Published on July 18th, 2014 | by Greg
ZMF’s Customizable Hi-Fi Headphones: Vibro And Master
It’s often, but not always, the case that you get what you pay for. In the audio world, it’s generally true, and there exists a huge spectrum of gear, from $1 earbuds to $1800 closed-back planar magnetic headphones. We’ve tried most everything along this range, and have found that it’s critical you consider your application and environment first (home or on-the-go use), then look at your budget and divvy it up between headphones and potentially an amplifier. If you have an amp already, want to spend around $350, and are looking for reference-level closed cans, then life is easy- check out the ZMF Master Models, a variant of the well-regarded Fostex T50rp.
And if your budget can stretch a little higher- and you can wait a little bit- then the flagship ZMF x Vibro adds wood instead for both beauty and a different sound profile that really boosts the warmth of your tracks. Vibro is known for offering beautiful components, with a very hipster, authentic, natural vibe. Both sets take stock components but elevate them in different ways and in different directions, modifying just about every facet for a superior look and feel- everything from slick cup painting, recabling, far nicer headband padding, and a secret sauce of dampening and tuning. We burned in our test pairs, and listened to a variety of lossless FLAC and HD files, through a couple of different amps and sources.
The very best headphones boast of orthodynamic sound, and in a head to head test against some of the best (including Mr. Speakers Alpha Dogs and recent pairs from beyerdynamic amongst others), we found the Masters were one of our favorite straight rock/pop/rap sets for stationary listening. Like any set this size, they’re a bit bulky, and they do weigh a fair bit.
But they’re impressively comfortable and really, truly durable. Plush Shure Alcantara pads made for a delightful experience even after a couple of hours, and the tension is fairly adjustable to fit most folks. Designed by Zach Merhbach, the pairs are fairly similar in many respects, but the ZMF x Vibro comes with it’s own Pelican case for storage, so it’s waterproof and easy to carry if you need to travel or hide them away. The closed design offers isolation, but the flipside is that it usually brings a cost in terms of soundstaging and instrumentals (they can sound more hollow or flatter). We didn’t notice that here, and there is some serious separation, bringing you deep into the music, whatever your genre. Punchy, vibrant and richly textured, you’ll find plenty to like in the mids and highs, and only the lows on the Vibros were a bit too emphatic- but Zach noted that they’ve changed the tunings from our pre-production set, and now feature a “slightly more linear tuning, less bass, more treble/upper mid-range.” Available now with several different color options, the Masters run $350, and the brand new ZMF x Vibros have a just-announced price of $549, direct.