This article is adapted from HWM.
Most audiophiles prefer open-backed headphones for their more natural, open sound. Closed headphones, on the other hand, have always been very tricky to get right. The closed backs of these headphones are great for isolating the listener from the outside world. But at the same time, the enclosed backs also interfere with the way sound behaves. That’s why closed headphones usually sound more boxed in, less natural, and uneven.
However, MrSpeakers Ether C Flow changes all that. A bit of history first. San Diego-based MrSpeakers got its head start by modifying the very popular Fostex T50RP headphones. The modded headphones became so popular that MrSpeakers eventually had the funds required to develop its own headphone from the ground up. The result was the open-backed Ether and then later the closed-back Ether C, which used the company’s self-developed V-Planar planar magnetic drivers.
Last year, the two headphones were updated, resulting in the Ether Flow and Ether C Flow. The Flow in the name comes from the new TrueFlow waveguides that have been incorporated into the headphones. According to MrSpeakers, these waveguides reduce turbulence within the driver and allows sound to “flow” more smoothly to the listener’s ears. Dan Clark, the founder of MrSpeakers, got the inspiration for these waveguides from developing new electrostatic headphones.
Without hearing the original Ether C, it is hard to tell if these TrueFlow waveguides work. But what I can tell you is that the Ether C Flow is easily one of the best-sounding closed-back headphones I have heard. Its sound signature tends toward the neutral side, but it is certainly not dull or boring. To me, there seems to be a little emphasis to the bass, but only very slightly. Vocals are smooth and articulate, and the treble is airy without being overly bright or harsh. The Ether C Flow sounds wonderfully coherent and the overall voicing is tasteful.
Also impressive is that despite the closed-back design, the Ether C Flow demonstrates exceptional staging and imaging. There were numerous occasions when I thought I was listening to the open-backed Ether Flow only to discover that I was actually listening to the closed Ether C Flow. The Ether C Flow sounds remarkably spacious for a pair of closed-back headphones.
Excellent sound would mean nothing if the headphones were uncomfortable, but the Ether C Flow also happens to be one of the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn. The lambskin leather earpads are soft and cushiony. It is also very light, weighing just 390g (an achievement for planar magnetic headphones which are normally quite heavy), thanks to the use of carbon fiber for the earcups and Nitinol for the headband. Nitinol is an alloy of nickel and titanium, and not only is it light, it is also highly flexible. This allows the Ether C Flow to flex and twist, allowing it to conform comfortably to the shape of your head.
I confidently consider the MrSpeakers Ether C Flow as one of the best closed-back headphones available today. It is one of the most open and spacious sounding closed-back headphones that I have heard. Only Sony's flagship MDR-Z1R comes close, but the MDR-Z1R doesn't sound as tonally correct as the Ether C Flow and suffers from slightly over-exaggerated bass and a overly dark sound.
In closing, if you are ready to splash the cash on the ultimate pair of closed-back headphones, you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t at least consider or audition the MrSpeakers Ether C Flow. The MrSpeakers Ether C Flow retails for S$2,499.