ETA Mini Closed Impressions and Reviews

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by spoony, Jun 9, 2022.

  1. spoony

    spoony Spooky

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    Product thread: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/eta-mini-closed-circumaural-headphone.12358/

    I was lucky enough to be an early tester for this, keeping in mind I don't have extensive experience with closed backs, here are some thoughts:
    • Fit and comfort is great on my small melon
    • Not super isolating but enough for a moderately noisy environment (office?)
    • Efficient, you get good dynamics out of modest gear which makes these a good portable option
    • Punchy, low distortion sound with great extension at the extremes
    • Stage is pretty layered and continuous, L-R continuity is actually better than most stuff I've heard which is something I value
    • Transparent to upstream stuff like amps, cables, source material, so yeah, you may want to try them out of your overpowered, over-engineered stack and hear a difference
    • Stock tuning pretty good, nothing sticks out which is already better than most closed backs, bit dark leaning but that's what I like, however, if something doesn't jive with you there's a good chance you will find what you want by trying alternative pads
    • Pad rolling is way cheaper than tube or cable rolling and has a much bigger impact on sound
    • Did I mention pad rolling?
    Not really sure what the stock option is pad-wise but ETA staff is pretty forthcoming with these types of inquiries if you have a special sound in mind.
     
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  2. gaspasser

    gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    Mini Closed Review

    I heard Mini C (MC) as part of the East Coast loaner tour. I would like to thank ETA for sending out multiple loaners which made it easy to get my ears on it.

    I have not heard the Mini Open version, however I had my personal GenG changed to 32ohm drivers which are the same as in the MC. This allowed me to compare how the same driver in a different shell with different tuning goals sounds.

    I'm a fanboi of ETA and specifically Ev's tuning skills. I also really like the idea of headphones which are easily driven directly from a phone, laptop or iPad.

    The aesthetics of the shell on the MC are very nice and are an improvement over the Genesis shells. The headband is not the best and I had a hot spot on the top of my head after about 30 minutes. The headband is what limited the length of my listening sessions.

    ETA is awesome about creating headphones with user adjustable bits. This time it's pads which is a blessing and a curse. The obsessive nature of many audiophiles will lead to copious pad purchases from Amazon. The good news is these pads are not too expensive. As a side note, I would heartily recommend anyone interested to read the book "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz.

    I found that after swapping pads I preferred the 700N PU ones and stuck with those.

    All listening was done using my iPhone with the Apple lighting dongle and Roon & Apple Music.

    This headphone seems like Ev's response to the people who prefer a more neutral tuning and aren't into the downslope goodness of GenG or ESX900. This tuning is really tasteful and provides enough bass and slightly chilled out treble to allow listening without fatigue from inexpensive sources. The imaging and stereo cues were well done and are not all inside the skull. No 3-blob imaging either.

    These drivers are really quite capable and even off the iPhone dongle there was excellent separation of instruments and one can hear room reverb and ambient noise in live recordings.

    The closed design offered pretty good isolation from birdsongs when I was sitting on my deck listening as the sun set. My wife didn't complain while I was listening sitting next to her.

    At this price point these are versatile, high-value complete headphones. The only weakness for me is the headphone band. However, I'm positive the band can be adjusted for better comfort, but I didn't want to adjust the loaner pair.

    Additionally, ETA should be praised for listening to their customers who complained about having to use a separate Sennheiser band with the Genesis model.

    I have 4 pairs of ETA headphones currently and I would be happy to add Mini C as a different flavor to my collection.

    Once again, bravo to ETA!
     
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  3. spoony

    spoony Spooky

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  4. saint.panda

    saint.panda Friend

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    Impressions after a week (and plenty of burn-in). TLDR: great plug & play portable closed headphones. Will be my new main headphone for remote work. Previously used the Audio Technica ESW9 / Airpod Max for this purpose, and the Senn HD25 long before that.

    Pros
    - Fairly "flat" frequency response. Not the "U" sound that new headphones tend to have. Brighter than HD600 (and definitely brighter than HD650) but midrange sounds very similar, even when quickly switching between HD6xx and ETA. In comparison, when I switch between Verite and ETA, the midrange sounds quite different (e.g. honkiness) and brain needs a few seconds to adjust. I don't have a Beyer 880 at hand and it's been forever since I heard one but was reminded of the Beyer house sound, i.e. a brighter Sennheiser.
    - Sounds good straight out of a Macbook Pro. When plugged into Wavedream/Stellaris, didn't notice a massive difference. That's a good thing for the use case I have in mind.
    - Surprisingly strong separation and layering for a closed headphone of this size. First thing I noticed. Decent soundstage depth (but not very tall). Works surprisingly well for classical music despite its front-row presentation.
    - Strong on macrodetails, ok on microdetails. Easy to spot artefacts. Would probably make for a great monitoring headphone.
    - High portability factor: foldable, lightweight, rugged and replaceable cables (!). With all my (trans-)portable headphones in the past, cables were always the first thing that fell apart. Big plus.
    - Punchy bass, reaches fairly low. Fun with electronic music.
    - Good isolation / comfort trade-off. Not the most isolating but good enough for a semi-busy cafe or office setting.

    Neutral:
    - Comfort is good, but more noticeable than something like the Verite. Can feel the clamping after an hour or so, and can feel the pads on ears. Very lightweight though.
    - Design: Question of taste, but feels a bit like a mix between DIY and pro audio.
    - Presentation is fairly front row. Somewhere between Grado and Sennheiser.
    - Elevated (lower?) treble. I prefer something like the Verite/HD6xx in that regard. Utopia was also bright but its resolution capability made it less annoying.

    Cons:
    - Overall on the clinical side of things.
    - Resolution in the highs could be better. High hats e.g. sound a bit artificial.
    - Like the HD6xx, it can "feel" a bit slow, certainly compared to something like the Verite which is ultra fast.
    - Bass feels a tad too elevated sometimes. And more muddy / less precise than e.g. the Verite.

    Misc
    - Reminds me of the Beyerdynamic 250-80 in terms of design and sound (but it's been a decade since I heard one)
    - I would recommend adding some cheap cables with it
    - The "wider" pads make bass too bloomy. Preferred the "thinner" pads.
    - Something like the ZMF Verite is still one league above in terms of overall refinement, sense of space, microdetails, soundstage, speed, etc.. That's ok given the massive price difference.

    Pictures or it didn't happen.

    [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: Jul 4, 2022
  5. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    Once again I’ll start by expressing my thanks to Evan & Tommy (the “E” & “T” in ETA Headphones) for organizing a loner for one of their newest creations, the “Mini-C”. Unlike the Mini, this is an over ear headphone despite the “Mini” designation. However just like the OG Mini, this was designed from the ground up by the minds at ETA, and unsurprising to me, this is another incredible listen IMO.

    Currently my audio chain is comprised of various WAV, FLAC & MP3 files played from JRiver on my refurbed HP Elite Desk via USB to a Schiit Bifrost 2 into either my Pro iCAN (1st version) or ZMF Pendant (also 1st version). I’m going to try a shorter bullet point style review for brevity.

    Matching

    -The Mini C is a 32ohm headphone and I found that the ifi was a wonderful match on low gain.

    -Surprisingly I felt the Pendant was a decent match, adding a bit of that midrange magic without too much bloom or looseness.

    -I also got excellent results with my Fiio M6, the sound was more engaging than it had any right to be. Plenty of slam and detail despite the price.

    -I have no dongles on hand, but I imaging a synergistic pairing wouldn’t be hard to find.

    -In the end I preferred the solid state ifi and Fiio so I did the majority of my listening split between the two.

    Construction & Ergonomics

    -Comfort was good if not great.

    -The ear pads I used were the MDR suede pads, and I enjoyed them enough not to change them. They are a bit snug around the ear. They’re not uncomfortable, but my ears aren’t particularly large.

    -Headband is a foldable Sony (MDR 7506 I think) also feels snug on my small-ish head. Big noggins beware.

    -Solid feel overall. Not super refined, but not garage-shop chic either. I’d wager this would have good durability.

    Sound

    -The overall sound strikes me as neutral warm with excellent bass extension, linear mids and relaxed but detailed treble.

    -Mini C bass is tight with good low end rumble & extension. Less mid bass emphasis, but wholly satisfying for my tastes with good texture and detail. Bass gets out of the way when not in the recording but kicks hard when called for.

    -Compared to the Atrium, Mini C reaches lower & has a similar mid-bass energy, Mini C sounds tighter to my ears with similar resolution of details.

    -Compared to Aeolus, Mini C definitely is more linear excepting sub-bass where Mini reaches lower. Aeolus has a definite uptick in mid-bass energy, and is also looser/softer in presentation

    -Mids on the Mini C are nuanced and pretty linear. Not warm, not sterile, kinda Goldilocks for me. Voices, piano, strings all never left me dissatisfied but kept me wanting more.

    -Compared to Atrium, vocals sound more lush overall but not by a large margin. My preferences might lean toward the atrium, but not by a huge margin.

    -Compared to Aeolus, Mini C is more Linear, Aeolus a bit more peaky. Aeolus has a touch more elevation followed by a slight dip a bit further up infrequency. Not immediately noticeable except in direct comparison where Mini C just sounds more linear & right to me.

    -Treble is relaxed on Mini C, never piercing, never sibilant to my ears (not my strong suit due to hearing loss). Plenty of detail from what I could hear, percussion, cymbals etc. had plenty of bite, not brittle or edgy.

    -Compared to Atrium (full solid mesh), Mini C extends a bit further & has a touch more clarity, Atrium is a little smoother and less sparkly.

    -Compared to Aeolus, the ZMF sounds a bit more peaky (6-7khz?) but is still listenable, especially with the full bass supporting it. Mini C has better extension (I think) and sounds more airy

    -Mini C's Transients aren’t Utopia/Verite nor sluggish and plodding. Closer to beryllium, a touch faster than biodynamic I think.

    -As implied above, when compared to Atrium there is a similar speed, Mini C sounding a bit faster overall.

    -Compared to Aeolus, Mini C is noticeably snappier and faster

    -Stage on Mini C is intimate but very coherent with excellent imaging. Very good depth, decent width adequate height. Once I got lost in the music I didn’t care one whit about the headstage anyway.

    -Staging is one of the Atrium strong suits IMO, much wider and taller, with depth being of a similar nature to my ear.

    -Aeolus is wider & taller as well, but smaller overall than Atrium obviously. Somewhere in between. Mini C has more depth.

    -Mini C handles busy passages with aplomb.

    -Atrium is good with busy passages, but I found Mini C to edge it out for better clarity. Aeolus doesn't handle busy passages as well as either headphone.

    Endwords

    In the end ETA has created another winner IMO. It is one of the best all-arounders I’ve heard, sounding great with every type of music I threw at it. That includes Classical which might be counterintuitive considering the intimate presentation, but it worked for me. The performance and enjoyment belies the modest price ($400 usd w/o cable at the time of writing) and is definitely worth an audition if you’re in the market.

    Edit: I realize I didn't really include any negatives, or at least I didn't emphasize any. That's because I felt that any flaws are so minor that it boils down to a matter of preference more than a deficit of some sort. The Mini C is likely not for those with larger heads (though there could be other factors in shape, since I haven't done any studies lol). I think it's also safe to say they're not for "trebleheads" or "soundstage hounds" but the lack of major peaks or dips prevents me from highlighting anything as a major flaw. I've also included some comparisons for better context. I have no closed backs that come anywhere close to Mini C's performance, so I made due with Atrium & Aeolus since they are more of my daily drivers (unless I'm finally successful in selling my Aeolus lol).

    https://www.etaheadphones.com/product-page/mini-closed
     
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    Last edited: Jul 12, 2022
  6. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    I goofed yesterday in posting this https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...or-closed-headphones.12546/page-2#post-391158 to the ETA C review+measurements thread. Rather than adding to my impressions there, I'm continuing in this more appropriate thread. I had written that bass was a bit light from an A&ultima SP1000M DAP. I'm now trying the Mini C with a Chord Hugo 2 I had elsewhere. Big difference. Bass is a lot more present without overwhelming the Mini C's honest mids and clean highs (to the extend my ancient ears can hear them). I found the Hugo 2 too tiring with other (otherwise very different) closed headphones, DCA Ether C Flow and ZMF Verité. The Mini C has a smaller headstage than either, but it wins with this DAC/amp by taming its overly forward character. The Hugo 2 is no longer trying to punch my eardrums but it still swings well and fast. Jazz double bass is neither shy nor bloomy, reeds are properly reedy, piano and guitar show convincing attacks and decays. To repeat myself, there's something so honest about these headphones. tightly controlled without being sterile, expressive without going over the top. I will still go for my ZMFs and big DACs and amps when I want to immerse myself in the music, but for plain speaking, ETA Mini C.
    Update: I just heard the first musical passage where I felt Mini C fell a bit short, a very busy, intense, free-jazzy few bars on cornet, piano, and bass that sounded muddled compared with my recent memory of the same passage on ZMF Atrium. Different DAC & amp, I know, but the Hugo 2 is no slouch in keeping things separate so I suspect that this can be attributed to the headphones. Each of the instruments sound great individually in less cluttered passages.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2022
  7. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    After some more listening Roon>Chord Hugo 2+2go>Mini C, two things happened: 1) some headphone break-in that increased slam, upper bass quantity, and quality, and 2) confirmed that I have finally a headphone in my collection that brings out the clarity and speed of the Hugo 2 while taming its otherwise aggressive upper mids and relentless presentation. While before I felt the Hugo 2+2go was a regretted expensive buy, the Mini C gave it new life. I've loved how it renders the tone and wild dynamics of the (in some tracks prepared) pianos in the for-free-jazz-and-atonal "To Pianos" (Eve Risser/Kaja Draksler), the much mellower an"d straight-ahead piano-led "Turning Point" (Gonzalo Rubalcaba/Trio d'Été), and the modern-classical guitar in "Kromos" (Ismo Eskelinen). String timbre (piano and guitar), attack and decay work especially well with this pairing.
     
  8. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Mini C pairings: I like Mini C with Hugo 2 a lot more than with 3F amorphous<May<HQPlayer. With 3F, bass sounded boomy, and highs almost painfully etched, which is completely different from their hard-hitting but smooth performance with Hugo 2. Mini C pairs better with EC Af<May<HQPlayer, although not as well as with Hugo 2. Switching between Mini C and Verité closed (I know, not a fair fight price-wise) Mini C holds its own on dynamics but it sounds a lot more enclosed, no real staging. Verité closed varies much less between 3F and AF than Mini C.
    Listening notes: Comparisons on first track (Grand Mesa) of Pride & Joy, John Cowherd Trio. Brian Blade's drum set, especially cymbals separates from piano and bass with Af>Verité closed, not much with Af>Mini C. Even more striking when Chris Potter's sax pops in front (with Verité closed) or not so much (with Mini C).
     
  9. CaptainCope

    CaptainCope Almost "Made"

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    Loaner Tour Impressions
    Had both Mini C and Mini S on desk for a few days and listened to them
    • Bifrost 2 -> Shortest Way
    • Bifrost 2 -> Jotunheim 2
    • iFi Diablo
    • Pixel 4a
    The Diablo and the Jot2 pairing complemented the laid back nature of these headphones and made them feel faster. The Jot2 emphasizes macro detail which sometimes over did it with these headphones. The SW51 added a little more space and to the sound.

    On the Mini C, I switched the larger pads and was able to get a better seal and that helped fill out the bass. Mini S more open sounding. Both presented quite a bit of punch with a similar feel to Auteur -- but the Mini C and Mini S reach lower.

    I really enjoyed my time with these headphones and I found them comfortable and enjoyable during a particularly stressful week. There was a moment where I had the Mini C with my Pixel and just sat on a bench on a busy city street and just listened. It isolated really well.

    I can imagine these going back and forth with me to the office really enjoyed them.
     

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