcd 2.2s with the Hegel HD12 and the Cavalli LC, but reading this forum just cost me extra.
      aqsw, Jun 13, 2015
    3. Wildcatsare1
      Great review Matt, couple questions, do you still have your HD800s for direct comparison and are you using the Norne Zoetic on your Ether? Thanks.
      Wildcatsare1, Jun 13, 2015
    4. Jodet
      Excellent review - better written than most 'professional' reviews.    
      Jodet, Oct 30, 2015

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