REVIEW: ERZETICH MANIA HEADPHONES - BRUTALIST REFINEMENT
Direct from the mountains and lakes of central Europe; we spend some quality on-ear time with the Erzetich Mania headphones.
I think that we can all agree that the headphone market is currently one of the most important in the hi-fi world. Walking around CanJam London and head-fi sections at other shows this is the area where the younger enthusiasts tend to congregate. Whether it's the being able to shut the world out, or that it's arguably easier to get on the ladder, personal audio is many people's gateway drug to hi-fi. Thankfully, there are brands such as Erzetich who can come in with their own ideas on what makes something great.
Established in Slovenia in 2012 the company is the brainchild of Blaž Erzetič. Here is a man who appears to have many facets. Blaž's diverse background includes electronics, fine art and music performance. A factoid that piqued my particular interest is that he has even supported Marilyn Manson while masterminding the alt-metal band, El Soter.
The Mania was launched alongside the Phobos, the company's flagship planar headphone. The wooden duo is the company’s first foray into the headphone manufacturing business after producing headphone amplifiers aimed at the mid-range and high-end.
Erzetich Mania review
The headphones arrived well protected in a large box with thick foam cut-outs for the headphones and lightly coiled cable. Upon opening this box, I felt that I had received something quite special. Also in the box is a fabric carrying pouch. It would be a shame to discard the packaging, but it's not the prettiest of things. However, it certainly does the job of protecting the headphones on their journey.
Tipping the scales at 460g, the Mania’s feature 50mm dynamic drivers coated in Titanium with a semi-open chassis, covered with stainless steel.
The selection of Linden wood for the earcups was not only for its sonic qualities but also because Linden wood is the national symbol of Slovenia. So, the material has a special meaning for Erzetich; it's not just some random timber picked off the shelf purely for looks or sound signature. The wood has been aged and is proud to show its scrapes, grooves and grain. Protective lacquer is perhaps the only nod to refining the octagonal blocks of wood. The warts-and-all wooden cups, along with the anodised aluminium cup plates, gives the overall design an almost Brutalist, post-apocalyptic silhouette. I approve.
The headphones' industrial design continues with the adjustment method.
The Mania uses a twin pivot screw and aluminium gimbal system. The positive to this method is that it provides a high level of flexibility for cup adjustment. The Manias are so gifted with an impressive degree of swing until the stops, well, stop them. If it wasn't for those stops, you could spin them through a full 360. Furthermore, there a pair of adjustable screws enabling you to slide the cups up and down to accommodate even the largest of noggins. If there was a slight sticking point about this mechanism is that on-head adjustment can be a bit fiddly. However, unless you share your cans with a variety of people, this should be a one-time adjustment.
The headband is constructed from a lightweight dual-band matte black aluminium arch with a pressure adjusting strap just underneath. The ‘tiara belt’, as Erzetich call it, is a rubber-like material. The entire construction of the headphones, including the leatherette ear pads, follows the company's philosophy of not using products made from animals: Yet another thing I can get totally behind.
Connectivity comes by way of a 4-pin mini-XLR socket housed in the bottom facet of the ear cups. The position of the port allows the cable to fall straight down rather than putting any stress upon the socket or cable. Additionally, this makes the Mania ambidextrous with only how you plug in the cords determining the sides.
Regarding the supplied cable, it is silver-plated, copper clad steel (CCS) (signal) and silver-plated copper (shield). All of which is then wrapped up in a nylon jacket until the carbon fibre finished aluminium barrel junction. After this junction, the cable looks to wear a transparent PET jacket. Naturally, the wires are terminated with a set of mini-XLR pins and a quality silver-barreled, gold-plated quarter jack.
Whether-or-not you fall in love with how the Erzetich Mania looks, slipping them on over your ears envelops you in a comfortable world of high fidelity.
Commencing the listening session with some Tricky and the overall presentation is well balanced with a lively contrast. The Bristolian's track 'Sun Down' comes through the headphones with a well-rounded, slightly warm low end. Once the song starts proper, it was easy to detect the Mania's great midrange focus and precision. Bass harmonics and a metronomic tick were crystal clear without coming over as being over-emphasised.
'Fools Errand' by Fleet Foxes was presented with clarity and openness that seemed miles away from the slightly claustrophobic character of the previous track from Tricky. Guitars and snare rang through the layered vocals cloaked in reverb.
The Fleetwood Mac classic 'The Chain' was glorious. The bass, which can sometimes come through smeared on lesser headphones was clear and throbbed meaningfully through the chorus. However, it was the famous middle-eight that really underpinned this particular experience. Plectrum against the strings, the ringing open note, the cheeky slides. Fabulous, transparent, round, rich and warm.
'Glory Box' from Portishead's Roseland NYC Live album slinks through my head next. The strings clear and moody while the samples layer up yet remain discernable. Again, the bass is executed smoothly as the crisp drums strike through the mix. This track really suits the Mania's slightly dark treatment. Beth's plaintively barbed vocals send me to that 'eyes shut' place and I lose myself for the moment.
I am a fan of the brutalist aesthetic, but I realise that this is not for everyone. However, this becomes inconsequential as soon as you wear the Mania headphones.
Any whiff of brutalism is forgotten the moment the pleather cups gently cosset your ears. The headband supports the earcups with minimal weight, making wearing the Mania a most enjoyable experience. Listening to music over extended periods is comfortable and not in the least bit strenuous; this goes for the sonic signature of the headphones too.
The Erzertich Mania's detail and precision is just one benefit of its low noise presentation. They have a warmer, darker tone than my usual headphones and, as such, the treble doesn't sparkle as much. That said, there is plenty in the high register with a slightly forward presentation of the low-mids adding the warmth. The openness and wide soundstage mated with the detail, and instrumental separation makes the Mania an excellent choice for long listening sessions.
For more information, go to Erzetich Audio.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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