MrSpeakers Ether Flow Headphones


Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Hyper clarity
Lighter than most high- end headphones
Made in California
Minus
They’re expensive

THE VERDICT
The MrSpeakers Ether Flow headphones combine clarity with an effortless, non-fatiguing sound that ensures long-term satisfaction.

I’ve always been into headphones, starting with my longlost Sennheiser HD 414 in the early 1970s. I love ’phones, and they keep getting better and better, but I get a lot of pushback from audiophile pals who aren’t yet ready to take the plunge. When asked about what’s holding them back, they complain about comfort and sound that feels crammed inside their heads. Sure, but that was then. It’s time to listen to some of the best new ’phones to hear what’s happening now. Take the new MrSpeakers Ether Flow: It’s so open and spacious, the sound seems to come from around your head!

The Ether Flow’s pleated planar magnetic drivers measure 2.75 x 1.75 inches, and they’re mounted in precision-machined aluminum baffles. The Flow differs from the standard MrSpeakers Ether with the addition of TrueFlow guides that are said to improve airflow around the driver. The other notable change are earpads that are now angled to better direct the sound to your ears, and the pads are covered in real lambskin leather. The Ether Flow’s lightweight Nitinol “memory metal” and leather headband ensure a snug fit that’s not too tight and not too loose: It’s just right.

I’m reviewing the open-back Ether Flow, but I also had the Ether C Flow closed-back model, which hushes external noise to a considerable degree. The open- and closed-back Flows sound pretty similar; the C has more low-end fullness and slightly less spacious mids and highs. The Ether Flow, like all MrSpeakers headphones, are made in the company’s factory in San Diego.

The user-replaceable cables are more flexible than the cables I’ve used with previous MrSpeakers headphones. The Ether Flow’s earcups and cables are fitted with Hirose connectors, and I think they’re the best, most secure-fitting connectors I’ve seen on any full-size headphones.

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The included hard carry case will protect the headphones even if you squash the case into a backpack or luggage. Owners of standard Ether headphones can return them to the factory to be upgraded to Ether Flow for a modest fee.

I used Pass Labs HP-1 and Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL headphone amps, along with a Schiit Bifrost digital converter for the bulk of my listening tests. An early highlight: The Beatles Anthology album, specifically the tracks with Paul McCartney singing “Blackbird” and John Lennon singing “Julia.” With both tracks, I could momentarily convince myself that I’d traveled back through time to the Abbey Road studio, at the sessions with Paul and John. Ah, the stuff audiophile dreams are made of! That level of aural virtual reality was beyond anything I’ve ever heard over speakers.

Listening to highresolution files of John McEuen’s (founder of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) Made in Brooklyn album on the Ether Flow and HiFiMan Edition X headphones, the Flow’s more naturally balanced midrange was immediately apparent. It sounded “right.” The vocals, acoustic guitars, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, stand-up bass, flute, and clarinet were all vibrantly alive, while the Edition X’s sound was consistently leaner, less full and satisfying.

My Audeze LCD X headphones’ bass plumbed deeper than either of those two headphones, and soft-to-loud dynamics kicked harder, so if you crave high-energy impact, the LCD X has the edge. Still, as I continued listening, the Ether Flow did no wrong; nothing started to grate on me, and it’s a good deal more comfortable to wear than the LCD X.

Then again, the Ether Flow is hardly the last word from MrSpeakers. The company has an electrostatic headphone in the works, so there’s no end in sight.

COMPANY INFO
MrSpeakers

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