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HarmonicDyne Zeus Review

Beautiful Over-Ears for Music and Games

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

HarmonicDyne is a new brand to us here at MMORPG, but it's certainly caught our attention with its new flagship Zeus headphone. Featuring high-detail beryllium drivers, an open-back design with a wide soundstage, and a beautiful walnut and stainless steel design, and you have the makings for a headphone that could fill in for audiophile-grade listening, movie watching, and even hardcore gaming. Coming in at $349, these headphones don’t come cheap, but if they save you from buying multiple headphones for one, are they worth investing in? Let’s take a closer look and find out. 

Specifications

  • Current Price: $349 (Linsoul)
  • Type: Wired Headphones
  • Drivers: 50mm Beryllium Dynamic
  • Acoustic Architecture: Open back
  • Input Impedance: 64Ω
  • SPL: 100+3dB
  • THD: ≤0.2% (1000Hz, 254mW)
  • Cables: OCC cable, 150cm
  • Ear-cups: Walnut wood
  • Ear-pads: Nano velvet
  • Product Dimensions: 200mm*180mm*100mm
  • Product Weight: about 380g

Brand and Product Introduction

HarmonicDyne is a new brand, coming to market in the beginning of 2020 with its first release, the Helios. Visually, the Zeus follows a very similar design to the Helios, so at this stage it’s safe to say that a large part of the brand is in its unique visual identity, blending wood and intricate stainless steel grilles, and its aspirations to marry mid-fi prices with audiophile-grade listening experiences. With its design and features, like custom-engineered German drivers, it seemed to target the more high-end audio enthusiast while keeping prices firmly in the mid-fi space. That headphone reviewed well, too, which has driven a good amount of interest in its bigger brother which we’re looking at today.

The Zeus follows up on the Helios, taking much of the same design but turning the dial even further. It’s a high-end open-back headphone designed for audio enthusiasts with budgets that may be more limited than their interests allow. The design and tuning also make it a good fit for gaming and other kinds of media consumption thanks to its large soundstage and comfortable design. Inside, it uses large beryllium-coated dynamic drivers to improve speed and detail. The frame is built using a mix of walnut and stainless steel with a definite lean toward the aesthetics of over-ear headphones. The grilles are cut with an intricate pattern that is immediately eye-catching and the cans themselves are fairly thin, so can be worn out of the house with confidence. The Zeus comes to market at $349 but definitely seems to aim upward, challenging headphones at higher price points.

What’s In The Box (Unboxing/First Impressions)

I was more than a little surprised when the Zeus arrived at my door and inside the box was this nice black, hardshell case. It’s not quite a Pelican case, but it’s trying to be, and does a darn good job of being impressive right off the bat. You don’t often see cases like this with headphones under $1000, it’s quite the nice add-on that makes the headphone immediately feel like it's competing in a different class. It might just be planting an early placebo, but it’s all the more reason for the sound to live up to the presentation. We’ll get to that soon.

Inside the Zeus sits safely inside its foam cutout. To the right is a nice storage box for the cable and 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter. Above is a small serial number plaque to really solidify the high-end presentation. 

The included cable is inarguably nice, built from high quality materials and ending in a balanced 4.4mm termination, so it comes ready to work with high-end balanced amplifiers out of the box. Since most users won’t be listening over a balanced connection, I was happy to see that HarmonicDyne included a 3.5mm adapter in the box. Mine didn’t have a 6.5mm adapter, however, which I thought was odd given how standard that is.

Where I really take issue with the cable is in its overall look and design. I love that the ends each feature metal housings and gold-plated tips — primo stuff — but it tries to mesh two different designs with half of the cable being braided and the other half using open copper wiring. I wish they would have chosen one or the other, and preferably the normal copper braid which is much more flexible than the fabric woven section. The adapted end is also quite long, even without adding the 6.5mm adapter (second picture above).

Taking the headphones out, I was immediately impressed at the build quality. The Zeus makes excellent use of stainless steel in its design, including the headband, adjustment strap, yokes, and grilles. The brushed finish looks great alongside the rich brown of the walnut. This design won’t be for everyone, especially since the adjustment strap definitely has a vintage look that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I really think it looks better in person than it even does in pictures. 

The cushions also give a good first impression. They’re made of a “nano-velvet” and are very soft. They are big and plush, easily encircling my ears to create a proper seal (though, as open backs, they’re sound isolation is obviously off the table here). The headband, on the other hand, uses a thinner cushion with a leatherette finish. 

Finally, we come to the most striking aspect of the Zeus, which are the stainless steel grilles adorning each earcup. This is again something that will be very polarizing since they’re intentionally attention-grabbing, but I personally love the design. As the son of Grateful Dead loving parents, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time surrounded by tie-dye and psychedelic designs and this definitely fits the bill. The only other headphones I’ve seen with such a design come from Rosson Audio and, well, they’re a couple thousand bucks. I find this extremely cool and love what HarmonicDyne has done here.

Fit and Comfort

The Zeus isn’t exactly lightweight at roughly 380 grams but distributes its weight well for long-term comfort. Leading up to this review, I’ve worn it during my workday with only short breaks for lunch and to stretch my legs. In my couple of weeks testing this headphone, I’ve only noticed very minor hot spots on the top of my head that can be avoided entirely by angling it slightly back. In a future revision, I would love to see HarmonicDyne adopt a split head cushion to avoid even this, but for its weight I’m impressed. I can wear it for four hours at a time with only moderate adjustments.

I really like the pads on this headphone. They’re breathable, so don’t get hot, but feel pleasantly warm around my ears. They’re soft enough to feel like pillows, right up there with my Beyerdynamic headphones. I also appreciate that they don’t cause the bass of the headphones to bleed out and become anemic. They’re really very well done. Like all velour pads, they do attract hair and dust, so they’ll need to be cleaned often. Thankfully, they can easily be removed for a quick lint roll or wipe down. 

The fit and comfort are great for any kind of listening but especially good for gaming where you’re more likely to sit for hours at a time. The yokes also allow the headphones to lay flat on your chest, which makes taking breaks easier and more natural.

With that out of the way, let’s get into how they sound. 

Sound Impressions - Music, Movies, and Gaming

First things first: the HarmonicDyne Zeus is a 64-ohm headphone, which means a smartphone might struggle to power it to reasonable levels. That said, my Samsung Note 9 with a generic headphone adapter dongle was able to push it to higher volumes than I would comfortably listen, as did my gaming PC which currently runs a Gigabyte X570 motherboard, so your mileage may vary. One thing I did find is that the headphone did sound better when moving to my PC, which uses an ESS Sabre DAC with more power. Detail, articulation, and soundstage all expanded with the extra volume overhead, so it’s worth turning up if you’re able to.

Let’s start with soundstage because that’s one of the real stars of the show here. As an open back headphone, sound can escape out the back, allowing the Zeus to offer a more realistic presentation and sense of space. I was really able to picture where each sound was coming from in a stereo field. Percussion and cymbals definitely felt farther away as guitars stepped to the front of the mix. 

The soundstage is even better when gaming as the mix of sounds deliberately factors in spatial positioning. Gunshots sound far away when they echo over the field. Birds in trees sound distant and even moderately upward. The ability for sounds to move from left to right is also great for immersion in games. The crossover is smooth and maintained its position even when I would do silly things like turning a circle in place. 

These headphones don’t dissect sound the way the HIFIMAN Sundara does — that’s downright awe-inspiring the first time you hear it — but the sense of space can really give your listening an epic sense of scope. There’s nothing quite like walking into a cathedral and actually feeling like you’ve entered a cathedral. Not just hearing reverb but feeling space

When it comes to bass, these headphones have a natural presentation that doesn’t shake but does have a good sense of punch. Listening to the heartbeat bass and in Dance Gavin Dance’s “Parody Catharsis,” the notes have a well defined initial strike. Kick drums, like those in Hands Like House’s “I Am” have a realistic thump and clarity that really had me nodding along. The bass does lack some resolution in texture when songs get rolling but is very present and full. 

The mid-range on this headphone is more relaxed but maintains a lot of detail. What that means is that vocals and dialogue are very clear but usually aren’t louder than things like guitars or gunshots. In the music I listen to, one of the best indicators is how much detail I can hear in guitars. Does it sound like noise or can you hear the texture of the notes, even through all the gain and distortion? Can you the other instruments layered on top of that? Here, you can hear all of the texture and pick out exactly what is playing on every layer of the music, though the detail takes a backseat to the larger tapestry of what you’re hearing.

Finally, for treble, we have a similar story to the mids. Lots of detail but in a more relaxed form. As I write this, I’m listening to Coheed and Cambria’s “21:13” and can clearly hear the articulation of each high-hat and treble note, but it’s not piercing or grating. All in all, it’s a very nice listen.

Returning to gaming and even movies, this tuning works great. The soundstage is great, but it’s the details positioning that really make the Zeus an exceptional choice. Take the Doom Eternal, for example. You have all of the punch and presence of artillery but can hear every sound and detail within that mix, combined with the sense of space. The end result is an intense soundscape that’s a hell of a lot of fun. 

Final Thoughts

The HarmonicDyne Zeus is an excellent headphone for the money. At $349, they don’t come cheap but are directly challenging more expensive options which makes them feel like a good deal overall. I love the design, but it’s really the spacious sound stage and powerful sound profile that makes them a great fit for those listening sessions that have you grooving along or intense gaming where every detail matters. At $349, they still fall short of the HIFIMAN Sundara in sheer detail, but I definitely prefer them in style and overall comfort over long periods of time. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.
8.5Great
Pros
  • Beautiful design of walnut and stainless steel
  • Very comfortable over long listening sessions
  • Included carrying case is a nice touch
  • Tuned for excellent detail while also offering a relaxed sound
  • Solid bass with nice punch
Cons
  • Would benefit from a slight price drop to really seal the deal
  • Single headband cushion
  • Cable aesthetics are mixed
  • Adapting to 6.5mm is LONG


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight