Erzetich Thalia Headphones Review
Portable Open-Backed Headphones
Just announced, Erzetich’s Thalia on-ear headphones are pitched at perambulating personal audiophiles. Jay Garrett digs his music on the move…
If like me, you went through a phase of being intrigued by Greek and Roman mythology, you will know that Thalia is one of the Muses as well as being a daughter of Zeus. Thalia was the goddess of festivity and lavish banquets, so I suppose you could say she was a party girl. So, here's hoping that this unusual pair of headphones bearing her name will be fun, too.
If you're unfamiliar with Erzetich, the company is based in Slovenia and is the brainchild of Blaž Erzetič. You can find out more in the StereoNET review of the Mania headphones here. The £599 Thalia is unmistakably a product of this company, with the unusual octagonal wooden open-back earcups and metal frame. Indeed, the wood still features the knots and natural nicks that give the headphones an almost DIY-vibe. This is distinctive, and something you don't see in the immaculately honed, almost deliberately flawless Japanese rivals, for example. This pair of cans is hand-crafted and hand-assembled, and it shows.
The look of the larger headphones maybe a little 'Marmite', but I feel the dimensions and the aesthetics of the Thalia will be much more palatable to a broader audience. I have been testing the Linden Wood variant, but it's also available in Salvage (recycled spruce wood). Plus points can be awarded for the lack of any animal products in the construction of these headphones. So, if baby animal skin earpad covers are your thing, best look elsewhere.
Size adjustment is made with the no-nonsense twin-pivot screw, and the earcups are free to spin and so will fit the angle of your ears without issue. As mentioned, the Thalia is smaller than the other headphones available from the brand and is an on-ear design rather than over-ear. Where its larger siblings have been created mostly for sedentary listening, Thalia has been designed to be used with your smartphone or portable amplifier. To that end, this pair of headphones come bundled with detachable silver-plated OFC cable, terminating in a standard 3.5mm jack. However, it does come with an adapter too.
Within the smallish earcups sit 40mm titanium drivers rated at a claimed 32 ohm impedance. Blaž Erzetič says these headphones “go below 20Hz and up to about 20 kHz”, adding that, “I am not a fan of graphs (although I have the information), and am more interested in the sound and musicality. That's why I tune my units by ear.”
Tipping the scales at a modest 270g, the Thalia is far less heavy and cumbersome than many such products but isn't so light that it falls off your head in regular use. It's ideal to go out and about, but can also be enjoyed back home too. For many, it will be a good compromise.
Firstly, let me start by saying that open-backed headphones wouldn't usually be at the top of my list where commuting is concerned, for obvious reasons. To spell it out clearly, I want to block out the sound of everyone around me. On the tube, I am forced to share space, air and sometimes other things with my fellow subterranean travellers – and draw the line at having to hear them too. However, my first short walk to the station from home listening to a few tunes through the Thalia had me taken aback. Blaž had told me that the pair of headphones sent to me was factory-fresh and would need some time before sounding optimal, but it already presented as detailed and open. I did give my word that I would not comment until putting a few hours on them but sadly couldn't wait to blurt out just how good they really are.
Since then, this pair has come with me on my daily journeys to and from the office, as well as blocking out my colleagues at work. I have been using these phones with an iFi xDSD or a Chord Mojo/Poly, as both units allow me to wirelessly connect my phone to the DAC/amp when travelling but then, once at my desk, I can go wired should I so wish.
Firstly, testing the low-end, I selected Billie Eilish's When We Fall Asleep… album on Tidal. When her closely mic'd vocals started up as I walked the dark London streets, the effect was eerie. It felt not so much as if I had a voice inside my head as having a devil on my shoulder – to the point of practically feeling her breath on my neck. Once past that, the Thalia handled the chopped up samples and slithering bass lines admirably with heaps of depth.
Hitting play on El VY's Paul is Alive, and the vocals were rendered with a pleasant warmth. The heavily processed snare cracked through the rest of the instrumentation without upsetting the balance. Backing vocals and high-range synths displayed the open-backed characteristic of an extended soundstage. This was a beautiful moment – until the recorded announcement stated that we were about to pull into Kings Cross/St Pancras, and I was awoken from my reverie.
David Bowie and Trent Reznor's I'm Afraid of Americans has all the hallmarks of Reznor's style with the unquestionable vocal stylings of the late and great Thin White Duke. Here the Thalia displayed its prowess at keeping everything together even when things were really getting going in the mix. These cans showed admirable instrumental separation and a real sense of dynamism, making the music magic. Additionally, the fast-panned sampled backing vocals are treated with full 3-D effect.
After proving their deft handling of power, they showed that they are equally adept with providing subtlety and atmosphere. One track that demonstrated this to me was Public Service Broadcasting's Go!. The soft, synth pads are punctuated by the group's trademark spoken word samples only to be lifted by staccato electric guitar and the calling off of the affirmative “Go” as each of the stakeholders agrees to attempt the landing of Apollo 11. Even then, the piece never gets raucous. Although, saying that, the Thalia is still able to pick out the slightest dynamics to ebb and flow with the music to prevent the track from flatlining.
Dang! The Ezertich portable cans can stop and start on a dime too. Power, from Marcus Miller's M2 album, has a groove so thick you can't walk through it – you've just got to bounce. The slap-funktastic track has wads of sub-bass to thicken the sauce of the main event popping away. However, the Thalia needs to be on high alert with that solo bass line. The quicker-than-an-emergency-stop mutes followed by chord strums need to be timely and the attack sharp. Thankfully, the octagonal open-backs are more than up to the task providing plenty of punch and range as well as perfect timing. Tonality is also highlighted here, giving me a feeling of where Marcus is positioned on his Jazz Bass fretboard. The upper range is sweet and vocal where the low end is warm, round and fat – so fat I almost spelt it 'phat'. I just love hearing him slide over those frets too.
These headphones were also able to provide an excellent sense of scale, as demonstrated by Sergei Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights. It bends my brain that headphones so compact can produce such a vast and expansive sound. You really do get an ominous feeling from the lumbering piece that accompanies the fateful encounter between the two warring clans in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The horns and strings are punchy and rendered dramatically, while the bass is full and rich. Although, the open-backed design does mean that anyone near you in a quiet environment will be able to hear you playing The Best of Girls Aloud, for example, so do beware.
Having serious hi-fi headphones that are small enough to pack away for travelling is never a bad thing, and that's where the Erzetich Thalia comes in. This pair is reasonably light, comfortable and easily adjustable. Personally, I love the industrial, almost steampunk look, but realise some might prefer the standard plastic cans. Also, being on-ear, you don't risk sweaty lobes when it eventually gets warm again. As such, £600 – or £449 during pre-order – for a pair of hand-made headphones that will only look better as time goes by thanks to the natural wood earcups, sounds something of a bargain to me.
For more information, head to Erzetich Audio.
StereoNET UK’s Editor, bass player, and resident rock star! Jay’s passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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