Preview: The ETHER has arrived

 Mr Speakers Ether HeadphonesSan Diego, CA©2015 Darin Fong Photography

Preview: The ETHER Planar Headphone has arrived!

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 doorstep in 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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Specifications

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″

Efficiency: 95dB/mW

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

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  • Tangential

    Lots of songs referenced that I doubt anybody can relate to.

    The product looks interesting, though I wonder what’s the need to mention driver matching given this is a $1500 product.

    Some parallels or comparisons to similar products of this price range would have been much appreciated.

  • Frank Iacone

    The full review will appear on the Guru website. This was a preview and previews are not full reviews. They are exactly what the title suggested a preview of an exciting new headphone. Look for Warren Chi full review next month in Guru.

  • Daniel

    Frank,

    First off, thank you for taking the time to gives us a teaser of the Ether. I understand this is not a full review, but I understand the OP’s concern that an article that delves such high praise seems to lack context. Most every piece of high-end gear has a little bit of give-and-take; the transparency and sound staging of the HE-560 vs the warmth and intimate musicality of the LCD-2 for example. I know you said we’ll have a full review next month, do we have a more specific time-frame for when it’ll be posted? I too, am very excited for this headphone, but it’ll take a lot to convince me there is a headphone more worth my time than the lush nirvana that is the LCD-2, and I look forward to your detailed comparisons.

  • Frank Iacone

    I cannot give you a date as full featured reviews take time. In the meantime there are many impressions of the Ether on headfi.org. Previews are meant to let people know there is an exciting new product that merits a listen. I am not doing the full review for Guru. Warren Chi is working on the full featured review. Warren will be able to provide detailed comparisons with other headphones. Daniel thanks for the post and appreciate the input.

  • Anthony Kimball

    Thanks for the preview!

    I was curious as to the power needs…I know it wasn’t a full review, but if it requires a powerful amp etc.

    Thanks again!

    • Frank Iacone

      Anthony thank your for the comments. the ETHER requires very little power because of its efficiency. i was able to drive it with the Chord Hugo and AK 240 individually without additional amps. I believe it will perform best with amps of at 1W for headroom but it is not necessary.

  • Luis

    Kudos, much appreciated preview, concise and covering the fundamentals.
    It seems the planar tribe is growing in quantity and quality.

    • Frank Iacone

      Thank you for the kind words. The planar technology is getting so more developed and the ETHER is an example of lightweight designs that are comfortable and sound amazing.