ETA Mini S Review (Follow-Up to Mini C)

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Aug 9, 2022.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    That would be epic and destroy Sony and Apple. Need better headband with the bt offering.
     
  2. tommytakis

    tommytakis MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    Glad you're liking the Mini S, hearing that makes me very happy :)

    In regards to the bluetooth dongle, we actually have something that we might start selling together as a bundle with Miini C and S, but the product is not out yet and the deal has not been finalized. It's pretty bad ass, affordable, and can apparently even power an LCD2 when I last spoke to its creators. (sounds good too, at least I think)

    If you need something right now, I can recommend the EarStudio ES100 mk2.

    better headband in the works for sure :) will say more soon hehe
     
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  3. Syzygy

    Syzygy Friend

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    Thanks to the crew at ETA for the loaner of the Mini S!

    Throughout this post, I'll be comparing to the ETA GenG 1.1, which is my current headphone of choice. Since this is the case, I use exactly the same chain right up to the headphone, including the headphone cable. (I didn't use the cable that came with the loaner).

    My chain then, is this, using balanced connections throughout:

    Pi2AES → DAC2541 → DSHA-3F → GenG / Mini S.

    I don't own an audio adapter for my phone, so I didn't get to test the Mini S that way. I also realize that the 3F isn't perfectly suited for driving the lower impedance of the Mini S. But's that what I've got to listen with…

    Because of the difference in impedance between the two headphones, when switching cables I also had to adjust the amp volume. On my 3F, I found about a "2 hour" difference in comfortable listening levels for post-loudness recordings (8:30 & 10:15) that I marked on the amp with gaff tape. Some pre-loudness CD recordings I had to push up to 10:00 & 1:00 for similar volume levels.


    COMFORT

    Overall, the fit and comfort of these phones are great. They're about the smallest-sized headphone I would buy; anything smaller would be on ear as opposed to over ear for me. I found them to be comfortable to wear all day while working at a computer.


    SOUND

    I found them to be very neutral-sounding, with no particular emphasis in any of the sound regions. As compared to my ETA GenG 1.1's, however, I found them to have slightly more emphasis in the lower-mid or upper-bass region.

    The soundstage presented with them is very wide, but with not as deep a soundstage as the GenG's present.


    COMPARISON NOTES

    Mason's Apron/My Love is in America by Seamus Egan (2000's CD)

    This is an acoustic guitar piece with fast triples. None of the chording gets lost with this piece, it sounds crisp and natural. I notice more "air" with the Mini S than the GenG, and more midbass presence.

    Shibuya Station by David Benoit (original 1980's GRP CD)

    This piece exhibits tympanic piano, with sax, bells, and wood percussion. I've been using this as a test piece since the 1980's. There is one point near the middle of the song where it seemed to me that the cymbals seemed a little smeared as compared to the GenG. Please note that I'm *really* nit-picking here. Nobody would notice it without directly comparing A/B-style.

    This Time I'll Be Sweeter by Angela Bofill (original 1980's debut CD)

    This is a fantastic female vocal from the artist's debut. With the Mini S on this particular recording, I noticed that the orchestra seemed to lack the "air" that it had with the GenG, and it also seemed like there was more mid-bass emphasis that clouded the brilliant vocals. Possibly this is just because of the production quality of the recording. Other, more modern female vocal recordings that I listened to don't exhibit this.

    Back In The High Life by Steve Winwood (1980's CD)

    Pop/rock vocal. Here I noticed that the Mini S places the mandolin more forward (probably due to flatter soundstage), whereas the GenG tended to bury it in the mix more. Also, I noted that Steve's voice and the staging for this recording sound absolutely perfect. I prefer the presentation by the Mini S above the GenG for this song.

    Boléro by Maurice Ravel, Cincinnati Symph Orch. with Jesus Lopéz-Cobos (1980's CD)

    Classical. Here I noted comparatively that the strings sounded somewhat muddy at 10:00, with the horns at 14:20-ish also having that characteristic. Again, nobody would notice outside of a direct comparison.

    I expect that the places where I noted a mid-bass emphasis or muddiness could be a result of the headphone impedance difference between the Mini S and the GenG.

    I listened to a lot of other music while I had my time with these headphones, and by this point I'd stopped doing direct comparisons, feeling that I had a good understanding of their contrast to the GenG. From Melody Gardot to Buckwheat Zydeco to Led Zeppelin to Max Richter "From Sleep", the Mini S sounds great to my ears.


    SUMMARY

    The Mini S is an amazing sounding headphone, especially when you consider the low impedance that can be easily driven with battery-powered devices. They sound very natural, without emphasis of the bass or treble regions. These would be my go-to headphones for out-and-about music enjoyment, or for connecting to a portable player.
     
  4. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    You could always try the Qudelix 5K's - I use it quite a bit. Do you have a Shanling M0? It's a step up from that.
     
  5. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    I have the shanling, the earstudio and something else somewhere. I need to find something that’ll charge from a USB-C PD charger. All the cheapo dongles expect USB 2 5V over USB-C and don’t do shit on a PD charger which is annoying.
     
  6. Vansen

    Vansen Gear Master (retiring)

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    For Bluetooth, I used the Fiio UTSW5 with the Mini S and my wife made soooo much fun of me because I looked ridiculous, but it worked great.

    If ETA released a Bluetooth version of the headphone, I would totally buy one.

    2D4740BF-C9E4-467B-A6B4-DCDF3EA09822.jpeg
     
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  7. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

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    woah! Do these have a mic?
     
  8. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Looking those up online, it looks like they’re MMCX or 2-pin for IEMs, where did you find MMCX or 2-pin to 3.5mm adapters?
     
  9. philipmorgan

    philipmorgan Member of the month

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  10. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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  11. Vansen

    Vansen Gear Master (retiring)

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    Yep. That’s exactly what I bought. I used some craft adhesive dots to hold them to the headphone. I did it more for curiosity than anything. The sound was great, but charging them was awkward. I use Sony noise cancelling headphones all of the time. The Sony are far more practical as BT headphones, but this showed me that there’s a market opportunity for a much better sounding BT headphone.

    Yep. And the two mics it has aren’t listed on any spec sheet or marketing materials from Fiio that I have. However, I wouldn’t count on them. My father had issues hearing me the two times I’ve tried using them as a BT headset.
     
  12. Vansen

    Vansen Gear Master (retiring)

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    Here’s another method I tried. This was a better physical setup, but this is an old Shure BT cable that sounds like crap. Something newer in this form factor may work better than the Fiio. However, my wife made even more fun of me with these than the Fiio because I looked truly ridiculous with these on.

    FDF34DB7-E0F3-4AF4-B7DA-0A86AB62ACEB.jpeg
     
  13. mitochondrium

    mitochondrium Friend

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    Femme qui rit, à moitié au lit
     
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  14. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    ETA Mini-S Short Review


    Opening


    I was curious about Mini Semi Closed (aka Mini-S; henceforth abbreviated as MiS) for a number of different reasons:
    • Many rave reviews from the forum
    • Favorable memories with previous Genesis G and Mini OG (open back on-ear)
    • My own side quest to search for an affordable, comfortable, and high-performing music listening tool
    Associated Gears

    In my evaluation, I used M500 mk3 D/A converters and several amplifiers in the house (M500.3 hp out, HO200, and Piety). Mobile devices with dongles were tested. But nothing particularly reportable. For its painfully high sensitivity, I mostly spent my time with M500.3 as a one box dac-amp.


    Aesthetics / BQ / Comfort

    Like their prior Mini OG, the MiS comes with 3D printed cups and a generic headband. The ear cup printing quality was moderate. But the headband gave me a couple of troubles:
    • Its adjustment mechanism didn’t work smoothly, particularly beyond a certain threshold.
    • It developed a hot spot on the top of my head very easily even with short listenings, possibly because there wasn’t enough padding.
    My ears also seemed too big for the MiS’s small/thin ear pads. Fortunately the slightly slanted inner grill provided a tiny bit of space around the ears, but not enough for my taste.

    MiS is very lightweight, weighing 245g on my scale.


    Subjective (General)

    The MiS has a well balanced tonality, particularly in lows and mids. Nicely paired with an audible hump around mid-low bass, the bass extended very well for small non-closed back electrodynamic headphones. The midrange remained clean and unobstructed by bass bleed. I appreciated their tightly controlled and entertaining sound although I sometimes heard slightly thin vocals.

    The highs were a little mixed bag. While I liked their non-sibilant and non-fatiguing sound, there wasn’t enough finesse to my taste. Reproductions of some high-order harmonics often lacked power or articulation -- for example, recessed bites and overtones of sax. Presence was a bit on the shy side and the treble sounded rather detached. These problems were made relatively more obvious by the neutral bass and midrange. For the reference, I like Mini OG and Gen-G’s highs better.

    Soundstage wasn’t large, but had good images and lateral definitions. Snappy and responsive transients were also a strong suit for the MiS.


    Subjective (Comparative)

    The MiS was reminiscent of the Audeze MM-500 I reviewed earlier this year. I think they both share pretty similar strengths and weaknesses. They both have great bass and midrange. From recent memory, MM-500 might be slightly more resolving and better at delineating in complicated passages -- but not convincing enough to justify the triple price difference. Interestingly, I didn’t like MM-500’s highs for almost the same reason.

    I also compared MiS to Sivga SV023 side by side as SV023 has been my current budget-fi benchmark. While both exhibited equivalently excellent bass extensions, I found the MiS had tighter, cleaner, and better controlled bass. On the contrary, SV023 had a more nuanced presence, more convincing detail retrievals, and more discernible gradation/separation.


    Measurement

    My measurements were taken with the MiniDSP EARS at 95db SPL at 300 Hz.Please note that my frequency responses are averaged results based on 5 different positions (center/up/down/front/back) to control positional variance. Results from optimal positioning might differ even with the same measurement fixture/rig.

    Comments:
    • The bass roll-off started a little earlier in my perception because of the leak. But I could hear more or less the similar extension.
    • Compared to the reported FPC results, drastic differences between upper mids and lower brilliance regions were observed, probably because the space around the coupler is tight. My perception in levels is closer to the EARS. But I did hear more roughness than the graph suggests.
    • I used to hear better staging definition and less diffusion when lower midrange is subtly recessed, which is also the case for the MiS.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Conclusion

    All things considered, I don’t find that the Mini-S will be a listening tool for me, mainly because of comfort issues and treble performances. However, I believe that, for people with smaller ears and heads that are more average than mine, or for those whose sonic taste is less analytical or less weird, the Mini-S may be received more favorably.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2023
  15. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    If you've been on the forums you might have heard of ETA headphones. They're far from famous but they are slowly making a name for themselves. Whatever you know about ETA, until you hear one of their creations you only know a part of the story. I've been addicted to Evan's tuning (he's the "E" in ETA) since I first heard his modded Fostex TH900 called the ESX900. I've heard most of the ETA releases and IME he has a knack for teasing out a balanced yet fun tuning from the drivers they use, and the Mini S is no different.

    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). The Mini S is a 32ohm headphone, and the ifi was a wonderful match on low/medium gain. Interestingly where I found the Mini O was too sensitive on the the Pendant, it was only moderately noisy with Mini C. The sound out of the low Z tap was damn good. I also experimented with various DAPs, all of which could drive the Mini S without major degradation. Keep in mind that although these are very efficient headphones that pair well with a quality dongle or phone, they do scale with better equipment IME. Either way I love the fact that I can enjoy these out of modest gear without feeling like I'm missing out.

    Comfort, Aesthetics and Build

    I felt with each ETA I've handled that durability wouldn’t be an issue, with the exception of their original "Gen G". That headphone was designed to be user tunable and had a lot of easily replaceable parts which raised questions of longevity, at least for me. FWIW there are plenty of Gen Gs still around. With the Mini S build quality is quite solid. ETA utilizes 3D printed cups which may not look opulent, but to me they don't have a homemade vibe either. They’re still using a Sony headband, which I find to be perfectly adequate comfort wise if not aesthetically. An ETA developed and produced headband is confirmed to be in the works and this would likely dispel the last vestiges of DIY that seem to hang around their headphones. Earpads are of the snug over ear variety and posed no comfort issues in my listening. Those with larger ears may have a different experience of course. There are additional pads for rolling in a preferred sound, but I only have the stock pads and I have no desire to change the tuning.

    Overall Sound

    Like every other ETA headphone I've heard, I found the Mini S to be a very engaging headphone, probably the closest to my personal preference that I've yet heard from ETA. I hear a very balanced tuning from the the Mini S, with good extension on both ends and a slight bass hump that I find very pleasing and never intrusive. There's a little bump around the lower mids as well that adds a bit more clarity, after which everything sounds pretty even to me. Roll off is probably at some point past my hearing capabilities. Transients are snappy, staging is more small club than large venue and imaging is quite good.

    I'll intersperse my thoughts on sound with comparative impressions with the ZMF Atrium (stock pads, solid mesh), which is the other headphone fighting for head-time these days. I solely used the ifi Pro iCAN since it is the most versatile amp on hand and has the best blackground. Given that these are different impedances (30ohm Mini S & 300ohm Atrium) I did my best to sound level by ear, and I found that medium gain was the best fit. I used the Atrium with a S/E pigtail since the Mini S is only being used S/E.

    In a nutshell, the Mini S has a bit better extension on both ends, a more even midbass presentation, a touch more lower mid emphasis and livelier transients. The Atrium has a bit more of an emphasis in the midbass midbass, harder slam, more forward upper mids and a larger headstage.

    -I found that Mini S has more of a sub bass emphasis. Though I never found the Atrium to be particularly lacking, direct comparison favors the mini in this case.

    -Though the Atrium does have more midbass presence, it's not overdone for my tastes. I found the Mini S to be wholly satisfying with midbass representation, it's just that the Atrium has a bit more. For me it was more mood dependent than one sounding more right & wrong.

    -As stated the Atrium has more forward upper mids, though Mini S in nowhere near recessed here. Mini S has that lower mid bump, but I don't find the Atrium particularly lacking here either. To my ears Atrium is a bit more prone to sibilance, but that's totally track dependent.

    -Treble will never be my forte again, but I can usually compensate for the most part by adding a small bump in volume for short periods of time. I found the Mini to have more extension here, though I didn't find the Atrium to be particularly rolled off.

    -Overall detail retrieval would go to the Atrium, and I'm sure you're noticing a pattern here, I don't find the Mini S to be blown out of the water.

    These are two very engaging headphones (my tastes obviously) and though one might outperform the other in different areas (Atrium more slam wider headstage, Mini S better extension snappier transients), I found the enjoyment to be much closer than the price delta might suggest. For my money the Mini S is where I would spend my money for a sub $500 headphone. That's why I did. If it's at all possible I'd suggest getting ears on a Mini S if you're in the market for a headphone in the $500 price range*.

    (*USD, not including shipping, at the time of writing)
     
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  16. Josh Schor

    Josh Schor Friend

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    Have been listining to the Mini s for a few days. My rig is a Studio B and my headphones are Focal Utopias. I the mini s pleasant, easy to listen to, not demanding. With my amp the bass was to bloomy, lacking attack and clear definition, the top end was not very detailed, mids were recessed. Not sure when I read the other reviews if its my amp, hearing or only having the Utopias to compare them to. They are nice when listining casually, doing work on my laptop.
    I listen to jazz, americana, electronica from Quboz.
     
  17. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    It does sound to me like an amp impedance thing, though @E_Schaaf or @tommytakis would be able to answer more intelligibly than I could. I would have thought the 32ohm tap (assuming yours has one) would work decently though.
     
  18. tommytakis

    tommytakis MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    Utopia and Mini S have very different electrical parameters. The dampening factor may be contributing to what you're hearing.

    Here are the measurements for the Utopia and Mini-S by Marv:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...focal-utopia-revisted.9750/page-2#post-313907
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...review-follow-up-to-mini-c.12558/#post-390540

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  19. spoony

    spoony Spooky

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    FWIW, a bunch of people have shown preference to enjoying these with a minimal signal path (phone, laptop, DAP straight to headphones).
     
  20. Josh Schor

    Josh Schor Friend

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    further thoughts on the Mini s
    Have had the lyr + on loan and have been using the Utopia nd the Mini s. The mini s sounds better with the Lyr + then the EC Studio and still to my ears has the same charicteristics. Laid back mids, bass not very tight or defined, highs are good. I may just be so keyed into the Utopia that anything else sounds wrong to me.
    best,
    Josh
     

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