ZMF Auteur - An open back ZMF

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by PacoTaco, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. murphythecat

    murphythecat Self Imposed Exile

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    I've also had the chance to try the Auteur. I used the pads that came with it and didnt bother swapping them cause I didnt think it would change the overall experience.

    Ive compared them to my usual headphones (hd800, utopia, hd650), usual amps and source-dac.

    I'll make it brief as I have the same critics @k4rstar and @ Tito so no need to repeat.

    pros:
    extremely smooth, no fatigue possible whatsoever. even extremely loud, they are still pleasant to listen to. This aspect is very unique to me, Ive never experienced this before
    bass has good levels and is fun
    vocals have some sort of magic
    Build quality is beautiful
    decent soundstage
    comfortable

    cons:
    extremely slow. transients are missing in action. this aspect kills this headphone as they make for a boring listening experience. so boring in fact I just kept on changing tunes to try to find a suitable genre for the headphones.
    lack of mids details. I find the hd650 gives obviously more resolution in the mids.
    lack of air up top
     
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  2. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    The Auteur can come off "boring" at first because it isn't boastful about its sound. I too found them boring when I was loaned a pair. A few days later I reached for them again, wanting a different sound, and I just kept listening... and listening... and after a while I fell in love with them. They take time to get used to and appreciate. They don't overemphasize anything, and can be easy to dismiss because of that. But they are so incredibly cohesive, pleasant and earthy... it's a sound that grows on you over time, and can't be rushed. The Auteur is not a good loaner headphone. I almost dismissed them entirely but luckily gave them another shot. They also probably pair better with aggressive amps.
     
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  3. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    Let me confirm what shimmers through in quite a few of the last few posts:
    1) The Auteurs benefit greatly from powerful amps which excell in grips and dynamics to compensate for the Auteurs´ relaxedness. Tube amps should do well with frequency extremes. Old school tube amps should not apply if you want to avoid overly smooth organic presentation with little bite up high and little control down low.
    2) Same with dacs. Modi multibit might be too smooth for many. Something like Soekris dac1541 which has a dryness + deftness to each note pairs well imo (even though dynamics are average).
    3) Woodchoice + pads can help tuning the driver the last few % to your likes. I prefer the harder woods and lambskin pads: less of a dark tilt + less smoothie.
    4) Biocellulose driver comes with its own strenghts and weaknesses. It won´t serve everybody. Same for ZMF house sound. Verites have better technicalities, but sadly for my preferences they have a tuning which veers further away from neutral.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 18, 2020
  4. lcmusiclover

    lcmusiclover Friend

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    I listened to those tracks and I agree this not the best genre for Auteur. I listened to them on Spotify Premium out of my iPad, AirPlaying to my Hugo2go, outputting to Auteur, HD-6xx & HEKse — I don’t have HD-600. All three are stock, and I use the Auteur perforated lambskin pads.

    The results were a bit of a mixed bag, depending on the track:

    ‘Love is the heart ...’
    Really nothing much to report. I don’t even hear where there might be problems on this track. Very little guitar at all, and it seems like most of the layering/complexity is at frequencies above the upper bass/mids you mentioned. The one very busy passage I focused on starts at ~1:40. Auteur seems to add some warmth to the percussion which I suppose could make that range seem less ‘differentiated’. But to my ears, that feels more like ‘missing’ info on my HD-6xx and my HEKse. Sound is a bit fuller from Auteur, a little leaner from HEKse, and leaner still from 6xx. For what it’s worth, I preferred Auteur over the other two for this track.

    ‘Goshen’s Remains’
    This track gets to the heart of your impression. Tons of layered information throughout. I focused on the passages which run for 30 seconds or so starting @ ~1:00, and again @ ~2:00 which have a lot of layering of guitars and vocals. And I get what you’re saying — less differentiation from Auteur than from either of the other two. But ... to my ears, it’s a small deficit — feels like a trade-off, or a side-effect of Zach’s ‘house sound’ tuning.

    But the net effect does make the guitars and vocals seem a bit less distinct from Auteur vs the other two.

    Difference probably would increase w/ Eikon pads. BTW, I really liked this track —as always, thanks for a new (to me) music tip.

    ‘Jungle Jim’
    Honestly, I couldn’t make myself care about this song from any of the three, sorry :)

    Bottom line is that I do hear what you’re talking about. And I can understand what you say about the aesthetic that goes missing for you. Obviously I don’t find the effect dis-qualifying, but ... your ears/my ears.

    Just for the fun of it, I listened to some ‘Explosions in the Sky’ tracks — all guitar, but sparse. Timbre as well as PRAT are excellent, so it’s not that they don’t do guitars.

    BTW (again) the difference pretty much disappears from my desktop rig ... Gungnir Multibit ==> DSHA-3F ==> cans. In my experience, Auteur really moves around with different amps.
     
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  5. will_f

    will_f Friend

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    I hear what you’re describing when I listen to your recommended tracks and compare to my Focal Clear, which I prefer on those tracks.

    That said, for what I generally listen to (a lot of bluegrass and related genres), I don’t find the bass overwhelming or the transients missing to a significant degree and prefer the Auteur sound.

    I used to think that if I spent more money on better gear, I would achieve better sound. Now, I think beyond a certain point, it’s just different sound and “better” becomes more a matter of personal taste than an absolute.
     
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  6. jnak00

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    I wouldn't say they sound the same, but something about the Auteur reminded me of the TH-X00. I can't put my finger on exactly what it was. Possibly some characteristic of biocellulose drivers was what I was hearing.
     
  7. dematted

    dematted Almost "Made"

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    auteur.jpg

    The Auteur, Take Two: Introduction


    If the Aeolus made my head bob more than it had any right to, and the Verite engrossed yet also confused me, the Auteur just gets me in the groove. This headphone has an effortless sense of flow, rhythm, and timing, prioritizing fluid movement over incisive attack and continuous engagement over momentary satisfaction. The Auteur makes you tune into the music without making you feel the need to jam out - it doesn’t try to impress you, and because of this, some may feel that this is an unimpressive headphone. In fact, this is how I felt…

    Several months ago, I received a pair of Teak Auteurs. I didn’t pair it with the best or most synergistic gear, and I left a fairly mixed review here. Transients were dulled, macrodynamic muted, and treble clarity obscured. Such were the complaints. After cycling through several headphones I decided to return to the Auteur, both because I felt my own listening preferences had changed and because too many listeners I trust had written things about the Auteur that just didn’t square with what I heard.

    Well, I received a new pair yesterday. The necessary cautionary warnings about “new-toy” syndrome must be made, yet it’s worth noting that I wasn’t particularly wowed by either the Auteur or the Verite the first time I heard them; this time, listening to the Auteur with the SW51+ and Soekris 1321, my general feelings about this headphone have changed. I am not sure if this is because of a change of gear, a change of listening preferences, or a change of wood (this Auteur is Cocobolo rather than Teak). But I feel that I want to note my impressions here, not so much because they’re fully articulated and settled, but moreso because when one comes across some new set of perceptions, the need naturally arises to find if they are more broadly shared…

    Take Two on the Auteur

    The Auteur is not, as I said earlier, a headphone that tries to impress you: it is not a white wine with an array of fruity infusions, but rather an aged red which has a more refined but less immediately striking character. This is to say that the Auteur emphasizes things like micro dynamics and timbre over the more immediately gratifying sense of detail, speed, slam, and macrodynamics that some other headphones shove in your face at first listen. Whereas sounds seem to “pop” out of the music with gusto and flair with my Aeolus, the Auteur instead prioritizes giving the music a sense of cohesiveness, so that nothing unduly sticks out.

    What I’ve written so far is compatible with a more positive take on my previous impressions, but I’ve also found that some of what I’ve previously written is downright wrong. With the Cocobolo wood and my current gear, transients are not slow, there is a wealth of treble detail, and macrodynamics are there aplenty. It’s just that these things aren’t emphasized: the Auteur likes drawing you to the little things rather than the large ones.

    Let's talk about timbre. It’s true that the Aeolus has a more immediately rich and lush timbre than the Auteur. This probably has a great deal to do with the frequency response: the lower-mids are pushed up at the expense of the upper-mids, whereas the Auteur has a more even, balanced frequency response. There is also a fair deal of mid-bass bleed into the midrange on the Aeolus, something that likely contributes to a romantic, lush midrange. The Auteur achieves its own kind of magic in midrange, but in a different fashion, since bass response is more linear, and the mid-range is more isolated from the bass. On the Auteur, the mid-range achieves a magic, resonant quality by virtue of cup resonance and what I sense is the natural timbre of the biocellulose driver with its decay that lasts a tad longer than the Aeolus.

    All this leads to the mid-range not having quite the same immediate lushness and richness as the Aeolus, but instead having a more “resonant” quality. There is a depth to midrange notes by virtue of their longer decay that lets you better hear into the music, even if the notes themselves are not quite as saturated by virtue of a more even mid-range frequency response. The Aeolus' mid-range might be more striking at first listen, but I think its frequency response forces it to make sacrifices: although a vocal on the Aeolus might have a rich sense of body, one loses the sense of breathiness and some of the upper harmonics of female vocals in particular that are more aptly represented on the Auteur.

    How about bass? This is the one area of the headphone that I think I am still somewhat disappointed with. To put it quite simply, there is a lack of bass tightness, slam, and macrodynamics on my current rig. This can likely be improved with better gear, but I also have found that I prefer a sound that is more mid-bass rather than sub-bass focused. The Auteur bass has a wonderful sense of fullness, texture, detail, and sweetness, but it lacks the explosiveness and snappiness of the Aeolus and even to some extent the HD600. It rumbles, but does not slam. I'll be looking to try to ameliorate this with some better upstream gear. Thankfully, I don't care too much about this, so it's not really a dealbreaker anyways!

    The overall tonality, by the way, is the best I think I have ever heard upwards from the bass. There is a proper sense of emphasis in the upper-mids that never strays into being shouty, a treble that has some peakiness without being sibilant (except on bad recordings, where it should be), and a good sense of overall balance. The word I keep coming back to, though, is cohesiveness: on this headphone, it does not feel like anything is out of place. This might be boring to some who prefer flair and contrast, but I think it makes for quite an -engrossing- listen, if not the most -exciting- one.

    Conclusion

    The Auteur is a headphone I will be keeping for the foreseeable future. I had hoped this would be the Verite, but despite the superior technicalities of ZMF's flagship, there is just too much wrong in the FR for me. Everything that the Verite gets wrong I find that the Auteur gets right: it has cup resonance that does not render the overall sound unnatural and an overall frequency response that is far more well-balanced. The Aeolus is still a guilty-pleasure listen: I know it is not quite as good or truthful as the Auteur, but for jamming out, I haven't found anything better than it. I'll likely keep a pair of both, just because I think they complement each other nicely. But for now, I want to thank everyone on SBAF who left their impressions on the Auteur: it was you who convinced me to try this headphone again, and I couldn't be more pleased.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 5, 2020
  8. will_f

    will_f Friend

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    This track does a good job of capturing the Auteur’s strengths. I can’t stand it with my Clears, but with the Auteur’s smooth, resonant sound, it’s a great jam. Actually the whole album is a great jam, but not through the Clears.


     
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    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
  9. dematted

    dematted Almost "Made"

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    I've found that the Auteur does really well on rhythmic music, like the more world-influenced music of Paul Simon as well as lots of classic blues. In fact, it does very well on most of my preferred musical genres - Classical and Modern rock, indie-folk, and classical - which is probably why I like them so much. I imagine they aren't quite as good with stuff like EDM and really complex music, just because they lag in ultimate detail and separation compared to stuff like the Utopia and Verite.
     
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  10. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

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    You know, I don't know as I agree. I thought the Utopia really forced the detail out unnaturally. Like using a sledgehammer to drive a tiny nail to hang a picture on the wall. I don't enjoy that forced into my skull, tyvm. I think it's perspective. If Utopia is your normal, ok fine. For me the Auteur do fine for complex and busy stuff.
     
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  11. bobboxbody

    bobboxbody Almost "Made"

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    I haven't found the Auteurs lacking in any specific genre, the times I find myself wanting a different headphone are with tracks where I want to hear something that isn't in the recording. Sometimes when I'm listening to songs with a lot of compression, like most metal/post-rock/popular music, I want it to sound less compressed. The Auteur doesn't add dynamics that have been squashed out in mastering, and I don't think it should.
     
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  12. dematted

    dematted Almost "Made"

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    Some notes on Pad Rolling.

    Eikon Lambskin: Dark. Too dark. Despite increased bass presence, overall bass dynamics and control not improved. Timbre of acoustic instruments was pretty great sometimes, but overall the music felt a bit stifled and lacked a sense of openness and air. Instruments failed to "pop" out of a blackground, and it seemed like the sound was homogenized a bit. Didn't like these, though I can see how some do for a very relaxing listen.

    Universe Suede Perforated: Bright. This makes the Auteur sound a -lot- like the HD600. At first I loved this pad. Vocals were pushed forward in a pleasing way, and this made the Auteur sound significantly different, with much more energy upwards of 1k in general. This got my head bobbing in a way it doesn't normally on the Auteur. But then, as I listened more, I found myself disliking these pads more and more. This pad did something odd to the timbre. It didn't have the resonant, pleasing quality it had on either of the lambskin pads. It also got fatiguing after a bit because of how bright it was. Great for a short listen, but not for long-term use. At least, not for me. I can see how some who love the HD600 on a neutral amp would love these.

    One other interesting note: despite being fairly bright, transients and general presentation with these pads is around equally aggressive as the comparatively darker lambskin pads. Interesting - and makes these pads a bit less fatiguing than the measurements suggest.

    Auteur Lambskin: My favorite so far. A nice middle ground between the eikon lambskin and universe suede perforated while maintaining a sense of richness and saturation to notes (without being overly dark). Only complaints: wish there was SLIGHTLY more presence in the upper-mids (1.5k-4k) and a bit more overall bite to instruments. Still great overall presentation though, and most issues can be readily fixed with some delicate use of EQ.

    I'll be receiving Eikon Suede perforated pads soon. Interested to hear what those will do to the headphones, since they're the favorite pads of several members here.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 9, 2020
  13. Cryptowolf

    Cryptowolf Repping Chi Town - Friend

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    I am still very much in the honey moon period with my Auteurs and I am a grey muzzle with damaged hearing above 15 Khz. So far I have tried the stock Auteur Lambskin and Eikon Lambskin. I am currently trying the Universal Hybrid pads with a suede surface and non-perforated lambskin sides. Since I wear glasses, I have found this to be the best seal with great bass texture and a natural soundstage. I still need to do a lot more listening and comparison between these three pads, but the Universal Hybrid is my front runner.
     
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  14. will_f

    will_f Friend

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    I’m a bifocal wearing geezer with not much hearing above 15khz either. For me, the Auteur lambskin is where I ended up, more or less for the same reasons as @dematted. That said, I’ve tried (and preferred at some point) the Eikon and Universe pads as well. My guess is you’ll periodically change pads for at least 4 months before you settle on a final preference, which probably will be dictated by what kind of music you listen to most often.

    In any case, I’ve found it to be an easy headphone to live with. It doesn’t have the speed and technical performance of my Clear (though it’s no slouch IMHO), but it’s the headphone I usually reach for because it just sounds good.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 9, 2020
  15. jaker782

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    I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to compare two Auteur's, one in Blackwood and one in Silk. Right off the bat, the blackwood is noticeably heavier in the hand. On the head I don't notice it too much unless I move/turn my head quickly.

    Listening impressions... they are very, very similar. The only thing I can immediately pick up on that differs between the two is the perception of a slightly larger stage on the BW, which I think can likely be attributed to the snappier notes, quick transients and faster decay the denser wood provides. I think I am hearing bass notes especially last a touch longer on the Silk. This maybe gives the sense of a slightly more intimate stage with less space and air between instruments since the notes seem to have a quicker, shorter decay on the BW. Upon further listening, I would say the BW Auteur has a bit more bass impact, with quicker hitting notes. Bass drum hits seem to appear out of nowhere and disappear just as fast. The notes are there, then they are not. In contrast, on the Silk Auteur bass notes seem to be a tad slower with more decay, giving the perception that they last a touch longer and this results in a perceived overall slightly bassier, warmer tonality with greater cup resonance. I detect no notable difference in treble presentation between the two, but I honestly didn't focus my attention on upper frequencies too much since nothing really jumped out at me as being contrasting between the two in this area.

    Now, I talk about these things like they are obvious and easy to discern, but in reality, the tonality of these two woods is extremely similar. This is still an Auteur regardless of wood. Expectation bias may be at play as well since it was very difficult to even detect the perceived sonic differences noted above. They are that subtle to my ears. Another thing to keep in mind is I am comparing the lightest/softest wood ZMF offers to the densest/hardest wood on the Janka scale, so you might expect the tonality differences between these two woods on the opposite ends of the spectrum to be night and day. For better or worse, that is simply not the case to my ears.

    So, after this little experiment, I have learned I may be in rare company as I think I slightly prefer the slower decay of the Silk to the quicker transients of the Blackwood for my listening preferences. Not to mention the fact that for comfort, the Silk absolutely slays the BW as the BW is noticeably heavier on the head. This isn't so bad when your head is stationary, but as soon as I move or turn my head, I can definitely feel the extra weight.

    Just thought I'd share my thoughts on these two wood variants. This is just one data point, and I am still learning how conduct meaningful comparisons between my gear, so take the above with a grain of salt.
     
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