In 2015 the California-based firm MrSpeakers launched two world-class planar magnetic headphones: the open-back ETHER and the closed-back ETHER C (reviewed in Hi-Fi+ issue 135). Laymen and veteran headphone enthusiasts alike reacted favourably to both ETHER models and both went on to win widespread critical acclaim (in fact, Hi-Fi+ gave the ETHER C its Closed-Back Headphone of the Year award). Given the continuing ‘buzz’ surrounding the initial ETHER models, many assumed it would be a good, long while before MrSpeakers saw any need to revise these two award winning designs. “If it ain’t broke,” as the old saying goes, “don’t fix it.”
But Dan Clark, the visionary founder and President of MrSpeakers, doesn’t operate that way. Instead, Clark is driven by a burning desire to improve the sound quality of his products whenever and wherever he can—even in instances when he is attempting to enhance designs that seem not to need any improvement. What is more, Clark is also an inquisitive, imaginative, and yet pragmatic problem solving engineer who relentlessly seeks answers—sometimes by thinking ‘outside the box’. And so, barely a year after releasing the original ETHER and ETHER C headphones, MrSpeakers has now expanded its product line to include two significantly enhanced new versions of the ETHERs: the ETHER Flow and ETHER C Flow.
We though it would be appropriate to follow our review of the closed-back ETHER C with a review of the new open-back ETHER Flow. For now, the key points to note are that the ETHER Flow is a top-class, open-back, planar magnetic headphone that sells for £1,695 when equipped with MrSpeakers’ premium 2m DUM signal cable (DUM stands for ‘Distinctly Un-Magical’, since Clark is a no-nonsense engineer who is put off by the almost mystical performance claims made by some cable manufacturers). At this point in time, the ETHER Flow is the finest planar magnetic headphone that MrSpeakers knows how to make.
Like the original ETHER, the ETHER Flow 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 Nappa leather ‘microsuede’ headband strap. Within the baffles are suspended sets of MrSpeakers-designed 70 x 44.5mm 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 Italian Nappa lamb-leather-clad ear pads are provided. Completing the picture is a set of the firm’s DUM signal cables, which can be ordered in two lengths (2m or 3m) with the user’s choice of balanced four-pin XLR, single-ended 6.35mm phone plug, or single-ended 3.5mm mini-plug terminations. The entire headphone arrives in a felt-lined, form fitting, moulded EVA carry case that provides a neat, Velcro-closure equipped recess where signal cables can be storied when the headphones are in transit.