OK, so I promised to give my take on the JM Audio Editions XTC-Closed headphones that I recently bought new from JMAE, pictures of which are in post #1 above.
Having never heard any of the various JMAE headphones listed on the www.jmaudioeditions.com
website but having previous dealings with the owner, John Massaria, the "JM" in the company name, I contacted John and asked if he had any recommendations in his line for my favorite headphone sound. I have owned a number of headphones in the past and still have a working pair of Stanton Dynaphase 60 phones that I bought new in 1975 and have survived numerous moves around the country. Obviously headphone, and audio, technology has evolved over the ensuing 47 years, and I now own the phones listed below in my signature. I would term my favorite headphone sound as fast, detailed, transparent, and spacious. Generally if you get that type of sound you don't get a lot of warmth, midrange body, and bass weight and dynamics. The RAAL SR-1b and Kennerton Rognir Planar phones I own are proof of that postulation. So I told John that I wanted it all, the above characteristics but more bass to underpin certain types of music such as all types of rock and fusion jazz music. Still, I am willing to give up warmth and bass to get the speed, detail, transparency, and spaciousness that I so desire. So John sent me a pair of the larger-cupped, black automotive painted, beryllium driver phones shown in the pictures and described them as "nearly scapel" versions. He also employs the use of fractal mesh and perforated carbon fabrics to improve spaciousness. The important thing is that John has a real ear for music and headphone technology and sound and can custom produce phones that move the sound in the direction desired by customers.
The phones arrived in a cardboard box encasing a bombproof thick plastic case designed to withstand a nuclear holocaust, the ones I refer to Zero cases. Inside were the phones, an information card, and a nice, flexible braided OFC copper cable with fabric jacketing. The cable connectors are twin 3.5mm TRS male plugs for the headphone connections and a 4 pin XLR cable for my Benchmark HPA4 amp. And let me tell you, these phones are gorgeous with the black automotive paint like that used on luxury cars. In fact, I polished them up, not that they needed it, with some carnauba wax I had in the garage. Or maybe I should have used headphonenauba wax. Anyway, I feel the need to bring the phones in every 5000 miles for oil change and tire rotation. Terrible jokes aside, I hooked the phone up to my amp and played a variety of music, from Thelonious Monk's 1957 album Monk's Music, to Mark Knopfler's El Macho, to the China Crisis Autumn In the Neighborhood album, to Steely Dan's Everything Must Go.
My initial impressions were of a great sound, a nice mix of extended and dynamic bass, a full and vivid midrange with lots of body, and a clear and detailed treble. John mentioned that the small oval ports on the top of the earcups can be tuned by placing tape over part or all of the port. I used some black electrical tape that is normally hidden by the gimbals during use, starting first with no tape where the bass was a little heavy for my tastes, then to fully covered which reduced the bass significantly, then to the Goldilocks version by covering half the port that was just right, the best combination of bass and midrange, i.e. it tipped up the frequency balance. Dynamic range is great with these phones, detail is nice, they are quite spacious for closed-back phones, and there is good liquidity in the robust midrange.
So in comparison with my other phones (see my signature), the JM Audio Editions XTC-C phones are quite different th.an my other TOTL phones, the Kennerton Rognir Planar and RAAL SR-1b. No, the XTC-C does not have the speed and detail of ribbon drivers nor quite the spaciouness, with the sound in a smaller space around your head. These phones are more up-front and robust, kind of what a tube amp does to the sound. They are closer in sound to the planar magnetic Rognir Planars with a similar-sized soundstage with images easy to pick out. But the bass of the XTC-C is something else. The RAALs are certainly not known for the bass weight and dynamics and are eclipsed by the XTC-C, as is the midrange body and warmth. The Rognir Planar can have great bass on the right recordings but the XTC-C has bass to die for if that is your desired sound. I had a great time listening to the bass on Mark Knopfler's El Macho, one of my favorite songs. So as in most, if not all, cases, your choice of phones will somewhat dictate what type of recording you reach for, and I would say that if you like your music underpinned by a bass foundation, the XTC-C is your guy. Not to mention that they are not that much of a compromise in the spaciousness and detail departments.
I forgot to mention fit and finish. I was surprised at how light these phones are and the size can easily be adjusted using the stepped rods. Clamp was perfect for my slightly-smaller-than-normal head (my wife sometimes calls me a "pinhead" and not sure if that is a compliment or not). The earcups are large enough to envelop my ears fully and they do not touch the drivers.
I would conclude by saying that I am pleased as punch with these phones and they rate right at the top of any closed-back phones I have owned including the Kennerton Rognir Planars and Gjallarhorn GH50 JM Edition Mark 2. I am going to hold off on discussing pricing of these phones as I think John is still trying to determine long-term pricing but at any reasonable price I would consider them a steal.