The E-MU Teak: legendary sound.
Updated: Jul 19, 2020
Hey all! Welcome back to the Neighborhood. It's Your Friendly Neighborhood Reviewer with InToit Reviews.
Today, we're looking at a pretty special headphone: The, legendary, E-MU Teak, and let me tell you guys, at $400 dollars for the attached-wire version with the teak wood cups and sheepskin ear-pads, this is a phenomenal deal.
So, let's get InToit...
So, let’s talk about the E-MU Teak. Again, this is one of the best values in headphones. Hands down. I’ve already covered the E-MU Purplehearts, and the history of the company in that YouTube video. so I’ll refrain from doing that here. So, if you’re interested in the background on E-MU as a company, then go ahead and check out that video as well:
But for now, back to the Teaks. The E-MU Teak is a circumaural, closed-back design, a variant of the Foster 443742 driver, and in the same family as the more famous Fostex TH-900 series. It is composed of a 50 mm neodymium magnet, bio-cellulose diaphragm design, and there have been numerous different implementations of this headphone over the years. Some of the best have included the Denon AH-D5000, the Fostex TH-610, the Massdrop T(H/)R-X00 series, and the Fostex TH-900 MK2’s.
But, out of all of them, the E-MU Teak reigns supreme in my opinion... And Tyll from Inner Fidelity agrees: https://www.innerfidelity.com/content/survey-foster-443742-variants-subjective-listening-tests-denon-ah-d5000-massdrop-fostex-th
Why? Well, all of these are V-shaped headphones, but the E-MU Teak appears slightly more U-shaped than V-shaped to my ears- meaning there is less of a reduction in the mid-range in the E-MU teak than in any of its brothers or sisters. I would describe the midrange as soft, articulate, and purposeful, despite being somewhat, limited in presence.
Additionally, the E-MU teak has the best overall tonality or timbre compared to its brethren. The E-MU teak is a very musical headphone overall. Tyll, from Inner Fidelity, called the sounds of the E-MU Teak, “liquid goodness,” and I’d have to agree. While it is very slightly roll off up top, the treble that is there is well extended enough, energetic, and softly detailed.
Inconsistently, Tyll also called the treble “hot,” and while I hear why he would do so, because it can be a rather lively presentation at times; I would also argue that the treble has a touch of honey to it-remaining pleasurable to one’s ear despite being slightly pushed forward in the mix.
In the end, the E-MU Teak retains an astounding and significant amount of treble detail for this driver model in particular, and delivers said detail to the listener in a very pleasing and relaxing manner. In contrast, the tunings of other headphones, which use this driver, have come across as sharp, fatiguing, or ear-piercing (put a picture of the TH-900); but the E-MU Teak never does.
Female singers tend to be more forward and emphasized than male vocals, which are often more laid back in their presentation, and significantly less prominent in the mix with the Teak.
Dynamics on this can are excellent, and the bass is very punchy and percussive, with more of a mid-bass emphasis to it. While the sub-bass is most definitely present, it does tend to trail off the deeper it goes in the lower registry; yet, it still retains good texture, detail, and punchiness. I will note that there is a mild bloom from the mid-bass, which does lend itself to some sloppiness.
Sound-stage is wide and deep for closed back can, and imaging is good, but separation is only adequate, and not stellar; resulting in some mild imprecision in the sonic picture at times on complex tracks. Nevertheless, sonics are well represented within space in terms of both their location and distinctiveness.
Decay is neither too quick, nor too slow, and transients are relatively good and appropriate- without offense or particular note. Having said that, there is a certain sophisticated, featheriness to the Teak’s overall quality, which is both alluring and endearing. Furthermore, peripheral details are quite excellent and impressive.
I would use the term musical rather than analytical to describe this can, but it is also “analytical enough” to be enjoyed by that crowd as well.
The E-MU Teak is also incredible easy to drive. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in the sense that it can be powered well, and produce good sonics, from most sources; however, it is a curse in that it is somewhat suspectable to mild noise from some sources with higher output impedance. Listed impedance and sensitivity specs are 25 ohms and 106 dB respectively.
My favorite amplifier parings with the E-Mu Teak are the Gold Note DS-10 and the THX AAA 789.
The Gold Note-DS10 offers enhanced honey tones, feathery details, a larger and more expansive background, and increased harmonic richness amongst the overall presentation. While it is not absolutely necessary, an iFi IEMatch offered a blacker backdrop for the Teaks when utilizing the Gold Note DS-10, as it has a higher output impedance from its unbalanced, headphone amplifier compared to the outputs for the THX AAA 789.
The THX AAA 789, offered a sharper presentation that was more “boxed-in,” in comparison to the Gold Note. I was able to power the Teaks quite easily off the first gain stage with no need to switch to the secondary gain stage, but one might still prefer to do so in order to obtain slightly lusher sonics.
But before we end, let’s talk about the build, as there are some issues with it.
First and foremost, the wooden cups are beautiful, and well crafted, but only lacquered on the outside and not on the inside. Some people have asked; and I am ultimately unsure of the reason for this, but I suspect that it has something to do with the resonance of the wood and the sonics of the headphone.
My understanding is that the only way that one can obtain the Teak cups is to order them with the E-MU Teak themselves. Having said this, the E-MU Teak is offered with a variety of additional, or, if one prefers, alternative, cup options, such as: Ebony, Rosewood, and Bamboo cup finishes. Between the Ebony, Rosewood, and Teak it is well documented that the Teak cups will be preferred by most; however, E-MU has sent over the Bamboo Cups to me for an additional, future review of that configuration as well. So, stay tuned for a future, follow-up to this review regarding the Bamboo Cup variant.
There are also two versions of this headphone from a cabling and pad perspective. The version I went with has an attached 1.5 m wire and includes sheepskin pads, whereas an alternative variant includes protein-leather pads and a detachable cable with 2.5 mm connectors, which extrude from the ear-cups. Regarding the latter, I prefer the fit and sonics of the sheepskin pads, to the protein pads, and t it is my understanding that 2.5 mm connectors can be a common failure point for this device. Further research, also suggested that, no matter the variant, the swivel-point socket where the metal Yolks attach to the headband is another common failure point- potentially snapping at this junction with over-use.
The headband itself is wrapped in a nice leatherette material, which encases dual-metal-rodded, left and right, extension adjustments, which click securely into place. The clamp of the headband, is neither to forceful, nor too loose for my head, and the pads rest softly, mostly surrounding one’s ears- forming a good seal. One thing to note, regarding the fit, is that the opening of these pads is a unique, smaller, D-shape, and the helix of my pinna appears to slide into the pad, rather than being surround by it. Furthermore, the lower lobule of my ears does not make it into the pad at all, and bottom leather of the pad rests gently on top of them. Nevertheless, the ear-cups feel like soft pillows on your ears, the headband disperses the headphone’s weight generally well, and I find the Teaks supremely comfortable to wear for long-listening sessions.
With specific regard to the attached cable edition, the 1.5-meter cable is attached to the ear-cups with rubberized stress relief, travels down to a soft-touch plastic Y-split, and then terminates in a 3.5 mm TRS jack with a screw-on quarter-inch connector. It is heavy-duty, thick, and surrounded by a fabric material- looking like a bungee cord to an outside observer. While, I would have preferred a balanced termination and a longer 2 m cable for desktop use, the 1.5 m single-ended cable is ultimately “long enough” for me, and a good compromise considering that some people may attempt choose to use their Teaks in a portable-listening scenario. Having said that, I really would not recommend traveling with these, as their build is a rather fragile one in my opinion.
So, in the end, do I ultimately recommend the E-MU Teaks?
I do, absolutely, without a doubt, or any reservation really. Despite its build-quality, which may be somewhat suspect, the Teaks offer a phenomenal acoustic presentation. They are detailed, delicate, articulate and supremely bassy, with enough mid-range presence and resolution to satisfy most listeners. These are a fabulous, beautiful looking, closed-back option to consider, irregardless of price, as they have the sonic competencies to rival much more expensive competition. And, at $400, the are a legendary headphone at an incredible deal.
*Gold Note DS-10 available at: https://gestalt.audio/
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