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25.05.16
MrSpeakers ETHER headphones

Preamble

In San Diego, California, a new brand recently showed up into the audiophile world. The first activity of the newborn MrSpeakers – company headed by the founder and CEO Dan Clark – has been the creative modification of planar magnetic headphones made by Fostex, the famous T50RP. Named Mad Dog, in the versions Classic and Pro, they are still included in their catalogue. From this experience, they have moved on to original solutions and exclusive patents. The V-Planar™ surface processing has already been introduced in the model Alpha. This solution gives a constant planarity of the diaphragm during the movement stimulated by the modulate signal of the electromagnetic field. Interesting is also the use of CNC modern techniques for the realization of the ear-pads, which are acoustically well tuned. With the ETHER design – that comprises an open model, the ETHER, object of this review, and the ETHER C – we have the current MrSpeakers’ top line. Let us find out if such good premises will bring us to a classy listening experience.

 

From the historical point of view

I imagine that the name “Ether” refers to the fifth element, the quintessence. Aristotle held that the universe was divided into two parts, the terrestrial region and the celestial region. In the realm of Earth, all bodies were made out of combinations of four substances, earth, fire, air, and water, whereas in the region of the universe beyond the Moon the heavenly bodies such as the Sun, the stars, and the planets were made of a fifth substance, called quintessence. In the Middle Ages, the ether was pursued for long as chief element of the philosopher’s stone. Well, a demanding name, the expectations are very high!

 

From the technical point of view

Of the V-Planar™ surface processing, we have spoken in the preamble. I suggest you to look at MrSpeakers website under Innovations in ETHER page to better understand the concept. The materials are of top quality. The Head-band is in Nitinol “Memory Metal”, a very light and super elastic intermetallic mixture. The microsuede headband is in soft Italian leather and the ear-pads in lamb-leather. The system offers therefore a good adherence to the listener’s head. The ear-pads become quite warm after long hours of use, but it is an average warmth for the over ear. All that, plus a light weight, 375 grams, results in a very low listening fatigue, a feature very important to enjoy the musical quality of a headphone.

Comfortable, easy to plug/unplug and electrically efficient the connectors of the ear-pads. I have received the headphones with a 250 cm cable ended with a XLR4 to connect in balanced mode and provided with a 6,3 mm XLR4 > jack adapter for the unbalanced connection. All the connectors are Neutrik. I cannot say anything about the standard cable, since I have not received and tested it.

Even if the stated efficiency is quite low, 96 dB/mW, the ETHER can be driven also by source with low power like portable player, smartphones and PC sound cards. The music become better when amplifiers that do not fear low impedances and are ready to give all the required power interface them.

The leather slipcase is elegant, functional with an unusual design. The transport is therefore safe.

 

Listening impressions

At the beginning, my heart did not skip a beat. No astonishment on my face. We are not talking about a pair of headphones with special effects. They are a sophisticated instrument of musical playback. If you are looking for extreme performances like hyper detail, dynamic strokes, virtual stages unnaturally exposed, you can just stop reading this article and look for something else in the immense world of the headphones.

The emotional aspect, tied to the pure hidden pleasure, which is then revealed in our favourite tracks, discloses itself slowly. After a while, some kind of enlightenment comes to tell us that, maybe, this is how some things have to sound. The tone colour is natural and neutral. Nothing is aseptic or with chromatic saturation like in the modern photography. The virtual stage is well organized in our mind and puts the elements in the space exactly, depending on the recording though. All the virtual ranges are well reproduced, excellent is the naturalness of the mid-high frequencies, sparkling but with a beautiful perlage. The micro-dynamics is very good, the macro dynamics not as that of headphones of the same price range, but once more you will ask yourself: where is the truth? The ETHER headphones will give you back a well done and balanced recording impeccably, independently from the musical genre.

 

Conclusions

Listen to the music with headphones? A great passion! Obviously, the people who use such devices often have different expectations and targets. Someone can wear them for a need of mobility: music, but also radio, travelling or making jogging. It is clear that a product like the ETHER by MrSpeakers have another purpose. They are intended for who wants to give an important space, if not exclusive, to this way of listen to the music. At this point, we need an audio chain of a certain level and an amplifier capable of driving at best our jewels.

As regards the money, we are going to spend more or less the same amount required for a good home system: source>amplifier>loudspeakers. We are talking of an important decision that requires information, possibility of listening and the right time to choose at best. The offer of planar magnetic headphones is strong and in continuous evolution. I can quote, in this range of price, brands like Audezee and HiFiMan, but I suggest having a look also at the electrostatic or at the traditional electrodynamic headphones. In the last years, the excellences have realized themselves by curing the design and not by philosophizing on the principle of how moving a transducer.

I am sure when I say that the MrSpeakers ETHER can be a possible and aware top choice. However, do not buy them blindly. Listen to them with your favourite music. Ask the importer, since you have this possibility, to book a listening session. Be a little cheeky because what matters is your wallet and your great final satisfaction.

 

 

Selection of listened music

Bryce Dessner - St. Carolyn By The Sea; Jonny Greenwood - Suite From There Will Be Blood (LP-2014)

Chris Cornell - Higher Truth (LP-2015)

Cincinnati Pops Orchestra - Orchestral Spectaculars, Erich Kunzel (Telarc CD-2002)

Dave Matthews Band - Away From The World (CD-2012)

Igor Stravinsky - The Firebird and The Rite Of Spring - Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (SACD-2008)

Leonard Cohen - Popular Problems (HD Tracks 24/96 - 2014)

Mozart - Requiem & Ave verum corpus, Riccardo Muti, BPO (Hybrid Stereo SACD)

Mumford & Sons - Wilder Mind (LP-2015)

Pink Floyd - The Wall Experience (CD-2012)

Placebo - MTV Unplugged (CD-2015)

Puscifer - Money Shot (CD-2015)

Steve Earle - Copperhead Road (CD-1988)

Steven Wilson - 4 and a Half (CD-2016)

Vangelis - Blade Runner Trilogy: 25th Anniversary (CD-2007)

Zakk Wylde - Book Of Shadows II (CD-2016)

 

 

SCHEME SUMMARY

top score ✳✳✳✳✳ ReMusic Sparks

Tone colour: ✳✳✳✳1/2 | Neutral and natural, no surprise behind the corner: great balance.

Dynamics: ✳✳✳✳ | As required, without coup de théâtre and of cannon!

Detail: ✳✳✳✳ | Great perception of the smallest nuances and hidden sounds. All without separate anything from the contest.

Versatility: ✳✳✳✳ | Very good: possibility of balanced/unbalanced connection and quite easy driving. Comfortable headphones.

Image: ✳✳✳✳ | Virtual stage very well disposed, always depending by the recording.

Look and functionality: ✳✳✳✳1/2 | Beautiful and comfortable. Great work.

Price/quality ratio: ✳✳✳1/2 | High manufacturing level and high quality. High price but justifiable in view of a system based on the listening with headphones.

 

Official technical specifications

Driver: 2.75” x 1.75” MrSpeakers’ designed single-ended planar magnetic with V-Planar™ surface processing

Precision machined Aluminium baffle, pivots and gimbals

Nitinol “Memory Metal” Head-band

Italian leather with microsuede headband

Lamb-leather ear pads

Matched drivers: +/-1.5dB between 30 and 5,000Hz (tentative)

Efficiency is 96dB/mW

Weight: 370g, 13.1oz

Frequency response: Yes*

Efficiency: 96dB/mW

Impedance: 23ohms

 

 

Official Italian dealer: to Portento Audio website

Official current price in Italy: 1,799.00 EUR with standard cable, 1,990.00 EUR with 2,5m cable by Portento Audio

Associated equipment: to Mauro Cittadini’s system

 

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