MrSpeakers Ether Flow - Impressions and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by Hands, Sep 17, 2016.

  1. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    First, some recognition: @Ice-man was very kind and lent me his new Ether Flow (open). Thanks a bunch! It's super awesome when friends do stuff like this so soon after a product's launch on their own dime. I know he likes these and ideally probably didn't want to lend them out so soon. I'll apologize in advance if I'm harsh on these, but I'm not going to go easy on an $1800, second iteration headphone.

    Ether Flow (Open) Subjective Impressions

    This is the sort of headphone you don't have to listen to for very long to get a good sense of its traits. I'm also pretty familiar with the original model at this point.

    - Staging! The Flows actually have some! Things no longer sound incredibly hard panned to the left/right with a little, disconnected, center blob stuck in there. They still have some of that planar left/right staging, but these really aren't bad at all. Operates on a similar level as the modded HD650, which is fine by me. Finally some width, depth, layering, and air.

    - Somewhat cleaner, clearer, and faster than original Ethers in an overall sense. Not as dirty and rough overall.

    - Lacks dynamics in both a macro and micro sense. While you can tell the bass is at a decent level (very similar to original Ether) and has decent extension, it sounds soft, dull, somewhat blurry, and lacks articulation. Little in the way of slam you can get from a dynamic. Bass has a lot to contribute towards a sense of macro-dynamics, so the Flow suffers here. Micro-dynamics seem compressed. Nothing really pops on the Ether Flows. Not much in the way of a three-dimensional sense of resolving ability.

    - Bright. Brighter than original Ethers. Smoother, yes, but brighter. Treble emphasis has shifted higher up in the spectrum, so they sound less etched but brighter. It reminds me of the HD800's elevated treble, just without near the amount of etch. This also makes them sound leaner than they really are, not unlike the HD800. More full-bodied than HD800 for sure, just similar concept in how brightness affects overall tone in weird ways. Some hear HD800 as lean rather than bright. Ether Flow can do the same thing. Not particularly painful unless you crank volume, but either way, it bothers me more as I listen rather than immediately hurt my ears.

    - Has this sort of pervasive, hissy haze to the entire sound. Really gets in the way of things. This is pretty bad on the Jotun, as is brightness, but noticeably less bad on the Super 7. Super 7 makes the Ether Open sound more liquid and full, but still bright.

    - Midrange as a whole is actually pretty decent. In some ways, cleaner and tighter than an HD650, but not as smooth or well integrated with everything else.

    - Decent low-level detail abilities, but, again, nothing really pops the way I'd like. Sort of a blunted sound.

    Subjective Conclusions and Thoughts

    If you're set on the Ether Flow, I would not recommend pairing these with a forward, bright, or "overly neutral" sounding amp. They work best from a more lush, powerful, tube amp that can add some body and take off the edge. I don't like these from the Jotun. They are noticeably better from my modded Super 7 but still have glaring issues.

    I think the Flow additions DO improve some things, no doubt. However, the Ether Flow strikes me as a rushed product, about on the level of refinement I'd expect from a prototype or proof of concept. Fine tuning seems to have been an afterthought on the Ether Flow and largely left behind in order to get the product released faster. If you are set on these, have some toilet paper ready for additional front damping or just wait for the inevitable v1.1+ tuning.

    MrSpeakers and Head-Fi did a great job selecting the right people to hype this headphone right away. The level of blindingly intense hype on the Head-Fi thread worked exactly as intended to reel people in without them having to think about it. I will continue to reiterate that Dan needs to move away from using yes-men and self-proclaimed brand fans when beta testing his products and soliciting tuning feedback. Then again, I'm sure sales are just fine as-is, thus giving MrSpeakers as a business little reason to listen to me. I get it.

    Overall, one step forward in the Ether line due to staging and some additional cleanliness, two steps back for an even worse tuning and a brighter sound. This is going to be a divisive headphone. I know some people that I really respect like it a lot, and some don't. I won't hold it against anyone if they like the Ether Flow, but I just can't say I hear the magic.

    Please reference Tyll's review at Innerfidelity and the Head-Fi circle jerk hype train introduction thread for further opinions and information.

    Measurements

    You can reference some of my original Ether (open) model impressions and measurements here and here.

    Frequency response results show similar-ish bass results compared to what I measured with the original models. Despite the mid-bass hump, not unlike the HD650, these still sound weaker and less full in the bass than the HD650. Lower distortion could be, and likely is somewhat, a factor, but I think there's more to it than that.

    The sudden but tiny spike around 1KHz could be some sort of resonance issue. Not sure. We'll see if CSDs give us reason to worry.

    From the midrange, upper response just keeps on climbing and climbing with a large peak at 10KHz that is about 3dB higher than the mid-bass emphasis point. Overall, this is a wonky response.

    Channel matching is pretty good.

    (Blue = Left, Red = Right)

    MrSpeakers Ether Flow Open Frequency Response.png



    THD results are fine and push my modest mic to its limits. Nothing to worry about here, just like the original Ether open.

    MrSpeakers Ether Flow Open Left FR and THD.png

    MrSpeakers Ether Flow Open Right FR and THD.png



    CSDs look much cleaner than the original Ether open. I think the Flow tweaks and new choice of front damping are put to good use here. This is the sort of improvement I can get behind.

    Elevated treble like this usually lingers a bit on my rig, which in the Ether Flow's case isn't necessarily horrible but not great either. My main concern is the ridge around 1KHz corresponding with that spike in the frequency response. Maybe it's just the "ortho wall," or maybe it's something else. I have a hunch this contributes to that hissy pervasiveness that I heard. Hissy pervasiveness is probably a combination of rising treble response coupled with that 1KHz ringing.

    Left CSD.PNG

    Right CSD.PNG



    For those of you that prefer the FR/THD results straight out of ARTA or want to have a direct, easy comparison with measurements I've published in this form:

    Left FR THD.PNG

    Right FR THD.PNG


    Will experiment with some additional front damping and post my thoughts and results later. I think there might still be some hope for these as I hear them.
     
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  2. perkele

    perkele Facebook Friend

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    Thanks for your informative post. Any modding ideas? Tp anyone?

    As an Ether C owner I'd like to see similar non-hype writeup of the closed Flow too. Decided to skip the upgrade route. Overall value not very good.
     
  3. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Yeah, toning down the treble on this should be easier than the original Ether, since it's more a rising response and shifted higher in the spectrum. Toilet paper, mystery materials that I can't just yet discuss, some additional open-cell foams of medium density, etc. Just slip it in the pads.

    I'll tease a bit and say I tried something similar-ish to TP already and it's much more effective on the Flow than the original Ether.
     
  4. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    This was a showstopper for me:
    Right CSD1.jpg

    I think I know what you mean. OJ and I had a hard time describing this with words, nebulous fuzz, poofy cloud, etc.).

    Can you send me the ARTA impulse response files so I get grab % distortion from them?

    Waiting to see what you can do with these.
     
  5. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Quick and dirty front damping mod! Now sounds a lot more like an HD650, just not quite as tonally smooth and refined, and a bit brighter, slightly edgier up-top.

    Took 1/4" open-cell medium density foam, grey color, from Foam Factory, cut into a circle, and slipped inside pads. Downside, ugly, and your ears will rub up against them, which is a bit scratchy.

    Upside, actually sounds pretty darn good now. If the Flow had this sound by default it would be a big step up from the original model. Consider it a proof of concept.

    Other downside, stock front damping is glued to the front baffle. Not my pair, so not going to mess with it. Otherwise that would theoretically open up more options.

    Left w open cell foam insert.PNG

    Some spots look worse in CSDs BUT make note that the top end of response, since it's no longer so elevated, sits higher at the top of the "graph." ARTA has to compensate the top point of the graph based on the top point of the FR results. This means things that were previously buried under -35dB will now show since everything is more even and in-line. Some stuff gets pushed up that was relatively lower before. Hope that makes sense...Though maybe things are slightly worse. I dunno. It sounds a lot better! Much cleaner, blacker background, less hissy and hazy sounding by a large amount. I am actually listening to these from the S7 as I type and am not feeling picky anymore.

    Left w open cell foam insert csd.PNG


    What exactly do you need? I usually just grab screenshots with snipping tool like a lazy person as well as save the CSV results for "Frequency Response and Distortions." Is the latter what you need, or something else? Be warned the noise floor and limitations of my mic limit D2 results to about 0.3% at the minimum.
     
  6. perkele

    perkele Facebook Friend

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    In my case 1.1 upgrade foam was pretty marginal help for the original C. At least it was affordable. I find it pretty unplausible to fix the Ether either. Shite paper to the rescue indeed. Gotta love the idea that one must stuff the same marerial to your 1800$ headphones that kisses your buttocks. Maybe we should try tampons too. In the butt naturally for widening the stage. More beer yarr.
     
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  7. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    The ARTA .pir files. No biggie.

    With your latest mods, I still see that 7-8kHz CSD ridge in the treble. I've never been able to stand any ridge shaped like that around-7-8kHz, which is my personal danger zone. Also, FR nulls that turn out to be CSD ridges have always been nasty sounding to me. To be fair though, the peak is likely to be spotlit and recording dependent, and add an enhancing colouration to jazz or classical recordings. But I'm thinking if I crank up any Nirvana, Pixies, or Rage Against The Machine, my ears get fucked. Any thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2016
  8. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    The easiest way to describe it is simply "playnar". Increase playnar effect by 20 gigajoules Danny boy!

    You were definitely right about the new U-shape tuning though.
     
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  9. bazelio

    bazelio Friend

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    I've happily extricated myself from the clutch of MrSpeaker having sold off my Ether-C last week. Done and done. No longer a disrespected beta tester earning a negative wage. And I think I've arrived in the @OJneg Planars Just Suck camp at least for now. The Jotun/Slants combo nags at me as an office option, though I think I'll hold out for closed Utopias for a while. LOL.
     
  10. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    OK, I took a break from measuring and tinkering for now and will have to go back to get that .pir file for you.

    Yes, pretty much all of the ridges are still there with the foam mod. If you compare left stock to left modded (was too lazy to measure both modded, wanted to be quick), things above 5KHz look a little bit better overall. Anything below that looks about the same but is more evident since that part of the response isn't buried below -35dB like it was stock. But it's hard to say, because this could all be within standard measurement variance, and I'd stress that the way I do measurements tends to make ringing look worse than from other sources and methods.

    Ignoring the measurements, it's possible my tolerance for ringing is higher, but I didn't hear anything subjectively that stuck out as too problematic beyond A) general treble rise and emphasis (by far the biggest problem) with B) maybe the constant 1KHz ridge making things nastier.

    The hazy, hissy sound seems much diminished compared to stock with the extra foam slipped in the pads. The Flows still have this slight edge and papery timbre to them and aren't as organic compared to the HD650, but correcting the upper tone, even if not perfect, still makes a very positive difference in this case. I can now listen quite comfortably and loud levels. I would also remind you that my go-to tracks are usually some form of metal or rock because they're the quickest way for me to tell if something is messed up that other tracks might not highlight. I then branch out to different genres for other forms of evaluation.
     
  11. Serious

    Serious Friend

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    @Hands can you measure speakers with the in-ear method? I usually get an 8kHz resonance when measuring speakers and the same resonance appears in many of my headphone in-ear measurements. I'm asking because with some of my measurements I got a very similar looking 6-12kHz response with a near identical bump around 9-10kHz and ringing around 8kHz, when the treble sounded very smooth subjectively (and looked smooth on the coupler). I think I've seen the same ringing on some of your plots before on cans that subjectively didn't have any issues in that region. I think it's likely that the ringing here is an artifact of the in-ear-method and isn't heard as such.

    Then again I can't tell since I've not heard the Ether Flows and if @Marvey felt it was a showstopper issue to him, it could also very well be there. Tyll's measurements do look pretty clean though.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2016
  12. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I could do that, but I will honestly probably forget. If you go through my entire collection of CSDs, I think there's enough variance and a few without ringing near 8KHz to suggest it's probably just how various headphones interact with my head, ears, mic being at opening of canal, etc. I always tell people to ignore any or all parts of my results if they just don't hear it the same way.
     
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  13. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Tried a couple new measurement things with the Ether Flow today. Will explain as I go.

    Standard FR/THD measurement, left channel, 1KHz calibrated to 90dB (mic can't handle much more without heavy distortion), but this time I utilized ARTA's built-in averaging feature. Did 10 measurements. I had tried this before and had issues, gave up, but decided to try again today, so no idea what I was doing wrong before.

    left avg 10.PNG


    CSDs matched to the above results. Consider this another look.

    left avg 10 csd.PNG


    Trying out my own THD as a percent graph. My mic and phantom PSU will have some noise issues in the low end (having two computers on today and being next to a highway doesn't help either), but the ARTA averaging method seems to help. Again, please make note I can't push my mic much beyond these having 1KHz calibrated to 90dB, nor will results ever really get lower than about 0.2% at best.

    Ether Flow THD Percent - 1K at 90dB - Left.png


    Let's see how the Ether Flow looks if I set the CSD floor to -45dB and -70dB!

    left avg 10 csd -45db.PNG

    left avg 10 csd -70db.PNG


    Let's compare all that to my modded HD650 (-35dB, -45dB, and -70dB):

    hd650 csd.PNG

    hd650 csd -45db.PNG

    hd650 csd -70db.PNG


    For reference, here are the latest measurements of my modded HD650. Note the treble will be a bit rolled due to my pads being rather worn and compressed.

    hd650 10 avgs.PNG

    HD650 THD Percent - 1K at 90dB - Hands Mod - Left.png
     
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  14. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    @Marvey Zip files attached, but was only able to get left channel results for now. Let me know if you need something else. I forgot to check the inverse phase option with the Flow. My ADC's inputs are phase reversed it seems.
     

    Attached Files:

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  15. Serious

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    Thanks for the HD650 measurements for reference, but look at that HD650 5kHz driver ringing. These measurements also strongly suggest that the treble ringing is due to the in-ear measurement method and not the Ethers. Both headphones seem to be pushing the limits of what you can measure in terms of distortion, except the HD650 bass distortion.
    The ARTA averaging never worked for me before so I suppose they fixed that now.
    It's weird how the Ethers have a lot of these tiny resonances in the upper mids. The original Ethers had the same issues on Marv's CSDs and I think it makes sense subjectively. We can never get a good look at the actual driver/enclosure CSD performance with the in-ear method but it seems like the Ether Flow also doesn't decay as cleanly as some other headphones.

    Regarding the HD650 measurements: Can you hear that little 2kHz dip? Because I find my HD800 to be slightly more forward around 2kHz and overall to have a more natural timbre. The HD6X0 driver glare never goes away.
    Also your ears also seem to have more 6kHz relative to mine, like all of the 4 other people I measured. The HD650 measurement is flat to 6kHz while mine already dips there.
     
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  16. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    I wonder if what we see on the CSDs with -45db floor, the low level continuing ridges, the lack of a totally black decay, account for the fizzy-fuzz that some of us hear.
     
  17. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    @Serious Some headphones do exhibit ~5KHz peaks and/or ringing with my methods, but there's enough variance among headphones in this regard that I decided not to pursue investigating it further (yes, I looked into this and poured over my data). I have some results that are super clean there, such as PMx2. I always chalk it up to how headphones interact with my ears and, yes, the fact there's a mic right at my ear canal. Maybe the ringing is there for me, and me alone, or maybe it's a ghost result. In the case of the HD650, it's still clearly a super clean headphone either way. (Again, don't forget unique mods and worn pads on these 650 results. That can matter.)

    Ether Flow CSDs are still a lot cleaner than the non-Flow results I got. Some of the non-Flow results were really quite bad, and for a planar at that! I think that at least partially explains their rough and/or fuzzy characteristics.

    Regarding slight 2-3KHz dip in HD650, no, not really. Slight broad depressions like that don't stick out so much to me. If it were a slight elevation, I might hear it a bit.
     
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  18. LunaC

    LunaC Rando

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    I think it is cool you found a measurement that shows a physical representation of the pleats in a audio measurement :) I wonder if a ruffles potato chip would have a similar resonance pattern :D
     
  19. Kejar31

    Kejar31 Acquaintance

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    They are not really glued per say, more like double sided taped.. the material actually pulls up very easily

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2016
  20. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Thanks for the clarification. Still, wasn't my pair, so I wasn't about to go tearing things apart beyond a brief peak below the pads.
     

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