ZMF Atrium Headphone Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Mar 20, 2022.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Bass is weird. Sometimes I wonder if part of the reason the Olive curve has so much bass is because he used limp-dick sounding headphones while telling his test subjects to have at it with EQ (to arrive at his rando consumer preference curve). Both Audeze LCD series and STAX have measured flat bass (and in the case of SR007 similar FR), yet the Audeze's have monstrous bass. Another reason could be what Tyll had speculated: headphones don't have the physicality of speakers, so people crank up the bass.

    Most people do like extra bass. Heck, I do, especially in a car so I can hear bass over road noise.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 3, 2022
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    It's funny you mentioned this. Back in 2010 and 2011 2008 on HF, I posted only CSDs (500Hz and up), pretending I didn't know how to produce FR plots from the IR. IMO, CSDs are a better tool for showing treble f-kery with headphone. LOL, maybe I should do this again. The thing is, headphones generally seem much better behaved today. We don't have unmitigated disasters like Ultrasone and Beyer T1s.

    Anyway, Atrium with Marvey mesh CSD below. I'm actually kind of deaf around 4-5kHz, pretty sure I have a dip in response there. Dips in that area are common for people with hearing damage. Most people who like listening to music or have served in the military will have some hearing damage.

    Atrium Marvey Mesh
    upload_2022-10-3_17-59-43.png

    Grado RS2 with stock bowls (for comparison)
    upload_2022-10-3_18-10-47.png
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2022
  3. Inoculator

    Inoculator Friend

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    I was slacking on writing up my impressions loaner tour, my sincere apologies for the delay, thanks for the opportunity to hear these. I have been a fan of Zach's work for a long time, and have owned the Auteur multiple times, Aeolus, Eikon, and Verite. After the whole merry-go-round, I ultimately circled back to the Auteur as my preferred ZMF. Recently though I did downgrade back to just a fleet of Sennheisers, but was curious to see if the Atrium could drag me back to ZMF.

    First let's get out of the way aesthetics, the Atrium is stunning. I have had a lot of ZMF cans through my home, all limited editions ones, and the aged copper Atrium was my favorite. Somehow it was less flashy, but still absolutely gorgeous and just felt like a great cohesive package. Like a well-worn watch or another accessory that you cherish putting on every day.

    During my brief time with the Atrium, I put it up against the JAR 600, and the JAR 800, driven by the DNA Starlett with Holo Audio May DAC via Roon/USB as the source. As audio memory can be sketchy and it has been a while since I listened to these, I am going to lean on my notes and then share a general conclusion at the end. I wrote up thoughts on each set of cans for a setlist of tracks (in addition to general listening over the course of the week). Here are the tracks (just had Roon on shuffle and went with it), feel free to skip past these impressions to the general thoughts/conclusion at the end if you are not interested in my stream of cousciousness.

    Ray LaMontagne – “As Black as Blood is Blue”
    • This track is very dynamic and a bit brash and gritty, especially via the JAR 600. Atrium does a good job of sorting this out due to being very lush, silky, and laid back in comparison to the JAR 600. JAR 800 on the other hand, while significantly brighter, solves this harshness by having the best depth and separation and putting you a few more rows back.
    • The atrium has the worst separation of the three, and this was a trend I found. The Atrium sounded just a bit smeared to me overall. What is weird though is occasionally the Atrium would pop with some really interesting layering that was different than you hear from most headphones. How can it have middle-of-the-road separation but distinct layering? Not quite sure, but it is interesting.
    • Surprisingly Atrium actually had the most polite bass on this track.
    • Atrium won for overall guitar tone and texture, stunning stuff.
    The Breeders – “Walking with a Killer”
    • Again that really distinct and differentiating layering that is not quite like something I have heard before.
    • Really enjoy the space that JAR 800 provides on this track, and overall it is probably the most impressive presentation of this track, but it is so spacious it does not sound quite realistic.
    • Atrium won over this track, bass and drums are just right, you can kind of just melt into the track as it goes
    Townes Van Zandt – “Waiting ‘Round to Die” on Live at the Old Quarter
    • On JAR 600 you can really hear/feel the room and the live aspect of things, and the vocals are just a tad forward compared to the guitar.
    • Atrium kind of buries the background atmosphere, but it does a stunning isolation of Townes Van Zandt that really makes his vocals the star of the show. Both presentations captivating in their own way.
    • JAR 800 was just a bit too diffuse with this one and I felt like I wasn't quite sucked into the presentation
    The xx – “Brave for You”
    • I realize this is an Atrium review, but gotta give a quick shoutout to JAR 600 here, the sub bass and articulation on this track is incredible, almost impossible to believe I am listening to an HD 600.
    • Seems the JAR 600 more polite bass may actually be a benefit with this one, as the Atrium on the other hand sounds kind of bloated and distorted sounding. But the extra oomph does make things like the bass lines that start at 2:57 sound amazing and ultra-satisfying.
    • Atrium wins though for some of the heavy percussion/toms that come in, the JAR 600 can sound a bit boomy/splashy/messy sounding, and on the Atrium they sounded more resolved and natural.
    • JAR 800 really shows off its prowess with great space and dynamics to everything. Everything is just very articulated and detailed sounding, all the mush is gone. Favorite of the three.
    Angel Olsen – “Give it Up”
    • This track was a bit of a mixed bag with all cans. A bit crunchy and harsh in the beginning on the JAR 600. Sounds a bit too jingly from the drums during the first verse. JAR 600 ultimately won me over as seeming to do the best job of conveying the emotion of the artist.
    • JAR 800 the extra space/separation was kind of interesting, but another one where it just didn't quite come together for me. Seems JAR 800 is really not for simple singer-songwriter tracks compared to these other offerings.
    • I found the Atrium to be a bit of a tough listen on this one. Was too bassy sounding, and the rest of the instruments on the track felt kind of grating. As a bonus though, when there are little highlighted bass lines they can be really satisfying how they pop through the mix and the texture they have.
    • Atrium sounded very cozy on this track but occasionally would still surprise with a bit of out-of-your-head extension of the stage.
    Neko Case – “Night Still Comes”
    • On JAR 600 vocals sound otherworldly, and instruments are really grounded. Really impressed by the separation on the gang vocal stuff
    • JAR 800 unsurprisingly sounds the most cavernous, drums are very very deep but satisfying in the mix.
    • Atrium loses a bit of atmosphere compared to the JAR offerings, but I would say was the most "well sorted" off all of them, and just allowed me to sink in and enjoy the track.
    Other tracks: (I did not take great notes on these, but are others I compared all three cans with)
    • Jose Gonzalex – “Stay in the Shade”
    • Marlon Williams – “Carried Away” Live at Auckland Town Hall
    • Death Cab for Cutie – “Tiny Vessels"
    • Georgia – “Never Let you Go (After Hours Edit)
    • Brian Fresco – “Higher”

    CONCLUSION and ZMF Comparisons:
    If you powered through my meandering listening notes, you can probably tell the Atrium did not quite win me over. I found them to be just a bit too smeared and mushy sounding for me, and surprisingly a bit too cozy sounding. I will give it to the Atrium though, they are a very easy/non-fatiguing listen and I think with the right gear pairing they could be a really good fit for lots of people. NOS DAC + DNA Starlett may just not be the route to go with these. Where they stood out to me was the complex presentation of layering, and the ability for bass with real tangible texture to really pop out of the mix. Although the overall bass quantity was less than I expected. They do a good job of taking the all arounder approach, as with multiple tracks they felt like a good goldilocks point where I just kind of enjoyed the track without constantly noticing good or bad things about the track. Ultimately just being able to kick back and enjoy the music is what is all about right?

    What the Atrium is not though is a super Auteur with Verite-like technical ability, which I guess is what I was hoping. The Verite I think it still the most technically impressive ZMF I have heard where you get jaw-dropping detail/stage/bass response. I could not handle the "BBC dip" so to speak in the Verite though, so had settled back into the Auteur as my favorite ZMF. I had hoped the Atrium may bring some of that Verite flavor to the Auteur sound I really enjoy, but it just didn't quite get there for me. I am really glad I had the opportunity to hear these though, and am glad other folks are finding good gear pairings that are having these work so well for them.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 18, 2022
  4. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    In my experience, Holo DACs (I've owned Spring 1, now I own Spring 2 and May) + ZMF (I own VO, VC, Auteur, Atrium) show some smearing on lower-res (44.1 or 48) material, with Auteur showing less smearing than the others (amps: Stellaris, DSHA-3F, EC Af). With the right upsampling, though, smearing disappears while preserving the DAC's tonality virtues.
     
  5. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    Excellent write up IMO. I am curious what mesh and pads you had on as they can impact the congestion from what I've heard from others. It obviously could just be a preference as well, equally as valid.
     
  6. Inoculator

    Inoculator Friend

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    Good question, apologies I forgot to mention. I used the stock pads (universe perforated) and did not change the mesh. Presumably it was sent to me with the stock mesh, but I did not pay super close attention or get the others out. Due to limited time figured I would just try the stock configuration.
     
  7. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    If this is the case, @Inoculator, do you experience this smearing on other headphones on the same tracks?
     
  8. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    To explain my point a bit better: Verité and Atrium are more resolving (to me at least) than Auteur, making the slight smearing more evident. Even NOS from PCM 88.2 or 96 makes this less evident, and my current HQPlayer setup for Holo (DSD256, poly-sinc-gauss-xla upsampiing filter, ASDM7ECv2 modulator) makes it disappear (to the limit of my powers of discrimination, which are not the best for sure). Which is why I'm not using the Auteur much these days (when I have a bit more time, they'll be in my next FS batch).
     
  9. pure5152

    pure5152 Friend

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    Wait, I'm confused by your comments and how they relate to inoculator's impressions. Are you trying to imply that the smearing you hear in Holo Dacs is only evident in more resolving headphones (which you say are the Verite and Atrium), and less evident on lower resolving headphones (the Auteur)? By consequence, are you then implying that because this wasn't noticeable with the Jar800 and Jar600 that somehow those are less resolving headphones than the Atrium? How do you know it's actually the Holo DACs here that are responsible for inoculator's impressions here, and not just the fact that the atrium _could actually be relatively more smeared when compared directly against the JAR600 and JAR800_? It could simply be that the JAR600/JAR800 have more clarity than the atrium-- Have you heard the JAR600 and JAR800 yourself?

    Idk man, I've heard the JAR800 and it's remarkably resolving, on par or above the utopia from my experience and definitely above the verite (and by extension, I'm assuming above the atrium), so I'm having trouble believing the smearing is entirely because of the Holo DACs. Maybe @Inoculator can follow-up to provide some clarification.
     
  10. Inoculator

    Inoculator Friend

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    Too many variables for me to weigh in with any authority. I am sure HQPlayer would help a bit with what I was hearing, but my theory i did not have the time, or the gear on hand, to test is that the Atrium really would just be better paired with a cleaner/more powerful amp. Feels like what makes the Atrium great (natural, fatigue free, agreeable tonality) would not be sacrificed with an amp that may typically be a bit too neutral with other cans, and really let the Atrium shine. Some extra juice would further make the satisfying bass texture really standout as well.
     
  11. RestoredSparda

    RestoredSparda Friend

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    Would love to have you listen to a pair with the Aueter pads on @Inoculator. I very much do not like the Atrium with the stock universe pads. I would pick many other headphones over it if I had to use those pads. To me it sounds bloated and boomy down low, and etchy and bit harsh and messy up top with Universe pads.

    Funny enough Auteur pads basically fix a lot of what your dislikes with it were (based on what I took away from your song reviews). IMO and all that. It's funny, I guessed (before you posted what pads you used) that they were what you listened with. But then again some people love those pads. Different strokes.
     
  12. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    What I know is that the slight smearing of Holo NOS on 44.1 (or 48) material is less evident on Auteur than on Verité or Atrium, which I feel are more revealing than Auteur. I have no idea how JAR headphones fit in the picture. Since this is an Atrium thread: I'd be not as happy with Holo>Stellaris>Atrium if I were not upsampling upstream the way I described.
     
  13. Phantaminum

    Phantaminum Friend

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    ZMF Atrium Review

    Chain:
    PC USB Out --> Bifrost 2 (Vanilla) --> Elekit TU-8600s (ACME 300Bs | EML 300Bs) | SW51+| THX - 789

    Headphones:
    ZMF Atrium
    ZMF Verite Open
    Sennheiser HD800s
    Focal Elex

    [​IMG]

    Build:

    Just a quick note about the new suspension system. The new suspension system felt more comfortable to me even with the Atrium being heavier than VOs. Really nice upgrade from the older version.

    Sound:

    Attack:
    Coming from the VO you can tell the Atrium leans more towards the ZMF Auteur sound. Attacks are not rounded like the VO which is more forgiving to certain genres but are more vivid on the Atrium. Snares have this realistic snap to them while guitars have a much more noticeable crunch to them. This lends to a music venue type of sound compared to the other headphones. The Atriums are not forgiving on a solid state amp (TXH - 789) but does pair very well with tube amps to smooth out any rough edges. For those that think that a tube amp will mush up the Atrium's excellent attack, don't worry. On the TU-8600s and SW51+ the synergy was amazing. Enough to slightly dial back anything that would be too much.

    Image: Images are taller on the Atrium in comparison to the other headphones. The VO fall slightly behind, while the HD800s follows up with the Elex having the smallest image. Comparing how solid images are, I'd say the Elex has a more solid image compared to the other three. When playing fast songs with multiple instruments (Trampled by Turles - Wait So Long) the Atrium and HD800s will create a wall of sound. Delineation goes to the Elex and VO. It's much easier to follow instruments with those two headphones compared to the Atrium and HD800s.

    Headstage: HD800s is just cheat mode when it comes to this. I'll leave that headphone out and compare the others. The Atrium has a wider/taller headstage but it lacks in depth when compared to the VO. The VO also produces are more 3D "In a barrel sound" effect when compared to the Atrium. You still get the 3D effect when it comes to the Atrium but it's not as pronounced. The headstage of the Elex is smaller with less depth compared to the others but does precise imaging. When it comes to how open the Atriums are to say the VO, they are much more open and has a similar open sound as the Elex.

    Speed: As mentioned above in the image section; the VO and Elex keep their composure very well when it comes to fast, multilayered songs. The Atrium does meld instruments together but I find that it does a better job of keeping instrument separation compared to the HD800s and from memory the Auteur. Really, I didn't even find this an issue as most of the music I listen to has a slower tempo than Dragon Force - Through the Fire and Flames.

    Microdetail: The bass articulation on the Atrium is fantastic. You can easily tell the pitch and make out bass definition easier compared to the other headphones. The Atrium is also up there in microdetail in comparison with the VO and HD800s. On faster tracks, with multiple instruments, the VO beats out the Atrium when it comes to microdetail. It's just its strength. Really I'm more impressed of the detail the biocellulose driver which keeps up with the Be infused driver of the VO.

    Bass: This thing is ridiculous when it comes to bass. Hands down satisfying to hear the quality and quantity of the bass the Atrium produces. It's bombastic while still being composed. It reaches much lower than VO and is comparable to the Elex. The punch is up there with the Elex. On a few tracks I did find the bass to be a bit too much. The HD800s just sit this out and is usually picked last in this pick up basketball game.

    Couple of other notes: The Atrium's clarity is also something that can't be underestimated. Vocals come through much more realistic. It sounds open never lets you feel claustrophobic. The timbre of this headphone is also something that needs to be heard. Instruments sound more natural compared to any of the other headphones on the list. That biocellulose driver is really putting in overtime. The presentation of this headphone is more cohesive than the VO. It does not have a dip in the upper mids which help with female voices. One last thing to add is that if you listen to music at higher decibel levels the Atriums can get fatiguing. The vivid presentation of attacks with the punchy bass can be a bit too much. If you listen to them at normal listening levels this is a non-issue. If you want to listen to music at higher dBs then the VO may be a more suitable headphone.

    Conclusion: Yeah, this is in my wheelhouse of sound. As a matter of fact I think this is the next headphone I buy and hopefully the last. I missed the Bio timbre of the Auteurs and this, to me, is a good mix between the Auteurs and VO. I really love that it doesn't have a dip in the upper mids like the VO and sounds more cohesive. Vocals and guitars are lovely on the Atrium. Is the Atrium better than the VO? No, they are different sounding headphones each with their own strength. You want speed, 3D effect, and a more forgiving sound? Then go with the VO. You want more realistic sounding headphone with a venue feel then the Atrium will fit the bill. If you want a more affordable version of this headphone, the Focal Elex reminds me of the Atrium.
     
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  14. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    I agree almost 100% with your detailed review, except that my VO blackwood with Be2 lambskin pads are fighting it out for speed and grit with my Atrium LTD koa with suede pads, powered by DNA Stellaris, playing all kinds of modern jazz.
     

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