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W5000 Fitz Mod Guide

post #1 of 257
Thread Starter 
I've mentioned it in a few threads here and there that I've discovered some rather useful mods to the W5000, and now I've finally gotten around to making a proper guide on how to do them.

The main mod package consists of three primary changes that have a significant effect on the sonic character, and there are also a couple of supplementary mods that can be useful but do not change the sound of the headphones. I've spent dozens of hours experimenting to come up with these changes, and have gathered feedback privately from some very helpful members, so I hope some of you will try these mods out and like them!

This guide only covers the original F5000 mods. Changes have been made to create the F5005 mods, as documented here.

Preparing:

This guide assumes you can remove the earpads and wood cups without any difficulty. If you've never taken your W5000 apart before, the earpads pull right off, and the wood cups are secured by four screws hidden by the earpads. Once your W5000s are open, you should see something similar to this, but with less yellow and a wire going into the large chamber in the middle:





There are two loose pieces of material in here, the thick white dampening material, and a thin grey foam ring, both of which should be set aside for the moment:





Mod #1:

The wood cups and main housings do not actually completely seal with one another, and have a small gap at the top and bottom (and if the wood cups are slightly undersized at all, all the way around) that leads inside the earcups. The grey foam works to help seal this gap, and should normally be left in place. However, with the mods that alter the sound/air flow inside the earcups, taking out this ring will reduce fatigue over long listening sessions. So set it aside someplace safe, and don't put it back in when the mods are done. Depending on personal preference, the white material can also optionally be left out with positive results, but these mods were originally designed around still leaving the material inside and I have yet to try this change on my own pair.



Once you've put all the loose materials away safely, it is time to remove the chamber that surrounds the drivers, which is held in place by three small screws. The chamber and the ring that mates it to the driver will be tethered in place by headphone cable, but they can be pulled back far enough to perform the mods without any problem. At this point you should be able to see the driver itself:





Mod #2:

The first step is to place a small pea-sized piece of blu-tak over the center of the driver's back, and press it down flat, as indicated by the red arrow. (The kind I'm using is actually yellow, but will be referred to as "blu-tak" for simplicity). This should form a complete seal over the center opening on the driver. After this is done you can either screw the chamber back down over the driver and skip to the next mod, or perform one of the supplemental mods.



Supplemental Mod #1:

The first supplemental mod is to reroute the headphone cable to be less obtrusive and make assembly/disassembly easier if you wanted to recable or do other mod experiments in the future. All that needs to be done is desolder it from the driver, making note of which solder pad receives the signal wire, and pull it out of the shell to instead go directly across to the driver. The plastic ring that goes between the outer shell and driver has a small notch in it that perfectly allows the cable to pass through, and can be placed right over the headphone cable. You might also want to shorten the cable a bit to avoid having excess slack floating around, but doing so would prevent it from being reverted to the stock configuration.



Supplemental Mod #2:

I am not going to go into much detail on this mod here, due to it's extreme risk and the possibility of permanently destroying the driver. In some cases the voice coil wires were left too long and formed large loops floating in free air, which can rattle against each other on deep bass notes if they happen to drift too close to each other or the opening in the driver. This mod involves pulling the wires apart from each other and gluing down the excess to the sides of the opening. You can PM me if you do want more info on this, or for me to try to take close-up pictures of it, but I will not assume any responsibility for damage caused by doing this mod.



Mod #3:

Now that all work on the driver is finished, and the chamber sealed back up, you can perform the last and most important mod. Take a large amount of blu-tak, and press it into the openings surrounding the driver, as indicated by the green arrow. Make sure that it is applied evenly all the way around, and check from the other side that there are no gaps leaking between the two sides. Also make sure that you do not seal up the two slits on either side, as indicated by the blue arrows, which should instead be left open, for similar reasons as why the grey foam was left out in the first mod. It's also been reported by SK138 that this mod works just as well on the A900LTD, so if you happen to have a pair of those then feel free to mod them as well!



Now the mods are all completed, and you can replace the white dampening material and reassemble your headphones! Because of my obvious bias about the sound changes of the mods, I'll be very brief here, and allow anyone else who wishes to provide their input to do so. I'd describe the change as a very large, but smooth and controlled increase in bass and lower mids, a dramatic reduction of the peakiness of the upper mids, and an overall attenuation of the highs. The soundstage will also be slightly more diffuse and less in-your-face, but not to the point of being distant or veiled. This brings the headphones more in line with the W11JPN/L3000 side of the Audio-Technica family, but while still retaining its own unique characteristics.

Special thanks go out to SK138, Iron_Dreamer, and phergus_25 for their assistance and input prior to the writing of this guide.

Additional thanks to scottiebabie, sean-xenos, and slwiser for offering their opinions on the mods after using this guide.

Happy Listening!
post #2 of 257
Mine will be modded soon after the meet in the middle of January. I might even see if I can get some of your expert help.
post #3 of 257
who wants to buy me a pair of these phones to try it out?

i am more than willing

looks like you really put alot of time and testing into that mod, congrats
post #4 of 257
I did mods 1-3 a couple months ago, amid ongoing discussion with Fitz. I generally concur with his assessment of the sonic changes. I noticed that the bass extended slightly lower and was overall louder, particularly in the mid to upper bass. The midrange peaks of the normal W5000 were abated quite a bit, and the treble attenuated slightly. They no longer sounded as up-front, and the soundstage was a bit more diffuse.

However, after some time for evaluation, I ended up reverting the headphones back to stock form, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I found that listening to them from my balanced rig, I was getting listening fatigue like I had not experienced in years. It was a feeling like the volume was too loud, or in other words that the pressure on my ears was too much. Lowering the volume to any reasonably listenable level did not remove the problem. However, I discovered, almost by accident, that I did not have this problem when listening to them from a single-ended amp. Thus I concluded that the increased bass punch give to the W5000 from balanced drive, when combined with the bass boost of the mods, was simply to much to handle, at least in some particular group of frequencies. What struck me as odd, however, is that at no point did I feel they had an overly excessive amount of bass, like a SF5eb or even a DT770pro250.

Secondly, after more listening to the modded W5000 in single-ended mode, I simply felt that the changes did not merit what I gave up to get them. For one, I found that I actually enjoy the W5000's less than fully accurate midrange, the headphone was simply not quite as enjoyable to listen to without it. I did not really like the changes to the soundstaging, as I prefer the upfront and pin-point imaging type of sound the stock W5000 has, as oppposed to the more diffuse, HD650/DT880-like imaging of the modded one. Besides, running the W5000 balanced gives the soundstage greater space without sacrificing the quality of imaging.

In the end, I can see how these mods would make the W5000 more enjoyable to some folks, especially those who think they lack bass (assuming the fit was proper). Also, I could see it making them a more general-interest headphone. However, I enjoy their unique sonic signature, and have other headphones that can give me the sort of sound the mods are going for. I don't think these mods make the W5000 better, or worse, only different. And whether that difference is an improvement or a step back is up to the ear of the modder. I think it will also depend on the associated gear and other headphones someone owns. Perhaps if I did not have a balanced amp, I might have been more inclined to keep the headphones modded. Also, perhaps those who have an HA5000 might prefer the unmodded headphone, considering that most seem to agree that the HA5000 gives a bassier sound? Only time will tell. But it is certainly an interesting project for the inquisitive W5000 owner.
post #5 of 257
Thread Starter 
I was hoping that you'd add your input here Peter, thanks!

Contrary opinions help keep the info balanced and realistic without straying into all-positive fanboy rantings. The good thing is that despite having different personal preferences for the sound, we generally agree on what the differences are on an objective level, so people should feel confident that the mods truly will sound the way they're described to be.

I'm looking forward to more impressions from people who've tried it, either in the past or now after this public guide.
post #6 of 257
Woooo!!! Finally Fitz came out of his sceret modding lab to reveal this wonder and simple but most effective W5000 modding. I was so ecstatic about the mod...I coined it "F5000" for Fitz W5000 mod.

The modding took less than 1 hour and it's pretty easy. I have done all the process excluding the driver coil mod. I am too chicken to go there.

After the mod, I tested with and without the white dampening material and I like it better without it. It gives more "airy" sound, slightly larger soundstage, and better note space and decay, IMO. So far, I listened to it for about 3 days....total about 20+ hours with F5000.

Now for the sound....I am typing this as I am listening to Loreena McKennitt's latest album, "An Ancient Muse". This is purely based on my own opinion and experience formed by previous headphones, amps, and sources. By no means do I listen to music analytically nor do I have good ears to do it. Some of the words that come to mind as I am typing this and listening to music are: full, rich, warm, balanced, great imaging, controlled treble, and most of all...the BASS.

Often times, people who previously had W5000 stated the bass is there if you press the cups inward...but this also tend to compress the sound. Sometimes people don't like the sound because it's too lean and "anemic". Most common criticism is that it sounds "honky" and hallow in it's stock form. All of these honest criticisms regarding stock W5000 have some bases. I too often felt this way with certain music genre, especially Rock and Electronica. With this mod, the bass is tight and riches far lower than I could have imagined. Most of all the bass and mid bass is balanced and very musical without sounding detached from rest of musical sound spectrum and still having wonderful warm details.

Here is another surprised finding after the mod. To my ears, I could not find too much difference between various amps I tested with (modded x-can V2 with Russian tubes, RSA XP-7 with AD797 opamp, maxed M^3, Xin upgraded Supermacro 3V6). The F5000, IMO, is not as amp/source dependent as before the mod.

I also did similar mod to A900LTD. I excluded covering the driver's vent hole. The bass is thunderous without being detached from rest of the music. I would say...it has more bass than DT770. The F900LTD is a fun mod I use for Electronica and watching movies.

To form more objective opinion, I asked slwiser who owns both stock W5000 and stock A900LTD to review my modded F5000 and F900LTD for few weeks while I am away on a long business trip to Asia.

The best part about this mod is nothing is permanent. If you don't like it...you can put it back to stock form very easily.

For me, it will stay as F5000 and F900LTD
post #7 of 257
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SK138 View Post
After the mod, I tested with and without the white dampening material and I like it better without it. It gives more "airy" sound and slightly larger soundstage, IMO. So far, I listened to it for about 3 days....total about 20+ hours with F5000.
Interesting. I never tried the final mods without the white dampening material because I stopped once I reached the goal I was after. I'll have to give that a try, and I'll update the guide to mention this additional change!
post #8 of 257
FYI, the white dampening material is also used in the L3000.
post #9 of 257
Since I have both stock versions of the W5000 and the A900LTD (almost), it will be very interesting to sit down and compare them with these two modified versions and against each other. I am hoping that the A900LTD bass is tighten up a bit from the deep although a loose sound it has now compared with the W5000. The scuttlebutt about this modification is that it takes the W5000 and A900LTD to a hold new level. I will just have to hear this to believe it. My AT-HA5000 has two outputs on the front panel so that I can have two phones playing at the same time while doing this comparison. Volume matching should not be an issue.

I am by nature very conservative, so the sound will need to hit me just right for me to say its better. I am in a very enjoyable relationship with my W5000s right now. I hope that did not sound to strange. Based upon Iron_Dreamer's comments I can see that maybe I would prefer the stock unit over the F5000, time will tell.

I feel a little more open about having the A900LTD modified since it already has one modification, that being that it is now balanced with single ended adapter.

I also want to thank SK138 for his confidence in allowing these two phones to be shared in this way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SK138 View Post
Woooo!!! Finally Fitz came out of his sceret modding lab to reveal this wonder and simple but most effective W5000 modding. I was so ecstatic about the mod...I coined it "F5000" for Fitz W5000 mod.

The modding took less than 1 hour and it's pretty easy. I have done all the process excluding the driver coil mod. I am too chicken to go there.

After the mod, I tested with and without the white dampening material and I like it better without it. It gives more "airy" sound, slightly larger soundstage, and better note space and decay, IMO. So far, I listened to it for about 3 days....total about 20+ hours with F5000.

Now for the sound....I am typing this as I am listening to Loreena McKennitt's latest album, "An Ancient Muse". This is purely based on my own opinion and experience formed by previous headphones, amps, and sources. By no means do I listen to music analytically nor do I have good ears to do it. Some of the words that come to mind as I am typing this and listening to music are: full, rich, warm, balanced, great imaging, controlled treble, and most of all...the BASS.

Often times, people who previously had W5000 stated the bass is there if you press the cups inward...but this also tend to compress the sound. Sometimes people don't like the sound because it's too lean and "anemic". Most common criticism is that it sounds "honky" and hallow in it's stock form. All of these honest criticisms regarding stock W5000 have some bases. I too often felt this way with certain music genre, especially Rock and Electronica. With this mod, the bass is tight and riches far lower than I could have imagined. Most of all the bass and mid bass is balanced and very musical without sounding detached from rest of musical sound spectrum and still having wonderful warm details.

Here is another surprised finding after the mod. To my ears, I could not find too much difference between various amps I tested with (modded x-can V2 with Russian tubes, RSA XP-7 with AD797 opamp, maxed M^3, Xin upgraded Supermacro 3V6). The F5000, IMO, is not as amp/source dependent as before the mod.

I also did similar mod to A900LTD. I excluded covering the driver's vent hole. The bass is thunderous without being detached from rest of the music. I would say...it has more bass than DT770. The F900LTD is a fun mod I use for Electronica and watching movies.

To form more objective opinion, I asked slwiser who owns both stock W5000 and stock A900LTD to review my modded F5000 and F900LTD for few weeks while I am away on a long business trip to Asia.

The best part about this mod is nothing is permanent. If you don't like it...you can put it back to stock form very easily.

For me, it will stay as F5000 and F900LTD
post #10 of 257
My thanks also goes to SK138 for enabling slwiser to compare the two pairs of headphones.

I am waiting with breathless anticipation for slwiser's impressions. I only hope they don't lead to a good reason for owning two pairs of W5000, one stock and one modded.
post #11 of 257
I am just a "delivery boy" so you can do the comparision The F5000 and F900LTD is coming your way tomorrow.

I do realize this new F5000 sound is not for everyone. It has SennHD650 smooth sound presentation but without the veil. It has the Grado bass slam but deeper. It has Beyer DT880 sound stage and detail but few octive lower. Again...these comparison is based on the cans I had in the past and of couse...my own opinion

Slwiser, I can't wait for you to compare both. Oh...the bass for F900LTD isn't as tight but just more and deeper...so it give somewhat illusion of being little tighter. Like I said before...it's a new sound and it's a fun sound for certian genre with F900LTD Like you, I prefer the F5000 (Fitz modded W5000) with most music that I listen too than with F900LTD.

Quote:
Originally Posted by slwiser View Post
Since I have both stock versions of the W5000 and the A900LTD (almost), it will be very interesting to sit down and compare them with these two modified versions and against each other. I am hoping that the A900LTD bass is tighten up a bit from the deep although a loose sound it has now compared with the W5000. The scuttlebutt about this modification is that it takes the W5000 and A900LTD to a hold new level. I will just have to hear this to believe it. My AT-HA5000 has two outputs on the front panel so that I can have two phones playing at the same time while doing this comparison. Volume matching should not be an issue.

I am by nature very conservative, so the sound will need to hit me just right for me to say its better. I am in a very enjoyable relationship with my W5000s right now. I hope that did not sound to strange. Based upon Iron_Dreamer's comments I can see that maybe I would prefer the stock unit over the F5000, time will tell.

I feel a little more open about having the A900LTD modified since it already has one modification, that being that it is now balanced with single ended adapter.

I also want to thank SK138 for his confidence in allowing these two phones to be shared in this way.
post #12 of 257
Elephas...I can see why some (unhappy) people who purchased W5000 and returned it or sold it in FS forum. I would say this mod is for them that want that lush, full, warm, non-fatiguing sound...without being sometimes honky or hallow sounding.

I can also understand those people who appreicate the microscopic detail the stock W5000 over slightly darker presentation of F5000. I would espeically appreciate the stock format in instrumental music. But my #1 musical preference is female vocals in jazz, soft electronica, soft rock, pop, new age, etc....thus I will stay with F5000.

The beauty about this mod is...if you don't like it...it takes 20minutes to go back to stock format


Quote:
Originally Posted by Elephas View Post
My thanks also goes to SK138 for enabling slwiser to compare the two pairs of headphones.

I am waiting with breathless anticipation for slwiser's impressions. I only hope they don't lead to a good reason for owning two pairs of W5000, one stock and one modded.
post #13 of 257
Excellent guide! This coincidentally gave me valuable info on the headphone presentation itself.
post #14 of 257
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by slwiser View Post
I also want to thank SK138 for his confidence in allowing these two phones to be shared in this way.
And I want to thank you for agreeing to do the comparison, regardless of the outcome it'll be very helpful.


Quote:
Originally Posted by SK138 View Post
I can also understand those people who appreicate the microscopic detail the stock W5000 over slightly darker presentation of F5000. I would espeically appreciate the stock format in instrumental music. But my #1 musical preference is female vocals in jazz, soft electronica, soft rock, pop, new age, etc....thus I will stay with F5000.
Lately I listen mostly to female vocals too, but it was actually a classical soundtrack that prompted me to do the mods, where a part that was supposed to be more in the background was up-front and piercing. I've felt as though the sound has been improved in other things I listen to too, such as folk rock, celtic new age, electronica, german hard rock, classical and jazz soundtracks, heavy metal, symphonic metal, cello rock, etc. But I was always after a lusher sound all along, it's just that the W5000 came closer to what I wanted in other areas than any other phone before, and this took it the last mile for me.
post #15 of 257
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fitz View Post
I've mentioned it in a few threads here and there that I've discovered some rather useful mods to the W5000, and now I've finally gotten around to making a proper guide on how to do them.
...
Thanks for your modding guide.

I'm thinking about trying out these mods as well.
So far I modded the pads of my W5000s (probably with a similar effect than mod #3, i.e. covering the openings around the driver).
Without mods I find the pronounced upper midrange too fatiguing and rather aggressive.

I'm living in Germany, so I'm not sure what "blue-tak" (or is it "blue-tack") is? Is it adhesive tape or some kind of power gum?
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