Tidal Force has joined the ever growing headphone marketplace with the launch of its Wave 5 planar magnetic headphones. Most headphones you are familiar with are driver-based designs, like loudspeakers. Not the Wave 5.
Planar magnetic headphones use an extremely thin and light diaphragm to reproduce sound, instead of the more traditional driver. A magnetic system drives the entire surface of the diaphragm evenly in a pull-push manner. In the case of the Wave 5, the diaphragm’s size measures 56mm and will reproduce notes from 16Hz to 50kHz. Tidal Force says that the magnetic structure is a matrix double pole and uses neodymium magnets.
The Wave 5 headphones have a high-quality, all-metal construction, but this leaves the headphones tipping the scales at 480 grams. The outer headband’s metal skeleton has the company’s logo laser-cut in an alternating pattern. Touching any part of the headphone’s metal skeleton will transfer vibrations into the headphone cavity. In other words, you’ll hear it. If you like to lie down wearing your headphones, or wear them while doing some work that requires moving around, you’ll definitely encounter this. Anything touching either arm of the “Y” cable produces the same effect.
A secondary, self-adjusting, imitation leather headband auto-tensions to your head. With this design, you’ll get solid clamping pressure to the sides of your head like recording-studio headphones. Just be aware that some might find the pressure a bit much. For me, I got somewhat uncomfortable wearing the Wave 5 after long listening sessions.
The ear cups rotate 90 degrees so that the headphones can fold flat. The ear cups themselves pivot freely to fine-tune comfort and adjustment to your head. The ear cups attach magnetically, and guiding pegs make sure they fit perfectly to the ear cups.
Regrettably, the magnets are not as strong as the ones Bowers & Wilkins uses across its headphone line. I accidentally knocked the magnetic ear pads off more than a few times during my review period. If you’re plan to fold the headphones flat so you can slip them into a backpack, make sure the ear pads are still attached when you pull them out. If and when Tidal Force updates the Wave 5, I’d like to see a stronger magnetic hold in the new model.
The ear pads seem large from the outside, but they have a narrow, oval opening, like the capital letter “O” on a serif font. The left and right side walls are thicker than the top and bottom. Your ears don’t fit into a nice large cavity like other circumaural designs. When I wore them, the ear pads touched my ears and pressed them down.
The Wave 5 are an open-back design. That means the ear cups have an opening to the outside world and do not create a completely sealed cavity like closed-back designs. Typically, open-back designs create a greater sense of space and soundstage depth. I didn’t find that to be the case here. The Wave 5’s sound was more forward than most other open-back designs I’ve reviewed. In fact, when I compared the Wave 5 to Oppo’s open-back PM-2 planar magnetic headphone, the Oppo PM-2 delivered a more relaxed and spacious musical presentation.
The Tidal Force Wave 5 come with a hard case, a 1/4-inch adapter, and a soft pouch to hold the included 3.5mm “Y” cable. Most headphones that include a Y-cable separate the left and right audio signal. That’s not the case here. Both arms of the cable carry a full stereo signal (as indicated by the two stripes on the 3.5mm tip and the two stripes on each arm). The respective ear cup knows to separate the left or right channel from the cable.
Unfortunately for me, the cable that came with the Wave 5 was defective out of the box and would often cut out sound on one of the ear cups. The defect was consistent with a cable that’s had too much stress applied to the connector. The company sent me a new cable, which worked just fine.