Mr. Speakers Ether 2 Review – My Favorite Flagship

I’ve been looking forward to writing this review since I got these headphones.

While there are community members and reviewers who like to flirt with questions like ‘the best headphone ever’ and other superlatives, I find myself more drawn to gear that is quietly exceptional for its intended purpose.

The simple question of ‘best’ is often merely a negotiation between the Zeitgeist and the manufacturing tolerances of the time. The HD800 was considered by many the best headphone in the world when it was released. Nowadays, not so much. Tastes have changed, and the connoisseurs have moved on.

So here I am with a headphone that is, at $2,000 USD, expensive – though not the most expensive flagship out there. From a color-scheme standpoint the Ether 2 is a relatively neutral blue and black and has planar magnetic drivers. Not particularly exciting on the outside, but the devil is in the execution. Or something like that.

The very first thing I noticed about these headphones is that they are light – 289 grams light. Nearly everyone who picks them up mentions the same thing, I suspect not so much because they are the lightest headphones of all time – though they are certainly the lightest planar magnetic headphones I’ve ever used – but because they distribute the weight they do have exceptionally well. Whereas some headphones have a lower overall weight, it is often concentrated in the cups or yolks, making the headphone feel a bit clunky and cheap, even when premium materials are used.

The Ether is meticulously put together – the headphone is slight but feels both sturdy and elegant at the same time – and nearly everything you touch has this unusual and exceptionally nice matte metal feel to it. The cups appear to be some kind of magnesium, though I couldn’t find exact details online. The Baffle is described as Carbon Fibre, the headband is the familiar NiTiNol metal from Mr. Speakers other headphones, and the driver now supposedly has 70 per cent less aluminum trace and a more efficient magnet and trueflow structure. This all adds up to a fantastically light headphone, and more importantly, a fantastically light driver.

Comfort wise this pays off in spades, the Ether 2 might just be one of the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. The headstrap sits like a feather and the cups clamp firmly but totally comfortably for my larger-than-average head. Some folks who prefer a very loose clamp may find these a tad tight, but for me, they were perfect. One of the few headphones that I really can forget about for long listening sessions. The only headphone I’ve worn that was more comfortable are the Meze Empyreans, which have wonderfully plush earpads, but I do notice those much more during listening, whereas the Ether 2s disappear for more time on me. I think in many ways, this is an important consideration – I’m certainly more immersed when I’m not worrying about the strange contraption slung over my ears.

The cable has also gotten an upgrade on these. Compared to the Aeon Flow Closed, which I have here, it’s thicker and more flexible, less prone to tangling and has a nicer Neutrik jack on the end, as well as a heavy-duty, industrial-looking metal splitter. I did a few listening comparisons on the Aeon and Ether 2 between the DUM cable from the Aeon and the VIVO cable for the Ether 2 and must say I did notice a nice increase in transparency and details going from the DUM to the VIVO, though I don’t know if I would go out of my way to buy the VIVO for the Aeon, I appreciated the upgrade quite a bit more with the Ether 2.

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COMMENTS
Rthomas's picture

Hi Grover,

It's been nearly a year since Tyll retired. Is Keith Howard still working on measurements for Innerfidelity. How much longer before measurements are added to the reviews?

Thanks

Thomas

Grover Neville's picture

Thomas,

I don’t have all the info on this, but its been a difficult process from my understanding. I unfortunately don’t know much more than that. However, I do certainly do some measurements on my own modest rigs, a combination of modded miniDSP EARS rigs and other things. I think of it as part of doing my homework, getting as much info as possible. I do compare the measurements I take personally to other measurements on similar systems and from well known measurers and reviewers as well as my own listening impressions just to contextualize what I’m hearing.
I also have tested my own hearing to get a rough idea of my own FR curve, and use sine sweeps and frequency related ear training tests I have from back in my Conservatory days to try to get as accurate and varied a picture as I can on the headphones response. I know its not as satisfying as real world measurements, but I do try my best to really get a handle on a headphones’s sound before posting a review up!

MattTCG's picture

This article was very well written and informative. I enjoyed reading it.

Grover Neville's picture

Really appreciate it, and its quite a compliment coming from someone as experienced as yourself!

Skycyclepilot's picture

Wonder how these compare to the HifiMan Arya...

Grover Neville's picture

I have not directly compared, but in general the Arya is to my ears a warmer headphone, with a much bugger soundstage and sense of scale. The Ether is focused and precise but doesn’t sound huge generally unless used on a very powerful amp, and still never as big as the Arya. The Arya is a little less smooth, a little more peaky in the treble (some people may like this, if you find the Ether 2 treble a little overdamped) and has a Scale of bass impact that’s really enjoyable. The Arya sounds like a headphone with a larger diaphragm. Not quite as fast, but still quite transparent. Hope that helps.

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