As a new owner of the HE-500 I guess I won't know what the old pads sounded like but I can say coming from the LCD-2 rev2 there isn't a difference in clarity. There is a difference is tone and texture as the Audeze has its own house sound but the HE-500 isn't by any means muddy in the vocals with the pads I received.
Can you guys define "clutter" to me? To me clutter signifies a lack of clarity and focus. With the pads that came from Hifiman last week I have no problem with vocals. There isn't thing missing in terms of clarity and focus nor am I hearing any type of veil over the vocals. Maybe I got a lucky pair of pads.
And if the old pads are great, what is the next best thing that can be obtained for modding? I'm all for trying to get the best out of my headphones so if a little tweaking can have a big pay off I'm game.