The Etherial Mr. Speakers Ether Flow

I had only two days with a pre-production Ether Flow before my house was invaded by the French. I was quite enjoying the pre-production Flow, but the Focal Elear and Utopia turned my world upside down. By the time Dan Clark, CEO and Founder of Mr. Speakers, sent the production unit my world was in a bit of an uproar. Though I didn't mention them, the Flow was ever present in my listening tests...it kept whispering to me, "It's not about "The Best" anymore, it's about character."

I'll have to explain...let's work through it.

Mr. Speakers Ether Flow ($1799+)
The Mr. Speakers Ether Flow is a full-sized, circumaural, open acoustic, planar magnetic headphone. I find it a pretty good looking headphone; it's not that much has been done to decorate it per se, but I find its simple, elegant, form-follows-function design appealing.

The main capsule housing component is a black anodized milled aluminum part just over four inches in diameter, and has machined features to mount the driver assembly, rear cover, gimbal swivel pins, and cable connector. There is an earpad mounting plate attached to the main capsule frame that is ABS plastic with a rubberized coating to provide more friction to prevent the pads from turning...nice touch. Materials appear to be of very good quality.

Holding together the two capsules are two thin NiTinol memory metal bands clamped at either end by a small metal spacer and the headband-end/swivel assembly. A simple leather strap with nifty plastic sliders at either end for adjustment acts as the headband, which very effectively distributes the weight over a large portion of the top of the head. Slider adjustments for size are smooth and secure when the slider clamp screws are tightened properly.

At 400 grams (sans cables) I'd consider it a light headphone in this category. For comparison: Audeze LCD-2=570gr; HiFiMAN HE1000=470gr; Focal Utopia=490gr; Sennheiser HD 800 S=380gr; Focal Elear=438.

Glove leather covered soft memory foam earpads are suple and comfy; ear entry holes are rectangular (45mm X 66mm) and should be large enough for most. The hole mimics the size and shape of the driver beneath. The Flow now has angled earpads, which Dan Clark claims provide better bass response and a more secure comfortable fit, especially behind the ears.

The DUM cable included is a "Y" configuration and is six feet long. The headphone connector ends use Isamwoo SN-8-4(P) connectors, the player end sports the ubiquitous and excellent Neutrik TRS 1/4" phone plug. DIYers can purchase the headphone end connectors directly from Mr. Speakers here. Previous versions of this cable were somewhat stiff and kinky; the current cable has a much softer fabric cover and exhibits much less cable-born noise.

The included molded, hard-side, clam-shell case is brown and butt-ugly but very functional. Cables must be removed for storage, but are very quick and easy to detach and re-attach.

I find the light weight, ample earpads, and the really excellent caliper pressure and adjustability of this headphone delivers superbly comfortable listening. I think this is a very well built and functionally designed headphone.

Flow Baffles
MrSpeaker_EtherFlow_Photo_FlowInCapsule

Mr. Speakers has accumulated a nice string of innovations, which you can read about on the Ether page, for this review I'll focus on the new TrueFlow baffles for which the headphone is named.

MrSpeaker_EtherFlow_Photo_MagnetTrays

In the Mr. Speakers Ether shown above, you can see the four trays sid-by-side and the exit holes for the sound.

Similar in some ways to the Audeze Fazor, the intention of the TrueFlow baffles is to reduce turbulence in the air flow around the magnet assembly. The Ether Flow has a series of four bar magnets glued to the inside of four trays that are mounted side by side. Each tray has a series of holes drilled on either side of the bar magnet to allow the sound through the driver assembly.

MrSpeaker_EtherFlow_Diagram_MagnetTrayFlow

The above 3D rendering shows the bare tray and magnet at the left, and with the TrueFlow baffle (in green) installed. It does seem sensible to me that having these smoother air flow channels is likely a good thing.

MrSpeaker_EtherFlow_Drawing_AirFlow

The above two images were made by Mr. Speakers using a 3D CAD program modeling airflow through the two structures. Dan Clark is well aware that this is but a very crude approximation of what's happening with sound waves, which may be quite different. Acoustical finite element modeling is unfortunately prohibitively expensive for them, so Dan took his best shot with air flow for illustrative purposes. I would take these illustrations with a big grain of salt, but, after listening to the Flow in direct comparison with the previous Ether, I definately hear the sound as smoother and less grainy.

The really weird thing in all of this is that headphone enthusiast ZGLISZCZ designed and published a very similar part for the Foxtex TX0RP in Jan of 2015, and made the files available for for enthusiasts to download to 3D print for themselves.

MrSpeaker_EtherFlow_Drawing_ZGLISZCZSimple

And then ZGLISZCZ went off-the-hook and designed a bunch of really weird cool looking baffles. From what I could tell, he was trying to vary the acoustic load across the diaphragm to get it to move in more desirable ways.

MrSpeaker_EtherFlow_Drawing_ZGLISZCZWild

Upon release of the Ether Flow, and the announcements that the design was being patented, hobbyists pointed out the similarity of this prior art. ZGLISZCZ became aware of the situation and posted his displeasure on Head-Fi. If you want to read the nity-grity just read the next few pages of the link. Bottom line: Dan was unaware of ZGLISZCZ posts, and when he learned of it he removed one of the five claims in his patent to remove the ear side waveguide, and gave credit to ZGLISZCZ's prior art on his Ether Flow product page. I did have a PM exchange with ZGLISZCZ, who remains somewhat disappointed that his originally open source project my now suffer limitations due to the pending patent. From my point of view simultaneous(ish) invention happens all the time, and the right and wrong of these types of situations, in the eyes of the law, is very, very complicated and can only be found under the mountain of money needed to litigate a result. Though it's a bit of an awkward dust up, I don't find any fault with the actions of Mr. Speakers at this time.

Alrightythen, let's have a listen...

COMPANY INFO
Mr. Speakers Headphone Products
3366 Kurtz Street
San Diego, CA 92110
619.501.6313
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
TMRaven's picture

I don't think there's much of a guess of who's getting knocked off the wof. There's only 2 other headphones up there at the top to get knocked off. Judging by Tyll's commentary, seems like the Utopia will replace the HE-1000, the Ether Flow will replace the Ether, and maybe the HD800 S would get knocked off-- though it seems strange that a headphone such as the HD800 S-- whose strengths are unmatched by the other headphones-- would get knocked off.

TMRaven's picture

Also it's spelled Ethereal.

Elen Kras's picture

Great review!Now we think in the same style;)
HD700 is also about character and balance...that's why they are worthy of review.

Elen Kras's picture

And about technology of course.

Magoo's picture

Tyll,

You spelled NiTinol correctly the first time but the second time not so much...A little education??... I have worked with this material for quite a while you should know that the word stands for the Alloy description.

NiTinol...is a Nickel Titanium Alloy Ni for Nickel Ti for Titanium and it was developed by the Naval Ordinance Lab

Now you are edgimacated....;-)

tony's picture

As I read NiTinol, my brain keeps substituting 'sleep' aid.

Funny, how the brain works. Probably explains some of my failures in life.

The word 'Planar' gets replaced with 'needing powerful amp'.

This headphone only needs 1 Watt for 120db. Still, the Mojo won't have enough oomph but the Modi Multibit probably will.

I'd like to know who makes these things and where. Folks that sell stuff but don't reveal the 'back story' are worrisome. Mr.Speakers lives in a pricy 4 Story Office Building that is not Zoned for Manufacturing. ( it is approved for 'some' warehouse use )

Tony in Michigan

Maybe's picture

Hey Tyll,

are you aware of Blauert's directional bands?
Apparently peaks and dips at certain frequencies can create the impression of directionality and/or diffuseness.
Your findings regarding a depression in the mids creating distance also seems to be a factor contributing to a bigger image.

Would explain why the HD800 has this big-sounding quality since it has a dip in the mids and a peak at 6kHz which is associated with things being displayed in the front.
In contrast the Utopia with it's peak-free, slightly rolled off treble and good mid presence sounds more "closed in".

Therefore it could be argued that the HD800's presentation is mere artificial tuning rather than technical superiority.

drm870's picture

...I'd rather have a guy who really knows his stuff on headphones - and the technicals behind how they work - reviewing these cans than a generic journalist who spells everything right the first go. :P (Not to knock that type of reviewer, but let's face it, there's a reason we go to enthusiast-oriented sites like this.)

Long time listener's picture

Tyll certainly does know his stuff about headphones. But he still needs to learn where and what the presence region is: "In my Focal Utopia review I posited that depth of image may actually be an illusion created by reducing energy in the presence region—say 800Hz to 2kHz." I've never seen 800Hz mentioned as part of the presence region, and I've usually seen 2kHz mentioned as about the lower end of that region. Here's a few random examples; many more can be found, particularly in the speaker measurements of John Atkinson at Stereophile:

"Of particular importance for vocals in any rock style is the 3‑5kHz region of the spectrum (often called the 'presence' region), which is the range that typically helps them sound clear, upfront, and aggressive." (http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/mix-rescue-mixing-metal)

"4kHz-6kHz -- The range usually referred to as presence. This area affects how close the sound seems and can help separate a sound from the rest of the mix. Defines much of the clarity and definition of voices and instruments." (http://www.mikfielding.co.uk/EQ_Sound_Frequencies.shtml)

"...the tonal balance of the headphone seems skewed in a midrange-forward direction with particular energy in what some might call the “presence” region; that is, the upper midrange band where mids transition into highs." (http://www.hifiplus.com/articles/krk-kns-8400-professional-monitoring-he...)

There seems to be widespread agreement on this.

Johan B's picture

Baffles design, Pad design. Hmmm seems that there is a turn in design history, The drivers are all very good and it seems that secondary aspects are being treated now. This is good news because it means that within the next years the prices can come down significantly as none of this stuff is expensive with 3D printing tech. This will proably mean that some of the exotic brands will go out of business.

MarvinC's picture

Good i'm sick of companies overpricing their headphones for the sake of luxury. This ether flow looks like the best value i've seen in a while, just like the Oppo pm-3. I look eager to trying a pair in the near future.

Hattrick15's picture

Tyll,

Did you change your EQ settings for the Ether Flow compared to those you posted with the original Ether review? If so, will you post your new settings?

Thanks!

vang's picture

How do these compare with the LCDs and which ones would you go for now? Does it depend on sound signature still or are the Flows just superior?

MarvinC's picture

Can i use these for mixing? I'm looking for a high end, end game headphone for my mixing and music listening purposes. Supposedly something that sounds like the oppo pm 3 but with a more open sound.