Timbers of the Goodly Tree – A Review of the ZMF Headphones Atticus

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::Disclaimer::
ZMF provided Atticus at a discounted price for the purpose of my honest review, for good or ill.

Atticus sells for $1099.99 MSRP
www.ZMFHeadphones.com


I met with Zachary, ZMF founder and consummate tinkerer, at the 2017 St. Louis Head-Fi meet, hosted by JDS Labs. His newest creations at the time were the Atticus and Eikon. Both wowed me, but I fell especially hard for Atticus. When I got home, I emailed him about doing a review. Zach expressed enthusiasm, and assured me, when he gets around to building a few review units, he’d send me one.

Every handful of months, I’d check back, and he’d apologize, promising he’d get around to it sooner or later. Zach is a very busy man, fulfilling customer orders and supplying dealers. Finding time to build additional headphones beyond that can’t be easy.

After nearly a year of this, I let him know I’d be at the 2018 St. Louis Head-Fi meet just around the corner, and I looked forward to exploring his catalog again, and hearing his newest creation, the Auteur. He immediately discerned it as an opportunity not to be squandered, for an easy hand-off, and a hard deadline he could meet.

My treacherous scheming had the desired effect, and a special Atticus would be waiting when next we spoke.

I had a lovely time at the meet. Got to listen to many wonders we in the Mid-West never get the chance to hear. Zach borrowed my tia Fourté for a brief audition, and I sunk my teeth into his outstanding gear. The new Auteur is truly exceptional, but I was surprised to find Atticus remains my favorite of his line. It melds with my ears in a singular way.

The particular Atticus I brought home is from a limited batch of 20, crafted of a most stunning selection of ash wood. It’s a lighter hue than the other woods he uses, with gorgeous deep brown rings to really catch the eye. Evidence of torching is seen in the venting slits which run along the edge of the cups. The burnt wood brings further character to the work. When you add all the black leather and metal to the mix, it makes for an elegant contrast, and sets this model among the most beautiful headphones I’ve ever seen.

Atticus is enormous! There’s no two ways about it. The pads are thick and the cups are deep. I’ve simply never seen a headphone this big. What’s more, it is rather heavy. However! Atticus is one of the most comfortable cans I own. Hell, it might even be at the top of that list. Though, NightOwl and HD800 are insanely comfortable, too. And HD6XX is no slouch. Atticus belongs in that group. I have worn it all day without ever experiencing hot spots or pain from either the weight or clamp force. The parts which touch your head are so delightfully soft, and the balance so well distributed, you easily forget you’re wearing anything at all.

You read that right. You will believe you are naked, being awkwardly serenaded by your favorite artists, who are trying to avert their eyes and remember their fingering. I am confident this stood at the fore of Zachary’s intent.

In spite of the giganticism mentioned above, Pinky’s derangement is such that he brings Atticus to work every day and runs it from mobile devices. These are functioning as motherf**king portable headphones! (yes, I know the word is “giganticness”, but I felt an evil need to use “giganticism” instead. I must meditate on this and figure out why.)

I bought a few microfiber bags off Amazon, and just slip Atticus inside. Then slip the balanced cable Zach made into its little felt pouch. Just put the pouch into the microfiber bag, and put all that shit into my messenger bag, and I’m ready to go! It’s become my favorite full-size travel headphone, and sits at the top of my Category II gear… if you remember my Meze review:

There are three categories of transducer I want stocked and on-hand at all times.
Category I: Full-size, high impedance headphone meant for a desktop amp. (These sound the best. LCD-3 is my primary, used only for music. HD6XX is secondary, used for everything else.)
Category II: Full-size, low impedance headphone meant for work/mobile use. (These will never sound quite as good. Being sourced by mobile gear doesn’t help matters. Meze 99 Classics belongs here, making this the weakest of the three classes.
Category III: In-Ear Monitors meant for work/mobile use. (These sound nearly as good from a quality DAP as they do from a desktop system. They are VERY efficient. tia Fourté and Legend X sit at the head of this table.)

Now with Atticus, I feel as if my Category II is as strong as Category I. These headphones, by all rights, belong at a desk, powered by a big-ass amp. And yet, because they’re closed-back, and so goddamn comfortable, and so easily driven by DAPs, and sound so utterly transcendent when they are, I’ve found a portable headphone that’s changed the game for me. I just moved up a tier, and wasn’t expecting it.

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About Author

Pinky is an artsy twat. Illustration, graphic design, writing. Yet music escapes him, and always has. He builds his own cables, and likes to explore the craftsmanship of others. He's a stabby one, also. At the first hint of annoyance, out comes the blade. I say he's compensating for something... in a big bad way. If we all try really hard as a collective, maybe we can have him put down.

2 Comments

  1. I’m currently waiting on my Atticus to arrive. I have the dx200 with amp8 but am tempted to return it for the se100. My only concern is whether the se100 balanced out can drive the Atticus as well as the amp8. What is your opinion, and which dap did you prefer most between the two? Is the se100 really worth twice the dx200?

    • Actually, in terms of sound quality, I put them neck and neck for the most part, with a slight edge going to the DX200 AMP8, in fact.

      With the SE100, you are paying for a lot of things behind merely great sound. If you are among those who don’t value those other things, the DX200 AMP8 is unbeatable.

      Also, there’s no doubt in my mind Atticus benefits from the extra power of AMP8.

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