E-MU Wood Series Headphones: Bamboo Cups with Teak comparisons.
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Well the E-MU Teaks are back up on Drop, and, as promised, I wanted to get out a video about the Teaks with the bamboo earcups. I was actually surprised by how much the sound did change, and after this experience, I’m hopeful that E-MU might send in some of their additional cups in for review!
So let’s get InToit!
For those of you that are interested in the main build, sound, and other aspects of the E-MU Teak beyond the bamboo cups featured in this review, I’ll place a link for all of you to my original review in the description below. But, one thing that I wanted to stress before we moved into the bamboo cups themselves, is that the E-MU Teaks in general are a decently sensitive and a pretty easy to drive headphone. Some who have purchased the Teaks since my original review have actually been surprised at how sensitive they are. And, I just wanted to remind people that they are at 25 Ohm, 106 dB.
You can pretty much drive them with anything. I have driven these off my phone, a BTR 3K, the Centrance DACport HD, and many other lower-powered amps. They pretty much sound phenomenal on anything, but will obviously show their greatest auditory prowess on more expensive amplification. They don’t scale in astronomical ways, but there are some notable gains. I get a greater sense of spatiality, separation, depth, and clarity on my Gold Note DS-10 Plus than I do on other amplification, but at its price, this is to be expected.
*Gold Note DS-10 and PSU-10 EVO, Power Supply available at: https://gestalt.audio/
Having said that, they are too sensitive to run on "HI" gain on this device, as the Teaks pick up too much background noise for my comfort. On the other hand, I tested the Teaks on both a Darkvoice and the Bravo Ocean prior to today’s review, and was also surprised at how small the interference from these devices actually were, but your milage may vary depending on how noisy your amplification chain is. In general, I’m going to say clean amplification is recommended, but they will tolerate more than more than one would expect, but they aren’t going to stand up to a large amount of operating interference.
With that out of the way, let’s talk a bit about the unique build of the bamboo cups. Unlike E-MU’s other offerings, the bamboo cups here appear to be made out of compressed material rather than a solid wood product. I am presuming this, given that you can see the slight, uniform striation patterns in the cups themselves. But this makes sense given that bamboo is not really wood at all. Bamboo is actually a grass, and, in fact, it is the largest member of the grass family. Bamboo also has a tensile strength that is stronger than steel, and a compressive strength of concrete. So, despite these cups being a composite, I would expect that they should stand up to some heavy use.
Also unique in comparison to their other cups for this headphone, E-MU went with a matte finish here rather than a glossy one. When I was considering the purchase of my Teaks, I really went back and forth between the glossy teak cups and the matte bamboo ones. I just couldn’t decide which look I actually preferred. So, if you’re looking for more of an understated look that still has some pizazz, then the bamboo cups might be for you from an aesthetics perspective.
But, let’s talk about the sound. As I already spoke about in the intro, the sound does change, and quite a bit in fact. Generally speaking, the sound of the bamboo cups is more V-shaped than U-shaped as the teak cups are. There is a slight added brightness, and airy quality to the timbre, and there is greater bass and treble extension at both ends. Sonics are slightly sharper and less romantic in comparison to the Teaks. And, as a result I find the bamboo cups to be less smooth auditorily.
In the low-end, there is less of a midbass hump and more of a focus in the sub-bass in comparison to the teaks. I won’t say the quality of the low-end is better here, but there is definitely some additional quantity. The bamboo cups area also a bit more percussive, and tend to push the sub-bass at you unlike the smoother delivery of bass in the Teaks. So the lower frequencies are accentuated further, and unfortunately, this does result in additional sub-bass bleed into the rest of the mix. The bleed isn’t overtly offensive, but there is more here than in the teak cups, all the same.
MIds, especially frequencies from the lower mid-range are less present auditorily, and, to my ear, there was an obvious scope. While, I do not want to give the impression that they are overly recessed, there is less presence in the lower mids here than on the teak cups, and, as a result, I generally prefer the mid-range presentation of the teak cups in this headphone. In fact, I would say these tests my tolerance with regard to a V-shaped sound, as upper bass and lower mid-range presences are more subdued and at the lowest threshold where I would not call them recessed. For example, on the track “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by the Eurythmics, there is a clear distinction between the lower mid-range and the upper mid-range frequencies on the main riff that is less obvious and more integrative on other sets.
Because of this, I find the sound to be somewhat less natural, less cohesive overall, and generally less musical than that of the teak cups. It’s a bit like you zoomed in on microscope, but the picture that comes into focus isn’t quite as pretty as things had looked from a more distant perspective. It’s like going home with the hottest girl in the club, and then waking up next to her in the morning only to realize that you might have had beer googles the night before.
Uniquely, other sonics presences were generally more forward and less integrative in comparison to the teaks, but in reference to other headphones in the market, in general, I would also say that the bamboo cups never produced sonics that were overly harsh or intense. This is still largely a relaxed headphone in general, just less so. So, if you find the Teaks lacking in intensity, you may want to give the bamboo cups a shot. For example, vocals are brought a bit more forward, focused, and are more distinguished from the rest of the mix in comparison to the teak cups.
Treble is also slightly more forward and distinctive, but also better extended and articulated. There may be a slight be more airy quality to the bamboo cup presentation in general, but, in comparison to the teak cups, I find it lacking in musicality, liquidity, tranquility, and smoothness.
I will not say that I really observed any notable or tangible staging differences with the bamboo cups other than to say that they are more focused across the auditory spectrum in general, and as a result less musical, or flowy, to my ears. Transients and decay characteristics may have been slightly worse, as sounds seem to both hit harder and fall-off faster. On the other hand, peripheral seem to come across less veiled and with some additional detail in comparison to the Teaks. Separation also favored the bamboo cups. So, like any adjustment in life, there are generally compromises and trade-offs if one chooses to go with, and select the cheaper, bamboo cups.
Overall, I would describe the sonics of the bamboo cups as being more distinctive, but less musical. With that being said, I do think the bamboo cup variant of the E-MU Wood Series does have its place for the right audiophile. Someone who primarily listens to rap or modern recordings might actually prefer this presentation, especially in terms of well-recorded tracks which seem take advantage of the bamboo cups’ sonic extensions, airy qualities, and focus. People who prioritize separation or listen primarily for vocals might also prefer this variant. However; after this review, I will most likely return to the teak cups as I value their musicality and smoother presentation.
Original E-MU Teak Review: https://www.intoitreviews.com/post/the-e-mu-teak-legendary
*Gold Note DS-10 and PSU-10 EVO, Power Supply available at: https://gestalt.audio/
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