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Taron & Andrew Lissimore
The Mr.Speakers Ether C is a closed-back full size headphone and part of the recent resurgence of high-end planar magnetic cans, including the similarly ‘made-in-the-USA’ Audeze headphones.
Mr Speakers began in San Diego with a singular drive to make planar magnetic designs that not only sounded amazing, fit superbly, and looked great, but also alleviated the usual planar headphone bugaboos of neck-straining heavyweight bulk. Safe to say, they’ve succeeded on all fronts.
The Ether C is among the lightest headphones in its class and the wearing comfort is simply outstanding. Even during long listening sessions, it's perhaps the most comfortable headphone we have encountered thanks to the ingenious use of new lightweight materials and a proprietary ergonomic design that makes it seem like you are wearing a much smaller, lighter on-ear headphone.
Aided by the secure yet extremely light-feeling clamping force of the NiTinol headband, the Ether C stays where you put it regardless of the shape or size of your head. Compared to all the other, much heavier planar magnetic models currently available, the Ether C wins the comfort contest hands-down without debate.
Sonically, the Ether C’s particular strengths are its open-toned clarity and the sense of black space around the notes which greatly contributes to its pristine, immaculate balance. The imaging spatiality and the vast depth of field exhibited by the Ether C make it completely unlike any other closed-back/sealed can we’ve heard to date; there’s absolutely no trace of claustrophobic congestion or musically boxy artifacts heard in the Ether C’s presentation and the sense of air and space is remarkable for this category of headphone.
Compared to its open-back sibling the Mr Speakers Ether, the Ether C shares a very similar soundstage perspective that places each instrument in perfect relief and makes it easy to envision the space the instruments and vocals inhabit within the recording. Most notably for a closed-back type, the Ether C headphone delivers a revelatory listening experience being able to hear the 'room sound' and reflected reverberations move and breathe around the voices and instruments.
MR SPEAKERS ETHER C VERSUS AUDEZE LCD-XC
Comparing the Ether C to the Audeze LCD-XC planar magnetic closed-back headphone, we found the Audeze offered a much deeper, more authoritative low-end with clearly improved textures and bass heft. However, the Ether C has slightly better brilliance and resolution in the upper highs and, again, the sense of instruments living and breathing in actual deep space with the Ether C is simply unbeatable.
Pitting the Ether C against the discontinued DENON AH-D7000 dynamic closed-back headphones (designed/manufactured by Fostex) made for a close competition with the darkly muscular DENON again besting the low punch of the Ether C, but lacking the openness and space of the Ether C’s great soundstage.
Interestingly, when compared to the open-back Ether model, the Ether C bass response seemed more tightly laid-back and less punchy, an unexpected reversal of our usual expectations given the typical open versus closed-back bass results - in general, closed-back cans deliver more bass response simply by virtue of the sealed earcup construction allowing improved low-end extension and slam. In the Ether C, the bass was very tautly rendered, but it could use a touch more authority in our opinion.
In the end, we thought the Ether C to be perhaps akin to a crisp BMW/European type of sound - all clean lines, agile speed, and open, uncluttered space. The Audeze LCD- XC, then, becomes the big American muscle car, full of brawny power and deep torque with a memorable wallop topping off the meaty sound. The Fostex TH-900 Mk II is the one-off Japanese low-rider of the group with a decadent, soulful tone that brings recordings up-close and personal, just like an exciting street bike rockets the curves of the road right to you.
Naturally, each model will have its own adherents and individual strengths but perhaps the best part of the story is how the unprecedented growth of the planar headphone category - and sealed-back headphones overall - just in the last 5 years can now cater to an increasingly wide swath of audiophile listener and not just studio pros.
So whatever particular sound signature you’re looking for, there’s a killer planar magnetic headphone waiting for you out there. No doubt, planar magnetics are back and here to stay in high-end headphone land.
We know its not easy deciding among all these ridiculously awesome headphones, so please feel free to give our expert headphone.com team a call and we’ll be glad to attempt to break it down even further. And keep in mind our easy 30-day return policy ensures you’ll love what your ears hear - or your money back!Read more about MrSpeakers Ether C