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AT ESW10jpn and Ultrasone HFI 780 Briefly Compared, modding notes on the HFI 780's

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 
*** Edit - I added further notes after modifications to the 780's, see Post #10.

*** Edit - Months later, I finally finished the recable on the 780's! See post # 31 for brief notes.

*** Edit - Final impressions in post #41 - I dig 'em!

I'll continue to update as I progress with this project. End of Edit. ***

This post started out as an answer to a PM I received. It turned long winded enough that I thought I'd post it:

Build Quality - the 780's have the same bullet proof headband that all Ultrasones, except maybe the Edition 7,8,9 etc. have. It looks like a couple of other manufacturers use it as well. I opened the ear cups briefly, as I plan to recable and add damping. The cups look like aluminum, but are painted plastic.

The ESW10's are not built like an almost $600 U.S. retail headphone. I always hold them and question the cost, right up until I start listening. The build quality is good, leather, cherry wood and plastic, with a really tiny, flexible cable that could really stand to be a foot longer. They feel like quality, but very light weight. I won't take them out of the house, except once in a while to work, and in the AT "firm but not quite hard" case.

Comfort - the pleather earpads on the 780's are grim in the extreme, to me. I switched to beyer 250 pads in velvet, and they are great. They turned the 780's into keepers, at least for now. The headband pad is also pretty stiff and uncomfortable. I'm still looking for the solution to that.

The ESW10's are supra-aural, and push on my ears a bit. They are fine for a couple of hours, and get a bit uncomfortable after that for me. 2 hours is a long session for me, so no problem. They are otherwise quite comfortable, and extremely light. The cups are tiny, and make great "lay in bed" cans because the pillow doesn't press against them much. A lot of my listening is right before I fall asleep, so this is a huge plus for me.

Sound Quality - The jury is out on the 780's for me. Chest Thumping Bass from headphones - I don't get how that works, but it does happen on some songs. Brittle highs that have tamed after break in. By the way, I called BS on the 400+ hours break in at first. I think maybe the 400+ hours is not a bad estimate - That's what I've got on these now, and the highs are much less brittle, though still very forward. The whole presentation is in your face forward - a little too much for me right now. I'm hoping the recable and damping will tame them a bit.

The ESW10's - what can I say, I love these headphones! The sound is just shy of perfect for me. I got these, and sold my HD580's. The ESW10's are more easily driven, have much deeper, tighter, more prominent bass, rich mids and detailed highs, and seem to be quite forgiving of recording quality. Songs that have sibilance with the 780's do not (though they may border on sibilance) with the ESW10's. They have a smallish sound-stage, and that is the only thing that makes them shy of perfect for me as far as sound quality. The whole package together is hard to beat. The price is hard to stomach, though.

From what I've read, the ESW9's are a slightly more laid back version of the 10's. The 780's will be WAY more forward, bright and fatiguing, in my opinion. The 780's have a big fan base of folks who might argue at least the fatiguing part, though.

Bottom line, for now, you'll get my ESW10's when you pry them from my cold, dead ears. The 780's are staying for work and travel cans, for now. They are good, and enjoyable, but not (yet) perfect. If I can get them closer to perfect, they stay for the long haul, as I really like the form factor and durability.
post #2 of 48
Wow, excellent review.
post #3 of 48
dont you find it great value that the hfi-780 is comparable to a headphone like esw10jpn with more than twice the price? some people even say its comparable to the edition 9! btw great review, thanks
post #4 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by ramintop View Post
dont you find it great value that the hfi-780 is comparable to a headphone like esw10jpn with more than twice the price? some people even say its comparable to the edition 9! btw great review, thanks
Only if you recable it with ALO cable, which will cost another $200 if not more I believe.
post #5 of 48
Great review! I with you 100% on the esw10jpn.
post #6 of 48
I agree with your comments on both, though I'm less enthusiastic about the HFI-780s, and I've heard them stock with very little burn-in, and ALO recabled with mega hours on them. Nice review.
post #7 of 48
I dont agree with your on the pads then again I have smaller ears and my head loves Pleather.
post #8 of 48
Great review, definetly agree on the ESW10JPN. If you haven't already, fold a pillow and put the ESW10's on it overnight. Do this for a few nights and the clamping pressure will lessen significantly.
post #9 of 48
Thread Starter 
Wow, I got busy and haven't had a chance to check back. Thank you all for the nice comments. Just a couple of general responses:

I compared the two because I currently have both. The 780's are a good can at their price, but I like the ESW10's a lot better right now based strictly on sound quality and comfort. On the other hand, I won't take the ESW10's out of the house for fear of damaging them, and they are probably overpriced when you get right down to it.

Pleather - to each his own.

Pillow mod - I get the idea, but I actually like them kind of tight, they stay on my head better.

My seemingly random comment about the ESW9's was from the original answer to a PM, and I forgot to delete it when I posted the comparison in its own thread.
post #10 of 48
Thread Starter 
Some further comments on the 780's. I added some dynamat to the back of each cup, a fairly small amount of polyester batting between the cup and driver, and some of the vinyl based damping material:

Parts-Express.com:*Lightweight Vinyl Sound Damping Sheet 27" x 40" | vinyl temperature sound damping sound pins pin lights light damping damp amps amp sonic impact

to the front of the driver plate (baffle plate?). This was a circle that basically covers the area inside the "ports" and has a hex opening for the driver itself. This piece is just under the foam behind the pads.

The very preliminary results, after very brief listening:

The bass loses the resonance, tightens up, and remains HUGE yet not obtrusive. Definitely an improvement.

Edit: Resonance probably isn't the right word. Decay probably is. The bass is still BIG, but the decay is generally much more natural. It used to have a bit of "hang time" and doesn't seem to now.

The jury is out on the mids - they seem just a tad more present, Diana Krall goes back to whispering in my ears, as she does with the ESW10's, rather than sticking her lips against my ears as the 780's were before the damping.

Sibilance is greatly reduced. Sarah McLachlan's Mirror Ball album has quit a bit of sibilance in her voice before damping. Post damping, it is almost gone, almost to the level of the ESW10's.

Highs - much less brittle, still extremely bright to me, but again, I like a slightly more laid back presentation. Much, much better to me though.

Next up is a Mogami 2893 recable (edit: ended up being Navsips SPC, I managed to ruin the Mogami....), as I already have the cable. I'll go with double entry, as it really doesn't look like the Mogami or anything more robust will fit easily as single entry, especially the transfer portion from left to right earcup. Kind of a bummer, as I like the single entry. I may splurge for some XLO 26 awg instead, but leaning toward the Mogami for now. I hope that cures the brightness a bit more, though I don't hold out much hope that a recable cable will change the signature that much.

After the recable, I'll go to fine tuning the polyester fill, and possibly more dense foam over the front of the drivers.

That's it for now. They sound really good. They are too bright and forward for me, but improving. The 780's are a heck of a nice headphone. I hope I can get them where I want them, which is basically just a little less bright, and if possible, a little more lush in the mids.

As compared to the ESW10's, I like the sound signature of the ESW10's much more over all. I stated in the first post that they are near perfect for me. The 780's are getting closer. For someone who likes the Grado sound but wants bass, these would be pretty darned close. They don't have the Grado mids, though.

I'll check in again after the re-cable, and periodically. until the project is done.
post #11 of 48
Nice report aamefford, it will most interesting to see what results you'll get from the recabling.
post #12 of 48
Re-cabling the HFI-780 is mandatory and doing internal dampening is also very important. Once both mods are done they much better to listen to if you have the right amp for them (Travagans Red with AD743, D10 with AD8066 or AD8599, Grahm Slee NOVO, ALO Amphora). I do think the ESW10 sound more natural in timbre and tone and transparency, and the modded HFI-780 were more of a rock and roll kinda phone. The Edition 9 are further refined and smoother with less fatigue than the HFI-780. In the long run I stuck with my modded D2000 and ESW10JPN as the more relaxing laid back and refined headphones. But I could still enjoy a modded 780 or Edition 9 if I had one.
post #13 of 48
ESW10 is one portable cans that can rival most full size cans out there. It sound refine with very good tonality and tight bass. A very balanced cans which is good for any kind of genre. One that I will keep for a very long time.

I do like HFI-780 as well which is more suitable for pop and rock. But it's tight headband is just too much for me.
post #14 of 48
Hfi780 build quality isn't that good...even the brand new ones feels cheap...
post #15 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by ramintop View Post
dont you find it great value that the hfi-780 is comparable to a headphone like esw10jpn with more than twice the price? some people even say its comparable to the edition 9! btw great review, thanks
I was about to post the same when I noticed your post.
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