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Dan Clark’s Mr Speakers has come a long way in a short time. Beginning with a successful Hi-Fi modification business for the popular line of Fostex T50RP planar headphones, Clark built upon his audio background designing speakers to evolve his own proprietary planar magnetic driver concept featuring newer, lighter materials than had been previously used in headphones.
Co-designed with planar-magnetic guru Bruce Thigpen, Clark’s advanced ‘V-planar’ driver presents significantly lower levels of measurable distortion with improved extension at both ends of the audio spectrum compared to normal planar magnetic drivers. The highly polished musical performance of the Ether C is the result of a unique Mr Speakers-patented technical process for building planar magnetic drivers that creates creases or folds within the diaphragm allowing for more accurate linear excursion and, thus, more precise transmission of the source signal. To oversimplify, the smoother movement of the diaphragm generates a more evenly uniform sound wave which translates to an audibly smoother listening experience without edge or sibilance, along with a near-perfect tonal balance throughout.
Above all else, the sonic signature of the V-planar driver and the Ether C soundscape remains dazzling musical balance - no one instrument, voice, or isolated part of the frequency range slumps over another in the presentation. Instead, we get uncluttered, spacious textures abetted by surprisingly brisk dynamics that make the soundstage seem much more ‘open’ and expansively layered than normally heard in a closed headphone. The overall presentation remains forward and lively, but the Ether C’s coherent sense of space is perhaps the closest we’ve heard a sealed-back headphone sounding like an open can. To our ears, the highs are tightly focused with no trace of peakiness even at loud volumes. Midranges are crisp, even-toned and delightfully clear with a very impressive timbral accuracy and a nicely chesty vocal space, especially for a closed-back construction.
Perhaps most notably, the Ether C bass response defies the typical sealed earcup expectation of a boomy, undifferentiated low-end. Unlike with many other closed cans, our experienced headphone.com review team heard the Ether C’s lows as being tightly corralled without any semblance of bloat or billowy low-frequency resonance regardless of the music or source. If anything, we were actually expecting a bit fuller bass presence in the lowest octaves under 80-100 Hz where we felt the bass underpinning could have actually been a bit stronger at times. With most recordings, there’s no question the lows are pleasingly textured and tautly represented in the Ether C, but we sometimes longed for the rounder, deeper bass punch found in other models around this price. However, for listeners seeking a clearly articulate, transparent sound without demand for hugely extended bass will likely find this headphone one of the most evenly toned sealed designs available anywhere in the sealed/closed category.
The other cool feature of the Mr Speakers Ether C headphone are the earcup pad/filter inserts included in the package. The addition or removal of the colored pads act as tuning filters for the headphones and allows adaptability between different types of music, audio sources and/or listening preferences so you can optimize the headphones to your taste and equipment.
Removing all pads brightens the tone and might be suitable with darker tube amps and some older vintage analog rock and soul recordings. Using one black pad per side works to slightly soften the upper treble ranges, a nice thing for sharper digital recordings or colder sources. Employing both black pads per side smooths and adds warmth to the overall tone, but also a tiny bit of murkiness around the low mids. One white pad per side brings a sweet liquidy midrange and a touch more bass presence to the fore. Leisurely experimentation swapping the filter pads around should eventually yield the precise tone that best suits your ears.
As with the open-back Ether model, the Ether C is a universal champ in the fit and ergonomics department and simply demolishes the wearing comfort of most other full-size planar headphones out there. The extra-lightweight Nitinol (nickel/aluminum alloy) headband construction in conjunction with the plushest lambskin ear pads this side of an Italian leather sofa render this can among the most comfortable our testers have ever worn. The headband can be adjusted to fit basically any size head without either overt clamping force or too-easy slippage ruining the listening experience; it’s really a laudable work of art in functional design by Mr Speakers. Instead of the heavy wood-framed earcups of other designs, the Ether C has extremely lightweight carbon fiber capsules outfitted in a deep grey matte color. Another huge plus is the detachable 6.5 ft cable which is truly a “quick-detach” cord without muss or fuss and probably our favorite headphone cord system ever.
For those audiophiles seeking to extract every last bit of joy from the Ether C, an upgraded Mr Speakers DUM headphone cable is available as an after-market accessory (sold separately). The free 2-year Mr Speakers product warranty comes standard with your headphone.com ‘authorized dealer’ purchase.