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ZMF Caldera Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 48 27.0%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 84 47.2%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 29 16.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 17 9.6%

  • Total voters
    178

MacClintock

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Did you mean this to come across so condescending or am I misinterpreting? Hopefully it's the latter.
I just pointed out that Zach was claiming that the Caldera with the other pads is matching pretty close the Harman target, but the graphs to supposedly show that are not using the proper Harman target, but some (undefined) mixture. So his point is not corroborated. The headphone is still lacking massively in bass. has too high mids and a suck out at 1.5 kHz.
 

fredristair

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But amidst this auditory anarchy, there's a shining light – Amir. Yes, Amir - aside from him - you are wasting your time on this forum. Even when he's wrong.
 

Benesyed

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2+ months of ownership now and I still prefer stock tuning of these to Stock DCA for most of my listening.

I think the biggest reason are two linked reasons.

Firstly, most of my music listening is electronic music and the bass response on the DCA mixed with the already bass boosted nature of electronic music comes across as very dark and feels like it's lacking resolution (I know it's not obviously but it's the perception).

Second, in general I like a linear bass response even with non EDM music. I think the most jarring example was listening to the Focal Utopia and thinking the bass was pretty good and then seeing the frequency response

The DCA still get use because of the portability (office with laptop + topping G5) but I usually miss my Calderas.
 

MacClintock

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2+ months of ownership now and I still prefer stock tuning of these to Stock DCA for most of my listening.

I think the biggest reason are two linked reasons.

Firstly, most of my music listening is electronic music and the bass response on the DCA mixed with the already bass boosted nature of electronic music comes across as very dark and feels like it's lacking resolution (I know it's not obviously but it's the perception).

Second, in general I like a linear bass response even with non EDM music. I think the most jarring example was listening to the Focal Utopia and thinking the bass was pretty good and then seeing the frequency response

The DCA still get use because of the portability (office with laptop + topping G5) but I usually miss my Calderas.
I don't know what you mean by "bass boosted" regarding electronic music, but there is quite some bass heavy electronic music around and when I listen to such a piece and I like it, I want to hear the bass content, which will hardly be possible with the Caldera and stock tuning. A clear pass for me and in fact it should be for any audiophile.
 

Benesyed

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I don't know what you mean by "bass boosted" regarding electronic music, but there is quite some bass heavy electronic music around and when I listen to such a piece and I like it, I want to hear the bass content, which will hardly be possible with the Caldera and stock tuning. A clear pass for me and in fact it should be for any audiophile.

Not sure what to tell you!

Bass boosted in the sense that many techno and prog house DJs mix with headphones that are flat or even downslope in the bass response (DT880s). So a linear response may be relatively bass boosted compared to the mix and a bass boosted response maybe much more than intended. That's all I meant.

I get all the bass I need from the Caldera. HK research does suggest that about 25% of people like HK but with less bass. Maybe this is where we differ?

As far as being an audiophile, it's kind of a pointless/marketing word
 
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OP
amirm

amirm

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solderdude

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Would love to see the review some day...
If only days were much longer :)
 

gabo4au

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I am very late to this thread, and it's a good thing as I don't really have a stake or opinion in any of this.

However, I did want to give a bit of insight on one thing that came up quite a bit in this thread.

The subject of standards in the recording/mastering side of producing music.

I am a musician, and studio engineer, and acoustics engineer and have spent a lifetime in and around studios. For many years there certainly was no standard way of producing and mastering audio. As you know, recordings are all over the map when it comes to balance of frequencies, especially bass.

However, in recent years, that has and continues to change. It's not so much that a published "standard" like the Harman curve exists, it's more like a move to a defacto standard based on a few things that are pretty consistent and based on similar methods to Harman.

What's happening is two fold. First, studio engineers are relying more and more on visual tools when mixing and mastering. The visual tools all show the balance of frequencies and there is a pretty consistent approach as to what is "good." Many products even show a "standard" curve to match your mix to, albeit a bit different depending on the genre of music.

The other piece that is also doing a similar thing is "automated mastering." There are many places now that offer what amounts to AI mastering, Landr bein the first big one, but now there are many more. Likewise, most of the mastering suites that are being used in DAWs also have a way of analyzing and coming up with a master. In that world, all of these things are taken as a
starting point for your mastering and not necessarily the final product.

However, Like all these things, they started out pretty bad. You would submit your material and then spend a lot of time tweaking it to be what you wanted as an engineer or producer. But as time has progressed, these tools are getting very good. To the point that many times what the software spits out is very difficult to improve upon, even among the best of mastering engineers.

I know a number of mastering engineers who have moved solely to ATMOS mixing and mastering, saying there is no way they can compete with the new tools that do it automatically.

This is moving the industry more and more toward an accepted "curve" for most music. Which as an artists, I'm all in favor of. I've known too many great songs by great musicians that never saw the light of day because the mix or the mastering was poorly done. I want to get past that and enjoy the great music.
 

ReaderZ

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I am very late to this thread, and it's a good thing as I don't really have a stake or opinion in any of this.

However, I did want to give a bit of insight on one thing that came up quite a bit in this thread.

The subject of standards in the recording/mastering side of producing music.

I am a musician, and studio engineer, and acoustics engineer and have spent a lifetime in and around studios. For many years there certainly was no standard way of producing and mastering audio. As you know, recordings are all over the map when it comes to balance of frequencies, especially bass.

However, in recent years, that has and continues to change. It's not so much that a published "standard" like the Harman curve exists, it's more like a move to a defacto standard based on a few things that are pretty consistent and based on similar methods to Harman.

What's happening is two fold. First, studio engineers are relying more and more on visual tools when mixing and mastering. The visual tools all show the balance of frequencies and there is a pretty consistent approach as to what is "good." Many products even show a "standard" curve to match your mix to, albeit a bit different depending on the genre of music.

The other piece that is also doing a similar thing is "automated mastering." There are many places now that offer what amounts to AI mastering, Landr bein the first big one, but now there are many more. Likewise, most of the mastering suites that are being used in DAWs also have a way of analyzing and coming up with a master. In that world, all of these things are taken as a
starting point for your mastering and not necessarily the final product.

However, Like all these things, they started out pretty bad. You would submit your material and then spend a lot of time tweaking it to be what you wanted as an engineer or producer. But as time has progressed, these tools are getting very good. To the point that many times what the software spits out is very difficult to improve upon, even among the best of mastering engineers.

I know a number of mastering engineers who have moved solely to ATMOS mixing and mastering, saying there is no way they can compete with the new tools that do it automatically.

This is moving the industry more and more toward an accepted "curve" for most music. Which as an artists, I'm all in favor of. I've known too many great songs by great musicians that never saw the light of day because the mix or the mastering was poorly done. I want to get past that and enjoy the great music.
Isn't the standard still speakers and there is a far better understood and universally agreed response a studio monitors should have compared to headphones?
 

gabo4au

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Isn't the standard still speakers and there is a far better understood and universally agreed response a studio monitors should have compared to headphones?

Absolutely! There was just a lot of conversation in this thread about standards for headphones and the subject of "there are no standards from the recording/studio side of things" came up quite a bit.

All studios use monitors as the primary mixing method. But most of them also check things on a variety of headphones, especially these days as that's how music is so often consumed.
 

DenverW

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Dec 11, 2023
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2+ months of ownership now and I still prefer stock tuning of these to Stock DCA for most of my listening.

I think the biggest reason are two linked reasons.

Firstly, most of my music listening is electronic music and the bass response on the DCA mixed with the already bass boosted nature of electronic music comes across as very dark and feels like it's lacking resolution (I know it's not obviously but it's the perception).

Second, in general I like a linear bass response even with non EDM music. I think the most jarring example was listening to the Focal Utopia and thinking the bass was pretty good and then seeing the frequency response

The DCA still get use because of the portability (office with laptop + topping G5) but I usually miss my Calderas.
Which DCA?
 

Music1969

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This new article takes shots at @amirm and quotes him, in particular comments in this headphones review

 

Benesyed

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I don't think there will ever be one universal headphone FRC but it would be nice for many people to have a cheaper version of the E3. Even if the ASR curve is not my ideal the data suggests for many people it is and an accessible version of that would be great.
 

Mr Swing King

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I don't think there will ever be one universal headphone FRC but it would be nice for many people to have a cheaper version of the E3. Even if the ASR curve is not my ideal the data suggests for many people it is and an accessible version of that would be great.
There exists a “cheaper E3”. It’s called the AKG K371:p
I’m half-kidding of course, but if one is interested in trying out the Harman Target but at the same isn’t exactly ready to throw a bunch of money at the E3, the AKG is a great hors d’euvre. If you love/hate the sound signature of the K371 chances are the E3 will follow suit (unless you are like my buddy who prefers the AKG and the air/sparkle that it has vs the more linear sounding DCA).
 

gabo4au

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This new article takes shots at @amirm and quotes him, in particular comments in this headphones review


Haha, fun read. But it seems to me to be a long winded article that basically says "trust what I tell you more than any measurements" which is what audiophile reviewers, particularly high end reviewers, have been selling for many years. These people make a living selling snake oil, they are so predictable. They look at the "price" of a component, and maybe included in the price is some $$ for the reviewer, and they automatically rate the high cost items as "good" and the low cost items as "bad."

For years I enjoyed reading "The Absolute Sound." Mostly for the entertainment of reading a bunch of fiction from a bunch of pompous reviewers going on about components that cost in the 100's of thousands of dollars. Some of them who couldn't pick out a 3rd, 5th, or even an octave difference in two notes.

Basing the quality of a component based on one single person's listening review will not ever in my mind be better than an objective measurement.

Even if the Harman curve is not what you like, comparing a component to something concrete gives you some valuable information. Much better than just one persons "opinion" especially when that person makes a living off of playing nice with the manufacturers.

Amir - Keep doing what you're doing!! NEVER GIVE IN!!


Disclaimer - I still read The Absolute Sound and there are some great reviews there. What I stated above is a generalization of a few articles over the years. It's a very entertaining and sometimes insightful rag. Worthwhile as another voice, but not the definitive answer. There is no definitive answer, you have to take it all in and make your own choices.
 
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DenverW

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This new article takes shots at @amirm and quotes him, in particular comments in this headphones review

That's a very well written article, thank you for sharing.
 
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