Review and re-trace: ZMF comfyness and Vibro MKII

Disclaimer: ZMF loaned me both OMNI and Vibro MKII for the purposes of this review. Vibro MKII goes for: 479,99$ USD. You can find out all about it here: ZMF X Vibro MKII.

Relevant links:

1. ZMF OMNI
2. Oppo PM-2
3. Lynx HILO

It’s totally improper to compare a modular camera to a modular headphone, but considering the number of things you can do to your ZMF headphones, the comparison is apt. Zach has graciously loaned me two pair of his latest, his flagship, OMNI, and Vibro MK II.

ZMF Vibro MKII (4 of 14)

Modularity

There are few things that stay put in the Linhof M679cs. Those are: the front standard, the rear standard, the optical bench, and the geared tripod head. You alternate between wide angle and standard bellows depending on the lenses you’re using. Lens plates can be manufactured for any lens under the sun, but they come pre-built for mechanical copal-style manual and/or for Rollei electronic shutters. Into either you can screw any lens. Then you can use sliding backs, live view backs, or even adapt non-modular system cameras to the camera. 

Whew!

ZMF Vibro MKII (7 of 14)

All ZMF headphones are TR50P modifications. That means that like the Linhof’s optical bench and standards, the basic thing you get is a headband, ear cups, and cables. If you’ve got strong hands and love the feel of semi-raw leather thongs, you can screw in a leather band. If you’re not, you can velcro on Pilot Pads. These, by the way, come in sheepskin or synthetic leather. The ear pads come in sheep, cow, and synthetic skins. Cable varieties multiply, terminating in 4-pin XLR, or TRS. You can powder coat the sliding fulcrums, add metal decals, and thanks to the basic TR50P headphone, a screw driver is basically all you’ll need to do or undo anything tricky.

In terms of modularity, ZMF headphones trump the Linhof. In terms of polish, the Linhof trumps anything on the market in almost any category. In which case, ZMF and the Sinar P3 might have been a better comparision.

ZMF Vibro MKII (6 of 14)

Anecdote

Last week, I lamented that OMNI’s TR50P underpinnings held back its comfort. I stand by that. But I didn’t go into enough detail. An elegant fix to OMNI’s hard headband is the leather thong. It is the most unobtrusive, and in my opinion, most aesthetic comfort modification. A quicker and less intrusive method is velcroing on the Pilot pads. If you’ve got a greasy head, the leather Pilot Pads are best. If not, the synthetic ones are just as soft. 

Which leads me to ear pads. Personally, the sheep skin pads isolate better than cowhide. The synthetic pads isolate about as well, but get greasy and hot. Leather FTW. Putting it all together considerably softens the headphones. I can stand about two comfortable hours of listening from a dolled-up set, which stretches to four if I’ve got some serious listening in front of me. Naked, an hour or so does it. Of course, the mods bulk up the headphones, and no matter what you do, you won’t get Oppo PM-2 levels of comfort. 

A bit about the Vibro MKII after the jump:

Review and re-trace: ZMF comfyness and Vibro MKII
4.6 (92%) 5 vote[s]

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

7 Comments

  • Reply June 16, 2016

    Barun C

    Great article Nathan. I don’t know, I seem to like the Vibro based upon your impressions as it seemed my kind of a preference in overall sound signature.

    I guess I also fall in the lesser audiophile club by your definition, aigh?

    So will you say this is the best treble you’ve heard in a planar magnetic in general or is this the best treble in a T50Rp mod you’ve heard and you still consider the MySt Ortophones/30/60 the best in that regard?

    • Reply June 17, 2016

      ohm image

      While I really like the sound of Vibro MKII, I guess I’m less a garage shop guy than I am a Russian Tank project guy. In which case, the MyST headphones excite me more. And, as long as you’re not listening to the S version, you get even more open-sounding mids and treble. The S version and the Vibro might be an interesting mane a mano.

  • Reply June 17, 2016

    Jeffrey Coleman

    About 18 months ago, I went to a headphone meet in the NYC area. I had a blast and had the opportunity to meet Zach at his little table set up. I tried many different (and far more expensive) headphones that day. Many I liked, and some fell below expectations…

    On my long drive home, I really only thought about one headphone. It was Zach’s blackwood Vibro. And I honestly missed it, I mean that’s silly to say that. But I found myself longing for that blackwood headphone. (I think the “Blackwood” is is closed flagship, but its based on the Vibro).

    Now being insanely frugal, and just purchasing a new closed headphone, just a month prior, I talked myself out of giving up food and heat for a couple months to pay for another closed headphone. I just tried to forget….lol

    Then Zach announced the Omni’s. And now I’m out of excuses. That semi-open beauty will be mine, hopefully soon (Bathing suit season is upon us, so a little starvation would do me some good). The only problem with ZMF, is Zach is a sucker for playing around new woods. I’m assuming that has something to do with Zach’s background in building custom guitars. And boy, every new introduction makes me change my mind….

    Thanks for this article Nathan, you re-reminded me that I need to open my wallet. I can finally get past the Thunderpants let down, and move on to another T50RP mod…

    • Reply June 17, 2016

      ohm image

      What a kind comment. So, OMNI is on the brain. If your brain is larger than mine, make sure to splurge for sheepskin pilot pads. Or, if your head is narrow, the leather thong. Great headphone for the person looking for richness and overall non-loudness curve neutrality.

  • Reply June 17, 2016

    Theo

    Thanks for this complemental review.
    The only thing missing now is a review of the Blackwood 😉
    It’s the ZMF headphone I think I will like the best. Although I’m still very happy with my ZMF, one of the first Zach made, before all those variations.

    • Reply June 29, 2016

      digitldlnkwnt

      I bought the ZMF Master and for a long time i didn’t like it. There wasn’t enough bass, it was sibilant – everything i didn’t want to have in a headphone. Then something happened. i paird it with a V100 and whether it was my head breaking into the headphone or the headphone just breaking in, it did a complete 180. There was bass and warmth, and all of the sibilance was gone leaving behind very smooth, shimmering highs. Now i like it so much it’s my go-to headphone and i don’t even want to upgrade to Vibro because i’m scared i’ll loose the sound signature i’ve grown to like. Really the most complicated relationship I have ever had with a headphone.

      • Reply June 30, 2016

        dale thorn

        Use it for as long as you can, then the Vibro or an even better edition will be waiting for you. The warm smooth sound you describe is just the nature of that series – they’ll always be around.

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