Dan Clark has been on a creative roll since he started tinkering with his Alpha Dog modifications. The evolution of MrSpeakers has been one of the most successful stories in personal audio. Dan Clark travels the world, showing music lovers what is possible in headphone design. Developing his first design with the open Ether planar design Dan set a new benchmark for creative designs. The Ether made a major impact in 2015 within the headphone community.
The Ether C sent for this preview included the balanced DUM cable. Once the Ether C prototype arrived, especially noticeable was the striking carbon fiber cups. The Ether C fit me perfectly and there were no issues in obtaining a good seal. The light weight of the Ether C made it feel more like it was floating on my head, and was so comfortable during long listening sessions. The comfort level was so good in comparison to my other closed headphones. The excellent isolation drowned out everything except the music. Peaceful listening in my home is rare with my three dogs barking most of the time.
The first thing I noticed when I plugged them into the Liquid Gold, was how easy they were to drive. Many closed headphones on the market have poor isolation, and never give you the quiet and noise free background the Ether C was able to provide. The Ether C makes listening to closed headphones an enjoyable listening experience. The voicing of the Ether C was designed to make the listener hear more of the room acoustics. It was as if I was transported to the recording studio, to actually hear the sound of the room where the music was recorded. Dan was able to achieve a design that was resonance free, with no obstructions in the headphone that was noticeable. Many closed headphones are harsh and bright in the upper midrange or treble. The Ether C had none of the issues that I have experienced in the past with some other closed designs.
The Ether C was especially good with vocal recordings. Listening to various different vocal artists, the articulation of the artist vocals were clear and transparent. The Ether C was free from any sibilance. If you are into vocal music the Ether C delivers first class performance. Male and female vocalists all came to life, with excellent clarity and definition in the vocal range.
Listening to the Prince new album, “Hit-N-Run Phase”, allowed me to experience the Ether’s subterranean bass. The Ether C hits hard but is never overbearing or boomy. The bass is extended and has awesome control with texture and definition. The bass is never overblown or sloppy. Unlike headphones that are bass heavy, the Ether C lets you hear what the bass really sounds like on a recording. The bass is exceptional and will please most people who are looking for great bass with accuracy.
“Carnival” a track on “Conversation” by Stanton Moore, has excellent acoustic bass and drum work. It reveals all of the texture and high quality definition, that the Ether C is capable of producing. The track also showcases the treble. I could hear the cymbals, with air around the instruments and the shimmering quality usually found in live performances. There was nothing harsh in the delivery. High hats had space between them with air, and the kick drum felt live and realistic. When the track ended, I could hear the decay as the recording was coming to conclusion, with the room acoustics of the studio. The soundstage was wide and had excellent depth, with air and separation around musicians.
The Ether C’s linear sound makes this a special headphone. While listening to the C, I was always lured deeper into the music. The sound was never syrupy or overly warm like many other designs. The headphone just let me become engulfed with the music. Musicality is most important to me with headphone listening, and the Ether C delivered big time musicality with dynamics and excellent pace and rhythm. The better the recording, the more I enjoyed the performance. The Ether C was able to keep me focused with the music, and never called attention to any area of at the spectrum. I could hear minute details in the recoding, and more music than on other closed headphones in-house. Vocal recordings were captivating. The Ether C was excellent at not masking any details, and always maintained its exceptional musicality.
The midrange is where most of the music lies. The Ether C has a superb midrange, and is as good as I have heard in closed designs. In addition to vocal recordings, there wasn’t a genre I didn’t like. Classical recordings brought me to the venue, with the orchestras showcasing dynamics and layering. Instrument separation and layering was also exceptional. Jazz recordings like Chris Botti’s – “Live in Boston”, took me directly to Symphony Hall, where I could hear all the hall acoustics as if I were in the room. Live recordings as good as this, allow you to hear everything going on in the room. The Ether C had all of the magic I remembered in the Botti concerts I have attended. I never felt as if I was listening to recorded or compressed music.
Listening to Bill Evan’s – “Waltz for Debbie”, recorded live at the historic Village Vanguard, was like going through a time machine and back to that magical night. I could hear the spooky live acoustics of the room, and what people were saying in the room during the performance. The detail retrieval was all there. I felt a chill going through my spine while listening to “Waltz for Debbie”. This landmark 1961 performance is one of the best live-recorded performances I have heard. The synergy between Bill Evan on piano, and Scot Lafaro on acoustic bass, with Paul Motian’s drum work, is synchronized as if they were performing as one. Lafaro’s acoustic bass on the Ether C had definition and texture without omitting any detail. Bill Evans piano playing was taken to another level of musicality. The brushwork from Paul Motian was stellar. The performance was dynamic and memorable.
Music lovers who listen mostly on portable digital players, will love what the Ether C brings to the party. The AK240 DAP was magical with the Ether C. There was never anything missing. The little AK240 was able to deliver all that the Ether C was capable of reproducing. I never missed my full time setup while listening with the AK240. Unlike more difficult designs the C is easy to drive, and never loses dynamics or musicality. The efficiency makes the Ether C a great headphone for portable use while on the road, or in the home.
The short time I spent with the Ether C made me realize once again, what a gifted and talented designer Dan Clark is. He is a vital part of our community, and one of us. His tireless effort to produce the very best transducer, is clearly evident with the stellar performance of the Ether C. The passion and love of music is clearly and articulately present in every product that he designs. The Ether C is one of those rare products that redefines music. The beautiful carbon fiber cups and comfortable fit, make it a pleasure for long listening sessions. It also has excellent isolation, blocking most outside noise and letting me listen to the music.
Whether I was listening to Prince, Mozart, or Bill Evans, I was never disappointed. The C delivered what I look for in a dynamic and reference headphone. The musicality is beyond reproach. The Ether C has set a new bar in closed designs and comfort. I can’t wait for Dan Clark’s next design as he keeps hitting the ball out of the park.
This is a Preview. I only had the headphone for about a week before I sent it to Warren Chi who will be doing the full review for Headphone.Guru. I am looking forward to Warren’s thoughts on this magnificent product. Stay tuned for more Ether C. Warren’s model has the final modification to the sound, and I look forward to the differences he hears with the final modifications that Dan made to the bass.