Most headphones are made by big audio firms in large factories where thousands of units are cranked out. ZMF is different. All ZMF headphones are hand-assembled in small batches in the USA. The ZM in ZMF stands for Zachery Mehrbach, who is the owner and principal designer of all ZMF headphones. Currently, ZMF offers ten different models priced from $1099 to $2599. I will be looking at ZMF’s top-of-the-line closed-capsule model—the Vérité Closed—which goes for $2499.
The Vérité Closed utilizes a PEN (polyethylene naphthalate) dynamic driver with a 20% beryllium-vapor-deposited coating and an ultra-light magnesium chassis. According to Mehrbach, “for audio PEN is a more stable plastic for diaphragms than the other alternatives, like PET, that are commonly used. We used it as the base for the Be layer that sits on top because it adds some elasticity compared to a solid metal diaphragm…it [also] allowed us to use a thicker rubber surround for lower distortion.” Instead of being parallel with a listener’s ears, the driver itself is angled slightly. Although the Vérités are a closed design, there is a small vent that alleviates excess pressurization within the enclosure. Even with the vent the Vérité Closed offer 25dB attenuation of outside noise. The enclosure itself is made of good old-fashioned hardwood, which ZMF refers to on its site as “MonkeyPod (Albizia saman) or current LTD wood,” and which looks to my semi-trained eye much like a cross between mahogany and koa. When tapped all you hear is a well-damped “thunk.”
As you would expect, the Vérité Closed has removable cabling, and when you purchase it you have the option, in addition to the supplied ZMF standard cable, of four, different, added-cost cabling choices, with prices ranging from $150 to $500. The Vérité Closed arrives in a substantial wood case with two sets of earpads, a “standard” ZMF OFC cable, and a lifetime driver warranty. You have your choice of black aluminum, brass, copper, rose gold, or polished steel rods when you place your order on ZMF’s website.
Although the Vérité Closed aren’t exactly light, with that solid hunk of wood on each side, the mass is spread so well between the floating headband (which, if desired, is available in vegan instead of leather) and the thick earpads that I did not find their weight burdensome even during extended listening sessions. Side-pressure from the earpads is sufficient to ensure a nice tight seal, even around the earpieces of my glasses, without ear-boxing. Although the pressure does increase as the headband widens, even for those with larger heads the side-pressure shouldn’t be oppressive. You have the option of two earpads that have slightly different frequency responses. According to ZMF, the Universe pads are “smooth with punch, air, and fast transients,” while the Auteur pads have better “space, linearity, decay, and speed.” I used the balanced version of the standard ZMF cable for all my listening.
With both the Focal Arche and Sony TA-ZH1ES DAC/pre/headphone amplifiers the Vérité Closed sounded superb. If you look through the FAQs on ZMF’s website, you will find frequency-response graphs that compare the Vérité Closed to the open version. The primary differences in frequency response are in the 200Hz to 600Hz region, where the Closed has a few dB less output, and below 60Hz where the Closed have about 1dB higher output. Up to 3kHz the two are similar but above 8k the two frequency curves become quite different. Given the level of variability in (and the accuracy of) headphone test results in the upper frequencies, and the differences in individual ear canals, I would not take these measurements as gospel.
In day-to-day listening, I was continually impressed by how natural, relaxed, and un-hyped-up the Vérité Closed can sound. Even on synthesizer-heavy tracks with few, if any acoustic sounds, such as the Billie Ellish track “Bad Guy,” the overall impression is one of ease combined with exceptional clarity. On music that is all-acoustic, such as many of my own live concert recordings, I never had any sense of “working hard” to hear deep into low-level details—they were just there.
Obviously, the Vérité Closed was designed to compete with the best, and to my ears it succeeds. While I have heard many premium headphones, I have not heard them all. But if you require a premium headphone that has some attenuation of outside noise that you can wear for hours at a time, and that has a relaxed and exceedingly natural harmonic balance while still having excellent low bass, the ZMF Vérité Closed should be on your short list.
Specs & Pricing
Frequency response: 10Hz–25kHz
Impedance: 300 ohms
Weight (est.): 455g (MonkeyPod)
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