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Ultrasone HFI780 ALO Mod

post #1 of 470
Thread Starter 
Just wanted to signal that I have finished a modification of the new Ultrasone HFI-780 headphones and am pretty excited to report that the modded headphones are outstanding. Well given that unmodded they are wonderful, the mod just takes them to another level, more on that later. I should be able to get some photos of them up soon. I have a shipment of these in the works and they should hit the ALO store shortly. We are evaluating and tweaking at the moment.

The mod is a internal and a re cable. We place acoustic vibration dampening material in various parts inside headphone as well as removal of the diode board. Then we are offering a hard wired re cable direct to each driver as opposed to way they are stock into one cup. You will be able to choose the 18G cryo wire (JenaLabs) or a 20AWG vampire wire. Please stay tuned.

Ken
post #2 of 470
Hi Ken,

I already have a pair of HFI-780 and wonder how much the mod will cost. And, can I send in mine to get the mod? Or, do I have to buy from ALO? By the way, my HFI is only 1 week old. Please feel free to PM me if you'd like. Thanks!
post #3 of 470
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by moonsurf View Post
Hi Ken,

I already have a pair of HFI-780 and wonder how much the mod will cost. And, can I send in mine to get the mod? Or, do I have to buy from ALO? By the way, my HFI is only 1 week old. Please feel free to PM me if you'd like. Thanks!


Hey Moonsurf,

ALO would love to mod your HFI780s please email me at audiolineout@gmail.com

Thanks

Ken
post #4 of 470
interesting news, keep us posted!
post #5 of 470
Hi Ken, is the soundstage really improved (specially the depth (front/rear)) with your recable. Ah, the bass is not affected in any way negatively (the impact/slam) and if it is in a positive form; how it is improved??
I want to buy this headphone soon, and i want that this recable to be reliable (the original cable seem weak...) and not too microphonic.
I hope that you brought various units...

I will be waiting for your impressions soon
I am very excited...
Thanks a lot.
P.S: are you had/listen/tested the beyerdynamic DT990 ED 2005 in stock form...?
post #6 of 470
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wilashort View Post
Hi Ken, is the soundstage really improved (specially the depth (front/rear)) with your recable. Ah, the bass is not affected in any way negatively (the impact/slam) and if it is in a positive form; how it is improved??
I want to buy this headphone soon, and i want that this recable to be reliable (the original cable seem weak...) and not too microphonic.
I hope that you brought various units...

I will be waiting for your impressions soon
I am very excited...
Thanks a lot.
P.S: are you had/listen/tested the beyerdynamic DT990 ED 2005 in stock form...?
I am going to wait to go into detail about the sound but let me put it to you this way, I also have a Edition 9 that I modified and I dare say that my modified HFI780 is close to the sound of my MODDED E9. I need to compare the Modded HFI780 to stock E9 to see where we are at. Anyway you cut it the ALO modded HFI780 is going to be a sweet deal, a awesome closed back headphone. For those who do not all ready know a Ultrasone Edition 9 is $1500 stock.

I will report back soon.

Ken
post #7 of 470

MINI-REVIEW OF ALO modded HFI-780 - WOW!



So, I got the ALO modded HFI-780 in Today (Saturday 23rd feb) and didn't get to check them out till after church tonight. I also have my stock HFI-780 (with 220 hours on them) to compare to the ALO ones. I will call them ALO-780 from this point forward. According to Ken, "the ALO-780 only have about 48 hours on them but a good 36 of that was having them hooked up of a fry kleaner (sweep generator) that will exercise the drivers and burn in the cable. But yeah they are pretty much not broken in yet."

SOURCE and PROGRAM MATERIAL: I listened to a variety of FIM HDCD and hybrid SACD jazz discs, plus a Diana Krall "dual-disc" with CD on one side (DVD on the other). My Dynamic rig that I used tonight to listen was my Marantz CD5001 connected to my DarkVoice 336i amp with silver plated OFC copper interconnects (see top of the line tubes in sig). This was used with the ALO-780's, stock HFI-780 and Edition 9. For a comparison, I left my STAX amp connected to my iBasso D1 as DAC, feeding it Apple lossless files of the same music, via optical out from my rockboxed iRiver H140. Plugged in and charging were my SR-Lambda and SR-Lambda Signature.

IMPRESSIONS: After listening to the ALO-780 tonight, the first question that I asked Ken (without knowing this thread existed) was, "When exactly did you plan to tell me just how CLOSE to a stock Edition 9 your modded ALO-780's sound?" It appears he wanted to test whether I was paying attention or not. I haven't been able to remove the ALO headphones for the past 2 hours - it's like I'm hypnotized into keeping them on.

During the first song, I was like, "Wait a sec, grabbed the wrong ones. Yikes!" Okay, so by the end of the first song I CAN tell the difference between ALO-780 and Edition 9, but the ALO-780's sound clearly falls between the stock 780 and the stock Edition 9, but closer to the Edition 9 than to the stock 780. Well Done!! While I am calling them ALO-780's and not HFI-780's, they could just as well be called ALO 9's.

VS the 220 hour stock HFI-780, the unburned-in ALO-780 have more ambience and space (or air) around the instruments, and the soundstage gets slightly deeper as well. The mids didn't change much, and remained rich and slightly forward (but not grado forward, more like HD600 forward). VS the Proline 2500 the Prolines are lacking in the mids. The bass is crisper and more defined, almost making the stock bass feel slightly muddy or sloppy. At first the ALO-780 gave the illusion of maybe 1-2db less bass than stock, because the bass wasn't over-powering, but with further close listening that doesn't appear to be the case at all. There is plenty of bass, and NOT less than stock. It was the increased definition and detail in the bass that took away a big cloud of bass hanging over the music - a cloud that I didn't recognize in the stock ones, because the stock bass was tighter and more defined than my Denon D2000 with APS V2 cable that I used as my initial measuring stick. Switching back to the stock HFI-780, the bass is a little less distinct but not more powerful or pronounced. The ALO bass is actually within 1-2db of the Edition 9 but not quite as much, but I am just guessing here. VS the Darth Beyer bass, the Darths have a 64-125Hz peak that needs 3-4db of EQ to remove - the HFI-780 and ALO-780 have no such nasty peak to deal with.

People have been worried about the treble on the HFI-780, without ever having heard them yet. I say don't worry about it. The ALO-780 treble at first sounded about the same as the stock HFI-780, guessing maybe 2db more than the Edition 9 treble, but it is still not excessive and still enjoyable. It only shows sibilance on recordings that already have it in them. Good recordings, don't have any issues. On the recordings with sibilance, it seemed like the stock HFI-780 had slightly more more issues, despite the longer burn-in. But, if you read further you'll see that the amp and source have a lot to do with the treble as well. Much of my testing with HFI-780 had been done with the Meier headfive because it is connected to my iRiver H140 running 24/7 with music on repeat. About an hour into my testing of the ALO-780 I switched over to the Darkvoice 336i amp with Marantz CD5001. With tube rolling the treble is not an issue with the ALO-780.

OTHER COMPARISIONS: I synchronized my STAX rig with my Dynamic rig, playing the same music, and switched back and forth between the ALO-780 and STAX SR-Lambda and Lambda Signature (my STAX amp runs two pair at one time). I then went to compare the ALO-780 treble to my STAX Lambdas and Lambda Signatures, and was surprised again. The STAX were brighter than the ALO-780's! It puts the treble into perspective, with the ALO-780 being closer to just right.

I find the STAX do have an advantage in lightness or delicacy, and transparency or effortless reproduction, but they are brighter and have less bass, as well as more fragile and not portable at all. In the process, I discovered that the ALO-780 and Edition 9 are ultimately just as rewarding to listen to as my STAX SR-Lambda and SR-Lambda Signature (and to some degree the stock 780 too), at least with the jazz I was playing tonight.

SYNERGY: I have my Meier HeadFive plugged into the STAX setup, and with that the HFI-780/ALO-780 (and even Edition 9) do indeed sound brighter than with the Marantz with DV336l. So, system Synergy is more important than I had assumed, and the DV336 with Marantz was more suited to the task than the other setup. That lead me to experiment with tubes. I discovered that I can drop in my $99 Hytron 5692 Brown-base preamp tube, which my Grados have good synergy with, and I can eliminate ANY sibilance and further refine the treble. Interestingly, I went back to the RCA Grey Glass VT-231 because it sounds airier, and even with the extra 2-3db of treble it is quite enjoyable with the ALO-780's. So, it should be pretty easy to find the right opamps or tubes for whatever headphones you are listening to, to get the best synergy - then just leave it set that way and you're done.

SUMMARY:

There is still something special about the Edition 9 that the modded 780 don't have, but these ALO-780 are the closest dynamic headphones I have to the $1,500 Edition 9 right now, making the ALO-780 sound world class to me even without a full burn-in. It's 1:30am and i have had these ALO-780 on my head for 2 hours since I finished the comparison and started my write-up, and I can't stop listening!

The beautiful thing about the stock HFI-780 is that they still sound good after listening to better headphones. But, the ALO-780 clearly surpass the stock ones, and they actually get closer to the Stock Edition 9 sound than any $250 MSRP headphone should be allowed to. This re-cable with diode board removal is simply a no-brainer. The 6 foot length is just right. The lighter 20G cable with 1/8" plug is more practical for a headphone that might be used portable, but I would still love to hear the costlier 18G Jenna Labs cable.

These headphones have to go back to Ken when I am done testing them, so I NEED to send mine to ALO for this mod, because I can't stand to be without it. And, I probably will need to then re-cable my Edition 9 too, just so they can maintain a safe margin of superiority over the ALO-780. Until then, I'll spend most of Sunday and Monday doing more in depth comparisons with other genre of music, and continue to burn them in 24/7, and if anything changes I'll let you know. Not that I expect my impressions to change, but when I typed "doing comparisons" above, I had that in my head as comparisons vs the Edition 9. I had to kick myself to remind me that I should be doing more comparisons in regards to the stock 780 too, that's how surprised I am by these.

Cheers!

Larry
post #8 of 470
There are two question: how much this HFI-780 ALO mods cost? and then what is a different between 18G cryo wire (JenaLabs) or a 20AWG vampire wire?
post #9 of 470
Great comparisons....I think you have it right where it counts. This will not replace the UE9 for the one requiring the highest standards but comes very close and for a great price. While at the same time fixing my most problematic issue with the 780, it's stiff/long cable.
post #10 of 470
nice impressions
post #11 of 470
Thanks for the great review
post #12 of 470
Nice writeup and comparisons. How much does the ALO 780 mod cost ?
post #13 of 470
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vandread View Post
There are two question: how much this HFI-780 ALO mods cost? and then what is a different between 18G cryo wire (JenaLabs) or a 20AWG vampire wire?





Firstly I want to thank Headphone Addict Larry for taking the time to author that assessment. I did not give him much info before sending the phones because I wanted to get an unbiased opinion on the headphone mod, no preconceived judgments etc. I don’t like to write up descriptions of the builds I make usually because I think the work should speak for it self through happy customers. I have been getting a lot of inquires as to the price the sound of the JenaLabs 18G vs. the more affordable 20AWG Vampire wire. I sent Larry a 18g JL headphone cable that he compared to the Vampire wire and he pretty much had a good picture of the compare and contrast of that and if he would like to post that here it would be helpful. I have found the JL 18G Cryo wire to be tighter and have a refinement that the Vampire wire does not. The JL Cryo wire also exhibits that certain sparkle that I have difficulty in pinpointing. Moreover the 18G JL Cryo wire is mechanically superior, with less resonance and soft to the bend. That being said the Vampire stuff is still a remarkable cable and vastly superior to the stock cable.

I just replied to an email asking about the mod, price and cable options. For the sake of not having to repeat this over and over again I thought I would just post this. The prices are subject to change.

Dear Sir,

I can sell you the cable but the other half of the modification is the internal alterations, and interior structural dampening. The install is also not what I would call a walk in the park, as it requires drilling on of the cups and delicate soldering that if done improperly can fry the driver or damage the micro thin voice coil.

The types that I am offering.

1. ALO SXC Cryo, The wire I had custom made for ALO exclusively. Tuned for what I wanted to hear in a portable audiophile grade cable. The wire starts with unusually hight strand count Ohno continuous cast mono crystal copper stranded wire that I had them silver plate each strand, then the wire is in a extremely flexible Polyethylene (PE) clear jacket. I made this for 2 main reasons, one to protect the copper from future oxidation (a primarily cosmetic coloring of the wire), this happens to wire that is physically handled a lot in a portable cable and two to give the cable a "silver" sounding detail to it. This cable is both warm yet exquisitely detailed, not laid back nor not muddy but still having a warm phat bottom end. This cable is terminated to a gold Switchcraft mini plug The headphone cable is a 4 wire weave terminated to a Switchcraft mini plug or Canare F12 with has a slightly larger handle, both are Nickel plated. 4 to 6 foot length $385 for the modification and instillation of the cable done by me here at ALO. You have 2 wire gauge sizes to choose from, a larger 18awg and a smaller more "portable" 22awg. Both are the same price.

2. The larger 18G JenaLabs Cryo wire. 18 gauge JenaLabs Cryo Ultra Wire. Each UW strand is an ultra high purity 99.9999%, linear crystal, stress-free, super annealed, micro-polished, ultra fine stranded copper conductor. It is jacked in modified PE dielectric which offers dissipation and dielectric constant figures similar to Teflon, but without its mechanical resonance problems. Moreover a special extrusion process allows the insulation to exert and tremendous inward redial force on the wire strands, thus reducing audio smearing micro-vibrations. UW is Immersion CRYO treated by JenaLabs proprietary process. Termination to a Canare mini plug, Switchcraft 1/4, Canare 1/4 or Cardas 1/4 plug. 4 to 6 foot length $395 for the modification and instillation of the cable.

Additionally I am selling the Ultrasone HFI-780s new with the mod and re cable complete with either the JL 18G Cryo cable installed, or the ALO SXC wire HERE.

I will be sure to post some photos of the ALO-780 Mod with the JL 18G Cryo cable soon.

If anyone has any questions that you would rather not post please email me (audiolineout@gmail.com)

Balanced cables are available, and again the above prices can and might change. Modification times will vary depending on work load volume but typically is on its way back to you from the time I receive them, one week or less.

Thanks

Ken
post #14 of 470
Here's list of some comparisons I would find helpful and, hopefully, others.

ESW9 stock
ALO re-cabled ESW9
HFI 780 stock
ALO re-cabled HFI 780

Needless to say right after the HFI thread started I had just sent in my ESW9s for re-cabling! So, I am re-thinking portable with some isolation.

Thoughts? There may be few who have heard all four of these, but some may have heard 2-3 of these.
post #15 of 470
Quote:
I have been getting a lot of inquires as to the price the sound of the JenaLabs 18G vs. the more affordable 20AWG Vampire wire. I sent Larry a 18g JL headphone cable that he compared to the Vampire wire and he pretty much had a good picture of the compare and contrast of that and if he would like to post that here it would be helpful. I have found the JL 18G Cryo wire to be tighter and have a refinement that the Vampire wire does not. The JL Cryo wire also exhibits that certain sparkle that I have difficulty in pinpointing. Moreover the 18G JL Cryo wire is mechanically superior, with less resonance and soft to the bend. That being said the Vampire stuff is still a remarkable cable and vastly superior to the stock cable.
For everyone reading this - The ALO-780 that I tested has the 20G Vampire Wire, 6 foot, with 1/8" plug. I mentioned in my summary that I would still love to hear the costlier 18G Jenna Labs cable. Actually, I HAVE heard the 18G Jenna Labs cable vs 20G Vampire Wire, just not on the HFI780 is all I was saying.

I agree with Ken that the 18G Jenna Labs wire is ultimately more transparent than the 20G Vampire wire, which is itself an upgrade in transparency to the stock cable. Ken refers to a "sparkle" that it has. This is NOT a treble boost, I hear it as the crystal-clear reproduction of notes, that seem to hang in the air as they decay naturally, with no coloration or any added or subtracted tones. It's a level of transparency that lets the headphones disappear, leaving only the instruments.

The Jenna Labs cable is definitely sturdier, and heavier, but the sound improvement to me would be worth the weight and cost if you really want to have something as close as possible to the Edition 9, for less than half the cost of the Edition 9. Since I already have Edition 9, I will likely opt for the 20G Vampire Wire - but the 18G Jenna Labs cable would be a no-brainer if I didn't have the Edition 9, or if I wanted to make my 780 the flagship of my home and portable headphone collection.

To get a closed can that sounds this good is a rare thing, and many of the closed cans that sound this good are either NO longer in production, will COST as much or more than the ALO-780, or IF they cost less they must be modded to match these and ultimately will cost more (D5000-markl modded-re-cabled for example, which few of us have ever heard yet).
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