What an awful year 2020 has been. You might not want to be reminded of all the horrors a lot of us have experienced this year in a headphone review of all places, but it should probably be mentioned in my last review of the year on MajorHiFi. Closing out this vile chapter, I’m going to be taking a look at the new open-back headphone from HarmonicDyne called “Zeus.” We’ve seen the release of a lot of great open-backs in 2020, and it’s been one of the few highlights of the year for me getting to listen to them. The Sivga Phoenix, IBasso SR2, and Sennheiser 560s have been the biggest standouts this year. This headphone is the most affordable out of the lot, going for $350 at most retailers. Can the Zeus make an impression at its price?
What You Get
You may be expecting a cheaper presentation for the price point, but that isn’t abandoned here. The Zeus comes with this chunky hardshell case reminiscent of a Pelican camera case. It’s hard to gauge whether every pair will be shipped out with this case, but for now this far beyond the protection I expect for a headphone under $500. Other than that, the Zeus isn’t really swarming with accessories. You get your 3.5mm two-meter cable with a quarter-inch adapter.
Look and Feel
These for sure do not look like $350 headphones. I couldn’t believe how lavish the Zeus’ appearance was. The walnut wood reminded me of some of Sivga’s designs, and will hopefully add some timbral qualities to the sound signature. The earcups are then combined with a stainless steel grill patterned like a snowflake. It’s one of the most eye-catching, beautiful designs I’ve seen on any type of headphone. The Zeus isn’t overtly flashy, but it holds this elegant, master-crafted aesthetic that’s hard to beat. Seriously, how is this headphone only $350.
The headband is also made up of this material, along with several layers of dampening polymers. The earcups feature these wide pads made out of nano velvet cushions that feel very cozy. I never felt a whole lot of pressure against my head, and the adjustments are sturdy. However, they do have a bit of weight to them, but it’s nothing distracting or uncomfortable. Most of the time the feeling is snug and fits just right around my ears.
For their drive design, HarmonicDyne seeks innovation. The Zeus comes equipped with a custom 50mm dynamic driver with a Beryllium diaphragm. Beryllium drivers are strong systems that aim to reproduce sound more accurately, and what I’ve heard from them so far I’ve been a big fan of.
When I saw that the impedance of the Zeus was 64 Ohms, I knew I would want a good system to drive them properly. I didn’t need anything too crazy, but something that gave the Zeus enough power to do it justice. I’ve been enjoying the Bolt from Helm Audio so I went with that, and it gave the Zeus a decent amount of juice. Through the Bolt my volume controls reached a comfortable gain, leaving a ton of room for a boost. The Zeus isn’t overly sensitive, but the small increases in volume create just noticeable differences in detail retrieval.
One of my favorite aspects of doing this job is gushing about how much I love open-back headphones. Not every set has had the greatest soundstage, but most of the time these manufacturers know how to get it right. HarmonicDyne is one of those companies. The Zeus presents a lush image, with precision separation and an immersive sound field. I never felt like the sound was coming from the drivers, rather they were appearing from their respective placement on a stereo level. The stereo spectrum doesn’t just expand linearly, but in width as well. The image taken on with certain instrumentals appear full and clear, with a particularly floaty specialty. The top-end wafts above your head and creates a much more airy space that works great for ambient tracks and soundscapes.
While not the most impressionable response, the Zeus can still kick in the bass, while delving into the depth of sub-bass. What you get ends up sounding more warm and natural than big and booming. Each time the Zeus dropped down into those sub-frequencies I was always surprised, as the timbre never called attention to itself, but certainly lifted the track and balanced the lows. In effect, it created a much more pure bass response than I was expecting, and the more tracks I tested, the more interesting it became.
Natural seems to be the theme HarmonicDyne is going for with the Zeus, because the midrange is as pure as the lows, but exudes more subtle, attention-grabbing details. The mids showcase a ton of fidelity here with rare notches and light airiness. Acoustical performances have an especially full form, with warm textures and a focus on intimacy.
If you’re not a fan of the more sparely, sibilant highs of some open-back, you won’t find that on the Zeus. Instead, you’ll get a smooth, airy treble, that recesses some of the brighter features of the high-end and balances them with a more relaxed timbre. This again produces a much more natural tonality, topping off an excellently balanced output that never sacrifices that open-back immersion accentuated by the highs.
An open-back beryllium headphone for $350 is going to be a no-brainer for some, as there’s nothing quite like it on the market today. My time with the Zeus was full of constant surprises, and If you’re in the market to buy an open-back headphone that’s a little above beginner, then HarmocnicDyne might persuade you. However, if you’re not a fan of a more natural sound signature, and are looking for something with more impact, then there are definitely better options out there. However, for now, I can tell you that I am greatly enjoying this headphone and am looking forward to what HarmonicDyne has to offer in the future.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Natural timbre, airy soundstage, beautiful design
Cons: Slightly weighty earcups
The HarmonicDyne Zeus is available at Linsoul.
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