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ZMF Vérité Closed Headphones

10-12-2020 | By Sam Rosen | Issue 111

ZMF Vérité Closed Headphones

ZMF Vérité Closed, ZMF Wooden Case, Cable Bag, and Warrantee Card

ZMF has become one of the most well-known names in the head-fi community, producing headphones that sound incredibly good, and perform well above their price tag. They have excellent design that relies on exotic wood finishes, and a passionate team led by Zach and his wife Bevin.

I first met Zach and Bevin in March of 2019. I heard good things about ZMF, and was interested in auditioning a pair of Vérité Opens. They invited me to their home, which doubles as ZMFs headquarters, to get a tour of how their headphones are made, and so I could listen to pair of Vérité Opens for myself. To summarize my impressions of the Vérité Open, I bought them. Though they have a similar level of performance to a Focal Utopia, they have a better tone, and a less bright presentation. What really struck me was not only how good their headphones sound, but how nice and modest Zach and Bevin both were during my time in their home. Not only did they take the time to answer all of my questions, Bevin even took the time to get to know my wife. It was the first time that I personally have ever felt a sense of community in this hobby.

It was all of these things that caused me to reach out to Zach and Bevin this summer to request their newest headphone for review, the Vérité Closed. I knew if it was anything like the Vérité Open it would be a winner. What I did not expect was a holistically better performing headphone, that reaches so far above its price tag that it actually caused me to debate during my causal listening time if I wanted to listen to my Susvara or the Vérité Closed. Let's dive in.

First Impressions and Unboxing

ZMF Vérité Closed Headphones

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I was not able to go pick the Vérité Closed from Zach and Bevin, like I did with the Vérité Open. It is a real shame, as ZMF just opened a separate workshop and it would have been great to get a tour of their new facilities. Either way I am sure Bevin is ecstatic to finally have her dining room back. The headphones shipped via FedEx and showed up quickly. Inside the shipping box was a lovely wood box with the ZMF logo on it. Inside that box were Vérité Closed finished in Camphor Burl.

This is a limited edition finish that I believe just finished its run, which is a real shame because not only does the wood look incredible, better in my opinion than any ZMF headphone I have ever personally seen, but it is also incredibly light. One issue I have is that I am incredibly sensitive to heavy headphones. This is one of the reasons that I do not personally own Audeze headphones, and is the reasons that the Vérité Open didn't get as much head time as I would have liked it to. I was concerned, especially given the large wood cups, that the Vérité Closed would be challenging for me to wear as well. I am happy to say that this concern, at least with the Camphor Burl, was completely unfounded. These headphones felt light, and I was able to wear them for hours on end without neck pain.

The headphones themselves felt incredibly sturdy. The ear pads, of which there are three available sets, were all soft and comfortable, and provided additional abilities to tune the sound. Zach and Bevin also sent along both their standard OFC copper cable as well as one of their upgrade cable options, the 2K Copper.

The 2K Copper was a beautiful cable, however, I was not able to use it much as the majority of my listening occurs about 15ft away from my headphone amp. While I cannot render judgement on the cable's sonic performance, I will say it looks the part of a $500 dollar cable. From the time I did spend listening to it, I found it a noticeable upgrade over the standard OFC cable. This cable came in one of the ZMF leather cable bags, and I will say it is one of the nicest accessories I have ever held. To be honest, the entire packaging experience oozed quality.

As I mentioned above, ZMF sent my headphone with three sets of ear pads, the Universe pads, the Auteur pads, and the Vérité pads. The three pads each provide the listener with the ability to customize the sound to their taste. They do not change the headphones' overall sound signature, but they change the tuning enough that you will likely find yourself gravitating towards one after spending time with all of them. It will also make the Vérité Closed easier and more flexible as you upgrade your head-fi system around it as the pads will allow you to adjust tuning as you change out up stream gear. For the most part, I found myself really enjoying the Universe pads, which gave me the right amount of air and spac, without giving up the firm low end that I come to expect from ZMF headphones. All comments below are in reference to the Vérité Closed with the Universe pads.

The Review System

  • Headphone Amplifiers: Chord Dave, ampsandsound Nautilus
  • DAC: Chord Dave, Chord M Scaler
  • Streamer: AURALiC Aries G1
  • Music Server: Roon Rock
  • Interconnects: Wywires Platinum RCA Interconnects, FTA Callisto USB Cable, Wave Fidelity Storm Reference BNC Cables, Wireworld Power Cables
  • Headphone Cable: Wywires Platinum Headphone Cable
  • All listening impressions were done after about 100 hours of burn in to ensure the headphone had stabilized.

Listening Impressions

When putting on the ZMF Vérité Closed for the first time, I could not help but smile. It was the first closed headphone that truly felt open. Headphones like the Focal Stellia have closed options, but the Vérité Closed was the first closed headphone to truly present me with a sound signature that, in a blind test, I would not be able to identify as open or closed.

Starting with the mid-range: I think the Vérité Closed has a mid-range that reminds me a lot of horn loaded loud speakers. It is seductive and forward, but unlike some horn loudspeakers it is not harsh or edgy. It is simply natural both in tone and timbre.

When listening to the Vérité Closed on the Dave's headphone output, which can be thin and unforgiving with some headphones, I was presented with a full and musical experience. Listening to Mika's live album I found my foot tapping and my head bobbing. I bring this up because while the Dave's headphone output is a reference level headphone output, I do not find it the most engaging with most headphones. The Vérité Closed did the impossible and made the Dave fun, and what amazed me the most is it didn't do that at the expense of detail.

Closing my eyes, I could see the sound stage clearly in front of my head, and could easily place instruments and vocals. The image was locked in place, and the only other headphone I have listened to that has been able to provide this level of out of head experience has been the Hifiman Susvara. This to me is the key trait that clearly separates the Vérité Closed from other headphones in its price class, open or closed. It does this without sounding thin, unlike the HD800S, and does not require an extreme amplifier, like the Susvara does.

Like the Focal Stellia, the Vérité Closed are incredibly fast headphones, music pours from them effortlessly and emerges from a dark black background. Unlike the Stellia, which can sound harsh at times with poor recording or poor system matching, I was never able to make the Vérité Closed come across harsh or treble heavy. Similarly, even on lower powered headphones amps, for example the one built into the Chord Hugo 2, the Vérité Closed always produced detailed and deep bass, along with smooth and extended treble.

Speaking of bass, these headphones are extend down low, and have the bass response that you would expect from a closed back headphone. What they also have though is the clarity of bass that you only expect from open back headphones. The amount of detail that the bass provides is simply incredible, it never sounds boomy, and does not have that traditional "thud" sound that you sometimes hear with some headphones and speakers. Listening to Sting and Shaggy on 44/876, was a purge joy with these headphones. This album really allowed these headphones to shine, showing off their ability to create open spaces, render the mid-range with tone to die for, but also produce reference level bass and treble.

Three Sets of Pads, Three Tunings

While the vast majority of my time was spent with the Universe pads, I wanted to briefly touch on the other two sets and how I believe they changed the sound.

Starting with the Vérité pads: these pads are thinner than the other two pads. The result is the drive is closer to your ear, and the consequence is a more immediate and forward presentation. I liken the experience to near field listening versus traditional speaker listening. I noticed the sense of space decreased, and while I would not call the Vérité Closed harsh even in this configuration, its treble is a bit harder. The tuning is probably more neutral, and reminded me a lot of how the Focal Utopia/Stellia sounded. It's a great sound, but is not something that I can listen to at mid to high volumes for hours on end. It also, in my case, caused my ears to rub against the back of the pad, which was not comfortable after long periods of time. If you have a darker system, or want some more excitement, these pads are well worth trying. If your system is already fairly bright, I personally would stick to the other two pads.

Moving on to the Auteur pads, these, by my eyes are slightly thicker than the Universe pads. The result is a more laid back presentation, with wider space and a more euphoric sound in my testing. It kind of reminded me of the tuning of the original Hifiman HE1000, where music seems to emit from darkness but did not have the most defined body. That is not to say that this pad reduced bass quantity, but it reduced the overall weight of the music for me. If I had a bright system this is the pad that I would use as it nicely absorbs some of the excess energy that an overly analytical system can create. Now for me, I have worked to create a system that for the most part is neutral warm, and these pads gave me a little too much of a good thing. However they were great when running the Vérité Closed on my less expensive Mass Drop amps as they helped hide some of the harsh edges that those amps can create.

The Universe pads balance the attributes of the above two pads and gives you, in my opinion, the best of both worlds. I also preferred the Universe pads on the Vérité Open as well, so this was not a surprise to me. I think the thing that everyone should remember is that while these pads do not change the overall sound signature, they really effect the tuning and make these headphones much more versatile the various levels of gear and system sounds.

Amp Pairing

The Vérité Closed are very efficient headphones at 99dB/mW. However, they do have an impedance of 300ohms which means a headphone amp is still going to be required to drive these to their highest potential.

Testing the Vérité Closed with some of my cheaper Mass Drop amps resulted in the headphones sounding good, but not quite at the same level of the Dave or my ampsandsound Nautilus. This is to be expected, as these headphones are very transparent and reveal the performance of your upstream source equipment. Personally I think this is a good thing because it allows you to buy these with a mid-range system and then scale that system up over time. Given that my system is ~$25k, I have no issues saying that the Vérité Closed can scale with the best headphones on the market.

Now amp pairing is still going to be very important with these headphones. They sounded excellent with both the Hugo 2 and the Chord Dave, but what makes these headphones really shine are tube amplifiers. ZMF has its well-regarded Pendent, which from what I have been told pairs extremely well with this headphone. I personally prefer single ended amplifiers and have heard these headphones on various single ended tube amps, and have been extremely impressed by its performance. Tube amps introduce a double edge sword especially with a headphone as efficient as the Vérité Closed though which is background noise. I want to be clear, my ampsandsound Nautilus is an extremely quiet headphone amp. When running it with 100+ dB efficient speakers I can bury my ear in the horn loaded tweeter and hear nothing. However at 99dB/mW efficiency, tube choice becomes incredibly important to ensure no background noise is heard. This will be true for any higher powered tube amp and simply the reality when using high efficiency headphones.

With the right tube pairing, the Vérité Closed performs incredibly well on my tube amplifier. Everything described in the Listening Impression section of this review is simply amplified. Better more textured bass, cleaner smoother treble, and a more inviting mid-range are all things that await you if you plug a Vérité Closed into a good tube amplifier.  On my Nautilus, I personally really enjoyed the Vérité Closed with a NOS 12AU7 and NOS KT77s. The lower gain of the 12AU7 produced a black background with the Vérité Closed that was simply to die for.

Personally if I was trying to create a reference headphone system under $5500, and I liked a neutral sound, I would buy a Vérité Closed and a Chord Hugo 2. I think the pair was simply that good. If cost was no object I would add a ZMF Pendent or a ampsandsound Kenzie Encore/Ovation which really takes these headphone to the next level.

Is there anything not to like?

Those who have followed my reviews on Positive Feedback have probably picked up on the fact that I love the Hifiman Susvara, to be clear I love it so much that I own two of them.

When reviewing headphones I have two blocks of time, review listening, and personal leisure listening. The Vérité Closed were the first headphones that actually made me want to put down the Susvara during my leisure listening. Now to be clear, I am not saying the Vérité Closed perform as well as the Susvara. They are not far off, but there is a reason that Susvara is over double the price. However, what I am saying is that the Vérité Closed does nothing wrong, and on top of that does everything incredibly well no matter what genre I listen to. The Susvara was the only headphone I could say that about up until the Vérité Closed. This is the biggest compliment I could give these headphones, when it comes to sonic performance and presentation there are simply no cons.

If I had to find a con, it would be their efficiency. At 99dB/mW these headphones make it a little harder to pair with higher powered tube amps unless those tube amps use a decent amount of negative feedback, which I personally do not like. This is not a fault of Vérité Closed, but simply a reality of their efficiency. It is just a shame as they sound incredible with tubes. For a long time people wanted high end headphones to be more efficient, it's clear headphone manufacturers in general have listened to this request.  I just wish there would be more reference level headphones being sold with 88dB/mW - 92dB/mW efficiency as it makes it much easier to pair with tube amp setups.

Wrapping Up

The Vérité Closed do nothing wrong. They are perfect, and they are the best closed back headphones I have ever heard. The only headphone, in my opinion, that compares sonically is the Hifiman Susvara, which really highlights the value proposition that ZMF is posing with the Vérité Closed. Add to that the fact that these are closed back headphones that image and sound just as good as any open back headphone on the market, and one may be left wondering why they should not simply go out and buy a pair of these. Run, don't walk, and buy a pair of these. They truly are that good, and they will scale in your system to the highest of high end.

Thank you Zach and Bevin for allowing me to spend a few months with the Vérité Closed. I am speechless at how you achieved the performance you achieved with these, but it makes me even more excited for what will come next.

ZMF Vérité Closed Headphones

Retail: From $2499.99