ZMF Headphones Atticus dynamic TPE driver over-ear full size headphone

General Information

Along with the Eikon, Atticus is the first all-exclusive dynamic driver headphone from ZMF. This is the first product from ZMF to break free from the modded Fostex T50 concept. Atticus features two TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) fifty millimeter drivers. Coming in at 300 Ohms, the Atticus is tuned to cater to those looking for a rich and dynamic response while maintaining an overall natural and organic listening experience.

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Pros: Both Eikon and Atticus provide intimacy.
Both provide excellent isolation.
Both provide minimal sound leakage.
Both have TOTL sound with their own unique sound signature.
Both have amazing workmanship.
The woodwork. WOW!
Extremely comfortable for long sessions.
Cons: Each one is expensive.
So enticing to want both.
They need proper ampage to them.
Understandably they are not portable
I posted this same review in March in the Eikon review section on Head-Fi. I am posting it now in the Atticus review section so that someone specifically looking at the Atticus can access this review and can hopefully benefit from it.

ZMF Eikon and Atticus Review


Choosing between two things you love! Loving two things that are the same but different and having to choose which one to keep can be a heart wrenching problem. In the audio world such a problem poses comes to light a little too often. This cognitive dissonance is not paramount to life’s existence but if you are reading this review you know the privileged audio dissonance I am talking about.

This will be a review of the ZMF Eikon and Atticus. I will in my humble subjective opinion tell you what I see as the similarities and differences. I will also discuss which headphone works best for me with which genre of music and also with which musicians. I have a bias toward the Eikon just because I listen to more music that suits the Eikon better.

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Who the …. am I?

I am someone who gets intense areas of focus. Those that know me wonder if I am on some alternate scale of high functioning Autism. I get hyper focused on certain unique things. At age 9 one of my areas of focus was coin collecting. I remember attending coin collection conferences at age 9. Now that is odd. Other areas of hyper focus over the years have been Fountain Pens, watches, roasting and perfecting trying to pull the best shot possible, tennis racquets (I also obsessed on playing tennis and basketball), duck hunting jackets (I do not hunt), languages, and in general how things work and function.

Audio has always been part of my life. The hyper focus started about four years ago. Starting with updating my two-channel system, then getting into closed back headphones, then open back headphones, then IEMs (still hyper psychotically focused), then back to open and closed headphones.

I gave up on closed and open back headphones two years ago once I discovered IEMs. I preferred the intimacy and visceral feeling of IEMs. The goose bumps they provide at times when it all comes together is very addicting.

Well, it turns out I found a few instances when I missed headphones. One was during super long sessions on my main rig. The comfort of headphones during extended sessions was missed. Also, during the night reaching in a drawer to pull out an IEM and setting it all up became cumbersome. Reaching over for a headphone was missed.

Finding ZMF

I stumbled upon ZMF through my incessant reading of threads on Head-fi. I purchased the Eikon used (Cherry Wood) in order to get my feet wet. If I didn’t like it then I would turn around and sell it at a loss of shipping cost and PayPal fees. Well I liked it a lot. I sold my other headphones that I was rarely using due to lack of intimacy. I then read everything I could about ZMF and purchased an Atticus headphone, number 30 of 30 special edition Cocobolo wood. I also ended up getting a one off Pheasantwood Auteur for long sessions on my main rig.

I thought I would compare the Eikon and Atticus and decide which one I prefer and keep that one. Here I am today writing about it in depth in order to help others have a better understanding of the differences.

I purchased both Headphones. I have no affiliation to ZMF and no incentive to write a positive review. I did have a dream that I showed up at Zach Mehrbach’s home (owner of ZMF) and knocked on the door. We chatted in his back yard around a fire he had built. We sipped brandy and discussed a two-year internship I would start under his tutelage. Yes, there are more exciting dreams to have. But if you are still reading this you understand.

I have been in contact with Zach and his wife Bevin via email. Usually about some odd thing I was requesting like a longer screw or something odd thought would work better for the swivel movement of the headphone. Or for a different size gasket since they did not match perfectly. They were always responsive and appropriate with my odd requests. They even sent me a shirt. In hopes most likely of me going away.

The Cherry Eikon came with the original chassis. The one with the sliding silver gimbals (the ones that remind me of Shrek’s ears). I liked the new chassis the Cocobolo Atticus came with so I ordered the newer chassis for the Eikon and installed it myself. The new one is lighter, has better ergonomics, looks better (I think), and has a better weight balance. The new chassis can be purchased for $150.

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The Peripherals for this review

For long sessions:
Schiit Bifrost DAC with 5th generation USB
Schiit Lyr 2 Amp with Tungsol 2C51 tubes
I use either a Norne Audio Draug 3 cable or a C3 Audio Cardas cable with 1/4thtermination.

For quick A/B testing:
Schiit Gungnir DAC with 5thgeneration USB
Schiit Mjolnir 2 Amp with Tungsol 2C51 Tubes
I use the Norne Audio Volsund cable with 4 pin balanced termination

Stock pads were used on both Headphones.

I almost exclusively used Tidal HiFi music as my source. I switched to Qobuz for a bit but they do not have a family plan yet and my family was drawing up papers to disown me if I did not switch back to Tidal family plan.

I spent three months intensely listening to the two of them and taking notes as I listened. I prefer long sessions of each headphone for reviews but I also do a some direct A/B comparisons to confirm what I find during long sessions. I do not look at graphs nor do I EQ. Mainly because that would be one more thing I would obsess on. Also, I want to understand the sound of the headphone and IEM without knowing what a frequency graph tells me how it should sound. I want to know the HP and IEM as it was intended to be heard and not how I want to EQ it. I did have a Schiit Loki for a few weeks. I could not stop fiddling with it due to my OCD tendencies. It had to go for personal sanity reasons.

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More ZMF information

Prices and a plethora of information can be found at ZMFheadphones.com

Workmanship

I cannot say enough about the workmanship of these Headphones. Zach makes each one by hand. The woodwork is of the highest quality. I like that you can tell it was done by hand and not a machine punching it out. There are slight variances which make each product unique. Each one feels like a heirloom that you pass down from generation to generation. Each one is a unique piece of art. They are stunning and beautiful!

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My take on the Eikon

The Eikon is the long-term relationship that everyone needs in life once they are ready to settle down. It is even keeled across the board with one caveat which I will get to in a bit. The Eikon is about detail and clarity. All the instruments are there as they were intended to be heard. There is almost no added color. The music enters your ears as they were intended. The instruments are the focus more than the music. It is more of an intellectual experience. You can at any moment decide which instrument to focus on and make that what you are listening to. No instrument takes center stage. You can decide what takes center stage. Fatigue with these headphones is nonexistent. It is not the HP for those that want color. It is not for those that want instruments to jump out at them.

There is one little beautiful blip of color added to the Eikon. That would be the sub bass. I am enamored by sub bass. Eikon has it in a very special way. It is subtly prominent. Not in an annoying way. That long term relationship with a special added perk.

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My take on the Atticus

The Atticus could be a long-term relationship but you need to be willing to put up with the emotional ups. The Atticus does have proper treble, mids, and bass. BUT, each one has added color and added life. This is a very rare quality to have added color in the highs, mids, and lows. Usually the mids and up being recessed. This is what makes the Atticus so special. I cannot reiterate enough the mind-boggling specialness of the Atticus. There is a mid-bass thump that can be dominant but in a proper way. Then the mids, especially the vocals, are crisp and intimate. The acoustic guitar plucking is right there in front of you with a timbre I have not experienced before. Throw in the treble that is also a bit forward but is not fatiguing. The timbre of cymbals for example is unique and special. With the Atticus the individual instruments do not need to be searched out. They come looking for you.

Similarities and Differences between Eikon and Atticus

I will now try and give you an analogy that in my mind gives the best comparison between the two headphones. Imagine a yardstick which is 36 inches. Imagine the length of the measuring stick to be the Eikon frequency graph. Now imagine a stick that is 36 cm in length. Now that is the frequency graph of the Atticus. Each one has 36 measuring points from the highs to the lows. But the Eikon is 36 inches in length and the Atticus is 36 cm which translates into 14.2 inches i.e. a long frequency graph vs. a short frequency graph with all frequencies entailed within both.

Neither the Eikon nor Atticus have recessed highs, mids, or lows. The Atticus does have spikes along the way such as mid bass but nothing is recessed. Back to my measuring stick analogy. With the Eikon the instruments/frequencies are spread out more (stretched). The background is blacker. This allows you to pick out each instrument easier due to space and a lack of any spikes (except sub bass).

With the Atticus the 36 inch frequency graph was pushed in to make 36 cm (14.2 inches). Everything is there but by pushing it in hills (treble), plateaus (mids), and mountains (mid bass) were created. But when pushing it in no valleys were created. Nothing was pushed below the measuring stick.

Is one headphone overall better than the other? Not really but there are the differences. The Eikon is more analytical. The Atticus is warmer but seems to have better detail than Eikon. I find the mids the be the most similar of anything. The Eikon has faster transients hence less warmth. The Eikon has better imaging and as mentioned before more space between the instruments (1 inch vs 1 cm). Atticus has more defined contrast between the instruments. The instruments come to you rather than with the Eikon you need to go to the instruments. The Eikon is more “real” vs. the Atticus being more “exciting.”

For IEM people the Eikon reminds me of the Noble Katana. Linear, clear, spatial, real, with an added special sub bass. The Atticus reminds me of the Rhapsodio Solar. Mid bass, cm vs. inches, spikes of bass and treble, and special timbre of certain instruments. The Solar and Atticus find your hippocampus before you find them.

Genres of music I prefer with Eikon

Classical
Jazz


Genres of music I prefer with Atticus

All Alternative e.g. punk, grunge, hard rock, progressive rock
EDM
Electronic
Hip-Hop/Rap
Reggae

Genres of music I prefer with both Headphones

Blues
Latin
Pop
Rock
Folk
Bluegrass
World

I wanted to include different artists I prefer with each headphone so that the reader can have even a better feel based on their preferences.

My favorite artists I prefer listening to with Eikon

Alexi Murdoch
Bill Evans
Brian Eno
Charles Lloyd
Damien Jurado
David Gilmour
Eivind Aarset
Elephant Revival
Enrico Rava
Paolo Fresu
Gram Parsons
Jack DeJohnette
Jacob Young
Jakob Bro
Luca Aquino
Manu Katche
Mathias Eick
Miles Davis (mid career)
Nick Drake
Paco de Lucia
Paul Motian
Sarah Jarosz
Tore Brunborg

My favorite artists I prefer listening to with Atticus


Big Head Todd and The Monsters
Bob Moses
Car Seat Headrest
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Daft Punk
Eels
InterStatic
Jeff Beck
Joe Satriani
Manu Chao
Morrissey
No-Man
Porcupine Tree
Radiohead
Steven Wilson
The Pineapple Thief
The War On Drugs
The xx
Tom Misch

My preferred artists I vacillate listening to with Eikon and Atticus

Beck
Ben Howard
Bob Dylan
Buckethead
City and Colour
Courtney Barnett
Dire Straits
Esbjorn Svensson Trio
Jay Farrar
Jeff Tweedy
John Martyn
John McLaughlin
John Scofield
Jose Gonzalez
Junip
Mandolin Orange
Michael Wollny
Miles Davis (early and late career)
Neil Young
Pink Floyd
Roy Hargrove
Ryan Adams
Son Volt
Steely Dan
Stu Larsen
Uncle Tupelo
Whiskeytown
Wilco

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Conclusion


If you want a long-term relationship without ups and downs then the Eikon is your choice. If you want a relationship that is high on the fun scale with a lot of highs then Atticus is your choice. If you cannot have both then chose based on the genre of music you listen to most. If your wallet permits have both. A long-term relationship with Eikon and a little fun on the side with Atticus when you need a pick me up. This could be a rare moment in life when it is allowed to have two relationships at the same time. Everyone is in agreement with it and both headphones can be perched by your bedside ready for listening sessions depending on your mood!
Monsterzero
Monsterzero
Very well written review. Thanks for sharing. I LOL'd at the free shirt comment.
SLC1966
SLC1966
Thank you. It was a joy to write. I wore my ZMF shirt during the writing thereof :)
bigshel99
bigshel99
Nice review/write up... those Atticus look lovely.
Pros: Gorgeous.
Affordable for a top tier.
Gorgeous.
Wonderful full sound.
Enough bass to keep you interested.
Layering for days.
Gorgeous.
Spatial definition the size of the Grand Canyon (almost)
Gorgeous.
Cons: BIG.
Heavy.
Not portable.
BIG.
Not meant for commuting.
Not my pair...
ZMF Atticus- This one does not Kill a Mockingbird $1099usd

ZMF website: http://www.zmfheadphones.com/zmf-originals/zmf-atticus






To Kill A Mockingbird



The way she talked about things she loved, made the whole room turn to see what shone-Atticus




ZMF website: http://www.zmfheadphones.com/atticus-and-aeolus/

I profusely thank @PinkyPowers for the loan of his personal pair of Atticus. As stated below, this is one of twenty (1/20) built of Ash by Zachary and company. So, it goes without saying (too late) that I treated these like a gift from a King, which must be returned in better condition. Pinky, you are awesome.

ZMF Atticus: [AT.i.kuhs]

Atticus, a name that encompasses wisdom through experience, is tuned as such. Often audiophiles are told to search for a neutral sound, when in practice, warmth is what is most pleasurable, desirable and most lifelike. The Atticus embraces this knowledge, and takes it to the next level, with clarity, a vivid mid-range, and vigorous bass. This closed headphone will take you away into a world that you may never recover from.





Intro: I am a lucky man. A very, very lucky man. You see, not only is my wife understanding of this “hobby” of which I delve into, but also because I have none other than THE Pinky Powers (channel THE Ohio State imagery…) within an easy 45-minute drive. I love my wife very much. I love Pinky somewhat less but feel the love anyway whence he loans me his gear for “reviewing purposes.” Over the last couple of years, I have had the honor of borrowing his HD6xx, his Meze 99Classics, listening to his Forte and a few others while we meet for mini-meets. So, once I found out I was on the Focal Elegia loaner tour from TTVJ (https://www.ttvjaudio.com/) I contacted Pinky asking if he had the Audeze LCD-XC as I really wanted to hear a pair before plunging in to get a pair myself. He said no, but stated that he had the Atticus, and to quote they “completely sated my need for a high-end closed back.” Knowing that while Pinky and I share similar tastes but appreciate different signatures He had me intrigued. If something could draw him to make such a remark, regardless of our differences in taste for sound signature, I was hooked.

I gently asked if I could borrow the pair for as three-way (4-way, Ether-C Flow came along) comparo with the Cascade, and Elegia. He said yes (damn nice of him!!!), but only for a week. I agreed of course, and we met at our usual seedy McD’s and thus parted company. So, as Pinky casually tossed them to me (not really, that was for effect), I realized the weight upon my shoulders in two-fold: 1. These are as rare as it gets, and 2. How the heck can my review come close to Pinky’s??!! Well, I shall try and try from a less versed ear as his…consider this the laypeople’s version…

That evening I hooked them up to my Shanling M5/iBasso PB3 combo (old school!!) and read his awesome review (https://theheadphonelist.com/timbers-of-the-goodly-tree-a-review-of-the-zmf-headphones-atticus/). To say that the Atticus is large would be akin to saying a Saint Bernard is a “rather large” dog. These…are…huge…the sound was quite pleasant as I did in fact start with my QP2R. Good fullness from Neon Gravestones lamenting a mournful song, that was dark and deep. This song pretty much set the tone…this was turning into one deep, dark magnanimous headphone. Oh dear. My pocketbook started to quiver…




In reading his review, he spoke of his time with Zachary (of ZMF, duh…) and how at a meet in St. Louis Zach hooked Pinky up with a special pair of Ash wood Atticus. To say that this critter is rare, would be to state that a 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card is “somewhat rare.”



The pictured Atticus in lighter colored Ash wood is in fact 1 of 20. So as stated above, I treat them like a Ming vase. My time is short with them, so I must listen as much as possible…




Specs (from ZMF website:

· Frequency Response: Approximately 10 Hz to 25 KHZ
· Impedance: 300 Ohms
· Sensitivity: 99 dB/mW
· Warranty: Lifetime for Driver, 3 years parts and mechanica
· Weight (est.): Atticus = 490g, Aeolus = 445g
· Pads: Ori (Atticus), Universe (Aeolus)
· Case: Seahorse SE 430


INCLUDES:

  • ZMF Atticus Camphor wood TPE Driver Headphone
  • ZMF Ori Pads
  • Lambskin headband padding
  • Natural hand applied varnish
  • 5.5 FT Stock Cable (optional OFC upgrade)
  • S3 6500 Case
  • Owners Card



Gear used/compared:

Focal Elegia (3.5/6.3se cable)
Campfire Audio Cascade (2.5 bal cable)
Mr. Speakers Ether-C Flow (3.5/6.3se cable)

*iFi Stack of: iTubes2/iDAC2, Micro Black Label*

MacBook Pro/iFi Stack
Thebit Opus #2
Macbook Pro/Burson Play
Questyle QP2R

Songs used:

Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
Coldplay-A Message
Coldplay-White Shadows
Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
twenty one pilots-Trees
twenty one pilots-Car Radio
twenty one pilots-Heathens
Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado

twenty one pilots-Trench




After the initial listen…

Of special note comes when I hooked the Atticus through my iFi Stack. Something I do not listen to enough. I mention this here and up front, because well…the Atticus took on a whole different nature. What was quite good through the M5/PB3 became almost sexual through the iFi. I say this in the best way possible, but Aretha Franklin’s At Last had me entranced. I was blown away and out the back door with yesterday’s news. Catching myself, I came back for more. R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion seemed quite appropriate for the follow up song, because well…suffice to say that the verbiage Pinky uses to describe the sound are words to be reckoned with. Words to live by, breathe by, live by, inhale slowly and deeply, for they tell the gospel truth. Good gawd this is good. I will openly admit that I fiddled with the XBass+ and 3D+ on both the iTubes2 and BL. I don’t care, as this is a rare opportunity to put an exceptional piece through its paces.



For the better part of the test, I left the iFi hooked up, using various DAP’s as source. Tidal through my MBP was up there with the top echelon of how it could sound through my gear. I wax on and on, hopefully lyrical and poetic, but there is not only magic going on here, but good juju. Zachary has taken his craft to the next level with the lineup. I am very lucky indeed…

Moving on to Mark Knopfler’s Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes (a song I want played loudly and danced to at my funeral), I feel the heritage of the old world seamlessly coming out of the Ashen pores. Doing so with nary a trace, the result is of a forest pixie. One you know you can see, but really only in your periphery. One that knows you know it is there, and you are looking at it, but stays just out of site; challenging your senses, while rewarding them at the same time. This is fun stuff. You schwag back another Stout and enjoy the moment.



Then the moment changes. You find yourself on a beach south of the equator on the sand, front row to Carlos Santana and Corazon Espinado. You still have the Stout, but it is now joined by a frilly drink with the ubiquitous paper umbrella embarrassingly poking out the top. You don’t care and ask the ‘tender to bring you the finest single-malt as a reward. Buying the whole bottle (you will regret that later, at least your bank account will), you share with the front row people clad in their summer attire, as well as the band. You know this will cost you a fortune as a result, but you will have those memories. And they are darn fine memories.



Filler, err fit-n-finish:

The Atticus is heavy. There is no doubt about it. And they are huge. You could walk around a major city with them on, but you would take out the light pole, the mailbox, the passersby. You possibly might not even care, but me thinks that the Police might…I jest of course to a point. The Atticus is really quite big, but oh so comfortable. The very bendable headband and added leather strap fit my cranial matter well, with or without hat. That suspension system alleviates most of the pressure, while the Laz-y-Boy-type pads do the rest.

Thick, cushy, and of a very high standard of quality; the pads are dare I say, luscious? Is that an acceptable term here? I think it might be, because of the way the pads envelope your ears. With the utmost care and support. Not feeling the need to take the pads off (OK, I investigated it, and determined it would be more hassle than worth, especially since the unit was borrowed). Suffice to say that the pads fit very well, with even seams for mounting. I can also look at a picture to determine what lies underneath as well.

Combined, the system all but assuages the sheer mass of the critter. The interesting support frame and adjustment slider come in as part of the artistic/support system as well. With a (to me) harder to adjust notching system, you definitely know when the headphone moves up or down a notch. Taking care not to brutalize the loaned gear, I carefully but forcefully moved the adjustment until I was happy. It was not that hard, but one must be careful when doing so. Finished in black, the subtlety aids in highlighting the Ash wood, which is what draws you in. I will openly admit, that upon first look, I did not care for the look. I thought it might be too light, drawing unneeded attention to itself. Well after “living” with the critter for these two weeks, I can say that the thought is balderdash! The Ash has such character that you are forced to examine it closely. You feel the pieces. You run your hand over the cups, feeling every nuance, every tree ring. You do not mind the brandished slots, as it adds that old-world character, which is to me now, the true character of the look. Classically old-west. This really is a stunning looker.



Going back 25 years on one of the cups, you again feel the history. Even growth rings noting either solid growth, or 25 years of slow growth, you compare to the left. Much more open in pattern, you count 14 rings of some wickedly cool shapes. With varying pattern, you discern that the piece came from a branch most likely. Both are flawless in finish and fit. Excellent indeed. Set in an aluminum frame, which could pass the tensile strength test of steel, you need not worry about durability or support. It is there.



Coming with a cable that looks like the Cascade Litz cable ran into the Effect Audio Ares II cable with 2.5bal connection, there is nice pliability to it. Simple 2-wire above the custom ZMF splitter, the top portion does seem fragile, but you need not worry. The cable can handle it. I would have liked a tighter braid for that upper portion, which might alleviate some of the fears, but again that is a small concern.

I found I could wear the Atticus for several hours, without fatigue. The cups are big enough and soft enough to cover my ear ring and glasses respectively. Of course, I only had a limited time, so I did have to maximize that time, oh shucks.



Tonality:

Twenty one pilots Heathens with MUTEMATH echo’s a solid base line, especially with the iFi stack. A satisfying punch is felt. Not punch you stuff but satisfying. Tyler’s vocals ring true and soft. Hard and edgy when needed. True would be an applicable term here. With a treble, which has that hint of sparkle, mentioned in others, there is good reach. It is not a fatiguing treble at higher volumes like some of late. This is a sound, which can be brought to very high volumes (don’t worry, I kept it calm…) and not only sound good, but not suffer from brittle treble at those volumes. Wonderful indeed.

Dust In The Wind, Kansas’ seminal song rings of clear acoustic guitars and that sweet heavenly voice of Steve Walsh. Man what a showman. What a band. With the ability to keep that acoustic guitar reverb from bleeding into the mids is a trick, which can falter weaker headphones (there is just something about that song, which either brings out the best or worst…) but not here. Clarity is still heard from Walsh’s voice as Kerry Livgren play along. Such a melodious, melancholiac song, wrought with obstacles met with liltiness of touch by the Atticus. Maybe liltiness is too soft a word. A deft ability to cipher the sound with perspicuity might be a better description. Such a song wrought with honesty and openness here.

Pulling from deep in the archives (not really, but it sounds good), Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Mary Had A Little Lamb permits one to experience a guitar, which pairs extremely well in judgement with Carlos of the earlier song mentioned. With more poignant staccato strums, SRV lays it down low and honest. There is no hiding behind sub-par presentation with this song. Through in his sumptuous vocal, and the Atticus shows true. There’s that word again…I listen to the album version, and Austin City Limits version, and they are excellent. This is indeed good stuff.



Grabbing you back to the present brings Car Radio out. There is a lot going on here, what with the drums of Josh holding that tight efficient beat, with adept skills, the orchestral support can play havoc with the lower mids. Not here, though. Almost knowingly, the headphone proposes the orchestra to you in support; just as it should be. Tyler’s piercing voice breaks that melancholy to throw down the thoughtful dialogue of verse. Electric keyboard breaks you even further as Tyler screams painfully at you as part of the song. Calming us back down again is Josh’s drums almost knowingly telling Tyler to sit back and listen, for it is good. This whole timer, the Atticus is true and representative of that ideal I believe drives ZMF. Incredible sound, at a surprisingly affordable price when one considers the alternatives. Man, this is getting good.

Much like the iconic guitar change in SRV’s Look At Little Sister at Austin City Limits, the Atticus takes any potential problem, and comes up with a solution on the spot, without missing a beat. Just like SRV. Magical change it was.



Analytical look (I guess):

So, if we must break down the intricacies of the Atticus (what the heck have you been doing above!!!, you might shout my way… ) you have to come back to that word true. Each sound rings true. Each sound rings honest. Each sound rings as it should.

With a decently wide and expansive sound stage, you definitely get that concert hall feeling, but of smaller scale. This is not the widest or tallest I have heard, but that is good. Let me explain, please. If you have ever been at a concert hall that was not filled up to capacity, you lose the energy necessary to drive the orchestra (or whatever the presentation). In doing so, you minimize that presentation, insulting the hall and the presenters. That would be a sound stage of too big a character, where the mechanism, which drive the forces behind the scenes, such as separation, layering and instrumentation cannot fully present themselves to the benefit of the concert hall. It is here that the Atticus can. Filling that space with the necessary details needed to fully support that hall, the ZMF provides not only the music to fulfill but also the exuberant audience as well. My hope is that you understand that while large sound stage is good, even excellent; it can go very bad if the supporting ideal behind it cannot be fulfilled.

You need not worry here, the Atticus has you covered.

PRaT: While the pace of the base is not particularly fast in decay (I hope I am using this right, I am trying to describe in that vernacular), there is a good tie between the notes. Take Motherboard for example. A tight snare line holds the piece together, but all of the digital synth music severely tries to slow the presentation down in the Atticus. Almost to the point of being muddy. But of course, it isn’t. That is just the Atticus filling the concert hall again. And wait for it…presenting the true nature of the song.

The timing of note presentation is impeccable. Again, using Daft Punk’s Motherboard, I had to listen to it about four times before I finally got it. There is a slowness hidden beneath the robust speed of the song. One of an almost oily viscous nature, which can be heard and felt through the Atticus. I cannot honestly say that I have not heard it through other headphones or IEM’s of test bed, but the profound nature of it here is enough to send me to bed immediately for the night. No really, I have to turn in to bed, for I must get up in 3.5hrs to prepare self and family for work and school.



The next day…

Thinking back to those few short hours ago, I thought about it as I rolled in bed. That underlying slowness was by deliberate design, much the way the cool cat on the street walks faster than you, but in a step of slow motion so he not only looks like he is moving slower, he is way cooler than you ever will be. Think of that person, and you see them as a deep thinker as well. One with much to think about, but not often said. One of such knowledge that you want to pry into their mind for only a bit so as to be inside the mind of greatness you are not worthy of. You want that knowing it will make you better, and the Atticus is that scepter of enlightenment. That opening into the brain of greatness you want to experience. This is not one of all cost, mind you. But one of simple gain in knowledge of a higher level of thinking. A gaining of true knowledge. That is the representation the Atticus breeds in you. And that is a good thing.

To further define all of what the Atticus can bring, Kansas’ Songs For America is a rollicking symphonic overload of rock-n-roll and concert hall greatness (trust me it was phenomenal in concert). They got it. They understood what musical genius could bring to the table in a new and incredible way. Zack and ZMF get it. They did it with their first model, and continue that on a higher plain yet, with the Eikon and Atticus (as well as Aeolus and Verite). This is quite the sound emanating from the ZMF and it makes me seriously rethink some of my aspirations at this level.

Now to the comparisons…oh goody…hehehe


Comparisons:

ZMF Atticus ($1100usd) vs Focal Elegia ($899usd):

Had I listened to the Elegia first, I would most likely have been floored that Focal could take the wonderful sound of the Elear (I still love mine dearly, even though it is not the “flavor of the month” anymore) and all but turn it into a closed-back gem. It really is quite good, and a full review is forthcoming. But alas, I listened to the Atticus first, and that memory is burned into my cranial matter just like the evenly spaced venting slots. The Elegia wins the bass department. Better reach it all but rumbles. All but. The mids and treble are where it falls behind the Atticus. More of a forward nature presents itself well, but there is not nearly the air between notes on the Elegia. Nicely sparkled up top to a point, it just doesn’t sing like the Atticus. The velvet sound of Ella on At Last is a sound to die for. Oh…my…GAWD, that song is as sensuous as it gets. The Elegia presents it well. The Atticus lives it well. That is the difference.

On R.E.M.’s seminal Losing My Religion, the mids seem a bit hidden on the Atticus. Not quite as airy as other songs. A warm sumptuous presentation, which I can account for variation possibly due to the warm song of the iTubes2. On the Elegia, the mids are forward, presenting themselves front and center. Almost a bit too much. There is a lack of depth to the bass as well.

The velvety fit of the Atticus wins as well. You wear the Elegia, and rather tightly. You envision the Atticus.

I will say this. When I compare the two for my Elegia review, I will have a more thorough understanding of the Elegia…I’ve had it for about 4 hours, two of which have been listening for the comparative purposes.




ZMF Atticus ($1100usd) vs Campfire Audio Cascade ($799usd):

When I auditioned @wiljen’s Cascade long term earlier this year, I was taken aback (blown away) with the sound from a company’s first attempt at a full-sized headphone. DEEP, rich bass underlies (overtakes) every other aspect of the Cascade. This is an excellent bass producer. But this is not a one trick pony, as there is excellent reach up top, with almost a bit of sparkle. Almost. Where there is air in the upper note of the Atticus, and a bit of sparkle from the Elegia, there is a reverent respect for treble. You know it is there, but to me it does not carry the weight properly such as the Atticus does. On Losing My Religion, it is hard to get past the bass, which can overwhelm. To me the treble suffers as a result. It isn’t bad mind you, just not the presentation quality that the other two present. Suffice to say I liked it enough to find a used one in excellent condition. That was not a spur of the moment either, since I had spent more than 175hrs on Will’s. The Atticus is the first I have heard, that would make me re-think that decision. Decent enough bass, and that air between note, which are a wonderful combination, are hard to beat. I lived with the fit of the Cascade and it was well on OK, even for long periods. After wearing the Atticus, I feel the Cascade falls well behind, but understand why. The Cascade can be a commuting pair as well as home. I would dare not take the Atticus on the bus or train (even though Pinky wears this pair all day at work, and his workplace affords that).

On Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes, there is a bit of veil on the Cascade. I take this as if you are sitting at the bar, away from the stage. That slightly muffled sound could very well be the sound losing itself in the people between you and the sound. But that is all right since the overall presentation is still quite good. The Cascade is an excellent headphone. That veil is lifted on the Atticus. The airy representation is back. You can hear the reverb in Knopfler’s voice better on the Atticus as well. That word again…presentation, comes to the forte. The Atticus just does a superb job at bestowing the song at hand. It is hard to get past how well this is done.


ZMF Atticus ($1100usd) vs Mr. Speakers Ether-C Flow 1.1 ($1799usd):


The Ether-C Flow is light on bass, unless you EQ some in. Period. There is a bit of rumble, which lets you know what is there, but this is no Cascade. In fact, I would rate the quantity of un-eq’d bass as higher in the Atticus. But, once hooked to the iFi Stack, the Flow simply sings. This is ethereal in sound. I have seen some reviews, which rate this a middle of the pack, behind both the Atticus and Eikon. That is OK in my book, since that would leave more for the rest of us. The fit of the Atticus is simply sublime. Losing itself upon your knogg’n, the winner is the Atticus. While the Flow is very, very good, there is no denying that the Atticus takes those heavy wood cups could be well, heavy! But utilizing that fine suspension system the Atticus is light on the ear and comfortable.

Where the Atticus sound a bit behind in the mids, the Flow presents those mids front and center. In fact, using the included stock 6.3mm cable is too much for me. As is the Black Dragon 3.5se, which came with my purchase. Suffice to say I already have another LQi 2.5bal OCC copper cable on the way. This will make my 6th purchase of their cables, and I find no reason to look elsewhere (and I do have others). Add in the XBass+ and 3D+ on the Black Label, and the sound is just about perfect for me. Clear, detailed with crystalline-like clarity the Flow is one man’s vision of perfection, and I cannot disagree with that opinion. It is enough for me.

The Atticus is superb on so many levels that it cannot be denied, but to me in this comparison, I prefer the Flow.



Pairings:


Atticus/Shanling M5/iBasso PB3: see above


Atticus/QP2R:

Trying the portable pairing first, I found the detail of the 2.5bal cable to be quite good. Lacking that bass, which the Black Label can provide, an almost holographic sound emanated from the pair and had me thinking that this would be an exceptional portable pairing, easily one that could be used in your office to keep annoying work partners at bay. Although they may be constantly asking you what you are using (because the pair look gorgeous together) or wanting to listen again “for just a bit longer.” I would still consider this a win, since you may convince those annoying partners to get their own set ups. Productivity would go up, the company would get new contracts, and you would get that corner office promotion you so desperately wanted to get away from those annoying partners…errr….I dream, and maybe took that a bit far, but… The pair is again solid. I do wish the QP2R had more power to utilize the Atticus, but this is quite adequate and can be driven to quite loud levels. This could very well be end game portable for many purchasers. Indeed, I am quite lucky.


Atticus/MBP-iFi Stack:

After trying the Atticus through the QP2R, I tried them in the iFi Stack. This is where they began to truly sing to me. Yes, I added bass and the 3D sound; but I wanted to try them all EQ’d up. I was able to get the bass that I felt was missing. A wide sound stage became even wider (artificially, yes) with the 3D, and I began to fully appreciate what Pinky said in his review. These are fabulous, and with the warm-added tubeness along with the Turbo-power of the Black Label, the Atticus was phenomenal. It was with this combination that I wrote most of the verbiage above. And it made me happy. Man, what a ride. Even with the XBass+ and 3D+ turned off, the sound was rich, slightly warm (from the iTubes2) and full. Detail was also rich and present. There was definitely a synergy between the combination, and I appreciated that I was able to experience it with the combination.


Atticus/MBP-Burson Play:

To give a more neutral sound, I then hooked the Atticus (and the others) to the MBP/Burson Play combination. Providing up to 2W of power, the Play (using the Classic OpAmps) has plenty to give. The sound was again rich and detail-oriented (as one might expect overall) with no hint at lacking depth. The Play is one of those simple desktop amps that just well…plays! Need more power? Turn the volume up. Need detail? Turn the volume down and enjoy. Not that turning the volume up loses detail, but I feel one of the best aspects surrounding the Play is its ability to just be there, without fuss. Never drawing attention to itself, it is quite musical and can provide a desktop system that nice punch of power in most situations. Quite a nice pairing.



Le Grande Finale:

So….my goodness, so…with what are we left? Well, a sense of remorse. Remorse that I will soon part with an exceptional headphone. Remorse that I have tainted my ear-buds feel for fine tone and musical nirvanic feelings. The sound is marvelous, there is no denying that at all. For many, this will be their end game (or the Eikon, which I’d like to hear), and it should be. Once you hear the Atticus, you may well feel no need to go above. I for one was seriously considering it, except for that bulk. And even then, the thought kept entertaining in my matter, dancing, prancing like 8 large-hoven reindeer on that vaunted night. Running through and over my gray. And that was OK, for I had a fantastic two-week audition with one of the finest closed-back headphones on the planet. And at a price, which is not that much above some other worthy models, such as the Elegia or Cascade. I love the Cascade and will keep it for a very long time.

But the Atticus is almost tier above in terms of performance. Almost. Not as much bass, but it has that sound, which drives you down the road almost effortlessly. Silky presentation, smooth mids and treble, with and excellent sound stage for a headphone, not just closed (to me). Don’t get me wrong, the Cascade is phenomenal for that first attempt, and I longingly look forward to what comes next, but ZMF has been in the headphone business long enough to work that magic. And it does. Suffice to say that if the Cascade had a big brother, there would be a big mess of a fight. But, the two fight different styles and a of sufficiently different flavors, that one could justify owning both. Man, what a pair that would be, as well.



The Atticus is the headphone that made me question whether I needed another. And, it was something, which all can justify themselves. For I found myself weak in the knees and wallet. Many of you will, too. And that will be OK.

I want to thank @PinkyPowers so profusely that I gush. To give up one’s pride and joy for not one but two weeks is something that I cannot show enough thanks for. I truly cannot. The only thing I would add is that I thank Zach and ZMF for they truly have a winner on their hands, and I look forward to the chance offering of others in their line. Man, it was a great trip.


Preachy1
Preachy1
Thanks for the great review (and the inclusive chuckles!!!). I just took delivery of a pair of these in Padauk (bought from a fellow head-fier). Loving the total experience so far, and yes, these may just supplant my Elegias. I don't find these too heavy, as you've noted, but then I'm used the Audeze line of skull-crushers. Compared to the LCD-XC's these seem to float on my head!
Preachy1
Preachy1
I want to add one comment, regarding the actual structure. The only thing that bugs me a bit (and this really is minor) is the fact that the earcups can spin 360+ degrees which can (and does) cause the cables to twist. Audeze conquered this by putting a flat surface on one side of the yoke rods, which limits the "spin" to around 200 degrees. I'd like to see Z implement something similar.
ngoshawk
ngoshawk
Congrats! they are truly a worthy choice. And I do agree about the 360 rotation. I found myself accidentally twirling them like middle schoolers do with their Apple earbuds...Don't tell Pinky though...
Pros: Fast and clean bass
Open and spacious (especially for a closed back)
The culmination of Zachs house sound over the years
Excellent build quality
Cons: Heavy for some users
*This is not an "official" review. More like a brief comparison with a couple pictures. I found myself with all 3 ZMF dynamics and figured I could write a short(ish) comparison of the two closed backs, maybe it will help some decide on which one would suite them best. My sound preferences are just slightly warm of neutral and my main setup I use is Gumby -> ZDS. The pic below is from Zachs site. I didn't have any pics from when I had both these headphones together at one time.



A Tale of Two ZMFs: Atticus & Eikon


While I had the Auteur for review I found myself in a unique position of having all three ZMF dynamics on hand and on the same equipment, so I decided to do a write up of the two closed backs as well. This will be a combined, brief comparative impressions of both the Atticus and Eikon. I won't go into as much detail here as I did on my Auteur review. I touched on both these headphones compared to Zachs new open dynamic in my Auteur review.

Intro / Build / Comfort
These are handmade headphones made by Zach and maybe 1 or 2 other people that help him. The Atticus uses a TPE dynamic driver while the Eikon uses a biocellulose design. Both come in the same housing design. That means just like the Auteur, they are entirely made from wood, metal and genuine leather. Build quality is top notch. Due to the materials used, these headphones are a little heavy in comparison to something like the HD800. They wear their weight well due to the ergonomic headband/strap design, but if you find yourself sensitive to heavy headphones do try and demo one first. Personally I could wear these for hours while heavy headphones like the Audeze LCD series and older Hifiman models were way too heavy for me. The current default wood is Camphor which weighs noticeably less than the outgoing Paduak version.

Bass
Atticus: Extension here is good, however it is centered around the mid-bass. Upper bass doesn't have any noticeable bleed into the the mids. Percussion hits strong with the elevation. Bass is very fast and clean. Easily keeps up with even the most demanding metal music.

Eikon: Extension is EXCELLENT. Seriously, if you are a sub bass fanatic then stop everything and at least try and audition the Eikon. Sub bass is boosted above the mid bass giving deep bass tracks noticeable thump not heard in many other headphones. Playing Daft Punk - Doin it Right is an experience best heard. With mid bass and upper bass being pretty linear into the mids, no bleed to be found at all. Very good transition.

Mids
Atticus: Zach is not one to leave you wanting for a midrange. Lower mids are full and male vocals have excellent texture and weight to them. Upper mids are smooth and present enough to give the lower levels of female vocals that same sense of realism and texture that this headphone can do with male vocals. Guitar crunch here is excellent which is a must for any metal-head like me.

Eikon: Mids are very linear. Whereas some vocals will stand out more on the Atticus, they are more linear here. Vocals are still very good, nothing is recessed, it just doesn't pop out as much like they do on the Atticus. Guitar crunch is also not as forward but in line with the other instruments. I find piano to be especially fantastic on the Eikon.

Treble
Atticus: The upper mids to lower treble transition is smooth and natural, not unlike the HD650 which is the king in mids-treble transition in my eyes. The Atticus at least meets the HD650 head to head here. Compared to the Eikon and Auteur, the treble is a bit more subdued in level across the board. Think ZMF Ori and less ZMF Blackwood (planars). The detail is there, but it is not in your face. This is not unlike the HD650. Extension is good.

Eikon: Mids to treble transition is a tiny bit rougher here than it is on the Atticus. There seems to be a small peak around 5k. Nothing huge like the spike at 6k on the HD800, some may not even notice it, kind of gear dependant and how sensitive to that area you are. After that everything is smooth sailing. Treble has great extension and is more present than on the Atticus. Extension here is really good and maybe a hair better than on the Atticus. It may sound like it has much more due to the treble being more upfront here than on the Atticus.

Soundstage
Both the Atticus and Eikon has a good soundstage. The Atticus is a little larger, which may be surprising due to the more subdued treble region, could be due to the thicker pads among other small differences. The Eikon is no slouch here either though. They both put many other closed backs in this price range to shame. Air and the space around instruments is very good.



Gear Pairing
Atticus: This one is a bit more tricky than the Eikon. The treble is a little subdued on the Atticus and if you pair it with gear that is too dark you could exacerbate this. You want something with good speed, attack and something closer to neutral. Some examples of amps I have experience with that would pair well: Schiit Asgard 2, Valhalla 2 (if you use some good 6CG7 tubes to extend the bass a bit, don't go crazy here though. Save for a better amp, not $200 tubes), Jotunheim. Eddie Current BW (if you like some slamming bass), EC ZDS (this will really show how good of a soundstage this has for a closed back). DNA Stratus (earlier versions of this may be a little too warm).

Eikon: As long as you have good gear and not mushy, poorly made amps you should be good. The Eikon is a headphone that will sound good out of just about anything. Any of the amps listed above would work well in addition to: Schiit Vali 2. DNA Sonett, Sonett 2, any version of Stratus.

For DACs, anything with good resolve at its price point that isn't rolled off or veiled. Anything by Schiit (Modi Multibit may be a bit too warm for the Atticus for some however). The Metrum Amethyst I had on loan from Zach was really good (pair it with a more neutral amp with good bass control). I was also a fan of the Soekris 1541 that I heard with my Auteur.

Comparisons
Ether C/C Flow: I was not a fan of the Ether C, either model. The original is pretty linear if a bit hot in the highs. The main issue was that it just sounded rather dull. Dynamics were gone and everthing sounded closed in. The C Flow helped with the closed in sound but that was primarily because it was tuned with a big boost in the already sometimes hot treble. If your looking for that linear sound the Ether C has, I would look at the Eikon instead, albeit with a bit of Zachs house sound attached so not completely flat.

LCD-XC & Sony Z1R: I'm putting these both in one section because I have the same problem with both of them. They both have a wonky FR that instead of adding "flavor" just detracts from the music. The Atticus has a romantic "flavor" while still retaining good transitions between lows-mids-highs with excellent dynamics and plankton. The Sony also exibits some noticeable distortion in the bass which leads to a somewhat muddy presentation.

Which one is for you?
The $1,000 question. Which should you buy? The Atticus is the most similar to Zachs previous planar headphones, especially the Ori. The Ori was inherently limited by the T50rp driver it used. While a great headphone, Zach was really able to go all out with his house sound with the Atticus. The Eikon most resembles the Blackwood from his planar lineup. A tasteful sub bass boost with a mostly linear response through the mids and highs.

I feel like the default response is mostly going to be the Eikon. It is a great all-rounder that will sound good with just about any genre while not being very picky about what you plug into it. The Atticus on the other hand is what I call a specific genre master. It is not good with everything, but it masters the genres it is good with. This is flat out the best headphone I have ever used for metal. Having said that, if your target FR is something that the Atticus gives you, then go for it. Don't let me tell you which one you should get if you prefer the sound signature of the Atticus over the Eikon as an all rounder.

For pricing, I really can't complain with both models sitting under $1.5k (Atticus $1.1k / Eikon $1.4k). It's main competition in other closed backs are all more expensive for the most part and sound worse.

Conclusion
Zach has turned the closed back headphone game over on its head in my opinion with these two headphones. Nothing comes close. Ether C/C Flow, LCD-XC, Sony Z1R, they all come with baggage and the usual "it's good...for a closed headphone". The Eikon and Atticus are just plain good, period.

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