Attending the Newport Beach show last year was special for me in many ways. Dan Clark from MrSpeakers had asked me to listen in private to a headphone he was designing. The Dreadnaught (Code Name) prototype was a closed proprietary design that Dan had been working on. The new planar design would be his first proprietary headphone and would be different from other designs that were being manufactured
The Rocky Mountain Audio Show held every year in Denver host one of the world’s largest personal audio shows sponsored by Headfi.org. When I arrived at the CanJam I spoke with Dan Clark and asked how he was doing with the development of Dreadnaught. Dan told he had decided to offer it as an open design and may be available sometime early in the year.
The ETHER arrived at my doorstepin early March and as soon I had plugged it into the Cavalli Liquid Gold I knew this was a special headphone. The lightweight and comfortable fit was a welcome relief. The headphone was floating on my head. The titanium headband made it lithe and a delight for long listening sessions. The ETHER’s sound signature was very neutral and balanced. The bass had excellent extension and the treble seemed like it could extend forever and was exciting and musical.
Listening to jazz recordings with female vocals was a treat. Tierney Sutton’s seductive voice was transparent and it was as if she was in the room on her excellent Telarc recording of “Something Cool”. “Route 66” had excellent bass definition and is a great track to evaluate how well any transducer reproduces bass notes. The bass guitar on this track had deep extension and was growling. The bass reproduction was excellent and I never felt anything missing in the performance.
The ETHER had no sign of sibilance. The treble is a strong point. The horns had the correct bite and never were harsh. Drum cymbals were not splashy and were crisp with spectacular sheen. The highs were exceptional and the extension seemed endless yet never took anything away from the midrange or bass.
The soundstage was wide and had good depth front to back with excellent imaging. The Ether was admirable at portraying the instrument with excellent air and separation. The ETHER was also easy to drive. The 95DB will make the ETHER amp friendly and easy to match with many desktop and portable amplifiers. The Chord Hugo portable amplifier/DAC drove it easily and had excellent synergy. The ETHER had terrific dynamic range and had speed but more important it was musical. The ETHER just made me get involved with the music and had everything I look for in reference headphones.
Classical recordings were all rendered with excellent staging. Important for me in listening to symphony recording is space and layering of the orchestra. The ETHER was able to sail through difficult recordings with speed and dynamics. Listening to Fanfare for the Common Man from my torture disc “Copland” the ETHER was able to deliver the performance easily. Many headphones fail at delivering the complete performance and collapse with this extend dynamic recording. Then ETHER was able to reproduce it and deliver the explosive timpani whack with clarity and definition in a profoundly musical presentation.
Switching to Billie Holiday “Songs for Distingue Lovers” the music came to life. The muted trumpet was floating in its own space with air and separation. The imaging was exceptional. Billie’s vocal was as good as I have heard it reproduced on any headphone.
Bela Flecks “Left of Cool” is an outstanding well-recorded musical disc. “Throw Down at the Hoedown” has bass guitar that growls when reproduced correctly and the ETHER did not disappoint. The bass was reproduced with tuneful notes and Fleck’s banjo strings were snapping. The Ether had good inner detail yet more musical than analytical.
Amber Rubarth’s binaural recording “Sessions from the 17th Ward” is one of my favorite female recordings. Amber’s vocal “Hold On” was articulate with excellent definition. Closing my eyes listening to the track I could visualize Amber centered in the front with her acoustic guitar with proper height and width. The performance was so transparent it was spooky.
Doug Mcleod new album “Exactly Like This” on Reference Recordings is another treat. The track “Find your Right Mind” Doug’s vocal was pristine. The guitar work on any McLeod album is always special and on this track the Ether was able to nail his guitar with body and definition. I could visualize his hand going up and down the instruments and the tonality of the instrument was exceptional.
Sometimes we get everything we ask for in a product. The ETHER is one of the most comfortable planar headphones I have experienced. The sound does have everything anyone could ask for in a reference product. The transparency is exceptional. The presentation was always musical. Nothing was missing from my listening sessions. The ETHER has dynamic speed and musicality. The ETHER is an exceptional reference headphone that will compete and surpass many similarly priced headphones. Dan Clark new design will turn many heads and is a must listen for anyone looking for a true reference product that will deliver music without compromise. The design is an extraordinary design that many companies will want to benchmark. The ETHER is also a remarkable musical transducer and gets big thumbs up for transparency and musicality. $1499 factory direct www.mrspeakers.com.
Weight: 13.1 ounces, 370 grams
Driver: Proprietary MrSpeakers single-ended planar driver with V-Planar driver contouring. Active driver areas is 2.75″ x 1.75″
Impedance: 23 ohms
Frequency response: 15-18KHz, +/-3dB
Driver matching: Yes, within 1 dB 100-3KHz (1/12 octave smoothing)
Construction: Machined Aluminum Baffles, Gimbals and Pivots. Nitinol memory-metal headband. Lamb-leather ear pads. Italian leather headband with microfiber base
Frank started his journey in high-end audio in 1978 and was quickly hooked. Frank’s passion for music and great sound reproduction is stronger than ever. His main focus is with high-end headphones and portable related gear. He is a regular Head-Fi.org contributor and is a co-founder of Headphone.Guru.