The Magnan Cable
Throughout this review process I played with both the out of the box DUM cable but also a pretty brand new aftermarket headphone cable. The creator, Craig Buckles of Magnan, may be new to making wire for cans but in the field of speakers and interconnects, he has been at it for years. In fact even if you barely touch full sized HiFi, chances are high that you have seen one of Craig’s iconic cables at one point, I mean they really are one of a kind. They are those thick, flat, odd shaped cables that perplex you as to what is going on. Well, that was at least the effect they had on me. Before I talk about my experiences with the cable I think some words from the creator are a good start!
“The Magnan cables are different from many because of the use of ribbon conductors. The main body of the cable is made with a high quality copper ribbon that is .0014 inch thick by .75 inch wide. This allows a relatively large cross section while at the same time minimizing skin effect and resulting time smear distortions. The ribbons transition into round wires that continue the low skin effect by having fine round wires around the circumference of a central insulating core. The copper ribbon is wrapped in PTFE sheet so the dielectric is PTFE and air. Positive and negative runs in each cable are held apart by a flexible foam to minimize capacitance that may otherwise be caused. Neutrik XLR or RCA connectors are standard. The headphone end uses connectors specific to the headphones for which it is made. Other connectors can be used. I recently built a pair of headphone cables with all Furutech carbon fiber connectors for a customer with Audeze headphones. The suggested price of the cables is $695 with standard connectors. All Magnan cables use ribbon conductors and get three days of burn in on an Audiodharma cable cooker before leaving the workshop.
I am working on a silver version of this cable. I have acquired the materials and will soon assemble the cable and start listening tests.”
Where the DUM cable is said to offer an improvement on the stock cable the Magnan certainly has an impact over the DUM too. Once you’ve managed to vent your frustration over the ergonomic difficulties with the cable and you are able to simply listen and enjoy the music, the sound is improved with the Magnans. We benefit from a more enjoyable sense of definition to the sound with an overall more wholesome yet refined outcome. Bass is a little fuller and we are more open in presentation; despite the difficulties I had with how the cable sits and feels for a headphone cable, I really would find it hard to revert back to the DUM.
Anyway, back to the Ether Flow!
The Sonic Flow
For as long as I can now remember I have referenced the Sennheiser HD800 and since then a lot of flagship headphones have found the way to me and not dethroned them. Focal, EnigmaAcoustics, Ultrasone and Audeze are just some of the brands this includes and still the Sennheisers live strong. Now the Ether Flow is considerably more expensive than my HD800 and putting sonic signatures aside to start with, I need to be convinced that I am getting my moneys worth in technical ability. For me that has been one of the biggest issues I have found with these headphones because I just don’t think they are delivering for their price tag. I am not the only one to have voiced these concerns either, Josh thoroughly agrees as have some reputable members of the community who have worked through my range of flagship headphones. I am not starting off like this to try and break the products or say that are outright bad, these are without doubt a incredible headphone and not something to be trifled with, but when you are paying twice as much than the Focal Elear it makes it a lot harder for me to be quite as enthusiastic.
Taking a step back from my initial reservations and we have a smooth and musical sound with a shallow V shaped frequency curve, giving bass an extra helping of interaction and treble a blast of additional energy over a present and neutral stance midrange. The middle is just without quite as much presence as some competitors. It also presents itself in its own light, perhaps forming a middle ground between the intimate and overblown dynamism of Elear and the airy, light and open HD800. This leans more towards the latter but still has much more weight than the Sennheiser, but without it being prevented from sounding three dimensional! Still it is vaguer in its space than both Elear and HD800. – Something the Magnan helped ever-so-slightly.
I find the bass to be satisfying in its methods. It has more fruition in the mid-bass but holds on just about enough to keep things sounding full and plump at the very bottom. It a subtle warmth to it and while being bassier than the HD800, it doesn’t approach the levels of an LCD-3. The bass did at times seem just a little off the mark though and I almost heard a distortion in it with some specific frequencies it is far from a constant problem and is relatively unnoticeable for the vast majority of the time.
It seamlessly moves through into the midrange, carrying its weight and texture which is one of the few reasons that could leave you preferring this to my beloved HD800, which can come across a little whispy in comparison. As you leave the midrange onto the treble you could find it a little finicky, especially as we transition into the lower treble. I think this maybe due to it being a touch overbearing at the start and while it does find its form as we move up the registers, be prepared for a bit of zing.
Looping back to my initial thoughts in this section where I was a little skeptical with this headphone should not put you off. If without years of reference points and a large collection to compare to I had stumbled upon these headphones and taken a listen, I would be blown away. They are truly a fantastic can with smart technology and good motive but when you have such a diverse and exotic array of competitors it counts to be skeptical, especially with each brand showing off their individual flavoring if high end headphone. So for me I prefer the more reference sound and elevated technical ability of Sennheiser’s cheaper HD800, but for a plumper, more exciting V shaped sound, Mr Speakers delivers.
A Lot of Cash Flow Needed
$1,799 is a lot of money and there is no doubt you are paying a premium to deal with a boutique company and not one of the big industry players like Sennheiser and Focal. I won’t knock that because there is something nice about owning a headphone that is made in a US workshop overseen by the creator Dan. It is personal and Mr Speakers has been an impressive journey. That being said I do ultimately feel you can still get as much headphone for quite a lot less and you will have to decide where your priorities lay, supporting the little guy
for a great product, or getting a little more out of your pay check!