Introduction 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!