Review written by @Tusing
The Verite Closed is Zach’s latest creation - a TOTL hand-crafted closed-back designed to be competitive with the best closed-backs on the market today.
As with all ZMF headphones, craftsmanship is second to none. The headphone consists of carefully sanded and waxed wooden cups, supported by a strong but lightweight magnesium chassis, and lined with luxurious soft leather. At the heart of it all lies a Beryllium-coated driver, a material found in some of the most detailed headphones available today.
Despite the handmade operation and heirloom aesthetic, there is a priority on keeping unit variance low. ZMF CNCs each cup and measures each unit before sending it to the customer.
ZMF headphones are known far and wide to take well to pad swapping. Pad swapping can significantly alter sound to let each individual better dial in what they’re looking for.
I spent just over a week writing this review, collecting my impressions on-and-off and re-writing sections a few times. I tried to be as honest as possible and avoid letting new-toy-syndrome color my impressions.
My Verite Closed is in Monkeypod wood and retails for $2500.
Comfort and Isolation
The VCs are comfortable. The pads are smooth and soft. There is a fantastic adjustment system that allows you to easily adjust clamp force and other factors to get as comfortable of a fit as possible. I didn’t find glasses to affect sound as I would on other closed-backs.
If you aren’t used to closed-backs they can feel a bit too warm the first few times you put them on. In terms of weight, I don’t think I could personally go for anything heavier than Monkeypod.
I often find closed-backs claustrophobic - but I didn’t get this feeling with the VCs.
The VCs isolate very well in terms of preventing playing music from escaping the cups. Despite the fact that I listen to music relatively loudly, my friends were unable to hear the music from even just a few feet away. I’d be comfortable using this in a cubicle-based office environment.
Isolation in the other direction (preventing noise from the outside reaching the cups) is on par with the average non-ANC closed back, and a non-issue when music is playing.
The RME ADI-2 provides a neutral view into the VC’s sound.
The Verite Closed can be summarized as an energetic, engaging headphone with an unconventional signature and brilliant technicalities across the board.
I used an RME ADI-2 DAC fs for the purposes of this review.
The Verite Closed has a fundamentally unique signature. Regardless of the pads, upper-mids and sometimes treble are accentuated and which generally adds some energy to the signature. As such, the VCs are not a “sit back and relax” headphone. If you are not prepared for the influx of information, you will feel fatigue. But when you are, the VC engages you in music quite unlike anything else I’ve ever heard.
Let’s use an analogy. Listening to the HD800S is like gazing at a supremely detailed painting. You can see all of it but your mind will never comprehend all of it at once, though the vast amount of detail itself is presented effortlessly and ripe for inspection. Looking at a painting is not something that engages you - it takes your interest, perhaps even your awe, but from a distance, and in sort of an academic manner.
The Verite Closed utilizes its characteristic signature to surface detail in quite a different manner. It’s like watching an intense action scene. If you don’t pay attention you’ll lose your place. But if you are alert throughout, it’s far more visceral and thrilling of an experience than staring at a painting. Sure, both a painting and action scene may present detail to your mind, but the latter would be more emotional and engaging.
I found sub-bass lacking, but was able to fix this with a bass shelf in EQ (+7dB, 50Hz, Q=0.8 brings it out quite nicely). There is a slight metallic timbre - I think in terms of natural timbre, the Auteur and Aeolus beat the VC. I feel the FR is purposeful and creates more engagement, but you should try before you buy. Do give them more time than usual when you try them, as it may take time to click.
Detail and imaging
Verite drivers are 20% Beryllium by weight. This no doubt contributes to the technicalities.
The VC is fast. It is as quick and detailed as the HD800S if not more so. I was clearly hearing details my HD800S did not surface. It tickled my ears. These are the best technicalities I’ve seen come out of ZMF, and probably my favorite aspect of the VC. Attacks are sharp and immediate. The speed of the VC is amazing no matter how you slice it. Cymbals, snare drums, plucks of a guitar, slight vibrations of a cello - all of these are clear, which is something I cannot say for most headphones I’ve tried.
The ZMFs have an airy presentation for being a closed-back. Soundstage is pad-dependent but wide as an average open-back with the Auteur pads. This is very impressive for a closed back! Imaging is fantastic no matter which pads you use. Instrument positions are always clear and easily delineated.
I was not expecting technicalities at this level in a closed back. This isn’t only “impressive for a closed back”, it’s impressive, period.
Let’s compare how pads affect both signature and technicalities. Reference the tables above while reading this.
Auteur solid pads
- Widens the stage significantly
- Recesses mids a bit, adds energy to upper mids
- Very engaging but more fatiguing
The Auteur pads are the default pads installed on the VC. They are larger and more comfortable. They provide a fantastic sense of stage I never thought possible from a closed back. On certain tracks the Auteur pads might feel too shouty - occasionally it was hard to strike a volume balance between slightly-recessed mids and accentuated upper mids. I think I’ve adjusted, though, and I’m enjoying these pads the most. These are the fastest, most detailed, most engaging pads in the west!
Universe solid pads
- Closer staging but better 3D imaging
- Upper mids are tamed, treble slightly accentuated
- Engaging, less fatiguing
I never really understood the term “3D imaging” until I put on the Universe solid pads. Vocalists and instruments are closely packed around your ears and yet you can separate them in space easily. I found the Universe less fatiguing - they reign in some of the upper-mids and bring the mids a bit more forward for a more balanced midrange overall. This is at the expense of soundstage and some comfort. Treble-heavy tracks can still get a bit fatiguing over time.
Auteur hybrid pads
- Most comfortable pads
- Pros: Not as sharp
- Cons: Not as sharp
The Auteur hybrid pads have a suede face and leather walls. They are basically more comfortable versions of the Auteur solids with peaks slightly tamed for a less fatiguing listening experience. As a consequence, they have a bit less air and a bit less detail retrieval and slightly less defined bass than the solid Auteur pads. I think most people will prefer these pads and they strike a very good balance between all pads.
Universe suede pads
- Speed and soundstage take a hit
- Least fatiguing
- Too inoffensive
The Universe suede pads provide the most sedate experience, while having the most natural timbre of the four. However, soundstage, imaging, and detail suffer, so I’m not sure I’d recommend these for general usage. I feel that these pads sacrifice too many positive qualities to achieve the balance they provide.
The VC is a capable and unique headphone.
I personally found the default Auteur solid pads the most interesting and engaging, so I’d use those for general listening. I’ll use the Universe solid pads for when I want to feel “closer” to the music.
I might occasionally use the Auteur hybrid pads as a less fatiguing alternative to the solid pads. I don’t see myself using the suede pads.
I originally started my listening sessions kind of confused by the VCs and not very confident about whether I would keep it. I gave it some time, and eventually, things clicked - I understood why the signature was what it was, and after this, I struggled to return to my previous headphones. In this sense, the Verite Closed may be somewhat of an acquired taste.
The Verite Closed have supplanted my HD800S. This is high praise. I have tried plenty of headphones in this range and I always went back to the HD800S. But I just cannot help it - the 800S feels boring in comparison, even post EQ. The ZMF is simply more engaging, resolving, and interesting - and it doesn’t sacrifice technicalities to get there.
Perhaps most perplexing is that ZMF has managed to make a closed headphone that is competitive with open-backs in the same price range. With the VCs, I am not wanting for engagement or technicalities, and I do not feel that something was compromised simply to make the headphone closed. What an achievement!