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.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Appleā€™s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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