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gtb75
207
Mar 17, 2019
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Jumping in on the first Ether CX drop was a bit of a leap of faith for me. I wasn't a huge fan of the original Ether C (pre-Flow) when I heard it in 2016 at Axpona. I had purchased the original open Ether the prior year and was thrilled with them, so I was surprised when I wasn't as impressed by the original Ether C . That being said, I have been through the full evolution of Ether tuning and upgrades with my open set (original 1.1 tuning, the Flow upgrade, and now Flow 1.1 with their new pads), so I had faith that nearly 3 years of experience tuning the C would probably end up being a sound I liked - and it is! I currently have about 140 hours on my Ether CX, so I'm right in the middle of the recommended 100-200 hours for burn-in. I suspect they may continue to improve and open up over time, but I am already really happy with the sound considering the cost and the fact they are a closed back headphone. I purchased them to replace my Mahogany Fostex TH-X00 which I found fatiguing to listen to for extended periods. The X00 is a "fun" headphone for shorter sessions, and produces an incredible quantity of bass, but it has a bit of glare in the upper registers - plus the soundstage is pretty much the middle of your head. The Ether CX outperforms the X00 in every area with the exception of efficiency and bass quantity (but the bass the Ether CX has is better quality). The Ether CX has a vastly wider soundstage, is smoother, more balanced, more resolving, and more comfortable to wear. Comparing the Ether CX to my Ether Flow Open 1.1 (EFO), the EFO has an even wider soundstage, better imaging, and is smoother - but the overall voicing between the two is similar. The EFO is definitely the better of the two, but that's saying a lot considering the cost difference and the fact that the Ether CX is a closed headphone. I did the Ether CX vs EFO comparison with both using the DUM cable that came with my EFO which, by the way, is a nice step up from the included DUMMER cable that comes with the Ether CX. I also had the opportunity to do a quick comparison between the Ether CX and my buddy's Focal Elegia. Both are great closed headphones, but I found the Elegia a bit clinical sounding while the Ether CX just disappears and lets you focus on the music rather than the headphone. If anything the Elegia reminds me of what I remember the original Ether C sounding like a few years back - a bit bright and lacking in bass. As far as amplification goes the Ether CX definitely scales well with better power. My "transportable" amp/DAC is a Fiio K3 and I am using a MrSpeakers 2.5mm balanced DUM cable with it. The K3 has plenty of power to drive the Ether CX to adequate listening levels, but you can tell that it really doesn't have a firm hold on the drivers. Moving up to my THX AAA 789 definitely resolves this... The Ether CX really opens up and comes alive on the 789. Going all the way up to my Liquid Platinum is more of the same - with the most noticeable improvement being significantly wider soundstage and more precise imaging. The 789 is a good pairing, but the Liquid Platinum is a meaningful and significant improvement for the Ether CX. In terms of negatives, the only one that really stands out to me is the packaging and box. It is minimal to say the least. My $200 HD 6XX has a beautiful box and others at a similar price point to the Ether CX, such as the Elex, also have much nicer boxes. I get that the box will likely sit in a closet or basement for most folks after they get the headphones, but still. I also wonder if the few reported issues of damage are due to the minimal packaging and box? I would deduct half a star for that if I could, but it isn't worth it in the overall review of these. In summary, Massdrop was looking for a flagship closed headphone with the Ether CX and they got it. Give them the proper break-in time that all planars benefit from as well as decent amplification and you will probably be really happy with the sound. If you want a closed headphone that doesn't sound like a closed headphone, is pretty much neutral, light enough to be worn for hours, and pretty much disappears into the music, these are a great choice!
(Edited)
Mar 17, 2019
devolutionary
76
Mar 25, 2019
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Yeah I hope to post a review soon. I didn't want to jump the gun so I did a brief listening period to compare/contrast with what's tested post burn-in. Even did a Pink Noise 100-hr burn in just to speed up the process. There was a few distinct tracks that didn't sound quite right prior but I'm liking it quite a lot more now. Gonna test it with different Amps and DACs too since the Ethers are supposed to be easily EQ'd.
(Edited)
Mar 25, 2019
HexCowboy
98
Mar 30, 2019
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"I currently have about 140 hours on my Ether CX, so I'm right in the middle of the recommended 100-200 hours for burn-in. I suspect they may continue to improve and open up over time" What's this about burn-in and improvement on planars? What exactly is burning in? How would they improve?
Mar 30, 2019
gtb75
207
Mar 30, 2019
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Burn in is a highly debated topic. Basically the theory is you need to put some hours on a piece of equipment before they achieve the final sound signature. Based on my experience sometimes it matters and sometimes it doesn't. I have found that, with planar drivers (like these) in particular, burn in hours definitely has an impact on the sound. In the case of the Ether CX, Massdrop / MrSpeakers recommends 100-200 hours for them. Some people like to just burn in by listening, but I prefer to let gear play 24x7 until it hits at least 48 hours... That way my brain doesn't "burn in" to equipment which simply doesn't sound good. As for the process, some people use white noise or specific burn in tones - I just play a variety of music genres at slightly below normal listening levels. It really isn't a loud thing, it's a time thing.
(Edited)
Mar 30, 2019
HexCowboy
98
Mar 30, 2019
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Thank you for the reply. Several studies have shown that the variance in headphones is incredibly small to non-existent after "burn in" and variance measured is low enough to be imperceptible to humans. Likewise we know that perception of Sound Quality is largely psychological, much like virtually all qualitative sensory assessments humans make. I've owned several planars and never noticed anything changing over time. Given the price of these headphones, I'm evaluating the reviews critically to see if they say more than "after a few hundred hours I got used to the sound of these and am happy with my investment"
Mar 30, 2019
devolutionary
76
Mar 30, 2019
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Further to gtb75's comments, Ethers feature a custom V-Planar diaphragm which is supposed to push more air and arguably benefits from higher use. https://www.mrspeakers.com/technology I haven't entirely bought into the burn-in theory but I definitely noticed some subtle differences in certain frequencies with my pre and post burn-in tests. The headphones even come with a card recommending that you settle in for 100-200 hours listening. Whether you interpret that as listening burn-in is another story.
Mar 30, 2019
HexCowboy
98
Mar 30, 2019
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Many vendors recommend "burn in" and I think we would be fair to assume that they are aware of all the studies that show humans subjectively adapt to sound, and likewise studies that show that the more people pay for an item the more likely they are to subjectively rationalize quality. J.D. Powers studied this extensively as it relates to brand. (When Acura and Honda were nearly identical in the 90s, Acura produced much higher quality ratings). If indeed both adaptation and price perception are true, then it would be wise for vendors to recommend hundreds of hours of "burn in" to optimize the product before/instead-of returning/exchanging or writing critical reviews. So far I cannot find a study that provides any evidence of burn-in beyond incredibly tiny variance, which I have no idea if we can hear or not. I have had full-size cone-driver speakers "burn in" after 3 days. I had some JL Audio Pro 10's in the 90's that almost blew the windows out of mycar mid-afternoon on the 3rd day of running them with no changes to source/gear or volume. So - I know there are conditions with long-throw cones where burn-in change can happen, but have trouble understanding how it would affect a planar. Cheers,
Mar 30, 2019
gtb75
207
Mar 30, 2019
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As I said, highly debated topic. I have gone through the burn in process on 3 sets of planar speakers (Magnepan) and 4 sets of planar headphones (MrSpeakers, Fostex, and Audeze)... That being said, the out of the box sound I've heard from most planars (speakers or headphones) is pretty flat and lifeless... Almost like the drivers are "tight". I am no engineer, but I would suspect even a small change in the film tension of a planar driver could make a significant impact on driver response since planar driver excursion is so small compared to a traditional dynamic driver. Regardless, I don't do critical listening with any new gear I get until it has a few days of play time - that way I don't "get used to the sound". Burn in or not, either it sounds good and I keep it or it sounds bad and it goes back (or I sell it). They are actually discussing the burn in topic over on the Head-Fi thread for the Ether CX today. Dan gives some scientific explanation as to why it matters for his drivers. Here is the link: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/mrspeakers-ether-cx-899-from-massdrop.889673/page-13
(Edited)
Mar 30, 2019
HexCowboy
98
Mar 30, 2019
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Thank you! That's an interesting explanation there, at least for these. It sounds similar to the break-in of the flex point in the speaker cones of the JLA 10s. I've had other cones "break in" but none so audible as those old JLAs which were, literally, mind-blowing once they started reaching full extension.
(Edited)
Mar 30, 2019
9in.5oz
5
Oct 1, 2019
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First of all, thank you so much for your review on ether CX. Very helpful indeed. Afaik, ether CX doesn't have flow designed planar magnetic, rather same as original ether c (no flow) with 1.1 tuning. Which one do you recommend either used ether C Flow which can be upgraded to 1.1 at $30 or this CX? (Prices are more or less same) CX doesn't have flow design but is new, already 1.1 tuned (I assume) and better cable parts. I am asking because you didn't like the original ether c. Only after tunings (making it as same as c flow 1.1) you liked it. However at the same time it seems you like CX. So wondering your recommendation. Many thanks in advance
Oct 1, 2019
gtb75
207
Oct 1, 2019
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It was the original C that left me a little cold... I don't think I ever listened to the C Flow (if I did it wasn't for long). You may have misunderstood my review - I have open back Flows (upgraded to 1.1), not closed. That all being said, I think the CX is more than just a C with 1.1 tuning. Based on what Dan from MrSpeakers said the tuning behind the driver is different with the CX as well (where the 1.1 tuning is on the front of the driver). But you are correct, the CX does not have the Flow driver - it's the original Ether driver. Also, the cable included with CX is actually a cheaper cable than the Flow model. I picked up the CX because I was hoping for the overall sound signature of my open back Flow 1.1 but in a closed headphone for travel use. That being said, I feel like I got that... The CX is a really easy to listen to headphone. Lightweight (for a planar) and is tuned in such a way that you can listen fatigue free for hours. Really nice closed headphone for the price.
Oct 1, 2019
9in.5oz
5
Oct 1, 2019
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Thanks you for reply. :)
Oct 1, 2019
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