Odd though it may seem, the California-based firm MrSpeakers doesn’t make loudspeakers; instead, it makes world-class headphones at sensible prices. The company name derives from the fact that company founder Dan Clark was, at an earlier point in his career, a talented loudspeaker designer-for-hire who was contracted to create the excellent but sadly short-lived family of Platinum loudspeakers. More recently, Dan launched MrSpeakers as a headphone company whose initial products were progressively more intensely modified variants on the Fostex T50RP planar magnetic headphone. These models carried colourful names such as the Mad Dog, Mad Dog Pro, Alpha Dog, and Alpha Prime, and they collectively won the firm and its founder considerable respect within the high-end headphone community.
But excellent though MrSpeaker’s Fostex-derived headphones were and are, Clark had a vision for driving his company forward by building a set of top-tier headphones entirely of his own design and manufacture. The result is pair of superb planar magnetic models: the open-back ETHER, which launched first, quickly followed by the closed-back ETHER C. Now common wisdom has it that closed-back planar magnetic headphones will never be able to achieve the open, transparent, and free-flowing ‘feel’ of their open-back brethren, but Clark—well aware of these perceptions—was determined that his ETHER C would offer sound quality fully competitive with that of his well-regarded ETHER model. The result, in my assessment, is the finest closed-back headphone that I have heard to date.
The ETHER C features machined, black-anodised aluminium driver baffles, pivots, and gimbals, with a distinctive NiTinol ‘memory metal’ headband frame from which is suspended an adjustable Italian leather ‘microsuede’ headband strap. Within the baffles are suspended sets of MrSpeakers-designed 2.75 x 1.75-inch single-ended planar magnetic drivers fitted with the firm’s proprietary V-Planar driver diaphragms (which we will discuss later on). For the sake of a good and comfortable fit, bevelled lamb-leather-clad ear pads are provided. Completing the picture are sets of rigid but lightweight, precision-made carbon fibre ear cup enclosures, which give the ETHER C’s an elegant, upscale, and decidedly high-tech look.
Interestingly, although the ETHER C is a closed-back design, it is not a fully sealed design; instead, the aluminium ear cup baffles provide tiny, oblong vent holes on top to help relieve backpressure from the planar magnetic driver. Ordinarily, these vent holes are barely visible, since they are partially blocked from view by the ear cup suspension frames. Each ear cup baffle is also fitted with a distinctive four-pin signal cable connection fitting and our review samples came with a set of the firm’s optional premium signal cables equipped with four-pin metal plugs with quick disconnect locking rings.