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The Ether circumaural planar-dynamic headphones from Mr. Speakers in San Diego CA is a culmination of over 2 years labor of love for electrical engineer and audio designer Dan Clark. The Ether presents several state-of-the-art advancements in ergonomics and sound quality that summarily catapulted this can right to the top of our HeadRoom high-end headphone selections. First off, Mr. Speakers patented a new design and manufacturing process that consistently allows for nearly 100% perfect driver matching for every headphone they make - a great feat given the typical difficulties involved in producing sensitive planar drivers. Their proprietary ‘V-planar’ driver diaphragm uses built-in creases or pleats that allow more of the driver surface to accelerate in a true linear motion, delivering better dynamics and measurably lower distortion with improved high frequency response versus conventional planar-magnetic drivers. And as the audio wavefront becomes more uniform and coherent, the end result is improved musical detail without stridency, a good thing indeed.
We hear the Mr. Speakers Ether as a serious challenger to any headphone at this price and even a direct competitor to other headphones costing significantly more. As a main strength, the Ether manages to be both highly accurate yet also highly musical, a delicate balancing act that not all high-end headphones have fully mastered. The bottom-end response is specially stellar - tight, deep and controlled but with just enough heft to deliver solid bass presence. The highs are quick and very well-extended without overt grain or grit. Mid-ranges are clearly delineated and vocals sound well-placed without ‘shoutiness’ in the timbre. In fact, it’s pretty hard for us to find any really major faults with this headphone. If we wanted to be picky, we could say the soundstage presentation is not as expansive or wide-screen as some others at this price. Instead, the Ether delivers a more closely ‘up-front’ and energetic image that remains clearly layered, but is not quite as vast as some other reference models. Hence, the dynamic punch of the Ether - while certainly present - is slightly rounder and less dramatic than that of the most dynamic headphones available, some of which will again cost you significantly more than the Ether.
Mr. Speakers designs and manufactures every part on the Ether from scratch right down to the sweet fit adjustment screws built into the headband. The new-fangled, super-durable nickel/titanium (NiTinol)) headband construction contributes mightily to making this headphone one of the lightest ever in the category. In conjunction with the plush lambskin leather earpads, the Ether is a total joy to wear and completely avoids the bulky heaviness of other full-size planar headphones. Folks with smaller heads and those wishing to avoid neck strain after all-day listening will be chuffed. 23 Ohms/ 96dB sensitivity allows this headphone to be effectively used with portable sources with acceptable sonic results - largely a no-go with other cans at this level. And although poo-pooed by some, we found the hard case included with the Ether to be kind of cool. Yes, it looks like a wrestling ring turnbuckle and could maybe benefit from a strap attachment, but it's solidly protective, fits in your travel satchel or backpack, and is fairly slim-profile given the full-size headphones stowed within. The detachable cable measures about 6ft and attaches to the headphones with an easy, solid click into earcups. An upgraded Mr. Speakers DUM headphone cable is available as aftermarket accessory for audiophiles wishing to extract every last bit of joy from the Ether.