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Taron & Andrew Lissimore
The all-new Mr. Speakers Ether headphones came onto the market in Fall 2015. The brainchild of long-time audiophile headphone lover and electrical engineer Dan Clark, proprietary goodness is evident all over these cans. The operative term with the Ether seems to be “balanced.” Starting with the fit, the lightweight feel, perfect weight distribution, and easy- on-the-noggin earpad comfort was a revelation to our testers. Compared to other circumaural planars like the LCD series from Audeze, the Ether was our hands-down favorite and wildly exceeded the comfort expectations of our team. Did we say this is a damn comfortable headphone? Folks with larger heads may still prefer the Sennheiser HD800/800S as having a slight comfort edge but smaller/younger people and/or women will likely appreciate the superb ergonomics of this headphone.
During our listening roundtables, all four of our HeadRoom testers felt the Ether competed directly with other headphones around its $1,499 base price and thought it held its own in some respects against more expensive headphones like the Audeze LCD-3. The LCD-3 does offer slightly richer bass presence with improved low-end authority versus the Ether, most notably in the lowest register - the open ‘E’ on a bass guitar (around 41kHz) sounds more authoritative and textured on the LCD-3 compared to the clean punch heard on the Ether. The LCD-3 likely also takes the cake in overall dynamics - one of the Audeze’s big strengths - which is perhaps to be expected given the lively ‘up-front’ sound of the Ether’s presentation versus the more laid-back approach of the LCD-3.
Compared to the recent Sennheiser HD800S model, our conclusion was the richer low-end of the Ether was ultimately more musically engaging and certainly less ‘dry’ than the HD800S, although the Sennheiser maintained a level of detail resolution that remains more technically accurate, especially in the upper highs where the Ether can be just a tad leading at times. The lightning-fast transient response of the HD800S also give it an advantage in soundstage imaging and spatiality versus the lively, slightly forward presentation of the Ether. One of our testers commented that the Ether reminded of a very well-developed Grado sound taken up to the next level of precision and smoothness, a compliment to the Ether’s cheerful, even, and punchy tone. Granted, the audio terrain differences we’re discussing here are somewhat minute but there’s no question each of the headphones discussed above will give the listener a totally different insight into the music and recording.
The build quality on the Ether is also highly impressive and worthy of mention. The construction feels rock-solid and built to last. The use of unique lightweight headband materials is superbly well thought out and screams attention to detail. The cord easily connects to the headphones with a simple satisfying click - it’s perhaps our favorite detachable cord system we’ve used to date. It’s a huge testament to the Ether’s sound and build quality that every one of our testers picked it as a true stand-out among stand-out headphones. Congratulations to Mr Speakers and Dan Clark!