I brought up the LA modding here in the first place, and although I don't intend to do it now, I feel it's tempting despite all the skepticism for a some reasons. I understand modding such a perfectly engineered headphone may not bring the most anticipated results and could even lower the resale value. But here's what I think:
1. While many of you would agree that the TH900 is one of, if not the best closed cans ever, when it comes to isolation it isn't perfect. I believe the new earpads by Lawton could further improve on this while making it even more comfortable to wear. Surely the TH900 is already a very comfortable headphone. Also, my experience with Hifiman cans revelaed that earpads surprisingly can make improvements in sound, sometimes more so than a cable upgrade. Even if most of you are skeptical about the LA mod, I think the earpad upgrade is worth a try.
2. As for the cups, I have to admit it would be a shame not to use Fostex's urushi lacquered cups. But then again, the LA cups do look *very* nice, especially the piano gloss finish over the wood, maybe just not in the same level as the TH900's stock cups. However, if you look at the pictures you can see that the LA cups are more protruding than the Fostex cups. This reminded me of Sony's MDR-R10, which has very protruding cups. While closed headphones tend to deliver a relatively smaller soundstage than open types, the MDR-R10 is probably known for having the largest soundstage among all closed cans. LA claims that using their wooden cups can further improve the soundstage, and given the amount of empty space beneath those cups, I think there's some truth to that statement. One of my minor complaints with the TH900 is its relative lack of soundstage compared to many open headphones, and if this can indeed be improved, I'll gladly let them do so.
On a side note, they also claim that they can use different woods to tailor to each listener's sonic preferences, as different wood material can result in different sound. They would ask me what kind of music I listen to, how I want my music to sound, and recommend what's the best wood material for me. So it's not just about choosing wood color based on looks, so they say. I'm not so sure about this one, though.
3. The fact that I can get the cable replaced is probably the most tempting yet most skeptical factor. The cable upgrade alone is quite expensive, for starters. However, what caught my attention was that I can recable it with a balanced plug. The only other company I know that does this is Moon Audio.
Now, I'm really curious to hear how a balanced TH900 will sound like. I can say with certainty that a balanced LCD-3 or HE-6 will sound better than single-ended in most cases, but I'm not so sure about the TH900. Normally, a balanced configuration gives more power to a headphone while enlarging the soundstage, so there is a significant improvement. As I've stated above I'd love anything to improve the soundstage of the closed TH900 cans, so there's that. However, at the same time, I'm slightly worried about nearly doubling the power that is fed into the TH900. The TH900 is a very sensitive headphone with sensitivity of 100 dB/mW, higher than most orthodynamic headphones. One does not need a high power amp with the TH900, unlike the LCD-3 or HE-6. What I'm worried about is, will running the TH900 balanced actually degrade certain aspects of sonic quality due to an overload of power? I mean, using the TH900 balanced on a balanced amp with high power output could be overkill, or even ill-advised in some cases. I don't know.
That's what I'd like to ask people about, including MuppetFace: from your experience with the D7000 and LA7000, did a balanced cable lower certain aspects of sonic qualities due to too much power? Or were there only good improvements, such as larger soundstage?
Originally Posted by MuppetFace
Gonna have to agree on the LA900 being a bad move.
Now, I actually really liked the Lawton headphones I've heard in the past. I own the LA2000, and I think the walnut cups on it are actually fairly nice. The LA7000 I heard was a bit better balanced than the older version D7000, though at double---even triple---the cost of the stock version the value is questionable (and people talk about the TH900 being questionable at double the cost of the D7000?).
The transition from the TH900 to the LA900 makes me cringe however. You're basically replacing cups made from exotic Japanese wood and finished using a painstakingly exacting process by a 100+ year old, locally famous lacquer company. Even if you lack good taste and happen to dislike the metallic red finish (I kid, I kid), from a purely objective standpoint you're substituting something that costs more, requires more skill and labor to produce with something of lesser value--- and paying more for it to boot!
The angled pads are interesting and would be worth an investigation, but the egg protein pads are quite nice IMHO, and I don't see the sound being helped by the change much. Also they'd probably be less comfortable and more suffocating around the ears. Really the only benefits potentially would be improved isolation.
As for the $500-$1000 cable upgrade... well, I'll let that speak for itself. You either believe it's worth it, or you don't.
Honestly, to me it seems like the LA900 is paying a lot for minimal improvement at best and, at worst, paying a lot for someone to potentially screw up your headphones. In my view Fostex spent a lot of time fine-tuning the TH900 into one of the most refined, best balanced U-shaped headphones on the market. One of the finest closed-back headphones, well, ever. Like I said in my main review, they walk a very fine boundary between coloration and reference type sound for me personally. A very complex and delicately stacked signature. If Lawton could minimize any backwave reflection and perhaps counter that slight midrange suckout, then that would be fine, but any further changes to the signature wouldn't be for the better in my estimation.
Really, the whole allure of the original LA models is that you can get them tuned to match your preferences. The TH900 is so clean however it responds brilliantly to EQ, so it's kind of unnecessary.