The HarmonicDyne Zeus Elite couldn’t have come at a better time since I’ve been personally hunting down a warm-sounding set to hang together with my other daily drivers. The plush mystique happening throughout the build and design also helps to increase the desirability of the headphones.
As I write this review, the original Zeus is still offered on Linsoul’s website at a discount so I wasn’t expecting the newer Zeus Elite to happen already.
More so, HarmonicDyne seemed busy with more recent planar and closed-back headphones launched such as the G200 and the Athena.
But to be fair, it has now been more than two years since these boutique-styled headphones of HarmonicDyne first came out d as a crowdfunded project. I felt it succeeded thanks to its charming aesthetic and warm sound signature.
I’m not the one who wrote the review for the Zeus but I owned one exactly for the reasons I stated above. While it was admittedly a love-hate relationship with the build and technicalities, I’ve now seen how the brand has grown so it’s a good baseline for me to see if the new Zeus Elite deserves the same praise.
On a high level, the HarmonicDyne Zeus Elite has a similar setup to the original, namely a set of open-back headphones using a 50mm dynamic driver.
However, the Zeus Elite is breaking away from the beryllium material that placed the original on the map. We now have a new long-stroke diaphragm that is made by bonding two sheets of amalgamated elements together.
This method allows sound to convey with uniformity and improves on the technical aspects of the older driver such as distortion control and increased dynamic range.
With no beryllium in sight, the lower impedance 35Ω dynamic driver yields a wider frequency range of 10Hz-70kHz compared to the original. The Zeus Elite also got a bump in efficiency making it easier to drive at 105dB @1kHz compared to 100 dB on the same weighting from the original.
Holding the more inexpensive Athena alongside the Zeus Elite, I honestly can’t say there’s much of a difference with the build separating the two. Using identical parts for different price tiers isn’t surprising for HarmonicDyne though as they historically used the same practice for some of their earlier releases.
Carrying a reworked headband that’s more ergonomic and well-made than before, the weak points of the old design have been improved upon so it’s still a massive upgrade from the rickety experience I got with the Zeus.
With its new chassis that feels impressive to hold, the only part now returning a cheapish impression is the plasticky clank when the edge of the cups hit the yokes.
Aesthetically, the Zeus Elite now sports a darker tone that’s tied down by the ghostly zebra wood and the new snaking stroke patterns on the cups. For me, however, the new look doesn’t evoke the same level of novelty as the non-elite version.
Right underneath the face plate, another layer of metal mesh protects the drivers. As far as I can remember, the assembly inside the cups is now more visible from the outside than the Zeus.
With the Zeus Elite on my head, one of the things I immediately noticed was the muffled external noise. It trimmed the edge of a blasting speaker and a passing police siren by around 10-20%. The open-back cups may seem completely transparent but they do provide some level of isolation even without music playing.
Flipping the test, I was able to pick up some audible external noise while listening to music. The level won’t disturb anybody unless they’re right next to you or you’re playing louder than you should.
Wearing the Zeus Elite for a long time is possible thanks to its generously padded headband and soft ear cushions. The yoke also has a wide degree of freedom so the cups sit flat against the head.
With even pressure around the ear, the only nitpick I have is the slight graze of the tip of my ear against the mesh of the pads.
By the way, the pads on the Zeus Elite look and feel similar to what HarmonicDyne used on the Athena. The breathable suede fabric material is mixed with perforated leather on the inside for tuning purposes.
The pads are user-replaceable so if you have the same issue as me, the Zeus Elite is ready for some level of personalization.
Using a mix of single-crystal copper and silver-plated copper wires, the four-core braided cables of the Zeus Elite come in two variations. Both terminated for balanced setups, one is a 4.4mm cable and the other has a full-sized XLR connector.
While I see how some can perceive the cable as exceptional, I find the build a bit off-putting. With thick gauge wires cut a little longer than the usual 1.2m, it is tipping on the unwieldy and heavy scale. I can also fit a digit effortlessly through the loose weaving.
Without the set of adaptors sent by default with the original, users will now have to buy one. Looking at both cable’s terminations, HarmonicDyne was at least generous enough to use the same ones they fitted in the more expensive G200. Only the color is different with the Zeus Elite finished in a shinier silver instead of gunmetal.
Packaging & Accessories
For a headset, the packaging of the Zeus Elite honestly seems oversized though I can’t argue the worth it conveys.
What justifies the large-sized shipping container is the included carry case for storing the Zeus Elite. To make sure the viewing glass on one side arrives in one piece, HarmonicDyne seats it in more than ample amounts of dense foam.
I don’t have the original Zeus anymore but it’s pretty obvious that the new storage case is much sleeker than before. For those who saw my review of the G200, it uses the same design in a different color variation.
Since the Zeus Elite doesn’t include replacement pads, the dimension is slightly more petite. The cup design is visible peeking through a foam cutout unlike the obscured view from the G200 and the original Zeus for that matter. And yes, HarmonicDyne adds back the missing handle on the G200 for carrying the case around.
Aside from the unit itself, only two sets of cables are included in the list of accessories. There’s no adaptor for single-ended users different from how the original Zeus was packaged though balanced amplifier enthusiasts will have a choice between the 4.4mm and XLR cable.
What makes the Zeus Elite click is its abundant rumble and warmth that’s biased to excite the senses. The higher frequencies leave a more impartial magnetism which is key in showing off its desired weighted response.
Piecing together a smooth transition from the upper midrange and holding back the areas that usually cause shrillness, instruments like electric guitars and saxophones will not outpace calmer sounds.
This trait doesn’t necessarily place the Zeus Elite far away from a being riveting performer but it will definitely please treble-sensitive users.
The Zeus Elite is a bit on the heavy side without a huge amount of air. The roominess though improves depending on the song. Some mixes that call for a wider stage do help deepen the dimensionality of the Zeus Elite’s presentation.
The Zeus Elite becomes engaging by lifting both the reverb and note body to a certain degree. This also slightly obscures the timid slam of the punch.
Bite resolve in busy situations and expansive thumps is not very strong, resulting in the stifling of transparency. I still notice that the Zeus Elite shows improvements in delineation whenever an isolated twang of bass string comes along.
Vocal-heavy songs are stingy on sparkle as the Zeus Elite reserves luster to only come out with rising inflections and breathier regions. Even then, the tuning directive is sweet, making it an easy pair to listen to for longer periods.
The center stage can pull away to not be perceived as confining. Knowing how to squeeze out emotions from a song’s lyrics properly, I only sometimes feel some struggle in pulling details on quieter parts.
Electric guitars have a prickly yet easygoing timbre. It has enough dynamics to offer making it easy to get lost in the music and ride the flow.
Horns, especially on brighter blows, show that the Zeus Elite is capable of opening up a scene. The texture of the reverb here was surprisingly intricate and the diffusiveness of the air is relatively lightweight.
Pressing the Zeus Elite to push objects outside of the center image will take a combination of the right song and source. Its staging capacity though is still pretty decent for the price category since the space is well defined.
I’d like to point out that the dampening I mentioned in the comfort section has an effect and is part of the reason why the Zeus Elite seems inadequate in imaging freedom.
With imaging, the Zeus Elite makes excellent use of the entire stage width spreading a live audience with full-bodied enthusiasm and tall size. Strings though get a bit bundled together whenever the positioning gets too close to one another.
Directionally separated instruments are easier for the Zeus Elite to tackle. For overlapping instances like a dynamic riff arranged farther than the vocalist, the layering between the individual sound origin did not distinctly materialize as much as expected.