Last year and this year has seen me shift strongly from solid state to tubes. I’ve always been a huge ZMF fan but given my tube amps (Pendant SE and Kenzie Ovation), I’ve doubled down on the brand and high impedance in general. I really don’t know if there’s anywhere to go from here, as I’m not wanting for anything, other than the occasional curiosity that fades after a few minutes of listening to my current setup. Speaking of which, here are my headphones, all driven by either a Holo Audio Cyan PCM (NOS mode) and Bifrost 2 for dacs, and the aforementioned Pendant SE and Kenzie Ovation amps:
ZMF Atticus: My beloved. If I had to pick just one headphone to live with this would be it. It matches my preferences so closely it’s scary. It’s like Zach scanned my mind and made a headphone that perfectly matches me like a tailor made suit. I’ll listen to it with anything and everything, and find it best with my low production quality metal music. But again, anything sounds sublime with it.
ZMF Eikon: Nipping at the heels of the Atticus is my Eikon. Besides my shifting preferences towards tubes, my musical tastes are also shifting towards Blues and Jazz. And the Eikon really nails those genres well for me. I love the extra treble extension it has over the Atticus for blues guitar like Buddy Guy or Albert Collins. And the subbass is to die for! A year ago I would not even consider the Eikon for my only headphone, but now it does challenge the Atticus for that coveted spot. Time will tell…
ZMF VC: I’m hard on the VC, and often sound like I don’t like them. But anytime I actually consider selling them, I make myself listen to them for a week, and after that, I back up and say no way in hell they’re going anywhere. The problem is they’re revealing, and don’t match my preferences as well as the two above it. The issue with being revealing is I love music with horrible production quality (metal), and the VC is atrocious with it. The two above smooth things over and are forgiving enough and exciting enough that I can enjoy the music. Not so with the VC. But man the VC out of the Ovation with some quality Blue, Jazz, or Classical and i’m in heaven. These are more of a specialty pair for me, and don’t get nearly the time the two above do, but I still love them.
HD650: The venerable classic. Not much to say here, they sound great, love tubes, and work with anything I throw at them. Like the Atticus, I’ll listen to just about anything on them, and love every second of it. They get very little time in such esteemed company, but still hold a special place in my heart. No way they get sold, unless i’m going bankrupt. Who knows, maybe i’d be the first homeless guy with an HD650 on my cart…
The following two are in production as we speak:
ZMF Auteur: I owned a Teak Auteur for over a year and absolutely adored them. At that time I was fully entrenched in solid state gear and desperately wanted to try tubes. When a used Pendant listed for cheap, I sprang. That started my tube shift. But to finance that purchase, something needed to go. The Atticus wasn’t going anywhere, so the Auteur was sold. I bitterly missed that headphone, and told myself I’d get another down the road. Well the Wenge LTD Auteur was too beautiful to pass up. I adore how balanced and natural sounding the Auteur is overall. All the other ZMFs have an inherent coloration that’s fun, but quite noticeable. The Auteur to my ears is the definition of natural sounding. It reminds me of listening to live instruments more than any other headphone.
ZMF Aeolus: I have heard this one a few times and always though it sounded too similar to the Atticus to spend money on. Yeah it’s slightly different, but enough to warrant that much $? Well after avoiding them for ages now I figured why the hell not.
That completes my ZMF lineup. I won’t get the VO as I found it too similar to the VC after many listens. And the VC is the least used in my lineup. If it was only $1K maybe, but $2.5K? No, that’s new dac money, sorry.