ZMF Caldera Closed Review

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Jun 21, 2024.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Look what the cat dragged in? (I had no idea a Caldera Closed exists until recently - I have still yet to review the Atrium Closed).

    IMG_1964.JPEG

    Tonally, the Caldera Closed sounds like a combination of the Massdrop Fostex TH-X00 and an Audeze. There's a hint of the TH-X00's W frequency response and this is combined with a dose of Audeze's recessed mids (not as extreme). The lows are not voluminous, but there's some solid mid-bass punch going on. Other aspects such as timbre and transients are like the Caldera Open. Suffice to say that ZMF tuning is quite different from Harmon, so you if love the Harmon target (whatever version or moving target it's up to now), best to go elsewhere.

    From memory, I feel the Caldera Closed does have a better sense of heft or solidity in the lows with marginally better articulation compared to the Open version. Maybe it's the cups? Still the Caldera Closed falls in the category of "orthos for dynamics lovers". It doesn't quite have the vivid mode presentation of modern megabuck orthos (Empyrean, Susususvara, Abyss, etc.), but rather has the contrast turned down (think less macro detail and more evident microdetail) with less edge. As such, the highs are easier to deal with (particularly with pop music - using the usual tracks from Dua Lipa to test) with the timbre being more natural (not metallic or splashy). Tradeoffs. Think ortho with dynamic qualities or dynamic with ortho qualities.

    Unlike the megabuck orthos, the Caldera does fantastically from entry level amps. I found the performance of the Caldera to be solid from the Magni Unity (with built in ESS DAC). This setup is agreeable match synergistically. There's no need for high current amps (the Caldera Closed is listed as 60-ohms impedance), high power amps, high gain amps (at high gain, I did have the volume knob at the 1 o'clock position on the Magni Unity). I will try with the iFi Bar Gold dongle and report back.

    Below is the frequency response.

    ZMF Caldera Closed
    Frequency Response
    Compensated to DF & 1db/octave slope
    upload_2024-6-21_15-44-3.png

    ZMF Caldera Closed -vs- Audeze LCD2C (white)
    Frequency Response
    Compensated to DF & 1db/octave slope
    upload_2024-6-21_15-46-3.png
    The Audeze is flatter in the lows without the midbass bump and upper bass depression. The Audeze is also much more relaxed in the highs.

    ZMF Caldera Closed -vs- Caldera Open (white)
    Frequency Response
    Compensated to DF & 1db/octave slope
    upload_2024-6-21_15-51-32.png
    Similar highs with the Caldera Open, but the Open is flatter in the lows to the middle mids.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 21, 2024
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    ZMF Caldera Closed
    CSDs
    upload_2024-6-21_16-48-15.png

    upload_2024-6-21_16-49-10.png

    We have have ringing (ridges) at 15kHz and extended ringing at 6.5kHz, albeit low in level. This type seems typical in many orthos. Compare to Susvara and Audeze LCD which are less controlled (dampened) and more controlled respectively.

    HFM Susvara
    CSD (for comparison)
    upload_2024-6-21_16-55-7.png

    Audeze LCD2C
    CSD (for comparison)
    upload_2024-6-21_16-56-26.png

    Conjecture is that the narrow ridges are the result of lower tension / less damping on the diaphragm.
     
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  3. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Confirming you're talking about the TH-X00 (biodyna, modded TH-900), not the T-X0 (planar, modded T50RP)?

    Also: the titles of both the last 2 FR graphs refer to LCD2C as the white curve but from the text below the last graph, evidently white should be Caldera Open.
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Confirmed talking about the X00. Made corrections to above.
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    I will do a full distortion surface later, but this is with 500Hz set to 100db SPL. I wanted to get a quick look.

    ZMF Caldera Closed
    Distortion (H2-H4) at 100db SPL (500Hz)
    upload_2024-6-21_17-5-0.png

    The results are fantastic, basically environmental noise in the lows and limits of microphone / gain for the rest. I may not bother with a distortion surface graph.
     
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  6. saint.panda

    saint.panda Friend

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    Have been curious about these for a long time. How do they compare to the Verite Closed? E.g. on technicalities, tonality, or your personal preference.
     
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  7. roshambo123

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    They have too many grill marks. I prefer my headphones pan fried or sous vide
     
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  8. Wilewarer

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    I dunno, the 1980s Electronic Arts logo was pretty neat...
     
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  9. Arun Kumar

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    Waiting to see how this fits into the spider chart :D
     
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    Last edited: Jun 22, 2024
  10. Armaegis

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    For the kiddos who don't know...
    upload_2024-6-22_0-49-30.png
     

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  11. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    How's the treble quality on this compare to price peers from HFM and Audeze? Not as oversmoothened as folks might have come to expect from the typical ortho presentation experience? Also, does it do the "sonic images are so large that delineation is pretty bad compared to dynamics" thing too, or nah? Curious how much ZMF manages to counteract the usual pitfalls of ortho design (IMO, IME, YMMV).

    Would still be curious to see distortion surface sure, but more than that could you bring back the worm signs or at least burst decays? Feel like there's an underrepresentation of those with planars.
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    The Verite Closed have more microdetail, is more efficient, and a nick more lively. The Caldera Closed less microdetail, but cleaner lines and more controlled - it's a planar after all. I find the Verite Closed to scale a bit more with better upstream components. They are both ZMF headphones, so the technical (and even tonal) differences between them are not huge, say as much as between an HD600/650 vs LCD2. I mean, I could be either headphone on forget which I have on.

    Both Verite Closed and Caldera Closed headphones are mid-centric with evident bass (more than measurements would suggest). The Verite Closed, especially with the soft wood cups, does have more of a middle-midrange emphasis (and woody resonance play) than the Caldera Closed.

    If I have preference, it would be slight: the Verite Closed. The reasons would be as follows:
    • I prefer dynamics and feel that they extract more plankton and more lively, even with modest gear like the Unity
    • I am willing to sacrifice clean lows, clarity, etc. (distortion) to get the above
    • The Verite Closed (with the soft wood cups) is more interpretive experience (OMG, ASR people are having a cow!). The Verite Closed is like an Audio Technica W5000 with the wonky FR toned down and much better technicalities. I don't go for ZMF headphones for neutrality or "what the artist intended*". I have JAR600 for that.
    • The Verite Closed was in my top five headphones list a few years ago. It still remains so. I'm not easily seduced by the latest and greatest.
    • These are my preferences. Your preferences may be different. The Caldera Closed remains a solid choice where I actually prefer it to the regular Caldera.
    *That is whoever the F approved the final mix and master in the studio
     
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    Last edited: Jun 30, 2024
  13. purr1n

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    With respect to the higher line HFM with those thin nano-diaphragms, I've decided that I cannot stand the timbre. Sure the diaphragm is thin, but those metal traces that are splatted over them are thick and probably account for most of the mass. I suspect this is the reason for their splashy timbre treble depending upon the unit. We are hearing the metal. Reminds me of these KEF aluminum drivers I heard 15 years ago which sounded like pots and pans ringing after they clank each other.

    With respect to the oversmoothened ortho presentation (or lack of grain), the Caldera Closed sits between dynamics and typical orthos. This is another reason why I say the Caldera is the ortho for the dynamic fan. It an ortho that posseses a lot of dynamic headphone sensibilities. Or maybe it's a dynamic that captures some ortho sensibilities.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 22, 2024
  14. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    THANK YOU. I readily and heartily admit that orthos do some things much better than any dynamic design, just that my preferences are more for how the older tech manages things. Even accounting for preferences though I just think it's amusing how much folk just overlook the issues inherent to using fragile diaphragms and then having (relatively) large masses of metal traces bonded to said diaphragms.

    Wonder how much of the Caldera Closed's avoiding that oversmoothening is due to the enclosure? Would be curious how their planar design would fare in a less deliberately romantic-sounding chassis, but if it works it works. I'm actually curious to see if the local distributor has this in stock to demo, haha.
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Caldera Closed Impedance
    upload_2024-7-16_16-39-12.png

    Starts off around 63-ohms, at 10k drops to 14.5-ohms and at 20k drops to 8-ohms. Not really worried at the loads in the highs. If it were the other way around (lower Z in the lows and mids), then I would be more concerned about pairing with amps. Then again, I think these concerns about "high-power, high-current" are overstated and have been for some time - read this. I mean as lot as one does not abuse. Any by abuse, I mean cranking both the volume knob on an amp and the bass knob on say a Loki EQ all the way.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2024 at 2:51 PM
  16. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    On a related note, I did just had a chance to compare the Atrium / Verite dynamics to the Calderas on more modest amplification. I would say that in such cases (Nitsch Piety, Schiit Unity, iFi portables and dongles), the Caldera would be the choice. Stuff like Atrium and Verite really need top-notch amplification, preferably good SE tube or deep class A solid-state designs to shine.

    With good amplification and source, it's a toss-up and comes down to preferences.
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Soon. I haven't forgotten. Lots of new stuff in the ZMF line.
     
  18. Biodegraded

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    In a single-driver planar, this curve really confused me (would've expected dead flat right across), until I read (under "What is a low-pass filter?"):

    "... utilizing a low value low-pass filter to electrically dampen the high treble ... enabled us to acoustically dampen the headphone less, making the Caldera Closed sound as "alive" as possible and retain as much of the transient impulse of the headphone as possible."

    Interesting.
     
  19. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    For Schiits & giggles:

    ifi Nano BL iEMatch output Z ~3.5 ohms
    ECP T4 6.3 ohms lo out, 26 ohms hi out
    Valhalla 5.7 ohms lo out, 19 ohms hi out
    SW 51+ 27 ohms lo out, 54 ohms hi out

    [​IMG]

    The trade-off of the low-pass filter is roll-off of the high frequencies with higher output-impedance amps. The current generation of Schiit hybrids, all less than ~2 ohm, and the solid-states, will work fine. If using something with lots of tubes, consider its output Z before concluding your ears have suddenly aged.
     
  20. Clemmaster

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    What does this graph represent exactly? What’s linear distortion and what’s the ohm scale on the right?
     

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