ETHER FLOW VS EDITION X V2

Ether Flow MSRP: $1799 USD / Edition X v.2 MSRP: $1299

BUILD/DESIGN/ERGONOMICS

Hifiman made some very important changes to the Edition X v2. The first iteration was not with out a list of issues to complain about. The price, the plastic parts, the shallow pads that left the drivers resting on your earlobes, and the headband mechanism only fit for certain head sizes. Now just about all of those issues have been resolved and the build approaches its now lower price. The Earpads also are a little deeper but I did have trouble with my earlobes still touching the driver. The Ether Flow on the other hand changed nothing from its original model. It didn’t need to. Sure it has plastic parts, but the Ether didn’t have predecessors with the same parts as a reminder of it. Even with the change to the Edition X it still is not as good of a design as the Ether Flow which is probably one of the best headphone mechanisms designed. It is lighter on the head, requires practically no adjusting sans tucking your ears in, and the weight (what little there is) is more evenly distributed. That being said the Edition X is still a very comfortable headphone, its just that the competition is stiff.

SOUND

BASS

The bass of the Ether Flow is a little more dry and wooly while the Edition X v.2 is more round and natural sounding. The Ether flow has better texture to my ears and resolution in the bass but neither are the hardest or the tightest. I would say that the Flow is tighter though to my ears. The Edition X v.2 has a little more sub bass presence whereas the Ether flow is even handed and neutral. The Flow has much better foundation than its predecessor but still doesn’t rock with the best of the best considering its price range. This is what makes the v2 more competitive here. However, the Flow was my pick for EDM and the Edition X v.2 was my pick for ambient electronic music.

MIDRANGE

The midrange is where these two differ dramatically. From here up they barely share any traits except for the weaknesses that are commonly associated with planars (lack of dynamics and natural decay). The Flow is far more shouty and present in the upper midrange. It has more brute force in projecting sound. In direct comparison to the v2 it is far less laid back. The Ether Flow standing alone all by itself and compared to my idea of balance goes its only a little shouty and is definitely tolerable there. The juxtaposition of the two magnifies the effect of the Flow. The Edition X is more even handed and while not really recessed in the upper midrange is definitely more laid back there. The fact that the Edition X is soft sounding in comparison with thinner and flatter images makes the contrasts more noticeable. Voices sound more intelligible on the Flow but more integrated into a background picture with the X. Consonants are more pronounced and vowels sound more assertive on the Flow. I don’t consider the Ether Flow hyper aggressive but it could stand to bring the upper mids back a little. I also just consider the Edition X v2 more laid back than is realistic. The V2 was most definitely the more easy of the two to get along with though because even though the Flow provided more tangibility the Edition X had less instances of distraction. I always wanted to just ooze into the Edition X and forget about what I was doing. The Flow made me want to pay attention to its sound signature. It forces hifi on you where as the Edition X allows you to relax in hifi. Overall balance would go the EdItion X to me and I think it is more neutral and has slightly better tonality, it just fails at dynamics even more than the Flow does. What is noticeable though with the Flow is a graininess that was less of an issue on the X unit. The Hifiman headphone was a little more refined and silky. That had its price though… a big one…. turn the Edition X too loud and it all seemed to become a blended mess of compressed and distorted splashiness(loss of distinctions). The Flow kept on ticking and was also the more scalable of the two by not a small margin.

TREBLE

As you may have already read before, the Edition x is definitely not a bright headphone. The treble is not as snappy, solid, or punchy as the flow but is still less grainy. The same traits explained in the mids are exhibited here. The treble of the Flow is sharper and a lot more peaky but definitely more tolerable than before. It offers more definition and bite but has its peaks  above neutral. In fact of the two the, Edition X is more neutral in the treble.

SOUNDSTAGE

This is a hands down no contest win for the Edition X v.2. It is easily the better here with more space around the instruments. The Flow images are larger and pop out more boldly but are not nearly as spread out as on the X. The X has a very tall sound stage if that makes any sense. Its almost as if the shape of the and the drivers extending the height of the cups is a part of what helps it sound so spread out. It is not a deep sound but a kind of flat sound stage with a broad plane from top to bottom. The Flow improved its layering from its previous iteration but still kind of suffers here to me. It has decent separation but the size is less than average in this price tier.

TRANSPARENCY:  I wasn’t fooled by the Flow being brighter. They are relatively both clear. The stronger upper mids and treble of the flow may be more convincing and add definition but inner clarity is about the same

DETAILS: very close I may give the edge to the Flow

REFINEMENT

The Edition X as mentioned above has less grain to it. Even though the Flow is more lit, the Edition X sounds a little more black and clean  and less papery(yes I just made up a word so I better explain). If you rub your fingers on a piece of paper and listen and then rub them on a smooth surface that is difference I am reaching for hear but much less contrasted. They neither are as smooth in texture as say a biocellulose driver like the Nighthawk is but the X is a little more smooth and refined with less grain and grit. The flow is still pretty clear and has some top of the line quality but what sounds even more refined than both of these is the Hifiman HE-6, which while bright is much more pure.

DYNAMICS

I hate the dynamics on both of them. Yet the Flow is better for sure. The Edition X still lacks the ability to respond to large swells of volume realistically. It’s like the drivers are bound up and not free to pulsate or something. Microdynamics are a toss up but I’d give the nod to the X v.2 as the Ether flow has the tendency to sound more like a wall of music with slightly less nuance.

PRICE TO PERFORMANCE:

EDITION X v2 ALL DAY. First of all, the Flow is overpriced. The Edition X v2 at 1299 is priced only slightly above the sound quality that is there but is just enough for me to make a recommendation of it. The Ether Flow sounds pretty good but listen… as mentioned in my impressions of it… when you have the HD800 now at around 1200 MSRP, the HE6 around, The Code-X (hard to find), all measuring and sounding more transparent with better technicalities and at a LOWER PRICE I can’t come to terms with 1800 USD. I just can’t. Am I saying it’s a bad headphone? No not at all but it is overpriced. It should sit at the price of the XV2 and the XV2 should sit at the price of the Elear in my opinion because it’s not like the R&D of the Ether Flow headphone brought anything better than what came before it.

OVERALL

TIE Choose wisely. If the were the same price I would choose the Flow but in now way is the Flow 500usd better in performance. The lack of dynamics of the Edition X is an killer for me but it did get more head time since I often wanted to just relax and enjoy some of my more laid back music.

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