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HarmonicDyne Zeus: better than the Sivga Phoenix?

Hell all! Welcome back to the Neighborhood. Today we’re taking a look at the Harmonicdyne Zeus. This has been a somewhat divisive headphone, with some loving it, others liking it, and some feeling a bit disappointed. I was sent the Zeus by the Honest Audiophile, and I appreciate him sending this rather large case in for review. Make sure to check out his channel, and consider subscribing over there as well. Dave and I tend to try to share items mostly as a public service. Because we both agree, even when disagree, it’s better for everyone to have more opinions on a product out there for the community to consider as a whole.

In any case, I know many of you have been looking forward to this review, so the Harmonicdyne Zeus… let’s get InToit!

So, prior to this review I had a lot of questions about the build of this thing. In some phots it looked wood, in other photos it looked as if wood veneer had been used on top of other materials. And no one seemed to be talking specifics regarding the actual construction. So, let’s start with the headband. The top part of the headband seems to be constructed of a black plastic housing with a pleatherette cushion on its underside, and an interwoven peace of spring steal for structure. The cushion is soft enough when worn, but it does collapse rather easily. Secondary, side pieces attach to the yolks, and while these appear that they could be made of metal, as they are somewhat cold to the touch, tapping on them suggests that they are likely painted plastic, as most of this headphone appears to be. There are pieces of wood affixed within these side pieces, and they appear to match the wood of the cups. Even the yolks appear as if they could be plastic. At the very least, they are a cheap metal, which has been molded around a piece of foam of all things for support. The earpads are listed as a nano velvet, but feel like a faux suede. They are soft, and firmer than the headband cushion, but don’t feel to be stuffed with anything as luxurious as a memory foam, and did get rather hot with extended use. The cups are made out of walnut, and the open-backed grille is a piece of, what appears to be, screw affixed thin, laser-cut, sheet metal. The earcups do rotate to lay flat in either direction, which is a plus.

The connections used at the base of the earcup are dual, 2-poled, 3.5mm TRS connectors. The provided cable is, “nice enough,” but the lower, cloth-wrapped portion is a bit stiff, the y-split appears to be cheaply made with tape-wrap and heat-shrink, and length of the cable is disappointing as it is just too short for what most will want for desktop use. It seems like Harmonicdyne may have been targeting people with DAPs here with the Zeus, if its cable length is any indication. The cable terminates also terminates in a 4.4mm pentacon connector, and comes with a 4.4mm female to 3.5mm male adapter- again, suggestive that designers had portability in mind when concocting this package.

Speaking of which, the headphone itself also comes with a foamed-lined, locking, metal case for portability. The case is a nice size, and seems like it comes with enough room in the side-compartment to hold a DAP and the supplied cable. My major criticism here, would be that I wish the Zeus also came with a second larger cable, or at least, a longer, connector cable- perhaps terminating in 4-pin XLR for desktop use.

But, let’s take a look at the sound. In general, timbre here is warm and fuzzy. Listening to these brings to mind the image of listening to headphones, draped in a warm blanket, with nice mug of hot chocolate. So, I think that this headphone could be a good fit for the right person who wants a warm, engaging, and enveloping sound-signature. In other words, these are an enjoyable, but colored headphone.

More specifically, we have a bit of situation here where The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly should be considered. Let’s start things off with The Good. Despite its somewhat soft presentation and warm tonality, I really like the treble on this headphone. It’s expressive, slightly airy, articulate, and revealing; despite being somewhat rolled. The Zeus is the like the anti-harsh can. It takes notes, which might come across as strident on other sets, and turns them into pleasant melodies for your ear. This set also images surprisingly well, and has excellent peripheral detailing. For example, after about the 3-minute-mark on the track Rebel Yell by Billy Idol, there is a section that lasts for about a minute where Billy essentially echoes his own lyrics, and these echoes image left and right with delightfully enjoyable precision on the Zeus.

But this brings us to The Bad. Unfortunately for the Zeus, while its upper mids are mostly “O.K.”, as it moves down in the mid-range, things become hazier and hazier. Additionally, the soundstage can vary in presentation from immense to relatively limited- dependent mostly upon source. So, while imaging is fun and engaging, on the wrong amp, the Zeus’s stage lacks any semblance of a special staging character, while on the right amp, it comes to life and comes across as very “Argon-like.” The stage is spherical, open, and with good height and decent depth to it. Amplification that did not suite the Zeus included the iFi Zen Can Signature, Zen Dac, and to a certain extent the Geshelli Archel Pro. On all three of these products, the Zeus’ presentation felt more box-in and restricted in its scope; although I still enjoyed the tonality and leaner presentation of the Geshelli with the Zeus specifically, even despite this loss of stage. Furthermore, vocals are centered well, and larger than the rest of the mix, but vocal expression still had significant grain to it.

So let’s talk about The Ugly. The low-end is pretty disappointing for a dynamic can. The bass here is rather one note sounding, and these sound best off amplification that smooths out and almost hides the low end. Sources that paired well with the Zeus included the Gold Note DS-10 Plus, the Darkvoice 336, the Bravo Ocean, and surprisingly the THX AAA 789 when run balanced. On the Darkvoice and the Ocrean I preferred Raytheon tubes, which contributed to smoothing things out a bit. Otherwise, the bass was overly thumpy, thuddy, and sounded like a rubber eraser smacking on a desk- overly compressed, and with extremely limited detailing or texture.

But, despite the Zeus’ faults (of which some are pretty glaring) I do still enjoy this headphone. For the person who is looking for a warm, enveloping, and immersive can when powered off “the right” amplification; the Harmonicdyne Zeus is hard to beat. From a non-technical standpoint, some of its faults may actually contribute to its soothing and relaxing character.

In comparison to other warm and fuzzy cans in the price range, such as the Sivga Phoenix, the Harmonicdyne Zeus is simply the superior headphone from both a comfort and sound perspective. And, while it can’t keep up with my MK2 Argon, aspects of its sound signature are reminiscent of a suede padded T60RP Argon at a significantly cheaper price.

*Gold Note DS-10 Plus available from Gestalt Audio Design:

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