Verum 1 Head Phones
Verum 1 Head Phones
1. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Verum Audio. I received the pair of head phones I listened to as part of their tour. I was able to listen to them for a week before I was obligated to send them along to the next person in line.
2. Introduction: I actually heard about Verum Audio from my son. He was very interested in the Verum 1, and almost sent money in to Kickstarter account to get on the first production run list. However, he got distracted and bought some IEMs instead. When I saw the tour advertised on Head-Fi, I asked to be added, and here we are.
3. Design: We all know the design: 82mm planar- magnetic open back over-ear head phone.
4. Packaging: The pair I got to try came in the proverbial “plain brown wrapper”, so I don’t know what the factory packaging looks like.
5. What’s in the box? Again, the PBW prevents me from anything but guessing what else comes with a new pair of Verum 1.
6. RTFM: PBW = no manual, but who needs a manual with over-ear head phones anyway?
7.1. Head phones: These are quite big, but surprisingly light, at least for somebody accustomed to HiFiMAN HE-500. The padded leather suspension part of the head band is wide and comfy, not that I needed much from it as light as these head phones are. The metal spring part is kind of funny looking. I think it looks like the pair of head-band cat ears my wife had as part of a Halloween costume a couple of years ago. One thing I didn’t like, though, is the head band adjustment. Each side has a knob, but you don’t get to just loosen the knob, slide the head band where you want it and retighten the knob. You have to remove the knob, disengage the leather band, move it where you want it, then slide the pins back into the metal part of the head band and reinstall the knob. Granted, this won’t be a big deal unless you share your head phones with your kid. Otherwise, you get it right once and never touch it again.
7.2. Ear pads: In two words, thick and squishy. They are held in place magnetically, so they are easy to remove and replace. Maybe Dekoni makes suitable replacement pads if you are unsatisfied with the stock pads? I see no reason to replace them.
7.3. Connector, ear cup end: 2.5mm TRS phono plugs. They stick straight forward when you have the Verum 1 on your head.
7.4. Cable: Thin and flexible. Cloth covered to the splitter, vinyl between the splitter and the ear cups. I didn’t give it a rigorous test, but I noticed no microphonics. The splitter is black molded plastic, not the audio jewelry we see from some cable manufacturers, but I didn’t care about that.
7.5. Connector, amp end: ¼” TRS stereo phone plug, single ended.
8. Fit, Comfort, Isolation: I had no trouble at all getting the Verum 1 adjusted to fit my head comfortably, other than the weirdness of having to do minor disassembly to adjust the head band. The ear pads were large enough to allow my entire ear to nestle comfortably inside. Clamping force was light to me. If I bent forward, the head phones would slip off my head unless I held them in place. They were fine for laying on my bed to listen, or to walk around with, though. Isolation is nill. When my son listened to them, he said he could hear everything going on around him. I only listened to the Verum 1 in my bedroom, so I didn’t have any trouble with poor isolation.
9. What I Listened to: Actually, three of us listened to the Verum 1 on their trip to the Third Coast. My son listened to them on his phone (Galaxy S9), my friend Nick listened to them on his Fiio M11, and I listened to them through my Aune X7s desk-top amp. Sam likes mostly the classic rock I like, but also dabbles in metal. Nick is a metal-head, but ranges into all sorts of stuff: EDM, OST, Japanese soundtracks, classic rock, classical, on and on. I listened to a mish-mash of genres but mostly classic rock, ‘50s and ‘60s jazz and big classical (as opposed to chamber music or string quartets).
10. Soundstage: When I listen to head phones, I admit I don’t pay that much attention to soundstage. If I want to pay attention to the details of the performers’ placement, I’ll listen to my living room system. That said, the Verum, to me, always seemed to be between the ear cups. Sometimes, big bass would extend out to the back plates of the ear cups, but everything from the midrange up was generally between my ears. I don’t fault the Verum for that, they filled my head with music.
11. Highs: Treble through the Verum 1 is, overall, a bit subdued. The high frequencies seem to always be emanating from behind everything else, so they are a bit muted. The last bit of sparkle is missing. While that detail isn’t there, the presentation is mellow and relaxed, never harsh (of course, I wrote that last sentence while listening to “Blade Runner” from the ‘2049 soundtrack; a delightfully nasty piece). I did listen to a bit of classical while I had the Verum. Massed violins, like in Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream were rich and satisfying. As you’ll read below, perhaps solo violin will be missing some of the microdetails, but I don’t listen, generally, to small-scale classical music. The flutes at the beginning of the third movement of Mahler’s 9th also stood out. But, there was no listening to the musicians’ “breath” in the middle of the giant orchestra.
12. Mids: Vocals are way up front and hyper intelligible with the Verum 1. I really liked that. Since there’s no free lunch, some vocalists suffered a slimming of their voices. I noticed this with David Lee Roth especially, whose voice seemed to lose most of the “chest”. Guitars, electric and acoustic I think are well served. Perhaps microdetails from an acoustic guitar are lacking, but the overall tone was almost always pleasing. Vibes also sounded good, only lacking the sharp attack of the mallet strike; the resonance was all there. I was worried when I listened to “That’ll Be the Day” by Streetlight Manifesto. The horns sounded terrible. But then I listened to the same track on my HE-500 and the horns still sounded terrible. My fears were fully allayed when I listened to some Dizzy Gillespie and heard good bite in the legend’s trumpet.
13. Lows: Bass performance was tricky with the Verum. One of my favorite recordings is Acid Jazz, by “Boogaloo” Joe Jones. While the tone of Jones’ hollow-body electric guitar was sweet, the electric bass sounded flat and muffled. But, compare this to the electronic bass of one of the newest additions to my collection: Blade Runner 2049 Soundtrack. On this recording the Verum plumbs deeply and rumbles well. Another highlight is Tomasz Stanko, Shape of Things. On this spare recording, some, but not all, of the body of the upright bass shone through the sounds of the other instruments. Back to the lower end of bass reproduction, “Vicarious” by Tool lacked the visceral impact of the toms and bass drums. The foundation of that song felt lighter weight than with other head phones and IEMs I have. My friend Nick, who prizes speed and agility over lowest notes when listening to metal praised the Verum for allowing him to hear all the details in his favorite songs.
14. A word about power: I think the Verum 1 are power hungry. They took almost all my Aune X7s amp had, in high gain, to get loud enough for me. I think I listen at subdued levels typically, though I’ve never made any effort to measure my typical listening level. I couldn’t connect the Verum to my Mjolnir I for want of a balanced cable. This is just something to consider if you use your phone or DAP for most of your listening.
15. Gestalt, Zeitgeist, Fahrvergnugen (and other German words meaning “the whole enchilada”): Overall, I think the Verum 1 are very good for the current price. They will not replace my HE-500 because those are smoother, more nuanced and provide more of the small detail retrieval us audio geeks like. But enough of what the Verum 1 doesn’t do, I was happy to listen to them for a week. As you read above, bass is deep and rumbly even if the transients are a bit soft. Midrange is forward, providing vocals a bit of punch and excellent intelligibility. To me, highs were recessed compared with the mids, but still had good detail and transient response if missing that last bit of sparkle.
One A-B comparison I didn’t get to make, but wish I had: the Verum 1 and the Audeze LCD-X. I got to borrow a pair of LCD-X for a few days and enjoyed having them. They make you sit up and listen to your music. Under the right circumstances I found them compelling. Under different circumstances I found them relentless and fatiguing. In some ways, the Verum 1 is like my memory of the LCD-X with the edge taken off a bit. Not as smooth and polite as my HE-500, but not as in-your-face as the LCD-X.
16. Conclusion: I’ve said it a couple of times, so this will be the last: I liked the Verum 1. I would not hesitate to recommend them to somebody otherwise contemplating Bose or Beats. I’d take him aside, and say to him, “Here, try these; this is what music sounds like”.