I disagree. I believe that instrument separation has taken a hit with the XLs. People are confusing the increase in distance between the ear and driver for an increase in sound stage. In reality, its just an increase in distance from the source of sound. To me, the instruments seems to bleed into each other as the sound must travel a further distance to reach your ear drum. With the originals, your ear is much closer to the driver, which gives the sound more clarity, and the instruments more distinction. I also disagree with the mids being marginally recessed. I see them more as drowned out due to the more pronounced lows (the thump you're referring to) as well as the distance between the ear and driver. The mids take a major hit. The punchy bass that the old ones were known for has become more of a loose boomy bass with the XLs. The highs become less fatiguing which is definitely a pro for the XLs. That's why genres such as Heavy Metal and Hard Rock may sound better with the XL pads. But if you're looking for metal/rock headphones, you're looking at the wrong brand. Keep in mind that this is coming from someone with small ears that do not protrude my head at all. I had no comfort with the original pads. From a sound standpoint, I just see no strong argument for why the XLs sound better.
Just compare the song "Stan" by Eminem with the Regulars and XLs. The acoustic guitar in the background during the verse is much more pronounced with the old pads. With the XLs, it seem too distant. The vocal clarity also takes a major hit with the XLs. WIth the regulars, it felt like Eminem was talking into your ear. With the XLs, the vocals become too distant and lose clarity. The bass in the song becomes looser and more boomy, and it bleeds into the drum track in the background.
If you're looking for a more relaxed and distant sound, the XLs are great. If you're looking for a more engaging and intimate experience with your music, the Old Pads are the way to go.
Edited by K-Lawn - 10/15/13 at 12:16pm