I Made a Bad Call: MrSpeakers Ether C Flow Makes "Wall of Fame"

In my recent MrSpeakers Ether C Flow review, I found it was a very neutral headphone, but was somewhat uneven and had a bright spot in the 6-7kHz area that bothered me. In the end, it was that bright spot that had me feeling the previous Ether C was the better headphone. It too is somewhat bright and less neutral, but I feel it's more refined sound made it a better headphone once EQed to have a bit more bass. I continue to feel this way.

As many of you know, I have a policy with manufacturers that if a headphone makes the "Wall of Fame" I will need to keep it as a reference for evaluating future headphones, and will return the headphone once a better reference appears. This is an important policy as it allows me to have all the headphones I need for my work. Manufacturers are happy to oblige, of course.

Which bring me to this week's sticky wicket. After wrapping up my Ether C Flow review I began to think about returning the Ether C Flow, as it had not made the "Wall of Fame." I found myself somewhat unwilling to do so. Even though the headphone has that mid-treble bright spot, it's also the most neutral sealed headphone I've heard. I began to feel that I would need it to evaluate future headphones in that category.

It began to dawn on my that making the "Wall of Fame" wasn't just about my personal likes or dislikes exclusively. It's also about being a reference headphone of a particular type and price range. Even if I personally have some dislikes about a headphone, if it's worthy of being a reference headphone, it's worthy of a "Wall of Fame" slot.

Secondly, I felt the Ether C Flow was an excellent choice for audio professionals in need of a neutral sealed headphone. Expensive, yes, and there are lower cost choices that may serve very nearly as well, but in the price range I do think it's the most neutral and useful for audio pros. In my review, I think I didn't weigh that application strongly enough. Audio pros certainly come to InnerFidelity for advice, I'd be shirking my duty if I didn't serve their interests. I do believe the Ether C Flow is better than the Ether C for audio professionals due to it's solidly neutral presentation.

Anyhow, I'm going to correct my error and put the Ether C Flow on the "Wall of Fame" as the most neutral sealed headphone in the category, and preferable to the Ether C if neutrality is of primary concern.

My apologies to InnerFidelity readers and Dan Clark and the employees of MrSpeakers, this is a reference level headphone and I should have seen beyond my personal preferences and recognised this at the time of review.

COMMENTS
OldRoadToad's picture

Nothing truly worthy was ever created that was not subject to the emotions of its maker. 

Including reviews. You have yet to go over any line, real or imagined. In all ways and for always, be well.

ORT

Journeyman's picture

To the readers I can understand, but to the company I find it strange and I say this with the utmost respect for you Tyll.
If I didn't read your reviews and articles for years now or didn't know your professionalism as a reviewer I would feel that some kind of pressure or retaliation made you apologise and put the headphones in the wall. Luckily I know you are pretty amazing reviewer so I respect and totally trust your words but even so I found the apologies to the company somewhat strange if not disturbing as a reader. Hope you don't misunderstand my words. You have every right to your personal preferences, I read you work for them! If you were a "paid" reviewer like so may out there, I would have stopped reading your work a long time ago. My utmost best regards.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
What I say has effects on numerous stakeholders including the manufacturer. So, I apologized broadly.

Absolutely no outside influence here, just my own internal struggle.

Journeyman's picture

Point taken, massive respect for you as a person and reviewer.
Again my best regards.
Side note, one of these days you need to review more Beyerdynamic headphones...:-D the "bias" against the Beyers must end! ... :-D (It's a joke if anyone doesn't get it from the emoticons).

nigelf's picture

But Tyll does it make sense to have two sealed model from same manufacturer on WOF!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
One is best for neutral listening, and the other has better refinement. They're both a recommendation and a reference for sealed cans at that price.
MASS's picture

Hi Tyll,

I would to start of by saying you do an amazing job at what you do & second I have a question for you in picking the best headphones for me. I have picked 4 different headphones and I like the closed backs usually for isolation and privacy. I need to know from your expertise in audio field, which is the best Between the SONY MDR Z1R, AUDEZE LCDX, MR SPEAKERS ETHER C FLOW and the AUDEZE EL8s TITANIUM. I listen to all types of music and I also use my iPhone for everyday listening, I would really appreciate if you help me out into making decisions a lot easier and also your reason for choosing the headphone. Thanks.

Mass

MASS's picture

I made a mistake by putting AUDEZE LCDX that's not the one it's the AUDEZE LCDXC I was trying compare

MASS's picture

Not the Audeze lcdx I meant to say the Audeze lcdxc

Corsair's picture

just consider how many other ethers you've moved for them with your glowing reviews. You have nothing to feel bad about. Even after the flow c review, Mr. Speakers should be very grateful for your honest opinions.

MoatsArt's picture

Please make it absolutely clear and prominently displayed that the products on your wall of fame are your references, not your recommendations.

Many expensive mistakes could be made by your trusting acolytes if you fail to do this.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
They are both really...I do recommend the Ether C Flow for example, there are just qualifications to the recommendation.
gibtg's picture

Why are we spending so much time and deliberation on overpriced headphones? Review them? Sure, but otherwise these units won't be used in professional settings when a headphone half the cost will give 90% of the performance.

AMW1011's picture

I've always looked at the Wall of Fame as the "Wall of Stuff Tyll Likes". Its always been a list of stuff based on your preference, except now. What changed? To say this is confusing and seemingly shady would be a pretty big understatement.

Journeyman's picture

"this is a reference level headphone and I should have seen beyond my personal preferences and recognised this at the time of review." This last statement plus the apologies to the company are deeply disturbing... If it was any other reviewer I would assume there were massive company pressures behind such statement. I wouldn't go as far to call it shady because after all it's Tyll, but I totally get the shady point. Tyll opinion can make a deep impact on the market of this kind of expensive niche headphones. Not that I care about such market, I'm a Beyerdynamic fan after all.

tony's picture

Ok, it's sealed and there is a Sealed Category for headphones, this one is the best of the"Sealed".

I'm not a fan of Sealed except for in the Workshop with loud power tools, in Airports for a bit of peace & quiet, cutting lawn or chainsawing trees or Shopping in Stores where loud music or advertisements are blaring at the shopper. phew Sealed headphones have their place. my favorite are the Etymotics.

Tony in Michigan

ps. "a wise man can change his mind, a fool never will"

maelob's picture

Tony, You forgot to mention, the significant other factor, my wife don't want to hear what I am listening to. LOL My desktop system is our bedroom. So I think there is a market for high end closed headphones.

maelob's picture

Why the recommendation for audio professionals and the whole caveat about neutrality without saying they are the best closed headphones for the price. At least tell us which closed headphone you think is the best for non-audio professionals that like sealed headphones. In my case I need the isolation because my rig is in my bedroom and my wife also spends a lot of time in the room. So for me it makes sense to use a sealed headphone. But also I want the best sound possible for a sealed headphone. Maybe it was inferred in his review, but I wished he was more clear about it.

Johan B's picture

If we are talking about reference sounding equipment ... we should stop having categories like open, closed, in ear, etc. The reference sound no subject to any method of conveyance. A "reference" closed headphone is nothing more than the best sounding closed headphone where we know that it is flawed by its driver enclosure. Maybe the use of a grading system as done by many German magazines isn't such a bad thing after all. Then at least we can compare aspects of the things that do work against the real reference. E.g. closed headphones have the best bass perfomance and open headphones are compared to this refernce aspect .. etc.

Martin.'s picture

I agree that Tyll should differentiate between headphones he recommends and headphones he uses as references, although I find he generally does that. I bought the V-Moda M100's cause he said they were for bassheads. It doesn't mean they are one of the best for the price, but if you are looking for something bass-heavy then it will scratch that itch.

I think he is pretty clear in his reviews of headphones. I can generally figure out whether or not the headphones he is reviewing would interest me. I often check his Wall of Fame and then visit other sites to see what others say about the headphones he lists.

I sound like I am defending him, which is not my intention. My intention is to say that I don't have a problem with him changing his mind.

Zeleknot's picture

Hi
For the first time in my life I felt the need to comment on any of these hifi sites 'cause today a part of me feels like it died (a bit exaggerated but bare with me). Anyhow I am a headphone lover, enthusiast and for years an avid follower of all headphone related, may it be the industry, reviews or even just opinions and posts on various sites e.g. Headfi, and Innerfidelity is basically my sanctuary. That being said Tyll, until today I thought you were really the only person I could trust when spending my hard earned money on headphones. I must admit I have no idea what boomy, harsh, cold, warm, salty, green, cauliflowery or any weird word used to describe a sound signature of a headphone is 'cause I never had a teaching course where these concepts are thought and I think perceiving sounds is in the end subjective (maybe someday I will learn though). Still, having lovely equipment that draws out charts and quantifies sound signatures is something I feel we can trust beyond personal opinions. Now you having years and years of experience have always found a way for us noobs and other readers to understand the charts and your personal opinions in a way that no one else could, and in the end for many of us your opinion made our velcro wallets lighter and wives getting unexplained headaches before bedtime if you know what I mean. To further explain my situation...I have no world class headphone only Denon AH D600 which is too big for my head and I can't get a good seal on my head to save my life (which I think is one of the more important things in headphones and can make even the best HP sound bad) ...but I had no one to tell me that and I Slovenia where I come from, premium headphones are nowhere to be auditioned, and many of us are forced to order online and , so to weigh in on how a headphone should sound and what is good is beyond me...only thing I have learned myself is "a good seal is a must" For everything else... I had you! And today I was left with the bitterest taste in my mouth ever (until this day that position was held by wormwood liquor). Honestly I thought about buying The Ether C Flows, cause I am getting to a place in my life where I am ready for a "high end" headphone and paying almost 2 months of my salary is something that must be dealt with care and much research. So after some time I felt pretty confident and was waiting just for your 99 cents (my 1 cent already figured out the clamp force and seal would be enough). And then came the review and I thought OK damn, man is legit as they come, he just saved my money. For that amount I can get 2-3 world class headphones, still they look superb and would have been lovely to have them but if it's not worth my money it's not...the man knows!
So after some cool discussions on headfi from different members commenting your review I felt good, and said to myself lets wait for something else something better Tyll reviews. And then came today...
You somewhat taking back your opinion and throwing in the studio professionals category and all that stuff, putting it on the wall of fame...don't you think that takes away some of your credibility, and some is all basically. So now I have to figure out if I want a professional sound or an audiophile sound even though that was never an issue with you before? If it sounds good for 2 grand it sounds good if it sounds bad for 2 grand but awesome for 500$ then let it be said honestly. I am sorry but you can't just change your mind and take that back, is it worth it or not, be it for audiophile or anyone else? If it was your measuring equipment that was faulty...I can understand that and understand the change of mind/heart! But that was not the case. What you have written as an apology just reads as you got a call from Dan and had to come up with a reason to put them on the wall of fame?! I seriously doubt If that was a Sennheiser or some other non enthusiast brand you would do the same. And I don't want to doubt you, I can't afford it!...and I never had to until today!
I am so so sorry you have lost credibility with me 'cause...well headphones, and honest (non industry paid) reviewers mean a lot to me, as does the whole headphone scene.
What am I suppose to do now, buy the headphone or go with my gut instinct that says that the Ether C Flows just aren't worth it...If you had my back, the decision would be easy...now, I'm out. Out of Mr Speakers and out of Innerfidelity...none feel right anymore and that is it.
Hopefully It's only me that feels that way and my words end up being only a deja vu in the matrix.

Sorry for my long post...I won't happen again.

Thank you for everything thus far, I am truly gutted by your last post but still merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Z.

tony's picture

I wonder if this last big election is bringing out the dark side of folks, no-longer trusting the folks we trust, the things they say, the intellectual meanings behind decisions.
Words have a wide range of meaning to convey, they often fail to describe accurately, they can suggest something 'other' than the intended.
I assembled my gear and had the University of Michigan Hearing specialists help me set it up for "my" needs. The Gear I own is Tyll recommended stuff but he doesn't have my Ears and hearing to work with.
It's always up to us to do the work in making gear perform properly.

Tony in Michigan

ADU's picture

My question is: when did some of the readers of this site become so helpless?

Inner Fidelity is an important point of reference in the subject of "headphonology". But it is only one of many data points to consider. The most important data point is your own head and ears... And your eyes, if you know how to read graphs. (That's actually 5 points for most people, but who's counting.) If there was a "mistake" here, it was probably explaining too much about the thought process that went into this decision.

Based on the original review, Tyll was clearly a bit torn about this model, praising it for its neutrality on the one hand, while at the same time having reservations about its quality compared to open designs in the same price range, and its potential appeal to some of the pickier and more experienced listeners out their who want a bit more than just a neutral frequency response for their hard-earned cash.

Imo, he should have just said-- "after listening to the Ether C Flow again, and comparing it to some other closed headphones, I've decided I need this headphone as a reference in this category, therefore it goes on da Wall." End of story. : )

It's Tyll's Wall, after all. And he can bludy well do what he wants with it. Right? : )

tony's picture

Captain of the Ship makes a 5 degree course change, after study of the Charts - Water temp.-wind direction-etc. Eye-eye, Sir! Steady as she goes mates!

Head-Fi is an Ocean of Adrift consensus thinkers clinging and migrating to today's applause meter. ( with Atomicbob, watchnerd, the Felikes tube roller group being the only exceptions I'm aware of )

Well said, Mr ADU

Tony in Michigan

gibtg's picture

Agreed, it can be whatever he wants but why admit to the headphone having a poor dollar to performance ratio and then awarding it. Unfortunately no one is resistant to bias and I feel as though because there's a nice guy behind the Ether Flow C with a nice story that they're being overly praised. Let's get even more $2000 headphones thrown onto the wall :)

Martin.'s picture

Isn't Tyll always saying he wants a "Like" button?

ADU's picture
Quote:

Agreed, it can be whatever he wants but why admit to the headphone having a poor dollar to performance ratio and then awarding it. Unfortunately no one is resistant to bias and I feel as though because there's a nice guy behind the Ether Flow C with a nice story that they're being overly praised.

You could be right, gibtg. But there appear to be a variety of reasons that HPs make The IF Wall. And everyone has their own personal opinions on what should go on their own walls.

Quote:

Let's get even more $2000 headphones thrown onto the wall :)

I'm ok with it, if you are. ; ) Hopefully some of that $2K tech will eventually trickle down to some of us poorer folk though. The least expensive headphone on the Full-sized Open Wall is $300, and they go up from there, which is one reason I opted for a closed headphone (not on the wall) + EQ for the time being. I need my bass too. : )

eric65's picture

I agree.

Your trouble is also mine.

eric65's picture

@Zeleknot, your trouble is also mine.

ADU's picture

How bout getting some friends together, and starting your own personal audio/headphone special interest group?

Sound Maniac 13's picture

I always thought that the wall of fame is about headphones that represent reference level BUT also represent what Tyll's personal taste.
If the wall of fame is JUST about reference level headphones, why headphones such as LCD3 and PM1 made it to the wall?!
Both are rolled off and extremely coloured (which I like).
I used to describe my tonal taste as Tyll's taste, I always thought that Tyll and I are in favour of warm headphones. This is why headphones like the LCD3 made it to the wall of fame.
I am confused :(

wbh's picture

Well, now TH is startin' to sound like that crook, Purrin', over at SBAF. Through n' through. Balls to bone!

ultrabike's picture
I feel the Oppo cans outclass the Ether-C in the full size sealed category.
Dreyka's picture

Shouldn't the HD800 be back on the Wall Of Fame if it isn't about your personal preferences?

Also there is no reason to call the Ether C Flow "neutral". The Harman target is not neutral. It's an average based upon how people adjusted two EQ dials while listening to a selection of songs. All these compensation curves are only useful from a manufacturers perspective and are the least bad curve to target. For the individual they are not useful above bass/low mids.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-JGAobDwGs&t=10m47s

That video demonstrates just how much variance there really is between listeners of a "neutral" headphone. Really the word neutral shouldn't be used in the context of headphone reviews because it will never be neutral to your head without equalization specifically for you.

So why is a $1800 closed headphone better for professionals if the frequency response cannot be accurate without equalization. If these headphones are to be recommended to professionals it has to be on characteristics of the headphone other than frequency response.

ADU's picture

I'm still not convinced that a personal HRTF is necessary though for regular stereo recordings mixed and mastered in a studio. I'm not even sure that audio engineers intend for consumers to hear the same thing they do when mixing and mastering a track.

I can see the benefits of a personal HRTF for things like binaural and virtual/3D sound, where a more exact reproduction of the recording or listening space is desired. But less so for regular music listening, where the space used for authoring (and listening) is less important than the neutrality of the loudspeakers.

For everyday listening, I think the goal should be something perceptually similar to the steady-state response of an anechoically flat loudspeaker in a "typical" or "average" listening space, whatever that may be.

The Harman Reference room might be ok for that. Imo though, the measurements should be done without calibrating the speakers to Harman's preferred room curve.

There may also be other ways of deriving a neutral headphone response curve than simply taking measurements in various recording and playback environments (though I'd like to see more data along these lines). And the target curves should also be HATS-specific.

Johan B's picture

I am sure that on that WoF you can find the best headphones on the market. I bought 3 of them and have been very satisfied. I think it is great that Tyll is challenging his own work continuously. It shows his great integrity in a world of lots of fakenews.

spyder1's picture

Tyll,

Maybe, an appointment with an audiologist is in order.

KG_Jag's picture

I think that you and we will all be better served if you had stayed with your "call on the field". Your initial review conveyed your internal conflict with the headphone. Your "booth review" expressed the same conflicts, but changed the call.

I am having trouble reconciling this change of rating & the reasons for it with your taking down the AURALiC TAURUS Mk2 from the wall. You replaced the Taurus with another headphone amp--at almost double the Taurus' (substantial) price--with one you found to be superior. However, you provided no further explanation regarding why you believed these two products, with very different price points, were in the same tier.

At this point I have to conclude that there might be too much unexplained subjectivity in this overall process. All will be better served if this is reduced or at least more carefully & thoroughly explained.

bogdanb's picture

Many of us regarded your Wall of fame as a good indicator on what to empty our wallets. And I did that twice now.
While I understand and think changing your mind is valid option, I am confused now on why headphones are or will be worthy of the Wall of fame.
I think you might have to make a new wall, the reference wall that might include famous, interesting, special, professional headphones and leave the Wall of Fame to the consumers.

Journeyman's picture

A new category for professional reference grade headphones would be really nice! Audiophiles and professionals have different needs.

Imusicman's picture

Here I am checking to see what's been posted and to my surprise I find this? Having only just read the review of the Ether C Flow and watched the video I found it refreshing that Tyll didn't put them on the WOF because of the reasons he went to great to explain in the review and video. For me this is why I use this site. I know I will see open and honest reviewing always with impartiality and integrity. Now reading this amended review, statement, apology, retraction . Call it what you will! It raises the question for me what the hell has happened? Everyone has the right to change their mind but the manner in which it has been done seems to suggest some kind of "external pressure" I hope this is wrong and it's just simply more of a case of the way it's been written rather than anything else. Although reading others comments I don't think I'm alone in thinking this. I think this is going to be very divisive for your readers.

jaredjcrandall84's picture

He did explain why he decided on WoF but also has his article mentioning what he doesn't like about them....so he maintains his integrity because he didn't rescind his honest and open opinion but decided for the sake of readers that the headphone should be on the WoF. He still claims he doesn't like them and doesn't think they are a good bang for the buck.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Understandably there is some confusion and questioning about the change of rating from "Stuff We Like" to "Wall of Fame". However, if you reread Tyll's write up, he explains that he wants to retain these headphones for comparisons sake against other, similar cans, that may come down the road and meet the niche that he thinks these fit.

The important take away is that he still has his original review posted. That review is honest and, in some places, critical. It is THAT review which people who click on the wall of fame choices when shopping for new headphones will read. They will see the same stuff he posted originally. Therefore there is no greater conspiracy about a manufacturer squashing his ability to offer an honest and potentially critical review.

Peace .n. Living in Stereo

3ToF

remon's picture

I think the real problem is that Tyll is the only one that does this kind of work in the headphones world. This is the reason why his personal opinions have so much impact and I think he wisely understands that.

Sound Maniac 13's picture

Not anymore!
We totally agree that his personal opinion (was) an important factor behind the wall of fame and this is why I used to LOVE this wall (NOT anymore)!
I used to measure my chances of liking a headphones based on his taste. But now there is a new criteria, which is the reference level and professional use. I know people who use his taste as a measurement scale, for example they say "I will get this headphones because Tyll does not like it" and others who say "I will get this headphones because Tyll likes it".
Now I approach every headphones on the wall with extreme caution, because it is not just his personal taste behind each headphones. For example, the LCD3 is NOT a reference headphones, as it is extremely rolled off and warm. BUT it was on the wall because he likes such sound signature (me too).

Sean_S's picture

Is the Mr Speakers Ether C Flow more accurate that the LCD-XC?

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