ZMF Headphones Omni

Rating:
4.78125/5,
  1. Rhamnetin
    Natural, Engaging, Well Rounded, Expertly Crafted
    Written by Rhamnetin
    Published Jun 15, 2018 at 11:51 PM
    5.0/5,
    Pros - - Overall sound signature is flawless, perfect transitions from bass to mids, mids to treble.
    - World class bass performance. It has it all: extension, texture, detail, impact/slam.
    - Wonderfully engaging, musical, yet linear and accurate mid range. Every voice and instrument sounds authentic.
    - Surprisingly even the treble has no real flaws. No odd peaks or dips anywhere, and I am extremely sensitive to treble performance. Nice airy presence, nice body and realism. Not a headphone many will find fatiguing, yet with enough dynamics and PRaT to make for one of the most fun headphones for rock and rap I have ever heard.
    - Build quality/materials, comfort, and aesthetics. Thankfully uses Audeze LCD type connectors.
    - Optional seahorse case is lovely.
    Cons - This is one of very, very few headphones for which I can't raise any significant complaints.
    The ZMF Ori is a semi-open (85% closed, 15% open according to the website) planar magnetic headphone based on the Fostex T50RP MK3. One common concern I see is, how can a modded $160 headphone compete with the big dogs in the $1,000 price range? The answer: with ease.

    It's one thing to have the biggest driver with the thinnest diaphragms and most powerful magnets in the world, but it's another to tune and voice a headphone. Zach from ZMF has mastered the latter, empowering these modded T50RPs (Blackwood and Ori) to be among the best sounding headphones I have ever listened to. And I have listened to the vast majority of popular flagships, and I own or have owned the following headphones:

    - AKG K7XX
    - Audeze LCD-4
    - Audio Technica ATH-A900X
    - Audio Technica ATH-W1000Z
    - Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro
    - Fostex T50RP MK3
    - HiFiMan HE-560
    - Sennheiser HD 598 Cs
    - Sennheiser HD 6XX
    - Stax SR-007A
    - Stax SR-30
    - ZMF Blackwood

    Only one of those do I rank above the ZMF Ori personally: the Stax SR-007A. That's right, I rank the Ori (and Blackwood) above the Audeze LCD-4. It was actually the Ori that replaced the LCD-4 for me. You can find my review of it on the LCD-4 page here on Head-Fi.

    https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/audeze-lcd-4.20951/reviews

    Other flagships I prefer the Ori to are every Sennheiser (HD 800 / HD 800 S), Beyerdynamic (T1), Focal (Utopia), JPS Labs (Abyss AB-1266). I consider the ZMF Ori's sound to be less technically flawed than all of those. I personally enjoy it more than the HiFiMan HE1000/HE1000v2 as well, but I acknowledge how excellent those headphones are and technically superior.

    But let's not beat that dead horse. My first ZMF headphone was the Blackwood. The Ori was my second. It will not be my last. Both headphones I purchased, blindly I might had (though one can hardly call the Ori a blind purchase when I already had a Blackwood). I rarely make blind headphone purchases, but these were worth every penny and then some. My audio chain is as follows:

    • Breeze DU-U8 Digital Interface (I have also tried this configuration without this)
    • Chord Hugo 2 (tested as just a DAC for the amp below, and also as a standalone DAC/amp)
    • Mjolnir Audio Pure BiPolar
    • Kimber Kable Hero Ultraplate RCA interconnects with Neutrik RCA to XLR adapters
    • Norne Audio Solvine cable (Eidolic rhodium plated XLR) with the Pure BiPolar, ZMF Atmos C cable with Hugo 2.

    Yeah yeah, I didn't list the stock cable. I've tried it plenty with the Blackwood along with the Atmos C, honestly I cannot hear a difference between the two. Perhaps you can, I cannot. I only got the Atmos C because I wanted a 4 foot cable.

    For music genres, I primarily listen to various degrees of rock (e.g. Rage Against the Machine, The Doors, The Neighbourhood), different metal bands (e.g. Firelake, Chantry, Genitorturers), some late 90s and early 2000s rap (mostly Eminem and D12), and occasionally classical music and soundtrack music. I will also specify specific test songs I use for these reviews, and why I use them, later in the review.

    About me: I am 24 years old and I just like music. My upper hearing limit seems to be around 19 KHz, lower limit might be just over 10 Hz considering my results with the Audeze LCD-4 (as good as it gets for headphone bass). I use this website for frequency tests. I maintain strong interest in the DIY community and believe in the work of people like Kevin Gilmore, Birgir Gudjonsson, Pete Millett, and companies like AMB Laboratories and HeadAmp. My favorite headphone reviewer ever is Tyll Hertsens. I believe in the objective and the subjective side to audio, so I don't believe in things like burn-in for electrostatic and planar magnetic drivers. I also firmly believe planar magnetic and especially electrostatic technology perform flat out better than dynamic, when implemented correctly. Both the objective and subjective have me believing that one.

    Build Quality and Comfort

    That's enough of the boring stuff. Now the real reason we are here: the ZMF Ori. It is available in various wood options, you can customize the slider colors and the coin design/color. You can also get a very nice S3 Hardshell case with it for an extra $50.

    [​IMG]
    This is actually the case for my ZMF Blackwood. I didn't need a second for the Ori.
    My Ori has rose copper sliders, inset coin, and most of all the utmost magnificent purpleheart wood. It is one of the most beautiful headphones I've ever witnessed, a true work of art.
    [​IMG]
    Next to the ZMF Blackwood.

    The pads are lambskin leather, thick and very soft. A suspension headband design is thoughtfully utilized by ZMF these days, it is simply the best design as it offloads much of the headphone's weight. This is important for these headphones since they are heavier than most. Planars are generally heavier due to the magnets, and wood is heavier than plastic, so we have a recipe for heft here! Never a problem though since the suspension headband design works perfectly. These headphones also don't have a strong clamp like say the Sennheiser HD 600 series.

    The original T50RP MK3 headband seems to be the top one, with additional material wrapped around it. The inner headband is of ZMF's own design. I'm not sure of the exact material, but it's thick and dense. The headphone makes most others look and feel like toys, and makes me laugh at plasticky > $1,000 models.

    [​IMG]

    Sound Quality

    The overall sound signature of the ZMF Ori is incredibly balanced. It's as forward as most other high end headphones I would say, like those from Audeze and older HiFiMan models. A comparison I like to make is, take the sound of Audeze's LCD lineup, remove the realism-hampering treble recession, and you've got something close to the ZMF Blackwood and Ori sound.

    This is what full bodied sound sounds like. Planars and electrostats can deliver this effortlessly, but it takes a special dynamic headphone to not sound thin in comparison (especially but not only in the bass, but I need to listen to the ZMF Eikon). You will also notice faster, more effortless decay leading to improved transparency with the ZMF Ori over most dynamic headphones. I commented about this in my Blackwood review, decay is even faster and more natural with the Ori due to it being semi open. Though higher end planars like the HiFiMan HE1000, SUSVARA, and Audeze LCD-4 will demonstrate this the best, and elite electrostats (Stax SR-007/SR-009/SR-009S) even better.

    But let's break it down and get more specific:

    Bass
    World class. Extends as deep as any other headphone I've used including the Audeze LCD-4. My hearing is probably the limitation. I can hear the bass response close to 10 Hz in bass sweep tests. Sub-bass that a dynamic headphone can only dream of. The bass slam of the Ori includes the sub-bass as well, so you don't just hear mid-bass slamming like most "basshead" headphones, but the real deal. Breathtaking texture, transparency, and realism. Percussion sounds as if it is right there and you can reach out and feel it. Note that my Pure BiPolar amp improves bass considerably, in every way versus say a Schiit Lyr 3 with any tube (since I have the Lyr 3 on hand along with most beloved 6SN7 tubes).

    The amount of bass impact is substantial when called for. It can rumble your dome, but doesn't try to force this in every song. It is just a very natural bass presentation that only a planar can do. The Ori (like the Blackwood) has harder bass slam than the vast majority of high end headphones, even among planars. I have listened to it side by side with the Audeze LCD-4 out of my Pure BiPolar balanced amplifier, and the Ori's bass is still respectable, thoroughly enjoyable, and breathtaking even next to the LCD-4. Yeah, the LCD-4's bass is even better (the best), but it doesn't outright crush the ZMF Ori (nor the Blackwood).

    Compared to the Blackwood with one bass port sealed, there is a bit more mid-bass presence and seemingly more effortless detail retrieval. I believe this is all simply due to the Ori being semi-open while the Blackwood is fully sealed. I haven't thoroughly compared the Ori to any other Blackwood bass port configurations, but you can read my bass port configuration comparisons in my Blackwood review. With all bass ports open, the Blackwood bass is looser and less controlled but mid-bass presence will be closer to the Ori.

    I no longer have the HiFiMan HE-560 on hand, but the ZMF Blackwood's bass outperformed it handily. Deeper extension, much better body and impact.

    Bass to mids integration on the Ori is flawless. The mids are not at all drowned out by the bass, this is a high performance headphone not Beats after all.

    Mids
    The Ori's mids invite you in and keep you engaged throughout. Very linear, again an overall forward presentation. Vocals stand out even more than the Blackwood, supremely detailed and transparent! Sounds like you are in the recording studio with them.

    One of my favorite songs to test is Sledgehammer (from one of the modern Star Trek movie soundtracks apparently). Rihanna's voice in that song sounds harsh and strident and artificial on probably > 95% of headphone systems. Even on the Sennheiser HD 6XX which is supposed to be laid back and never fatiguing (it is more laid back, just has some problems in the upper mids apparently). Slightly on the HiFiMan HE-560 too (less so than the HD 6XX). Not at all harsh or strident on the Audeze LCD-4 but that has its own issue thanks to the 4-8 KHz dips causing some odd immersion breaking recession (detailed in my review of it, which is here on Head-Fi). But the ZMF Ori nails it, like the Blackwood but with a more open sound and the other differences I've been describing. This is my favorite test song, if a headphone/speaker fails it then I don't want it.

    Furthermore, every instrument sounds authentic, which means a lot to me since I absolutely hate unnatural instrument portrayal. Not the most detailed sound for non-percussion instruments; the Sennheiser HD 6XX has more detailed string instruments and more detailed/transparent pianos, but they are all authentic and enjoyable nonetheless.

    Compared to the Blackwood, the biggest differences in the mids are again due to the Ori being semi-open, making for a generally "airier" sound due to there being less reverberations. It can make some details more obvious and natural on the Ori, most notably vocals and then string instruments.

    Transition between upper mids and treble is flawless to my ears, something the aforementioned Sledgehammer song really tests well.

    Treble
    This is where most headphones fall apart. The unmodded Fostex T50RP MK3 falls apart here (and in the sub-bass region like a dynamic headphone). But not the ZMF Ori, likewise not the Blackwood. I still don't understand how Zach from ZMF transforms stock T50RP MK3 treble into this. Keep your "it's just a modded T50" generalizations at the door. The ZMF Ori has better treble than the vast majority of non-electrostatic headphones.

    The treble is linear with no odd peaks or dips to my ears and zero graininess. It doesn't have a forward aggressive character, nor is it as laid back as my Sennheiser HD 6XX, leading to excellent PRaT and tons of fun for rock and rap. Zero sibilance, never fatiguing (and for those who care, remember I typically use a Norne Audio Solvine cable which has lots of silver content), doesn't sound excessively thin like a lot of headphones. A nice airy sound with surprisingly impressive detail retrieval! The difference aerodynamics make (thinking of the Blackwood as I type this part). The airier sound makes this headphone much, much better than the Blackwood for classical music.

    The treble remains polite yet fun for dynamic music, as I said I listen to lots of rock including some of the heaviest, also metal and rap. The ZMF Ori (and Blackwood) are some of the most "fun" headphones for me, without the awful mid-range recession and brightness typically associated with "fun" headphones (I hate V-Shaped sound). The bass performance of the Ori and Blackwood are obviously major contributors, but so is the treble.

    Something about the presence region causes the Ori to be the "sweetest" sounding headphone I have heard. More so than the Blackwood, I guess the semi-open nature reveals this more. Maybe it's a coloration, but everything sounds natural and effortless to me, and that sweet sound is incredibly engaging. Note my Pure BiPolar amp makes treble noticeably more clear and transparent.

    Sound Stage and Imaging
    Again, being semi-open helps a lot versus fully closed. Layering of instrument separation is better than the Blackwood, also note the balanced Pure BiPolar amplifier adds noticeable improvement here.

    As with the Blackwood, I can't believe how precise the imaging is for what began life as a Fostex T50RP MK3. I don't need better imaging than this from a headphone. Sound stage is again presented in an overall forward manner but has noticeable depth and width, just a bit more open sounding with more effortless expansion of sound than the Blackwood but nothing overlaps when it shouldn't on either headphone. It images more precisely than the Sennheiser HD 6XX and HiFiMan HE-560 for reference.

    Isolation and Sound Leakage
    The ZMF Ori impresses me here too. It is 85% closed, 15% open. That 15% open makes for large improvements in sound, while the 85% closed still seems like 100% closed to me. I seem just as isolated from the environment compared to wearing my Blackwood, any difference here is negligible. Same for sound leakage - negligible difference. Looks like I don't require fully closed back after all.

    Amplifier Pairing
    The ZMF Ori still sounds great just out of a Chord Mojo, it's not like it becomes a totally different headphone. But you will lose a significant amount of impact, layering/instrument separation, and treble smoothness and clarity versus a top of the line setup.

    The Chord Hugo 2 alone sounds exactly the same to me as the Chord Hugo 2 + the Schiit Lyr 3 with both the ZMF Ori and ZMF Blackwood, to my ears. The Hugo 2 is a beast. But, compared to my Pure BiPolar, it is still missing a dimension of layering/spacing throughout the entire frequency spectrum, treble is noticeably less transparent, bass doesn't hit as hard and the Pure BiPolar introduces even more body to the bass (not that it sounds lean out of the Hugo 2 though).

    [​IMG]

    So the ZMF Ori (and Blackwood) really scale well with top of the line gear. The Pure BiPolar amp (Super Symmetry Dynalo Mk2) and its sibling the HeadAmp GS-X Mk2 are perhaps the best amplifiers for 50 ohm planars such as these. It copes with the load effortlessly and, much to my surprise, elevates it to a higher tier. I thought the Schiit Lyr 3 or a single ended Dynalo with a good power supply would be the end of the road for any Fostex T50RP, but I was wrong. Yes, I underestimated ZMF too.

    Conclusion
    I've cycled through so many headphones over the years. I don't foresee the ZMF Ori ever leaving my collection. It sounds too good, too well rounded, and on top of that it is such a marvelous piece of equipment. A beauty to behold, a work of art. The ZMF Blackwood will also remain in my collection, both for airplane use (and maybe road trips) and nostalgia. I have a soft spot for wooden headphones I admit, but even then they have to be excellent sounding for me to keep them!

    At the end of the day, I listen to the ZMF Ori for hours at a time with no physical or auditory fatigue. It is difficult to put down due to its uniquely engaging sound presentation. A very rare blend of excellent sound in all frequencies for all genres, excellent comfort, outstanding build quality and gorgeous aesthetics.
  2. Cinder
    Semi Open, All Entertaining
    Written by Cinder
    Published Nov 24, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Warm and exciting sound signature, resolving but not fatiguing treble, excellent build quality, top-notch service from ZMF
    Cons - Heavy, potential comfort issues for people with small heads

    1E973mxztnddMaWnBQjO7vQ.jpg

     

    ZMF Omni Review: Semi Open, All Entertaining

    This is the second ZMF planar headphone I’ve had the pleasure of auditioning. I was blown away with the sheer price-to-performance ratio of ZMF’s more tame headphone, the ZMF x Vibro Mk. II. Designed and hand-built by Zach Melbrach in Chicago, you can rest easy knowing one of the best sets of ears in business is responsible for your investment. However, does the law of diminishing returns hurt the value of the Omni, especially given the fact that the drivers are still from the T50rp Mk. III?
    You can find the Omni here starting at $899.
    Disclaimer: This review is based upon a loaner unit provided to me by ZMF in exchange for my honest opinion and un-edited words. I do not profit in any wayfrom the writing of the review. I would like to thank Zach for giving me this opportunity.
    Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.
    My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.
    Source: The Omni was powered like so:
    PC Optical out -> HifiMe 9018 SPDIF -> 3.5mm out -> 3.5mm to 1/4in adapter -> headphones
    Hidizs AP100 3.5mm out -> FiiO A5 (high gain) 3.5mm out -> 3.5mm to 1/4inch adapter -> headphones
    Standard 3.5mm out from both my Nexus 6P and HTC One M8 was inadequate to drive the Omni.

    Sound Signature

    Initial Impressions:
    The Omni certainly exemplifies the essence of the ZMF house sound: smooth and warm, yet still articulate. The mids are well pronounced, but are behind the mid bass a bit. Treble is balanced well with the mids, and extends pretty far up. Bass extends well into the 20Hz-50Hz range.
    Treble: Songs used: White FlagMidnight CityOutlands
    While many say that the Omni’s best feature sound-wise is the bass, I disagree. I find the treble to be the most impressive and well-tuned part of the sound signature. Allow me to explain. Firstly, the Omni is a warm earphone, through and through. However, Zach managed to maintain treble presence at all times, keep it dynamic and active within the mix, and smoothed it out, making it one of the least fatiguing earphones I’ve heard to date. This really shows itself in Midnight City, a song that makes heavy use of contrasting treble effects and deep bass lines. The treble effects had a hard edge to them without feeling sharp, which is indicative of a very healthy attack and decay in the treble.
    The treble kicked it up a notch in Outlands, becoming very expressive. I was simply blown away by the idea that the headphones I was listening to started out as a pair of plain old T50rps! I could pick out many more details within the violins, hearing the subtle differences in tonality between the various sections of the performers.
    Mids: Songs used: Flagpole SittaJacked UpI Am The HighwayDreams
    For a warm earphone, the Omni does a great job portraying dry instruments like the drums within Flagpole Sitta. Furthermore, the Omni did a great job with instrumental separation and placement. The guitars had an electric crunch to them, the vocals sounded realistic and full-bodied, and the drums had a good “pop” to them.
    The pianos of Jacked Up had a good hardness to them, and sounded quite realistic in presentation, as the Omni managed to capture and display even the internal resonance of each piano within the mix, a feat I consider to be incredibly impressive. Needless to say, these headphones are the first ones I’ve tested that allowed me to hear the details within this song so clearly. There’s so much going on, and it really feels like the Omni is drawing you into the music. The bass guitar, lead guitar, rythm guitar, three vocalists, two pianos, and drums all resolve damn near perfectly. The guitar feedback is what really got me though. As a guitarist myself, I was shocked at how real it sounded through the Omni.
    The vocals of I Am The Highway were truly impressive. While still commanding of the song, they didn’t wash away any of the other instruments that happened to cohabitate their slice of the frequency response. They were clear but not hard on the ears. Most importantly, the vocals had a good timbre and presentation to them. While a bit warmer and thicker than I think is natural, it is charming in its own way.
    Bass: Songs used: Lights(Bassnectar Remix)Gold DustIn For The Kill (Skream Remix)Leave Me
    I won’t lie: while Lights was definitely a fun listen, it really lacked the rumble I was hungry for. All the sound was there, but it just didn’t shake my head the way I generally want. But you know what? That’s fine, because if this is the sacrifice that needs to be made in order to maintain the level of fidelity the Omni currently has, then in my books, it is a sacrifice well worth its weight in gold.
    Speaking of gold, Gold Dust makes use of much more mid-bass than Lights does, and thusly had a decent amount of impact. Bass was tight and well-defined, but again, lacked rumble.
    Bass clarity and mobility is pretty good, allowing for songs like In For The Kill to make use of complex bass and sub-bass lines without muddying up the lower register. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I did miss the rumble I’d get out of my 99 Classics.
    Clarity: Songs used: ThroneMap of The ProblimatiqueI’m Not Alright
    Clarity is top notch, with no distortion at all across any of my test songs. Throne was presented smoothly, with only a small amount of missing detail in the upper register. I’m Not Alright also performed well, with the Omni being able to render almost all of the song, missing out on only a couple micro-details.

    Packaging / Unboxing

    I did not get any packaging, as this Omni is Zach’s showroom unit. It was shipped to me in a plain seahorse case, which is built like a frigging tank. If you do choose to buy an Omni, get the case. The peace of mind you get with it is well worth the extra charge.

    Build

    Construction Quality
    For a headphone that started out as a paltry T50rp, the Omni is certainly a thing to behold. Even this showroom unit, which has undoubtedly gone through a lot of handling, you can barely notice it’s extensive use. Everything from the head-band to the hand-stained wooden ear-cups of the Omni oozes premium, and you can easily tell that these are things that were built by caring hands.
    IMG_1610.jpg

     
    IMG_1615.jpg
     ​
    IMG_1618.jpg
     ​
    IMG_1621.jpg
     ​
    The cables are also pretty nice, and fit snugly into the Omni. They detach quickly and easily, but never by accident.
    Comfort
    The Omni is very heavy but is not uncomfortable on the head due to ZMF’s great headband and earpads. The only point of contention I had was on my first three hour listening session where my neck began to hurt a bit. However, after another day or so I did not notice any more discomfort, no matter the duration of my listening session. People with smaller heads will certainly have issues maintaining a snug fit though. While better than the Vibro Mk. II in terms of clamping power, I still found the Omni quite easy to dislodge from my head with semi-normal movement. Thusly, I find the Omni to be great for still listening-sessions, but less than ideal for any on-the-go listening.

    Summary

    The Omni is an homage to Zach’s dedication to his craft. For $899 you get to customize the Omni to look exactly how you want, with a sound that you are pretty much guaranteed to enjoy. However, I am still a little unsure about spending so much on a modded T50rp, built by Zach or not. The quality of the build is undeniably good, but I can’t help but think that these drivers are certainly holding the Omni back. If Zach could introduce a dynamic headphone at this price-point with similar tuning, I’d recommend it in a heart-beat. Congratulations on building such a great headphone though Zach.
    Once again, I’d like to thank Zach at ZMF for lending a pair the Omni for this review.
      DoctaCosmos and B9Scrambler like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. DoctaCosmos
      Great review. Sounds like you've really had some time listening to good gear and can really pick apart what you're hearing.
      DoctaCosmos, Nov 24, 2016
    3. joeq70
      @Cinder No intention of stating an argument here, but if you didn't hook the Omni up to it using speaker taps, then that amp was probably inadequate as well. Not because the Omni needs hundreds of watts, but because speaker amps/receivers often have cheap, weak opamp based headphone amps. Probably sounded worse than the A5. But I don't know anything about the Sherwood unit, so I can't really speak to it with any certainty. 
      joeq70, Nov 26, 2016
    4. Cinder
      @joeq70 It was not hooked up to speaker taps. It was plugged directly into a 1/4 inch out. This particular unit was quite expensive when it was on sale, so I don't believe that it will sounds any worse than the A5. In fact, after listening, I didn't really get too much of a different experience when A/B-ing between the A5 and the Sherwood. 
      Cinder, Nov 26, 2016
  3. SoundApprentice
    The Omni makes you privy to a sweet, full-bodied powerful performance time and time again.
    Written by SoundApprentice
    Published Oct 1, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Best bass in the business, intimate mids, lush
    Cons - Weight and rolled off treble won't suit everyone
    _DML5453.jpg
     
    Omni. From Latin origin it means something like “all, every, of all things, the whole.” To date, The Omni is the whole of ZMF Headphones. It’s the flagship offering; it’s the pinnacle of what Founder Zach Mehrbach’s constant tweaking and dissecting of a headphone in every way can yield.

    At ZMF Headphones, every headphone is assembled by hand, tweaked, tuned and sent out by Mehrbach, a painstaking process I’ve been privy to see firsthand on several occasions. In full disclosure, I first met fellow Chicago local Mehrbach some years back as a disappoint ZMF x Vibro owner. I had mentioned some complaints on a popular headphone forum, and, in standard ZMF customer service fashion, Mehrbach was quick to personally message me about my issues and offer a solution. He takes his products seriously, he stands behind them, and he is simply a stand up guy. This has led to a true audio acquaintanceship between us. I’ve seen the inner workings of ZMF Headphones. I’ve been invited to demo and critique countless prototypes. And, I’ve been able to see the culmination of Mehrbach’s work result in some truly fine products that headphone enthusiasts around the world enjoy. So when Mehrbach offered me the opportunity to do a long-term review of The Omni, I was happy to welcome them into my home listening room.

    The Omni is the result of years of fiddling, research and design between ZMF Headphones and Vibro Labs. Like the ZMF x Vibro (see my coverage), The Omni is built around the latest generation of Fostex’s T50RP driver and cannibalizes some of its suspension parts. The Omni, however, uses an all-new, semi-open, 100-percent wood cup that’s hand finished in-house. And, true to its name, The Omni aims squarely at doing everything well. ZMF Headphones has always been about customization, so there are eight different woods to choose from—all of which have their own subtle personalities—a couple of headband, slider and emblem options, and various cables to choose from that make each order unique to its prospective owner.

    My review unit uses ZMF Headphones’ own angled leather pads (these fit on many headphones, and I highly recommend them), African Blackwood cups, pilot pad headband, and DHC copper litz balanced cable. The African Blackwood did wonders for the ZMF x Vibro. It’s a beautiful and very dense wood that leans to the dark side while still being fast and resolving, so does it do the same for The Omni?

    First Listen

    Smooth. Powerful. These were the first two words I could think of to describe The Omni when I queued up Moderat’s track “Bad Kingdom” for my first listening test. The sub-bass and overall bass extension is literally some of the best in the business. I’ve owned premium headphones from Audeze, Beyerdynamic, Hifiman, Fostex and Sennheiser, and no other has come close to producing the feeling of the SPLs hitting my ear drums like The Omni. The bass is thick and rich; it oozes like honey, but it’s not slow like molasses. It simply hits hard and fast and leaves its impact on you. If you’re a basshead, The Omni is to die for. The textured bass in “Bad Kingdom” is heavy and complex, it can make or break a headphone for me, and it makes The Omni. 

    Despite the bass being the clear dominator in The Omni’s sound signature, there’s no muddiness, it’s not boomy, and somehow it refrains from sounding closed in. You’d think that The Omni’s mostly closed-back (semi-open) design and emphasis would crush its soundstage, but its atmosphere extends surprisingly well to what seems like a few inches beyond the headphone. I’d say The Omni’s dimensional soundstage is somewhat comparable to that of the Fostex TH-600, which I think extends very well for a closed-back headphone, and the Sennheiser HD650, which has a more intimate soundstage despite its fully open-back design. 

    Intimate is also what you get as The Omni’s oomphy basslines blend into its smooth midrange. The Omni won’t let you Flea the prominent basslines (get it, get it?) in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album title track “The Getaway” or hit “Dark Necessities,” but Anthony Kiedis remains front and center with his smooth vocal tones. Tom Toms and guitars are projected well with full-bodied resonance and twang. For jazz tracks, like Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra’s "Ode to the Big Sea," The Omni sings out with a full, sweet sound that’s smooth on the senses. 

    The one sense you may feel from time to time is that you’ve lost some sizzle in your sound. The Omni is notably dark compared to many hi-fi headphones. While the treble it has extends well and captures enough resolve, it’s the treble that it doesn’t have that you may miss from time to time. As the treble smoothly drops off, The Omni loses some sense of space and instrument separation as well, but at the same time it works wonders for taming the unruly treble that’s become all too common in modern music. The Omni truly offers a reprieve from the loudness war; it’s a savior of ****ty rock recordings that are too sizzle and sibilant happy. 

    Sibilance is something you’ll never have to worry about with The Omni. Its relaxed tonal balancing favors those looking for enveloping bass and mids. What The Omni does, it does well. But how does it stack up to some of the competition?

    Quick Comparisons

    The Omni’s place in the market falls somewhere between the likes of Audeze’s LCD line and the ever-popular Sennheiser HD650. In comparison to the Audeze LCD-X, which has been my reference headphone for quite a while now, The Omni makes the LCD-X sound bright. This was a startling surprise for me. In general, Audeze LCD headphones are lush and dark, even the more balanced X. While The Omni and LCD-X share similar traits in being bass and midrange masters, I feel that The Omni has far greater bass emphasis. It hits harder and deeper, but feels less controlled. Throughout the mids, the X seems to pull out more details and textures, especially on jazz tracks where it easily bests The Omni in instrument separation, placement and clarity. The highs are where these two headphones diverge even further. Both have notably rolled off treble, but The Omni sounds even more rolled back because of its strong bass emphasis, as if it completely glances over the treble. Here the X pulls ahead again, offering better detail retrieval and more edginess on cymbals, strings and horns. It’s important to note that these are observations while switching back and forth on single tracks. While listening to one or the other for an extended time, your ears become accustomed to the sonic signature, so the differences become less apparent and you can simply enjoy the music. And I assure you that both of these recreate music very well. While both are heavy headphones, I’d say they’re about equal in comfort. I think the ZMF pads are actually plusher than Audeze’s, but I don’t get the same hotspot on the top of my head while wearing the X. Your results may vary. Both share the same cable terminations, so if you have an LCD model, you can use your cable on The Omni, which is nice if you have custom cables. 

    I feel like Sennheiser HD650 or Fostex TH-600 owners may look to The Omni as their next step in the pursuit of Audio Nirvana. The biggest consideration among these three is the sonic signature that you favor. The HD650 is a classic—it has a very analog and intimate sound with an enhanced upper bass and midrange that is often described as being “romantic.” The HD650 and The Omni flat out sound very different. The Omni across the board is far smoother, exhibiting none of the grain or edge that the HD650 has. The Omni’s bass is deeper, smoother and more impactful. Like the HD650, The Omni offers rich mids, but they are tonally different. Here again, The Omni is smooth and effortless whereas the HD650 pushes vocalists right into your face. As for the treble, the HD650 has some grit to it, it can be sibilant at times, and it doesn’t tame poor recordings. Well, The Omni, as you know, is the opposite of all of that. With either headphone you will experience an intimate and enjoyable performance. The Omni does everything better to my ears, but the presentation is also very different. The HD650 is supremely comfortable and is easier to amp in my experience. But if you have an amp that will drive The Omni well, it’s definitely worth giving your Sennheisers a run for their money.

    I mention the Fostex TH-600 because it’s a staple for bassheads and Massdrop’s collaboration models have expanded its popularity. Without question, The Omni hits harder, deeper, cleaner and more controlled. The TH-600 is very U-shaped in its sonic signature, meaning there’s bass and treble and the mids get left behind. The Omni excels at transitioning from bass to mids and delivering all of their lushness to your ears. You’ll gain a lot of musical body by upgrading to The Omni without sacrificing the bass you love. You’ll simply get better bass, better mids and, oh yeah, better treble. The TH-600 has sibilant and grainy treble. The Omni knows better. I listen to a lot of electronic, downtempo and EDM music; the TH-600 was a fav of mine here, but The Omni takes the cake now. Again the TH-600 is a very comfortable and lightweight headphone compared to The Omni, but the sonic improvements are worth experiencing. The Omni and TH-600 have similar reach and dimensionality in the soundstage to my ears, but still The Omni edges out the TH-600 in the end. 

    The Caveats

    Power and pleasure. What I mean by that is that The Omni craves power and, depending on your penchant for heavy headphones, may or may not be a pleasure to wear. 

    The Omni isn’t quite as current-craving as the notable Hifiman HE-6, but it most definitely needs power to perform best. On my Eddie Current Balancing Act, I typically listen to my Audeze LCD-X and Sennheiser HD650 around the 10 o’clock mark on the volume dial; The Omni had me cranking it up to about Noon-thirty or one o’clock to make them sing. I also have the powerful Hifiman EF-6 class-A solid state headphone amp, and The Omni required the dial to reach about 11 o’clock for comfortable listening. In my experience, both The Omni and ZMF x Vibro mate best with tube amps. There’s just something about the synergy there that takes the performance to a more holographic level. 

    About that pleasure factor. The Omni and its plush leather pads wrap your ears and smother them like a warm blanket—in other words, very comfy. They do a great job at supporting these beauties that weigh in at 568 grams. In comparison, the HD650 weighs a mere 263 grams and the clunky LCD-X weighs 618 grams. My one issue is really with the headband; even with the pilot pad I get a large hotspot on the top of my head. It’s worth mentioning that my small head may not be best for weight distribution, and the headband can be bent into different positions (carefully), but I simply made due. Of course, the leather suspension strapped headband is also an option to consider. 

    These two caveats aside, The Omni has little else to detract from it.

    Final Word

    It goes without saying that The Omni in African Blackwood is a dark headphone, and dark is beautiful to my ears. The Omni delivers on its promise to be dense and resolving. The bass is tight and powerful. The mids are smooth, lush and intimate. The treble, while relaxed remains resolving to a hi-fi degree. The Omni will not be all things to all people as its namesake implies. But, in all, The Omni makes you privy to a sweet, full-bodied powerful performance time and time again. Figure that one out.
    1. jinxy245
      Nice review, mate. The comparisons put it in good perspective.
      jinxy245, Oct 17, 2016
    2. SoundApprentice
      SoundApprentice, Oct 17, 2016
  4. WhiskeyJacks
    Best headphone I have experienced in the 1k market.
    Written by WhiskeyJacks
    Published May 16, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Tonality, space, separation, resolution, details, engaging, well balanced, accurate, comfortable.
    Cons - Heavy, expensive( but good value in comparison), hard to hear around me(semi open not open)
    So,  I have been waiting in anticipation to write and  produce  this review on the TOTL semi open planar magnetic headphone  from ZMF Headphones. Now, to be straight-forward and to avoid at times annoying and aggravating suspense for those just wondering if the headphones are worth the marketed price and or if they are a value… To these ears? Most definitely, absolutely, and resounding Yes. I have owned many entry level to mid tier headphones the most expensive being the He-560(grill/pad/cable modded), but the ZMF Omni is my personal favorite in terms of quality, signature, and frequency response. For those that just this information matters you do not need to read further, and for those who like the know the details, experiences, and time that led to this opinion I hope you get something of value from this review.
     
    Some info before we start… Zach started messing around with the modding of T50rp drivers around 2010, and originally had started for his own private listening and wasn’t until 2011 where selling them had begun. He has been passionate about music for a long time prior and even was involved with building acoustic guitars and the like before ZMF was established. I do know he tunes this headphone to his own preferences to sound musical, natural, with a good tonality, and aspiring to bring that music home for him(These are my words from what i gathered from talking with Zach via email, so don’t quote me, heh.). As a fellow music lover and another who wants that natural feel to the music as much as possible this lead me through a series of corresponses with Zach, who has been an exceptional person to talk with, get to know, and buy from. I first found out about them via head-fi and the ZMF Vibro Mk1 which was based on Zach’s tuning and teaming up with Vibro Labs in regards to the wood design and craft. Now the wood is crafted and finished at Vibro Labs as to make sure everything is as perfect as it can be and then delivered to Zach for installation, assembly, along with tuning.

    Picture30.jpg Picture29.jpg
     
     
     
    We will start with build, comfort, and form/function. The ZMF Omni, as much as I would LOVE it is most definitely a not a portable headphone. It is a full size, semi open, wired headphone. For those who did not know or have not yet researched much on this headphone it is using custom made wooden ear cups along with Zach’s own tuning of the modded t50rp mk2 drivers. Which From what i have read the two T50rp mk2 is in itself a better version of the original T50rp(which both are a planar magnetic driver). It is a solid headphone with the wooden earcups(different variety to choose from) replacement pads from ZMF( which are angled and come in lambskin leather, cowhide, and protein pads. Better depth, comfort, and width than original pads.) Also, the option other either a aftermarket pilot pad for extra padding and comfort can be added or what I used being a leather strap to disburse weight more evenly and increase comfort. An issues for some with these headphones may be weight, now I have strong neck and shoulder muscles but someone who didn’t or were use to light headphones may have a problem with the weight for longer sitting periods. This isn’t to say the headphone is uncomfortable to me, because it is very comfortable just shy as comfortable as my HE-560 which is saying a lot for a heavier headphone.  Now one of the most notable things about this headphone line up with the different pads and bands, and the different wood types and finishes is that it is one of the most aesthetically pleasing headphones to own. I mean from my point of of view here, the wood is done with care care and assembled again by Zach with attention to detail because he is a lover both music and headphones.
     
    As far as I am concerned for a semi open headphone in the sub 1k range I do not feel like this headphone has any real weaknesses, I find it to be very balanced, and one of the most detailed headphones using the T50rp drivers. There is fantastic tone and signature that i have truly come to love and I will break that down a bit more in the descriptions and some comparisons below:

     
    The Omni is Zach’s latest headphone creation, and as such it is also his highest end model in terms of both sonic quality and pricing. From being a previous owner of the Vibros that were released I would agree that the Omni out performs and with diminishing returns in mind is a better overall headphone as far sound quality.
     
    Where some other headphones that have been released in the past may focus in one or two particular areas where they truly shine and out perform others at the expense or trade off of the other qualities of the headphone, the Omni is extremely well balanced across the frequencies, both depth and width of staging and separation, tonality and or timbre, it is very detailed but not specifically focus on details where it perhaps sounds a little forced or loses a naturalness that some headphones are lacking.   It exceeds in a natural detail that is present and defined, along with a separation and space that is truly impressive for only semi open. I instantly took a liking to the headphones when first trying them but had been using the Hifiman He-560’s for a long while up until this point and was not sure which headphone I would consider ideal(for me) in the long haul. So best way I can talk about the different frequencies would be to go over certain tracks and critical listening I did with the Omnis, and hopefully this will lead those who are interested in experiencing these headphones to a better consensus if this is suited to your tastes. I will not put every track and or album I listened to down with contrasts and experiences only because that be overly long and in some cases redundant. Instead i will put perhaps the tracks and artists that had the biggest effect on me while listening to these headphones.
     
     
    Picture28.jpg
     
     
    Rush 2112-Farewell to Kings-Moving pictures
     
    I will be frank I got into a pretty big prog rock trip for the past 6 months, now I was listening to these albums mastered in 32 bit 192khz format, and they sounded insanely awesome. Like totally just dazed and sucked into the music with the Audio GD-28 paired with my modded He-560s.. And though I know there are other more expensive and technically better headphones out there I didn’t think I would really enjoy it more than I was. Then came the ZMF Omni’s with a feast of musical deliciousness that just sucked me into all albums whether classic favorites or delving into new material. Space and definition for a semi open headphone, around the same asking price as the new He-560, was just truly addicting on tracks classic’s like Tom Sawyer the intro would give me goosebumps from how well everything is spaced, placed and detailed. It is done so with a natural approach where I get lost into the music and know the details are there and they are definitely audible, but I am no longer focused on them. Lowend has good prat and weight, perhaps not as much as my vibros(being a closed headphone) but I can not promise that since it has been a long while since i listened to them. But it does extend further than the vibros and I feel it sounds more realistic than the He-560s due to having some more weight with the notes if that makes sense.  Mid range is  usually my favorite area for music, I listened on and found that the clarity to be at the very least on par with the 560s but with more presence and emotion(  I know not a real term but this is anything but objective so deal) I felt more like I was listening to a live singer and performer with the Omni’s. The guitar lines in Red Barchetta were so captivating I would relisten to the track multiple times to just see if it was perhaps just hype on my end. Each of these three albums have never sounded so complete to me between the hi-res format and the Omni to lay it all out for me... I was in truly content.
     
    Adele 25
     
    First and foremost Water under the Bridge and River Lea are probably my favorite and most listened to tracks while using the Omnis. Adele has a fantastic voice and well written lyrics, and so with that it is easy for me to enjoy the majority of the songs she has come out with the past few years. I am very happy to say the Omni performs beautifully with this album. Every instrument is so well placed where it envelopes you with her vocals up front and center it was the closest I have come to a live performance with a headphone.
    The thing i found most amusing is I prefer open headphones from all my previous experiences but when listening to music by Adele I never felt like I prefer the openness of the He-560 over the Omni. The He-560 being a fully open headphone with the grill mod included is more spacious and ethereal than the Omni’s but the resolution and depth along with the separation never made me reach for the 560’s with Adele.
     
    Florence + the Machine
     
    Scottish heartthrob of mine, don’t tell the wife, is a fantastic enchantress of vocalist… she mesmerizes me and I have never been happier listening to her from at home than with these headphones. I feel like the more I listened to her albums from her earlier Lungs album to her more recent How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful the impact her music had on me was something kind of gives me goosebumps. With  the low end of songs like Rabbit Heart with just enough slam and extension to hit the lower notes made the song for me. The piano and vocals throughout the refrain is where the goosebumps set in.
     
    Ramin Djawadi- Game of Thrones: Season 3
     
    I wanted to add this into the review as one of the ones I talked about because it is instrumental and the soundtrack for game of thrones.  Normally for instrumental I have come to prefer and enjoy open headphones usually for the width and separation they can provide. Now this is where the He-560 and Omni come closer together in comparison as far as my tastes and musical preferences are concerned. Both give good width and clarity, and though the He-560 sounds less surround than the Omnis it has an ethereal quality about them that makes listening to these soundtracks and scores a fantastic thing. Overall though, I would say the Omni is preferred in the long haul for the depth and surround staging it brings to the album. It does very well at not sound claustrophobic for not being a fully open headphone.  Also the slam the drums in Dracarys delivered makes the song feel  more natural as I imagined it was suppose to be portrayed.  
     
    There a dozens of albums I could add in if I had more to write about but I do not feel it would add much more to the discussion and I have only so many words I can use to describe what I hear and feel when listening to a headphone when writing. Some of the others I used in my experiencing, rating, and then loving the Omni’s are such:
    Ben Folds Discography
    Hans Zimmer soundtracks
    Aesop Rock Discography
    At the Drive-In
    Sufjan Stevens Discography
    Jeremy Soule
    Mars Volta
    Iron and Wine
    Howard Shore
    Gorillaz
    Gnarls Barkley
    Yes
    Fleetwood Mac
    Smashing Pumpkins
    My Bloody Valentine
    David Bowie
    The Cure
    Coldplay
    Radiohead Discography
    Counting Crows- August and Everything After
    Coheed and Cambria
    Metallica
    Queen
    And others...
     
    For those of you interested in the frequency response measurements this was provided by Listeninc sourced by Zach.
    ZMFOmniLISTENFR.jpg
    Picture31.jpg
     
     
    I will say that is something I absolutely love out this headphone is that it brought excitement back into my listening. Before I listened to them the He-560 had been my go to headphone for a long time and I had no interest to buy anything new without dropping 2 -3 times the price of the He-560. Well, I was wrong because the amount of time I have put trying old and new albums with the Omni’s should be a testament to the impact it has had on my audio life. I mean that with all the sincerity I can muster, I am not saying this jumps better than the HE-560 because it isn’t in terms of sound quality. It is mostly set with a different aspect and signature. I would say if you want one of the most enjoyable well balanced headphones out there right now I don’t feel like many would be disappointed by the Omnis. I know I have not been in the slightest, I feel reawakened to my music and the listening experiencing. Not critiquing and breaking apart the music the whole time, but truly listening and finding meaning with each artist, each album, each track, and each chorus.
     
    On the Omni page there is a line written "a true heirloom built just for you.", to be as short about it as I can. That is exactly what this headphone is to me, and heirloom from sonic quality, build, and aesthetics...something I would want to pass down.
      volly likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Wyd4
      @BloodyPenguin ... Well played sir.  Well played.

      Thanks for the review, it is exactly what I was expecting from a sonic pov.  These are definitely on my "when I am no longer poor" list.
       
      Can't wait to try them,
      Wyd4, May 19, 2016
    3. Girlfrombrasil
      "A true heirloom built just for you."-yes they are!I own a Zmf in Bocote wood and it's simply stunning!
      Girlfrombrasil, Jun 16, 2016
    4. bunnynamedfrank
      very enjoyable read. do to how you articulate your thoughts and our similar music taste helps me fully understand where you are coming from. I can relate to your thoughts on the 560 versus the Omni... I own the AKG K712 and recently got to demo the 560, which feels like a smart upgrade choice to those who like to analyze... but I am beyond tired of analyzing music and want to start enjoying it! Listening to the Vibro was a breath of fresh air for me, and wanted to know how much better and different the Omni could be. The review helps a lot.
      bunnynamedfrank, Jun 20, 2016
  5. Schopenhauer
    ZMF Omni: A Comparative Review
    Written by Schopenhauer
    Published May 10, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Soundstaging and imaging are first-rate for a semi-open/-closed headphone. Top notch bass impact/slam and extension.
    Cons - I have the sense of a slight recession in the mids.
    Following impressions are based on listening with the GO450 as DAC, Leckerton UHA-6S.MkII as amp (high-gain implemented), and Spotify in offline mode as source since I’m currently without internet at my place. Because the UHA-6S.MkII served as my amp, I used the single-ended stock cable that came with the Omni. While the stock balanced cable would’ve worked with my EF-6, I’ve already packed that up so I can list it in the classifieds. The UHA-6S.MkII is my current reference amp for a reason. I prefer it to the EF-6 on several counts. My current reference headphone is the LCD-2.2. I also have an HE-500, HD800, Mad Dog and stock T50RP on hand. My taste in music leans toward the electronic.
     
    Some non-sound related impressions. Weight seems right. I’m used to planars, however, so YMMV. Not too heavy but substantial-feeling, like you’re holding something that’ll last. Heirloom quality if taken care of. And you might want to heirloom them: These things are beautiful. Omnis arrived in lambskin; I switched to leather. Pads are plush but not overly so. I didn’t notice any sonic differences between the sets of pads. My primary interest was comfort. I’ll let others speak about “pad rolling”.
     
    Overall, the comfort on these is outstanding. Easily on a par with the Alpha Dog, Paradox Slant and ZMF x Vibro. There’s a slight issue with getting the left cup to seal on my head. My head could be to blame, though, as I encounter this issue with other headphones. That said, it might be slightly more persistent with the Omni + cowhide pads. The lambskin pads seal perfectly. Strangely, of all the headphones I’ve tried, I think the LCD-2.2 might fit my head the best, with the possible exception of the HD800.
     
    Omni is less isolating than the other T50RP mods I’ve heard. This isn’t surprising given its semi-open construction. Depending on the track playing, I could hold short, to-the-point conversations with a friend while we were listening together; he was wearing the HD800. I’m sure we were moderately yelling at each other. Also, the Omni soaks up a lot of power. I can max out the volume on my iPhone 6 without pain. It’s near or at the limit of comfortable but I can do it. This isn’t the case with, say, the LCD-2.2.
     
    A few remarks on tonality.  While I wouldn’t say the Omni is a basshead headphone, the bass is excellent in quality and extension. When compared with the LCD-2.2, I have the sense of a slight recession in the mids. Voices seem a vaguely farther away. I’m not saying that the Omni has recessed mids; I’m saying that voices seem closer with the LCD-2.2, and perhaps fuller, more textured. An upshot is that the Omni is, from I’ve heard, completely free of glare in the high midrange, viz. in 5k-6k. The T50RP driver is supposed to have a tendency for glare. I could detect it on occasion with the Alpha Dog, though it was hardly enough count against that headphone. If you’re sensitive to glare in the high midrange, you needn’t worry about the Omni. The treble is relaxed without being rolled-off. There’s plenty of definition at 10k.
     
    Some thoughts on technicalities. The HD800 is better at representing vast and distant sounds than is the Omni. That’s an obscure claim. It has to do with what might be termed the delicacy of a headphone. Vast, distant sounds are fragile and rich in information; it’s easy for this information – perhaps in the form of the felt texture of the sound – to get smoothed out, dulled. Of course, excellent treble resolution – e.g., in the “air” frequencies – contributes to this ability to represent vast distances, and the HD800’s treble resolution is unmatched in my experience. Let me give a concrete example. The synths – if that is what they are – that come in at 0:35 on Clark’s “There’s a Distance in You” from his eponymous album. (The significance of the title in the present context isn’t lost on me. This is an excellent track for testing a phone’s ability to render the timbre of vast distances. It’s also the shortest seven minute track I’ve heard.) With the HD800, you can hear how far away those synths really are. They’re not just quiet; they’re way off in the distance. This technicality might come at the cost of tonality: The HD800, while world class in treble resolution, is an almost unbearably bright headphone. I should point out that the low-end aspects of “There’s a Distance in You” sound much better on the Omnis.
     
    Soundstaging and imaging are first-rate for a (semi)closed headphone. Among the headphones I have on hand, I would put the Omni between the LCD-2.2 and the Mad Dog with respect to width. The overall effect isn’t exactly holographic, but I suspect it’s difficult to get holographic imaging with (semi)closed headphones.
     
    Greater bass impact/slam than my LCD-2.2 and HE-500, and greater than my friend’s Mad Dog. Given that I haven’t had the Alpha Dog and the Paradox Slant for several months now, I’ll forego a detailed comparison here. Suffice it to say, I don’t think the Omni is outshone by either. Bass impact/slam is only one aspect of an overall excellent transient response. This is a fast headphone. The transients aren’t as quick as with the HD800, but then, the Omni is a thicker-, fuller-sounding headphone.
     
    Thanks again to Zach for putting this tour together! I’m honored to have been given the chance to listen to ZMF’s new flagship. It’s a solid piece of craftsmanship with a smooth, defined signature. 
  6. grizzlybeast
    the Omni from the Ortho Docs
    Written by grizzlybeast
    Published May 1, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Bass, mids, soundstage, durable and comfortable pads, pad rolling, can be retuned, customizable, high fidelity, detailed,tonality, balance
    Cons - not competitively dynamic but still engaging.

    ZMF  OMNI - REVIEW

    Zach and Luke are Ortho Docs
    Disclaimer:
    No mercy… though the Omni is merciful I really think the Omni can hold up to scrutiny very well. While I have been a long time customer of ZMF, I really don’t see the need to be dishonest and am confident that my opinion will be void of bias.  
     
    I may have given my opinion on a prototype but this Omni is a lot different than what I heard and I can’t really consider myself a contributor to its tuning. I ordered another pair after selling my blackwood Omni but Zach allowed me to use a pair for review while my pair was being made hence the pics of two different models through out the review. 
     
     
    Gear/ Software Used  w/ Omni and a description of each:
    iMac 27 inch late 2015 model 5k retina - “better to hear you with my dear”, “better to see you with my dear” usually I never have to use cd’s etc to use my DAC’s and even the headphone out is better than some audio gear out there. I have used the optical out and usb for different DACs below and choose to use what sounds best to me. 
     
    Cables - 
    20awg-Solid-Silver-RCA-Interconnect-Cable-litz-braided-cotton-connector-2ft
    Solid Silver Pailiccs XLR Interconnect Cables
    Single ended peptide fusion cable with Audeze connectors
    Makes me want to get into cables because I can hear a difference. My TH2 was sounding less transparent than the Cayin IHA6 loaner all because of a cable. At first I thought it was because of the balanced configuration until I got the RCA cables in the same solid silver. Those emotiva RCA cables do the job but better is …better. 
     
    Tidal - Great streaming of CD quality music that while not as clear as High Res may eliminate the need for all of my MP3 files
     
    Audirvana Plus - a little glitchy and I have no plug ins for a good EQ but sounds great!!!
     
    Amarra SQ2 - doesn’t work with Audirvana Plus but provides usable eq for Tidal
     
    GEEK Pulse Infinity 1.0 chassis (means not the new chip that is in the 2.0 chassis and this is now gone) - I used this balanced with the Omni and while it did get enough headroom it was missing that natural sound and made the Omni bass slam less desirable than some of the below. Kind of bland for me. 
     
    MHDT Stockholm V2 (gone) -

    Nice and natural sounding NOS R2R DAC that almost eliminates that digital wall you get with most DACS. Bass is not the tightest but the warm mids, spacious soundstage, and transparently fleshed out sound is everything natural. The stockholm feeding the Cayin Iha-6 is my preference over the Cayin IDAC -6. The Stockholm V2 feeding the TH2 is borderline too musical, if there is a such thing and the bass control suffers slightly but realism and natural timbre and body is about as musical as it gets. 
     
    Metrum Acoustics Musette (not here yet or used during this review) - Another NOS R2R DAC to replace the Stockholm V2. when it comes in I will update this review. 
     
    Nuprime HPA-9 (450mW into 50 ohms but very much a different design that gives a lot of headroom with the Omni) -

    Warm, and controlled sounding amplifier with good space, mellow and relaxed mids, very good body and punchiness, and smooth highs. Surprisingly more than enough power to drive the Omni’s because it has more current than the usual amp. I only need to go slightly past 12 o’clock for it to play the Omni’s really loud, all while never really taking away from the soundstage. I do think that other solid state amps would make a better pairing though for those seeking a faster sound but body, tonality, transparency,  and dynamics are all there. This is a very dynamic sounding amp that is not bright or airy or fast with a slight warmth down low.  
     
    JDS LABS Element  (gone) - Not here during the review period but memory recalls it being a very musical pairing with enough power to make the Omni sing. Punchiness, musicality, and balance were all there even if it lacked some of the technical performance of the other gear mentioned. 
     
    Trafomatic HEAD 2 (2W into 50 ohms) 

    A little overpriced and maybe not the best pairing with the Omni because I prefer solid state with the Omni to help it pick up in speed, but some may really like this pairing. I probably need some better tubes to help the Omni’s bass sound a little tighter and it pairs better with the LCD2 and HD800 (with which the bass actually does sound controlled) but its still the best amp I have had/heard. Very good space and dimension on all axis’. Neutral tonality with a touch of tube warmth yet not overly lush or dark and not particularly airy. Good body and easily the best dynamics of the amps I have used for the Omni.
     
    Cayin IDAC-6 ( on loan from Cayin for an up coming meet and review) -

    Very good and balanced DAC with tuning filters such as sharp for which I used with my gear to help the musical pairing of the Omni and Nuprime, or Trafomatic HEAD 2 have the slightest increase in its perception of crispness. Clean, nuetral with good soundstage and similar to the infinity from memory but more to my liking.
     
    Cayin IHA-6 (7W into 32 ohms balanced in the pic above.  On loan from Cayin for an up coming meet and review) 
    GREAT power and pairing with the Omni. Maybe not as dynamic and full bodied in the midrange as the TH2 but it is tight in the bass, opens the Omni up and is never sluggish to further slow down the Omni. I find this an exceptional solid state pairing for the Omni and if I wasn’t curious about what my ordered Black Widow sounds like (hopefully I have the dough when the time finally arrives) I would definitely buy it right away and just for the Omni. Good soundstage, transparency, and tonality albeit on the lighter-brighter side of neutral just a tad. 
     
    AIRIST Audio HERON 5 (5w into 32 ohms, tour unit) -

    For tonality this pairing is quite the treat. It is extremely open sounding for a solid state amp and has tons of power on tap. Once you get past the design issues of the pots volume  and occasional static when turning the knob you have a very balanced amp that can be used with the Omni for tirelessly long listening sessions of smooth and open sound. The Heron is a bit lacking in slam, dynamics and a little lacking in separation. It is not thick or lush sounding either but has exceptional balance, good clarity and it’s power gives the Omni what it needs to open up in the mids to not only compliment the Omnis soundstage but really spread it out. 
     

    ZMF OMNI:

    The Omni is the result of two minds coming together. Zach get’s the wood housing from Luke Pighetti of Vibro labs who uses his expertise to create the ideal housing for the spacious and semi open sound of the ZMF Omni. If Vibro labs didn’t provide the housing to properly support the accoustic qualities of the Omni’s tuning it would no doubt sound a lot different in other cups. I recall having the ZMF Blackwood and sending it in to be revised and with the same driver modifications it still couldn’t come close to the Omnis spaciousness. Inside of the beautiful wooden cups are T50RP drivers that have been heavily tweaked in ways I do not know to create  its unique sonic flavor that is a lightyear beyond its original sound. The headband design, sliders, gimbals are salvaged to keep it in the context of a modified Fostex and can be customized in several different ways. 
     
    The ZMF brand is one that is built around customization which is extremely unique in the realm of Full sized headphones. If you do not like the tuning you can send it back in one time for free to add more bass, tame the highs, make them brighter etc. Upon ordering you can also choose the wood, slider colors, cable configuration, headband type and even choose to eliminate the cost of its case. 
     
    I truly hope that when this brand expands its wings into proprietary drivers and headband components it will maintain its disposition on customizable full sized headphones. No doubt he will find it a struggle to keep up with the labor and demands on his own but for now I really appreciate this aspect. If you don’t like a wood then keep your eyes peeled for what is coming around the corner because  Zach is always obsessing over what he can get away with for his headphones.
     

    Build / Comfort:

    To be blunt right up front… The Omni will most likely have varying opinions on how comfortable it is. I find the ergonomics to be a little hindered by the bulky (yet purposeful) cups and original housing yet in the same breathe I hold them, grab them, stare at them, and wear them with full satisfaction. The weight is quite substantial and to get a good seal on the bottom of most guys heads  the headband is slightly molded by Zach to get the pads to be flush on the bottom of the ears. The first time I took them to a mini meet one of the gentlemen expressed how they sounded phenomenal but the fit was awkward for him. He continued to exclaim “ those *@# ing things sound amazing…wow…I just wish the fit was a little easer….How much do they cost?…well they sound like it!!!” This is coming from a gentleman who prefers treble and doesn’t really care about bass. He also loved the pads as do I. They are extremely soft, plush, and are of exceptional quality.  Once I have a good fit on I am jamming with the ideal clamp force and pressure all around my head. The LCD2.2f w/ Vegan pads do provide even better comfort around my ears and are softer to the touch but the Omnis aren’t far behind. Both are heavy headphones and can’t compare to the comfortable design of my HD800S but I really am not the picky kind when it comes to this kind of stuff.  
     
    The pads I mentioned can be stretched, pulled, and handled without any real worries. I loved the Alpha pads ZMF used to use but they ripped and showed signs of wear in no time. The Lambskin pads are REAL leather and soft with a very deep and open cavity. The alpha pads were nice and soft but I always wanted my earlobe to fit inside like the ZMF pads do. The pilot pad is of the same quality. If you have seen videos of Luke from Vibro slamming the housing down on a table while the Omni’s stay intact you can’t help but be persuaded to trust its built to stand the test of time. I won’t dare do that with these beautiful cups but I definitely have confidence in their durability which is partially due to Fostex’s excellent utilitarian components. 
     
    Isolation:
    This think does leak a copious amount of music and isolation is not the best since it is semi - open. Yet and still playing music into it at loud volumes will be a lot less annoying than an open back would to those around you. Sound does get in a bit as well but it does provide a useful amount of blockage to your surrounding environment. If my wife is talking I have to take them off when music is not playing to really understand her. 
     
    Amping:
    The Omni benefits from gobs of power. It can sound great with under a watt into 50 ohms but it picks up in pace, energy, dynamics, and grace with more power. I believe that the Omni can take tube warmth to some degree without sounding too syrupy as the most important amping specs are to be in impedance, power, and low distortion. Please refer to how I feel the Omni gets along with the few amps I have tested it with above for more gear specific ideas. I will  say that the Omni can be hindered by an amp that has a slower sound to it because it appreciates speed. As an addendum to the above, the reason that the Nuprime HPA9 does well in musicality for the Omni is because it has enough current, is very dynamic and full bodied with great tonal density that takes nothing away from its physicality. However the Nuprime is a little slower than Cayin IHA6 and has less raw power so it’s not as successful in opening it up and “lifting the veil” as they say. 
     

    Sound Signature/Frequency Response summary:

    The short story is that what you get from the Omni is a wonderfully musical sound of rich, dense and pure tones that are never fleeting but ever planted in a robust foundation. There is a rise in the sub bass a slight hump in the mid bass for weighted kick, and an even and smooth midrange that is followed by good presence in the upper mids and neutral/slightly tinted highs. 
     
    The guts: The bass of the Omni is pretty unique in that it anchors every song down to earth but doesn’t really hinder its sound quality by being too intrusive into other frequencies. It is always controlled, a lot of times slams pretty hard, but is never lacking. Whilst the Omni does have a good amount of mid bass it’s closer to the lower end of the mid bass in the spectrum. Upper bass is pretty flat but the Sub bass is elevated. I listen to my music a lot of the times around my family and whenever I play my bass heavy songs (which is becoming less often lately) I crank the music up without ever feeling the need for more or less bass. The Omnis definitely allow me to rock out but if they are underpowered the  macro dynamics that are responsible for producing those hard thumps won’t be as strong. Below are some comparisons for further impressions and as you will see I believe the Omni’s bass presentation is exceptionally well. I have had a pair of Alpha Dogs, Mad Dogs, heard the Nickerfields, tried the Vibros and Blackwoods and not only do the Omni’s pull off more in quantity but quality is better as well. Bass fanatics can rejoice with the Z.O’s for sure! But I won’t trick you into expecting a super fast , clean, and snappy bass. Instead expect a weighted, controlled, and firm foundation that despite not being super fast can still keep up in speed when needed to so you can hear those double drums properly. Is it basshead levels of low end? I am not quite sure. I would be more apt to say its not bass head in level but I doubt anyone can genuinely say it needs more without including “for me” in the same sentence. 
     
    The glory: If the Omni’s didn’t have a good midrange then you can be sure it would have a lot more negative reviews. I am definitely not going to call the midrange perfect but there is a lot of treasure exposed in your recordings by how the Omni does the midrange. There are antonyms that come to mind while describing the Omni in the midrange; thin, dry, and boring would be some of them.  The opposite is true of these headphones. While playing Ben Harper’s “Picture of Jesus” I thoroughly enjoy the African harmonies of the back ground singers with these headphones. There is such a richness and serene wholesomeness that really pulls out the  essence of the song without contention. Positionally I find that sometimes the vocals can be a little more distant than average which materializes the impression of a venue a little more than other headphones in its price range do. The upper midrange is fairly present and a tinge of aggression can come forth but never with any real concern of fatigue. The meat of the recording is “matter of fact” with the ZMF Omni, and while I do hear that one of the headphones below in my comparisons section best it in tonal balance, the Omni is weighted, rich, and has a sweetness to its timbre that is the golden nugget of it’s characteristics; unique to it alone. The separation of these rich and full-midrange notes is a real treat as well. I do get some reverberations from the cups and bit of extra decay compared to my HD800S which is quite dry in comparison (and a little out of context in this review) but even that contributes to the Omni’s articulation of naturalness. Sometimes that adds to the inviting sound of these cans because they not only sound really open and spacious but also intimate and inviting in its own paradox of sonic performance. Open but intimate; precise transients but with a more natural decay; colorfully balanced; smooth but confidently assertive and bold. I will confess though that at times I prefer the non-ortho assortment of headphones for micro and macro dynamics. The Omni sometimes doesn’t sound as nimble or nuanced in the flickerings, clicks, and snaps as is often the case with traditional dynamic drivers. Luckily for these headphones they have a really good weight, texture and body to slot them among the best in musicality. 
    The the grace: The lower treble is a little tough to push into a territory of splashiness and most usually the transients respond consistently clean, fast, and intelligible even on busy passages. The tuning sometimes sounds as if it brushes up on the territory of sibilance encroachment. This may be because I get a little sensitive in that area at times, yet I definitely conclude the Omni’s to be revealing and balanced in the lower treble all while not being really offensive if offensive at all. In fact, it would be better to attribute any problems to the recording itself. I won’t call the textures of the treble soft either, nor really hard and the glare has been tempered into naturalness though there still remains an inkling of flare. The Omni’s, would for some, belong to the darker side of neutral while for me I actually believe them to be closer balanced to a pair of monitors. Subjectively speaking and from personal experiences in studios etc (listening to playbacks of mixes) I often find a lot of audiophile gear to be unnaturally boosted in the treble and sensibly so since most audiophiles crave to be stunned by the most minute details that usually occur higher up in the frequency range. My HD800S has the treble peak tamed to a pleasurable balance but sometimes I still ( again my personal perspective) find it to sound a little thin since the treble for me still keeps it in the bright category of headphones. The Omni is tuned to have a solid amount of precision up with it’s slight peak in the mid treble but would still cater more to the natural and warm crowd who would prefer to hear high definition without excessively boosted treble. The treble extension is decent especially considering most t50 mods struggle in treble extension. Sometimes while listening I hear the treble as cleaner than the midrange even but this could just be a feeling more than an observation during listening. 
     
    Headstage: Soundstage in spades…Call a spade a spade yo… The Omni has you covered here and can cast an image in front of you and around you like few others in it’s price range.  Of course it’s no HD800 and the Dharma sounds more spacious as well but for a semi open back headphone it seems as if I can hear unusually deep into the layers of the recording with separation that is effortlessly discernible. It is more wide than deep and there is only a slightly cavernous effect from the reverberations of the cups. Coming from the ZMF Blackwood, those reverberations in these Omni cups are a lot less pronounced and makes it even easier to hear the instruments in their own space.  Despite the Omni being so robust in nature it is able to be very holographic. Me likes!
     
    Comparisons:(Build will be left out since I find the Omni's more premium  built than all of the below, yet comfort is only bested by the LCD2.2F's for me. Those who don't like weight will prefer some of the below over the Omni)
    VS LCD2.2F (modded):

    The LCD2.2F places the vocalist closer and it sounds more open(less restricted from the housing which is not to be confused with soundstage size). The omni has more of a smooth and silky texture. The LCD2 is slightly less thick. The bass is less solid on the LCD2.2F w/ vegan pads. Resolution is very similar with the LCD2 maybe having slightly more in the mids but a less textured treble. The Omni has way better separation of instruments and imaging. Vocals on the Omni have more space around them as well even if the midrange is a little more even with the LCD cans. Listening to  “John Henry “ by Harry Belafonte you can hear how his voice is more believable as the textures and rasp of his voice is better revealed on the LCD2.2F. However, like mentioned above there is this smooth, dense, and inviting tone on the Omni that the LCD2’s don’t have. Some of the old remastered songs tend to have audible air in  them and the Omni kind of makes it more dismissible because the added depth makes it seem more atmospheric whereas the LCD puts the air/hiss closer to the singer because dimensionally the LCD produces a flatter image. On the Omni male vocals have more weight but never sound flabby. With Amy Winehouse’s  “Back to Black” - both reveal the poor mixing of her vocals on that track. Its a remastered album of 24/96 kHz Stereo  and with that song there definitely is something off with her mic or and how she was recorded or maybe they made the recording to have an old school sound to it. It is nasally even on the Omni but less so than on the 2F. I kind of like to hide this with the Omni when I listen to that song. But also there is less blending of the higher pitched instruments which can sound more of a mess on the LCD2. The Omni helps the recording out a bit and not just because her voice is less annoying but because the separation is better and the instruments keep their boundaries and tonal weight. I give midrange purity slightly to the LCD2.2 but bass cleanliness, texture, and soundstage to the Omni. The Omni has better slam and rumble for EDM when it is called for and also less decay. 
     
     
    VS THX00: 

    (loaned of member Soundsgoodtome)
    The Omni is more revealing of upstream gear than the THX00 which shows less changes to different gear but sounds great out of anything. Without a good DAC in place the TXH00 comes a lot closer to the performance of the Omni that is not as snappy but a little more detailed. Give the Omni a clean background and  it will be  more revealing while the THX00 shows only little improvement. This does mean that the THX00 sounds good out of more gear than the Omni though and actually sounds worse with too much power. The Massdrop champion is brighter and has more roughness and splashiness  in the highs that the Omni doesn’t exhibit which can make it a little more annoying than the Omni when handling sibilants. They seem to trade off qualities and merits and give grounds to each other in a lot of areas. The Fostex seizes the song with a fast and forward (positionally) sounding midrange, that while a little v shaped can still sound nicely clear, clean, and fast. The Omni on the other hand is a lot more seductive. The Omni is similar in balance and portrays a more even-handed mature and developed timbre that is slower but more resolute and full-bodied. The Fostex THX00 has a wide soundstage but is not as close to as wide or deep as the Omni. Even though the TH can do better at engaging the listener with speed and dynamics it has an even flatter image than the LCD2.2F and also is less detailed. The imaging separation differences between them is almost night and day with the Omni being the morning sun. The Omni can still get a little frustrated on busy passages but its better transient response and imaging keep it in check. In comparison the THX00 can quickly get a little messy. Drums snap and kick with more intension on the THX00 and is a very coveted quality of mine when I listen to headphones. The Macro dynamics and bass presence on the Fostex help it slam harder. The THX00 has a more pervasive rumble and while not as focused as the Omni is a bit quicker and rumbles harder. There have been a couple of songs where I felt the Omni gave me a just about the same amount of thump and rumble but it was still consistently the THX00 that proved to hit harder. Extension down low is a toss up. THX00 is more dynamic overall and aggressive but I usually find dynamics to out do orthos here anyway. The Omni is easily the more controlled, articulate, high fidelity,  and textured sounding headphone of the two though. 
     
    VS Beyer DT1770:
    gelocks loaner pair of dt1770's
    COMFORT: TOSS UP (because I have the heavy wood, the other woods beat the dt1770 with a solid win for the OMNI)
    LEAKAGE: DT770 (easy win)
    BASS PRESENCE: TIE
    BASS EXTENSION: ZMF OMNI (only by 1 1/2 db @ 20-30 hz )
    BASS TIGHTNESS / SOLIDITY: ZMF OMNI ( easier to make rumble but distorts quicker )
    MID RANGE: ZMF OMNI (easy win but would be tough for any closed/semi closed back I have heard to date beat)
    LEAST LOWER TREBLE GLARE PROBLEMS: DT1770 ( For some reason, probably the treble peak being boosted as well as the presence region,  the Omni is being outshone here. I have my hand on the volume knob a bit more often then I do with the dt1770, this made my joy of the Omni take a little hit. When bells and things swell in volume through a recording the Omni is more resolving of dynamic range yet also more relentless and penetrating)
    MID TREBLE: ZMF OMNI (solid win for clarity)
    UPPER TREBLE: LOL SORRY CAN'T TELL lollll
    PROBLEMS WITH SPLASHINESS AND KEEPING COMPOSURE WITH BUSY SONGS: DT1770 (solid win)
    SOUNDSTAGE: ZMF OMNI (easy win, mostly wider than the DT770)
    OPENNESS: ZMF OMNI (easy win)
    IMAGING: ZMF OMNI (not so easy)
    INSTRUMENT SEPARATION: slight edge to OMNI
    DETAIL /TEXTURE: ZMF OMNI (solid win)

    VS DX1000:


    (please note that the JVC has more bass in one cup than the other. Below has some speculation based on what I am able to hear with the JVC in this condition)
     
    Both sound similar in speed with the Omni having better texture and precision. The DX1000 is just as organic sounding if not just a tad more so. The JVC also is the only other headphone in this comparison section that has a comparable soundstage. Sometimes when I switch from the JVC to the Omni I hear how the Omni has a tighter and slightly more compact presentation. However, the Omni has better instrument separation. The JVC on the other hand is more dynamic and punch. It's probably more comparable to the THX00 in dynamics yet without the odd balance in the treble and the glare that the THX00 has. While this comparison exhibits yet again the differences in dynamics between orthos and planars I prefer the Omni’s higher resolution. The JVC has even more reverberations than the other two in its soundstage but is larger than all of the others in size, inching out the Omni just a bit. Transparency goes to the Omni as well as bass control. While the JVC is the more fun sounding headphone, The Omni is the more High fidelity listen. I would definitely rank the JVC closer to the Omni’s than the THX00 though and consider the DX1k's easily one of my favorite headphones I have had here. I will probably revise this section with better impressions once the bass is equal in both drivers.   
     

    Value: 

    I am not going to call the Omni’s a bargain or affordable high end sound. They are a little bit expensive but in my opinion fit exactly where they should in price. I have bought and tried so many headphones that I am a little ashamed of my finicky personality but as a consequence I have had the opportunity to really get a grip on price to performance ratios and where the Omnis sit. I would say that at the current price of the HE560, a used HE-6 and a used HE-4, that those have to be the best performing cans for the price. However, the Omni’s are not only tuned more to my liking but are very sensibly priced and especially for not being fully open backs. I have yet to hear a closed back or semi open headphone in its price range perform better and closer to my tastes. I am certain that the price of the Omni has a lot to do with the exotic wooden cups. If we weren’t paying for wooden cups and could get the same sound (not possible) then the Omnis would be a real bargain. Truly the Omni is priced just right and you get what you pay for. 

     

    Conclusion:

    I love to have beautiful exotic wooden cups in my stable. I feel like I have one of the most premium made headphones out there. Luke of Vibro labs @taiden  seems to have designed the perfect enclosure for the T50 driver to sounds its best.  Beware though, you most likely will see another kind of wood pop up that makes you wish you had that wood instead. No worries, the Omni’s have become a popular and coveted headphone with good resale value incase you want to switch. Also, I can send these bad boys in to be tuned to my liking. Some qualities of the t50rp drivers cannot be overcome but some who have become familiar with T50rp headphone modifications have been totally surprised by how good ZMF can make them sound after hearing the Omni’s. What is there to conclude but to only hope that the Omni’s are not the conclusion of ZMF and Vibro labs collaborations. I hope they make even more headphones with their own drivers and gorgeous wood enclosures. 
      jinxy245 likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. spyder1
      Great review of the ZMF Omnis. I especially liked your comparison with other headphones. See you at the Portland, OR Head-Fi Meet.
      spyder1, May 4, 2016
    3. grizzlybeast
      Thx! See you there
      grizzlybeast, May 5, 2016
    4. desik
      Question: what wood type were the Omni under review?
      desik, Jul 20, 2016
  7. Aornic
    The pinnacle of what the T50RP drivers can probably achieve wrapped in artisanship. [Video Included]
    Written by Aornic
    Published Apr 2, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - FUN sound with no qualms of how to achieve it. Deep sub-bass and incredible and lifelike mids. Wide soundstage.
    Cons - Might be too warm for some. Not neutral or analytical, again a preference. A bit on the heavy side. Power hungry.
    [​IMG]
     
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Ask yourself this question, what do you seek from a pair of headphones? Now I know this may seem like a strange question, as most of you probably have multiple pairs for different purposes – but what draws you to your favourite pair?
     
    Is it neutrality? I’d guess you absolutely love the likes of the Sennheiser HD600 then.
     
    Is it accurate imaging, a huge soundstage and an analytical and revealing sound? Well then the Sennheiser HD800S must be what you seek.
     
    You can see where I’m going with this, and I’m only using Sennheiser products as an example because of how well known they are. I’m well aware that there are many factors that go into the enjoyment of your favourite pair of headphones, no matter what they are. But let me tell you about what makes this particular pair of headphones stand out for me, and why they are a good fit for my needs.
     
                                                                             
     
     
    A little background first. ZMF stands for “Zach Modified Fostex,” and was founded a few years ago by Zach Mehrbach, a resident of Chicago who has always had an affinity for the artistic re-purposing of wood. On his blog, found on zmfheadphones.com, he claims that this started with an appreciation for baseball bats – a sport he played a lot of as a kid. Later in life, he fancied himself a bit of a luthier and took to making acoustic guitars with various tonewood. This is important because the concept of tonewood is central to acoustic guitars. I myself have two for their different sound, an all mahogany one for its deeper and richer sound and a spruce one for its brighter tone. Over time and experience, guitarists swear by certain woods – just like how some in this community swear by certain headphones. Some like exotic woods like koa and the ever elusive (and hard to obtain legally) Brazilian rosewood.
     
    From my understanding, there was a fad of modifying the Fostex T50RP headphone a few years ago – when the likes of ZMF and MrSpeakers started doing so commercially. Zach’s approach went back to his love for wood and tonewood. However, he didn’t start like that. The original ZMF mods had repainted OEM cups at most. It wasn’t until the introduction of the ZMF x Vibro that he decided to add the element of wooden cups to further shape the sound. With cups made of soft cherry wood, the Vibro was the first time the man used something other than the stock earcups.
     
    When I first plugged in my ZMF Vibro Mk. I earlier this year, I was taken aback by the sheer amount of bass – despite having two ports in to tame it somewhat. This was my introduction to the ZMF house sound. The bass was strong but didn’t extend incredibly low, rather it stayed in the mid-bass region where it blended with the strong mids to create a unique sound that I hadn’t heard before in a pair of headphones. It was delightful for some genres but didn’t suit others much at all because of the rolled off treble. It should be noted that ZMF now sells the Vibro Mk. II, which is said to have better bass and treble extension than the Mk. I that I have experience with.
     
    After some time with the Vibro, I began to dream big and turned my attention to the Omni – waiting for an opportunity that would allow me to grab one. Fast forward a while, and I’m listening to one now – in cherry wood just like my Vibro.
     
    Now keep in mind that this is ZMF’s flagship model. This is the culmination of all the effort in tuning and experimentation that Zach has put in since he started his company a few years ago – one in which he seems to do most of the work alone and to order (hence the somewhat long order lead time of 4-6 weeks). This is a personal, boutique touch that is far more customized than factory made headphones, not that there is anything inherently wrong with mass production – it meets demands just fine. However, I’m fairly sure ZMF isn’t even Zach’s main occupation – rather a hobby that grew in popularity and reputation that he must probably devote most of his free time to now. Customer service with Zach is also stellar as he's happy to answer any questions you may have and custom tune your order to suit personal tastes. 
     
    This flagship model on my head right now isn’t even the most expensive or "unique" offering. The Omni Cherry and Walnut are priced $100 under the Blackwood and exotic tonewoods that appear in limited number from time to time. Each wood lends to the overall tonality in subtle ways. I would like to steal ZMF’s own description of the various (and currently available) wood options:
     
                                                            All.png
     
    Blackwood:  Smooth. Quick/fast transients. A dark resolving sound with OOMPH.  Most sub-woofer effect of the three, with great detail retrieval and very "black" background.
     
    Walnut:   Most neutral presentation. Has much of the speed/depth/extension of the Blackwood and the soundstage/openness of the Cherry.  Has good speed but also a touch of decay.
     
    Cherry:  Romantic and resolving presentation. Greater decay than Walnut or Blackwood, but with lifelike instrument timbre, especially for acoustic instruments.  A touch of bloom and warmth for that "je ne sais qois" that you need in your life. Still fast, still deep. LARGEST soundstage due to slightly slower decay.
     
    Cocobolo (limited edition): A touch harder than Walnut, and with much smaller pores, Cocobolo has a great soundstage, smooth extended top end, and the right mixture of decay and impact in the bass. It's also gorgeous!
     
    Bocote (limited edition):  Close to Blackwood with a touch of decay added and beautiful detailed yet easy going mids.  Bocote has a very nice oomph that is super natural because of the added wood pore size over blackwood. Very resolving and musical.
     
    As I waited for the cherry Omni to reach me, a long and arduous process that I’m sure anyone with any sense of anticipation is familiar with, I tried to picture what Zach meant by “lifelike instrument timbre.” I listened to acoustic recordings on my Vibro and felt that its reproduction of instruments was quite accurate – just a bit hampered by the fully closed aspect of it and the rolled off treble preventing the shrill but somehow satisfying squeaks as fingers glide over fretboards. A friend of mine already had the Omni blackwood and sang praises of how incredible, yet heavy, it was. Upon long last, I got mine and plugged it in. These felt lighter than my Vibro, which took me by surprise.
     
    Straight off the bat, I will tell you that ZMF headphones are in no ways bright. Both the Vibro and the Omni share a warm sound signature. The product line is said to be “musically tuned” and doesn’t claim to be the highest resolution or analytical cans around – which they aren’t. However, that isn’t what I wanted from it. What I did obtain, and enjoy, was primarily a deep sub-bass sound that I hadn’t heard any other headphones reach yet. I was surprised just how leaps and bounds beyond the Vibro it was in this regard. For the first time, I was able to hear Cliff Burton’s bass work quite clearly in the mix in Metallica’s legendary Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets albums. The bass took centre stage of any recording I threw at it in the most satisfying fashion.
     
    The mids sound a lot more natural than my Vibro Mk. I but are in no way neutral. Both headphones have forwarded mids, but on the Omni it sounds very appropriate because of the semi-open design and quite large soundstage – larger than the Vibro (of course) and even my open Hifiman HE-400i. There is a lot of effortless separation in the mids, with vocal layering piling on clearly and majestically. Listening to Michael Jackson’s discography reveals a lot of this attribute as he was a big proponent of layering ad libs jumping from channel to channel. A song like “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” really shows off the capabilities of the Omni in its reproduction of instruments, particularly because all of the percussion instruments. Yes, this is indeed a very accurate reproducer of instrument timbre. I’m constantly amazed by how real it makes acoustic guitars sound in songs, given that they’re well recorded. Hell, it makes my own recordings playing my acoustics sound better than I’ve ever heard them – and I only recorded in my room with a MXL 990 condenser microphone. If you listen to the “Hell Freezes Over” live recording of the Eagles playing Hotel California in 1992 (a bit stereotypical I know) you’ll be amazed by how natural it sounds. The Vibro did a good job here, but the Omni trumps it because of the wider soundstage and more natural mids.
     
    The Omni also has the ability, that I haven't come across before, of dragging the acoustic guitar track in a song to the front so it becomes more noticeable. I had no idea that most songs in Green Day's American Idiot album had an acoustic guitar track mimicking the distorted guitars to lend a percussive sound throughout the recording. It was only with the Omni that I truly noticed this for the first time since I heard the album for the first time in 2004.
     
    A make or break aspect with this headphone for many of you will be how you perceive the treble. Like the Vibro, it's a bit rolled off to avoid any sort of sibilance - but it extends far further. Cymbals have no problem being heard clearly in a mix. Despite this, this makes the Omni slightly unforgiving in the sense that if the source recording isn’t a certain degree of well-mastered and mixed, it will sound quite muddy. The Vibro was even more unforgiving in this regard, while the Omni is actually a very good pair for all the genres that I’ve thrown at it – but bad apples in sound production can dampen its capabilities.
     
    As with all T50RP mods, the Omni is power hungry. Luckily for my wallet, it sounds incredible being amped from my Schiit Asgard 2 or Magni 2 – both delivering 1.0W at 50 ohms. The Vibro would sound way too stuffy with my Asgard 2, itself a warm and slightly coloured amp, but the Omni sounded just fine. However, I prefer the more neutral and transparent sound of the Magni 2 paired with it. This being said, a tinge of “what if?” and upgradetitis is afflicting me slowly as I turn my gaze towards more powerful offerings like the Cavalli Liquid Carbon and the Schiit Lyr 2 to drive these. I have read in many reviews that the T50RP mods, and particularly the Omni, scale very well and I wish to hear it for myself. When that day comes, I will update this section of the review.
     
    The cherry wood Omni (with lambskin and cowhide earpads, more on that later) also don’t seem to be able to compete with my HE400i in terms of speed and punchiness, but that is entirely to be expected. For those seeking those characteristics, look to the blackwood Omni. This is a more laid back headphone that can still punch hard though. I hear absolutely no problems listening to EDM and electronic pop. Quite the opposite really, I feel the sub-bass and the cinematic mid-bass gives me a great listening experience.
     
    For those who think the Omni is too warm, there are options to modify your experience. Zach himself, in the Head-fi thread for the Omni, gives advice to those wishing to do this. Underneath the pads are two dampening materials – a small square foam pad and a thinner round foam sheet pad. They cover the driver and can be removed or changed around (my personal favourite is having the square foam piece diagonally placed on the square driver magnets. Basically, the more that he driver magnets are showing – the more the sound will brighten. However, the trade-off is the strong bass so keep that in mind.
     
    Speaking of earpads, Zach provides two pairs of them in each purchase of the Omni. There are three options: lambskin, cowhide and protein pads.
     
    The cowhide are coarse and tough sons-of-bitches. They require a long time to break in and can get quite hot. They are also the thickest of the three because they contract the least, leading to a larger soundstage and deeper bass. Make no mistake, taming these is a commitment you must make (unless you use a leather conditioner to help you out - Zach recommends products by Blue Magic) if you want to get the perfect seal with them. Also keep in mind how warm these can get, especially in humid summer heat without air conditioning.
     
    The protein pads, on the other hand, utilize a different foam than the lambskin and cowhide and have a linear sound that shares a lot with my HE400i. This is the “fastest” pairing, with more punch and speed and least amount of mid-bass. For this reason, I find this an ideal pairing for metal because, while it lessens the sub-bass a tad, it lets the distorted guitars bite harder and the cymbals appear louder. Those wanting a less overall warm sound can also look into the protein pads to assist this preference. While these advantages exist for a reason, the Omni loses its overall ZMF sound a bit with these and I would only use these situationaly. Thankfully, the earpad switching process is pretty simple.
     
    The middle of the pack option is the lambskin. It is softer than the cowhide and still has a lot of bass the former contains. Best of both worlds really. I find this preferable for most situations.
     
    Made of protein leather, the pilot pad headband covers up the FOSTEX logo present on the rubber headband and gives a clean and premium look to the overall presentation. It’s also very soft and comfortable. I much prefer it to the other option, the buffalo leather strap pictured below.
     
     
                                                            
     
     
    Another reason the soundstage is such a pleasant surprise to me is because these are still semi-closed after all. They provide a really good amount of sound isolation. I currently live in a somewhat noisy flat, depending on whether or not a certain flatmate decides to blast his music on his Harmon Kardon Soundstick III's. It overpowers my HE400i, but the Omni blocks it out - as does the Vibro but the soundstage isn't nearly as wide.
     
    As I said earlier, the Omni is quite customizable depending on what earpads are being used and what dampening material is put on the driver. My current favourite setup is cowhide pads the white square foam piece on the driver - essentially removing the grey circle foam piece.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    The weight of the Omni is something I have read a lot of comments on. As is the case with most planar magnetics, (my HE400i is unique in its lightness) they are quite heavy headphones. However, the cherry omni is quite a bit lighter than the blackwood – according to my friend who compared them to his. This makes sense, blackwood is a hard and heavy wood while the cherry is soft and light. I don’t feel the weight as a bother because of the pilot pad and comfortable earpads causing a good seal on my ears. I’ve worn my Omni for many hours on end and don’t feel any fatigue. However, your mileage may vary regarding this.
     
    If you are a fan of how polished and refined wood can look, you will doubtlessly love the Omni. I was in awe of some of the photos that I managed to take of mine, it had a statuesque beauty that I hadn’t seen in a pair of headphones that I’d owned before. I now know why headphone porn is a thing, and indeed I’ve made my contribution to the phenomenon over on r/headphoneporn. The Omni transcends the looks of a mere pair of headphones, they look like a heirloom you want to buy a good stand for. It isn’t hard to imagine it catching the eye of visitors and becoming a conversation piece. It’s artisan woodworking, plain and simple. Some of the limited edition tonewood options, like cocobolo, are simply breathtaking.
     
    The name of the game for the Omni is fun. I neither know nor care how it measures in graphs as I only know how it sounds to my ears – the most pleasing sound I’ve ever owned. I know they aren’t for everyone, but I’m fairly sure everyone can take some aspect of them to heart in an impressed fashion. The sub-bass is incredible, the soundstage is wide, the mids are natural and lifelike, the treble is never sibilant and it all bundles into a beautiful looking set of headphones you would be glad to own. I applauded Zach earlier for his work with the Vibro when I reviewed it, but now I absolutely and eagerly expect what he comes up with next. I don’t know if he’ll stick to modifying T50RPs, despite the company name, or make his own from-scratch pair. That’s something we’ll all know at a later date.
     
    Or he could just finish up his orders, including the 25 rust-stained zebrawood Vibro Mk. II’s that were sold out in a little over an hour on Massdrop yesterday, and close up shop to work on his next wood-based hobby. Maybe designer birdhouses. Who knows? I bet they’d look wonderful regardless.
     
                                                                  2016-03-3017.11.56.jpg
     
    Thanks for stopping by. You can follow me at:
     
    My website: http://aornic.com/
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aornicreviews
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aornic
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/aornic1024
    Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jesuschristonxtc
    YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/aornic
      Stillhart, Taggerung and suziegon like this.
    1. Finky
      Looks good but a little expensive.
      Finky, Jul 20, 2016
    2. suziegon
      I still can't get over how beautiful the different wood types look! I want to collect them :p
      suziegon, Feb 19, 2017
  8. twister6
    Wood you like to customize your listening experience?
    Written by twister6
    Published Mar 10, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - impressive level of sound customization, unique handcrafted look, great sound quality.
    Cons - the weight, not for a portable use.

    I would like to Thank ZMF (Zach) and The Chief Labster (Vince) for ZMF OMNI loaner in exchange for my honest opinion.
     
    Manufacturer website: http://www.zmfheadphones.com/order-the-zmf/zmf-omni

     
    For those of you who have been following my reviews, you probably noticed that I typically don’t participate in time limited tours and also more keen to portable audio gear.  Occasionally I do review full size headphones, but try to stay within a comfort zone of efficient drivers and a portable close back design.  It took a pair of very special headphones to break this mold when I agreed to listen to my friend’s Vince (@Hisoundfi) pair of ZMF OMNI (Vince’s review HERE) as part of a mini tour I got a chance to participate in.  I was grateful not only for the opportunity, but also for the experience of finally being able to enter the world of infamous Fostex T50rp mods while testing Zach’s latest flagship.
     
    I read quite a bit about these mods on Head-fi but never really understood the hype around it, until now.  Many people get these budget priced T50rp with the only purpose to upgrade the sound.  It’s a nice DIY hobby where a few companies decided to take it to a whole new level beyond simple amateur mods and created new products that rival in sound quality and aesthetics other flagship brand name headphones.  Zach’s creation is a prime example of how the original cheap looking plastic earcups and shallow earpads can be transformed into a handcrafted masterpiece fined tuned and customized per your specific request.  Here is more about my experience while spending two weeks with a pair of ZMF OMNI semi-open headphones.
     
    zmf_omni-10_zpsxhsyynml.jpg
     
    Unboxing & Accessories.
     
    Arrived in a Seahorse brand name case with egg crate foam padding inside, I couldn’t think of a better and more secure storage packaging for these full size headphones.  It’s not your typical form fitted slim case for a portable transportation, but considering a significant weight of wooden earcups, such oversized airtight hard case is your best option when transporting these headphones.  But when at home, I don’t think this case would do justice to OMNI, and you better off finding a nice wooden headphone stand to showcase this handmade work.
     
    Inside of the case I found a personalized ownership card describing custom options, an extra pair of earpads in addition to another set already mounted on earcups, and 2 sets of removable cables in a storage bag.  I always look forward to unboxing experience, taking and examining product and accessories out of the packaging, but here I found as much fascination with a Seahorse case which serves a purpose of both packaging and storage accessory.
     
    Though 2 cables were included, typically you choose one during your ordering process with a specific headphone jack termination on a common side and mini-XLR connectors going to earcups.  Also, Zach generously offers 2 set of earpads with every order.
     
    zmf_omni-01_zpskx7jonxm.jpg   zmf_omni-02_zpswcptuitg.jpg
    zmf_omni-03_zpsnn4kt0ii.jpg   zmf_omni-04_zpstryx9rkn.jpg
    zmf_omni-05_zpss7ixb7sf.jpg   zmf_omni-06_zpszne1fpsv.jpg
     
    Design.
     
    While the case is optional and in my opinion worth every penny, everything else is included in the price and you get a very generous selection of customization options when you ready to order OMNI.  Starting with a cable, you get a choice of stock wires in length of either 5.5ft or 10ft and choice of different cable termination varying from 1/4” to 3.5mm, XLR, 4pin Kobiconn, and even PONO balanced.  The earcup side of the connectors is mini XLR.  Then, you get a choice of 2 earpads in either cowhide or lambskin or protein finish where you can choose either two different types or two of the same type.  Headband padding gives you a choice of either Pilot (thicker padded protein pleather) Pad or Buffalo Leather band.  You also get a choice of 4 different adjustment sliders in powder black, cast iron, cast aluminum, or natural bronze.   And last but not least, the inlaid coin emblem with either etched or in-set ZMF logo.
     
    Another important decision you have to make is when selecting the type of wood material for the actual earcups.  Here you get a choice of Cherry, Walnut, or Blackwood – each one contributing to a unique fine-tuning of the sound.  I didn’t have a chance to listen to all 3 material choices and can’t tell with certainty if the sound change is subtle or more pronounced, but Zach goes into a detailed description of wood properties when you visit his product page.  The one I received for review were made with Walnut which according to the description offers the sound characteristics somewhere between other two choices of wood material.  What I really liked about these earcups was the natural lines of the genuine wood cut complimented by handcrafted roughness.  I'm not talking about rough edges where you can get a splinter since everything was smooth and polished and stained to perfection.  When you look at them you don’t feel like they just came out from an automated production line, but rather were made by hand.
     
    The back of earcups has 5 symmetrical vents to accommodate the open back design.  Also, I like how the inlaid coin with ZMF logo was pressed in with a slight imperfection of a custom touch.  Each earcup has a separate mini-XLR connector for L/R sides of the balanced wired cable, not your stock T50rp left earcup only single ended connection with wire going through the headband.  The only thing you will find reminding you of the original design are the metal sliders attached to earcups which connect to the headband for the height adjustment.  The earcup attachment has a little bit of pivoting movement allowing some adjustments around your head, and plush angled earpads take care of the rest to make sure you have a perfect seal around your ears.  Headband itself is wrapped in a custom padding, where the soft cushioning of removable Pilot pad does a good job in keeping 568g of OMNI weight comfortably sitting on top your head.  You can still see the original rubbery padding of Fostex headband pad underneath, and just like with the original one you can slightly change the shape of the arc by bending it inward or outward – not an extreme change, but it was just enough to adjust a rather strong clamping force to something more tolerable to fit better the shape of my head.
     
    Without a doubt, when you look at the original T50rp and ZMF OMNI – the difference is definitely of night’n’day proportion.  The only hint of the old design are those metal rod sliders.  This is definitely more than just a basic facelift, but literally a complete redesign of headphones, down to even rewiring drivers with DHC type 4 copper litz.  Unfortunately, this change comes with a hefty weight tag which for me personally prevented using OMNI as a portable pair of headphones on the go.  568g of weight is not a joke, though between headband cushioning, soft earpads, and even distribution of weight it doesn’t feel as bad, but I still preferred to use OMNI while sitting down on the couch or at the table, rather than walking around with my DAP in the pocket.  Also, keep in mind sound leakage of open-back design.
     
    zmf_omni-07_zpsx4cyayyo.jpg   zmf_omni-08_zps35pooax9.jpg
    zmf_omni-09_zpsstt5lihy.jpg   zmf_omni-11_zpsriah2h1k.jpg
    zmf_omni-12_zpsfzbkcg45.jpg   zmf_omni-22_zpsz7dy4in2.jpg
     
    Sound analysis.
     
    With this being a “tour” review unit, I spent less than usual on testing, but still was able to collect enough notes to form a knowledgeable opinion about ZMF OMNI sound.  Right from the get-go before I realized that I can adjust the clamping force by bending the headband, I was a bit bothered by the pressure while using default thicker (cowhide) earpads.  My natural reaction was to switch to a thinner (lambskin) earpads to relax the clamping force.  Also, as I was removing and replacing earpads, I found a dampening foam pieces covering the driver opening.  Those played a significant role in smoothing out the top end, and I noted sound changes with and w/o foam pieces.  Another thing to add, I was a bit nervous dealing with earpads replacement, worrying not to rip the edge of the leather “skirt” which latches behind the earcups front plate during the attachment.  After awhile I realized that I was able to stretch/attach earpads by pulling on inside of the “donut” opening.  Changing earpads is not as easy as changing eartips, but I did appreciate Zach’s earcups and earpads design which made replacement process a little less painful and more efficient.
     
    Overall, I found the sound to be more on a balanced, warmer, smoother side.  The sound was clear, with a decent retrieval of details, but not the highest resolution or transparency.  The earpads selection and the choice of using foam filters had a rather noticeable effect on sound signature and allowed a good degree of sound tuning.  But regardless of this tuning, thanks to the semi-open design, the soundstage expansion was very good with an accurate and precise imaging.
     
    While using the thinner (lambskin) earpads, I heard a balanced smooth neutral sound, a little light on the bass, not as much sub-bass extension, with a good clean mid-bass and zero bleed into mids, lean smooth lower mids, clear and detailed upper mids, nice treble extension with good definition and airiness, and a great perception of soundstage expansion due to upper mids/treble brightness and airiness.
     
    When I switched to thicker (cowhide) earpads and foam filters, I noticed a lot more sub-bass rumble and a stronger mid-bass punch while bass is still being well controlled and without spillage into lower mids.  Lower mids were still smooth but now with a little more body, upper mids and treble were nearly the same but now becoming a little warmer with some reduction in brightness which slightly affected airiness of the sound and overall soundstage expansion.
     
    In the next tuning step, I kept the thicker earpads and removed the foam filter, and that hit my sweet spot where the upper mids/treble now became brighter, with more sparkle, reclaiming back some of the lost airiness and higher level of definition.
     
    Out of all 3 combinations, I definitely enjoyed the last one with thicker earpads and removed foam filter the most where I felt like I got just enough of additional sub-bass and a little more body in the sound when compared to thinner earpads, but in every case I still felt like mid-bass punch was a bit too bouncy and snappy and I wish it would have a little longer decay to make it more natural.  Not sure if further tuning/adjustment can do anything about it and this is probably limitation of the original T50rp planar drivers.
     
    Source pair up.
     
    With ZMF OMNI using the original T50rp planar drivers, I found they do need a little more power to drive them to their full potential, to bring more energy and excitement to the sound.  All this sound testing was done using my trusted Lotoo PAW Gold as a source which had plenty of power to make OMNI sing.  Along with OMNI, I also received a tour unit of JDS Labs The Element desktop amp, bundled together as recommended pair up that has a good synergy.
     
    Though I usually don’t use desktop amps and happy with my portable DAPs and portable amps, I still found The Element to be a really cool piece of audio gear.  With dimensions of about 150mm x 150mm, it has a nice flat square footprint with a large easy to use volume knob – this low profile ergonomics was just perfect for a desktop setup.  The only thing that bothered me was an odd choice of Power and Gain buttons where you can’t see the latching position and have to guess it.  It’s not a problem with Power since you can see a glowing light around the volume knob base, but with a non-latching Gain push button you can get an earful surprise if not sure which gain you are switching from.  In terms of the sound, I found the signature to be neutral to my ears with a little hint of warmth.  Overall The Element pair up was good and drove OMNI with plenty of power, but I felt like it didn’t really add as much energy to the sound and tonality was a bit bland.
     
    As part of JDS Labs The Element micro-review, here are a few pictures of this desktop dac/amp.
     
    zmf_omni-14_zpsbyhuylkz.jpg   zmf_omni-17_zpsg8mhqw8o.jpg
    zmf_omni-18_zpsg8pf1umk.jpg   zmf_omni-19_zpsptl6ufln.jpg
    zmf_omni-20_zpsmrlv3fcg.jpg   zmf_omni-21_zpsigfizzgw.jpg
     
    As I was getting ready to send back OMNI and The Element, I received iFi micro iDSD review unit, and decided to give it a pair up shot.  I will be working soon on a full micro iDSD review, but wanted to note that with iDSD the sound of OMNI scales up to a whole new level!!!  While being set to Normal power gain mode (middle gain of iDSD micro), the sound is nicely balanced from a very articulate tight bass with a textured sub-bass rumble to a fast mid-bass punch which now sounds a little more natural and not as bouncy.  Mids have a full clear body and upper mids remained smooth yet gained a higher level of detail retrieval, followed by a treble which remained smooth and detailed, and even showed a better definition in comparison to LPG and Element.
     
    Comparison to other headphones.
     
    Using configuration with thicker earpads and no foam filters and LPG as my source, here is what I found.
     
    OMNI vs PM3 - PM3 sound is not as open/expanded, bass speed is slower, sub-bass extension and texture are similar, and mid-bass is more balanced, more neutral and not as bouncy.  PM3 lower mids are warmer and upper mids are not as clear and detailed, and also treble doesn’t extend as far as in OMNI.  Overall, PM3 is warmer, smoother, a little less detailed, and have a more intimate soundstage, but it’s lighter and more portable.
     
    OMNI vs Momentum 2 wireless (in wired mode) – M2 has a similar sub-bass, while mid-bass hump is more elevated, lower mids are leaner and upper mids are smoother, and both have a similar treble extension.  OMNI sound is more expanded, more balanced, and more natural, while M2 is more colored, with more intense mid-bass, and more intimate soundstage.
     
    OMNI vs R70x - R70x sub-bass and mid-bass are more balanced and sound more natural though not as tight as OMNI, lower mids are similar while upper mids in R70x are smoother and more organic.  R70x treble doesn't have as much sparkle or airiness as OMNI.  Overall R70x is more neutral, more organic, and smoother, and its open back sound has slightly more width with a similar depth/height.
     
    Conclusion.
     
    Often when reviewing full size headphones, I take their sound "as is" because there is nothing more I can do to change it, unlike IEMs with different eartips or replacement filters and cables.  Here with OMNI you get an opportunity to choose a base sound signature depending on earcups wood material, and then customize it further using different earpads and dampening filters.  While earcup selection is something you have to decide before the order, everything else is at your own fingertips to customize the sound later.  As a result, you get a genuine handcrafted product to suit your personal sound preference.  Even so I received this review loaner already preconfigured, I can imagine the excitement of "building" your own customized OMNI similar to CIEM process.  And even so I found OMNI to be not exactly my cup of tea due to a heavier than usual non-portable build (my subjective opinion) and open back sound leakage (not my personal preference), it doesn't take away from a fantastic sound tuning and first class custom craftsmanship which I'm sure a lot of people are going to enjoy!
    1. Cotnijoe
      HA! Clever title
      Cotnijoe, Mar 10, 2016
  9. Stillhart
    ZMF Omni - American Beauty
    Written by Stillhart
    Published Feb 25, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Beautiful, hand-made and customizeable, solid build, very detailed, BASS!
    Cons - Weight, needs good amping
    If you’ve read my review of the ZMF x Vibro mk II, you’ll know that I enjoy ZMF Headphones.  I’ve had a review Omni unit for some time now and I’ve been procrastinating writing this review because, once it’s complete, I’ll have to return it!  But the time has come to put my thoughts down for all to see; your enjoyment will make me feel better about the whole “returning it” thing.  
     
    Oh, if you did read that review, you’ll also have a great amount of background on Zach and ZMF so I am going to eschew that section of this review and just jump into the relevant stuff.  
     
    Omni-3.jpg
     
    Relevant Stuff
     
    The Omni is ZMF’s current flagship headphone.  Some people will tell you that it’s a heavily modified Fostex T50rp planar dynamic headphone.  But that doesn’t really do them justice.  It has custom wooden cups, new ear pads, new headband straps and pads, new attachments for the cups, all its internal wiring replaced, and other magic modifications.  There’s so little of the original headphone left that I’d prefer to say that it’s based on the T50rp.  
     
    As with all ZMF headphones, the Omni can be customized in many ways.  The most obvious will be your choice of wood.  Zach offers it in cherry, walnut and blackwood; he also has seasonal specials where he’ll offer limited editions in rare woods.  Besides changing the looks and weight of the headphone, the wood choice will change the sound a bit.  Some people tend to get really hung up on this choice so I’ll go into the sonic differences a bit later on.
     
    The construction on these is solid wood, thick metal and sturdy leather.  While I can see someone worrying about dinging the softer woods, overall these are a very rugged headphone.  This is reflected in the weight, of course.  The Omni line ranges in weight from 480g to 600g.  The blackwood is the heaviest and I found that I got used to it.  In fact, wearing the lighter Omnis after the blackwood feels odd, like it will fall off if I sneeze.  I guess brain burn-in works on more than just sound! (For the record, no Omni has yet fallen off my head from a sneeze.  Trust me, I have a cold while writing this, so I’ve had plenty of time to test that aspect of the build!)  
     
    The weight will obviously be a turn-off for some people.  But if you can deal with it, the Omni is a comfortable headphone.  The cup pivot system that Zach created for this headphone allows a much better fit with no fiddling, compared to older system.  It’s so good that he’s ported it onto his other models now.  The earpads are deep and cushy so they should fit anyone with no problems while allowing a seal with minimal fuss.  And the headband pad and strap distribute the weight nicely so there are no hot spots that can cause pain during long listening sessions.  The leather and pleather ear pads (there are options for both) can trap heat so that’s something to consider for those in the warmer climes.
     
    Omni-1.jpg
     

    More Relevant Stuff

     
    Sonically, all ZMF headphones share a common lineage.  As you may have read in my Vibro review, Zach unabashedly tunes his headphones to make them sound great with acoustic instruments, which apparently means boosting the bass.  The Omni is no different in this respect; it’s bass-heavy and proud of it.  If you’re looking for a reference-level balanced tuning, this won’t be the headphone for you.  But if you want something that will make an upright bass or acoustic guitar sound like it’s right next to you, you’re definitely in the right place.
     
    The bass is one of the special aspects of the Omni, especially the blackwood variant.  The wooden cups shape the bass into a large, all-encompassing entity.  And I mean that literally:  it feels like the bass surrounds and defines most of the spherical soundstage.  Almost every other sound is presented within the bass rather than alongside it or layered above it.  But unlike some other bass-heavy headphones, the bass never intrudes into the other frequencies.  The mids and treble are presented with clarity despite the potentially booming bass.
     
    It should come as no surprise then to read that the bass extends well into the sub-bass regions and presents a rumble that’s hard to match.  I’m not one to really differentiate “impact” and “slam” and some other qualitative bass terms.  I’ll just say that as a planar, the bass hits hard with a very detailed feel.  Yet it doesn’t feel thin like some planars because of the resonance provided by the wooden cups.  It’s a great trick and I think bassheads will appreciate these headphones.  
     
    The other star of the show with the Omni is the detail retrieval.  This is a flagship headphone with commensurate pricing ($899-999 for the standard wood models) and the technical performance reflects that.  
     
    My main rig for some time has been the Hifiman HE-560 and Cavalli Liquid Carbon.  The 560 is priced comparably to the Omni and at one time I found the performance to be about on par, with the Hifiman giving a more balanced presentation but with a lighter and cheaper-feeling build.  However when I upgraded to the Cavalli Liquid Crimson, a much more powerful and resolving amplifier, it became clear immediately that the Omni outscales the HE-560 by a good margin.  It’s capable of retrieving much more micro-detail, making the HE-560 sound a bit fuzzy in the same way the HE-560 did to my old mid-fi dynamics.  The Omni loves power and the more you give it, the more it will give back.
     
    The Omni, as I’ve mentioned is bass-heavy, but that doesn’t come at the expense of the other frequencies.  The treble is crisp and snappy with no bothersome peaks, and it’s adequately extended.  I have a track that I use to test treble extension and on a headphone with rolled-off treble you simply can’t hear the hi-hat during the verses.  The Omni does not have that problem.  You should note that the treble too is affected by the chosen wood and I’ll address how shortly.
     
    The mids are not notably bad or notably good.  They’re well done and, more important, they’re not recessed.  I heard a pre-production model that had some small weirdness in the mids, but Zach promptly fixed that issue for the final tuning.  In fact, the entire frequency response feels very natural other than the lifted bass.  Because of that, the Omni can really work with many genres where some basshead cans tend to be more one-dimensional.
     
    The Omni is a semi-open headphone, meaning it’s mostly closed but has some openings.  This gives it a best-of-both-worlds feel in some respects.  The bass benefits from the closed aspects, with its big, heavy feel.  The treble, on the other hand, benefits from the open aspects.  The soundstage extends out quite a bit further than the other ZMF models (which are all closed).  The treble actually extends a bit outside of the sphere delimited by the bass, which can be a little odd sounding on tracks with lots of bass.  On more balanced tracks, the discrepancy isn’t noticeable and you just get a nice big soundstage.  
     
    Omni-2.jpg
     
    Relevant Aside
     
    Here’s the most important thing you need to know about the different wood choices: they all sound far more alike than different.  Unless you’re listening to them back to back, you’re going to have a hard time noting the differences.  Pick the lightest one or the sexiest looking one or the one whose sonic characteristics seem the best.  If it turns out you don’t like the one you got, you won’t like the others either.  Remember, all the models are tuned to the exact same frequency response.
     
    As I described in the Vibro review, the hardness of the wood affects the sonic presentation and the weight of the headphone.  The harder woods are heavier and tend to have chunkier bass and sharper transients.  The softer woods are lighter and tend to have more decay, softening the bass and the transients.  I like to think of it as a scale from 1 (soft) to 10 (hard).  Cherry is a 1, blackwood is a 10 and walnut is a 5.  The exotics tend to fall on the in-between numbers.
     
    **Now I’m going to get into very subjective territory here so take this bit with a grain of salt.  Remember:  my preferences may not match your own, so keep that in mind when I talk about which I like best.**
     
    I find that the blackwood is the most technically proficient model.  It’s got the cleanest presentation with the most detail.  It also has the biggest, chunkiest bass, which I found a bit over-the-top until I got used to it.  Now that I’m used to it, I think the bass is one of the special aspects of the Omni and I’m happy to get as much of it as I can.  I don’t know if I’d like it as my only headphone though.  Oh and it’s the heaviest.
     
    It’s worth noting here that the blackwood is $100 more than the other models.  This is because the wood is simply more expensive.  In my very subjective opinion, it’s worth the extra money.  I know that not everyone who has tried multiple models back to back has agreed.
     
    On the other end of the spectrum, you have the cherry.  This guy is quite a bit lighter than the blackwood, which is very welcome.  The bass is still there and still big, but it’s a bit bloomier.  The treble is also a bit laid back compared to the blackwood, letting the mids breathe a bit more.  Overall, it’s a more relaxed sound, which, when combined with the lighter weight, makes for an easy listen over a long time.  
     
    The walnut tends to be right in the middle in all respects.  This is a very safe choice, but while you might think it’s a best-of-both-worlds proposition, I personally feel like it’s actually the opposite.  You don’t get the technicality of the blackwood but it’s still on the heavy side.  I realize this is just personal preference though.  I’m what video gamers call a min/maxer; if you know what that means, you’ll understand my opinion here.
     
    I won’t go into the specifics of any of the exotic woods.  They’re not always readily available and Zach always likes to surprise us with new choices.  Anything I talk about now might never show up again.  Suffice it to say, you can tune your experience a bit with the exotics.  Want something almost as technical as the blackwood but with a tad more decay and less weight?  How about something as light as the cherry with just a bit more edge?  Whichever you pick, they all look amazing.
     
    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want to stress again that all these woods sound like an Omni.  You can’t go wrong with any of them so decide which most appeals to you on paper and just go for it.  
     
    Anyways, very subjective section over.  Now back to normal levels of subjectivity.
     
    Omni-4.jpg
     

    Relevant Coda

     
    The Omni, like all ZMF cans, excels with acoustic genres like bluegrass and jazz.  Counter-intuitively, it also rocks with electronica thanks to the wonderful bass.  Unlike other ZMF cans, however, the Omni is very good with most every genre I’ve listened to on it.
     
    The ZMF Omni is a the culmination of everything Zach has learned making headphones -- it’s the best headphone he’s ever made.  It outperforms other similarly-priced headphones, with looks to match.  I highly recommend folks give this headphone a listen and don’t skimp on the amping if you want to hear it really sing.  I think you’re really going to like it.
     
     
    Note:  All impressions were with review units provided by Zach (@zach915m).  I’ve had a good amount of time with all three standard wood models, as well as the exotic Black Limba wood (shown in the photographs).  Thanks to Zach for being so accommodating!
     
    Listening impressions were mostly with the Audio-GD DAC-19, Cavalli Liquid Carbon and Cavalli Liquid Crimson.  Cables were variously stock and upgraded cables sold by ZMF.
      mikemercer, Odin412 and x RELIC x like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. bunnynamedfrank
      Nice review Stillhart. These things are gorgeous... 
      bunnynamedfrank, Feb 27, 2016
    3. mikemercer
      Great job brother! I was impressed with those things the moment I heard em - and I think you did a spectacular job covering all the bases here. PUMPED to see your continued excitement over ZMF!
      I was PSYCHED to be the first headphone show in the US to have ZMF there (T.H.E Headphonium at T.H.E Show Newport - man did they blow it with us last year, anyway...) but I wondered what the response would be. Well, I don't need to tell you - so its VERY COOL to see them growing and reaching more Head-Fiers. Thumbs Up Go-cart KING. 
      mikemercer, Feb 29, 2016
    4. Girlfrombrasil
      Great review!I love my Omni Bocote headphones.They particularly shine with Jazz music and vocals!ps-l the Black Limba wood is gorgeous!
      Girlfrombrasil, Mar 22, 2016
  10. joeq70
    The ZMF Omni--The Sound I've Been Searching For
    Written by joeq70
    Published Jan 13, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - The fullest, most rich sounding headphones I've heard. Lush, detailed mids, deep and full bass, great imaging, and nice soundstage
    Cons - Among the heavier headphones I've used.

    DSC01087.jpg

     

    ZMF Omni Review


     

    Introduction

    First, a little bit about this headphone. This is the ZMF Omni, the current flagship headphone of the ZMF headphone brand, a brand created Zachary Mehrbach. ZMF headphones all utilize the now-ubiquitous T50RP drivers made by Fostex but they are heavily modified, damped, and placed in thoughtfully designed wooden cups to give each model a unique sound to suit listeners' preferences.
     

    Just Another T50RP Mod?

    To be honest, I wrote off ZMF headphones for long time because of a mental block I had that basically was this: “These are just T50RP mods, how good could they be?” I'm surely not the first person to think that mere mods “can only be so good.” I became a bit more open minded over time, however, when I considered some interesting truths I have read and experiences I have had about drivers used in many headphones. Consider the following:
     
    1. The Audioquest Nighthawk obviously appears to use Fostex drivers yet note how different they sound compared to the THX00/600/900
    2. Mr. Speakers has done some pretty impressive things with the T50RP himself
    3. Symphones has done amazing things modding Grado SR325 drivers before developing their own version of the Grado-style driver
    4. Beyerdynamic Telsa drivers looked exciting from a cutting edge R&D standpoint but they fell flat IMO
    5. Grado outsources their drivers from who knows where (it is a secret, apparently)

    The point of what I'm trying to express here is that while the driver is important, what often makes or breaks a headphone is the implementation of the driver and also the incredible impact of driver modification/tuning can have. Same goes for DACs and amps. A list of parts rarely indicates how successful the end result is.
     

    Some Context/Why I Bought the ZMF Omni

    I have had for some time now a pretty good idea of what I wanted in a headphone, and I've had many years of headphone trial and error to figure it out. I guess you could say that at this point, I'm a reformed treble-head. I used to crave a headphone with both a punchy and clinical presentation such as the HD800 in the right system or the Symphones Magnum X in aluminum cups.
     
    Such headphones have been hard on my tinnitus over the years, and I noticed that I would frequently turn up the volume to compensate for the lack of bass I was hearing. I eventually started listening to more vinyl and I purchased a pair of HD600s to capture a warmer, fuller yet still intimate sound. I loved the HD600s and their natural presentation but eventually decided to move on from them because they lacked sub-bass. I don't really consider myself a basshead; I just want to hear the fullness of sound that is often achieved when listening to speakers but in a more intimate way that only headphones can provide.
     
    One day I decided to message Zach Mehrbach at ZMF and we had a discussion about what I was looking for in a pair of headphones. I basically said that I love intimate vocals and vibrant mids but that I also wanted a headphone that was also resolving but with legitimate sub-bass and a decent soundstage, if possible. (In my mind I'm thinking give me the HD600 with better bass and soundstage and a touch more resolution—this to me would be the perfect headphone). He said that it sounds like we share the same taste in headphones and that I would probably be happiest with the Omni because it has the best soundstage in addition to the other features I was looking for. So I said okay, let's do this, and I placed my order.
     

    My Setup

    JRiver Media Center (FLAC files)→Aune T1 (Voskhod 6n23p 1979 grey shield tube)→Schiit Mjolnir→ZMF Omni
     
    I was enjoying the Omni straight out of my T1 until I acquired a 4-Pin XLR balanced cable and a Schiit Mjolnir. The Omni actually did sound pretty nice out of the T1 but adding in the Mjolnir made huge improvements across the board—soundstage, imaging, dynamics, athority, etc. I have another NOS tube on order to try out in my T1 but my current choice of the Voskhod 6n23p from '79 is pretty stellar so I'm going forward with the review now.
     

    How Do They Sound?

    I will try to make this both as simple and informative as I can. They sound awesome. The Omni is the fullest and richest sounding headphone I have ever heard. That is to say:
     
    1. There is sub-bass. I can't emphasize enough how much of a difference this makes when listening to my music. Once you realize how much bass has been missing from your other headphones, you won't want to go back to them.
    2. Holy crap, these headphones have some detailed yet smooth and rich mids. No midbass hump, no compressed sounding vocals and no muddiness from the bass frequencies bleeding in to the mids. The Omni has a clear and articulate midrange that is altogether detailed, involving, and easy to listen to.
    3. The highs are detailed, and thankfully they are not grainy and yet still not fatiguing. I noticed no harshness and no glare.
    4. There is an impressive soundstage with the Omni. A step up from the HD6X0 headphones but obviously not as large a soundstage as the HD800. What the Omni really excels in is instrument separation and imaging. With my tube DAC there is an extremely pleasant holographic quality to the sound put out by the Omni.
    5. As a whole, there is something unique and magical about the presentation that the Omni brings to the table. I love it.

    Comparisons to Other Headphones

    I have listened to many headphones over the years and most of the following notes are based on either owning the headphone or sitting down with a headphone for an extended period on multiple occasions.
     
    Audeze headphones:
    The Omni is most frequently compared to the Audeze LCD line of headphones and for good reason: they both share something of a warm, speaker-like presentation. That said there are differences between the LCD-2, LCD-3 and Omni. However, I really want to sit down and do an A/B between the Omni and the LCD line before I state specific differences. What I can say is that when I last listened to the LCD-2 and LCD-3 I liked them but not enough to want to buy them.
    The Audeze EL-8 Open sounds a bit different than all of the above as it has a bit of a snappier presentation with less of that lush speaker-like presentation. I like the EL-8 Open but it lacks that special something that makes me crave listening to music on headphones.
     
    Mr. Speakers Alpha Prime, Ether, and Ether C:
    It's natural to pit these against the Omni since the Prime is a T50RP mod and the Ether and Ether C are also high-end planar magnetic headphones. The Alpha Prime and Omni are very, very different sounding headphones (interesting considering they share the same driver). The Alpha Prime is more airy sounding with a bit more treble emphasis and deep but less authoritative bass and generally less body to the sound. I am actually in the unique category of person who likes both the Omni and the Alpha Prime sound signatures. I do, however, prefer the Omni by a lot.
    The Ether and Ether C are virtually the exact opposite of the Omni sound-wise. They could not possibly be any different. The Ether/Ether C have an extremely thin, bodiless sound to them and they have a void where bass should be. I can understand somebody liking these headphones but their presentation is really not to my taste.
     
    Audioquest Nighthawk
    The Nighthawk is an extremely polarizing headphone. I owned the Nighthawk briefly and I did come to understand its appeal, however, there are just too many things wrong with it to keep it around. The Nighthawk does have bass but the bass lacks articulation and the bass bleeds into the mids in flagrant fashion. The highs are rolled off and ultimately its a headphone that made me sad because it felt like a headphone with a ton of unrealized potential.
     
    Other headphones
    I could sit here all day and talk about the headphones I've heard, but I will spare you. If you'd like me to compare the Omni to some other headphone just shoot me a pm and I'll do my best to have a fresh listen and do a proper comparison.
     

    Final Notes

    1. The Omni really benefits from the extra power that my Mjolnir can give it. I recommend an amp that is well known for driving planars. It has been said that the Liquid Carbon is a good choice, and I am absolutely loving the Schiit Mjolnir (the current used price makes it a steal IMO).
    2. Take the time to get the fit right. I watched videos on youtube for both ZMF and Mr Speakers for how to properly bend the headband for a good fit.
    3. I use the lambskin pads. The cowhide pads do sound good, too, so I recommend ordering both to compare. Again, watch the ZMF youtube video for how to properly switch pads.

     
     
    Edit: I forgot to mention that the wood that I chose is Bocote. This was a limited edition wood choice, but feel free to contact Zach at ZMF to talk about wood availability and its impact on the sound. 
     
      soundfanz, cleg, Hawaiibadboy and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. joeq70
      Thanks for the compliments guys! @Dennis160 I don't normally pay attention to isolation and leakage when choosing a headphone because I listen solely in the privacy of my home. However, the Omni leaks less sound than one might expect from a semi-open design. As far as what is appropriate for office use, I'm not sure. I listen fairly loudly and you can can hear what song I'm listening to, but it's at a rather modest sound level compared to the open back headphones I've used. Your question might be better directed to Zach at ZMF or maybe one of the other Omni owners could chime in here as to whether they would use them in an office. 
      joeq70, Jan 14, 2016
    3. KimbaWLion
      I was at the Phila Head-fi meet and met Zack at there and took a listen to them. I ended up ordering the OMNI a week or so later. I got the Cherry and to my ears they sounded great. There are other reviews up that go into lots of details. I appreciate the time and effort that he puts into each one to extract the best sound possible. Zack is awesome to talk to and very accommodating, things I really appreciate! 
      KimbaWLion, Feb 10, 2016
    4. Girlfrombrasil
      Love the grain on your ZMF Bocote headphones!I also purchased the Bocote Le and although beautiful yours are stunning!Will have to post pics when I am granted full access!
      Girlfrombrasil, Mar 22, 2016