RMAF 2018: ZMF impresses with Verite and Aeolus prototypes


You’ll have to forgive me for not being the savviest picture take this Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, but there was so much to see and do, and most of the pictures I took on my iPhone were either woefully inadequate or unusably blurry – luckily Rafe is an expert photographer and has lots of gorgeous shots for you to pore over in his posts. In any case, on to the booths I saw…

I’ve known Zach Mehrbach, the founder and owner of ZMF for several years now, and he’s quite an interesting guy, having at various times been a professor of film at Columbia, a professional luthier, and now a headphone maker.

Besides his headphones he’s best known for dispensing industry-famous hugs. For those not familiar with ZMF, they make custom wood-based headphones of both the planar and dynamic variety. Zach’s workshop is a small affair in his basement and each headphone is a bespoke, handmade piece and can be customized to users’ sonic and visual preferences. Every ZMF headphone is a unique heirloom.

ZMF Aelous prototype.

ZMF was showing prototypes of their new Verite and Aeolus headphones. The Verite features a new beryllium-coated driver and was stunningly resolving and easily the most linear ZMF headphone I’ve heard to date. The Aeolus was described by Mehrbach as an open-backed Atticus. I was never a huge Atticus fan, favoring the Eikon’s linearity over the Atticus’ coloration, but was hugely surprised by the Aelous. The Lyr 3 Multibit setup with the Aelous was my favorite system at the ZMF table and one of my favorite listening experiences at the show period.

ZMF Verite.

This combination had an irresistible sweetness in the midrange without sounding unbalanced in the top or bottom frequency ranges. Much like goldilocks, this was one of those ‘just right’ headphones at RMAF 2018. I played some of Chris Thile and Yo-Yo Ma’s Goat Rodeo sessions through this setup and the imaging and tonal balance was crystal clear yet full of sweetness and just the right touch of warmth. Mehrbach is a big bluegrass fan, and these cans play that music especially well.

I stopped by this table twice, after hearing that Mehrbach had changed the tuning on the Verite, removing a little front damping. The sound was a lot more open and clear in the treble after the change. Mehrbach mentioned he would probably keep the newer tuning – a great choice in my opinion.

Verite prototype with 3D-printed grilles.

He explained that the finishes of the two new headphones were not quite done yet, as his supplier had not shipped the final grills for the Aeolus and Verite. Mehrbach had substituted some homemade 3D-printed grills in order to have the headphones for Denver, so the final launch product should be much more aesthetically similar to other ZMF headphones when they hit their production stride.

The Verite will be available for preorder on November 16th with the stock wood options starting at $2,500 USD with early orders receiving a $300 USD discount. The Aelous will also be available November 16th starting at $1,000 USD, going up to $1,200 USD after the preorder period.

Check back for more daily updates as we continue our RMAF 2018 coverage.

ZMF Audio

davisman's picture

I did not know about ZMF before this article, and to say I am intrigued is an understatement. I will have to check them out. Cheers.

Pharmaboy's picture

I bought ZMF's Ori 2+ years ago--a complete reimagining of the Fostex T50RP planar headphone. The somewhat warm, bassy sound is extremely musical & ear-friendly. I also own a padauk Eikon, a dynamic design: amazing bass, big mids, high resolution & the best soundstage I've ever heard. I met Zach & Bevin @CanJam NYC. IMO ZMF is a touchstone company in headphone audio: their new designs command attention...