Review: ZMF Headphones OMNI Bocote – PM-who?

Sound

The Bocote OMNI conveys borderline boomy take on the neutral – that is, if you define neutral as at-the-ear flat with smoothly fading highs and ear-sensitivity equal-loudness compensatory bass. Bass goes low, but isn’t raised too far over the mids. It doesn’t hammer to the floor, nor does it stuff up the mid bass. It is warm, relatively detailed, and returns good decay speed. Good enough, in fact, for progressive trance. While it doesn’t divulge yawning detail in the intro seconds to Marcus Schulz’s Mainstage, it steadily and surely throbs just south of what I consider acceptable upper limits for trance.

ZMF OMNI (7 of 9)

Low frequency stereo separation weighs in on centrally anchored fulcrums. Low-voiced elements are minimally separated, but the mass doesn’t blend into a ball. In fact, bass adroitly hugs the bottom of the ear, spreading laterally out from there by several centimetres. It doesn’t guff up mids. It doesn’t draw untoward attention. In fact, neither do the mids. Mids are pretty flat against the lows, with a bit of bright forward edge on electric guitars, whose retreating edges quake nice and neat before sinking to nothing. Mids are neither hot nor wet. They’re borderline breathy. 

Vocals don’t jump out, and they lack a bit of bite. But there is good space in the midrange moisture is low, but you can feel it. Mostly, OMNI is unaccented. Its stage shoots straight forward from the shoulders for a half a metre or so. Describe a block between those extremities and in it and draw a circle. That’s OMNI’s basic 3D stage. It’s clearer, with brighter, with clearer, faster, punchier attacks than either the Oppo PM-1 or PM-2. 




Highs decay really quick, and their forward edges are politely voiced. Sibilance won’t get you down, but a slight reduction in high-voiced sound pressure slightly closes the sound a bit. Live performances take on a bit of a studio sound. Wild recordings cool down. It’s a great balance between the too-curated sound of the PM-2 and the sometimes-naughty sound of the IzoPhones-30. 

Crystal Method’s Trip Like I Do is a good benchmark for that control. Trippy bass is big, but like a strong gust of wind, it doesn’t push for long. Trippy high-mid stereo cues swim all over and around the top of the head, at times dipping down toward the shoulders. But never do those cues jump behind you as far as they are apt through wilder headphones. This causes me to raise the volume somewhat higher than I’m comfortable with- not to achieve weightier bass, but to get every bit of high-midrange trip I can. 

Which is to say that OMNI is solid. It’s got solid bass. It’s got solid mids. And its highs, which sparkle well enough, are solid. It’s a headphone that lacks much of an accent at all, and which is both thick and powerful, and quick. It’s one of the best takes on a do-all sound I’ve heard, but suffers for the same reasons all good do-alls suffer: likely it will not pull in and hold close vocal, and loyal minorities who cleave to brands/house sounds. 

End words

I really wish both the Oppo PM-2 and PM-1 sounded as good. OMNI pretty much nails the semi-neutral sound it aimed for. It does so with a bit of warmth, and a gentle softening of high-frequencies. Under those constraints, it is right on. It’s got decent 3D space, a pretty wide stereo presentation, and great attack speed and good decay in both extremes. It sounds great. That it is politer than my druthers is purely anecdotal.

I really think that the person that digs the PM-2 or PM-1 but wants more bite will really enjoy OMNI. What they likely won’t enjoy is the serious backward step in comfort.  

MyST’s OrtoPhones are brighter, and less bassy, but wider, more open, and way more trippy. OMNI is a great balancing act, positioned at a good price and with customization options out the wazzoo.

Review: ZMF Headphones OMNI Bocote – PM-who?
4.7 (94.55%) 11 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.

15 Comments

  • Reply June 8, 2016

    Barun C

    Nice article Nathan. I was thinking of getting these at one time as I’ve now sold my mid-high tier ortho’s HE-5. But I’m always skeptical about the highs of Planar Magnetic headphones as the other two I have (Fostex T20 RP original and TDS Echo 16) always lacked the sparkling finish in the highs.

    Anyway, did you get a chance to compare this ZMF Omni with your Mr. Speakers Alpha Dogs?

    • Reply June 9, 2016

      ohm image

      No planar magnetic I’ve heard is bright. OMNI is no different, but it is minimally brighter and more spacious sounding than both the Alpha Dogs and of course the PM series.

      • Reply August 20, 2016

        Adrian

        If you want to hear a bright planar magnetic, try the umodified Fostex T50RP Mk3 with standard Fostex pads.

    • Reply June 11, 2016

      Lieven

      test

      • Reply June 13, 2016

        rob

        Just two cents on two sets of cans from both of these companies: I have the ZMF Masters and the Alpha prime. I like the ZMF’s for their thicker, warmer and slightly more bottom heavy presentation over the Alphas more separated and spacious presentation of sounds – a more reference type sound.
        Nathan – You should pick up the 111 Golden Tech House Tunes on Tronic Soundz – I use it for testing a lot of gear because of the variety of tracks on it.

  • Reply June 8, 2016

    GrizzlybEast

    That’s pretty much how I hear the Omnis. They are very well balanced.

    Also they are a legitimate step up in league from the Alpha Dogs.

    • Reply June 9, 2016

      ohm image

      I agree with that. Both more detail in the upper mids and lower treble, and more space in the bass. OMNI does what it set out to do (or what I believe it set out to do) about perfectly.

      • Reply June 9, 2016

        GrizzlybEast

        I may be in the minority but I would love to hear a similar tuning from an open back dynamic driver. Such a sound (like the Omni) makes me desire the more dynamic and snappy aspects of the traditional voice coils along with the even handed balance of the Omni.

        The Kennerton Vali does this but is less precise and has a cavernous bloom to the midrange with a bit too much reverb. However it is incredibly snappy and organic.

        What do you mean though by more space in the bass?

        • Reply June 9, 2016

          ohm image

          I need to qualify that term, don’t I: spatial separation of bass elements.

  • Reply June 8, 2016

    Theo

    Why didn’t your Omni had the Pilot Pad or Leather Band they usually come with?

    • Reply June 9, 2016

      ohm image

      It comes with the leather thong, but I didn’t install it.

      • Reply June 9, 2016

        Zachary Mehrbach

        Yes – to be comfortable at all the headband does need either the pilot pad or the leather band installed. Typically the headphones come with them installed but in this case I sent both so Nathan could try both.

        • Reply June 9, 2016

          ohm image

          I will follow this and the next review with a post about the various comfort mods available for ZMF phones.

      • Reply June 9, 2016

        GrizzlybEast

        Oh no… You had the most uncomfortable pair of headphones then. They make a big difference.

        • Reply June 10, 2016

          ohm image

          I will need to update this review. I used every pad and band damper. A separate article about comforting up the ZMF phones will make it for a Sunday publish or something like it.

          You can make them much more comfy than stock, I agree. The band pad, while not pretty for photos, is a damn fine addition.

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