All the way from Slovenia, this decidedly singular design is an intriguing creation. Paul Rigby reviews the Erzetich Mania headphones
The headphone market is one of the most interesting sectors in the hi-fi industry. Wandering around last year’s Indulgence Show in London, I was struck by the large hall stuffed with headphone-related gear but, more than that, the innovation and imagination triggered by this vibrant arena. Erzetich is an active part of this group.
Weighing 460g, the Mania’s feature 50mm dynamic drivers coated in Titanium with a semi-open chassis, covered with stainless steel.
The headphones are big and bulky and not exactly stylish. More industrial in nature. More factory floor than catwalk. That physicality is seen in how the headphones are adjusted on the ear. To gain a perfect fit, you unscrew a holding bolt on a sliding bracket, find your position and then tighten the bracket. While on the head, I found that I needed both hands to properly find the correct ear position. It’s certainly doable and I achieved the correct listening position in a relatively short time but the entire process felt cumbersome and lacked finesse. I didn’t adjust the final rating downwards, though because this action tends to be a one-off task.
The ear cups, made from Linden wood (which has a sonic effect) is aged (which does not) but that wood look plus the metal cup plate also adds to the ‘heavy duty’ nature of the Manias. They’re big, bulky, clunky, ungainly and clumsy and look like they’ve been made an hour ago in someone’s garden shed yet, when on your head and the ear cups are adjusted, they feel light, comfortable and all of that visual confrontation is suddenly gone. It’s an odd dichotomy but I’m glad of the latter and so can forgive the former. I wear headphones that feel and sound good, I am forgiving in terms of pure aesthetics. As long as the design doesn’t hamper the user or actually get in the way of regular use then, as far as I’m concerned, the headphones could be constructed from two jam sandwiches connected by three pieces of Tagliatelle. We’re all different, though and you might have a different suite of priorities, so take note.
I began the tests with prog rock and Camel’s Moonmadness (1976) and the track A Song Within a Song. The Manias provided tremendous midrange insight that could possibly be described as ‘high resolution’. That is, there was focus and precision in there but no over emphasis. Just an enhancement of available detail. Hence, I heard the giveaway pulse of a tapped cymbal as it was hit, the sound grew and then fell away. That was clear and open with no discernible ceiling to restrict dynamics. I was even more impressed by the bass guitar here. I’m used to this instrument, on this track, taking a back seat in terms of its performance and providing a sort of tone effect. Ever walked outside the door of a club on Saturday night but never actually gone in? The bass tends to move up and down the tonal ladder but there’s no focus to it. It’s like a sound blob. The bass guitar on this track is too often treated in this way. You hear the bass but there’s no definition to the notes, you have no indication that the string has been plucked. Not here, though. With the Manias, the bass guitarist is obviously hard at work and you hear everything he does with impressive clarity.
The flute, on the early part of this track flows with some ease, giving a breathy and, indeed breezy response while the lead guitar offers real life and vigour to its presentation. The same could be said of the rhythm guitar. With the Manias, you want to take more notice, you feel that you’re drawn into learning more about the make-up of the soundstage and how its constructed. The headphones, in effect, infuse the ear with enthusiasm.
I then turned to jazz vocal and Fran Jeffries’ title song from the 1964 LP, Sex and the Single Girl, from the film of the same name. The vocal presentation here is nicely allied with the reverb from the in-house ‘echo chamber’ while the backing orchestra provides a suite of detailed yet well positioned instruments including a beautifully resonant trombone that growls at one point, adding a meaty effect to the early part of the song contrasting well with the brassy sheen of the trumpets. The slurpy saxophones move in and out of the song like the tide while the percussion combines nicely detailed cymbal taps with impactful drum strikes. The upright bass, often pushed to the rear of the mix with no great say in terms of detail provides a measure of woody vibrancy, adding a richness to the performance.
If brutalist architecture floats your boat, if your punk leanings stretch to Steam and, allied to that, if you approve of the DIY ethic, then the Erzetich Mania headphones will take the eye and ear.
Despite the brutish nature of the design of these headphones, the Mania headphones benefit from a low noise presentation that allows the detail and precision of the music to push through unencumbered giving an open sound that provides all of the information you might need without accompanying that with any sort of compressive additions. The entire soundstage provides a naturalistic environment but the high resolution music demands your attention.
ERZETICH MANIA HEADPHONES
Price: £910 (on limited offer)
Tel: 01334 570 666
GOOD: articulate bass, hi-res detail, enthusiastic presentation, energetic mids
BAD: aesthetics, fitting process
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