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ZMF Headphones Omni

Rating:
4.78125/5,
  1. 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. BunnyNamedCraig
      Nice review Stillhart. These things are gorgeous... 
      BunnyNamedCraig, 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
  2. Cotnijoe
    ZMF Omni: The Omnipotent Beast
    Written by Cotnijoe
    Published Oct 22, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Beautiful Design and Finish, Solid Build, Plush Earpads, Wonderful Tuning, Great Detail
    Cons - A Bit Heavy, Earpads Can Get Warm, Treble Can be Harsh with Lambskin Earpad
    Introduction:
                I’ve always been curious about Zach’s modded Fostex T50RPs. I almost grabbed myself a set of the ZMF x Vibro from Massdrop a few months back, but decided against it due to many people saying that it’s a richer, darker, LCD-2 sort of sound, which isn’t my personal preference. I’m glad I decided against going with the ZMF x Vibro because a few weeks later, the Omnis were announced! As someone dying to get a taste of Zach’s legendary tuning, I was one of those guys that counted down to the hours and minutes to the pre-order of the Omnis and pre-ordered it as soon as I could. Yea… that happened…
     
                It took Zach many changes and iterations in tuning even after the Omni was announced for him to finally perfect the Omnis, which led to quite a bit of delays, but I can certainly say that the extra month or so was definitely worth it. The Omni is a fantastic work of art – both inside and out.
     ​
    Packaging and Accessories:
                 Because I pre-ordered them, my Walnut Omni came with a seahorse case and an OCC ZMF upgrade cable (which I further upgraded to include a black sleeve and carbon fiber splitter). The Omni therefore came in the seahorse case packaging. Inside the case, you find the Omni and a little pouch with the cable and a card that specifies the contents of your order.
     
                I think the seahorse case is a fantastic accessory and a worthy investment. It’s incredibly sturdy and does a great job protecting whatever might be inside it (probably a ZMF Omni?). I have a feeling I’ll be using it for more than just a storage and travel case for the Omni though.
     
                I don’t know what the quality of the stock cable is like, but I can say that the upgraded ZMF OCC litz cable is a great upgrade as well. If you’re looking for an upgrade cable for a ZMF or Audeze headphone, I think it’s a no brainer. You don’t find too many OCC litz cables at 100 dollars. Not only that, but I can tell that Zach has improved his cable craftsmanship quite a bit. I got the upgraded cable not expecting to really care much for it, but I can say that it looks much better than what I saw from videos and pictures. It’s a flexible, comfortable, and nice looking cable. Zach uses Double Helix Cables’ (DHC) high quality material in the wires inside the headphones themselves, and his upgrade cable is also made out of DHC’s Nucleotide V3. He says that his measurements pre and post replacing the wires inside the headphone shows something along the lines of a 2 or 3 dB increase in overall volume, and that he is personally a big fan DHC. Not surprisingly, he also sells DHC cables for his Omnis. I personally use a DHC Complement 2 cable with my Omni.
     
                Zach is also looking to release a headphone stand sometime next year. I look forward to seeing what he comes with!
     
    DSCN0110.jpg
    Omni with ZMF Cable, DHC Complement 2 Cable, and Seahorse Case
     ​
    DSCN0111.jpg
    The Ownership Card
     
    Build, Design, and Comfort:
                The Omni has some gorgeous earcups. The wood is well-finished and the symmetrical vents look really nice. Of course, the ability to customize the earcups as well as the sliders also gives some degree of freedom for customizing the look (and sound) of the Omni. I, of course, chose the walnut earcup and opted for the natural bronze slider and I’m very happy with how my Omni looks. What’s so great about it is that you can tell it wasn’t built in a factory as it doesn’t have that industrial sense of precision to its build. It doesn’t look like any ordinary DIY’ed product though. The Omni gives off the vibe that it was handcrafted with great care and precision.
     
                Besides looking beautiful, the Omni also boasts top-notch build quality. Everything about it feels solid and there’s no imperfection of any kind despite it being modified by hand. The finish of the earcups shows no signs of blemishes or unevenness in the coating. The same goes for the paint of the sliders. When Zach says the Omnis are delayed because he needs a bit more time to make sure each unit is perfect, he gives you no reason to doubt that. The only imperfection I can see is that there are a few little flakes of wood in the vents of the Omni. It doesn’t affect the sound and it certainly doesn’t how the Omni feels or looks. No glue residue, no uneven wood finish, no crooked stitches. Awesome job Zach!
     
    DSCN0109.jpg
    A Closer Look at the Earcup. My Camera Does Not Do It Justice.
     
                By design, the Omni is a semi-open headphone. Thus, it is somewhere in between an open and closed headphone in many aspects. However, the Omni does resemble a closed headphone more so than it does an open headphone. The Omni has a good degree of isolation and doesn’t leak all that much sound. While it doesn’t sound completely open, it does have the benefit of having a more open sound. Not quite the best of both worlds, but the Omni does sneak in a few extra benefits that come from both type of headphones without all that much drawbacks.
     
                The Omni isn’t the heaviest headphone I’ve ever put on my head (the Kennerton Odin takes the prize for that), but it is the heaviest headphone I’ve personally owned. As a relatively skinny and small-headed person, big, heavy headphones aren’t exactly my best friend. Weighing 100 grams more than my HE560, I was a bit worried and skeptical about whether the Omni would be comfortable enough for me. My doubts were quickly proven wrong, as the Omni are fantastically comfortable despite being a bit heavy and bulky on my tiny head. I guess it makes sense… look at those earpads! They’re monstrously large, and they’re good at what they do. There’s also plenty of padding on the headband with ZMF’s pilot pad. While I found the HE560 to be comfortable, I did have a little bit of an issue with the earpads causing discomfort after 2 or 3 hours because it pushes my glasses against the side of my head. With the Omni, that’s not an issue. The earpads are just so massive and so plush that it wasn’t an issue. The lambskin earpad is a little bit softer than the cowhide and I found the lambskin to be a little more comfortable, but at the end of the day, both are very comfortable and I preferred the sound of the cowhide to the lambskin. More on that later.
     
    There are two areas in which I do think the Omni can improve upon in terms of overall comfort. One complaint I do have is that the earpads aren’t the most breathable and can get a bit warm over time. I’d love to see Zach come out with an earpad that has a material that would be more user-friendly during the hot summer months! The other place I see potential for improvement is where the connector for the cables are located. I wish they would be located more forward on the headphone’s earcup so that they are angled forward more. At their current location, the semi-bulky connectors coupled with my stiff DHC Complement 2 cable (which is basically the anaconda of headphone cables) means that I can’t lean too far back as the cable and connector will touch my shoulders and possibly shift the headphones on my head a little. Now this isn’t an issue with the ZMF OCC litz cable, and I assume wouldn’t be an issue with the stock cable either, but for those playing around with aftermarket cables that have higher braid counts or thicker wire gauges, it may be something to look out for.
     
    Last bit of business that’s sort of a complaint, but not actually – the Omni has a square material between the diaphragm and earpad in each ear. When I first received the Omni, I felt that something was a little off – I felt that the left side was just a little brighter than the right side. I later asked Zach what the two squares are, and he says that they’re there to reduce a peak at 10 kHz. I decided to play around with the positioning of the squares a little bit, and voila! The two sides sound balanced. I’m not sure if anyone else had any sort of experience, but if you do, see if the positioning of the two squares help balance out the two sides.
     
    Listening Impressions:
    As I briefly mentioned earlier, one of the beauties of the Omni (besides its build and design) is that the sound is customizable to a small degree. Well, actually, if you don’t like the sound of the Omni, you can send it back to Zach and he’ll retune it to your liking. How cool is that?! But, of course, that’s not what I mean when I say the sound is customizable. What I mean is that you can alter the sound a bit with the choice of the wood used in the earcups as well as the material in the earpads. The cherry cups are supposed to have a slightly richer sound, the blackwood is supposed to have a slightly drier sound, while the walnut is supposed to be somewhere in between. As Zach explains, these are subtle differences. The earpads also affect the sound to a degree. The cowhide gave a smoother sound while the lambskin tends to give a brighter and airier sound. I didn’t get a protein pleather pad, but according to Zach it’s also a slightly brighter sound. Once you choose the type of wood, that’s obviously set in stone. But you do get a little bit of flexibility in terms of the earpads as well. For me, my choice was the Omni with walnut cups and cowhide earpad. I tend to like a slightly more energetic treble but I found that the lambskin could get a little hot in the treble.
     
    Listening was done with songs of all genres and quality (with the exception of DSD) running Foobar > Schiit Wyrd > Asus Essence III DAC/Amp > DHC Complement 2 > ZMF Omni.
     
    DSCN0101.jpg
    My Listening Setup with the Omni
     
    The lower end of the Omni is rich, but not as big as I was expecting – which is a great relief to me. I’m not a big fan of an overly bassy sound and I feel that bass of the Omni has good thump and excitement to it without straying too far from the realm of neutrality. True to the reputation of orthodynamic drivers, the Omni has fantastic extension down low. The sub bass starts to take a dive below 40 Hz, but retains good presence down to 23 Hz or so. With great sub bass, of course, comes great sub bass texture and detail. While not the fastest or cleanest sub bass I’ve heard, it’s nonetheless very capable. The mid bass has an extra bit of thump to it, but it’s very tastefully done. Few people will say that the Omni is too bassy for them, and only the truest of bassheads will say that the Omni isn’t bassy enough. The bass is exciting with a great sense of impact and rumble, but retains great control, speed, and detail.
     
    The earlier prototypes as well as the first few units of the Omni supposedly had a more recessed midrange. Zach at the last minute, decided to retune them a little bit, and boy am I glad he did. There are a lot of great things to say about the midrange of the Omni. The midrange has a good sense of balance that isn’t particularly forward or recessed. Vocals hold their ground very well and always has a great sense of presence, instrument separation is incredibly well done on the Omni, and the background is very black. I honestly think that separation is one of the strongest points of the Omni. I find the upper midrange and lower treble of the Omni to be just a tad aggressive, which gives the Omni a sense of flare and crispness that makes instruments pop a bit more and is very enjoyable to listen to. This also brings forth a better sense of the detail in the music, and the Omni is able to deliver plenty of detail.
     
    As I said, the lower treble is crisp and exciting, but I never found it to be sharp or fatiguing at my normal listening levels. Using the lambskin earpad I do find that the treble can get a little hot and fatiguing after some time, but that’s taking into account that the lambskin is brighter. With the cowhide earpad, the Omni is fatigue-free but still exciting. The treble of the Omni is very crisp, detailed, and textured. Decay is also clean and very fast. However complex the music may become, the Omni remains unfazed and every hi-hat or cymbal will always ring with a great sense of clarity and realism. While the Omni doesn’t have the sense of openness and air that truly open headphones have, the Omni does have a good sense of space and a decent sense of air thanks to a pretty good treble extension – going up to 16 kHz without any real issues.
     
                In terms of soundstage and imaging, the Omni really delivers. The soundstage has a great sense of width for a planar driver and the Omni also has a really good sense of depth, allowing for some really really fantastic layering. Imaging is incredibly precise – I would perhaps dare to say one of the best I’ve experienced in a headphone below 1000 dollars. The Omni really delivers a wonderfully clean and precise presentation of the music with plenty of headroom to go with it.
     
    Summary of Sound
                The Omni really delivers a wonderfully fun experience and I finally understand why Zach’s headphones are so popular. He doesn’t tune his headphones for any other purpose but for them to sound good to him – it just so happens that he has pretty good taste! The Omni is a dynamic and exciting headphone to listen to that doesn’t leave you feeling that it’s too aggressive or thick sounding.
     
    Comparisons:
     
    ZMF Omni and HIFIMAN HE560 (Unmodded)
                I love my HE560. It’s light, it’s comfortable, and it has a neutral and detailed sound. Being priced at very similar prices, the two are naturally seen as potential competitors – and competitive they are.
     
                The HE560 has a very flat bass response that is able to extend very deep despite not being particularly emphasized in the low end. On the other hand, the Omni does have a more impactful and weighty bass. Honestly, both headphones have very good extension but the Omni is just a teeny tiny bit better to my ears. However, I do find overall sub bass texture to be cleaner and faster on the HE560. Neither headphone has any sort of issue keeping up with low end textures, but the HE560 does tend have a clearer texture as it has less of a bass bloom compared to the Omni.
     
                The midrange of the Omni feels fuller than that of the HE560, which can feel a little thin in comparison. The midrange of the HE560 is also a little more distant in presentation. I find the presentation of the Omni to be more natural while also being a little better in texture. Instrument separation is also just a tad better with the Omni to me.
     
                Treble comparison is a little more interesting. While Zach says that the difference between the lambskin and cowhide pads is fairly subtle, I would say it can be pretty significant. As someone who enjoys more treble energy, I chose to try out the lambskin first. However, I found the lower treble of the Omni to be sharper than that of the HE560. So for those that find the HE560 treble to be harsh (I’m not one of those people), go straight to the cowhide. With the cowhide pads, the treble is smoother than the HE560’s treble but remains very well textured.
     
                As a semi-open headphone, the Omni naturally doesn’t’ have the sense of openness that the HE560 is capable of. However, the Omni has a larger soundstage as well as better imaging. Again, the imaging and sense of depth the Omni is capable of is really spectacular – especially when you factor in price.
     
                To sum it up, I certainly wouldn’t say one is superior to the other. Without a doubt, the Omni has the more exciting and punchy sound that people will love, but it also has no problem competing with the HE560 in terms of sonic capabilities. The HE560 has a drier and more analytical signature that certainly has its own merits as well. I never thought I’d be saying goodbye to my HE560 so soon, but I do prefer the Omni to the HE560.
     
    DSCN0108.jpg
    The Omni and HE560
     
    Ending Thoughts:
                 So I really like the Omni and I’m very happy I preordered it. Zach has really done a wonderful job tuning this headphone. It’s able to present a fantastic level of detail and texture while sounding really fun and enjoyable. Better yet, the Omni performs very well on all levels and fronts. While I love the sound of the LCD-3 and can see why people find the two similar, I will never be able to upgrade to the LCD-3 from the Omni. The Omni is much more comfortable for me in comparison to Audeze headphones, and I’m not quite willing to give up the comfort of the Omni for the upgrade in sound.
     
                There’s really not a whole lot to dislike in the Omni. For anyone on the fence or giving it a consideration, I can feel very comfortable in suggesting the Omni to you. Even if the sound signature of the Omni isn’t “to your liking,” there won’t be many people out there that legitimately dislike how the Omni sounds. There’s really no glaring weakness to how it’s tuned. Congratulations to Zach and ZMF for creating a fantastic flagship headphone
    1. WhiskeyJacks
      So, you sold the HE-560's in exchange for keeping the Omni's? Are you still happy with that decision? I believe the walnut omni are the one's I will be reviewing
      WhiskeyJacks, Feb 11, 2016
    2. Cotnijoe
      @WhiskeyJacks Yup! I do think it was a good decision. The walnut Omni had a sense of precision and punch that the HE560 couldnt match. It certainly doesnt sound as open as the HE560, but it also have a more expansive soundstage.
      Cotnijoe, Feb 11, 2016
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Rhamnetin
    Natural, Engaging, Well Rounded, Expertly Crafted
    Written by Rhamnetin
    Published Jun 15, 2018
    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 hands down the best for 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
    - LFF Code-6/Code Sex (modded HiFiMan HE-6)
    - Sennheiser HD 598 Cs
    - Sennheiser HD 6XX
    - Stax SR-007A
    - Stax SR-30
    - ZMF Blackwood (another modded Fostex T50RP MK3)

    Only one of those do I rank above the ZMF Ori personally for most genres: the Stax SR-007A (but I rank the Ori over it and all others for rap/hip hop). 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 add (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 Audio Note, 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.

    The Ori, like the Blackwood, emphasizes IMPACT but without drowning out the mids. Probably the most bass impact of any headphone that doesn't have severely recessed mids. The overall attack and PRaT for the Ori is incredible, making for one of the most fun headphones but without being fatiguing since it does not have accentuated treble.

    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, and the bass slam doesn't seem quite as forward as the Blackwood when both are slamming the most (rap music), but for this last point the difference is very mild. 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.

    Compared to the LFF Code-6 (modded HiFiMan HE-6), the Ori's bass completely outclasses it. Code-6 is muddy in comparison, less extended with too little response in the sub-bass, seems to have an ever so slightly distracting dip in the bass to mids transition, and the Ori simply has more forward bass (slightly too recessed for me on the Code-6) with much, much more slam.

    From my experience, the ZMF Ori is the king of rap/hip hop as far as headphones go. I've never heard better for these genres; not the Audeze LCD-4, not the HiFiMan HE1000, not the LFF Code-6, not the Stax SR-007A (though mine was only used with a KGSS). 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.

    It sounds to me like the upper mids of the Ori have a slightly stronger relative response than the Blackwood, also stronger than the HiFiMan Sundara and Audeze headphones for reference, but lower than the HE-560. I hear this most in Sledgehammer with Rihanna's voice, it sounds a bit closer than some other headphones.

    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. Flawless, but without taking a step back. Audeze headphones and the HiFiMan Sundara will take a step back here to really avoid being fatiguing for example, making the upper mids sound a bit more distant than the lower mids. The ZMF Ori does not do this. Different strokes for different folks.

    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. 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 better yet a standard 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.
    1. Wes S
      Great review and makes me want this headphone even more than i already did. Curious, what tubes you used with Lyr 3?
      Wes S, Jun 20, 2018
      MTMECraig likes this.
    2. Rhamnetin
      Raytheon VT-231 was my favorite, I also tried the Ken Rad Navy Black Glass VT-231 and Sylvania chrome dome 6SN7WGT.
      Rhamnetin, Jun 20, 2018
      Wes S likes this.
    3. Wes S
      Thanks for the reply! I am currently using a KenRad vt231 with my Lyr 3 and Alpha Primes and love it. The Ori are my next purchase.
      Wes S, Jun 22, 2018
  6. Hisoundfi
    An "Omni-potent" headphone! The ZMF Omni planar magnetic flagship headphone
    Written by Hisoundfi
    Published Nov 27, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Relaxed yet resolving signature that is a joy to listen to, Heirloom build quality, Top notch customer service, Lots of build and sound options
    Cons - Heavier than average (not excessively), Pads can get hot during long listening sessions (especially cowhide pads)
    At the time this was written, the ZMF Omni could be purchased directly from the ZMF website. Here is a link to the site for purchase:
     
    20151127_111426.jpg
     
    http://www.zmfheadphones.com/order-the-zmf/zmf-omni
     
    Introduction
    When I first met Zach it was last spring at the 2015 Chicago Axpona audio convention. At the event, there was a dedicated headphone room full of  booths the likes of Astell & Kern, Sennheiser, Oppo and many other of the big names in the audiophile world.
     
    To be honest, Zach and his ZMF booth was different from the rest. In a room full of company representatives from all over the world, many of them wearing their suit jackets and handing out neatly printed pamphlets and trying to secure sales, here was this very normal looking guy I could have mistaken for a attendee had he not been behind a table, exhibiting some rather unique looking headphones in front of him.
     
    20150425_140632.jpg
    Mr. ZMF and me at Axpona 2015
     
    I had heard about ZMF headphones before bumping into Zach, but never really thought it would be something for me. I had a chance to sample the Vibro and Blackwood that day, and also talked about his soon to be released Omni. At the time I was really into “bang for your buck” products and the asking price on Zach’s stuff was a little bit too rich for my blood.
     
    After listening to his Headphones I thought for sure he was going to hand me a bunch of sales flyers and ask me if I would be interested in purchasing something. Instead, the first thing out of his mouth was “So, what do you think?” It was like we were a couple buddies and I was checking out his new headphones he just got in. I gave him my stamp of approval and was on my way.
     
    That day I had a chance to try several top of the line headphones like the HE-1000, LCD-X, HD800, several  Beyerdynamics and many other models. Up to that point I had always thought that top tier headphones would all sound relatively the same. By the end of the day what I realized is that they all have their own unique approach, and the sound alters differently between models, sometimes radically. Headphones are designed and catered to appeal to different tastes. I think the most intriguing thing I learned that day is that there is no right or wrong in this hobby, it’s all a matter of preference, and what we are willing to pay to achieve our own level of audio nirvana.
     
    Since the 2015 Axpona, I’ve had a chance to attend a few more Chicago Head-Fi meets and sample more top tier headphones, including the Omni Zach and I discussed. Upon first listen I found them to be PHENOMENAL. Truth be told, all his headphones sound great but there was something about the Omni I especially liked. Zach and I chatted about the headphones and what the differences there are between the Omni and older models. We chatted about baseball, our wives, our careers and life in general. What I soon realized is that Zach is a really good guy, and his biggest priority with ZMF is to connect with enthusiasts and please his customers. I was also able to secure a review sample for me and a couple of my Head-Fi friends who were interested in reviewing them.
     
    I would like it to be known that upon receiving the Omni review sample, I have committed to purchasing them. The pair Zach has provided is incredible and I don’t want to send them back at the conclusion of the tour.
     
    What is the ZMF?
     
    20151007_163453.jpg
     
    A few years ago, a very popular hobby on Head-Fi was modding the Fostex T50rp. Modifications of all sorts were done and some members got really good at it. It was pretty cool to read about how people would take a reasonably priced planar magnetic headphone and tune it to their personal preferences. Personally, I hardly ever modify headphones out of fear that I’d ruin them and be out the money I spent.
     
    If modifying the T50rp is an artform, I consider Zach to be the Pablo Picasso of doing so.
     
    He takes a T50rp like this…
     
    download_20151123_120013.jpg
     
    ...and turns it into a work of art like this…
     
    20151127_111408.jpg
     
    And trust me friends, it’s an incredible sounding headphone!
     
    I asked Zach how this whole thing came about. He says that a few years ago he made a modified T50rp for a relative, and they liked it so much that several others wanted a pair made. Between that and being mildly successful recabling pairs of Sony MH1 (if you’ve been on Head-Fi long enough I’m sure you remember that craze) ZMF was born. Zach later joined forces with Luke from Vibro Labs and the ZMF wood cups became a staple of the ZMF headphone. ZMF continues to grow as more people have an opportunity to hear them. Hearing is believing, and ZMF has made believers out of many.
     
    You might be thinking to yourself “Wait, so the ZMF headphone is just a modified T50rp?”
     
    That’s a tricky question to answer. The answer is yes, but the leap in quality in every aspect will make you say that doesn’t matter. Zach goes beyond making it just better, he radically transforms this into an heirloom quality headphone that sounds amazing. I made sure to try the T50rp, then immediately try a ZMF afterwards. You would never think it was the same headphone. It’s not even relatively close in comparison. The difference is night and day.


     
    Review
    20151127_111426.jpg
     
    I could sit here and tell you why butter pecan ice cream is the best ice cream and point out all the reasons why you should run out and buy a half gallon right now. At the end of the day if you like chocolate ice cream, it doesn’t matter what I say. What I hope to do with this review is tell you why I personally love this headphone and hope that my write up gives YOU the opportunity to find out if this is something that appeals to your preferences. I hope this review will give you the information you need to decide whether or not the Omni would be a headphone that appeals you your preferences.
     
    The Omni arrived in a few days from the time of receiving the shipping notification via email. It arrived in a Seahorse case. The case is an aftermarket product, as is just about everything that makes up the ZMF and culminates into one phenomenal package. The exterior of the case has a patented ZMF logo sticker on it. It is very durable Plastic with dual clips that keep the case securely shut. The entire case is about the size of a small shoe box. There is two spots for a lock on each corner of the case (locks are not included). The interior of the case is lined with foam that holds the Omni securely in place while transporting.
     
    20151127_111008.jpg
     
    20151127_110928.jpg
     
    Opening the case revealed the headphones, two cables, and two extra pairs of pads.
     
    20151127_111129.jpg
     
    There are three pad options, and all of them make minor changes to the sound. The pad options are Cowhide, Lambskin, and Protein. They are all high quality and very comfortable.
     
    20151127_111747.jpg
     
    The Omni came with two stock cables, a 3.5mm cable, and an XLR cable. These stock cables are made of decent material but don’t necessarily match the quality of the headphones themselves. There are several cable upgrade options to choose from, including variances in length and termination. You can get pretty fancy with cable upgrades. There is a chat feature on the ZMF website where I’m sure Zach will be able to assist you in getting the perfect cable for your application if you aren’t seeing the option you’re looking for. The left and right channels connect at the cups via an mini XLR connection, and each channel is marked with rings to identify each channel (red/right, black/left). This configuration makes it convenient for running balanced cables.
     
    20151127_111253.jpg
     
    Also included was a velvet material drawstring bag for holding cables or earpads, and a laminated card that is a certificate of authenticity. This card has the date it was made along with Zach’s personalized signature of approval. The certificate has a handwritten list of the customized options installed on the pair of headphones. Zach even noted the owner as “The Lab” which is my thread, and consists of the reviewers that will partake in reviewing this particular pair of headphones. I really like the personalization with the owner’s certificate and consider it to be a nice touch for those who invests in a premium product like this.
     
    20151127_113953.jpg
     
    Holding the headphones in my hand, they reek of luxury and quality. From the cups, to the pads, to the headband, everything has been meticulously thought out to give the owner that “WOW” factor. I could hold any other pair of headphones I currently own in my hand and their build quality won’t come close to what ZMF has accomplished with the Omni. It’s solid from top to bottom.
     
    Starting with the cups, the Omni comes in three different woods. The options are Cherry, Walnut, and Blackwood. The wood you choose impacts the sound to a certain extent, with the Cherry being the most linear sounding, and the Blackwood being the bassier of the three. I chose the walnut because it is tuned in the middle of the other two woods and seemed to retain characteristics I appreciated in both the Cherry and Blackwood.
     
    Each pair of cups starts out as a milled pair of wood. They are hand stained by Zach himself. They are all beautifully finished and can have some personal touches added by request. When visiting Zach to have my Omni retuned (more on that in a bit) I saw some pretty radical cups lying around his shop.
     
    20151101_144906.jpg
    Blackwoods with custom stain... WOW
     
    20151101_144449.jpg
    Stained cups ready for drivers
     
    20151101_144136.jpg
    Cups waiting to be stained
     
    The cups of the Omni have a small amount of oscillation where they connect to the slider, helping make the fit of the Omni very comfortable. The slider is made of metal and comes in five different color options (Powder Black, Cast Iron, Architectural Bronze, Cast Aluminum, Natural Bronze). they are solid metal and durable.
     
    20151127_111408.jpg
     
    The headband is the original rubber fostex band. My pair comes with an upgraded and detachable aftermarket protein exterior foam filled padding that makes my Omni very comfortable. If you do purchase the Omni I recommend this padding as it covers the Fostex logo and really improves the overall comfort. The band is flexible and durable, and I understand why the band is not replaced from the stock Fostex band. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
     
    20151127_111503.jpg
    Pad on (super comfortable)
     
    20151127_111533.jpg
    Headband pad removed
     
    Comfort
    The pads of the Omni are angled to help imaging. They come in three different material options (Cowhide, Lambskin, and Protein). I found the Lambskin to be my personal favorite by far, as they were the most comfortable and breathable of all the pads I tried.
     
    The Omni is a pretty bulky pair of headphones. I wouldn’t recommend them for commuting because of the sheer amount of space they take up, nor would I want to take them out of the house to risk damaging them.
     
    Holding them in my hands they feel a bit heavier than the average headphone, but they haven’t gone overboard on weight. Between the thick pads and the way the band rests on my head, I find them to be pretty comfortable.
     
    While the Omni is considered to be a vented earphone, the only thing vented is the sound. The Omni gets as hot on the ears as your average closed headphone. I’m not sure how inspired I would feel to use these on my porch on a hot summer day. Aside from the heat (which honestly isn’t too bad) I give the Omni a thumbs up in terms of comfort.
     
    Sound Review
    Before the sound review is done, we have to cover something special about any pair of ZMF you purchase. As I said earlier, Zach is committed to giving his customers the best experience he can offer. If you are unhappy with the way your ZMF sounds, he will retune your headphone to better cater to your preferences one time FOR FREE. When I first got the Omni I loved it but felt like the soundstage of the Omni was not ideal. Although resolution was great, I was thinking they could have use a few decibel decrease in bass, and a lift somewhere in the upper frequencies. Usually headphones are sent in to be retuned, but because I had chatted with Zach on a few occasions, was doing a review and lived so close, I met him at his home headquarters in Chicago to have my Omni tested and retuned as well as see what goes into the making of the Omni. Here is a graph of what my Omni tuning is like after the adjustment:
     
    20151101_155341_HDR.jpg
     
    Zach retuned them to what he said is his new “standard tuning” for all of the Omnis he makes. After the retune, I can honestly say that I consider these to be an “end game” type of sound quality.
     
    JDS Labs Element
     
    20151127_115042.jpg
     
    While at the shop I asked him what he suggests for a source. While most sources will work as long as they are more powerful than the standard cell phone, and maybe a bit more than the standard DAP, I asked Zach if there is an affordable desktop option he would suggest for the Omni, and without hesitation he recommended the JDS Labs Element. The reason being the one full watt of power, and excellent DAC and amplifier that is installed. All this in combination with a very nice look and simple functionality made this something I was very curious to try out. If Zach says he highly recommends this amplifier for his headphones, I would have to see if there’s a way to get one for the tour. I’m happy to say that as a result of contacting JDS labs and explaining the situation with the Omni review tour, the guys at JDS Labs were kind enough to provide a Element DAC/Amplifier that can be used for the tour. Not only to display the capability of the Omni, but also the Element. I must say that the synergy was great. Before it gets sent back, I will also be doing a review on the Element to give it more exposure. It is a great little desktop DAC/Amp that punches well beyond its asking price.
     
    Other Sources Used
    Another rig I used for desktop use was my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a HIFIMEDIY Sabre ES9023 USB DAC/Bravo Audio Ocean Tube amplifier with a Mullard 12AU7 tube for higher impedance, and a Fiio E18 USB DAC & Amplifier in both high and low gain. Both were run at 24 bit, 96000 Hz. I also tested them with other DAPs and amplifiers as well. I used Google Music downloaded in its highest download quality (320 KBPS) and I also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.
     
    Source Selection Summarized
    One of the beauties of the Omni was its ability to scale with higher bitrate files, but also be forgiving with poorly recorded music. Although it is pretty forgiving and will work with portable amplifiers (preferably on high gain), you won’t unleash the full potential of the omni unless you are streaming some high bit rate recordings through an at least somewhat powerful desktop set up. Do this and you will spend the next few hours simmering in the musicality that is the ZMF Omni.
     
    I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
    “Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
    “Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
    “Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
    “Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
    “Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
    “The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
    “Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
    “Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
    “One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
    “Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
    “Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
    “And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
    “Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
     
    Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to asses and break down the gear’s response.
     
    Overall Signature
    Writing reviews is bitter sweet. It’s sweet in the sense that I get to try a vast variety of different pieces of gear, but bitter because I’ve subconsciously trained my brain to pick the sound apart and analyze the headphone rather than enjoy my time with whatever I’m listening to. What the Omni does is take away that urge to analyze performance and figure out the signature, and gives me the freedom to kick back in my chair, relax and soak in the combination of resolution and musicality that makes it an incredible headphone. I can’t help spending most of my time listening to them and appreciating all the things they do well.
     
    I would describe my Omni as a warm tilted and non fatiguing headphone with extended and authoritative bass that doesn’t overwhelm or get fatiguing. It retains a great combination of detail and separation through the entire midrange that works well with its warm tilt, making it a great entertainer. There is no type of bleed at any frequency, even at high volumes. Treble is a unique combination of extension and resolution and without any type of spike or harshness whatsoever. I can listen to the Omni for hours without ever getting fatiguing or boring. The tuning works well with everything I threw at it. Vocals sound natural with a slight warm tilt. Nothing seems unnatural to my ears. It is a very complete sound that I can’t fault. While some out there who prefer a more linear sound, or a more aggressive upper frequency range won’t find what they are looking for in the Omni, I am confident that a large majority of those who have a chance to listen to the omni will fall in love with their engaging signature.
     
    Bass
    Although the bass is forward in the mix, it is of impressive response thanks to the speed of the planar magnetic driver. There is more rumble than punch, and their response extends as low as your ears can hear. There is a nice transition from sub bass to midrange that avoids any type of bleed. It is a combination of bass forwardness and resolution that is seldom replicated. While it doesn’t cross into basshead territory, it has an authoritative lift in lower frequencies that is very enjoyable and works with all music. Mid bass frequencies are tuned so that it avoids being intrusive. The best way I could describe it is that it has a nice forward and extended presence like many pairs of closed back headphones, but the speed and texture of a vented design.
     
    Midrange
    Lower midrange is warm tilted without being excessively weighted or sounding unnatural. This gives the Omni a nice sense of timbre and makes vocals very entertaining. A warm tilt carries on through the entire midrange and leads into a smooth yet detailed upper midrange. One of the things to note is the warm tilt, incredible resolution, and no radical spikes or dips, making the Omni incredibly entertaining and musical. I’ve heard other headphones in this price range that have tried to replicate this signature but were unable to achieve the same level of clarity and separation, making them sound sloppy in comparison. Amidst the warmth of the Omni, there’s a level of PRAT that makes them truly addicting.
     
    Treble
    The extension is there, but the spike isn’t. You will hear every treble detail in the track but with a different approach to many higher end headphones. The sense of space is created by the Omni with extension and clarity rather than an artificial boost. What you get is a very complete yet slightly relaxed treble presentation.  
     
    Soundstage and Imaging
    The Omni is a lot of things all at once, which makes it a great headphone capable of doing many things well at the expense of not being the best at one particular aspect of its sound. The Omni does lose a little bit of in terms of soundstage because of its tuning, but still there is a nice sense of space. I would say the soundstage is better than the average pair of headphones but not the best I’ve heard. Imaging is along the same lines, being formidable but not elite.
     
    Comparisons
    Although I don’t currently own a pair of headphones at this price point, I feel the next best thing to do is compare it to my current favorite pair of open back and closed back Headphones that I own.
     
    Sennheiser HD600 ($325--$400 USD on many sites)
    The HD600 has and will continue to be a personal favorite and benchmark when comparing gear. It is a pretty neutral headphone with excellent soundstage and resolution.
     
    First thing i noticed when comparing these two is that the HD600 is thin sounding in comparison. The bass on the Omni is not only more forward, but also more extended and entertaining from what I heard. After my ears adjusted to the Omni, it took a good while for my ears to adjust back to the brighter and leaner sound of the HD600, and vice versa. Despite the more extended sub bass the HD600 and Omni displayed similar characteristics in its mid range, offering a warmer yet still very natural presentation from what I heard. Moving to the upper midrange and treble, the HD600 had a more forward presence with a noticeable lift that made the top end of the HD600 more aggressive to my ears, and potentially more fatiguing during long listening sessions. On the same note, after my ears adjusted to the HD600 treble, going back to the Omni made them seem lacking in upper registers (until my ears adjusted back the the Omni tuning). Overall clarity and resolution was too close to determine a clear cut winner. I give the Omni the advantage in terms of timbre and dynamics.
     
    Soundstage on the HD600 is superior. Its open design and elevated treble presence gives them a great sense of space.
     
    Power requirements are fairly similar (the Omni requires maybe a touch more power).
     
    I would say comfort is a draw. The HD600 is a slightly tighter squeeze on my head, but the Omni cups can get pretty hot on my ears. Other than that they both are a good fitment.
     
    In terms of build quality and accessories, it’s not even close. The Omni is world class and is of heirloom quality. The case that comes with the Omni is a bonus over the caseless HD600.
     
    Soundmagic HP150 ($175-$200 USD on many sites)
    The HP150 is an incredible closed back headphone that makes many people’s top ten list of favorite headphones. They offer a bass forward tuning with good extension on both ends and a huge soundstage.
     
    The Omni has a more resolving bass response, making the HP150 seem slightly boomy in comparison. This translates into a slight bleed on the HP150. Midrange is slightly more full sounding and with more timbre on the Omni, with the HP150 being more thin from what I hear. Treble on the the HP150 has a spike somewhere up top and some will find it harsh at louder volumes, while the Omni retains a smoothness through this range that makes it very fun and easy to listen to. Although I find the soundstage to be superior on the HP150, overall sound quality goes to the Omni.
     
    Again, build quality is no contest, the Omni wins in every aspect.
     
    Conclusion
    The Omni has not cracked to code and constructed a headphone that will appeal to every audiophile in the world. People looking for a very linear and tight sound won’t find what they are looking for in the Omni. It is a headphone that is designed to be engaging, entertaining and fatigue free. It is a bass forward tuning that incorporates a level of resolution and musicality that many will find addicting.
     
    20151127_111408.jpg
     
    What Zach has done is taken a pretty average headphone and rebuilt and retuned it to something that many will make their prized audio possession.. They are a unique combination of traits in both build and tuning that makes them one of the best headphones I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.
     
    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
      joeq70, soundfanz, Brooko and 7 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. imac2much
      Great review!  I had the Soundmagic HP100 also (predecessor of the HP150 with the same sound signature but slightly different cups and cable), and I find your experience similar to my own.  There were times when I enjoyed the HP150 more than my 400i due to its emphasized bass, but in comparison to the Omni it sounds boomy and bloated.  I know I definitely did not think this before (especially when compared to Klipsch and Beats) but it's a testament to the Omni's tight yet articulate sub-bass and mid-bass presence.  The Omni excels in all other areas as you said, though this should be expected at the large price gap.  I still feel that the HP100/150 is a great value for the money, but even my wife who regularly wears Apple Earbuds was quite amazed by the Omni in comparison to my 400i, PM-3 and HP100. 
      imac2much, Nov 27, 2015
    3. H20Fidelity
      Excellent review and photos.
      H20Fidelity, Nov 27, 2015
    4. Delayeed
      Wow. What a fantastic review. I'm not even getting these but just kept reading because of the review content. :)
      Delayeed, Feb 26, 2016