Today we are talking about an absolutely phenomenal pair of headphones. The ZMF Headphones Verite. These are the easiest types of reviews to write, where you really don’t have much in the way of negative news to report. They are comfortable (perhaps a bit heavy, but not overly so) look great, and sound even better.
ZMF Headphones is a small headphone company based out of Chicago Illinois. The owner of ZMF headphones, Zach Mehrbach, is…a really nice guy. Really. Although I have only had correspondence with him via email, he comes across as incredibly helpful, supportive, and proud of his work. I can’t thank him enough for the opportunity to hear two (Verite, and Eikon) of his headphones for a couple months, and review them. To quote Bert Reviews on youtube (if you haven’t seen Bert Reviews, go search it up now, it is worth it, trust me) “Zach is AWESOME!”
The Verite is ZMF’s latest flagship model. There have been a few different wood choices available so far, but Zach was kind enough to send me a pair of the limited “Ziricote” wood Verite. I have not personally heard a pair of Verite in another wood choice, so I can’t say if they sound any different. Supposedly there are subtle differences between the wood type, but I would guess you would see more difference changing the pads, than purchasing a different wood.
Speaking of pads, this is actually one of the neatest, and for me, most unexpected parts of reviewing ZMF headphones. Zach has many different earpads for you to choose from, in both leather and suede materials. I did not expect to hear such marked differences between the different pad choices, but the differences were huge. It is like owning one pair of headphones, with three or more different sound signatures, immediately available via a simple ear pad change. More on this later.
Right, so lets talk about how the Verite sound. I’ll talk about their overall sound signature, then the differences the pads make afterwards.
Bass: The bass on the Verite is full and robust sounding. I tend to enjoy a bass response level that is a bit north of strictly neutral so this suits me just fine. I didn’t really find myself needing to EQ up the bass level a few decibels, as I do with some other headphones that have a bit less bass than the Verite in their stock tuning. The bass on the Verite doesn’t slam as hard, with as much impact, as the Abyss AB-1266, but it is a very punchy headphone. If you do EQ up the bass a bit, you will feel it, no doubt about it. The Verite’s bass response was pretty much perfect, for my ears, in terms of level. I really, really enjoyed it. Great texture, great punch, great sub bass. The Verites bass is quite a visceral experience. Whats not to like really.
Mids: The Mids on the Verite are a bit different than I am used to with my usual headphones. A bit more present, and warm. Not overly so, they are less warm than the LCD-3 I used to own, but certainly more present than a pair of Abyss Headphones. This lends itself very well to certain kinds of music. Jazz on the Verite was absolutely lovely, I found. I wouldn’t say the Verite is a “romantic” sounding headphone, but its certainly heading in that direction. The mids are smooth, and relaxing sounding to my ears. I think the mid range of the Verite might be what make it such an enjoyable headphone for longer listening sessions, it is just “right” sounding.
Treble: When I first tried on the Verite I was surprised by the treble, and thought it sounded a bit recessed and hidden. This is definitely not the case however, and I think it was just a case of my ears needing time to adjust after listening to headphones with more treble energy for the last 6 months (or however long it has been!) The Verite’s treble has a bit sheen and sparkle to it in the upper treble regions, but not too much. I never found myself wincing, or noticing extreme sibilance problems, which is a very good thing. The treble isn’t crunchy in the lower treble, like the Eikon can be, and doesn’t “Show off” like the Focal Utopia. The treble tuning of the Verite just seems to compliment the rest of the sonic signature well, isn’t offensive and grating on the ears, but is still present enough to bring a very healthy amount of detail to the table. Really good stuff.
Technicalities: Now, I don’t want this next section to come off as a negative, as the Verite is a $2500ish headphone, not $6000, and is also a completely different driver type than my regular headphones. However, for my ears, and this is just me, it lags behind in terms of raw technical performance vs my Susvara and Abyss headphones. The soundstage isn’t as wide, spacious, and airy sounding as the Susvara and Abyss. It isn’t as detailed, and as competent in terms of dynamic capability as my regular headphones. It just isn’t…
A) Makes up for lagging behind in terms of technical performance by being supremely listenable and pleasant sounding. The tuning is very well done.
B) Is, again, a much more affordable headphone!!!
Now this isn’t to say that the soundstage sucks, its way wider than some other headphones, and it isn’t to say the detail levels are horrible. That just isn’t true.
Focal Utopia: The Verite garnered a lot of comparisons with the Focal Utopia when it was released, probably due to the mention of Beryllium with regards to its drivers coating vs. The Utopias pure Beryllium driver. Now, the Verite, for my personal preferences, is the better headphone. Again, it is slightly behind in terms of detail and most of its technical performance, but it does have a wider soundstage. The Verite simply has a much more enjoyable tuning! This is for my personal preferences of course, and its always good to hear a headphone prior to purchasing it, but the Verite is just the better, more enjoyable headphone to listen to.
Hifiman Susvara: The Susvara has a more “airy” and ethereal presentation. The Verite has a bit more bass presence, and a slightly smaller soundstage. The Susvara drags more detail out of the recordings, but the Verite is more of a standout performer with certain genres of music, Jazz in particular.
Abyss: The Verite is less bright, and has a better treble response than the Abyss AB-1266 Phi or Diana Phi in my opinion. Much more present mids, with a similar level of bass response. Again, the Verite is outdone in terms of raw technicalities by the Abyss, but the Verite also has a tuning that offsets what the Abyss is good at nicely. The Abyss is still my favourite headphone, but the Verite would make for an awesome accompaniment in any collection.
Pads: Lets talk about Pads! The pads that Zach sent with my review pair of Verite were the Universal Leather (perforated), the Universal Suede (perforated) and the Verite pads (again, perforated.) The Universal Leather were a bit more “fun” to listen to. A bit more bass, and a bit more treble, whilst having the best impact of the bunch. The Universal suede had a bit wider soundstage I found, snare drums sounded a bit more crisp, but from the mids on down things seemed a bit warmer and “rounder.” The Verite pads were the most linear sounding out of all the pads and actually ended up being my go to choice. Each pair of pads brought something interesting and special to the table, and I would recommend picking these three sets up if you purchase the Verite. At $50ishUSD, the pads and whole concept of multiple pads is an affordable way to get different, but complimentary sounds out of your headphones. The only thing I would like to see Zach explore in the future is a magnetic attachment system, similar to the Abyss or Meze Empyrean. This might raise costs to prohibitive levels however? I’m not sure.
Build quality: The build quality of the Verite is great, but I would like to get one nit pick out of the way. The sliders! Argh! I slowly got better at using these over time, but they are still fiddly, and could be better. Apart from that, the build quality seemed rock solid. I didn’t have any problems with squeaking, creaking, and nothing fell apart. I know that Zach offers a lifetime warranty on his headphones drivers, to the original owner, which is comforting. This is something to consider should you be looking at purchasing a pair of ZMFs on the used market, the warranty is non-transferable, which is a shame. However, I remember reading a figure for repair costs on Head-Fi (which I can’t find now of course) and it was reasonable. Again, Zach really seems to care about his customers and his product, and I would guess that he will take care of you very well should something go wrong with any of his headphones you purchase.
All in all, the ZMF Verite is a very special headphone. It may not be the very last word in technical capability, but its tuning, and overall extremely pleasing listening experience is what make it one of the best headphones I have used. The bass is just at the right levels for my preferences, and hits hard. The mids are warm, but not too warm and “gooey” sounding. The treble is a bit sparkly but never wanders in to being harsh and sibilant. The soundstaging is very realistic sounding, and I would challenge any audiophile to find fault with the levels of details it brings to the table. I mean, yes, the Susvara is a technically better headphone, but it also costs over double what the Verite does!
The Verite is a very special piece of audio equipment and I absolutely loved the time I got to spend with it. Thank you Zach!