I have to be honest with you. It is a bit of an endeavor to get some time with Zach Mehrbach of ZMF Headphones at any audio show. Most times I see the designer, he is awash in sea of interested parties clamoring to get some IRL FaceTime in his dedicated showroom at CanJam. This weekend in Los Angeles was no different. The entire scene was throwing major Andrew Jones vibes out the doorway and into the waiting line. That is to say, there is a tinge of celebrity persona attached to the experience, however niche the overall group might be considered.
The reason is simple, but surprisingly tenuous to get just right. In just a few short years, ZMF Headphones has moved from a fledgling Fostex T50RP modder to a full blown, beloved bespoke brand. Much of this is constructed around Zach’s approachable attitude as much as it is his capability to build a top tier, small batch pair of cans.
In the show room at the Irvine Marriott this year, I saw a fan bring one of Zach’s early Fostex models to event, just to show it off. Impressed, Zach mentioned that the the likelihood of that headphone being constructed by his own hands on top the family kitchen table was probably very high. Now with a fully functional wood cutting, finishing and manufacturing shop on the outskirts of Chicago, Mr. Mehrbach has managed to grow the ZMF and product line to a deeper, but still extremely tidy group of value propositions. Generally speaking his offerings do run on the more luxury side of things, for headphone as least ($2k+).
However, his newest prospect called Bokeh is aimed more clearly at a middle-of-the-road crowd. This is mostly due to a new 80 ohm driver that makes is easier to driver from a less powerful headphone amplifier (vs. his higher 200-ish options) and a slightly more approachable price point. The Bokeh features a new ear cup geometry in addition to the new transducers specs. It is also now able to lay flat on a table, or take up a smaller amount of space tucked into a portable case due to the fully rotatable, swivel suspension system.
The room was also adorned with several of ZMF’s custom wood options, including some stunning brightly hued inlays that were new to me. The eye catching one-offs and the rest of Zach’s big bag of toys can all be driven by his new Arcadia amplifier in collaboration with JDS Labs. The vintage inspired aesthetics are backed up by a full 2 watts of power, an interesting volume pot and a variable output impedance switch (1 or 47 ohms). The level control can be rotated from the front or pushed along from the top panel via the grooved surface.
The new Bokeh headphone and Arcadia amplifier will retail for around $1,099 each.
More info: ZMF Headphones