I just now clicked on the link.
Are they made from real Girl Scouts?
I don’t think so, but it’s that time of year where you can’t go anywhere without running into a sales pitch.
I thought it was funny, I didn’t mean any offense.
Offense? I didn’t take it that way at all. . All good
ZMF Verite Closed Review
ZMF Verite Closed - Sennheiser HD800S - ZMF Salire Bocote
Cables by ZMF and Norne
The Verite Closed is Zach’s latest creation - a TOTL hand-crafted closed-back designed to be competitive with the best closed-backs on the market today.
As with all ZMF headphones, craftsmanship is second to none. The headphone consists of carefully sanded and waxed wooden cups, supported by a strong but lightweight magnesium chassis, and lined with luxurious soft leather. At the heart of it all lies a Beryllium-coated driver, a material found in some of the most detailed headphones available today.
Despite the handmade operation and heirloom aesthetic, there is a priority on keeping unit variance low. ZMF CNCs each cup and measures each unit before sending it to the customer.
ZMF headphones are known far and wide to take well to pad swapping. Pad swapping can significantly alter sound to let each individual better dial in what they’re looking for.
I spent just over a week writing this review, collecting my impressions on-and-off and re-writing sections a few times. I tried to be as honest as possible and avoid letting new-toy-syndrome color my impressions.
My Verite Closed is in Monkeypod wood and retails for $2500.
Comfort and Isolation
Handcrafted leather and wood make for a luxurious feel.
The VCs are comfortable. The pads are smooth and soft. There is a fantastic adjustment system that allows you to easily adjust clamp force and other factors to get as comfortable of a fit as possible. I didn’t find glasses to affect sound as I would on other closed-backs.
If you aren’t used to closed-backs they can feel a bit too warm the first few times you put them on. In terms of weight, I don’t think I could personally go for anything heavier than Monkeypod.
I often find closed-backs claustrophobic - but I didn’t get this feeling with the VCs.
The VCs isolate very well in terms of preventing playing music from escaping the cups. Despite the fact that I listen to music relatively loudly, my friends were unable to hear the music from even just a few feet away. I’d be comfortable using this in a cubicle-based office environment.
Isolation in the other direction (preventing noise from the outside reaching the cups) is on par with the average non-ANC closed back, and a non-issue when music is playing.
The RME ADI-2 provides a neutral view into the VC’s sound.
The Verite Closed can be summarized as an energetic, engaging headphone with an unconventional signature and brilliant technicalities across the board.
I used an RME ADI-2 DAC fs for the purposes of this review.
The Verite Closed has a fundamentally unique signature. Regardless of the pads, upper-mids and sometimes treble are accentuated and which generally adds some energy to the signature. As such, the VCs are not a “sit back and relax” headphone. If you are not prepared for the influx of information, you will feel fatigue. But when you are, the VC engages you in music quite unlike anything else I’ve ever heard.
Let’s use an analogy. Listening to the HD800S is like gazing at a supremely detailed painting. You can see all of it but your mind will never comprehend all of it at once, though the vast amount of detail itself is presented effortlessly and ripe for inspection. Looking at a painting is not something that engages you - it takes your interest, perhaps even your awe, but from a distance, and in sort of an academic manner.
The Verite Closed utilizes its characteristic signature to surface detail in quite a different manner. It’s like watching an intense action scene. If you don’t pay attention you’ll lose your place. But if you are alert throughout, it’s far more visceral and thrilling of an experience than staring at a painting. Sure, both a painting and action scene may present detail to your mind, but the latter would be more emotional and engaging.
I found sub-bass lacking, but was able to fix this with a bass shelf in EQ (+7dB, 50Hz, Q=0.8 brings it out quite nicely). There is a slight metallic timbre - I think in terms of natural timbre, the Auteur and Aeolus beat the VC. I feel the FR is purposeful and creates more engagement, but you should try before you buy. Do give them more time than usual when you try them, as it may take time to click.
Detail and imaging
Verite drivers are 20% Beryllium by weight. This no doubt contributes to the technicalities.
The VC is fast. It is as quick and detailed as the HD800S if not more so. I was clearly hearing details my HD800S did not surface. It tickled my ears. These are the best technicalities I’ve seen come out of ZMF, and probably my favorite aspect of the VC. Attacks are sharp and immediate. The speed of the VC is amazing no matter how you slice it. Cymbals, snare drums, plucks of a guitar, slight vibrations of a cello - all of these are clear, which is something I cannot say for most headphones I’ve tried.
The ZMFs have an airy presentation for being a closed-back. Soundstage is pad-dependent but wide as an average open-back with the Auteur pads. This is very impressive for a closed back! Imaging is fantastic no matter which pads you use. Instrument positions are always clear and easily delineated.
I was not expecting technicalities at this level in a closed back. This isn’t only “impressive for a closed back”, it’s impressive, period.
Let’s compare how pads affect both signature and technicalities. Reference the tables above while reading this.
Auteur solid pads
- Widens the stage significantly
- Recesses mids a bit, adds energy to upper mids
- Very engaging but more fatiguing
The Auteur pads are the default pads installed on the VC. They are larger and more comfortable. They provide a fantastic sense of stage I never thought possible from a closed back. On certain tracks the Auteur pads might feel too shouty - occasionally it was hard to strike a volume balance between slightly-recessed mids and accentuated upper mids. I think I’ve adjusted, though, and I’m enjoying these pads the most. These are the fastest, most detailed, most engaging pads in the west!
Universe solid pads
- Closer staging but better 3D imaging
- Upper mids are tamed, treble slightly accentuated
- Engaging, less fatiguing
I never really understood the term “3D imaging” until I put on the Universe solid pads. Vocalists and instruments are closely packed around your ears and yet you can separate them in space easily. I found the Universe less fatiguing - they reign in some of the upper-mids and bring the mids a bit more forward for a more balanced midrange overall. This is at the expense of soundstage and some comfort. Treble-heavy tracks can still get a bit fatiguing over time.
Auteur hybrid pads
- Most comfortable pads
- Pros: Not as sharp
- Cons: Not as sharp
The Auteur hybrid pads have a suede face and leather walls. They are basically more comfortable versions of the Auteur solids with peaks slightly tamed for a less fatiguing listening experience. As a consequence, they have a bit less air and a bit less detail retrieval and slightly less defined bass than the solid Auteur pads. I think most people will prefer these pads and they strike a very good balance between all pads.
Universe suede pads
- Speed and soundstage take a hit
- Least fatiguing
- Too inoffensive
The Universe suede pads provide the most sedate experience, while having the most natural timbre of the four. However, soundstage, imaging, and detail suffer, so I’m not sure I’d recommend these for general usage. I feel that these pads sacrifice too many positive qualities to achieve the balance they provide.
The VC is a capable and unique headphone.
I personally found the default Auteur solid pads the most interesting and engaging, so I’d use those for general listening. I’ll use the Universe solid pads for when I want to feel “closer” to the music.
I might occasionally use the Auteur hybrid pads as a less fatiguing alternative to the solid pads. I don’t see myself using the suede pads.
I originally started my listening sessions kind of confused by the VCs and not very confident about whether I would keep it. I gave it some time, and eventually, things clicked - I understood why the signature was what it was, and after this, I struggled to return to my previous headphones. In this sense, the Verite Closed may be somewhat of an acquired taste.
The Verite Closed have supplanted my HD800S. This is high praise. I have tried plenty of headphones in this range and I always went back to the HD800S. But I just cannot help it - the 800S feels boring in comparison, even post EQ. The ZMF is simply more engaging, resolving, and interesting - and it doesn’t sacrifice technicalities to get there.
Perhaps most perplexing is that ZMF has managed to make a closed headphone that is competitive with open-backs in the same price range. With the VCs, I am not wanting for engagement or technicalities, and I do not feel that something was compromised simply to make the headphone closed. What an achievement!
Read my other reviews here:
Great write up and pictures!
How long have you let the VC burn in for? I’m curious is all as I’ve noticed that the recommended 200hrs is excessive but noticeable, at least to me. Also I did notice improvements across the board around the 75/100/150hrs didn’t notice too much of a difference after the 150hrs.
To note noticeable does not mean night and day differences but more nuanced improvements.
About 80 hours, perhaps? But I suspect the changes I’ve noticed are likely more my brain adjusting to the signature than anything else. When I had a friend try the VCs out, he noticed the same things I had become “used to” after 80ish hours.
I suspect the signature just takes time for us to adjust to, and maybe the measure of “hours spent burning in” is just a proxy for how many hours we’ve physically listened to it, and, by extension, a measure of how acclimated we’ve become to its idiosyncrasies.
I’ve only ever noticed burn in on a couple of audio gear, ZMF headphones and tubes lol… everything else I associate with brain burn in.
I think brain burn in is probably majority of what people hear as change though.
Proper burn in has to do with the flexing and moving of the physical driver as it gets used and as it “finds” its limits or “normal” use case it will present slightly different due tosaid flexing and movement.
Think of a brand new leather shoe, as it gets used it becomes more pliable and comfortable…at least that is how I view it but I’m no expert and just go off what I’m hearing for myself
Great pictures and great review. After long listening sessions with both the Solid Auteur and Solid Universe pads I’ve settled on the universe. I feel like the slightly recessed mids on the Auteur gives a sense of “loss” of resolution or the more intimate characteristic of the universe gives a sense of “increased” resolution - not sure which one of the two is causing such perception on resolution. I’m a sucker for neutrality and resolution and I can live with an overall reduced sound stage. The sub bass seems to also take a hit with the Auteur and a bump with the universe pads and finally, the holographic 3D sound seems to be more prominent on the Auteur than the Universe which is a plus for me…that 3Dness sound is somewhat “wonky” meaning with a sense of reverberation presence (As if I was listening to the room on speakers) and unrealistic to my ears and the universe leans to a more neutral presentation which I prefer. Most of the VC owners prefer the Auteur over the universe sound presentation, including Zach but it just didn’t sit right to my ears.
Again, great review. Thanks for that.
Excellent review @tusing.
Since this is a closed can, do any of you use this for on the go while commuting on public transit? I have no idea what this would look like in person or on the head. I wouldn’t care of I were to limit them to home use but I’m always up for trying closed cans for use on the go even though I am very happy with the D9200 at this moment.
Any discussion around this would be appreciated. Thanks.
Considering the cost, appearance, and possible fragility of wood against concrete or other hard objects, I would not use a Verite as a portable solution.
They are also a bit large to be considered portable.
I wouldn’t wear them walking around or commuting, but, I do carry them in a slappa case to work or coffee shops for listening at times… I’m positive I have pictures of this setup somewhere on this forum lol
I agree with what @ProfFalkin I wouldn’t want to risk them breaking, by walking around with them in the hustle and bustle of commuting.
They are also rather large on the head… I wore them the entire time for the latest headphone live show on YouTube if you would like to see what they look like on ones head… or check my profile picture as I’m wearing them there as well.
My wife already makes fun of me when I wear the D9200. She’ll have a field day of I wore these while out with her.
I’ve got to try these somehow.
Got some info from Zach about the Verite C at the recent CanJam show. Figured I’d post that here:
It’s interesting to hear his comments on the pads - especially the sonic impact of flatter pads that bring the beryllium coated driver forward. I need to get my hands on the various versions of the Suede Verite pads.
I’m hopeful that I’ll get to review the Verite C soon, but I’m sure it’s challenging to get units out to reviewers because they’re constantly making them for customers, as @metal571 said. I think there are a number of us on the list haha.
There are a few owners on this forum that would probably lend you a pair for review.
For sure, I just want to be able to take my time with it - and not deprive someone of what is likely their favorite headphone for any stretch of time haha.
It’s a small a sacrifice for our community…
(Says this non VC owner )