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Vintage Philips N6330: sextett look-alike made in Austria by AKG

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
I have the habit of browsing the headphones section of eBay here in Germany for those cans I might like but don’t own yet, and some months ago I stumbled upon these old Philips phones that gave me an immediate sense of déjà-vu:


See what I mean? So, I made my bid, managed to get them for 12 Euro (17 US$, really!), and eagerly awaited their arrival. This is what I got:

Side of the box, this picture:


with the following text:

N6330 dynamic HiFi Stereo headphone
Frequency Range: 16-20,000 Hertz
Nominal Impedance: 2 x 600 Ohm
Sensitivity: 94 dB SPL at 1 mW
Max. power input: 200 mW DIN

This picture I took of the name plate before I had to remove it in order to open the cans and remove the foam:


And the cans themselves:



Before I start my review of how they sound, and compare them with both the Sextett and the K340, my “reference” cans, some additional information:

Before I made my bid I tried to find out about these cans on the web, but only managed to locate two references. One was a listing of a Dutch Hifi museum, with a picture of the cans, the other a post on a Dutch Hifi Forum by an owner, who mentions that he had compared them with many other headphones, but still preferred the N6330. This statement, combined with the fact that I could ascertain from the box that they at least were built the same way as the Sextett, with the 6 passive drivers, gave me a good indication of its potential quality.

After receiving them, seeing the orange disks and the fact that they were made in Austria, confirmed the AKG connection. The pads are the exact same size as the Sextett, and the cable is the same as the one on the K340. As I hadn’t known about the Philips/AKG connection, I continued my research and managed to find out that in the seventies some high quality microphones were manufactured that actually bear the name AKG/Philips, and that at the end of the seventies Philips Austria was the majority shareholder of AKG.

I haven’t been able to figure out who actually manufactured these cans and in which plant, but it’s safe to say that AKG must have had a big hand in the process.

So, how do they sound?

To compare phones or equipment I use a set of tracks that are a mixture of folk, classic, pop and rock. I know this music very well, so it’s easy to notice new aspects, or the lack thereof. The first time I hooked up the Philips I used my old amp, a DIY-made OTL NOS-rolled tube amp based on a design by one Dr. Friedli using two Sylvania 5814A (12AU7/ECC82) tubes, the next step up for me from the portable Headstage Lyrix. This amp is not bad at all, but compared to the amps I currently use, it does sound somewhat “edgy” and “sharp”. That explains what happened when I first listened to the Philips. At that time I alternated between the K340 and the Sextett, depending on the music and my mood, as I still do now.

With the ECC82 amp both cans tended to sibilance, so the first thing I noticed with the Philips was the lack of that. Both AKG phones sounded slightly unbalanced with that amp, and with the Philips the balance was restored. The high frequencies were just right, maybe slightly laid back, but still very realistic and natural.

The mids were even better than both AKG’s. It’s hard to describe as both AKG’s absolutely excel in that, each in their own unique way. The best way to put it is that it sort of combines the sound of both AKG’s into a very coherent and solid presentation.

The bass was at that time way too overbearing and muddy, although this still didn’t prevent the N6330 from becoming my favourite for as long as I used the ECC82 amp. It then also occurred to me to open it up and see what I could do to improve bass response, something I had not wanted to do, because it would mean flipping out the name plate and possibly scratching it.

Of course, as you can see from the picture I took after my attempts at opening it, it did get scratched (stupid! ), but anyway, I removed the foam layer, which hadn’t started to really crumble by the way, in the hope of slightly lowering the level of bass. And indeed this did the trick. Bass response was now more in balance with the rest of the spectrum.

Around that time, two new eBay acquisitions arrived, and I have been busy testing these, neglecting the N6330. They were a Xiang Sheng 708B tube amp, which I immediately rolled with some military grade Russian tubes before burn-in, and a hand-made discrete build of a design by Helmut Becker, called the RKV Mk I, the predecessor of the renowned Audiovalve amp. Now, I am not yet in a position to say which of these two amps is better, because I really like them both and this would be off-topic, but both of them are definitely better than the ECC82 amp, and this fact changed the perception on the quality of the cans in my possession.

Both AKG’s lost their “sharpness” and became even more amazing than I had experienced them before, and unfortunately for the Philips, the reverse applied to the N6330.

The mids are still very good, and on a par with the AKG’s. It’s hard for me to say which of the three I like best in this respect. The differences are quite subtle, and it really depends on the music.

The highs are now a bit too laid back and in the background. In this respect the Sextett is sparkling, alive and present, the K340 is silky smooth, accurate and natural, while the Philips is… how to say this, in Holland we have an expression that says, it’s neither fish nor meat, meaning that it’s nothing special, that it can’t seem to decide what it’s going to be.

As for the bass: I experience the Sextett as well defined and textured, the most accurate and clean of the three, but not going as low, and/or cut off sooner. The K340 is warmer, goes slightly deeper, but is less nimble and has less punch. The N6330 on the other hand is less accurate than both AKG’s, but goes quite a bit deeper, although I get the feeling that the really low frequencies are a bit too loud. This makes a bass drum a bit too overbearing on some tracks, but makes the sound more realistic on others.

A very important factor for me personally is that the sound stage is less deep, wide and coherent compared to both AKG’s.

As I’m still burning in and playing around with my two new amps, I’ll continue to evaluate the N6330 as well.

I am wondering if it might be worthwhile to put back the foam discs?

And would it be sacrilegious to equalize these cans in the digital domain, higher the highs and lower the lows, so to speak, to rebalance them?

Well, that’s all for now. Please note that just before I was going to post this, I noticed THIS thread and realised it concerns the same headphones. Rather than posting there, I decided to start a new thread, mainly because now the title includes “N6330”, so others will be able to find it.

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post #2 of 37
Great find, and very nice review of an obscure (and cheap!) pair of cans.

Quote:
Originally Posted by satshanti View Post
I haven’t been able to figure out who actually manufactured these cans and in which plant, but it’s safe to say that AKG must have had a big hand in the process.
"Made in Austria" on the cup buttons seems quite a giveaway as to who actually manufactured them.
post #3 of 37
That was a great read, thanks! Keep us posted on how you enjoy the Philips'.
post #4 of 37
Hehe, what a coincidence

I also removed the foam since it had completely disintegrated over the past 30 years I am looking to get some replacement foam and recable them.

The stock cable is extremely annoying so that has to go. Also recabling them to dual entry is a breeze there is a small rectangular hole in bottom right side only covered with a plastic cap. So you can definitely sneak a new cable to the right cup through there bypassing the small cable and print in the headphones. Right now I am also thinking about adding some dampening material in the ear cups.
post #5 of 37
I recommend against adding damping material to a sextett. It's likely to reduce the bass rather than increase it.

Vent filtering might help though. Think coffee filter paper.

You can order new foam rings from akg or you can go to the hardware store and tell some guy in an apron that you need to replace the filter media on the intake of the heater in your camper. Many hardware stores sell cut-to-fit sheets of reticulated foam for that purpose - just costs a couple bucks. I got a sheet of it at an Ace hardware about a year ago.

Then just cut out donuts of the material that have an OD slightly smaller than the ID of the outer ring of the earcup and an ID slightly bigger than the OD of the cardan joint around the driver.

It's not critical to the sound that it's there - but it gives the headphones a better mechanical feel.
post #6 of 37
Cool ericj, thanks for the info. Any ideas about what type of cable to use?

Will try the filter mod while I am at it.
post #7 of 37
I'm not a cable guy. I'd be tempted to do something cheap, easy, and rewarding - like order that $11 HD650 cable from sennheiser and chop off the little sennheiser connectors on the headphone end - assuming there's still enough in the Y split for that to work.

Another idea for vent filtering - visit an upholsterer and ask for a scrap of the nonwoven fabric that they line the undersides of furniture with. The technical name is "cambric" but there's no telling how technical upholsterers get. It typically comes in black, gray, white, or brown.
post #8 of 37
Thread Starter 
I just wanted to update this thread with a link to a review I have just done of these cans in comparison with two real Sextetts (a late and middle production), the Philips SBC-HP1000 and the AKG K500.
post #9 of 37
extra info for the interested :

K240 Studio history

" Headphones with the same working principle as the K240 but with individual design were built by AKG for Philips (N6330), Saba (H200) and Uher (W774 and W775). "
post #10 of 37
Thread Starter 
Thanks for that excellent background info, Darek, super!
post #11 of 37
Thread Starter 
After quite a bit of upgrading in the signal chain, I now have to re-evaluate the N6330, so I'll do a mini-review and compare them to the two real Sextetts I own. I just found out from Tiemen that these were also made as a clone to the Sextett LP, as he has white drivers, but mine is a clone of the MP, as the drivers have a brownish ring around them. All three cans have been similarly recabled with SPC cable and Neutrik connectors, directly soldered to the drivers in a two-way entry with Wonder-solder.

Sextett LP:
This one has the most PRAT. It swings and is very lively. It is slightly coloured in the mids, compared to the other two, and has somewhat of a bright overall sound signature. It has less transparency and less detail than the others. Sound stage is deeper than the others, but not as wide or coherent. It is very good for rock, electronic and dance music, for which liveliness and rhythm are more relevant than fidelity. Invites foot-tapping and head-bobbing.

Sextett MP:
Well-balanced across the frequency range, although slightly elevated high-mids and low-highs compared to the Philips, making it great for female voices. Tight and well-textured bass, and crisp but not too shrill highs. Convincing overall presentation, excellent harmonics and timing. Musical is the word that come to mind. Great for complex acoustic and voice material with a lot of harmonic interaction. Invites relaxed listening by letting the harmonics and sweet vibrations wash over you.

Philips N6330:
The best, most tonally correct and most detailed midrange of the three. Bass is deepest, but not as nimble as the LP or as textured as the MP. Treble is most natural and life-like of the three, but a bit recessed. The previous aspects make this a relatively warm set of cans, not as in muddled or pleasantly distorted, but as in the emphasis on the bass and especially the lower midrange. This makes these cans less suitable for female voices, but very nice with male ones. They present more detail but are not as resolving in complexity, meaning this is great for single instruments or simple arrangements, especially acoustic instruments, so chamber music rather than full orchestras. They are tonally more correct and more detailed then, but lose it when the music becomes too complex. The harmonics are not bad, but not as involving as the MP. Invites attentive listening, like to the finer details and timbre of individual instruments.

Conclusion:
All three are more similar to each other than different. Although the differences are as I described them, they are quite subtle, yet clear. All is relative! I just love my Sextetts, and if you can get your hands on those Philipses, grab them! Most of them can be found in Holland obviously, but I found mine on German eBay, although I haven't seen one since. Also have a look at this thread for my review of some genuine leather coloured pads that I personally like a lot and prefer to the original pleather AKG pads in whatever shape or form.
post #12 of 37
Very good review, I found a pair of Philips N6330 in a old box and initially I was convinced that it is a AKG Headphones. They do not have the name plates.
I have a pair of AKG K240 and I saw the aluminium rings which are the same like by K240.
I was amazed from how it sounds!!! really great Headphones. Does any one knows between which years they were build?
post #13 of 37

I have the N6330 now for a couple of weeks. I think they sound even better than the K240 Sextett MP.
As Satshanti mentioned, mine have completely white passive drivers.
Full, rich and fast sounding. These are toe-tapping and very engaging, without sacrificing detail. They remind me a bit of the HD580.
I'm still trying out different earpads. Stock AKG pads are too flat, my ears rest on the grill. So far I prefer the DT770 velour pads, but with the BeyerDynamic leather earpads, it also was quite comfortable and good souding.
The bass can be too much sometimes for my taste. The Sextett LP with the white drivers are known as bass light. If that applies also to my N6330, I can imagine that the ones with the orange drivers must be real bass monsters.
 


Edited by Tiemen - 7/24/10 at 2:04pm
post #14 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by petrini_bigsmart View Post
Does any one knows between which years they were build?

Thanks to Headfi-er iQEM, I found out that they were released in September 1978, and discontinued circa 1981-82.
See this link.


Edited by Tiemen - 7/24/10 at 2:06pm
post #15 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiemen View Post
Thanks to Headfi-er iQEM, I found out that they were released in September 1978, and discontinued circa 1981-82.
See this link, and scroll down.
10x for info
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