ZMF EIKON REVIEW
- TONAL BALANCE / NEUTRALITY 92%
- PERFORMANCE FOR THE PRICE 93%
- SOUND FIDELITY 95%
- MUSICALITY 93%
- BUILD QUALITY 96%
- ERGONOMICS/COMFORT 90%
- Excellent Clarity
- Non-Fatiguing tonality
- Excellent presentation of balance
- Wonderful Craftsmanship
- Excellent Dynamics
- Pure and realistic timbre
- Punchy sub bass
- Could use more solidity in the treble
Big thanks to Zach for sending me the ZMF EIKON for review. I could toss in a few disclaimers but none are really necessary as I am not influenced by anything but my own personal opinion of these. By now if you are reading this review of the Eikon, it may or may not be the first full review you have read of them. The general consensus is that it is an excellent headphone that hones in on what many enthusiasts have been wanting for a while from a high end closed back headphone and this review will not differ from their perspectives. However, we all hear differently and it is my pleasure to review the Eikon in hopes of contributing a thorough, simple, and to the point review of it.
- IMPEDANCE: 300 OHMS
- NET WEIGHT: CHERRY 490-530 grams; Padauk 550-600 grams
- ZMF EIKON PADS
- ZMF EIKON BIOCELLULOSE DRIVER DYNAMIC HEADPHONE
- NATURAL HAND APPLIED VARNISH
- SEAHORSE SE430 OR S3 6500 CASE
- OWNERS CARD AND MANUAL
- STOCK CABLE
This time around Zach went with a higher end Seahorse SE-430 hard case that has much more room for the headphones and more foam to secure them in. They come with two sets of pads and a cable with your choice of termination.
From the site http://www.zmfheadphones.com/
“The ZMF Eikon driver. Meticulously crafted with a biocellulose driver membrane, rubber surround (for ultra low distortion), heavy ABS housing, and super heavy magnets.”
The Atticus and Eikon look identical. Both of the units I have here are Padauk. On the lambskin leather headband strap there is a stamp with either the letter ‘E’ for Eikon or ‘A’ for Atticus.
I am a sucker for a few things, wood being one of them. Not all wood designs are created equal and just because you slap wood on something doesn’t make quality. The Eikon is a stocky instrument with a robust design. Its risers are Grato like but angled and less flimsy. The risers are a polished aluminum as are the yolks which are in a flat matte gray. The Eikon I have here is the heavier Padauk wood and weighs 550 to 600 grams. Every joint and gimbal is sturdy and every part seems high quality. The Atticus and Eikon have that craftsman feel to them and exude luxury. In fact, I can’t think of a more deluxe set of wooden cans. Even next to the Audeze LCD-XC they feel premium. I do prefer the more glossy finish of the LCD-XC cups but I find the weight not as evenly distributed, and the gimbals not as heavy duty.
The pads I am rockin’ on the Eikon are ‘Eikon’ pads made from lambskin and soft memory foam. These pads have a slightly smaller opening than the Ori Pads and are a little more shallow but are also more soft.
While the Eikon is heavy, its weight is very evenly distributed. I have a large head but my dummy head is a replica of a more average head size. It was a little harder to get a good the seal on the bottom of the cups but an extending of the headband position and narrowing of the headband made of tempered spring steal allows me to get the fit just right. The clamp force is decent but can be a little loose for some smaller heads I would imagine based on my experience with my dummy head. Overall comfort is great. My ears fit inside of the pad cavity just fine and the memory foam is very soft. The headphone may be a bit heavy to some but I am usually not affected by that so you may want to ask someone you know who is sensitive to weight what they think.
After my TOTL closed headphone shootout (not yet published) I found the Eikon and Atticus to leak very little in comparison to most others. A friend of mine came over and every time he put either the Eikon or Atticus on I had to ask him if the music had started yet because I couldn’t hear a thing. These are fully closed for sure with very low leakage but average isolation.
- BASS EXTENSION 98%
- BASS BALANCE (ACCURACY) 94%
- LOWER MIDRANGE BALANCE 93%
- MIDRANGE PROPER BALANCE 94%
- UPPER MIDRANGE BALANCE 95%
- TREBLE BALANCE 92%
- TREBLE EXTENSION 90%
- BASS CONTROL 92%
- TONE DENSITY (TIMBRE, BODY ASIDE FROM FREQUENCY BALANCE) 90%
- MACRO DYNAMICS (SOFTS TO LOUDS) 95%
- MICRO DYNAMICS (SMALL GRADATIONS OF VOLUME) 90%
- SOUND STAGE WIDTH 88%
- SOUND STAGE DEPTH 89%
- BLACKNESS OF BACKGROUND 92%
- TONE QUALITY (REFINEMENT) 98%
*please note that in the above bar counters I use the word balance instead of presence which is a percentage of how unbiased, accurate, and neutral that aspect is. Also those aspects are totally subjective and from my point of view. Yours may differ
The bass of the Eikon brings what to my ears is the ideal weight and foundation of the music. The bass of the Eikon extends very low with barely any roll off in the sub bass. Not one song played has ever felt lacking down low in either control, texture, or presence. While the Eikon has some warmth in the upper bass and good punch in the mid bass, it sounds like it has a focus from 40-90 hz because that is around where it hits the hardest. Tone sweeps show the bass of the Eikon to have a full and present mid bass and warm upper bass as well. It is not as punchy in the midbass as the Atticus but is a little tighter and cleaner with better poise and refinement in the sub bass. While still not quite the match for the TH900 in regards to focus and solidity, the Eikon is no slouch and is just as (if not more) dynamic while just a little less in quantity and not as hard or dense. I am not going to call the bass of the Eikon soft but when played through the HE-9 I found it’s hardness to take a hit. When played through the Mogwai the Eikon was a little harder and had more body to it. Of all of the aspects of the headphone, the bass is most affected by the amp choices. Overall, I even prefer the bass of the Eikon to the Z1R which while more airy and just as taught and deep, is a little less clean and fat; sounding less realistic to me than the Eikon. The Eikon does great with EDM but also bass guitars being a good all arounder. The LCD XC is less present and a lot less punchy with much softer attacks so compared to the competition the Eikon does bass pretty well.
The Eikon midrange is lush, sweet, smooth, and developed. It avoids words like shouty, nasally, muddy, and honky while still being present and full. The lower midrange sometimes has a tendency to be warm and when only a couple of my songs played it sounded ever so slightly boxy to my ears. However I really find that not worth mentioning as it was so rare and the tracks used could be to blame as well. The upper midrange of the Eikon is pretty much dead on target for my ears. It has the same peak as the Atticus but the trough before the peak at the end of the upper mids (still in the upper mids) is less deep and I never crave more but never find it shouty. Timbre of the midrange is silken and liquid like in quality with a clean and rich purity to it. It sounds more sweet and honey like than the Atticus. The midrange has good density as well and while not as heavy handed as the Atticus and slightly thinner(not pitch or frequency but timbre) , it still delivers real world timbre with good body. In comparison to other TOTL closed backs the Eikon consistently comes out as super clear with a midrange that is the most close to what I consider realistic. The LCD-XC was right there with them but was very overbearing in the upper midrange and it was much more fatiguing, and even shouty; just plain overdone in comparison to the Eikon. Comparison is usually the ‘death of joy’ but not this time. I ended up really appreciating Zachs ears.
The treble of the Eikon is smooth, present, resolved, albeit slightly…very slightly tinted. I find the Eikons treble balance to be very close to accurately neutral, just slightly shy of it yet with adequate extension. Sibilance is a non-issue as is splashiness and glare. One thing is for sure though; don’t take poorly mixed recordings and play them on the Eikon through solid state thinking they will make everything alright. The Eikon reveals poorly mixed treble very well being much less forgiving than the Atticus. Treble texture is not as crisp as the Atticus or even close to as acutely sharp and poised as the TH900 but still possesses decent body and tangibility. It is brighter than the Atticus but much more tolerable than the TH900. I would prefer the treble to be just a tad harder and more solid as my nitpicking would have it.
The Eikon is undeniably an instant classic for enthusiasts. It has a sweet spot of balance in the treble that will make it very appealing. It is fun to hear the treble resond to tube swapping; differences in treble are effortlessly detectable. It can sound bright with some tubes and dark with others. No other closed headphone I have heard crosses back and forth over that fine line of balance as easily as the Eikon does.
The Eikon has good air around the notes which is something it does better than the Atticus. The soundstage doesn’t feel as grand as the images are just a hair smaller but not by much at all. At first I was very convinced that the Atticus was easily the larger but certain songs sounded a little more spacious than the Atticus; not in sheer size but with the instruments a little more individualized in placement and air around them. I still believe it is smaller than the Atticus but not by much. The Imaging, while not as spot on as the T5P, is very good with much better width of soundstage. All alone, the soundstage size of the Eikon is medium sized with excellent separation and good imaging.
OTHER PERFORMANCE ASPECTS
The Eikon has satisfactory speed with a very black background. Dynamics are excellent and when paired with a good ‘ol tube amplifier can be potent. Slams, kicks, strings swelling in volume, piano strikes etc. etc. all have excellent pop and contrast giving a realistic delivery of energy and tone. For reasons to follow though, the Eikon as opposed to the Atticus loves to be listened to a loud volumes (in my opinion). The midrange seems to fill up with musicality incarnate as melodies become more physical yet never harsh or messy. The Atticus is more physical and gripping at lower volumes so it requires less of the pot bring out it’s charisma.
Microdynamics are a little behind the Atticus resulting in less nuance from percussion instruments that fill up the background of my favorite production. This is mainly compared to the Atticus as the Eikon still does microdynamics well compared to other high end closed back headphones. The trade off is the the Eikon sounds more pure and clear than the Atticus by just a little.
Resolution on the Eikon is first-rate, having just as much if not more detail retrieval than some of the previously crowned ‘best closed backs’ out there. The treble is decently resolving but the Eikons resolution is not forced on you by a boosted treble. It doesn’t need those tricks to bring out the little details. This is something HD650 fans have come to know all too well and these cans remind me of the 650 in those regards; intrinsically resolving.
Just to rehash some of the Eikons qualities:
- Medium bodied [timbre(tone density)]
- Smooth, clean, refined, and grainless; a very sweet and liquid tone quality.
- It’s not as reverberant as the Atticus, nor as boomy but is more precise and clean.
- It’s performance is a little less nuanced than the Atticus but is by no means incapable of rendering subtleties with microdynamics just behind the Atticus yet still way above average.
- While not as fun as the Atticus it is very musical with details on a first listen making themselves easier to hear.
- Top of the Line clarity for a closed back headphone.
Were it not for the Atticus winning me over as a favorite with it’s snappier sound and heavy, less liquid/more coarse voicing, the Eikon would easily be my top choice in closed backs. Merit by merit has the Eikon marginally ahead of the Atticus in raw performance.
The Eikon has good body but can be pushed in to thinness with the wrong amplifier. It is not as picky as the Atticus when amp pairing but still loves tubes. It can also handle thickness and darkness from warm amps and even brightness and sterility from others, being somewhat of a chameleon to what you plug it into. The Eikon also doesn’t need a lot of power at all but again, I love it out of the Mogwai and while the Atticus does only okay through the Aune S7, the Eikon sounds pretty good. Still, at 300ohms nothing will set it straight like a tube amp so if you can get one I recommend doing some research and hunting a good one down.
The Eikon being REDPHILED is not just because I like the headphone and think it’s great. I have compared it to the Z1R, ETHER FLOW C, ATTICUS, TH900, LCD-XC, Modified BEYER T5P, and even my T50RP modified headphone and it has proven to be very worthy of recommendation especially since it still costs less than most of them. I have nothing else to say since it is better spoken for itself.