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Número 439

My Headphone Journey
Part 1

Equipment and Cables

Samy Waitzberg

          My headphone journey started in the 90’s when, still a young boy, I enjoyed listening to music from my dad’s Sony MDR V6 with my Discman. The former is deemed the “grandfather” of current headphone lines. Yet, it sells for a trifling sum – USD 78.00 – and is still broadly used in studios worldwide.

© 2010-2020 Jorge Bruno Fritz Knirsch
           Todos os direitos reservados

          Along the 2000’s I bought my first iPod, as well as my first pair of premium earphones. They were a Sony model that had lots of bass, but just that. Years later I moved on to the Shure brand – SE 315, 425, 535 and finally the 846 (USD 999.00), which I make use of up to this day. And shortly, I’ll have my first custom-made in-ear monitor, built to my ears from impressions! The brand is my friend René Ramirez’s Audio Dream, from Brazil (
Back to headphones, I acquired the Sennheiser HD 650 in 2012 (USD 320.00 now), a dynamic, open-back headphone which I still use to this day. I like it very much, it’s got a very neutral, open and linear, never-fatiguing sound. That aside, it’s quite lightweight (9 oz.). and its only quirk is its high impedance (300 ohms), which demands suitable amplification. Recently, Sennheiser launched the HD 660S model, with a lower impedance value – 150 ohms.
Some years later I yearned for a more sophisticated pair of headphones, and on that occasion I read about the just-released Ether from Mr. Speakers (USD 1,600).  Open-backed as well, though planar-magnetic instead of dynamic, this is a more detailed and crystal-clear headphone than the HD 650. Mr. Speakers also sells its closed-back version (Ether-C) and have upgraded the inner design, now calling it Ether Flow.
However, even after having my Ether upgraded to Ether Flow, I never really fell in love with it. I always felt some lack of weight/mid-bass in its sound. It’s very accurate and analytical, but some solid, harmonic character is lacking. Perhaps this has to do with the materials used for yielding its 13 oz. weight, deemed lightweight for a planar-magnetic model.
After having tried to use the Ether Flow with various cables (some of them downright expensive), I gave it up and decided to sell it. Now Mr. Speakers launched the Ether 2 (USD 2,000), 3 oz. lighter and presumably better than the Ether Flow, though I haven’t listened to it yet. They also manufacture the Aeon Flow (USD 800), Ether’s smaller and cheaper sibling, whose playing quality is nearly the same. In my opinion, that’s the best bang for the buck of the line. Mr. Speakers also manufactures the VOCE, electrostatic headphones (USD 3,000).
          In January 2018 I went to Los Angeles where I came to know an excellent audio shop, The Source. I listened to 3 pairs of headphones from Focal there, which are now speaking loud above in the market: the Utopia (USD 3,000), Elear (USD 800) and Clear (USD 1,600). These three are dynamic, open-back models and a tad heavy (16 to 17 oz.), but very good and comfortable. There follows a brief comparison between them:

Utopia: I listened to these with Kimber’s Ag headphone cable (top-of-the-line model, silver) and found the combination to be incredible. However, without such cable (which is as expensive as the pair of headphones), I did not find them to be so amazing. The phones have excellent detailed highs and quite rich mids plus solid bass, but highs may be a tad brilliant and fatiguing after listening for a while. Besides, they’re heavy at 17 oz.

Elear: not lightweight also (16 oz.). They produce excellent bass, a sound which is more fun to listen to, but less refined. Highs are soft and less-detailed, though they’re not bad.

Clear: This model lies somewhere between the other two. Highs are more detailed than the Elear, and more delicate than the Utopia. However, it lies behind both models in terms of bass – they are too bass-light. Also, they weigh 16 oz., but at least they come with two cable options, one of them being 4.4mm balanced.

            Excellent listening! Warm embrace! And till next time!

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