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ZMF Caldera Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 48 27.6%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 84 48.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 29 16.7%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 13 7.5%

  • Total voters
    174

solderdude

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Yep it is a hobby to most. For professionals headphones usually are a tool.

Whether or not one buys a $ 3.5k headphone is usually defined by the available cash to spend on a hobby though. It is a luxury if people can afford to splurge that amount of money on a headphone that does not perform much better (but differently) than (much) cheaper headphones but gives pride of ownership, loves the wood work and quality (feel) or just loves what Zack creates.

The analogy I was going for is that you don't always play chess with the ambition to play the most accurate game. You play to win, but it is fun to play different and less optimal openings from time to time.

You can play to win on any set, that won't determine the opening move.
You can listen to any headphone but its price and looks does not determine what music you play/like.
 
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Mulder

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Yep it is a hobby to most. For professionals headphones usually are a tool.

Whether or not one buys a $ 3.5k headphone is usually defined by the available cash to spend on a hobby though. It is a luxury if people can afford to splurge that amount of money on a headphone that does not perform much better (but differently) than (much) cheaper headphones but gives pride of ownership, loves the wood work and quality (feel) or just loves what Zack creates.



You can play to win on any set, that won't determine the opening move.
You can listen to any headphone but its price and looks does not determine what music you play/like.
One can extend the argument and claim that HiFi is a luxury item in general, and that the so-called High End HiFi in recent decades has increasingly become a fashion and luxury industry. So far it can be said that fashion and luxury is worth what people think it is worth. The problem as I see it is that the majority of consumers believe that price and sound quality go hand in hand, i.e. that expensive equipment is almost by definition better and that sound quality is a matter of preference and taste. Or put differently. Anyone who buys a very expensive watch does not imagine that it is better at telling the time. The consumer realizes that it is a piece of jewelry and a status symbol. That awareness does not exist in the same way in the HiFi market.
 
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Does a post exact talking about your target and how it was arrived upon? Would be really interested to read that.
 

solderdude

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Does a post exact talking about your target and how it was arrived upon? Would be really interested to read that.

See this post and this post

The target is the Harman target for GRAS 45CA-10 fixture with KB5010 pinnae.
Amir's EQ is done by eyeballing the needed correction followed by a listening session to refine that EQ.
So the EQ is based on Harman target measurement + Amir's EQ

The EQ is not generated by a program.
 
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next2nothing

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My EQ is developed in the context of complying with research produced target curve. As such it is not "my" preference although I do tweak things some. That research says that most listeners like more bass than this headphone has
Which research are you exactly refering to? If its the notorious Harman curve, well Harman curve was "just" another trend in the attempt to objectify good sound. And with the recent paradigm shift, Harman curve is not something many professionals are trying to achieve anymore with their tuning. Its restrictive and NOT what most people want to hear, which is proven empyrically by overwhelming success of comapnies like ZMF. Sound is and always will be a preference and people vote with their wallet. We are not talking about Beats buyers here, but customers that are ready to spend and have expirience with various different hi-fi gear including headphones that are tuned very closely to the Harmon curve. Preferences shift, new tuning ideas emerge. That what makes this hobby fun and keeps it alive. about Caldera. The Harmon target never wasnt supposed to be used to be a "if headphone isnt on the target it is a tuning failure."

As I noted in the review, my speakers in a real room produce far more bass than this headphone does. I also have headphones that comply with the research target and they too produce far more bass, matching (and even exceeding) what my speakers produce.

The 400 usd speakers in my room have more bass than this headphone too, my Philipps Fidelio X2 probably has more bass. This bass is plenty but far less defined and textured. Caldera is no slutch in bass, but if I aim for super bass heavy expirience where I can space out to some bass heavy edm or stoner or doom metal I grab my Abyss 1266 or an Atrium Closed. Someone expierienced like you probably konows that Hi-Fi game is a game of trade-offs, highly increased bass will mitigate something else the listener might be craving for. (which basically happens with the EQ you proposed).

Note that since we have no control over how music is produced as far as tonality, you have to be careful in assessing fidelity and expecting it to translate to others/other situations. I too have music that can sound bloated with bass with this target. But across some 300 reference/tests tracks I have, almost all sound better with this level of bass.

Of course. I too have a library with hundreds of reference tracks from very different genres, tested Caldera with over 100 reference tracks and your EQ yesterday for hours. The result was always the same - the headphone sounds completly off, sometimes some issues are less present sometimes more, but I certainly would have sold this headphone long time ago, if it came with this tuning.

Now here is the big thing: adaptation. If you have been listening to this headphone for a while, your ear/brain have adapted so its tonality will seem right to you and anything else wrong. This is why many people like even broken speakers/headphones. They adapt (and hence the myth about "break-in," you break in, not the device). My adaptation is in reverse: having heard so many neutral speakers and using the same for headphones hours a day, the Caldera sounds lifeless and anything but "hi-fi."
Some call it brain burn-in, habituation or just personal taste. You are used to a certian sound signature that you see as objectivly correct, you back up your taste with messurements, which is fine and sometimemes important to define this preference, but it still remains a preference. I experience this with most new audio purchases or demo units. Something often sounds slightly off, I give my brain some time to adjust and if after some time. If I still dont like I either do some EQ adjustments, if it still doesnt work this gear is not for me - but its not objectivly bad.
Still I think probalby anyone with somewhat trained ear and expirience with hi-fi gear can hear, is glare, bleeding bass, low detail, smeared seperation, collapsed soundstage, treblespikes and such. None of such are present with Caldera stock tuning, which you disliked. Unfortunately much of those characteristics are present with your EQ attempt of a headphone that was physically designed around a specific tuning which the maker was trying to achieve.

Finally, the overall balance of bass to treble is subjective and i have no issues with others having a different preference. I dial in some amount quickly in my bass filter and go about my business. Depending on what you listen to, you are more than welcome to adjust. But not to the point of saying stock response is correct. It is very incorrect.

Subjectivly the stock tuning is pretty much ideal. I usually slightly increase the sub bass and switch to Caldera Suede pads to have more forward high mids with slightly more detail. OR I go with stock tuning and Caldera thick pads for more spacuious bass heavy sound, depending on the mood, sometimes i apply very some small EQ adjustments in some tracks, depending on my mood. The stock tuning is absolutely unique on this headphone creating an illusion of organic dynamic driver sound with the speed and detail of a high end plannar. There is exactly the right amount of bass and treble to my ear, the headphone has a lot of energy without becoming fatiguing, with more bass I likely wouldnt be able to listen to it for many hours as I do. Saying it doesnt sound "hi-fi" with stock tuning is totally valid as your personal opinion, but weird when it comes presenting something as an objective fact. I doubt ZMF is bribing all the rather respectable reviewers speak highly of this design and its all marketing and bandwagon of crazy folks with disposable income that like wood and simp for the nice CEO.

I find it bit bewildering how adamant you are in your very subjective conclusion that you try to present as objective truth based on a preference target curve you try to achieve which is "what people want". To me its a justification of subjective taste with some magical thinking backed by some well messured graphs. And while I value your messurement work, messurements are just that - messurements. There is no objective consensus what a "good" headphone measurement is - Harmon is highly debated and based on subjective consensus of just another group of people.
Messurements cant capture the sound entirely the size of the stage, the natural body and decay of instruments, the texture of the bass and the illusion of holography. Not to mention harmonics and resulting quality of timbre which, at least, for me, is the most important foundation of sound. Measurement is still very important, just over-relied by on and overstated as a primary reliable data point to heavily weigh decisions upon by some.

Honestly what I find difficult, is that people who read your review will come away with the conclusion that there is some kind of objective "right" and "wrong" how should they perceive sound and Zach is a nice guy that makes great looking headphones but doesn’t know what he’s doing when it comes to tuning. Considering we are talking about an audio enthusiast that is in this community for over decades, obsessing about tiniest details, who spent 5 years with this particular driver design and tuning, your statements feel off. Especially considering the subjectivly horrendous tuning you proposed as "medicine that makes this headphone excellent" where the tonality and soundscape simply fall apart with treble spikes, glare and bleeding bass. Sorry Amir with all due respect from a years long reader - this review makes me question many other reads I relied upon over the years.

Luckily at every CanJam people get to hear for themselves.
 
Last edited:
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See this post and this post

The target is the Harman target for GRAS 45CA-10 fixture with KB5010 pinnae.
Amir's EQ is done by eyeballing the needed correction followed by a listening session to refine that EQ.
So the EQ is based on Harman target measurement + Amir's EQ

The EQ is not generated by a program.
You rock man thanks a ton!
 

L0rdGwyn

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Which research are you exactly refering to? If its the notorious Harman curve, well Harman curve was "just" another trend in the attempt to objectify good sound. And with the recent paradigm shift, Harman curve is not something many professionals are trying to achieve anymore with their tuning. Its restrictive and NOT what most people want to hear, which is proven empyrically by overwhelming success of comapnies like ZMF. Sound is and always will be a preference and people vote with their wallet. We are not talking about Beats buyers here, but customers that are ready to spend and have expirience with various different hi-fi gear including headphones that are tuned very closely to the Harmon curve. Preferences shift, new tuning ideas emerge. That what makes this hobby fun and keeps it alive. about Caldera. The Harmon target never wasnt supposed to be used to be a "if headphone isnt on the target it is a tuning failure."



The 400 usd speakers in my room have more bass than this headphone too, my Philipps Fidelio X2 probably has more bass. This bass is plenty but far less defined and textured. Caldera is no slutch in bass, but if I aim for super bass heavy expirience where I can space out to some bass heavy edm or stoner or doom metal I grab my Abyss 1266 or an Atrium Closed. Someone expierienced like you probably konows that Hi-Fi game is a game of trade-offs, highly increased bass will mitigate something else the listener might be craving for. (which basically happens with the EQ you proposed).



Of course. I too have a library with hundreds of reference tracks from very different genres, tested Caldera with over 100 reference tracks and your EQ yesterday for hours. The result was always the same - the headphone sounds completly off, sometimes some issues are less present sometimes more, but I certainly would have sold this headphone long time ago, if it came with this tuning.


Some call it brain burn-in, habituation or just personal taste. You are used to a certian sound signature that you see as objectivly correct, you back up your taste with messurements, which is fine and sometimemes important to define this preference, but it still remains a preference. I experience this with most new audio purchases or demo units. Something often sounds slightly off, I give my brain some time to adjust and if after some time. If I still dont like I either do some EQ adjustments, if it still doesnt work this gear is not for me - but its not objectivly bad.
Still I think probalby anyone with somewhat trained ear and expirience with hi-fi gear can hear, is glare, bleeding bass, low detail, smeared seperation, collapsed soundstage, treblespikes and such. None of such are present with Caldera stock tuning, which you disliked. Unfortunately much of those characteristics are present with your EQ attempt of a headphone that was physically designed around a specific tuning which the maker was trying to achieve.



Subjectivly the stock tuning is pretty much ideal. I usually slightly increase the sub bass and switch to Caldera Suede pads to have more forward high mids with slightly more detail. OR I go with stock tuning and Caldera thick pads for more spacuious bass heavy sound, depending on the mood, sometimes i apply very some small EQ adjustments in some tracks, depending on my mood. The stock tuning is absolutely unique on this headphone creating an illusion of organic dynamic driver sound with the speed and detail of a high end plannar. There is exactly the right amount of bass and treble to my ear, the headphone has a lot of energy without becoming fatiguing, with more bass I likely wouldnt be able to listen to it for many hours as I do. Saying it doesnt sound "hi-fi" with stock tuning is totally valid as your personal opinion, but weird when it comes presenting something as an objective fact. I doubt ZMF is bribing all the rather respectable reviewers speak highly of this design and its all marketing and bandwagon of crazy folks with disposable income that like wood and simp for the nice CEO.

I find it bit bewildering how adamant you are in your very subjective conclusion that you try to present as objective truth based on a preference target curve you try to achieve which is "what people want". To me its a justification of subjective taste with some magical thinking backed by some well messured graphs. And while I value your messurement work, messurements are just that - messurements. There is no objective consensus what a "good" headphone measurement is - Harmon is highly debated and based on subjective consensus of just another group of people.
Messurements cant capture the sound entirely the size of the stage, the natural body and decay of instruments, the texture of the bass and the illusion of holography. Not to mention harmonics and resulting quality of timbre which, at least, for me, is the most important foundation of sound. Measurement is still very important, just over-relied by on and overstated as a primary reliable data point to heavily weigh decisions upon by some.

Honestly what I find difficult, is that people who read your review will come away with the conclusion that there is some kind of objective "right" and "wrong" how should they perceive sound and Zach is a nice guy that makes great looking headphones but doesn’t know what he’s doing when it comes to tuning. Considering we are talking about an audio enthusiast that is in this community for over decades, obsessing about tiniest details, who spent 5 years with this particular driver design and tuning, your statements feel off. Especially considering the subjectivly horrendous tuning you proposed as "medicine that makes this headphone excellent" where the tonality and soundscape simply fall apart with treble spikes, glare and bleeding bass. Sorry Amir with all due respect from a years long reader - this review makes me question many other reads I relied upon over the years.

Luckily at every CanJam people get to hear for themselves.

Don't even bother dude, this type of argument has been attempted numerous times without success, it goes against the ethos of the forum and as such holds no water here. The sooner you can tune out the objectivist and subjectivist extremists, the sooner you can put the petty arguments aside and enjoy the music. I'm actually visiting Zach this weekend to deliver an amplifier, looking forward to his thoughts on this review, I'm sure he'll start targeting the Harmon curve with every release going forward ;)
 

next2nothing

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Don't even bother dude, this type of argument has been attempted numerous times without success, it goes against the ethos of the forum and as such holds no water here. The sooner you can tune out the objectivist and subjectivist extremists, the sooner you can put the petty arguments aside and enjoy the music. I'm actually visiting Zach this weekend to deliver an amplifier, looking forward to his thoughts on this review, I'm sure he'll start targeting the Harmon curve with every release going forward ;)
Something tells me Zach will politely smile without giving much comment to this.. Regarding future releases, well his releases are going forward for past 10 years not without disregard for harman target which is used as a step during the tuning process according to himself. I doubt you will ever see purely harmon curve tuned ZMF especially since, ZMF is one of the studios that is responsible for paradigm shift from Harman target to less "conservatively" tuned gear.
Regarding ethos, I am big fan of discussion instead of following a dogma. But yeah just my two cents, not my board. I am fine with leaving it like it is, different strokes for different folks, I doubt most of Amirs followers are interested in 3.5k headphones anyway.
The response on head-fi to this Amirs experience with Caldera is worthwhile read still. Plenty more feedback by owners than here.
 
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L0rdGwyn

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Something tells me Zach will politely smile without giving much comment to this. Regarding future releases, well his releases are going forward for past 10 years not without disregard for harman target which is used as a step during the tuning process according to himself. I doubt you will ever see harmon curve tuned ZMF especially since, ZMF is one of the studios that is responsible for paradigm shift from Harman target to less "conservatively" tuned gear. Regarding ethos, I am big fan of discussion instead of following a dogma. But yeah just my two cents, I am fine with leaving it like it is, different strokes for different folks, I doubt most of Amirs followers are interested in 3.5k headphones anyway. The response on head-fi to this Amirs experience with Caldera is worthwhile read still. Plenty more genuin feedback by owners than here.

Yes, I was being facetious, however I think the upcoming ZMF Bokeh has been described as Harmon-ish, but with more midbass. Of course ZMF headphones are beautiful, but what I think makes Zach's work interesting is his curating a product line utilizing various driver materials and a focus on the timbre of a headphone, which is not captured by any measurement. Biocellulose (e.g., Atrium, Eikon, Auteur), Beryllium-coated PEN (e.g., Verite), proprietary planar magnetic (e.g., Caldera), TPE (e.g., Atticus, Aeolus), LCP (e.g., Bokeh), not to mention each new driver release eventually comes in both an open and closed variant. Of course all of these headphones have differing frequency characteristics, distortion figures, etc., but beyond that the character of the music for each headphone is distinctly different, which is why those who buy ZMF often own multiple headphones from their line. Zach's approach leaves you spoiled for choice, and he doesn't fall into the trap of designing around a specific suite of measurements. And he listens to what he makes as well. Having ears on your head rather than BNC connectors is of equal import as a design tool.
 

zach915m

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Note that reliability of our measurement rig dies off by 8 kHz.
@amirm - If you are going to be continuing to run this forum responsibly, you really need to get the rig that most/many us manufacturers are using which is the 5128 from B/K. It will accurately give you results above 8K and more properly show the rest. I know the 711 coupler is great since it will reflect the Harman research, but the industry is moving past that as the 711 coupler is dated at this point. Maybe you can develop some findings with your own research more based on what your personal HRTF is as we all have large variances in certain areas.

Further - and as any ZMF owner will tell you, there's 6 sets of different pads for the Caldera, and a titanium mesh for the front that helps tune the headphone to your preferences/HRTF and without testing all of that the way an actual owner is and finding what works best for your own personal HRTF BEFORE doing EQ you are also doing a dis-service to anyone who reads this by stating "facts" without utilizing the headphone in it's designed sonic modular fashion. For example there's three different depths of Caldera pads, all which adjust the distance of the driver to the ear to account for different anatomies, as well as a fully perforated pad that more follows harman.

Please be more responsible and use the headphone the way an owner would, so you can provide accurate information since you have so many followers.

-----------

@solderdude and everyone else who has commented on the tuning of ZMF's. I work with, and know most manufacturers, and have talked at length with all of them about the Harman curve and ofcourse read all the research and as you know designed and tuned many headphones. And for anyone who does this laborious practice of spending years at a time tuning a single headphone, you try many things. I use and own flat panel, DIY, 711 coupled Larson Davis AEC206, and two 5128's from B/K. I measure every headphone and driver I design in various stages and always tune much closer to harman just to try what each headphone will sound like, as I do want to test and utilize the great research that Sean Olive has done because I am not a denier of it and find it useful.

But what Sean Olive will tell you, as any other responsible headphone MFR that actually makes headphones, that the harman curve was meant as a starting point not as a defined endpoint that all headphones need to meet to be enjoyable.

Each system, driver/cups etc has many innate qualities of airflow that are measured in other ways, some that are worth exploring via measurements and some that are experienced more subjectively that are the culmination of many measurements like THD, FR, impulse, CSD, bursts etc. Further, open vs closed full sized headphones vary quite differently in how we each experience them when tuned the same. I know this because when I'm working on the closed version (and vice-versa) of each of our open headphones I tune them to match, and also tune them to harman and then EQ them to harman, and every single time the closed version or open version tuned like the other sound way different. There's just so much more that goes into how we experience sound aside from FR.

I'm pretty sure there's many of you on this forum who enjoy a headphone that isn't tuned exactly to @amirm 's cult of Harman tuning, but are afraid to speak up because of the insane groupthink that happens here. I'm here to tell you that it's OK, because all of us on the side of things that are actually making headphones, know that there are many variations, including liking the Harman curve that can be enjoyable for many different reasons. I implore you to like what you like and stand up for yourself, because there's a reason you like what you like, and you're not alone!!!!

Many people seem to think our headphones are just me sitting in a basement tuning the headphones and making sure they look some special woody way, this is just not true. I do tons of acoustic research and testing on each headphone and they are tuned in very specific ways based on the driver and platform (open/closed/semi-open) that they exist within. I follow advice, thoughts and measurements from many sources before they are released and you'll find that none-of our headphones have .1 // .2 // .3 versions after they are released. If you don't like them because they are not tuned to harman that is totally awesome and cool! But I would implore more of you to actually listen to the Caldera before posting here, and do more work to find what your actual HRTF is because that's what my headphone designing is all about, making a platform that is semi-modular within the pads and damping mesh where a gamut of owners can end up with something they really like.

BONUS COMMENT: If you want a ZMF that is tuned to closer harman, the Atrium Closed with suede pads is quite close. I don't particularly love the way it sounds due to my HRTF, I like the lambskin version that has quite a bit more mid-bass and is below harman in the 4-6 khz area.

BONUS II: If you want a Caldera that conforms closest to harman, use the ultra perf pads, gently EQ to the curve in the area (less has to be done) and then EQ the bass up as the ultra perf will cause a roll-off below 70 HZ. I know about 2 out of hundreds of owners who prefer this, but if that's what you're into, it's the easiest way to get there.
 
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Robbo99999

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My thoughts on the headphone, just not worth it, nearly gave it rock bottom marks due to pricing! The only real positive is the low distortion. Not the most EQ'able frequency response in the world either.
 

solderdude

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Further - and as any ZMF owner will tell you, there's 6 sets of different pads for the Caldera, and a titanium mesh for the front that helps tune the headphone to your preferences/HRTF and without testing all of that the way an actual owner is and finding what works best for your own personal HRTF BEFORE doing EQ you are also doing a dis-service to anyone who reads this by stating "facts" without utilizing the headphone in it's designed sonic modular fashion. For example there's three different depths of Caldera pads, all which adjust the distance of the driver to the ear to account for different anatomies, as well as a fully perforated pad that more follows harman.
The problem here could well be that the owner who sent it in for measurements did so just with the pads he liked.
I don't know if the owner included all different pads anyway.
Besides that not many reviewers go through the trouble of rolling all the available (and even after market pads).

I measure every headphone and driver I design in various stages and always tune much closer to harman just to try what each headphone will sound like, as I do want to test and utilize the great research that Sean Olive has done because I am not a denier of it and find it useful.
Who builds the planar driver ?

But what Sean Olive will tell you, as any other responsible headphone MFR that actually makes headphones, that the harman curve was meant as a starting point not as a defined endpoint that all headphones need to meet to be enjoyable.
I even made a wisdom tile for this

index.php

And yes I agree that it is merely a target. None the less it seems to satisfy the majority of listeners. This leaves out a minority to which I clearly belong.


I'm pretty sure there's many of you on this forum who enjoy a headphone that isn't tuned exactly to @amirm 's cult of Harman tuning, but are afraid to speak up because of the insane groupthink that happens here.
I am not and there are others that dare to speak up. There are only a handful of people here that are extremely rigid in their thinking and believe the curve must be followed exactly otherwise it can't sound good.

Amir chose the Harman curve and 45CA because it is a standard and well researched. He tried the 5128 before he bought the 45CA but the 5128 has some issues.

I'm here to tell you that it's OK, because all of us on the side of things that are actually making headphones, know that there are many variations, including liking the Harman curve that can be enjoyable for many different reasons. I implore you to like what you like and stand up for yourself, because there's a reason you like what you like, and you're not alone!!!!
Many people here actually like Harman. I guess they belong to the majority who does.

Many people seem to think our headphones are just me sitting in a basement tuning the headphones and making sure they look some special woody way, this is just not true.
My bad...

I do tons of acoustic research and testing on each headphone and they are tuned in very specific ways based on the driver and platform (open/closed/semi-open) that they exist within. I follow advice, thoughts and measurements from many sources before they are released and you'll find that none-of our headphones have .1 // .2 // .3 versions after they are released. If you don't like them because they are not tuned to harman that is totally awesome and cool! But I would implore more of you to actually listen to the Caldera before posting here, and do more work to find what your actual HRTF is because that's what my headphone designing is all about, making a platform that is semi-modular within the pads and damping mesh where a gamut of owners can end up with something they really like.
Not everyone can afford a luxury product like this (or other) ZMF models nor have an opportunity to listen to them.
The same goes for every other > $ 500.- headphone.

BONUS COMMENT: If you want a ZMF that is tuned to closer harman, the Atrium Closed with suede pads is quite close. I don't particularly love the way it sounds due to my HRTF, I like the lambskin version that has quite a bit more mid-bass and is below harman in the 4-6 khz area.

BONUS II: If you want a Caldera that conforms closest to harman, use the ultra perf pads, gently EQ to the curve in the area (less has to be done) and then EQ the bass up as the ultra perf will cause a roll-off below 70 HZ. I know about 2 out of hundreds of owners who prefer this, but if that's what you're into, it's the easiest way to get there.

Nothing as personal as taste and a headphone.
 
Last edited:

cheapmessiah

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@amirm - If you are going to be continuing to ruin this forum responsibly, you really need to get the rig that most/many us manufacturers are using which is the 5128 from B/K. It will accurately give you results above 8K and more properly show the rest. I know the 711 coupler is great since it will reflect the Harman research, but the industry is moving past that as the 711 coupler is dated at this point. Maybe you can develop some findings with your own research more based on what your personal HRTF is as we all have large variances in certain areas.

Further - and as any ZMF owner will tell you, there's 6 sets of different pads for the Caldera, and a titanium mesh for the front that helps tune the headphone to your preferences/HRTF and without testing all of that the way an actual owner is and finding what works best for your own personal HRTF BEFORE doing EQ you are also doing a dis-service to anyone who reads this by stating "facts" without utilizing the headphone in it's designed sonic modular fashion. For example there's three different depths of Caldera pads, all which adjust the distance of the driver to the ear to account for different anatomies, as well as a fully perforated pad that more follows harman.

Please be more responsible and use the headphone the way an owner would, so you can provide accurate information since you have so many followers.

-----------

@solderdude and everyone else who has commented on the tuning of ZMF's. I work with, and know most manufacturers, and have talked at length with all of them about the Harman curve and ofcourse read all the research and as you know designed and tuned many headphones. And for anyone who does this laborious practice of spending years at a time tuning a single headphone, you try many things. I use and own flat panel, DIY, 711 coupled Larson Davis AEC206, and two 5128's from B/K. I measure every headphone and driver I design in various stages and always tune much closer to harman just to try what each headphone will sound like, as I do want to test and utilize the great research that Sean Olive has done because I am not a denier of it and find it useful.

But what Sean Olive will tell you, as any other responsible headphone MFR that actually makes headphones, that the harman curve was meant as a starting point not as a defined endpoint that all headphones need to meet to be enjoyable.

Each system, driver/cups etc has many innate qualities of airflow that are measured in other ways, some that are worth exploring via measurements and some that are experienced more subjectively that are the culmination of many measurements like THD, FR, impulse, CSD, bursts etc. Further, open vs closed full sized headphones vary quite differently in how we each experience them when tuned the same. I know this because when I'm working on the closed version (and vice-versa) of each of our open headphones I tune them to match, and also tune them to harman and then EQ them to harman, and every single time the closed version or open version tuned like the other sound way different. There's just so much more that goes into how we experience sound aside from FR.

I'm pretty sure there's many of you on this forum who enjoy a headphone that isn't tuned exactly to @amirm 's cult of Harman tuning, but are afraid to speak up because of the insane groupthink that happens here. I'm here to tell you that it's OK, because all of us on the side of things that are actually making headphones, know that there are many variations, including liking the Harman curve that can be enjoyable for many different reasons. I implore you to like what you like and stand up for yourself, because there's a reason you like what you like, and you're not alone!!!!

Many people seem to think our headphones are just me sitting in a basement tuning the headphones and making sure they look some special woody way, this is just not true. I do tons of acoustic research and testing on each headphone and they are tuned in very specific ways based on the driver and platform (open/closed/semi-open) that they exist within. I follow advice, thoughts and measurements from many sources before they are released and you'll find that none-of our headphones have .1 // .2 // .3 versions after they are released. If you don't like them because they are not tuned to harman that is totally awesome and cool! But I would implore more of you to actually listen to the Caldera before posting here, and do more work to find what your actual HRTF is because that's what my headphone designing is all about, making a platform that is semi-modular within the pads and damping mesh where a gamut of owners can end up with something they really like.

BONUS COMMENT: If you want a ZMF that is tuned to closer harman, the Atrium Closed with suede pads is quite close. I don't particularly love the way it sounds due to my HRTF, I like the lambskin version that has quite a bit more mid-bass and is below harman in the 4-6 khz area.

BONUS II: If you want a Caldera that conforms closest to harman, use the ultra perf pads, gently EQ to the curve in the area (less has to be done) and then EQ the bass up as the ultra perf will cause a roll-off below 70 HZ. I know about 2 out of hundreds of owners who prefer this, but if that's what you're into, it's the easiest way to get there.


I respect your ethos and agency over your product's design, but you are mistaken if you think that people here dont "rebel" against Amir or the harman curve because of fear. More people than not like the harman target, the asian IEM craze with its insane number of units sold also back it up. A harman tunned headphone/earphone will always sound good, as a base line, and deviating from the target in search of a subjective tunning would go against the "Science" part of audio science review, theres nothing wrong about doing so as a personal endeavor tho.

Lets not forget that thanks to people like Amir, oratory1990 and crinacle, to name a few, thanks to the use of the harman target as a tool, and the existence of manufactures who understand the use of such tool, this hobby has become popular, accesible, and people dont have to deal with the crapshow that were forums and audio cults before this trend emerged, so now when they need a product that sounds good, they get recomended a product that sounds good on the basis of research and data, and they are not forced to gamble on the ramblings of a random dude locked in a basement with a wall of headphones which sound signature he cant even descrive properly because he doesnt even understand the meaning of the words he is uttering, nor the difference between frequency response and time domain.

Having said that, as an engineer and designer, I've always found your products to be designed with a high degree of love for the work you are doing, and I feel that most people here arent haters, nor negacionists to openmindedness, we simply arent the target audience of your product.
 

Soria Moria

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But what Sean Olive will tell you, as any other responsible headphone MFR that actually makes headphones, that the harman curve was meant as a starting point not as a defined endpoint that all headphones need to meet to be enjoyable.
If it's a good starting point then why not try designing a headphone based on it? Must be the best starting point we have in the world right now so why not. Just curious.
 

MacClintock

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Which research are you exactly refering to? If its the notorious Harman curve, well Harman curve was "just" another trend in the attempt to objectify good sound. And with the recent paradigm shift, Harman curve is not something many professionals are trying to achieve anymore with their tuning.
What are you talking about? What professionals? What paradigm shift? There is simply nothing there to replace the Harman results and oddly tuned headphones like the Caldera for sure won't do either.
 

zach915m

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A harman tunned headphone/earphone will always sound good, as a base line, and deviating from the target in search of a subjective tunning would go against the "Science" part of audio science review, theres nothing wrong about doing so as a personal endeavor tho.
Science needs to applied and paid attention to, but the practice of a scientific study in application across all platforms cannot be adhered to as a gospel as there are many cases where users do not prefer harman tuned headphones. It's the same reason why a group gathers here who likes it, and groups gather on other internet forums of those who do not.

Finite statements like this are dangerous, because it forwards a group think aspect without the applied practice and listening. I understand there is great research done for harman, but it's a starting point not an end-point. We are all individuals and not a group and see the world from one lens, so closing yourself off to a very general mean of FR will very likely not lead you to your own audio preferences and favorite sound.

I would urge anyone regardless of what side you stand on, like anything in life, to stay open minded. Go on a journey to find and understand what sound you like, and why or why it doesn't adhere to harman. Which yes, would mean listening to the Caldera in person utilizing the tuning system that is innate to ZMF's instead of just making a statement here to follow your peers.
 

MacClintock

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But what Sean Olive will tell you, as any other responsible headphone MFR that actually makes headphones, that the harman curve was meant as a starting point not as a defined endpoint that all headphones need to meet to be enjoyable.


I'm pretty sure there's many of you on this forum who enjoy a headphone that isn't tuned exactly to @amirm 's cult of Harman tuning, but are afraid to speak up because of the insane groupthink that happens here.
Well I am pretty sure nobody likes gaping holes in the frequency response at 1.5 and 4 kHz. I guess people buy the Caldera for it's looks and design, not because they think it is a great sounding headphone.
 

cheapmessiah

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Science needs to applied and paid attention to, but the practice of a scientific study in application across all platforms cannot be adhered to as a gospel

Yes, I agree, but science is refuted with more science, not with less of it.
 
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