ZMF Vérité Closed Review
Written by Chrono
The Vérité Closed is the most recent addition to ZMF’s collection and it’s a handcrafted, dynamic driver headphone. If one were to look at it as a traditional manufacturer’s headphone line-up, the Vérité Closed would technically be ZMF’s “Flagship” headphone. However, in the context of ZMF’s artisanal line-up, in which each headphone design is meant to deliver a unique sonic experience, the Vérité Closed is intended to be the fastest, most neutral, and most isolating headphone offered by ZMF.
In this review I’ll be sharing my experience with my own Vérité Closed, which features the LTD Camphor Burl wood for the cups. Additionally, I’ll be going over some of the different ZMF earpads I tried and how they altered the headphone’s presentation in my experience.
For those who, like me, are new to ZMF (which actually stands for “Zach Mehrbach Films”), they’re a one-of-a-kind headphone manufacturer based near Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. Originally, ZMF made elaborate modifications with wooden cups to headphones like the very popular, planar-magnetic Fostex T50RP. Over time, though, ZMF began to develop their own, in-house headphone designs and driver technologies to make for unique listening experiences that masterfully blends art and sound. If you wish to learn more about ZMF, you can read up on their story at their website.
Sources and Music Used in Listening Tests
The Amplifier/DACs used in this review were the SPL Phonitor XE (with built-in DAC), Grace Design SDAC + Topping A90, Grade Design SDAC + Eddie Current ZDT Jr. (Stock tubes), and the JDS Labs Element II connected via USB to my desktop computer. For the listening tests I used music from a wide variety of genres including Rock, Jazz, Classical, Acoustic, Hip-Hop, and latin. I played tracks from my own FLAC library as well as from Qobuz streaming service played via Roon (exclusive mode).
The Vérité Closed includes a very nice suite of accessories, the first of which is–depending on your choice–either a tough, hardshell, Seahorse 430 Case, or a ZMF LTD Wood Case. Along with the Vérité Closed, you’ll also receive two different sets of pads, which by default are ZMF’s Auteur pads and Universe pads; although you can change the secondary pad option as you place your order. For cables, the Vérité Closed includes ZMF’s OFC cable in your preferred length and amp-side termination. Lastly, the Vérité Closed will include a ZMF cleaning cloth, as well as a handwritten owner’s card with the headphone’s serial number.
Build and Comfort
The Vérité Closed–like all other ZMF headphones–displays an incredible level of craftsmanship that blends premium materials and exotic woods in a visually-striking and heirloom-quality headphone.
With the exception of the cup-routing, which is done by CNC machines for consistency, ZMF headphones are almost entirely hand-built. From sanding and finishing to acoustic tuning and final QC inspections, all ZMF headphones are carefully examined and assembled by their workshop’s technicians. Naturally, these are labor intensive processes, but the result is simply spectacular, as all of ZMF’s headphones make for some of the world’s most solid-feeling, luxurious and beautiful headphones.
Just as impressive as their build, the Vérité Closed’s comfort is almost the best I’ve experienced in a headphone thus far. Considering that the Vérité Closed is a large headphone of which build is composed almost entirely out of metal and wood, I was really surprised by how light it felt when wearing it. The Vérité Closed with its magnesium chassis may come in at around the 450g mark, but the headband’s comfort strap in combination with the pads distributed the weight perfectly, which made them feel almost as light as headphones like the HD 600, which weigh only about 260g. The pads themselves are extremely comfortable as they were very spacious on the inside, and they did a great job at relieving any sort of clamp force. Overall, if not for the HD 800 S, I’d say that this is the most comfortable headphone I’ve personally worn. Even after listening to the Vérité Closed daily for the past month in day-long listening sessions, they have not caused me any sort of fatigue, nor have they had me re-adjust the fit periodically–they’re just a very easy wear.
Like the open-back Vérité, the Vérité Closed is utilizing ZMF’s proprietary 20% beryllium-coated PEN (Polyethylene Naphthalate) driver, which it combines with the wood, as well as cork and a hand-rolled polyester damping to create a closed-back listening experience that is characterized by fast, snappy transients and natural decay.
Now, it’s very important to mention that the Vérité Closed’s sonic signature and presentation can change drastically depending on the pads used. In the time I’ve spent with the Vérité Closed, I’ve listened to five different sets of pads, and for the sound section of this review I’ll be talking about my experience with primarily the Auteur Lambskin pads (which come pre-installed on the Vérité Closed) in order use them as a reference point to which I’ll be comparing the other pads later.
Additionally, I wanted to note that the different wood used for the cups won’t have a noticeable or significant change in the headphone’s tonality and timbre. The only sonic changes that will likely be apparent is the decay and impact of the headphone. Softer woods (like Monkeypod) will have longer decay and more natural resonances, whereas denser woods (like Camphor Burl) will have shorter decay and more impact.
When I first sat down to listen to the Vérité Closed, I was immediately taken aback by its exciting, musical, and organic presentation. Its bass was incredibly nimble and impactful, whilst its midrange had a very good balance that possessed a heightened sense of tonal richness. Then, the highs were very present with brilliance, plenty of sparkle and very nice air qualities. It was just slightly warm, but I would describe its overall tonal balance as being a pretty “neutral” one, with a response that to me sounded mostly linear and very natural.
The Vérité Closed’s bass is tight, exciting and very capable at texturing low tones. Thanks to its outstanding bass extension, the Vérité Closed is easily able to reach all the way down to 20hz with no roll-off that I could hear; giving its bass response a great sense of depth that really allows it to surface the profound rumble of those sub-bass frequencies.
For my tastes and preferences, I find that the bass on the Vérité Closed sits at just the right level. It has a good level of presence with a satisfying punchiness to it that never felt overbearing, and I felt like it had a very nice, subtle touch of warmth. Altogether, when you take its tuneful balance and nimbleness, the Vérité Closed’s bass response feels precise; it remains clean throughout and is adept at nuancing low tones in a manner that faithfully reproduces the bloom of acoustic guitar strings, the growl of brass instruments, and the deep body of organs.
The midrange is undoubtedly my favorite part of the Vérité Closed. The mids have an extremely natural timbre, and their tuning really gives midtones a robust body that possesses an unparalleled tonal density.
The lower mids, at around 250hz-350hz seem to be slightly elevated. Additionally, the Vérité Closed sound to me as though it has a very subtle emphasis at around 2.5K. The resulting effect from these two elevations is a very tasteful one, as fundamental tones for vocals and instruments come through with an enhanced richness that makes them feel empowered. Vocals have a fuller and more expressive body, whilst electric guitars roar, and the sonorous bite of brass instruments is beautifully portrayed.
Its overall balance for the mids is pretty accurate and feels faithful to the recordings I listen to; add to that the Vérité Closed’s spectacular tonal weight and what you get is a headphone that really captures the essence and energy of the performances it reproduces.
Before actually listening to the Vérité Closed, I expected it to be a fairly dark and warm sounding headphone in treble range. However, this didn’t turn out to be the case at all.
In the highs, the Vérité Closed is energetic, with a generally good balance that delivers plenty of brilliance in the lower treble, an adequate amount of sparkle between 8K-10K, and outstanding upper treble extension with very nice air qualities above 10K. Of all the closed-back headphones I’ve listened to recently, the Vérité Closed is the one with the best balance in the treble region, with a very natural level of energy that not only properly presents overtones and harmonics, but also likely contributes to the Vérité Closed feeling as open-sounding as it does.
There is one thing I would like to mention for the treble, though, which is a small elevation at around 5.5K. It varies per pads and fit, but It’s still a little bit forward by maybe 2dB-3dB, which adds a little bit of sibilance in the lower treble. I think that if you’re not treble sensitive like me, then you probably won’t have any issues with the treble; and for me personally, this bump at 5.5K only really feels a little forward now when I listen to music that relies on treble to boost vocals.
For detail retrieval and sense of clarity the Vérité Closed offers superb performance. Throughout all registers of its frequency response, the Vérité Closed provides tones with a solid and cohesive structure that paints a clear and believable image of the music. For internal resolution, the Vérité Closed is easily up there with some of the best I’ve heard, matching or perhaps even surpassing the level of transparency that my HD 800 S can achieve. Needless to say, it’s very resolving–specially when taking into account that it’s a closed-back headphone.
Soundstage, Imaging, and Layering
It may not be as wide-sounding as an HD 820, but the Vérité Closed is a very spacious and open-sounding headphone that is still very capable when it comes to creating a soundscape with a good sense of distance. For soundstage width, the Vérité Closed outperforms open-back headphones I’ve listened to like the Audeze LCD-2, Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro and vastly outperforms others like the Focal Clear, and Sennheiser HD 600.
For Imaging, the Vérité Closed does a good job at distinguishing the positioning and directionality of sound. Additionally, the Vérité Closed has this strange but very enjoyable “3D” quality to its imaging, and it’s unlike that of any other headphone I’ve listened to thus far. The only way I could describe it as that, not unlike tube amps, it adds this sort of holographic depth to the track it plays, which really enhances the ambiance of the soundscape and gives instruments a more realistic sense of presence. Also worth mentioning that in my listening, this “3D” quality was further enhanced when I paired the Vérité Closed with the ZDT Jr. tube amp.
Lastly, for spatial qualities, there is the Vérité Closed’s fantastic instrument separation which lends instruments and vocals a distinct place of their own in the mix by keeping them properly layered and space, even when reproducing complex musical passages.
Dynamics is a category in which the Vérité Closed excels. In the low notes, the Vérité Closed provides a satisfying physical impact that conveys an outstanding sense of punch and slam, which adds a nice kick behind bass drums and the bottom, undertone bloom of strung instruments. In the top-end, the Vérité Closed faithfully recreates the intensity with which instruments are played. The pluck of acoustic guitar strings has a weighty snap to them, whereas pianos and xylophones have a nuanced attack to them that accurately depicts the pressure with which their keys are struck. The Vérité Closed excursive capabilities in tandem with its fast transients makes for a very engaging and more life-like listening experience.
ZMF designed the Vérité Closed with the goal of it being their most closed and isolating headphone. I haven’t tried other ZMF closed-back headphones, but I can confidently say that the Vérité Closed is by a significant margin, the most sound isolating high-end closed-back headphone I’ve listened to recently.
The rear side of the driver is almost completely sealed-off, with the ear cups only having one relatively small port under the yokes. When I have the Vérité Closed on my head, it passively blocks out a lot of ambient noise, and even when music isn’t playing my own voice becomes significantly quieter and I have to keep myself from raising my voice or yelling when chatting with friends on Discord.
Speaking of Discord, I also have to give the Vérité Closed credit for how good a job it does at sealing on the user’s head and keeping sound in and preventing leakage. With the Stellia and HD 820 I would occasionally get complaints from friends about my music leaking into my Blue Yeti Microphone, but that hasn’t happened once whilst wearing the Vérité Closed. Overall, I think that their sound isolation makes the Vérité Closed an excellent headphone for desktop usage, and even though it’s on the larger side, I think it makes it suitable for some Hi-Fi listening at the office.
For me, pad rolling has been a core and enjoyable element in my Vérité Closed experience. ZMF has a whole slew of pads available for their headphones, and they all offer a unique experience that allows users to really customize and hone-in on the sound they want from their ZMF headphones. As I mentioned earlier, the Vérité Closed includes Auteur Pads and Universe Pads. In this section I’ll be comparing the other pads I got to try out to the Auteur Pads, which are the ones I’ve been talking about exclusively up to this point.
It’s worth noting that perforations and skin material will have significant acoustic changes, so I’ll be specifying the material for each pad design. Additionally, all the pads tested were solid, as ZMF does not recommend the use of perforated pads on their closed-back headphones.
AUTEUR HYBRID PADS
The Auteur Hybrid pads (lambskin sides, ZMF suede on top), alongside the Lambskin Auteur pads, are my co-favorite pad roll on the Vérité Closed. Tonally, they are nearly identical to the full-lambskin pads, except that they have just a little more presence in the upper midrange, and the bass is very slightly turned town–a bit more linear overall.
Presentation also remains pretty similar with the standard Auteur Pads’ really good spatial qualities, and satisfying sense of speed.
UNIVERSE HYBRID PADS
The Universe pads are one of the two stock pads for the Vérité Closed, and after the Auteur Hybrid pads, they’re my second favorite pad roll. The Universe pads are as tall as the Auteur pads, but they are bare angled, so the driver sits a bit further back.
The Vérité Closed is already a very exciting headphone to listen to, but the Universe pads really dial it up to eleven. In the bass I noticed that the Universe pads added a nice sub-bass boost, which made for a more present and “fun” bass response. Additionally, the Universe pads seem to add an elevation at around 150hz, which added a mid-bass kick and a serious emphasis to the Vérité Closed’s already strong punch.
Moving along to the mids, the Universe pads remain largely unchanged from the Auteur pads, as they still deliver that amazing Vérité Closed tonal density. Still, the midrange did sound a little more linear on the Universe pads, as they had a bit more presence in the upper midrange at around 3K-4.5K. Then, for the highs, the Universe pads had just a little more energy, which played nicely with the boosted bass. Unfortunately, though, I did find that the 5.5K elevation I mentioned earlier was somewhat spiked and could come across as a bit more forward on the Universe pads.
Lastly the soundstage changes considerably on the Universe pads. I feel like the Universe pads, despite being a little more intimate, play around the most with the staging as it plays up that “3D” quality I mentioned earlier and it feels to me as though it creates the best and liveliest sense of ambience of all the pads; bringing out more from the venue of the recording.
UNIVERSE LAMBSKIN PADS
The Universe Lambskin pads are for the most part pretty similar to the Universe Hybrid pads.
For tonality, the only difference I could personally discern was that the upper-midrange’s presence region between 3-5K, as well as 5.5K in the lower treble were a touch warmer on full-lambskin variant.
Then, for presentation, it sounded to me as though the Universe Lambskin pads were a touch faster, and they emphasized that 3D quality even further.
Again, like the Universe Hybrid pad variant, the Universe Lambskin pads are delightful to listen to, and I think that they make really good contrast to the Auteur Hybrid pads in particular–highly recommended!
EIKON LAMBSKIN PADS
The Eikon Lambskin pads were actually the last pads I tried on the Vérité Closed, and for me they’ve turned out to be one of the more interesting pad rolls. The Eikon pads are angled, but they’re not quite as deep as the Auteur, and their inner opening is a little smaller. Nonetheless, they remain spacious and very comfortable to wear.
Presentation-wise, they’re actually not all that different from the Auteur pads, as they have a pretty similar “3D” factor, and their soundstage is almost as wide-sounding. The one noticeable change, though, is that the Eikon pads don’t seem to have the same speed and tightness of the Universe and Auteur pads; particularly in the bass region they feel a little slower.
Tonality, on the other hand, sees some pretty significant changes and I think that these are, overall, the smoothest, warmest pads. The bass is pretty similar to that of the Auteur pads. The midrange still has some of that added richness, but the mids have a slightly more linear response between 250hz-3K, and then in the upper midrange between 3K-5K the Eikon pads are significantly cooler and mellower, though they’re not recessed in any way. Additionally, the Eikon pads have warmer treble and the 5.5K elevation is pretty much completely gone.
For overall tonal balance I think that the Eikon pads stray a bit from the “neutral” sound the Vérité Closed is going for, but they make for a great pad option as they’re very relaxing, with an easy-going sonic experience. If you, like me, are treble-sensitive or you’re looking for the warmest, most easy-going listen on the Vérité Closed, I think that the Eikon pads are an excellent choice.
PS. In many ways, they make the Vérité Closed sound sort of like what I would expect an LCD-2 to sound like if it didn’t require EQ.
The Vérité pads are intended to be the most neutral option for the Vérité Closed. The design of the Vérité pads is very different from all the other pads, as they’re pretty flat, they have a thicker foam insert compared to the other pads, and they bring the driver pretty close to the user’s ears (which might cause some comfort issues for some users). In tonality and presentation the Vérité pads are quite different from all the others mentioned so far.
Due to how much closer the driver gets, I’d compare the Vérité pads’ presentation to that of the HD 600, as the Vérité pads have the most intimate and focused soundstage of all, with a very forward presentation.
With Vérité pads, the Vérité Closed’s bass response loses quite a bit of its energy, and comes across as lean as that of the HD 800 S, although it has a little more kick and significantly better articulation and extension. In the mids, Vérité pads forego the Vérité Closed’s added tonal weight in favor of a more even and “traditionally-neutral” response, with slightly more presence between 3K-5K. Surprisingly, I didn’t find the treble range to change that much on the Vérité pads, but 5.5K was still a touch forward for me.
If I’m being honest, for me personally the Vérité pads somewhat miss the mark as they take away some of the elements and excitement that made the Vérité Close, well, distinctly Vérité. However, if you, like me, consider the HD 600-series to be a neutral reference, or prefer a slightly more intimate presentation and that’s what you are looking for in a closed-back headphone, then it’s a good option for you and it gives the Vérité Closed a different flavor.
Ah yes, the BE-2 pads, ZMF’s infamous secret menu pads. For a very long time BE-2 pads could only be special-ordered, but recently they’ve become available for ordering as part of the drop-down options menu on the Vérité pads’ item page on ZMF’s website.
Now, these are almost identical to the Vérité pads, with the only visual differences being that the opening on the Vérité pads is rounder and similar in area to that of the Universe pads, whereas the BE-2 pads have an opening similar to that of the Auteur pads and are ever so slightly taller than the Vérité pads.
Tonality and overall presentation for me was almost identical to that of the Vérité pads, with the only difference I sincerely heard being that the BE-2 pads had more bass presence and they had slightly better instrument separation. I suppose that for me they were the more fun version of the Vérité pads, and I really enjoyed them as a more “neutral” option.
The Vérité Closed has a really good balance, and regardless of which pads I used I never really felt like I needed EQ; the only exception to this were the Universe pads which were a little too brilliant for me. Now, with EQ I’ve made a profile for each individual pad because each set has its own unique characteristics that I really want to have access to without worrying about mainly the slight forwardness at 5.5K which, again, might be fatiguing for treble-sensitive listeners. If you’d like to try out my EQ settings for the Vérité Closed and the specific set of pads, these were the adjustments I made:
Auteur Lambskin and Hybrid Pads:
Peak at 5500hz, -3dB Q of 3
Eikon Lambskin Pads:
Peak at 5500hz, -2dB Q of 3
Universe Hybrid Pads:
Peak at 5500hz, -5dB Q of 3
Vérité Lambskin Pads:
Bass shelf at 100hz, +3dB Q of 0.7
Peak at 5500hz, -3dB Q of 3
BE-2 Lambskin Pads:
Bass shelf at 100hz, +1.5dB Q of 0.7
Peak at 5500hz, -3dB Q of 3
This was my first experience with a ZMF headphone, and aside from knowing that it would look pretty, I really did not know what to expect. What I can say now, though, after more 300 hours of music-listening on them, I can confidently say that of all the headphones I’ve had the opportunity to listen to, the Vérité Closed is my personal favorite headphone.
Like all other headphones, no, it’s not perfect. However, the Vérité Closed does a lot of things really well. From its unique, enjoyable, customizable, and versatile sonic experience, to its superb comfort and sturdy, premium build, the ZMF Vérité Closed is a marvelous design feat that not only shows the true potential of closed-back headphones, but also achieves a near perfect marriage between art and sound.