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

Rating:
4.7/5,
  1. ngoshawk
    ZMF Atticus- This one does not Kill a Mockingbird
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published Jan 17, 2019
    4.5/5,
    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




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    To Kill A Mockingbird

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

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    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.


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    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…


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    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.”

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    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…

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    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
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    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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.


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    1. View previous replies...
    2. 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, Jan 29, 2019
    3. 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.
      Preachy1, Jan 29, 2019
    4. 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...
      ngoshawk, Jan 29, 2019
  2. mysticstryk
    A Tale of Two ZMFs: Atticus and Eikon
    Written by mysticstryk
    Published Mar 15, 2018
    5.0/5,
    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.

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    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]
  3. Aornic
    Super Vibro: The Continuation of the ZMF Sound
    Written by Aornic
    Published May 1, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Punchy and impactful bass performance, smooth and forward midrange, comfortably extended treble, quite easily driven, revealing of source gear, aesthetics, comfortable
    Cons - Can sound muddy out of ill-matched amp pairings, not suitable for laid back genres, requires certain amp pairing to bring out the mids more - otherwise it's a bit too midbassy


    Build Quality, Comfort & Features

    The weight of this Atticus is lighter than the Eikon, but only because of the cherry wood. If you choose a padauk version, it will be of similar weight to my padauk Eikon. Weighing about 542g, it is only a few single-digits under the weight of an Audeze LCD-2, but is far more comfortable due to superior support and weight management. I, and several owners I have spoken to, found this and the Eikon to not feel their weight – which is a good design choice for something that could have gone overboard so easily.

    The Atticus ships with the ZMF Ori pads, which are thinner than the old ZMF lambskin, cowhide and protein pads but slightly thicker than the newer Eikon pads. I find them very comfortable and able to seal effortlessly, an issue I had with the Ori and the old pads. The isolation is incredible, possibly the best I have heard yet in a closed can utilizing passive noise-cancelling through means of a good seal. I have to be careful listening during the day, for I will not hear my doorbell ring with these on and music playing. Despite the isolation and seal being quite stellar, the clamp is not immensely tight but just where it should be to prevent the headphones from falling off your head. Only if you lean very far back will this budge, otherwise it will stay in place quite well without applying immense pressure on your cranium.

    And despite it being so well isolated, this is not a headphone that I would recommend that you wear in public. Reasons for this go beyond its price or the equipment needed to drive it (a portable amplifier) – but for aesthetic reasons as it is a very wide headphone when worn. While I am saying that they look a little goofy when worn, I would not change a single thing aesthetically because this is the nicest looking wooden headphone that I have ever seen. And, due to the wood and sturdy materials, the Atticus just feels like it is built to last. My only complaint with the build is that the sliders are, while being much more to my liking than the T50RP ones, tough to adjust – but I can see why they need to be in order to prevent moving from where they are set. There are no incremental adjustments either, so you will have to eyeball it or adjust by feel. Just in case it wasn’t obvious, these are not foldable headphones that can collapse to fit a small bag.

    300 ohms is a big number, the same as the Sennheiser HD600/650/800 which aren’t easily driven headphones – with the HD800’s bass impedance being especially high and thus needing more juice to bring out. However, the Atticus drives both easily and more evenly – sounding quite good out of my portable amp setup. These don’t require a lot to get loud, but you definitely should not under-power them for obvious reasons. Utilising thermoplastic elastomer drivers, the Atticus is the first headphone I know of to do so.

    Finally, the Atticus uses the same connectors as all other ZMF headphones – 4pin mini-XLR that are also used by Audeze.

    P1010181.JPG

    Sound

    In a world where the Eikon did not exist, I would see a slightly retuned version of the Atticus being the next real step in ZMF’s lineup so far. I have gone through the Vibro Mk. I and two different versions of the Ori, unfortunately skipping the Blackwood, and I can confidently say that the Atticus is more of a continuation with what the Vibro did – making it a super Vibro in my eyes.

    The reason that I feel this way is because ZMF’s entry-level wooden cup T50RP mod is tuned to be unabashedly fun and mid-bassy, with the bass port system put in place to tune accordingly. The Ori, to my ears, was tuned to be more analytical while still retaining a warm and friendly ZMF house sound. The Eikon, in my opinion, is an extension of the Ori slapped across characteristics from drier and more analytical headphones such as the Sennheiser HD800 – making it a very clean-sounding headphone with only the slightest tinge of warmth from a neutral audio chain.

    The key word for the Eikon is drier, however, and it has a peak in the upper-mids that can be a bit sharp with certain recordings that are too brightly or poorly mastered. How the Atticus contrasts is by being a lot more forgiving of such recordings and having a deeper and more resonant sound that, like the Audeze LCD-2, is dependent on a bit of wetness and reverb in the midrange.

    The overall tone of the Atticus is very lush, and I have a hard time deciding whether it beats my previous favourite in this matter – the Hifiman HE-500 with its liquid mids. The Atticus makes the Eikon look clinical, prim and proper by comparison – preferring to wear its coloured sound signature on its sleeve and be soulful instead. If this all seems confusing and flowery, please return to this section after reading the breakdown below.

    The bass of the Atticus will undoubtedly be the first characteristic that most will register when they first put on the headphone. I love a nice amount of bass, and this headphone does not fall short in that regard – and in many instances can go in the opposite direction depending on source and amp chain. While it does not dive as deep as its elder brother the Eikon, the Atticus has a pronounced mid-bass jump that really is one of the two tuning choices that define it. Tacked on to this is a level of bass slam that can be breathtaking at times, with strong impact and punchiness. The punchy nature of the Atticus is not blisteringly fast, but it definitely holds its own in genres that need the oomph and transients – such as double-bass drum patterns in metal and especially fast electronic music.

    The bass is also really clean sounding, to my ears, but to maintain this – and its clean separation from the midrange – you will need to pair it properly (more on that later).

    The midrange of the Atticus, as previously stated, is very lush and smooth. I made a point of mentioning in my Eikon review that the flagship opted for more texture in this area, while the Atticus went more for body and a romantic sheen instead. What I have learned since then is that the Atticus’ midrange is indeed quite textured, due to not having heard my preferred source/amp pairings until after my Eikon and even LCD-2 reviews from several weeks ago. The full-bodied and smooth midrange make vocals a sheer treat to listen to, given that they are well-recorded. The lower midrange is well pronounced, male vocals and acoustic guitar strumming are tonally sound and rich in presentation. The upper midrange is a little dipped, but switching between it and the Focal Elear shows just how much the latter has a hole in this region. Female vocals do not sound distant, but are rather quite forward like the rest of the midrange. The Atticus showcases the vocal talent shown in Follow Me by Kimiko Itoh quite excellently. The surrounding instrumentation is also well served, not feeling too bogged down by an intimate soundstage – but it does not handle space as effortlessly as the Eikon. For all the benefits of a good audio chain surrounding the Atticus, the Eikon is simply able to handle micro-detail and texture in a superior manner.

    The treble of the Atticus is a strong indication of the benefit of Zach’s choice to move away from the Fostex T50RP driver. My very first review was of a T50RP mod (the ZMF Vibro Mk. I) and as I continued my journey into high-end audio, I came to realize just how “hard” the treble presentation of the driver is. The Atticus’ treble is far more natural, to my ears. A bit withdrawn, it never reaches a point where I feel fatigued due to any sibilance – even when paired with the brightest source. Songs that sound like aural masochism on my HD800 sound pleasantly fine on the Atticus.

    Where the Vibro Mk. I fell, the Atticus perseveres and triumphs in most genres. The natural but slightly dampened treble is enough to present cymbal patterns, and a complex jazz recording like Heligt by the Tingvall Trio showcases this. What it also reveals, however, is how the Atticus is not really meant for genres such as this – for despite it sounding tonally rich and “live”, it is not where this headphone truly shines.

    One reason for this is the soundstage, which is understandably intimate due to it being a closed headphone in the first place. It is not able to possess the extremely detailed audio resolution in a manner that the stereotypical “hi-fi” term would suggest, but it is no slouch either. Others, like the HD800, have vast staging and precise imaging – but do not have the musicality of the Atticus, nor its fun bass, reminding us of the trade-off in each headphone that this hobby has.

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    Genre Pairings


    As you have probably surmised from earlier, this headphone does especially well with vocals, pop music and electronic genres. Anything that is cleanly recorded and with a drive to it will also bring out the headphones ability to showcase its dynamic nature.

    Song impressions on a Schiit Gungnir Multibit > Lyr 2 with Genalex Gold Lion tubes

    Dreams – Fleetwood Mac

    A test track of mine since the start, Dreams is a well recorded folksy acoustic-rock track with ample vocal layering and a punchy beat – accentuated with modest synth flourishes and impressive guitar work. What I revisit with every headphone is the chorus, with its three-voice harmonization using two female and one male voice. Extremely lush and well represented by the Atticus, Stevie Nicks’ unique voice carries this track and has enough body to feel live. Besides the vocals, what really sticks out to me is the depth behind each of Mick Fleetwood’s snare hits, which can honestly sound a bit thin and un-impactful on the HD800 but have an earthy and realistic sound on the Atticus.

    Closer – Nine Inch Nails

    Now we’re in far different territory. Trent Reznor’s mid-90s aggreso-industrial metal romp (with its famously profane chorus) is best served by headphones that are able to keep up with its driving heartbeat-like beat. The song is a builder, like an angrier Stairway to Heaven but with a long instrumental outro, and as the layers pile on – the Atticus is able to represent each distorted guitar note and harsh synth-pattern admirably. However, it just does not possess the texture around both that a headphone like the Focal Elear does, as its shouty and aggressive midrange is especially good for metal and distorted guitars. The Elear, however, does not possess the oomph of the Atticus’ bass – preferring to opt for a speedier but less towering amount. As the song reaches its climax, I hear everything that I’m looking for quite well, and the swiftly panning synth in the outro indicates impressively fast transients and imaging in the midrange.

    Time – Pink Floyd

    Out of every headphone that I have owned, Pink Floyd continues to have the best synergy with the Sennheiser HD800. A revealing headphone works best for the group, as the layered recordings are better exposed cleanly rather than having a fun and bass-driven sound injected onto them. The Eikon is excellent for Pink Floyd in its own way, but the Atticus is not the most ideal pairing. Switching to the Schiit Valhalla 2 does help a bit, but it still feels like a genre mismatch. Pink Floyd lack the dynamic sound needed for the Atticus to shine.

    The Raven that Refused to Sing – Steven Wilson

    This sombre song is very impressively produced, no doubt thanks to the help of Alan Parsons (who also worked on the Pink Floyd track mentioned above) and aided with modern recording techniques. The Atticus is able to capture the vocal harmonies and synth-driven atmosphere in the background perfectly. The piano sounds impactful, bringing the required dramatic tone the song is striving for – but the tonality is more low-heavy than sharp. I really like how it sounds in this context, but switching to the Elear (which I feel has excellent tonal match with grand pianos) shows the small amount of detail that is masked with the instrument. In the second half of the song, the cymbals ring out clearly and the entire track moves to its climax with no strong sense of detail loss as the instruments pile on. Switching to the Eikon shows a more controlled bass guitar, which is a little too loud in the mix on the Atticus – but beyond that it is a great listen.

    Arped - Vaishiyas

    This techno track showcases the full ability of the Atticus to have impact and bass punchiness, while maintaining texture and equal impact in synth parts that accompany it. Very well mastered, each track is clear and present behind the sheer head-banging bass drum.

    Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson

    I always listen for the quick string part in the intro, some headphones really struggle with producing it with all the other tracks blazing at full speed. The Atticus does not struggle, and the song has all its percussion and instrument tracks well represented. Jackson’s voice itself, in his crooning falsetto that was all the rage in the disco era of the late 1970s, never feels drowned out by the instrumental track – which would have hindered the point of his solo act. The horn sections are slightly smoothed but still maintain a good amount of texture. Overall, a listening experience that will have you nodding along.

    Master of Puppets – Metallica

    The problem with this track is mainly because of the production, with its mid-scooped distorted guitars and overall mid-bassy sound. On the Atticus, it can sound a bit sluggish, with a lower-mid bleed causing problems with the song’s thrash-metal pacing. I have found that it does better with the Schiit Valhalla 2, or even the Lyr 2’s brighter stock 6BZ7 tubes, but it is still not the most ideal pairing. Metallica’s Black Album, or self-titled 1991 album, is a far better pairing with the Atticus due to its cleaner and grandiose production.


    I have done my best to be discerning with the above tracks, but I should mention that even the pairings that I feel are not quite ideal are not close to being so bad that I would want to throw the headphones off of my head. Indeed, if you prefer the overall sound signature of the Atticus, it could even be an all-rounder headphone for you. The best songs to pair with it are not even dependent on genre, but rather song style and production. While the HD800 is revealing of production imperfection in its own way, the Atticus does it as well (although more forgiving than the Eikon) due to its reliance on clean mastering and well separated instrumental and vocal tracks. The worst recordings, in this regard, will sound muddy on the Atticus.

    I don’t prefer the Atticus for music that has no dynamics. There has to be something existing already for the headphone to take and run with it. It is not as sensitive in dynamic/impact reproduction as the Utopia or Elear, where a piano chord can feel like a truck hitting you at times, so it needs character in its music. If you want a headphone for drone-metal, look elsewhere. If you want a headphone for psychedelic classic rock, I would steer you toward the Eikon instead. It is also a headphone that is better heard at higher volumes, emphasizing its bombastic nature.

    Amp Pairings

    After the sound description above, I would go so far as to say that this is the most important consideration one must make if they are interested in the Atticus. Like the Eikon, it is revealing of source gear, but it can be made a bit problematic from the wrong pairing.

    All amps using a Schiit Gungnir Multibit DAC

    LC.JPG
    Cavalli Liquid Carbon (First Run)

    Followers of my work will have noticed that I have not quite recommended this amplifier in recent reviews in terms of most ideal pairings. This is because it has a warm and laid back characteristic to it that can be overkill on some headphones. With the Eikon, this simply made it a more laid back headphone, easing up on the intense dynamic nature of itself and adding a bit more warmth to the midrange. With the LCD-2, it simply became too warm and I felt that some of the details in the treble region were being masked. With the Atticus, it is the same case as the LCD-2, if not slightly more problematic.

    The bass simply becomes too much. I enjoy a bassy sound but the Atticus, out of the right pairing, couples that with a smooth midrange and treble. With the Liquid Carbon, it becomes all about the bass and lower mids, leading to a pronounced bleed that holds back any song I throw at it.

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    Audio-GD NFB-28

    This powerful amplifier has a somewhat neutral sound to it, letting the DAC and headphone do most of the talking when it is present in a chain. It has good control of the Atticus’ bass, where the Liquid Carbon felt bloomy, but it is in its upper-region that I found a slight problem. The background does not seem as black as I would like, leading to a haziness in the treble and upper mids that I chalked up to the Atticus initially. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it is actually just the pairing of the Gungnir Multibit and the NFB28 amp section that was causing this, as the Audio-GD’s own built in Sabre DAC enjoyed a lower noise floor in the pairing.

    With this in mind, I have to treat this specific amp/source pairing as contained to the Audio-GD NFB-28 alone. With the Eikon, I found the treble too sharp for my taste, emphasizing the 5k treble peak that felt a little fatiguing on it. On the Atticus, it is not as noticeable, but there is a definite benefit to choosing the sabre over the multibit for this specific amp. That being said, it lacks a lot of the natural, if slightly warm, sound that the Gungnir multibit brings. Separation has taken a slight hit and the overall sound is more digital rather than musical.

    After spending time with the NFB28 and Atticus, I was convinced to try tubes with the headphones – but I did not want any that were too warm. After some research, I chose the next two amplifiers.

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    Schiit Valhalla 2


    When I first plugged into this amplifier with the Atticus, it was a mini-revelation. Beyond my prior ownership of an Asgard 2 and a Magni 2, I had avoided purchasing Schiit amps because some had told me that they sounded etched – with the tube amps not even sounding like tubes. After my time with the IFI Pro iCan, and its disappointing solid-state to tube/tube+ mode switching (not as much difference as I would have liked to hear for the price), I was even less inclined to seek out the Valhalla 2 – which I had heard did not inject warmth or musicality to music. “What was the point then?”, I asked in my ignorance.

    Well, the Valhalla 2 controlled the Atticus in a manner that the NFB28 was not able to, with all its ample wattage and neutral sound signature. It made the overall experience a bit drier, and a bit leaner – not bad additions to the Atticus’ sound in my opinion. Suddenly, there was more detail and the bass was not intruding into the midrange as much as before. More importantly, the staging became slightly wider, and separation became more pronounced. I would go so far to say that this is a grand amp + headphone pairing, with the only detraction being a lack of punchiness.

    The Valhalla 2, while still being quite punchy, did not provide enough oomph for the Atticus to be what it is capable of. Was it natural but clean? Yes. Did it make instruments and vocals sit better in a mix with the headphones? Absolutely. But, my time using the NFB28 had shown me just how the Atticus’ bass should work – but the Valhalla 2 had characteristics that I couldn’t enjoy on the Audio-GD.

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    Schiit Lyr 2

    It would be foolish to say this hybrid tube-solid state (if you have the LISST tubes) amp provides the best of both worlds with the Atticus – which I definitely led up to with the transition at the end of the last comparison. However, this is my favourite pairing with the Atticus out of all I have on hand today.

    The Lyr 2 is absurdly punchy and dynamic, even blazing well past the Audio-GD NFB28 in this regard. Its treble is a tad harder and less natural-sounding than the Valhalla 2, and it is brighter out of its stock 6BZ7 tubes. The bass is very controlled, a boon for the Atticus, and the midrange is heavily dependent on the tubes used. I prefer Genalex Gold Lions overall, despite it being slightly warmer than the others I have – it does not intrude on the Atticus’ ability at all, and in fact heightens its smooth and inviting midrange characteristics. Snare hits feel like they have more depth, a slight reverb to them that gives a live sound.

    Compared to the Valhalla 2, the soundstage is narrower on the Lyr 2. I also regret that I am not able to obtain LISST tubes to test further – I’m curious as to how it sounds from its solid-state mode. Even so, out of all the tubes the punchiness is preserved and the highs feel more natural than with the NFB28 – cementing this as my go-to amplifier for the Atticus currently.


    Once again, the Atticus is quite revealing of amp pairings – unlike the Elear which just sounds like itself out of them all, except for the Valhalla 2 where it had a bit of haziness – probably due to its sensitivity and low impedance - and the amp being an OTL. I am glad that I was able to compare several amplifiers with the headphones, and I really could not imagine just hearing it from a single offering and judging it completely based on that…or even two amps.


    Headphone Comparisons

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    Sennheiser HD800

    I feel like I have to repeat myself in every review, when it comes to the HD800, regarding its vast soundstage. It beats them all in terms of width, even the HE-1 didn’t match it in that regard. So, the HD800 vs. a closed headphone like the Atticus – you can do the math.

    The well-known analytical nature of HD800 makes it a good headphone to complement the Atticus, if you want two headphones that cover both ends of the spectrum. It provides intense detail and air at the cost of being a bit anaemic in its midrange and muted in its bass performance. Unlike the Eikon, which takes some strengths of the HD800 and wraps it in Zach’s tuning which emphasizes natural tonality and a live sound, the Atticus prefers very much to be easier on the ears and not peaky in its treble. Its warmth is its selling point, so I feel a bit awkward saying obvious facts like the HD800 is more detailed overall – which it simply just is. What I prefer of the two depends on the genre I’m listening to and my mood.

    The Atticus is definitely a headphone that is instantly impressive to those who are not in the hobby and are not striving for that micro-detailed sound (“plankton” I’ve heard it called) and just want a clear sound with great bass. I’m not saying that the Atticus is a super Beats Solo 2, but it has a far different sound signature than the HD800. I’m able to listen to more genres on the Atticus than the HD800 however, and female vocals have a lot more body on the ZMF than in the HD800 where they fall into its dip.

    Weight and comfort wise, I have to give it to the HD800 – despite the weight distribution of both ZMF dynamics being quite excellent. The HD800 is substantially lighter, about 180g lighter in fact. The Atticus is 542g while the HD800 is 362g – both without cable. If you require isolation though, the Atticus is what you should choose of the two.

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    Audeze LCD-2 (2016 Revision)

    A few weeks ago, I completed and uploaded my Audeze LCD-2 review – a headphone I quite like and felt had an edge in detail retrieval to the Atticus despite being considerably more laid back and less punchy in its sound signature. Since then, I discovered the most important final pieces of the puzzle that is evaluating the Atticus – the two Schiit amps that I prefer as a pairing.

    Does it change everything about my impressions? Not exactly. The LCD-2 is still a headphone that is smooth, laid back and comprised of some shimmering detail in its treble. However, although I liked the Atticus more in my weeks-old comparison overall – it has widened its lead now. I am going to self-plagiarize now and copy some of my prior impressions:

    Switching from the LCD-2 to the Atticus is revealing of just how much (the 2016 model anyway) emphasizes the availability of the shimmering detail hidden in the Audeze’s treble. Phrasing it like this would have you believe that the Atticus is completely lacking in such aspects, which is untrue, but it definitely is not as even in revealing its capabilities – requiring the right genre pairing to do so. What the Atticus has is bass, in abundance, and bass slam. It does not shy away from the electronic genres that the Audeze might be a tad laid back for, and it certainly does not mind introducing hefty low end into just about any recording.

    However, this isn’t without its detriments. Master of Puppets is one album that the Atticus suffers on, due to the reliance of a midbassy sound in the mixing falling square in the region that the ZMF headphone emphasizes heavily – making the entire album from start to finish sound a bit bloated. The Atticus hits back, and hard, in electronic pop music – with its bass slam and smooth midrange going hand-in-hand to showcase the headphone’s energetic nature. The Atticus is a more “awake” experience than the LCD-2, which sounds veiled by comparison – but the LCD-2 is able to work with more genres due to its less bassy nature.

    One area in particular that the LCD-2 is able to succeed, compared to the Atticus, is in older and warmer recordings – such as those by Led Zeppelin. It does quite well with guitars both electric and acoustic, while the Atticus relies on the mix and can sound a little overwhelmed with such pairings – as Led Zeppelin are from an era without snazzy modern production.


    Elear.JPG
    Focal Elear

    The Focal headphones are better all-rounders than the Atticus, if you like their specific sound signature and presentation enough. They also mask their source quite well, and sound like themselves out of most amplifiers I have paired them with. They are also quite a bit faster than the Atticus, and are so dynamic sounding that even at low-to-moderate listening volume you will get the full effect of sudden events in your audio.

    Where the Atticus hits back, and hard, is in the midrange. The Elear, while possessing a midrange that is excellent for pianos and electric guitars, is not so suitable for vocals – especially female vocals that fall right into the area where it is heavily dipped. Also, the Elear has an aggressive midrange that is not especially lush or smooth – both characteristics of the Atticus. I would even use the term shouty for the Focal midrange, and have heard others call it grainy. However, it is definitely a headphone that handles rock and metal far better out of all that I have currently.

    Both have excellent weight distribution, but the Focal is approximately 100g lighter. Both are quite intimate in soundstage.

    Eikon.JPG
    AE.JPG
    ZMF Eikon


    The elder brother of the Atticus is near identical in looks and comfort, depending on wood choice. Utilizing a bio-cellulose driver, the Eikon is tuned to be more of a reference headphone than the warmer Atticus. I have heard the Eikon described as warm, and out of certain sources (the Liquid Carbon for example) it definitely is – but it is far more neutral and straightforward in presentation compared to the Atticus.

    Do I think the Eikon is the better headphone? I do. The reason for this is that it merges a fun sound signature that Zach really likes with a more analytical and detailed touch to make it quite revealing of both source gear and music production/mastering. Its sub-bass extends lower than the Atticus, which is more focused on mid-bass punch, and its midrange possesses a lot more texture. The soundstage is also a bit wider, to my ears, than the Atticus. The treble extension is more pronounced, horns and stringed instruments possess quite a bit more air than on the Atticus. The Eikon, I feel, is also tuned to be more tonally accurate than the Atticus, which injects warmth and a little bloom into everything it touches.

    But what do I reach for if I want to listen to just some electro-pop? The Atticus. What do I reach for when I want to listen to some smooth jazz? The Eikon. These two headphones are so distinct that I feel that they cater to two kinds of listeners in this hobby quite well. Indeed, you could own both and find yourself listening to them equally as much if you have a vast array of taste in musical genres.

    The Eikon is smooth, but the Atticus is smoother and I am yet to hear a track that felt like the treble was too piercing on it. The Eikon actually can sound a little harsh up top with some poorly mastered tracks. I am told that there are slight audible differences in wood choice, but I can’t confirm this myself – but I could see it being possible due to hearing the small differences between my previously-owned cherry and cocobolo ZMF Ori.

    Overhead.JPG
    Conclusion

    In the month since my Eikon review, I have found myself listening to the Atticus more and more. It has matched my genre preferences these days quite well and I’m a little addicted to the smooth midrange and punchy bass. I’m absolutely sure I’ve used the words “smooth” and “punchy” several times in this review, but those really are the two front-and-foremost aspects of this headphone.

    Returning to my earlier statement about the Atticus being the true continuation of the ZMF house sound of the past, I do indeed believe that this is a super-ZMF Vibro. However, I am glad that Zach took the initiative to explore another tuning for the Eikon – one that is done incredibly well and will move the brand’s known sound forward. Does this mean that the Atticus is a glimpse into the past? Not at all as there will always be those who either prefer this sound signature or want a headphone for the times when they want to be jamming out and not listening to every detail across the map of a song recording.

    With these two options now available, it’s better to review the release of both as a two-some rather than individual headphones. Aspects one could argue are missing in the Atticus are present on the Eikon, and vice versa. Buying both is an expense, but with so many top-of-the-line headphones costing more than both combined (and possessing just a single sound signature), I would not be surprised if someone tried these headphones at an event and opted for both.

    These are incredibly well-built headphones that tap into the areas of a listening experience that are instantly pleasing – bass and midrange. They effectively remove any possibility of sibilance, but not so much that the listener feels choked by the lack treble. They are responsive to amp pairings, and I would personally recommend a lean, dry and analytical amp with them to bring out more of the midrange and control the bass further.

    Kudos to Zach for his first two in-house creations being distinct and quite excellent in their own usage.
  4. PacoTaco
    The Big, the Bold, the Beautiful
    Written by PacoTaco
    Published Nov 18, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Thick mids, surprising amount of clarity and resolve, an unusually large amount of bass
    Cons - Can sound slightly distant in the very upper-mids, doesn't pair as well with warm amps

    Introduction

    Here we have it folks: The first up of Zach's two all-ZMF dynamic headphones: The Atticus. The Atticus uses a TPE driver housed in some awesome wood cups to deliver the very epitome of ZMF House Sound.

    Build Quality and Comfort

    Much like the Omni, Vibro and Blackwood before it, the Atticus uses wood cups that provide a gorgeous aesthetic while keeping the handmade feel one comes to expect form the ZMF brand. However, the Atticus is a step up above all three of those in build quality. Since this headphone is entirely designed by ZMF, it no longer uses the stock Fostex head-band. Instead, Zach uses heavy-duty sliders connected to a headband that keeps the entire headphone sturdy and feeling solid. Zach uses a combination of a pad wrapped around the headband and a strip of leather for comfort, which keeps the weight distributed nicely on your head. The pads also nice and thick with foam that keeps the headphone from feeling like it has a large clamp around your ears.

    Sound

    Enough about the industrial stuff...let's get into the nitty-gritty here: the sound. It is the epitome of the ZMF House sound and a very logical step-up from the Omni. Zach, being no longer held back by the small and restricting T50 driver, truly went all out with his evolution of his house sound.

     

    Bass

    The very first thing one will notice upon listening to this headphone is the large (and proud) amount of bass the Atticus puts out. It manages to toe a very, very fine line between "entirely too much and boomy" and "satisfyingly warm and rhythmic." Any more midbass, and it would entirely throw the headphone in the muddy category. Any less...and well, it take away from the amazing sense of warmth and rhythm you get on the low end.

    Another good word to describe this bass region is...well, powerful. What does this mean, one might ask? Well...it has a surprisingly amount of subbass for what is a very-midbass emphasized headphone. It is a bold and proud its low-end, something I wish I could say for the Nighthawk, for instance.

    Here's the strange thing: I already thought the Omni was toeing the line of "too much," but the Atticus has a lot more power and warmth than the Omni did. Yet, it pulls it off. This is due to the lack of distortion on the low end that, quite honestly, puts the THX00 (maybe even the TH900) to shame. There is absolutely no lose of definition in the low-end with this amount of bass, which is a huge achievement in itself.

     

    Mids

    Another part of the headphone that makes the amount of bass work is the very awesome low mid-range. It is well-flourished enough to add clarity to that amount of midbass, something that is usually lacking in headphones in headphones with this kind of emphasis. However, just like the mid-bass, it is toeing the fine line between "too much and muddy" and "just right enough it works."

    The rest of the mid-range is done quite well. Instruments have a great amount of presence this region that prevents it from other-wise being overshadowed and becoming overly thick.

    The upper mid-range of the headphone features no fatigue at all. The attack is fantastic, vocals sound clear and crisp (if not slightly in the background at times,) and the overall timbre has a very unique quality to it. The only issue that seems to pop up is the slight dip in the upper-mids that makes the edge of this region taper off a bit and become distant. However, this (and the lower-treble region) have this quality reduces the amount of deflection off the cups (since this is a closed-headphone.) The result is a very non-fatiguing headphone that never sounds "off."

    That said, the amazing part of this midrange is that, despite the thickness caused by the bass and lower-mids, it remains incredibly clear, detailed, and resolving even during the most chaotic of songs.

     

    Treble

    Despite the thick mid-range, there is still an clarity in the lower-treble/presence regions. This causes the Atticus to sound surprisingly lively, but never fatiguing.

    The rest of the treble (brilliance) region is quite nice. The entire headphone is a slow descent into a dark high-end, but not overly so. It's actually surprisingly close in air to the HD600, which is damn good for a closed-back headphone in general.

     

    Overall Sound and Technicalities

    Overall, this headphone takes on a very thick, romantic, and slightly dark sound signature. To accompany this kind of sound, the Atticus takes on a very organic amount of decay (while still being faster than most headphones.) The resolve is fantastic (reminds me a lot of the HD6x0 in that aspect,) especially for this kind of sound signature and closed-back.

    The soundstage, however, is very much indicative a closed-back. While being incredibly wide and accurate, there is a certain lack of depth that creates a bit of intimacy.

    As far as how well this headphone scales...it scales very well. The issue is...well, the low end can get a bit too much with a warm amplifier. It already toes a fine line of being too warm, so adding anymore just kind of...kills the momentum, so to speak.

    Conclusion

    That all said, I really enjoy this headphone. It is a clear evolution of Zach's house sound and a damn fine accomplishment in balancing this kind of signature. This is a bold, powerful headphone that just wants one to hear its thick, meaty midrange.
    1. Wilashort
      Very good review!
      Wilashort, Nov 25, 2016
    2. smodtactical
      Would you say the atticus has more bass slam and power than the TH-X00 and TH900 ?
      smodtactical, Jul 21, 2018
  5. Hisoundfi
    Introducing Atticus, the first of two new all exclusive dynamic driver headphones from ZMF
    Written by Hisoundfi
    Published Nov 17, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - World class build quality and design, Premium materials used throughout, Big bold & organic ZMF sound, ZMF warranty and commitment to quality
    Cons - Not for those looking for linear or neutral sounding headphones, Bulky design isn't made for commuting
    IMG_2882.jpg
    At the time of the review, the ZMF Atticus headphones were listed for sale on ZMF’s website. Here is a link for information and purchase:
     
    http://www.zmfheadphones.com/zmf-originals
     
    Introduction
    A couple of weeks ago my beloved Chicago Cubs won their first world series in over one hundred and eight years. Until then, baseball season has always ended up the same for me as year after year turned into decades upon decades of mediocrity. It took my family three generations before I could finally say that our family-favorite team has reached the summit of the baseball universe. The celebration hasn’t stopped for me. It feels great to say it for the first time in my life that my favorite team is the World Series champion!
     
    You might be wondering what this all has to do with a headphone review, right?
     
    I think the first of anything is often times the most memorable. Who can forget their first kiss, car, job or pet? Do you remember the first “audiophile” pair of headphones you ever had? If you’re reading this I’m guessing the answer is yes.
     
    Well my friends, this review is in regards to a first for Zach at ZMF. Introducing the Atticus and Eikon headphones, the first officially exclusive pairs of ZMF headphones.
     
    If you go to a few Can Jam or Nationally advertised headphone meets and I can almost guarantee you will bump into Zach at least once. You’ll see a booth loaded with modded Fostex headphones and high end amplifiers. You’ll meet one heck of a nice guy at the same time.
     
    I’ve known Zach for a little over two years. Living on the outskirts of Chicago I often times bump into him at the Chifi-Unite and Axpona Audio events. Usual conversations include baseball and what new stuff we’ve brought to the meets. I bring mostly in-ear monitors so I’ll fill him in on what the good new products are. He will return the favor in regards to full size headphones. Zach is not only a manufacturer, he’s a Head-Fier just like you and me. He has a very nice collection of great headphones and sources.
     
    Side talks mentioned whether or when Zach was going to be releasing an exclusive ZMF design and going above and beyond the world of modded Fostex cans. I’m glad I was involved in these conversations. I was able to witness the development of the headphone we will be reviewing today.
     
    About eight or nine months ago I got a message from Zach asking if I would be interested in listening to a side project he’s been working on. Having the Omni and being a fan of the ZMF sound, he didn’t have to ask me twice. I knew this would be interesting. What came in were prototypes of what was called the “Omni D” (D stands for dynamic driver). I’d give it a listen, provide feedback and send them back to him. This happened several times over the course of the last year. This was the process of Zach was tinkering with drivers, looking for the best design to use in his inaugural headphone release.
     
    After nailing down the driver he worked with Vibro Labs on parts and design. From the start the mission was to offer the community a headphone that carries on from the sought after modded fostex line and taking the ZMF experience one step further. If you know Zach, he is a tinkerer, an artist, and above all a perfectionist. If the new headphones were going to be a ZMF they would have to be well built and sound great.
     
    The Rocky Mountain Audio Festival was the first event which featured prototypes that fans could give a listen to. Feedback was very positive. With it being official, a Head-Fi thread was started and discussion of when the headphones would be released commenced. Pre-ordering has started with models beginning to ship in February. With this said, let’s take a look and listen to the Atticus.
     
    Disclaimer
    I was given a free loaner pair as an opportunity to review the Atticus in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with ZMF. I would like to take this time to personally thank Zach for the opportunity. Hey Zach, even though you’re a Red Sox fan I gotta say, Go Cubs Go!!!
     
    My Background
    I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
     
    There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me. I want to hear any earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I can share my impressions with  enthusiasts and help them find the audio product they’re looking for. My Head-Fi profile has a list of audio products ranked from favorite to least favorite. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and having a variety of different gear to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.
     
    I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are solidly built, with ergonomics and sound that is pleasing to my ears. It’s my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based on gear I have owned and used.
     
    REVIEW
    The new package for the Atticus will be a slightly larger Seahorse case than previous offerings, providing mores space for for storage and transport. ZMF owners will be getting an upgraded owner’s card as well as an owner’s manual. An improved stock cable will also come in the Atticus and Eikon packages. At the moment I have only the headphones so I can’t provide pictures of these items. However, I’ve asked Zach and confirmed what will be different from the previously mentioned ZMF lineup.
     
    Specifications and Accessories
    IMG_2886.jpg
    Atticus features a custom made fifty millimeter TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) diaphragm driver. The driver comes in at 300 Ohms, making it about as power hungry as a AKG K7XX or Sennheiser HD600.
     
    The following comes in the Atticus package:
    1X ZMF Atticus TPE Driver Dynamic Headphone
    1X Pair ZMF Omni and Eikon Pads
    1X Lambskin headband padding
    1X Stock Cable
    1X Seahorse SE430 or S3 6500 Case
    1X Owner’s Card and Manual
     
    Overall Build
    20161028_130126.jpg
    At the time of writing this review and with no exaggeration the Atticus (and Eikon) is one of the best headphones on the planet in terms of overall build quality. When receiving the final production model of the Atticus I couldn’t get over how solidly built everything is. They are flexible and durable at the same time. Everything is either lightweight spring steel, aluminum, wood, lambskin or leather (with the only exception being the special application of special plastic for the TPE driver and driver grill).
     
    I don’t know about you, but one of the first things I think of when I take a look at these headphones is the legendary Sony R10. These are NOT knockoffs by any means but there are some very apparent similarities when looking at the two:
    900x900px-LL-4db6f53b_web.jpg
    Picture of the Sony R10. Picture is borrowed from a Head-Fi review of the Sony R10. This is not my picture. I do wish I had a pair!
     
     
    20161112_191549.jpg
    Starting with the headband, a very flexible spring steel band is coated is clothed in a padding lined lambskin sleeve. Although not on my prototype Atticus, a leather band will accompany the the spring steel band, giving the headphone an added level of strength and resilience. This leather piece will be the portion of the headband that will make contact with the top of the user’s head. The headband screws onto machined aluminum pieces on each end. These aluminum pieces are hinged to chrome metal bars that also swivel at the connection where the arms connect to the cups.
     
    The Atticus cups currently come in two different types of wood. Options are African Padauk or Cherry woods. There are options whether or not you would like a hand varnished or factory sprayed finish. From the description, picking the stain will be a matter of deciding what whether you want a handmade appearance or something more uniform in appearance. As with previous ZMF releases we could/should expect to see some more exotic woods offered in the future.
     
    The Cups and pads are pretty big and bordering on huge. There’s plenty of room for just about any type of ear size and shape with the Eikon pads. The Eikon pads are stiffer than the Omni pads and sport a slimmer profile, leaving less room between the driver and the listener’s ear. The result is a slightly more musical and dynamic response. With the softer and deeper fit of the Omni pads, the Atticus is a touch leaner and analytical sounding. The differences aren’t significant but are definitely noticeable. Considering the fact we are focusing on the new product we will continue the rest of the review (including sound) with the Eikon pads.
     
    Cable, Cable Jacks, Strain Reliefs
    I used the Braided cable that I ordered for my Omni with the review samples. For the record, the Atticus and Eikon use the same cable and connections as the previous ZMF models. I know Zach is currently working on a deal to get the best stock cable he can get for the package. Worst case scenario, we will see the basic stock cable for the Vibro and Omni come in the Atticus/Eikon package. Once this is settled I’ll edit this portion of the review. For now, rest assured a functional cable will ship with the package. The only question to be answered is how nice this cable will be.
     
    Comfort, Isolation, Microphonics
    20161112_191941.jpg
    The flexible spring steel and hinged swivels are extremely secure and work excellent. There is no popping or crackling when contorting and rotating the cups into a secure and comfortable fit.
     
    Between the flexible and and various hinging actions, you can literally take each channel and contort them to fit ANY shape or size of head on earth.
    20161115_162026.jpg
    Introducing Hisoundfi Jr. The guy is way more handsome than me. I might use him for these pictures from now on...
     
    FullSizeR4.jpg
    I was able to get them to fit my grown man head and also placed them on the tiny cranium of my dog, an English Setter. I swear, that dog sat there listening to Beck’s “Sea Change” album for like a half hour until I took them back. Just for the record they’re canine approved. Maybe he liked the smell of the leather, or was it the musical and engaging sound signature? Maybe both?
     
    There is virtually no microphonics to report, and isolation is that of a good sealing full size closed headphone. Although there are what appears to be vent holes in the Atticus cups, they are essentially a closed headphone in their design. When tuning the Atticus, Zach uses the vents to fine tune them and guarantee channel matching. As always you will not get a pair of ZMFs with channel imbalance. Each side is measured and tweaked to match as close as possible, guaranteeing each ZMF owner to get the music experience as it’s intended to be.
     
    Sound Review
    20161112_101735.jpg
    I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-V10 for smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or iBasso DX80 DAP/Bushmaster D14 DAC/Amp for high fidelity portable use. For desktop use, I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a ifi micro iDSD playing at 32/192 kHz. I tested them with several other sources as well. I used Google Music in its highest download quality (320 KBPS), and also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.
     
    NOTE: Unlike other reviews, Zach has kindly borrowed his micro ZOTL from Linear Tube Audio to be used with the Atticus. This helped to draw a more accurate impression with a higher end amplifier than I currently have. Thanks Zach! I’ll bring it back in one piece, promise!
     
    I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
    “Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
    “Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
    “Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
    “Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
    “Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
    “The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
    “Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
    “Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
    “One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
    “Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
    “Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
    “And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
    “Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
     
    Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to assess and break down the gear’s response.
     
    Source Selection
    The Atticus comes in at 300 Ohms, meaning that the power requirements are more demanding than many smartphones in today’s market. However, Atticus sounded pretty decent through an Iphone 6 Plus headphone out jack. With my LG V10, the phone recognized the high impedance demands and adjusted its output. The sound quality I got from the V10 was just as good as any portable DAP I tried them with. The Atticus sounded great out of my Fiio X7 via the 2.5 mm balanced output. Other sources that sounded good were the Ifi micro iDSD and just about any source paired with the Shanling H3.
     
    When I first received final production samples of the Atticus and Eikon I told Zach that I was finding the Atticus to be a bit too full sounding for my preference. Zach sent a loaner of the Linear Tube Audio micro ZOTL amplifier to see if I heard the same results. Although a tube amplifier, the ZOTL puts out a linear and detailed sound (with the stock tubes) from what I heard. The results I got with the ZOTL and Atticus paired together were phenomenal. Testing this amplifier with Atticus unleashed its full potential and definitely gave me a very big “WOW” factor when listening to them.
     
    Experimenting with above sources led me to a confirmed conclusion. The Atticus is a somewhat source dependent headphone. With a leaner or more neutral sounding source the Atticus rocked. Pair the Atticus with a warmer source and the result was what I considered a colored sound that doesn’t maximize the Atticus potential. Examples of sources that I found to be a bit to warm for the Atticus were the Luxury and Precision LP5, Ibasso DX80 (without D14 attached), Cayin C5, and my little Bravo Audio Ocean tube amplifier. In my opinion, the Atticus sound is already warm and expansive, so adding a source that further emphasizes these qualities will be overkill. Your mileage may vary.
     
    In summary, if you are considering what headphone you might like most you must first take a look at your music sources determine what sort of sources you have to pair them with. This is only my opinion, but if you plan on using a ZMF dynamic with a Warm and expansive sounding tube amp, you might get better results with the Eikon. If you have a linear and detailed amplifier like the ZOTL or a solid state amplifier that doesn’t emphasize the lower frequencies, Atticus is right up your alley.
     
    NOTE: The Atticus and Eikon sound really good in their own way with the micro iDSD form iFi. I consider this source to represent a middle ground in terms of source application.
     
    NOTE: An OTL amplifiers output does make a difference in how these sound. I will base my review impressions primarily using the ZOTL amplifier.
     
    Sound Signature
    I consider the Atticus to be tubey sounding without the tubes. When paired with the right source, the Atticus is warm and rich with a complimentary sparkle at higher frequencies. If I had to categorize them with other headphones, I would say they have some of the traits of a Focal Elear or Sennheiser HD650. There is thick note presentation with complementary sparkle. The ZMF sound we’ve enjoyed over the years has been incorporated into this pair of cans.
     
    Lower frequencies are somewhat bold and rich. The neighboring frequencies take a small step back from the rest of the tuning without seeming distant or losing their sense of clarity and space. Omni owners, although not identical you’ll definitely hear some similarities with the tuning of the Atticus.
     
    Bass
    Bass on the Atticus is forward with relatively equal amounts of punch and rumble. Sub-bass extends decently and has average attack and decay for a dynamic driver. During Daft Punk’s “Doin’ it Right” mid-bass tones were slightly ahead of the lowest of low sub-bass tones, but not to a level that I could fault it. The earth shaking low notes can be heard and is somewhat authoritative but not as forwards as some mid-bass frequencies.
     
    While no one is going to righteously say that the mid-bass shy on the Atticus, at the same time it isn’t going to ruin the experience for most people who listen to them. There’s a fullness in the mid bass along the lines of Focal’s Elear that fattens up the sound. This prevents me from saying that these headphones have an extraordinarily airy or open presence. At the same time many people are going to fall in love with the Atticus for this very reason. The bold and rich lower registers work great in terms of adding dynamics and keeping along the lines of what ZMF sound is all about.
     
    The Atticus manages to be very bold and rich with it’s lower frequencies without venturing into basshead territory. It’s about as much bass as I feel a headphone can have before I start considering a headphone to be too bassy. Think along the lines of the Omni but with the focus moved from sub-bass to mid-bass.
     
    Mid-range
    The Forward mid-bass has a gradual descent into lower mid-range tones. Despite the tapered recession, the overall sensation I get from the Atticus is a somewhat thick note presentation. The Atticus offers an overall warm and slightly colored sound with fair amount of detail.  
     
    Male vocals (primarily male vocals) manage to be warm and smooth without venturing into being overly weighted. While we are on this subject this is one of the criterias where source plays such a big part in the listener’s impression. Using a warmer and more musical source might put a bit too much weight and color on lower mid-range sounds. However, for the most part this is easily avoided. Female vocals sound awesome on the Atticus. They come across as smooth and beautiful, avoiding any sense of shoutiness or grain. One thing is very apparent, the Atticus didn’t have any sense of distortion or cone breakup at midrange sound, even with complex music passages. Thick? Yes. Distorted? No.
     
    Midrange instruments sound big and full. There’s a girth to midrange sounds that make the Atticus a musical sounding headphone. Going off memory, the Atticus mid-range tuning follows somewhat in the footsteps of the Audioquest Nighthawk but with slightly less mid-bass, resulting in a slightly more natural, and overall more refined sound to my ears. Your mileage may vary.
     
    Upper midrange of the Atticus is very smooth and natural at the same time. We are in a current trend where many earphone manufacturers intentionally but a plateau around the 2-4 kHz range to make vocals pop. That isn’t the case with Atticus. This tuning makes the the mid-range finish smooth and organic. Any less and upper midrange and I might be saying the Atticus is bordering on dark. Any more upper midrange and I might be saying they don’t maintain the ZMF sound I enjoy so much.
     
    Treble
    I personally think that dynamic drivers produce superior treble responses when tuned correctly. To my ears, there’s something about the attack and decay of cymbals and hi-hats with dynamic drivers that most armature and planar magnetic drivers can’t achieve. Zach has taken the smooth, relaxed and extended treble from previous models and applied the same tuning to a dynamic driver. Cymbals sound great, but are also not forward to the point of being harsh. Pronunciations of the letters S and T are easily heard and avoid coming across as sibilant.
     
    If there is one aspect in terms of tuning I enjoy the most, this is it for the Atticus. The tuning compliments the other frequencies, with enough presence to compliment the rich and thick lower tones. It is toned down enough to say it finishes smooth, and tuned up enough to say that it gives the Atticus some nice sparkle. The treble compliments well with lower registers, making for a very musical and enjoyable listening experience.
     
    Soundstage and Imaging
    The Atticus is in my opinion a closed back headphone with a bold lower frequency range. These two aspects makes it a mixed bag for me in terms of soundstage. Vocals and instruments can sound massive and endless in terms of space, but when the bass of some tracks take over it can constrict the size of the soundstage. Although better than average and excellent when compared to full size closed headphones, it doesn’t offer the out of head stage of some of the elite semi-open headphones I’ve heard.
     
    Imaging is slightly intimate but there is an excellent sense of instrument placement. This is one of the major aspects that makes Atticus a great headphone. Thick and bold vocals and midrange instruments take center stage. Bass seems to come from around and outside of the center stage vocals and instruments. As mentioned earlier, treble compliments every aspect with a smooth and very natural finish that vibes well with the overall sound.
     
    Comparisons
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    ZMF Eikon ($999 USD on ZMF website)
    The key thing to note is the reason why Zach is releasing two headphones at the same time. They are designed to cater to what I feel are two types of listening preferences. The Atticus is for those who want a more rich, dynamic, bassy and musical sound signature. The Eikon is for those who want a more balanced and linear sound while still getting a sense of the ZMF signature “house sound.”
     
    Comparing the two, the Atticus is definitely the more colored, bassy and smooth headphone. Bouncing back and forth makes me appreciate what Zach has done here. Listening to both with the ZOTL, there is an adjustment period when switching between the two. Switching from Atticus to Eikon, the Eikon seems initially crisper and almost shouty in comparison until my ears adjust. Switching from Eikon back to Atticus, the Atticus will seem very bassy and almost dark in comparison until my ears adjust once again. After my ears/brain adjusted, I could appreciate both of them. The difference between the two makes a lot of sense. At the End of the day, it’s a nice variance that prevents listeners from saying neither headphones cater to their listening preference.
     
    Atticus seems to extend and emphasize sub-bass tones more than Eikon. Eikon seems to extend and emphasize upper midrange and treble tones more than Atticus.
     
    Bassy+Warm+Smooth= Atticus
     
    Bold+Responsive+Crisp= Eikon
     
    Build quality and accessories are a draw. Aside from drivers and tuning, they are identical.
     
    ZMF Omni (Bocote) (base model at $899 USD on ZMF website)
    The Omni has held the number one spot on my list for quite some time. I love the bass response, detail and musicality. This combined with an impressive soundstage, I don’t see these things leaving my collection any time soon.
     
    NOTE: One thing I have to mention about this comparison is that my Omni was re-tuned. My Omni has a slightly brighter tonality than stock. Please take this into consideration when doing the comparison.
     
    Comparing the two, I can hear more similarities between the two more than differences. Omni sounds overall a touch more detailed and slightly more responsive lower frequencies. Atticus sounds a little bit thicker in the mid-bass and lower midrange tones. For this reason the Atticus vocals and mid-range tones come across more forward and with more weight than the Omni. Atticus is a touch warmer than my re-tuned Omni. In terms of treble, I prefer the tuning of Atticus. Comparing the two, cymbals and hi-hats along with the pronunciation of the letters S and T sound a little bit artificial with Omni as compared to the Atticus dynamic driver presentation.
     
    In terms of design build quality they are both excellent, but Zach has gone next level with the Atticus/Eikon. You get the same premium materials, but the new design is far improved. The flexibility, and improved headband and roomier cup design makes them easier to wear than the Omni. The mentioned improvement in the accessories package is a big plus.
     
     
    Conclusion
    Zach did more than just release another product, he showed us what he is capable of offering the Hi-Fi community beyond the modded Fostex cans. This isn’t just a first step for him, it’s a vision based off of several years in this hobby. Hard work and tireless experimentation and tweaking has transformed his vision into a reality. It’s the first ZMF original, and I think that’s pretty awesome.
     
    The Atticus is a phenomenally built headphone that sounds damn good. It caters to those who like a warmer and richer sounding headphone while maintaining a nice sense of sparkle. While I don’t think the Atticus is tailored to everyone’s listening preference, it will hit a sweet spot for many.
     
    This is going to be a hard product to rate because I feel it falls into a category aimed to please a particular demographic of audiophiles. The Atticus gets five and a half or six stars for build quality (yes, it’s that good). As far as sound, if what I’ve described in the review is what you prefer, give it four and a half of five stars. If it’s not what you prefer, lower it by a half of a star. I’ll leave the final star rating up to you. Just make sure to check into the ZMF booth and try them out yourself the next time a Head-Fi meet is coming to your area.
     
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    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Aornic
      I should probably clarify my "hype" comment in the likes. I'm using it as the slang term, which means you're excited for something and NOT in the sense that this review is being overblown with its praise. Love the review, really looking forward to hearing these.
      Aornic, Nov 17, 2016
    3. ezekiel77
      Great review. Lol @ dog.
      ezekiel77, Nov 18, 2016
    4. DWbirdseye
      Thanks for confirming my choice: Eikon Padalk.
      DWbirdseye, Nov 18, 2016