Cons: Weight, comfort (not necessarily a problem for everyone)
One of the things I love about the headphone hobby is that it’s still possible for small, initially one man shop businesses to come up with artisan headphones that can compete with the flagships from goliath companies like Sennheiser and Sony. HiFiMan, Dan Clark Audio (formerly MrSpeakers) and ZMF are three who have done just that coming up with highly competitive headphones in both price and performance.
Like Dan Clark, Zach Mehrbach got his start modifying the Fostex T50RP. When he began creating original designs, his craftsmanship, engineering and competitive pricing won over a sizeable following in the audiophile community. By 2016, anticipation reached a fever pitch when the Atticus and Eikon were announced. A Head-Fi member who heard a prototype of the Eikon said it had a “HE-6/Abyss/TH900-level impact.” I heard both and briefly met Zach at Axpona 2017. Both headphones sounded great, and I was tempted to buy the Eikon. I’m tempted by many things, however, and usually think a long time before making a big purchase.
Then came the the Vérité and the headphone community collectively lost their minds. Like, seriously. People were saying it’s the first closed headphone to sound truly open, and compared it to the legendary Sony MDR-R10, a sort of chupacabra headphone that came out in 1989. The few who heard it claimed it was the best sounding headphone ever, and some insisted that remained true after Sennheiser’s Orpheus came out in 1991. Is this crazy talk? It was time to find out. I ordered a pair, initially the open version, in January. Metalheads on the Head-Fi forum were particularly evangelistic about the closed version, and convinced me to change my order. By then, the limited Leopardwood edition was available for pre-order, so I opted for that. I also drove poor Zach crazy trying to convince him to stain it black for me. I’m sure that offended the wood lover’s sensibilities, and as you can see from the photos, the black did not happen. No matter, when they finally arrived in April, they looked lovely, and were dark enough that it didn’t look like I was wearing hamburgers on my ears (an unfortunate visual impression left on my co-workers when I used to have the Fostex TH-X00).
I’d originally hoped to pick up the headphones myself, as I live in the area, and see the workshop. But we were well into the pandemic, and I stayed home. I meant to write about them within a few weeks, but time warped in strange ways this year, and I put on the Vérité, and before I knew it, the year’s nearly over. And I listened to a whole lot of music. Those who follow my site and music lists will see that I’ve rated more albums than ever, more than 1,200 and counting.
Before going into specifics, I’ll say that I got so lost in the music, that I stopped thinking about headphones, and lost all interest for a while in comparing them, thinking about them, or talking about them. I was MIA from the Head-Fi forum for most of that time. This was partly due to the fact that the Vérité did it’s job in enveloping in music to the point where all gear disappears. That’s about as close to a perfect experience one can get with headphones. The only caveat for me is a comfort factor, which did remind me about an hour in, that something large was most definitely sitting on my head. Nevertheless, they are definitely the best closed headphones I’d ever heard, noting that I have listened to the Fostex TH900 Mk2, the Sony MDR-Z1R, and other top closed flagships from Audeze, beyerdynamics, Sennheiser and AKG, but have never heard the MDR-R10, the Denon AH-D9200, the Focal Stellia or the newest contender, the HiFiMan HE-R10.
I noticed that most of the flagship closed headphones use dynamic technology, as opposed to the extremely popular planar-mag open headphones. There must be something about dynamic drivers, with their fast responsiveness and impact, that complement the closed cup design. But the 50mm Vérité has benefits for fans of both technologies. It uses an ultra-thin polyethylene naphthalate driver, vapor-deposed with 20% beryllium coating. This process yields a stiff driver that delivers planar-like sound, with extra fast, dynamic punch.
Bass: I like me some head-rattling bass, and with some music like doom metal and sludge, I don’t even mind if it’s sloppy. But beyond those genres, it’s good to have some balance between depth, impact/slam and accuracy/clarity. So while they may not be quite the heavy bass cannons as others like the Sony MDR-Z1R and Fostex TH900 Mk2, their overall bass performance rivals anything an open headphone can achieve outside of the Abyss. I should mention that pad rolling is a thing with ZMF users, but I’d rather chew my arm off than fiddle with that crap, so I stayed with my vegan velour Universe earpads.
Midrange: This is important for the accurate reproduction of voices, but also guitars. The vocals generally are well-defined and stand apart from the instrumental music (unless the music is of course mixed to be intentionally murky). And the guitars, hoo boy, talk about aggressive. It gave me flashbacks to be literally whacked in the face by a guitar at an L7 show. Too much? Not for most rock and metal fans. It’s something that Grado has been known for, but I can’t stand the overall tuning of most of the ones I heard. It reminds me of what I missed with one of my longtime closed favorites, the Denon AH-D2000, which remained in use for a full decade, mainly at my office. They had that familiar V-shaped tuning, with a bit of dip in the midrange. The Vérité doesn’t have that problem.
Treble: If you go by the specs, which is difficult because not all manufacturers appear to be honest, the range is reported as 10 Hz to 25 kHz, whereas the Denon AH-D9200 is reported as 5-56, and the Sony MDR-Z1R the absurd 4 Hz to 120 kHz, which renders these specs meaningless. No wonder why Dan Clark Audio’s response to those specs is simply, “yes.” This is a good time to remind ourselves that the human hearing range is only 20 Hz to 20 kHz, and the average top range for adults is only 15-17 kHz. So unless your dog or pet bat is listening, all headphones can cover our entire audible range. It’s more about the tuning.
The particular tuning that ZMF favors is on the “warm” side of neutral. Part of this is a slightly rolled off treble, though it’s subtle, and others have described it as “sweet and extended,” so it’s relatively subjective. This is where it all depends on your preference. Those who have complained about “harsh” treble in some headphones from beyerdynamics and HiFiMan, will really like this. Those looking for a completely neutral, transparent headphone may need to look elsewhere. I have not experienced issues with harsh treble on any of my headphones, and nor do I feel the desire to hear all the highest frequencies. For the purposes of the kind of music I’d focus on, hard rock, psych, punk and metal, it’s not a problem. Were I more of a jazz/classical listener, I’d probably use a different headphone.
Image/Soundstage: Another particular strength that stands out for a closed headphone that has caused some excitement is it’s image and soundstage. They do have a particularly wide soundstage with vivid imaging that’s unusual for a closed headphone, thanks to both the unique airflow porting and the deep cups with a flowing, non-congruent, radiused edge which allows the driver ideal placement and angle. These cups do slightly resemble the legendary Sony MDR-R10 in that way, though not quite as deep. The results are, in ZMF’s words, “three dimensional soundscapes of the acoustic image” and a “natural, deep, rounded stage.”
This is perhaps what prompts some to say these are the first closed headphones to sound truly open. Is this hyperbole? Maybe, but it depends on which headphones you compare them to. They certainly outperform many open headphones. Some have indeed claimed they check all the boxes better than all other headphones, or at least equal the Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC and HiFiMan Susvara, and even the Sony MDR-R10. I would not quite say that. I have heard but not owned the Abyss and Susvara, and in the end, while the Vérité are definitely the best sounding closed headphones I’ve heard, they still sound closed to me. And that’s okay. If you don’t like or need the closed sound, that’s why there is an open option. Some prefer that intimate “in your head” experience with closed headphones where you’re certainly aware you’re wearing headphones. Others use them out of necessity due to the need to share space with work colleagues or family.
I fell into the latter camp. I used closed headphones at work because I had to, though I did enjoy the slam and impact the closed, dynamic Denons (and for a time, the Fostex/Drop THX00) provided. Whether closed or open, I’ve always benefited from a crossfeed simulator in my amps in order to better approximate the way we naturally hear sound and reduce headphone fatigue. Meaning, not separated between left and right channels stuck into our ears. This is why I still prefer loudspeakers when possible, even if the room may mess up the acoustics and result in a less than perfect sound. For that reason, the best option for those not requiring closed headphones might be an open air design, along the lines of the legendary AKG K1000 or the recent RAAL SR1a ribbon Earfield monitor.
Comfort: Any headphones weighing over 400 grams (the stock monkeypod wood version is 455g) really needs to get the comfort right. Just the right clamping force, earpads and balance helps, which ZMF does well. But while the second soft layer under the firm headband is meant to cushion, it’s not enough for extended sessions beyond an hour for me. Everyone’s head is shaped different, and I must have an irregular shape (good thing I’m not bald), as I’m prone to hot spots and headaches. They’re definitely more comfortable than my Audeze LCD 2.2, which weighed over 100g more. Part of the flagship pricing ($2,499) went into a magnesium headband chassis to keep the weight down. Nevertheless I get fatigued beyond an hour. This is inconvenient when I need to pull myself out of a deep listening trance and either take a break, or switch to my HiFiMan HE6se. Those who have had no problem with heavier headphones like Audeze, however, should have no problem with these.
These are pretty efficient headphones at 99dB/mW, 300ohms impedance. A headphone amp is still needed, but I always have to remember to switch off the gain on my iFi iCAN Pro amp, and turn the volume knob down by 25% when switching from my HE-6se. My amp has a couple tube settings, but I mainly stick to the solid state setting. You can go deep into Head-Fi threads where folks will say they sound best on tube amps, but that’s not me. As I said before, when a headphone gets just about everything right, I lose the desire to twiddle knobs and just get to the music.
Even if the Vérité may not be definitively the best closed headphone available right now, you’d have to pay an extra $3,000 for the HE-R10. For those with a budget ceiling at $2,500, this could certainly be an endgame closed headphone. I look forward to hearing what ZMF comes up with next. If anyone could come up with, for example, an open planar mag that competes with the Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC, but lighter weight (magnesium, baby!), it would be ZMF.
Note — I exposed them to the sun only briefly to show off the wood grain. Normally I keep the shade down to protect my gear.
The Vérité Closed (VC) is the newest release from ZMF headphones, and their highest-end closed-back design. The VC takes aim at a section of the market that has been seeing increasing attention from the likes of Focal and Sennheiser, with the Stellia and HD820, respectively. Similarities to the Vérité Open (VO) are apparent in the build of the VC, where the same magnesium chassis and beryllium-deposed PEN drivers are in use, however the cup, damping, and airflow design of the two are entirely distinct. This review will focus on what these differences amounts to. What is the experience of the speed and timbre of the Vérité driver tuned to live within a sealed enclosure? What do you give up and what do you gain from a closed take on a world-class open headphone?
For this review, I will be running all headphones through my Oppo HA-1, serving both as a DAC and as a headphone amplifier. Music will be run to the HA-1 via USB out of my custom-built PC, through Spotify Premium. I don’t listen to FLAC for the bulk of my music, and I am most familiar with the tracks to be mentioned, so they will be my reference. The highest quality in Spotify was selected, and volume normalization was turned off (the settings I always use). Volume across headphone comparisons was matched as much as possible during pink noise playback, with a BFX digital sound meter sealed to the headphone cups in a cardboard enclosure. All headphone cables used were OFC 4-pin XLR, plugged into the balanced output of the HA-1. I listened to the VC with the Vérité lambskin pads for the bulk of this review, but switched in the Universe lambskin pads as well. My impressions of the Vérité pads versus the Universe pads can be found in their own section.
For this review, I’ll be doing things a bit differently. Since I don’t own other closed headphones anywhere near this tier, this review will focus more on in-depth song impressions. Please do let me know your feedback on this method, as this is a new style of review for me. With that said, I will be comparing the VC to the VO, as I am quite familiar with the VO, and I believe that counterpoint will be salient for many considering either headphone. For points of comparison to other open headphones, please see my VO review, and consider the notes on VC versus VO made here in that context. I have listened to all headphones mentioned in this and my other reviews for a few months at least.
Build and Comfort:
For notes on build and comfort, see my VO review. The build of the VC is exceptional, with many cues taken from the VO. The closed cups contribute only slightly to weight and heat, but in all other ways, the two headphones are identical in this regard.
Test Tracks (Some of Them):
I will be comparing headphones primarily across these, but also other tracks. I don’t make mention of every track considered in every section, but instead am largely giving my impressions where tracks or passages stood out. If you want my thoughts on any particular track or phrase, just ask! I’ve tried to select widely available songs across a spectrum of music that I like and am familiar with.
Acid, by Ray Barretto, on Acid
Baralku, by Emancipator, on Baralku
Boomerang, by The Uncluded, on Hokey Fright
Cocaine Jesus, by Rainbow Kitten Surprise, on RKS
The Four Seasons, Summer in G Minor, RV. 315: III, by Antonio Vivaldi, performed by Adrian Chandler, on The Four Seasons and Concertos for Bassoon and Violin “in tromba marina”
Gangs in the Garden, by Black Moth Super Rainbow, on Cobra Juicy
Hey You, by Pink Floyd, on The Wall
House of Cards, by Radiohead, on In Rainbows
Limit to Your Love, by James Blake, on James Blake
Little Sadie, by Crooked Still, on Shaken by a Low Sound
Natural Causes, by Emancipator, on Dusk to Dawn
Odd Look, by Kavinsky and The Weeknd, on Odd Look
Peace Train, by Cat Stevens, on Teaser and the Firecat
Sabali, by Amadou and Mariam, on Welcome to Mali
Second 2 None, by Mura Masa and Christine and the Queens, on Mura Masa
Tamacun - Remastered, by Rodrigo y Gabriela on, Rodrigo y Gabriela (Deluxe)
Touch, by Daft Punk, on Random Access Memories
True Affection, by The Blow, on Paper Television
Viices, by Made in Heights, on MADE IN HEIGHTS
Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: I. Preludio. By Johann Sebastian Bach, played by Rachel Podger, on Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 2
Warm Foothills, by Alt-J on, This is All Yours
Youth, by Glass Animals, on How To Be A Human Being
ラ・ム・ネ, by Snail’s House, on Ordinary Songs
Overall, the VC is capable of producing highly impactful bass, that extends to sub-bass frequencies, with mild roll-off noticeable from 30 or 25 down to below 20 hz. There is a slight dip from the upper bass to low mids, which is slow enough in transition that it gives just a bit of space and prevents any intrusion of the bass on the midrange. Bass on the VC is very fast, as I’ve come to expect from this driver. Trailing edges of notes hang and decay and so are heard for longer than leading edges. Realistically, the resonance of the leading edge is there as well, but is covered by the fundamental of the note being reproduced. The VC faithfully resolves microdetail in bass texture and timbre, and gives a very lifelike quality to acoustic instruments. Impressions from specific songs follow overall thoughts (for each listening section) below.
Limit to your Love:
As a bass test track, I want to hear how a headphone handles the fast and deep rhythm that comes in at 0:55. There are a few criteria to evaluate here: speed, impact, extension, and texture, in that order. Responding to the kinds of excursions required to play this at high volume is challenging. At every volume, the VC is able to keep up with the speed of the track, despite the low pitch. However, at high to very high listening volumes, some bass energy does begin to build in the cups, noticeably so as compared to the VO. On the VC, impact of the bass line is superior and does well to contrast the oscillating undertone with the snapier drum hits and the closely-timed individual rattles from each movement of the shakers. I do wish I had a flagship planar on hand to gauge extension, but given recollections from my time with the Ether Flow and LCD-3, the VC is reaching to the bottom of this track. Finally, and tied to the impact of the notes, texture is excellent, and only impeded at very high volumes where textural clarity becomes harder to pick out due to the longer decay of sub-bass notes.
My first point of focus in this song occurs at 0:13, to listen for how the VC provides both slow and resonant as well as crisp and fast bass. A more complex drum pattern comes in about a minute later. In both cases, presentation is extraordinarily natural. I’ll elaborate on this more later, but I think the slightly slower decay and longer resonances of the VC as compared to the VO result in very convincing reproductions of acoustic and venue-based sessions. This would not be so without the extremely fast leading edges of notes, and this is in part where the VC differentiates itself from other headphones with pleasing decay characteristics. The drum passage that begins around 2:44 is both snappy and hangs in the air, something that most headphones fail achieve. Let alone if you wish to turn your attention away from the handrums that are blasting off left-of-center, the rest of the percussion section and bass line are rendered in full, unperturbed in their detail and individual character. The stage here is wildly present and explorable.
Moving over to a piece at the other end of the genre spectrum, Odd Look asks the VC not to reproduce a venue, but to keep up with synthesized and manipulated tones, along with forward male vocals.There is undoubtedly less space in this mix than in Acid, which presents a challenge to bass separation. In order to clearly pick apart the track, another level of definition is required as delineation through placement of sounds in space is less of an option. There is a reduction in the cacophony around 1:55 which serves as a point of reference to the phrases immediately before and after, while a different pause follows around 2:32. These simpler parts of the song make clear that the tight spacing of sounds is intentional, and help clear the palette. Given the intentionally tight layering, the VC is perhaps more successful in that it doesn’t spread the components of the song apart. Instead, the VC renders the track with a liquidity that invites you to listen not by placing instruments in isolation, but by guiding your attention to different pairings of sounds.
Gangs in the Garden:
I’ll offer brief notes here, as I am primarily listening for the cymbal line that underpins the track and how it is rendered as the rest of the music moves. At 1:36, strong claps and synthesized vocals come in, then at 1:44 the cymbals pick up again and carry through the rest of the track. The VC presents a very satisfying snap and then mute to the clap, while immediately layering in the slight tang and rattle of the cymbal, keeping each cymbal hit slightly distinct from each other. Space is surprisingly vertical at this point in the song, which is distinct from the horizontal spacing heard with the primary vocals, as well as in Acid, for example, which was largely to the sides and in front of my head.
The midrange of the VC, as has become the norm for ZMF headphones, provides a naturalness that is rarely matched even less often exceeded. There is a slight cut in the very high mids, around 3k, but I think this may have been responsible for keeping tracks from getting sibilant. Overall, detail in the midrange is there in spades, and as with the bass, speed and resonance lend special character to acoustic, especially string-heavy music.
Goddamn, the slight sustain coupled with fast leading edges is exactly what this song needs. I’d imagine any speed and technically-heavy acoustic music would be improved by this quality of the VC, and this has certainly been borne out by the listening I’ve done. This is certainly the best this song has ever sounded on my home system (which has across time included Auteur, Aeolus, VO, HD800, Ether Flow, Aeon Closed, HE-560, LCD-2, LCD-3, L700, SR-007 mk 1, for reference). I’m really not sure what to elaborate on; the whole song sounds excellent. The riff that starts at 1:15 is especially silky. If I had one ask, it would be for a recording of this with more biting guitars...I guess I just really want to hear this stuff as fast as possible. The rumbling slaps of the guitar that start building around 2:43 grow alongside the strumming and picking beautifully, and you can clearly hear the echoes inside the bodies of the instruments being drummed on, which is so lovely.
Female vocals and strings of many kinds, a real test of midrange quality. The VC delivers this song effortlessly and with emotion. I could use a bit more energy from the higher frequencies of the banjo, but overall, the midrange here is just the right amount of sweet, but not at all veiled. Above all this song for me is about the delivery of vocals, and there really is nothing between me and the singer, other than the air I’m perceiving from the microphone. The movement of Aoife O’Donovan’s mouth and throat give the track a fitting viscerality, especially given the lyric’s contents. The strings in the song, as in Tamacun, are richly textured and layered without obscuring each other.
Intentionally grainy chimes and singing open this track, with a pleasing contrast of the metallic overtone and the movement of Dawson’s voice. This song serves for me as an easy way to contrast male and female vocal reproduction in a track with a fair amount of other activity to complicate things. The VC makes this track feel less crowded than it is upon closer inspection, allowing each element its own space and detail. It’s curious to me that this was so doable here, as compared to Odd Look, further reinforcing the layering of that track’s elements to me as a mastering decision rather than a limitation of reproduction. During the refrain at about 2:01, Aesop Rock and Dawson’s voices are overlapped entirely, but the VC enables you to dive into either voice easily, with neither dominating in loudness or clarity. Aesop’s verse starting around 3:01 contains a ton of ‘s’s and forced exhaling. The VC’s reproduction skates beautifully just before the line that separates detail and vocal articulation from sibilance.
The simplicity of this track is a major part of why I like to use it to test headphones. The alternation of male and female vocals over subdued instrumentation makes listening for naturalness and detail straightforward. There’s not a ton I have to say here, other than that the already trance-like and resonant nature of the song is reinforced by the slight warmth and decay properties of the VC. The closing plucking of the track makes clear the ability of these headphones to reproduce subtle details like fingers slipping off of strings.
The VC strikes a lovely balance between rendering detail and keeping the treble highly-listenable. Electrostats may render a bit more air, but the VC is the rare headphone, especially closed headphone, that does not shy away from clear and even energetic treble. The VC is pleasantly controlled in the treble. By ear these are not perfectly flat, with some unevenness, such as moderate peaks around 6 and 8 khz, but neither does that seem to be the goal. The VC carries on the pattern of realism, substance, and detail that the VC has struck thus far.
There are so many high frequency sounds moving across the stage of this track, it’s almost a necessary test of treble evenness, detail, and speed. Lightning quick plucking and almost chirp-like sounds zip around on top of both staccato/metallic as well as lush/liquid guitar riffs, listen especially at 0:22 and 1:56. The VC renders these instruments realistically, each with their own tone, and all in balance, despite the range of frequencies. All of this is crowned by Mariam’s voice that is both substantive and airy, detailed, and absent any sibilance. Her voice disappears and reappears around the stage, each time with a slightly different quality. That this does not become overwhelming in a closed headphone is achievement enough. The fact that detail remains present and lifelike is a further nod toward expert damping. Rather than crush the treble to keep it controlled, the VC gives just enough life to high frequencies that they are engaging without being distracting.
Violin Partita in E Major:
There just are violins next to me, it's that simple. We’re in a medium-small room with wooden walls, I’m maybe 12 feet away from the performers. This track is fast and the playing technically intense, but there are few instruments present. This combination allows the VC to render detail in the extreme, as the stage is not crowded, but each note has a substantial amount of texture. As a test of irksome treble, a group of violins is a great torture test, and VC performs admirably here. At no point in the song was I wincing, but neither did the players feel distant or veiled. This is a true feat of acoustic engineering, and I applaud Zach for it.
Layers of synthesized sounds, diverse samples, and crisp textures make this track feel both energetic and calm. This isn’t a feeling all headphones can capture. If the depth and dynamics of the track get lost, it’s easy to become board. On the flipside, if the treble is overdone, several of the effects become glaring or just plain painful. The VC again presents itself with clarity while steering clear of stridency. The first 20 seconds or so of this song present a lot of high-energy treble material which can become irksome with a poorly-managed FR; thankfully this is avoided. A similar test of sound occurs around 2:26, where the track opens up, but a lot of high frequency sound effects play.
As I’ve come to expect from the Vérité driver, detail and speed are present here in spades. The self-damping of the beryllium driver, given it’s stiff surround and high-power magnet allow for control and low-distortion reproduction across the frequency band. The soundstage of the VC is remarkably open-sounding for a closed headphone. I don’t mean that the stage of the VC is giant, but that it’s edges don’t feel as artificial and reflective as I’ve heard in other closed-back headphones. That said, there is a limit to airy expansiveness that can be had from open headphones in this rarefied price bracket. Dynamic impact is excellent, and, as mentioned before, leading edges of notes snap into place. The fundamentals of notes are cut off with equal speed, but the closed cups do slow decay a hair as compared to the VO. Overall resolution is fantastic, and is aided by the isolation from ambient noises afforded by a closed headphone.
Summer in G Minor:
In the best cases, renderings of this track present speed while preserving the warmth of the strings. The VC perfectly captures this timbral quality, and nearly does the same for the speed of the strings. Only a slight slowing of decay due to the sealed cups docks the perceived speed of the violins at all. Leading edges of notes are lightning quick, however. The orchestra hall opens up, without sounding boundless but realistic instead, with each instrument spaced apart. Dynamics swells pierce through the track. No aspect of this track sounds artificial, and the rendering of microdetail matches the natural timbre with equally convincing resolution.
The track opens with overlapping voices, which the VC reproduces each with its own space and texture. Little details like fingers sliding on guitar strings are easy to hear. Around 0:50 a cymbal line comes in, and at 1:07 the shimmer of the overtones from strikes ring out tangibly. At 1:28, a thundering drum beat picks up, and is presented with extreme snap and slam, without losing the echo inside of each strike as it fades. Around 2:34 some faster cymbal playing picks up, with each hit clear and distinct. Voices in the track overall are exceedingly natural, with each presenting from a stable and well-defined area of stage left, center, and right. Each piece of the drum kit can be heard physically spaced from the others, with the cymbals belonging to different areas of the stage during the final 30 seconds of the song as an especially good example of this.
The airy background effects that open this track have a surprising amount of dimension to them on the VC, as does the stepping of the synthesizer, which winds across the stage in multiple dimensions. Mouth movements are exceedingly clear; the singer could be inhaling the air next to your ear. The tapping on cymbals is rendered in extreme detail, with each hit being distinguishable and both the fundamental and the sustain of the cymbals eminently believable. The spacing between instruments is painted extremely clearly by the VC, even given the busy nature of the track at times. Touch balances a number of acoustic and synthesized sounds, but presenting the detail and tone of both of these categories of sounds at once can be a challenge. The VC handles Daft Punk’s work skillfully, putting on display their extensive mastering skills and creativity.
Universe Pads vs Vérité Pads
In brief, there is a slight increase in warmth, bloom, and dimension with the Universe pads as compared to the Verite pads. For guitar and other mid-tone heavy music, such as cello, the Universe pads may be preferable, and to help space out busier tracks. For me, the Verite pads provided that bit more control, while keeping the stage sufficiently wide and instruments distributed within it.
Vérité Closed vs. Vérité Open (both wearing Vérité lambskin pads)
I’ve shared listening notes to give insight into what it’s like to listen to the VC, but no real comparisons. I have no closed headphones on hand against which to compare, and I wanted to try a different style of review. That said, the VO is the natural point of comparison for any party interested in the VC. What exactly does it mean to have a closed version of the Vérité? Which should I buy?
As compared to the VO, the VC has slightly more mid presence, which was a rare area where I felt that the VO had space to improve. There is a warmth through the upper mids and low treble compared to the VO, but all the same detail is present. Below 60 Hz or so there is an elevation in the bass on the VC compared to the VO, but the difference is slight. In terms of staging, the VC presents more definite edges and a slightly smaller room than the VO, but does not feel congested. While listening to the VO, sounds seem more to emerge from space, with no obvious edge to the stage that is possible. The VC instead lets you know where the room ends through the reverberation of each note. On crowded tracks, however, the ethereality of the VO’s stage helps in parsing details and separating all that is going on. However, the closed nature of the VC redners it in large part more impactful than the VO. The leading transients of notes appear more surprisingly with the VO, lending an immediacy to impacts, but there is more viscerality to strong notes on the VC. Snap from both headphones is exceptional. Due to the closed design, decay on the VC is also a bit slower than the VO, meaning that the effect of ultra-quick passages is better reproduced by the VO in my opinion. In areas where speed of transition isn’t everything, the more tangible and impactful staging of the VC can pull it head. In either case, both are so much faster than most dynamics that the estimation is really a marginal one.
It is also worth keeping in mind the largest difference between the two headphones: the amount of passive attenuation. By blocking the sound of air, cars, computers, people, etc. the VC makes details pop more, notes rock harder, and music more listenable. The headphones are not majorly distinct from each other in terms of comfort. Instead, the tradeoffs in sound really are trade-offs. If more attenuation improves your listening environment, that alone may recommend the VC over the VO.
The VC is another expertly tuned and remarkably attractive headphone from ZMF. There isn’t much to say here that I haven’t already, but to reiterate, detail, decay, and tuning on the VC work together to provide an eminently listenable and realistic reproduction of music. Acoustic tracks sound especially excellent, and the VC is able to put on full display the quality of tracks as produced and mastered. ZMF continues their trend of attention to detail both in terms of construction and sonics with the VC, marrying the properties of a closed headphone with thoughtful tuning decisions. Whether or not the price of the VC is justified to you, I cannot answer, but as compared to the headphones I’ve heard and owned, the VC provides the foremost closed-back listening experience, while seriously competing in terms of realism and resolution with all the rest of my stable.