ZMF Caldera Discussion

If I had to pick one, I’d pick the Gryphon, but I wouldn’t necessarily say the GO Blue is outclassed, and I’m glad I have both. The Gryphon is more neutral and has a little more texture, clarity and detail, so I do think it’s better. The GO Blue has a warmer, “thicker” sound, which is quite fun, especially on electronic music. Both drive the Caldera without any strain, using the 4.4mm output. On the other hand, I plugged the Caldera into an old iPod Touch just now, and that struggled LOL. I had the volume at 100% and it was almost a normal listening level.

I’m not a fan of XBass on the GO Blu because it’s already warm enough for me, but I do like the option of switching on XBass on the Gryphon if I want a more fun signature.

I have to admit I haven’t heard anyone use that term, but if you keep using it, maybe it will catch on LOL.


Nope, same as @PaisleyUnderground, never heard it before. But if it makes you happy! :laughing:

1 Like

New lineup: Zeemerteur, Zeemertrium, Zeematticus, and, my favorite, the Zeemérité

which is the past participle in French for the verb Zeemériter, to be the GOAT headphone (at least it was until the arrival of the Zeemerdera.)

1 Like

Zeemerfronium - gotta get the F in!

Great, now I can’t help but think of Cheech & Chong whenever I use my Atriums.

“Use zee headphones, old man.”


Ok now I’m going to spread the “Zeemers” term only if @SebastienChiu helps…haha
Completely fair impressions. Quite aligned with my own in fact. I was shocked when I got the GO Blu unit before launch to play with and it sounded like there was an “invisible tube” in the amp it had that deligtful warmth without sacrificing clarity.
I’ve seen a guy pull out a massive iPod NANO of all iPods at NYC CanJam and was like how the heck are you going to listen at loud levels with that anywhere near the chain. Funny things you see at shows…in Tom Petty’s words: “Think of all the stories we could (can) tell”.
Helpful feedback on your experience and fair notes all around. Let us/me know if you pull them out for further tests or any fun experiments. I’m a big fan of the Car-Fi setup with the xDSD Gryphon.

1 Like

Just got these Sunday, so still listening with the stock pads. Also have the suede and the “thick” pads. They’re pretty incredible.


They are fantastic cans. I’ve been enjoying mine both off the amp I bought from you and my Oor+Hypsos


FYI, everybody’s waiting to read user comments about the “thick” pads vs the stock pads.

I had a loaner Caldera here at one time. Things went sideways on me and wasn’t able to review. The only pads I had were the stock pads, which impressed me a lot, sonically and physically.


Caldera vs Atrium Conundrum. I am looking to add a Caldera or Atrium to my collection while the Red Heart limited editions are available. My heart is telling me to buy the Atrium and my head is telling me to buy the Caldera.

For point of reference, I am a dinosaur that listens to redbook CDs and SACDs on an Oppo UDP-205 fed to a Headamp GSX-mini through a Schiit Lokius equalizer for bass shelf only. Balanced connectors all the way to max out the GSX-mini.

Should I go with my heart (Atrium) or my head (Caldera)? Please help a procrastinator out.


Always with your heart.


I don’t think you can go wrong with either. Have you demoed both (preferably in-house)? They’re very different headphones, and I don’t think one can objectively call one “better” than the other. It’s entirely about personal taste.

I demoed both and prefer the one I didn’t expect to prefer. What are you sonic preferences? What headphones have you heard that you know you like, and why? Maybe with a bit more, we can nudge you one way of the other.


I want to say always go with your heart - you usually end up happier that way.

That said, I plan on likely buying a Caldera in the very near future. I found Atrium easygoing and unfatiguing almost to the point of being dull.


You leave out important information here, and knowing the answers might help construct answers or suggestions:

1 - Are you familiar with high-end dynamic driver headphones, having heard them in your system?

2 - Are you familiar with high-end planar driver headphones?

3 - Do you have a preference for one type of driver (and sound) or the other?

I bring this up because I’ve owned a series of open-back planars over the years (as well as one closed back planar), in addition to any number of dynamic driver headphones. I always found there to be significant driver-class differences in the sound of one class vs the other. As a result, I developed preferences along those lines…

FWIW, I reviewed the Atrium on Head-Fi and purchased the review loaner, untimately selling it; and I had a loaner Caldera here for several weeks (much of the time taken up with burn-in), and had opportunities to hear it.

1 Like

I’ve had no opportunity to demo either. And I am going to have difficulty describing exactly what I am looking for. I can say that my old LCD-2 Rev 2 has nice bass and warmth but sounds congested. My Senn HD-800 sounds somewhat clinical and thin. My Arya Stealth and Focal Clears both have good bass with the Arya’s extending a little bit further into the sub bass, which I like. Both have a pleasing midrange and treble with the Arya having a broader soundstage.

I guess that I am looking to graduate to the next level in detail retrieval which could mean a Susvara or Utopia if I stay within the Hifiman or Focal families. But from what I’ve been able to piece together from my research, my gut tells me that the Atrium or Caldera might work better for me. And besides, the Susvara is too power hungry.

I want both punchy bass and extended sub bass-is this even possible?. I want a natural sound that is non fatiguing but not boring. I think I want more “detail retrieval” but in all honesty, I’ve never heard such a headphone so I don’t know what I am missing. To cite my current lineup, I am familiar with the Arya and the Clear but I have never heard a Susvara or a Utopia. I briefly sampled an LCD-5 but with an inferior amp and I did not give it enough of a chance. It sounded quite crisp but was a bit thin in the bass and I was underwhelmed overall, especially for the price. But if I had listened to the LCD-5 on my current amp for an extended period, I imagine that I might feel differently.

So which do you prefer, the Caldera or the Atrium and why?

1 Like

Please see my reply to Andris. I’ve heard a few mid-tier planars and dynamic drivers. I do not have a strong preference. Yet. That could change as I become better educated.

I think that it would be very helpful for me to know why you sold your Atriums and what you thought of the Calderas.

Compared to nearly everyone else on this forum or Headfi for that matter, I am practically a newbie so it would be very helpful to me to hear from experts.

I am a home theater and music enthusiast. I am mostly a speaker guy. I am fortunate enough to live in a single family home where I don’t have to worry about my neighbors for the most part. But there are times when it is just fun to listen to a high end pair of headphones.

Caldera is slightly less wide & airy than Arya (just *slightly), but has better, deeper, and tighter bass (which actually shocked me - I did NOT expect that!). Caldera’s sound is thicker and more lush; Arya’s sound is slightly airier & brighter. Caldera’s mids are [dare I say] objectively better than Arya. I think they are about on par when it comes to detail/resolution.

Caldera somewhat approaches HD800’s width, but without quite crossing into the “fake” territory 800 sometimes ventures into. HD800 is much brighter and has much less bass. Caldera has a lot more in common with Arya than HD800.

Utopia (and by extension Clear, which is 85% of Utopia) has more resolution than Caldera, but less soundstage & space. Caldera’s bass is [again, dare I say] objectively better than Clear/Utopia - it’s not even close. They really are VERY different headphones, though. Again, Caldera has more in common with Arya than Clear/Utopia. Caldera is punchier and more dynamic than Arya by a decent margin, but still slightly short of Clear/Utopia (or Verite, for that matter).

In the end, you can think of Caldera as a lusher Arya with more & better bass, a lot more “slam”, and a little less air/brightness. If sheer RESOLUTION is what you’re after, though, I’m not sure Caldera offers any more than Arya does, but I also don’t think you’ll find anyone who loves Arya who doesn’t also love Caldera, and I don’t think anyone would reasonably say Caldera isn’t better in almost every way.

I can’t really speak on Atrium as I’ve only heard it once for a few minutes and didn’t really form a reliable opinion.

*disclaimer: I’ve had a few days of listening to Caldera, so I am no expert, but I hope sharing my impressions vs. Arya & Utopia (which I have actively a/b’ed with this week) is of some value here. :slight_smile:


Perhaps you want Rosson Audio Design RAD-0 and a pair of EgglestonWorks Vigintis. Or Kiva or at least Osos.

The Kivas are on my wear down the spouse list.


OK, I have more to go on now. I’ll cut to the chase: for a combination of really top-of-the-line resolution AND punchy, dynamic bass, including some real sub-bass–it’s the Caldera going away. Throw in soundstaging that is far and above what most planars can do (historically that’s a weakness of planars, but the Caldara has the new ADS damping, and it works), and I suspect it’s the Caldera for you. It most definitely would be the next stage in detail retrieval for you.

I have to emphasize resolution again: the Caldera, like any number of other TOTL planars, really brings the detail. It’s overall slightly warm and definitely musical, but it doesn’t lop off any treble or bass to reach the sweet spot. This is the “ZMF house sound” pushed further into neutrality than usual. I did very little real listening to the Caldera post-burnin for reasons spelled out below. But my initial impression was that this ZMF might fall in the same category as the Auteur (open back dynamic) before it: a little too neutral for my tastes, whcih definitely lean in the warm, resonant/romantic direction.

But at the time I had the Caldera for review, I had a bad combination of dental pain & constant migraine that wiped out my hearing for months. I couldn’t enjoy headphones at all, couldn’t make sense of any of them, so sent the Caldera back w/o reviewing it. A related point: at the time I had them (4-5 months ago), a series of Caldera-specific earpads were not yet available for early reviewers. Thosese pads (perforated suedes; cowhides; and “thick” pads) offer the user real ways to fine-tune that high-rez planar sound. If I’d had them, I might well have used one or more of the alternate pad sets to tune the Caldera in for my preferences.

The Atrium is a whole other bag. I fell in love with that headphone. I’d never heard soundstaging like that (it was the first ZMF design to use the ADS)…not just the usual thing with where instruments are placed relative to each other, but everything about the portrayal of space itself: space around notes, space between players, all of it. The Atrium blew me away with the spatial thing which some call “hallucinatory” (kind of true). I also found it to be tonally a true “Goldilocks” design–everything perfectly in balance, top to bottom: slightly warm, as are most ZMFs, but just so well voiced tonally. It’s a golden mean sound…not as much resolution as the Caldera, but somewhat more resonance and space.

The trouble was that after awhile I fell out of love with the Atrium. It no longer was magical every time I put it on. I think what happened was I simply got accustomed used to the very different and special things it could do. Besides, I went back to listening to my Verite Open, and found it remains my favorite headphone of all. So I sold the Atrium. I borrowed it back for a couple weeks recently and was impressed by it all over again. It’s really a terrific design.

Based on what you’ve posted here, I suspect the Caldera is for you.


I would concur, but somewhat ironically this is exactly why Atrium DIDN’T impress me: it’s so “just right” that I found it uninspiring. Granted, I only spent a few minutes with it, but in that few minutes I was like “yeah, this is just right. So what should I be excited about?” I know logically that makes no sense, but maybe when everything is in PERFECT balance our brain gets bored? :person_shrugging: I’m sure that’s not everyone’s experience, and Atrium is inarguably an INCREDIBLE headphone, but fwiw it was just a little TOO perfect for me.