ETA Mini Impressions and Reviews Thread

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by dematted, Jan 10, 2022.

  1. dematted

    dematted Friend

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    Introduction

    mini.jpeg

    ETA, the project started by @E_Schaaf and @tommytakis, have come out with their next headphone. For those of you not in the loop, ETA is aiming to produce high quality, affordable dynamic-driver headphones through 3D printing that compete with the more traditional big-name dynamic driver companies. Their first headphone, GenG, debuted here not long ago to generally positive reception, though there were some criticisms of the tuning, soundstage, imaging, and overall build quality.

    The Mini is ETA's latest headphone. This is a bit of an odd one, as it was originally planned to be a limited release that simply used the rest of the GenG drivers. However, after some fiddling with it, Ev decided that it would make sense as the "entry-level" ETA headphone because of both difficulties in producing the other model they were working on, called the "Supra", and a break-through in the design of the Mini.

    The Mini is a 300-ohm, dynamic driver headphone with graphene drivers, N52 magnets, and a flexing surround with head-band and cable provided. Unlike the GenG, this is an on-ear, rather than over-ear headphone. It comes with two pads, and it's fairly easy to order more inexpensively: Ev provided me with an alternate, "mid-forward" sounding pad, and recommended a pair that I purchased on Amazon for just $12 dollars.

    One disclaimer before I begin. I tend to spend a good deal of time in ETA's discord, and I think Ev is a fantastic person, so I understand if some of you think that I'll have trouble judging these headphones objectively. Nonetheless, I'm going to do the best I can to not pull any punches here. Unlike the GenG, I have some serious problems with these headphones, even though I think that they're also a very real achievement and an important evolution in ETA's sound. Without further ado, let's hop in.

    Build Quality, Comfort, and Aesthetics

    Build quality is still, to my judgement, fairly mediocre: there are exposed wires and the head-band is, despite not uncomfortable, generally unremarkable, flimsy, and cheap feeling. The Grado SR80e, which chocks in for much cheaper, is a headphone that has a much better feeling build quality from my recollection. The printed filament of the structure that holds the driver is actually fairly sturdy and robust feeling, but it's not particularly aesthetically pleasing, and frankly it looks very much like a DIY product.

    Comfort is not bad, but there isn't a great deal of clamp force, which prevents me from "head-bobbing" (something that one will want to do with this headphone). The headphone is extremely light, which does make it easy to wear, but for optimal sound it also has to be positioned in a very particular way on one's ears, and the foam of the pads I enjoyed most (the stock ones) is not particularly comfortable.

    All in all, for the price-tag that I purchased this headphone for (which I'm told is to increase shortly) this headphone simply doesn't justify itself in these categories. Of course, most of you who are thinking of purchasing ETA headphones aren't primarily thinking about these things, so let's consider what's most important to us audiophiles - sound.

    Sound
    This headphone didn't really jive with me at first with what Ev called the "bassy" and the "mid-forward" pads. Though it did do many things right, I just couldn't ignore some issues with its tonality: the lower treble seemed very, very hot, giving it a very sizzly, crunchy sound. Lower-mids also sounded scooped, which made the sound as a whole lean and lacking in timbral saturation and richness. To get these headphones to "work" for me at the most basic, tonal level, I had to make several changes:

    -Change the pads to stock (which I received a couple days later)
    -Change the input tubes of my Quicksilver Headphone Amp to Mullards.
    -Change my Pi2aes out for Unison USB.

    In short, I think that this headphone does, even in its stock configuration, have somewhat hot lower to mid treble, and a slightly recessed sounding lower mid-range. As a result, for my own preferences, it has to be paired with a warmer chains which have some additional distortion, bloom, and emphasis in the lower-mids and somewhat muted treble. However, when I did end up getting all of this right, the headphone really did begin to "click" for me.

    In most technical respects, this headphone does blow everything remotely close to its asking price (For me, under half the price of GenG with cable and shipping included) out of the water, save the classic Sennheiser stuff. It has an overall sonic presentation that reminds me a good deal of a Focal, with snappy transients (not quite as quick as a Focal, but nonetheless legitimately very fast), a generally intimate stage with a great deal of depth and absolutely fantastic layering, and extremely engaging dynamics (better I think than something like a Focal Clear on the micro level, and about the same at the macro level). Its timbre isn't quite as rich or spookily realistic as something like the GenG or a Sennheiser, and is just a tad on the drier side with images lacking a certain level of saturation and body, but it really is more than acceptable: unlike a Focal, there's nothing that sticks out, screaming "This isn't right!".

    The sense of clarity, ability to handle complex musical passages, and resolving capacities of this headphone are up there with TotL stuff that I've heard. Ability to represent textural and timbral nuances is also quite good: There's more "plankton" and texture I hear on this than my 650, and micro-dynamic differences that simply aren't there on the 650 are well-represented on the Mini. It is also much more well extended at each of the frequency extremes: its bass is cleaner and digs deeper, and its treble has much more sense of shimmer and air. As a result, its mid-range tends to lack some of the romance, richness, and forwardness of the 650, but vocals nonetheless have a good amount of presence that I think most people who aren't absolutely enamored by the 650 will find sufficient.

    Despite its neutral-bright tonality, the headphone is generally not too fatiguing because the treble is wonderfully textured and non-digital sounding. Nonetheless, for some genres of music the presence of the treble vis-a-vis the mid-range is just a bit too much, and I am tempted to apply some EQ (which comes with its own problems). My main complaints, though, probably have to do with the over-ear design, which to me makes the sound, while quite immediate and engaging, somewhat claustrophobic despite the excellent soundstage depth. I never quite forget that I am wearing headphones, even when I'm having tremendous fun with them.

    Overall though, I think this headphone is a remarkable achievement. For half the price of a GenG, this offers dynamic performance and clarity that is up there with TotL stuff while having a tonality that many of those who prefer something more neutral probably won't find bothersome at all, as well as a timbre that sounds, if not euphoric, more than acceptable sounding. To my ears, this headphone eliminates many of the issues people had with GenG's tendency toward "blending" sounds together in a way that occasionally sounds congested.

    Finally, please note that I have only owned these headphones for a week or so: I will be updating my impressions as I compare it with more things, hear it on different gear, and try it with different pads and configurations.

    Cheers!
     
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    Last edited: Jan 10, 2022
  2. dematted

    dematted Friend

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    As an addendum, let me note one more thing: Ev and Tommy provide a level of consistent, personalized customer service that is probably only possible with a smaller company like theirs. If, for whatever reason, you don't like the way the headphone sounds, they are exceedingly open to spending time iterating with you until you get it right, whether that involves modifying the headphone itself, finding new pads, or something else entirely. And if you have any questions about the headphone (And I've had many!) they are also quick to answer and quite professional. This to me is an impressive part of the product that they offer!
     
  3. Philimon

    Philimon A Distasteful, Sad Person

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    Love the design. How much? Where to buy?
     
  4. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I also have a Mini and have been putting it through its paces. My impressions differ somewhat from @dematted, which I mainly believe to be a matter of perspective/context (that is, I'm more used to on ears) and different chains. My listening has been done with the following:

    1. Pi2AES->Airist RDAC (on loan)->Schiit Saga->Custom SOHA (also on loan)
    2. Modi Multibit (opamp modded)->Vali 2+ (EF84 tube w/adapter)
    3. Sony ZX300 balanced out
    4. RU6 balanced out with computer, iPad, and phone

    First, on build quality, I cannot disagree with @dematted's observations. This looks and feels like a DIY headphone. The photo in the first post is how the headphone comes, no grill, no covering at all for the rear of the shell. This is part of the sonic design and for the price, under half the price of the Gen G which had a similar build albeit with a grill, I'm willing to accept this tradeoff. I have less issues with the headband, I find the clamp to be sufficient to hold the headphones on my head even when head bobbing, although perhaps not if I were going full Wayne's World metal head. The headband can also be bent to produce a tighter clamp if needed. And the cups do fold in to the headband for traveling, which is a nice touch.

    In terms of sound, my impressions also differ some from @dematted. With the stock pads I did not find the mids on this to be noticeably scooped. In fact, this is one of the more balanced headphones I've heard in a long time. The bass is still prominent, but less so than the Gen G and the treble extends further. As a result, this is one of the few headphones I can think of where I can really hear the full range of sonics in a track without worrying about one end or the other rolling off, or the lows overpowering the mids, etc. Furthermore, I do find that vocals have a sweetness to them that reminds me at times of the 650, but with the benefit of the more extended FR.

    I agree that it is less rich than the Gen G, but that does not mean the Mini lags behind in micro dynamics. In fact, due to the on-ear nature of the Mini versus the over-ear Gen G, the technicalities and resolution are more immediately evident. I do agree that on some recordings the lower treble can toe the line of edginess, without ever falling off the deep end into peakiness. On most recordings this isn't an issue.

    For an on ear, I found the imaging, layering, and separation with the stock pads to be top of class. Listening to my favorite album, Clutching At Straws by Marillion, I had to double check to make sure I wasn't listening to the recently released remix of the album because the instruments sounded so clear and so distinct within the mix. The bassier pads do reduce the soundstage and layering and the bassy pads do seem to scoop the mids, whether this is in fact a true scoop or a perceptual one due to the more prominent low end I'm not totally sure.

    I think these make a fantastic complement to the Gen G. Where that headphone is downsloping, rich, and smooth, the Mini is neutral, detailed, and dynamic. This feels like ETA's take on studio monitors, a more reference tuning than the Gen G has featured. And I second the comment about how wonderful it is to do business with Ev and Tommy. They are approachable, patient, and eager to ensure their customers get the sound they want.

    The ETA Mini is another winner for me!
     
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  5. Philimon

    Philimon A Distasteful, Sad Person

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    Needs more pics including some of alternate pads.
    The headband does look meh and I would swap for a Grado headband purely on aesthetics. The acoustic design though is superb. I love Grado-style minimal baffle and pads.
    The cups remind me of Kaldas RR1 which I find very pretty.
     
  6. dematted

    dematted Friend

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    Having listened a bit more to Mini as well as a loaner "Supra", I'm ready to leave some more thoughts.

    Firstly, Ev recommended a new set of pads for me, a pair of Grado replacement pads made by "Geekria" that are found on Amazon for $12 dollars. Why not, I figured.

    This headphone reacts a great deal to pad rolling. Think as big as a dac or amp switch. With these pads, my concerns about overly present treble disappear, and the timbre sounds a good deal more natural and filled in. Transients in the treble sound slightly more rounded, but the mid-range is still very quick. You do lose some of the sense of clarity, image sharpness, and layering that came with the stock pads, but the mid-range actually sounds like it has more resolution and plankton now, and I don't hear any compromises in dynamics. Some sense of "grain" is also eliminated with these pads.

    Mid-range resolution is some of the best I've ever heard with the Geekria pads on the Mini. Ev actually measured these pads, and the sense of delineation showed in CSD's of the mids was quite close to the Utopia's (I'll post measurements when I get permission!).

    That being said, I still have a few issues with this headphone, mostly with the bass, which sounds just a tad boomy and echo-y, for lack of a better term. When bass is listened to at a sufficient volume, I think the actual headphone vibrates a bit, likely due to its relatively flimsy construction, and something about the decay in the bass just feels a bit off, as if the "Sustain" of bass notes isn't well-controlled.

    This is especially noticeable when I'm comparing it to the Supra, another on-ear headphone currently being designed by ETA. The Supra's bass, despite being a bit less dynamic, is much less boomy and much better textured. The texture here actually reminded me a good deal of that biocellulose texture that you got from something like Auteur. And this wasn't the only similarity - the headphone as a whole has a very relaxed transient presentation, with a pleasing roundness to attacks complimented by a very deep stage, a combination that reminded me a great deal of the Auteur. This does make it sound sleepy occasionally, but it also makes it a very relaxing listen. It has an overall presentation that sounds a bit more effortless and grand than the Mini, which is more immediate and closed-in. The Supra gave a much more "out-of-head" experience - I occasionally forgot that it was an on-ear, while the Mini always has that "on-ear" character, even with its excellent staging.

    Still, if I had to choose between these two headphones, it wouldn't be particularly close. The Mini just has more sense of energy and aliveness, and its dynamics and transients are both much more forceful. It also sounds more resolving of microdetail, and its technicalities sounded like a step-up for the most part (with the exception of bass). Overall, the Supra is my least favorite ETA headphone, but I still think it is a worthy offering for a more relaxed listening option.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2022
  7. jowls

    jowls Never shitposts (please) - Friend

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    300-ohm, or 32-ohm?
     
  8. dematted

    dematted Friend

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    The one I listened to is 300-ohm, but I believe they will be coming out with 32-ohm ones.
     
  9. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    At first we were using 300 ohm drivers that were leftover from GenG production. Those are the ones that use the individual dots on the rear. I have only a few of those left:

    upload_2022-1-27_11-30-19.png

    We also have 32 ohm drivers (that are otherwise identical in terms of how they measure and the on-paper specs) that we worked with the supplier to replicate the dots but using a longer piece of the filter material around the edge. It looks a bit different, but the sonic target is the same:

    upload_2022-1-27_11-30-58.png

    Any orders being placed from now onward will most likely look like the bottom image.
     
  10. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    [​IMG]

    Mini in the house!

    I borrowed this pair from Ev for my evaluation (particularly to compare with another capable on-ear headphones -- Modded Yamaha HP-1). Thanks for his kindness!
    Impression to come, but let me just quickly share a few early thoughts.
    • I received three pairs of ear pads: Gerod (Ev's favorite -- likely what others call 'stock'), Geekria Large and Small ones (Large ones look like Grado L-cush). Hearing them back and forth, I found Geekria large pads work best for my taste. Hence they're equipped in the picture. Other pads seem to have their own pros, but I like the least V-shaped tonal balance of the geekria-L. Given kinda short period of the loaner, I will probably stick to these pads.
    • Hearing them with fair amount of marginal tracks, I am having a hard time in nitpicking tonality. Not exactly spot on to me (still more V than I'd like to hear) tho. Really not many places to intervene on my end.
      • So far, I'm thinking to cut upper bass hump a bit. Also cutting lower treble a decibel or so sounds worthy. Maybe boost midrange widely, too? Need more experiments.
    • Need more listening, but Mini seems to address many issues I had with Gen-G in return of sorta acceptable sacrifices/compromises. More on this in later posts.
    • TBH Mini is more engaging and less ambiguous to me than any other ETA headphones I heard before (ESX900, Gen-G 1.1). Now I can see why Mini owners put their gen-g on sale lol.
    Bottomline, really tempted to pick up a pair for myself. Shootout will be great fun to say the least.
     
  11. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Don’t forget to try all the pads reversed as well!
     
  12. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    My time with the Mini is surpassing the 30-hour mark with at least 15 hours of very intensive listening. At this point, I want to drop the collected thoughts on these great sounding headphones. But please be aware that nothing is conclusive atm -- and there are more solid reviews already posted above by real owners. Wise readers should give them more credit than mine haha.

    Pre-Revision / Disclaimers
    • Ev kindly warned me that the pair he sent was a pre-revision unit which used a 32 ohm driver but still equipped dot-style filter pieces (as opposed to larger bars). And he was concerned with mild inter-channel imbalances existing in this specific pair.
    • At my first listen, I think I heard the imbalance to some extent but swapping to other pads suddenly made this issue disappear. Even after returning to the stock pads (Gerod), I couldn’t hear meaningful LR level differences. IDK.. scratching my head. Maybe that’s pads or low-vol pot imbalances on the amp. Anyway, at least with the Geekria L-pads, I don’t mind the imbalance any longer. Kinda curious what my measurements rig would reveal.. although I’m 70% skeptical as dummy ears often introduce ‘false’ imbalances for on-ear headphones.
    • I am not an influential YT reviewer at all. So it’s very unlikely Ev cherry-picked the unit for me (hahaha kidding).. But it’s anyway better to be aware of potential unit to unit variation and/or mal-representativeness!

    Comfort / BQ / Aesthetics
    • The whole wearing experience is pretty much like Grado headphones. Ears directly contact hard sponges. And there aren’t any ergonomic aids in the headband. Nonetheless I may think Mini is slightly more comfortable than Hemp because (1) Mini headband has a little more padding; (2) Geekria pads are a tad softer than Hemp’s F-cushion.
    • Headphone cables are detachable. This makes life a lot easier!
    • Drivers and wires are exposed. Hope later revisions come with grills to protect internal parts.

    Sound (wo correction) / Tonality
    • I still think Mini’s tonality is largely V-shaped. And the intensity of V-ness varies across different pads. Like I said, Geekria-L is the least V.. but still noticeably V. (Aside: I meant backward direction for Geekria-L as it sounded way better than forward orientation)
    • The way Mini extended bass resembles how HD650 went deeper than HD600. I am not a big fan of such an over-basssing (i.e., boosted bass below resonant frequency) in the electrodynamic headphones as it comes with quality loss in cleanness or articulation. This quantity-quality tradeoff is unavoidable in electrodynamic drivers. Not worth bitching too much.
    • Mini’s treble is very interesting to me because they had the crispest and edgiest highs (very surprising for Ev and ETA preferences) yet never bright. They sounded actually darker than gen-g if I recall correctly. I’m hearing a significant scoop around 8khz upward. Then SPL seems to recover beyond 10-11khz. Still unsure if I can call this “fun” tuning. But at least they sound pretty engaging to me.
    • It’s also worth mentioning the upper midrange resonance I heard from Gen-G (I didn’t hate it btw) completely goes away. No idea if this is because of pads, newer low-Z drivers, or some secret sauce ETA team came up with. Mileage may vary. I eventually liked it but it’s also possible those coming from Grado may find Mini lack clarity or perhaps too distant.
    • Midrange was largely recessed. They are acceptably tuned. But bass guitars and most vocals sounded borderline hollow to me. This is where EQ may benefit .. or may not. More on this later.
    • Overall, Mini’s tonality and voicing were downright great. There are several places that don’t align with my preference. But I haven’t seen any headphones that perfectly suit my tonal taste (and that’s why I am into EQ in the end). That said, Mini’s stock tonal balance was pretty much sufficient to rock right out of the box. EQ only enabled different flavors rather than addressing critical issues.
    Dial-In / EQ
    • As I said above, my mild complaints about Mini’s stock tonality are threefold: (1) midrange recession, (2) upper bass hump, and (3) slightly over-incisive mid treble. The last one is only for bad recordings like Japanese EDM or so.
    • After a few experiments, I could settle down with three filters centered at 70hz, 1khz, and 5.3khz respectively. Overall graphical presentation below.
    [​IMG]

    Sound with digital correction / Technicality
    • With my filters on, Mini loses the extension a little (bass dropping 10-15hz earlier) but gets tighter and cleaner bass. I’d say this is a lot similar to the 600’s bass presentation-- less muddy, less boomy, but maybe leaner. Definitely more right up my alley.
    • Midrange somewhat gets better. Obviously fuller-bodied in most vocals. But I don’t think the issue is 100% resolved yet. There does exist a tricky tradeoff between effect size and artificiality. Perhaps it still needs more micro adjustments.
    • Now moving on to technicality -- I do prefer technicality evaluation AFTER tonality correction as they allow more apple to apple comparisons and I seem less distracted by tonality delta traps. The first thing I noticed from Mini was its openness. The second important reason why I had to let my gen-g go was they didn’t quite open up to my liking. I’m specifically meaning airiness, staging, and/or top end extension. I don’t think Mini is quite there with orthos or estats. But much closer to what I am looking after than Gen-G/ESX900.
    • In that regard, I am also quite surprised by Mini's staging ability. On-ear headphones must be weak in my book as they can’t interact with outer ears. HP-1 was the first supra-aural product that surprised me beyond what I thought on-ears was capable of.. And Mini is the honorable second (not saying their ability ranking.. Just chronological order lol). This is where I found Mini can possibly slay any Grados, too. More on this in the comparative review post.
    • Detail retrievals and microdynamic resolution are no less than Gen-G. Depending on frequency ranges, they may trade blows. But I don’t think one product is dominantly more resolving than the other. One caveat is I haven’t eqed gen-g.. So I may give gen-g a little unfair penalty. Take this bullet point with a grain of salt.
    • One thing I found Mini might be weaker than Gen-G (and ESX900 too by extension) is *pure* macro ability. While Mini sounds very engaging, they do sound a little more compressed in high level than in quiet passages. Please note that EQ made this a little more obviously audible. I’m suspecting V-sounding was intentional to alleviate this issue. Neither critical matter nor showbreaker to me tho.
    • Lastly, I like how well Mini gets along with the X-space cross-feeder (iFi’s proprietary hardware x-feeder). This analog signal processing enables Mini to exhibit even better staging and layering ability. A little subbass loss in this x-feeder wasn’t too bothersome as <30hz were already muted in Mini anyway.

    What's Next?
    • That’s pretty much how the Mini sounds to me. Hope this helps readers get some ideas to enjoy the upcoming comparative review between Mini and the modded HP-1 (Yamaha). It will be posted tomorrow or so. Measurements to be taken after that (planning to post them some time on Sunday or so). Then I should ship the Mini back to Ev next Monday. What a tight loaner schedule!

    EDIT (2022-02-18): Comparative analysis is posted (click).
     
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    Last edited: Feb 18, 2022
  13. Ksorota

    Ksorota Friend

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    ETA Mini Write Up


    ETA headphones have been an exciting entrance into the headphone world and the creators, Evan, Tommy and Alex should be proud of what they have put out so far, and I hope that they will continue for many years to come. Everything I have heard so far has been highly engaging and enjoyable.

    Same disclaimer as above…I have been a regular on the ETA discord since the beginning and was an original owner of the Genesis G. I also am giving my opinion as unbiased as possible.

    I have been using the mini and to a lesser extend the supra this past week and have to say they have exceeded my expectations. I was hesitant to try them due to them being on ear, and I generally do not get along with them for very long (two hours or so and my ears cannot take the pressure anymore). Comfort issues aside, the sound quality of the ETA mini is top notch. It is somehow coming across as projecting a wide stage even though the 50mm driver directly on my ear essentially!

    These headphones have the similar house sound that the Genesis provided, superb bass reproduction, strong detail retrieval and a balanced FR up through the mids and into the treble. IMO the FR balance of the mini is really exceptional. The bass richness is toned down a bit from Genesis, but impact is only slightly diminished. The treble has a bit more sparkle to it than what the Genesis provided. Listening to these is a wholly satisfying experience with great tonality and engagement. {added}The mini is a punchy sounding headphone that does not hold back when played with some gusto, described in another way…I think it sounds better when turned up and loses dynamics on low level listening. {added}

    Aside: The newly tuned Genesis G with dots instead of the original cotton roll tuning is a wholly more refined experience and is deserving of another loaner tour to give people a second look at the first offering by ETA.

    Sound quality aside how does the ETA Mini stack up? Comfort is not the best, (note that I am using a heavyish Norne cable that weighs almost as much as the headphones themselves) as I alluded to before, on ears are not preferable to my listening experience. The headband pad also isn’t thick enough to prevent the headstrap tension wire from pressing into the top of my head over time. The 3DP housings are tough for me to define aesthetically…sometimes I think they look futuristic and other times I wish they were a bit more refined. The thing is, they are on my head so I cannot see them and they sound wonderfully fun. I like the Gen G rear driver screens for hiding the exposed wires, but the drivers are an interesting focal item. I would like to see a small cap to essentially just cover the solder pads on the driver!

    Based on discussions on the discord, seems to be very varying experiences with pad rolling and its easy to hear the changes that similar looking pads can bring to the Mini. I have landed my preference on the Geekria S pads as the most exciting for me with the least amount of fatigue. The Gerods were a bit sharp in the treble regions and would produce some fatigue on the Vali 2. Listening through the 3F, I am not sure anymore which pads I like best, but can say that the S pads are providing a great sense of vocal presence and balanced FR. Bass is supportive to the track and not overwhelming and vocals are forward and smooth. Male vocals in particular sound natural with these.

    Summary:

    ETA Mini is a great sounding headphone and worthy of the asking price. If they were over ear then I would be very tempted to buy these headphones…the only thing that would stop me is my ESX900.

    Edit>
    Headphone Comparison:

    Ill preface this with saying that during loaners I like to just listen to the subject headphone exclusively but felt like a comparison was necessary to help provide some context and additional useful information.

    I don’t have any of the more common headphones on hand to compare the mini to so I will have to compare it to the ESX900 which is a bit of a tough comparison. In general, the closed back ESX is more of a total listening environment that you can feel as much as you can hear. The on-ear nature of the mini takes me out of the music a bit. Maybe I am weird in this way, but IMO if you do not like on ear headphones these are not going to change your mind.

    I will start by saying the ESX has a wider soundstage and better layering of detail retrieval. Complex tracks are handled better by the ESX which can better delineate the fine details. Listening to Radioheads Subterranean Homesick Alien, the mini feels a bit congested and ill-defined during busy passages of the song. The mini is more intimate sounding with narrower head stage. Panning notes comes from a more singular location on the mini as opposed to a wider soundscape with the ESX. As added in an earlier paragraph, to me the mini sounds best at moderately loud listening levels and loses dynamic pop at low volumes. The ESX maintains more of its character at low levels and is an easier headphone to drive.

    Chain: M1 Mac Mini > Modi MB opamp mod > DSHA-3F
     
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    Last edited: Feb 18, 2022
  14. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Measurement is now up: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/eta-mini-analysis-and-measurements.12007/

    TL;DR
    Unfortunately no drama.. Such a "good sound subjectively but measurements look like shit!" didn't happen. Haha.

    Analysis aside, the more I hear Mini, the more I am wanting them for myself. Damn.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2022
  15. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Socked Experiments

    At this point, I think I completed high-priority items in my evaluation agenda. Thus, happily moving on to the extra fun.

    One of them is applying "socks". Well, don't blame me about the name.. it's what Ev himself named. lol.

    The basic idea seems to insert smaller "flat pads" as front damping (i.e., bw drivers and ears) before equipping holed cushions. My vocab is very limited to explain it correctly.. so, if you can't understand what the heck I'm talking about, please look at a couple of photos below.

    [​IMG]

    Step 1: Equip flat pads first ("socks")

    [​IMG]

    Step 2: Then equip the main pads (Geekria-L forward in the pic above).

    Hope my pics could illustrate the idea clearly. Anyway, I'd call this approach "Socked-{outer pads & orientation}" henceforth (e.g., Socked Geekria-L Forward). WIll also use 'unsocked" Geekria-L Backward as control.

    Highlights for each sock configuration below.

    Common Changes of Adding Socks
    • Clockwise rotated tonality (i.e., elevated bass & reduced treble)
    • A little more Grado-like forwardness
    • Rounded transients
    Socked Geekria-L Forward vs Control
    • The most forwarding among configurations I tested out. Electric guitar brought forward more noticeably than other instruments.
    • Treble reduction effect is the least among the bunch. Elevated bass makes it perceivably attenuated anyway tho.
    • Vocals seem to open up a bit in some tracks. In other tracks, sibilants are emphasized a little. Kinda hit or miss.
    • Overall a little more V than the control
    Socked Geekria-L Backward vs Control
    • Similar bass elevation level with the forward orientation, but treble reduction is more audible.
    • Instruments were less harsh but less present than the control.
    • Sounds like bass-boosted Gen-G.
    Socked Gerod-L Forward vs Control
    • White it's sorta the most distant from my ideal tonality (a lot more unneutral than the control), this was my favorite among the experiments.
    • Hyper-mega V. Also the most forwarding upper midrange.
    • Compared to the control, a lot more bass, more forwarded and nuanced upper mids around 2k-ish. More present and opening-up vocals (but very colored, too). A little drier presentation but emotionally engaging.
    To sum up, none of them work for me over the control particularly in the context of neutral tonal balance. But they commonly facilitate fun and didn't cost much.Thus, they might be worthy as a secondary guilty-pleasing flavor for stressful days.
     
  16. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Here are my extra & final thoughts of ETA Mini
    • While the Mini are highly efficient and not particularly very demanding (regarding amps and sources), they could point out how balanced and unbalanced outs of my amp could differ (in this amp, the former makes full use of differential amplification btw) even after volume matched closely. Also it wasn't particularly hard to tell the differences between "s/w 4x upsampling + low order butterworth" and "no prior resampling + brickwall" of the 2541 dac. During the Mini's stay in my place, I couldn't find any evidence of lack of transparency for an audio evaluating tool. This may be good or bad depending on what you're looking after.
    • I doubt if Mini can attract hardcore Grado people. But Mini's tonal balance, smooth treble, and nice extension in both ways can appeal some clusters on the fence. I like the Hemp best among Grado for those reasons. And Mini is more satisfying product in the very context. Therefore, I will strongly recommend such people to shortlist Mini.
    • At this point, I pretty much made my mind to get a pair of Mini for myself. Correctly priced. Highly enjoyable no matter if I EQ or not (thus giving wide range of use cases). Top notch weight to performance ratio. There left few reasons to rule them out. While still reviewing some options about when and how, I'm sure I will pick them up in the foreseeable future.
    Now I'm about to pack them and prepare to ship out tomorrow. AFAIK this pair will show up in the Canjam NY this week. Hope many people to get to hear what ETA accomplished. Again, thanks very much for sending me the unit to evaluate @E_Schaaf !
     
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    Last edited: Feb 21, 2022
  17. Gazny

    Gazny Friend

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    Thanks to @tommytakis , and @E_Schaaf for the loaner and being part of the community.
    chain (vali 1/ a motu m2, 32 ohm mini)
    ETA, what can I say. Their ETA is the now! I always felt they are great at managing their development time, and even manage to work on future and current projects in what seems to be alternate timelines. As a fan of ETA I am pretty proud to say this current design might be a sign that they will continue to prove to themselves and the community what value truly is in the personal audio space.

    From design protos, to the intimate ETA Festivus. I knew they had something. I will say they are improving and adapting during these times. I will just go ahead and say that this “Mini” is anything but tiny. To me it is a solid notch or two above the previous design. I had the honor of having @E_Schaaf join me and @k4rstar in a small Q&A during one of our podcast episodes. Going over some of the design and sonic goals and feedback process


    I’m not going to A/B against anything because that just isn’t me. I will say I had such a great time just enjoying them and playing music with them

    Barker & Baumecker - 'Spur' (Clark Remix)

    Yussef Dayes Trio - Purple Skies ~ Libations

    GOLDLINK - ROUGH SOUL (feat. April George) | A COLORS SHOW X Highsnobiety
    I'm Wit' It

    I’m Wit’ It, I feel like I am with it with these. I never really care too much about what I am plugged into, I’m Wit’ It

    Ergonomics. Not the worst or best, wish for a bit more swivel. I like what I get with the Forwards Geekria s, while not quite the same sonically as L backwards or something with socks. It was the simplest to use, but the back side could be rough on the skin, the S can be a bit slim making the distance and pressure mount closer to my antihelix instead of something like my tragus.


    last but not least, sound. I would say very nice in the bass regions. Sometimes you listen to other headphones and totally forget what bass feels like. Slam? These got it. It is pretty wicked. Reminds me of how inadequate and dinky my speakers are. 2 channel guys would need quad subs suspending their coach to even get close to this. Even then, I’m sure these are still better. This isn’t all about the bass either. I think these are an upgrade over GenG even with a lower price(not sure if that is how upgrades work). Maybe a slight dip in the upper mids, but the truth is I just enjoy a boost here. Not sure since it doesn’t come up all too much or its just my gear. And I am using a single set of pads. I’ll leave the long winded descriptions to the pros.
    With every ETA headphone I have had the pleasure of listening to, these have my favorite drum sound. It is just a feeling of pushing air, tight and crisp. Kicks and snare have impact, not just the vibe but the feeling.


    All things considered this is a great value, but it isn’t made to hit a price point. It is just good. If you want to discover bass and are tired of the Sennheiser presentation. This is an easy choice. Interested in Modern music, here you go. We finally have something that isn’t 4 thousand dollars and requires a 3-thousand-dollar amp with a 5-thousand-dollar dac needing 1,600 in software licenses to finally enjoy some damn music. ETA to me isn’t about good for the money, it is just good. Removes the modern dogmas about gear and chains and lets you get back to what really matters. The damn music.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 27, 2022
  18. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    [​IMG]

    Thanks to @tommytakis and @E_Schaaf for the loaner! I tried this 300 ohm model with the McIntosh MHA150, DNA Starlett, and Feliks Euforia. The Euforia surprisingly worked best for me, because it calmed down the intensity of the presentation a bit. The mini is even more dynamically explosive than Utopia, which is saying something. Those describing the Mini as a cross between a Utopia and Porta Pro are spot-on. The Mini is an excellent value! It fills a gap in the market for those looking for some like a Grado with more muscle and bass.

    [​IMG]
     
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  19. ThyDanMan99

    ThyDanMan99 Rando

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    I want to thank Ev and Tommy for letting me take some time to use the mini. I think these are the 2nd pair of on ear headphones I've used extensively. The first pair being the KSC75, and these blow those out of the water in bass.

    I used the mini with the SW51+ and modded Schiit bifrost 1 (switched out opamps) primarily. I really enjoyed my time with the mini. I liked the Gerod pads but also liked adding blue foam to the backs of the headphones depending on the song and how much bass I wanted. I tried the L Geekria pads in the forward and backward configuration, but I vastly preferred them in the backward config. Forwards was uncomfortable and sounded unpleasant. In the backwards config, I noticed there was a wider soundstage, and it was more comfortable. As for the S Geekria pads, I enjoyed them a little bit in the backwards config, but I didn't try them in the forward config. The mids were very pronounced and excellent at that, but I didn't like the lack of bass. Overall, I think the mini are an exceptional value. I would recommend them for those who prefer on-ear to over-ear.
     
  20. dematted

    dematted Friend

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    Some notes on other ETA headphones I've heard.

    ESX909: This is the TH909 with Ev's mods. This is, in many respects, a really exceptional headphone. Though it is lacking a bit in microdetail compared to competitors around its pricepoint, its dynamics and sense of bass slam and tightness are better than almost anything I've ever heard (I'm thinking only the Utopia amongst DD's beat it here). That being said, I couldn't get along with this headphone over the long-term. It had a sense of sheen or glare in the upper-end due to an excess of air, and consequently the sound lacked some sense of density and texture in the mid-range. Everything just sounded a little "washed out", and it got fatiguing to listen to quite quickly for me. I heard all of this to a lesser extent on the ESX900, which uses the same drivers, but not to nearly the same level. Perhaps the cup reverb on that headphone does something to mitigate some of these complaints.

    Baram Proto: I heard this at canjam. This is a proto, and not a finished ETA headphone. I also heard this at meet conditions, so take everything with a grain of salt.

    I really, really liked this. At the same time, I think a lot of people wouldn't. Let me explain.

    This headphone had some of the most colorful, expressive rendering of sonic textures that I've ever heard. By that, I mean that timbres of different instruments sounded quite distinct from one another. I've never heard a guitar sound quite so...guitar-like, if that makes sense, or a piano sound quite so distinctive in its texture and decay.

    This headphones also had a sense of openness and holography that was quite remarkable, as well as an overall refinement and ease to the presentation that I've only heard amongst very high-end headphones or a 6x0 paired with a crazy chain. Compared to other ETA headphones, this sounded more refined, more mature, more composed in its overall presentation. That being said, this headphone does have a pervasive sense of mellowness to it: I'm not quite sure whether this is due to a subtle softening of the transients or just a lack of ultimate bass slam and excursion (both of which I hear), but it's something that I think would get on a lot of people's nerves. Not only does it not "Slam", but it also has a relaxed presentation throughout the entire frequency range that might be annoying for people who prize speed, bite, and slam.

    Comparing this to something like Utopia, it actually felt more well-balanced and less peaky along the entire frequency range. Its timbre sounded like it adapted itself more to the individual instrument, while Utopia sort of colored everything in its own way, homogenizing different timbres and textures along the way. Upper-mids were more present on the baram, but it oddly enough had less of a sense of "Bite" or "shout" there. Both had an exceptional sense of openness, but the edge would go to the Baram here.

    On the other hand, utopia portrayed dynamics, particularly on the macro scale, with more vividness and immediacy, though Baram seemed to be a bit more nuanced with how it handled things - in this way, it reminded me of how many have spoken of the Wavedream, which despite its excellent dynamics has a mellowness to how it portrays changes in loudness. Utopia did sound like it dug just a bit deeper into micro-detail, and sounded slightly clearer, more immediate, and more percussive. Bass in particular on the Utopia sounded notably more punchy and dynamic. Despire Baram's much larger stage, the imaging was just a tad more diffusive and less well-defined than on the Utopia.

    Overall, these headphones have vastly different presentations, with the Utopia sounding more "impressive" and offering more of a sense of immediacy, but with the Baram hitting back with a better rendering of distinct mid-range textures and a somewhat more composed, open, expansive presentation. Baram also sounded just a bit less "high-fi", and different instrument images were a bit larger and less "over-sharpened" (Think NOS vs OS). Overall, I preferred the Baram, but it's pretty easy to imagine how some would prefer the Utopia. I look forward to seeing what the team at ETA can do with new drivers in this enclosure.
     
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    Last edited: Apr 7, 2022

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