"A bit more resolving"
Since their debut in 2016, the MrSpeakers Ether C Flow headphones (and the open-back Ether Flows) have earned rave reviews, and remain on many "Best of" lists. But recently, they've been a little overshadowed by the buzz surrounding their younger siblings, the Aeon Flow headphones. I still strongly encourage headphone aficiandos with high-performance gear and a high-res music collection to consider these larger, detail-focused 'phones.
It's like company founder Dan Clark — THE Mr. Speakers — told me, "there isn't really a right headphone experience...The Ether is a bit more resolving, it's going to create more delineation of voice. They are a little more revealing of source — I tried to make the Aeons a little more forgiving."
Who is Mr. Speakers?
I met Dan at CanJam NYC 2018, and he's a really interesting, intelligent guy. His passion for headphone-making is only rivaled by his love of music. He's as quick to drop a story about his favorite band as he is to break down his patented TrueFlow™ technology (more on that later).
Dan had worked in tech for years, but said he originally studied engineering for audio design. One day, he decided to quit his job and start making headphones. He first made his name by modifying existing models. Hardcore headphone enthusiasts appreciated his semi-"outlaw" approach, and really loved Dan's sound improvements.
And while he uses the latest technology and measurement instruments available, he relies a lot on his ear when voicing his own headphones. "I generally start with well-recorded jazz drums," he said, "If you can't get the cymbals right, the highs are never going to sound right. And getting cymbals right is ridiculously difficult with headphones, because you're in a small space where you have physics working against you — so it takes a lot of trial and error."
A new take on planar magnetic headphones
Planar magnetic designs can get complex, but the basic physics behind them are pretty simple. You have a super-sized diaphragm moving lots of air, resulting in spacious sound with better dynamics. The diaphragm is covered with a flexible circuit and trapped in a magnetic field. It moves when the circuit receives an audio signal.
MrSpeakers added a new wrinkle to this traditional design. Or perhaps more accurately, a few creases. Rather than using a completely flat diaphragm that can bounce back and forth rigidly, their V-Planar™ drivers use a more fluid-moving pleated diaphragm. This accordion-like pattern helps it start and stop quickly, pushing more air. You can really hear the extra presence on tracks with complex bass.
Lightweight and efficient
To move a diaphragm this large, most drivers have a magnet array on both sides. That's why planar magnetic headphones sound great, but are usually heavy and bulky. The V-Planar drivers use a single-sided magnet design, so they are relatively lightweight and very efficient. Though I would still recommend driving them with a robust headphone amp — so you can really open up their dynamics and hear their gorgeous imaging.
Smoother airflow around the magnets
MrSpeakers also includes their TrueFlow™ waveguides on either side of the magnet array. These special baffles help reduce turbulence in the airflow. This lowers distortion and makes for effortless, natural sound.
Airflow around planar magnet arrays can get messy...
... so MrSpeakers added the TrueFlow waveguides to reduce turbulence.