T.H.E Show Newport 2015 Highlight: Audio Zenith PMx2
I just went to Merriam-Webster's site and checked their definition of "dogged determination", it didn't have a picture of Alex Zaets. A missed opportunity, for sure.
Alex has spent the last couple years working on modifications to the Oppo PM-2...sort of. He actually began his relationship with the Oppo PM headphone designer Igor Levitski due to a speaker project he was working on that potentially required a planar magnetic driver. Though that particular requirement didn't pan out, a casual relationship was spawned as Igor became aware of Alex's digital signal processing work correcting headphones and the headphone measurement system he had developed for the work. Through this relationship Alex was exposed to the PM-1 relatively early on in it's design, and had the opportunity to play with some early units. Over time he began to feel that there were some additional thingsthings that weren't necessarily easy to manufacturethat could be done to further improve the performance of the PM-1. When the significantly lower priced PM-2 was released, he perceived it as an opportunity to use it as a platform for his hot rod ideas. With his relationship with Igor in good standing, a deal was inked for Alex and Audio Zenith to become a sanctioned after-market supplier of heavily modified Oppo headphones.
I talked with Alex for a good half hour about the various modifications he's developed for the PMx2 ($1398), seemingly nothing has gone untouched and the amount of detail and thought that has gone into the modifications is rather stunning. For example, the ear pads are completely redone. The PMx2 pads are angled and have five zones of varying firmness. This is not done for comfort sakethough they were quite comfortablebut rather to adjust the acoustic characteristics and control resonances in the space between the driver and ear. The rear of the pad also has a structure at the base of the pad that allows controlled venting.
How does it sound? Well, show conditions and all that, but man, what I heard was spectacular. I really like the stock PM-1/2, it has a relaxed, laid back sound that suits me well, but I do hear them as somewhat rolled-off up top and a bit too polite. The Audio Zenith PMx2 on the other hand is tight, punchy, and dynamic throughout. Yes, even in the treble regions these modified sounded are marvelously speedy and transparent.
I have measured these headphone not long ago and I have to say this is one of those times when the measurements aren't showing me what my ears are hearing. Though the measurements show the differences are relatively small, to my ears these are very clearly different than the stock headphone. Alex will be sending me another pair sometime soon, you haven't heard the last from me about these hot rod headphones.
Click here if you can't see the video.