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The Massive Vintage Headphone Review Thread

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

The Massive Vintage headphone Review Thread


 

My fascination with vintage headphones and vintage technology in general has led to the creation of this massive article. In it I'll be posting review after review of many of the rarer and more elusive vintage headphones as well as some of the more common ones, ranging from standard dynamics, to orthos, to stats, and even some of the rarer drive types like piezoelectric and AMT. As many of these headphones have significant modding potential, I'll also be posting information regarding the mods I have experimented with and the resulting sound. 

 

Many of these vintage headphones will be compared to each other, but for the most part are just talked about on their own. For the reviews I'll be using a combination of my desktop rig (check my sig) as well as my OpenPandora unless otherwise stated.

 

Click the link to a specific headphone to skip right to the review for said headphone. If there is no link, it is because I have not acquired one yet, but intend to do so. 

 

So, without further ado...

 


Headphones by company:

 

Amfiton, Echo, and other USSR brands (Click to show)
TDS-16 "Эхо" (Smela version) (review pending)
AKG (Click to show)
K240 Sextett
K240 Monitor
K141
K4
K340
K145
K1000 
Audio Technica: (Click to show)

ATH-6
Signet TK33 (aka ATH-8)

 

ATH-1
ATH-2
ATH-5 (aka Signet TK22)

ATH-6D

Bang & Olufsen: (Click to show)

U70

 

Form 1

Form 2

ESS (Click to show)
MARK 1 
Fostex: (Click to show)

T50v1 (aka NAD RP18) (review pending)

 

T10 

T20 

T30 

KOSS: (Click to show)

K/6A (review pending)

K/6X (review pending)

PRO/4AAA

PRO/4AAA Plus (review pending)

 

ESP/6

ESP/9

ESP/10 

Pioneer: (Click to show)

SE-300 (review pending)

SE-500 
SE-700

 

SE-2
SE-305

SE-505

SE-650

SE-1000 

Sansui: (Click to show)

SS-20
 

SS-80

SS-100

SS-L2
SS-L3 

SH-15

Stanton: (Click to show)

Dynaphase Sixty

 

Dynaphase Forty

Dynaphase Thirty-Five 

Model XXI 

SONY: (Click to show)

DR-M5 (review pending)
DR-S7
DR-Z5 (review pending)
DR-Z6 (review pending)
DR-Z7 (review pending)

 

ECR-500

ECR-800 

MDR-CD3000 

Qualia 010 MDR-1 

MDR-R10 

STAX: (Click to show)

SR-X MKIII (review pending)

 

SR-Ω

Toshiba: (Click to show)

HR-810 (aka Rotel RH-930) 

 

HR-910 

Yamaha: (Click to show)

YH-1

 

YH-100

YH-1000 

YH-5m 

 

Others:

 

These headphones were made by OEM companies and were marketed under several different names, and thus have been grouped together.

 

[] (Click to show)

Numark, Maruni, Sonic, Prefer, and MANY others: HV-215v

 

Pickering OA-7 
Akai ASE-45
Marantz HP-1 (OEM'd by STAX)

 


Headphones by Ranking (last updated 2/5/2014)

 

This list ranks the headphones in relation to one another ONLY. No modern headphones are included in this ranking.

 

1: Audio Technica Signet TK33

2: Pioneer SE-500

3: Yamaha YH-1

4: KOSS PRO/4AAA

5: Stanton Dynaphase Sixty

6: Sansui SS-20

7: Pioneer SE-700

8: Sony DR-S7

9: Audio Technica ATH-6

10: Numark HV-215v

11: Bang & Olufsen U70

12: Audatron SH-608R

 


Completed Reviews:  12

Reviews in Progress: 11

Headphones to Acquire: 42

 

Due to the staggering number of rare headphones mentioned here, it is not feasible for me to acquire them all myself. If anyone owns any of the following headphones and would be willing to lend me a review sample, shoot me a PM. Please remember that I need 100% stock headphones for the review. Thanks.

 

Requested Review Samples (Click to show)

AKG K240 Sextett

AKG K240 Monitor
AKG K141
AKG K4
AKG K340
AKG K145
AKG K1000
 

Audio-Technica ATH-1

Audio-Technica ATH-2 (orthodynamic)
Audio-Technica ATH-5 (aka Signet TK22)

Audio-Technica ATH-606

Audio-Technica ATH-909

Audio-Technica ATH-1000 (electret)

 

Bang & Olufsen Form 1 

Bang & Olufsen Form 2

 

ESS Mark 1 (AMT)

 

Fostex T10 

Fostex T20 

Fostex T30 

 

KOSS ESP/6

KOSS ESP/9 or ESP/9B

KOSS ESP/10

 

Pioneer SE-2

Pioneer SE-405 or SE-505

Pioneer SE-1000 

 

Sansui SS-80

Sansui SS-100 (orthodynamic)

Sansui SS-L2 
Sansui SS-L3 

 

Sony ECR-500 (electret)

Sony ECR-800 (electret)

Sony MDR-CD3000 

Sony Qualia 010 (M sized headband preferred)

Sony MDR-R10

 

Stanton Dynaphase Forty

Stanton Dynaphase Thirty-Five (aka Pickering OA-3)

Stanton Model XXI 

 

Stax SR-Ω (amp also needed) 

 

Yamaha YHD-1

Yamaha YH-100

Yamaha YH-1000 

Yamaha YH-5m 

 


 

Cheers. Have fun.

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 10:13am
post #2 of 13
Thread Starter 

Audatron SH-608R


 

I thought I'd start off with the very first vintage headphone I acquired. Shortly after growing tired of my M50, I spotted these cans on etsy for about $30 and I jumped on it because I really digged the retro look.

 

Boy was that a mistake. The SH-608R is, quite literally, a Wal-Mart clone of the more common HV-215v headphone which I'll be posting about later. And yeah... it's just about as bad as that suggests. 

 

The headphones are very warm sounding with surprisingly good detail and bass, and they sure as hell don't feel like many of the modern cheapies build-wise. However, the perks stop there. There's a quite nasty sounding resonance in the upper midrange that's absolutely murderous to listen to. At high volumes it's excruciatingly painful and sharp. Add to that the total lack of treble and a suffocated, air-deprived presentation and this headphone is just downright unpleasant to listen to. It's also got thin, stiff pads and ridiculous clamping force, making it uncomfortable as all hell. It feels like I'm wearing a vice on my head.

 

While I may have enjoyed this headphone over my M50s for quite a long time it has some absolutely oustanding flaws. This headphone truly is quite the piece.

 

However, Wal-Mart actually OEM'd the drivers for it from Fostex, and as such they are quite nice sounding once you take them out of the hideous plastic-tastic enclosure. I put my pair of drivers in the almost equally horrid sounding Bang & Olufsen U70 which I bought for a friend, and the result was a warm, euphonic, well detailed headphone with ridiculous holographic soundstaging and slammy bass that is actually very pleasant to listen to. 

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #12 of 12

 

--Level: Lo-fi

--Sound: 1/10

--Comfort: 0/10

--Build: 4/10

--Looks: 5/10

--Recommended? No

--Modification Potential? Transplant only

 

Specifications:

 

Driver: Dynamic, 55mm diameter

Implementation: Open; Sealed baffle
Impedance: ?
Sensitivity: ~95dB/mW
Earpad type: Supra-Aural; pleather
Weight: 280g (without cable)
Cable type: Coiled, dual-entry
Cable length: 2m

 

Pictures:

 

400 400 400 400

 

updated 12/3/13

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 10:09am
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Numark HV-215v


 

As stated earlier, this headphone appears under many MANY other names. My particular example is branded by Numark. The moment I saw one on eBay I tackled it because of the Wal-Mart lookalike Audatron SH-608R I picked up a while back. I wanted to see just how far apart the two were.

 

As far as sonics go, it seems that Wal-Mart actually got pretty damn close. The sound signature is nice and warm with a deep, somewhat diffuse soundstage. Very airy and open. They are kind of dry sounding and have hot treble (though no peaks or resonances like the Audatrons). They are more detailed than the Audatrons by a small margin, and are a little bit easier to power. They are not hi-fi or even mid-fi by any means but they are at least listenable to some degree. 

 

The build is where things are more black and white. There is simply no contest; the Numarks are absolute tanks and make the Audatrons as well as many modern cans feel like a cheap toy. Yokes and headband are solid chrome stainless steel with screw-based adjusters as opposed to standard click sliders. Cups feel rock solid and the cable is simply awesome, I've honestly never seen such a nice coiled cable (even if it is a bit short). The headband sleeve is very nice pleather and the earpads are extremely soft, supple velour supra-aurals. The cans are a bit on the heavy side so the top of the headband does dig into you a bit, but they still remain comfortable. 

 

Internally, the volume controls are wired differently and the drivers are far more interesting looking. They remind me of horn loudspeakers. These headphones are actually from the early 90's and since Numark is a DJ company, it's likely that they were designed for DJ use as part of the "retro-era" of club music. 

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #10 of 12

 

--Level: Lo-fi

--Sound: 3.5/10

--Comfort: 6.5/10

--Build: 7.5/10

--Looks: 7/10

--Recommended? No

--Modification Potential? Untested

 

Specifications:

 

Driver: Dynamic, 55mm diameter

Implementation: Open; Sealed baffle
Impedance: ?
Sensitivity: ~97dB/mW

Earpad type: Supra-aural; velour
Weight: 310g (without cable)
Cable type: Coiled, single entry
Cable length: 0.5m

 

Pictures:

 

400 400 400 400

 

updated 12/3/13

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 10:09am
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 

Stanton Dynaphase Sixty


 

As the epitome of the american "bigger is better" mantra, the Sixty is an absolutely massive DJ headphone from the mid 70's with big sapphire blue cups and even bigger sound. These originally belonged to my friend, whom I purchased them from when he upgraded. They are a two-way (woofer/tweeter) design and are actually much nicer sounding than I expected.

 

The first words out of my mouth when I put these on my head, were "Hooooooooly crap soundstage." These cans throw a ridiculously huge, airy soundstage unlike anything I've ever heard. It is a bit diffuse but jeez is it big, very very wide and deep, totally out-of-head. Another thing they're big on is bass. They have a limitless capacity for bass and volume; they take EQ well (would you believe +20dB bass with no distortion?) and you could take these off your head and use them as speakers if you really wanted to. These cans are very unusual yet somehow enjoyable. On the downside they aren't the most detailed can in the world due to the two-way design (the woofer really lags behind the tweeter quite a lot) and they can get congested with moderately dense music. They also have somewhat recessed, muddy treble, likely due to the old dried out crossovers in the cups.

 

Another thing that I don't see mentioned that often is that they have this odd echo-y sounding resonance to the sound, that makes things sound very distant and almost hissy at times. It's very subtle but it's there and it's kind of annoying.

 

Build wise, Jesus, these cans are just monsters. They are damn HEAVY. The headband is absurdly thick chromed steel with a big cushy leather padding and screw-style sliders like those seen on the Numarks. The cups are a deep sapphire blue matte plastic that is very dense and thick, with a clear resin back over the metallic Stanton logo. Seriously, these headphones are pretty, regardless of how they look on the head. The pads are very nice as well; huge black leather circumaurals that are deep and cushy. The baffle plate is perforated metal.

 

Very interestingly this headphone has a sensitivity comparable to modern IEMs, and thus it'll reveal amp hiss if its there. Powering this beast is tricky. The drivers are huge and have huge magnets, which explains all the weight.

 

Modifications:

 

One modification that is suggested by nearly every owner of this headphone is closing the vents around the Stanton logo with blutak. Simply take a decent-sized chunk of blutak and roll it out into a cylinder, then open the headphones and press it into the vents from the inside. Additionally, I like to add a large treble reflex dot in the center of the cup. This removes that echo-y effect I described earlier while maintaining the massive soundstage and punches up the treble a bit. It makes them more neutral-sounding and brings the detail forward a bit. Definitely a straight-up improvement.

 

Another modification is to replace the old, dried out crossover caps with new ones off of digikey or something similar, but I never did this myself and I already sold the cans. It's supposed to make the treble less muddy though.

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #5 of 12

 

--Level: mid-fi

--Sound: 6.5/10

--Comfort: 6/10 (too heavy, otherwise great)

--Build: 10/10

--Looks: 7/10

--Recommended? Yes

--Modding Potential? Yes

 

Specifications:

 

Driver: 2-way Dynamic; Woofer: 90mm Paper cone, Tweeter: 55mm mylar dome

Implementation: Vented (semi-open); Unsealed baffle
Impedance: 8 ohms
Sensitivity: ~110dB/mW

Earpad type: Circum-aural; pleather
Weight: 660g (without cable)
Cable type: Coiled, single entry
Cable length: 0.5m

 

Pictures:

 

   

 

12/3/13

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 10:10am
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

Sansui SS-20


 

Another two way design. Sansui made a lot of nice stuff back in the late 70's - early 80's and even this low end headphone is very nice sounding considering the time period. 

 

Very different sounding than the Sixty; they're almost opposites despite sharing the same basic drive principle. The SS-20 is far faster and has more treble, and is actually a very detailed sounding headphone whereas the Sixty was average at best in that area. While a bit middy, they have good bass and impact as well as some sparkle up top. The imaging is far more precise than the Sixty, while the soundstage sounds just a little closed in. There is a slight resonance in the midrange but I find that it disappears after a bit of listening, much unlike the Audatron (which seemed to get worse and worse the more I used it). Very nice sounding headphones that can match and even beat many modern cans.

 

Build wise they are a bit lighter than the Sixty but are still HEAVY. The difference here is that despite the weight, the Sixty was quite comfortable and felt nice on the head. These are another story. They have far too much clamp and literally hurt me after a short time. They hug your head extremely tightly and pinch your temples a bit. They also have a metal headband and baffle plate but the plastic is a lot lower quality than that of the Sixty, and they feel a little bit rickety.  They have variable tone and volume controls on both cups (which should all stay at max because the tone dials just kill the highs and the volume is old and scratchy).

 

Also extremely sensitive and revealing of amplifier noise. Huh.

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #6 of 12

 

--Level: Upper mid-fi

--Sound: 7.5/10

--Comfort: -1/10 

--Build: 4.5/10

--Looks: 2/10

--Recommended? No; too uncomfortable

--Modding Potential? Yes

 

Specifications:

 

Driver: 2-way Dynamic; Woofer: 70mm Paper cone, Tweeter: 50mm mylar dome

Implementation: Closed; Unsealed baffle
Impedance: 8 ohms
Sensitivity: ~105dB/mW

Earpad type: Circum-aural; vinyl
Weight: 500g (without cable)
Cable type: Coiled, single entry
Cable length: 0.5m

 

Pictures:

 

   

 

updated 12/3/13

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 10:07am
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

Audio-Technica ATH-6


 

Audio-Technica's early headphone ventures were relatively experimental in nature. The ATH-6 is one of their low-end electret models and is kind of hard to find. Unfortunately, it's not exactly worth the effort it would take to find a pair.

 

They're actually quite middy sounding, without much bass or treble to speak of. The frequencies that are present are kind of crunchy and diffuse sounding; very very unrefined. As far as imaging goes, I suppose it does have an airy presentation but at the same time the transients are just so bad that it's just a cloud of confused midrange with no real definition. You do get decently fast attack speed since it is an electret but unfortunately that also comes with the ridiculously thin, ethereal presentation they're known for and sloppy decay that causes them to sound congested with even remotely dense music. Not exactly one of my favorite listens.

 

The build is where things perk up a bit. They're a featherlight design with a suspension headband, with some metal and dense, non-resonant, powder coated plastics. The backs of the cups are completely open, with a big black metal mesh and vents around the edges. The pads they came with were absolutely shot as was the leather on the headband but even then these headphones are absolutely ridiculously comfortable, the best I've ever had on my head in that regard. Fortunately, the ATH-8/Signet TK33 (which is mentioned later) is a massive improvement over these in sound quality with the exact same frame. 

 

These would be an interesting foster-phone, which is why I'm holding onto them. That and I got them for dirt cheap on the 'Bay. Driven with the ATH-8's energizer box attached to a Sansui integrated amplifier.

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #9 of 12

 

--Level: Lo-fi

--Sound: 2/10 (middy, high distortion)

--Comfort: 11/10 

--Build: 4.5/10

--Looks: 9/10

--Recommended? No; sounds horrid

--Modding Potential? Foster-Phone only

 

Specifications:

 

Driver: Unipolar Electret, 55mm diameter, 12 micron polyester diaphragm

Implementation: Open; Sealed baffle
Impedance: N/A
Sensitivity: ~100dB/100V

Earpad type: Supra-aural; pleather
Weight: 200g (without cable)
Cable type: Flat, dual entry
Cable length: 3m

 

Pictures:

 

   CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), default quality

 

11/29/13

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 10:07am
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

Audio-Technica Signet TK33


 

The Signet TK33 is a back electret stereophone system, with the ATH-8 headset and the ATH-8E energizer. They are a very nice soundng headphone; better than any of the Stax electrets and even comparable to many modern headphones. They feature a different type of electret driver that is almost proprietary and is far closer to the performance of full electrostats. This headphone is a great way to try out stats without shelling out for an entry-level STAX rig. 

 

Very fast, airy headphones with well extended treble and great soundstaging abilities. Clean and clear with lean bass and surprisingly good punch. The decay is a little bit sloppy when compared to the DR-Z6 I'll be reviewing later, but is still very good. Basically, it sounds very similar to the ATH-6 in its presentation but has been refined like crazy and with more treble and a little more bass. Though, that is not to say that it has a lot of bass, because that's the one spot where this headphone falls short. There is a bit of extra room in the cups for dampening but I haven't experimented yet. Maybe I will later.

 

Same frame as the ATH-6 except these pads aren't deteriorated, so <extremely> comfortable and delightful to have on the head. It has a suspension headband and extremely light clamping force and is easily the most wearable headphones ever made, despite being on-ears. A little bit rickety feeling in the hands but far better than the other featherlight designs I've used (*cough* Sony SA3000 *cough*).

 

A bit of information regarding the drivers, they are a bipolar back electret design which was only seen in the high-end Audio Technica's from the 80's (such as the TK33) and Toshiba's Aurex line (HR-710, 910, etc). While traditional unipolar electrets have a permanent charge applied to the diaphragm to substitute the bias voltage of a full stat, the back electret principle places the permanent charge on the stators instead and runs the signal through the diaphragm. It's basically the exact inverse of a full electrostat and as such the diaphragm membrane can be made much thinner than with unipolar electrets, allowing for very similar sonic characteristics.

 

Driven from a Sansui integrated amplifier, with the energizer set on low gain.

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #1 of 12

 

--Level: Hi-fi

--Sound: 8/10 (lacks bass)

--Comfort: 11/10 

--Build: 4/10

--Looks: 8/10

--Recommended? Yes

--Modding Potential? Yes

 

Specifications:

 

Driver: Bipolar back-electret, 55mm diameter, 2 micron diaphragm

Implementation: Open; Sealed baffle
Impedance: N/A
Sensitivity: ~94dB/100V

Earpad type: Supra-Aural, pleather
Weight: 210g (without cable)
Cable type: Flat, dual-entry
Cable length: 3m

 

Pictures:

 

(will upload tomorrow)

 

updated 12/3/13

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 10:06am
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 

KOSS PRO/4AAA


 

Getting back to dynamics with KOSS's flagship from the mid 1970's. They are a bit heavy, kind of ugly and unweildly, but these headphones provide a sound that while dated is surprisingly pleasant to listen to even now. 

 

I'm not gonna lie, they leave a bit to be desired in stock form. Pretty dark sounding with decent transients and a great soundstage for a closed can. Damn insane bass impact and power, though a bit lacking in extension. Has some pretty heavy rolloff in the high frequencies as well. Nicely textured and tactitle especially on the lows, but a little bit cloudy and murky. Kind of uncontrolled, tizzy sounding treble that can be a bit harsh at times. Very smooth sounding and enjoyable to listen to.

 

Build wise... yeah these are almost as tank-like as the Sixty. Thick, dense plastic with brushed stainless steel yokes and a spring-steel headband core. Rock-solid yoke design with metal pins to ensure durability. Pretty brushed aluminum KOSS badges on the backs of the cups. The inside of the cup has latticing to control airflow and the outer headband is sleeved in nice tan leather. The earpads and inner headband are KOSS's proprietary air-filled Pneumalite vinyl material, which while a bit stiff from age and not the most comfortable thing in the world, get absolute perfect sealing and provide insane isolation and impact. Okay, maybe that's optimistic; those pads SUCK when they get hard.

 

However, this is one of those crazy vintage cans that can improve wildly with modifications, and I've spent over a year messing with them. Heh heh.

 

Modifications:

 

Before I get into modifications for this headphone I need to address the different driver revisions that exist. There are 3 dfferent KOSS drivers, one of which is a black sheep.

 

KOSS Pro Driver Guide (Click to show)

Note: Be cautious

 

It is very easy to break a vintage Koss Pro driver. You should never remove it from the baffle plate unless you absolutely have to. The diaphragm is simply clamped in place by a metal ring, and can end up left behind if you just pull the driver out. This will sever the voice coil connection irreparably. If you do need to remove it, you need to clip off the four anchors at the edges from inside the cup and BLOW INTO THE BAFFLE PLATE to get the driver out of its mount. Make sure you have your hand ready to catch the driver as it pops out.

 

Also, if you choose to do a recable, you <CANNOT> solder directly to the pins of the series 1/2 4AAAs. This will also sever the voice coil connection and melt the plastic frame. Salvage the clips from the old cable and solder your new wires to those (with them off the pins of course). 

 

Series 1:

 

 

 

 

Most common of the three. White and black housing with a paper damper attached using a clear plastic bolt. A tiny bit grainy compared to the series 2 but otherwise sounds exactly as described above.

 

Series 2: 

 
 

 

Similar to the first series but with a thinner diaphragm and larger magnet. All white or all black housing with a foam damper held on by a gray nut. Sounds very similar but the grain is removed and it has better detail and soundstage. Best of the three but unfortunately is also the rarest.

 

Series 3:

 

 

 

This is the black sheep. All white with a smaller magnet and voice coil, and a felt damper. Worst sounding of all three. Used in some 4AAAs and all "Plus" models of KOSS headphones. Absolutely gross sounding. Here's a guide to avoid it:

 

 

 

Oookay, now for the mods:

 

Open-back/vented mod

[] (Click to show)

Works with both series 1 and 2 4AAAs. Convert the 4AAA to an open-back headphone by carving out a hole where the KOSS badges are. This removes a reflection in the earcup that causes an echo-like resonance. It also gives the soundstage a little more width. It does not change the character of the 4AAA very much, but perhaps increases the treble a bit.

Pry off the plastic backs of the earcups using a credit card or a small flat-head screwdriver. Remove the two brushed aluminum KOSS badges on the earcups by gently prying them up. Be careful not to damage the plastic of the earcup or the badge itself. They're usually glued down tight, so you might have to heat them with a blow-dryer to get them off without damaging them. Put them aside; you'll need them later.

There are a number of ways to cut out the hole. One option is to use a 1 1/8" wood drill bit to drill out the hole. Another option is using a pocket knife to "drill" a hole in the center of the earcups where the badges were. Continue cutting around in a circle until you reach the edges of the circles, and carve it to shape. Then, use some fine- grit sandpaper to even out the surface of the plastic where the cut is. This method is a little more involved, but is not difficult and gives cleaner results.

Before you put the earcups back on, grab the badges you set aside earlier. Put some double-sided tape on the backs, and stick them to the plastic bolt on the back of the driver. Make sure they're completely centered and straight. This is only for aesthetics, but considering how ugly the inside of the 4AAA is I strongly recommend it. Gently snap the earcups back onto the frame. If the wires are showing, push them down into the earcups using a toothpick or something similar. 

 

Re-damping mod:

[] (Click to show)

The paper damping built into the drivers of the series 1 4AAA models deteriorates and crumbles over time, which brings the bass up and causes some boominess.

To fix this, first remove the backs of the earcups using a credit card or small flat-head screwdriver. Unscrew the plastic bolt on the back of the driver. Use a coin if necessary. Carefully remove the original damping. It will crumble to pieces as you do this, so do it over a plate or a garbage bin and with the headphone held upside down. Make sure you get as much of the old damper off as possible, and try to avoid getting any of the residue into the bass ports on the back of the magnet. Once you're done, wipe it clean with a damp paper towel. There may be spots where chunks of the paper have become cemented to the magnet, but as long as all 4 bass ports are uncovered it won't matter.

Use whatever damping material you like. Blu-tak isn't recommended, as it seemed to completely kill the bass. Felt caused bloom in the midrange and some congestion. Fleece seemed to sound the most similar to the original damping. Cut out a circle of the material for each side and cut two slits in the centers. Slide them onto the plastic bolt and screw them back into place. Gently snap the earcups back onto the frame. If it sounds off, adjust the plastic bolt until it sounds to your liking.

 

For Series 2 4AAAs, you can adjust the foam damping by adjusting the gray bolt on the magnet. Tighter is less bass, looser is more. I find that the stock KOSS tuning is a bit bassy for my tastes so I tuned it down a quarter-turn or so. 

 

Baffle Plate Mod  [Experimental]:

[] (Click to show)

This involves cutting out the baffle plate to remove and/or replace the acoustic lens in front of the driver to reduce resonances. I have not done a lot with this one yet so use at your own risk. To cut out the baffle, first disassemble the cup and remove the driver to avoid damage. Remember to follow the rules I mentioned earlier about removing the driver to avoid breaking it. Remove the earpads as well. Take a pair of end nippers and cut the plastic at the four outermost notches of the acoustic lens; this will require a total of 8 small cuts. The plastic is pretty mmassd so you shouldn't have to worry about damaging your tools, but I still wouldn't use a nice tool for the job. Once the plate has been removed, take fine or mid grit sandpaper to the inside of the hole to get rid of any excess plastic that could interfere with the driver.

 

My initial impression is that the sounstage becomes wider and the treble becomes less tizzy while it also becomes more recessed and the isolation is sigificantly reduced. I have not done this to both sides of the headphone yet. Use at your own risk as this mod is highly destructive and I only did it because I have spare parts for mine.

 

Additional modifications I've done to my pair include completely rewiring the headphone internally with new wires from a spare AKG cable and adding a 3.5mm jack on both cups to make the cable removable. The rewiring did clean up the sound a bit because the old wires were pretty badly corroded but it was a very minor change and was done mostly for cosmetics. I also harvested a pair of pads from a mint condition KOSS K/6A. A better option would be buying new ones from KOSS, though you have to call them to do so.

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #4 of 12

 

--Level: Mid-fi

--Sound: 7/10 (a bit dark)

--Comfort: 4/10 (ow)

--Build: 9/10

--Looks: 6/10 (utilitarian)

--Recommended? Yes

--Modding Potential? Yes, significant

 

Specifications:

 

Driver: Dynamic, 55mm, mylar cone

Implementation: Closed (modded to vented); Sealed baffle
Impedance: 250 ohms
Sensitivity: ~90dB/mW

Earpad type: Circum-Aural, Pneumalite® Vinyl
Weight: 530g (without cable)
Cable type: Coiled, Single-entry
Cable length: 2m

 

Pictures:

 

 400 400 400 400

 

   

 

updated 12/3/13

 

Phew.

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 10:10am
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 

Pioneer SE-500


The SE-x00 line is Pioneer's (failed) attempt at revolutionizing audio in the 70's. There were three models in total, the SE-300, SE-500, and SE-700. These headphones all use a special planar driver, made from high-polymer PVDF piezoelectric film. That's right, piezoelectric, like the more modern TakeT H2+, but completely planar as opposed to a Heil driver. These headphones are all RIDICULOUSLY difficult to power due to the drive type; they are a fully capacitive load (read: infinite impedance) and Pioneer actually recommended powering them directly from speaker taps. 

 

Most people tend to prefer the top-of-the-line SE-700 over the midrange-model SE-500, for an obvious reason. In stock form the SE-500 sounds remarkably bizarre; very middy and cloudy, reminiscent of most electrets from the time period, generally a very dated and unimpressive sound with nothing that really jumps out at you. However, like the 4AAA, the SE-500 performs extremely well after a very simple modification, in my opinion better than the 700 as well as many others, and the rest of this review will describe its sound after said modification is performed.

 

Build wise, they're good but not great, the headphone is mostly plastic, with metal in the right places to reinforce it and keep it sturdy. It clacks a little bit at the joints but not too badly, and just, damn, these headphones are gorgeous. The curve of the earcups is simply one of a kind. Comfort is kind of mediocre as they are supra aural and have a considerable amount of clamp. The earpads are soft, but almost too soft; after a while you feel the cups behind them, pushing on your ears. 

 

After modification, the sound of the SE-500 is... very unusual and completely unique, it's going to be hard to describe because even after spending 3+ years with it I'm still not 100% sure what it does. It's uncannily bright and bassless, like seriously it has nearly no content at all below 500Hz. My suspicion is that it has stat-like bass with worse extension, however I haven't really been able to test this yet so take that with a grain of salt. While these headphones basically sound like you took the tweeter out of a 3-way speaker and shoved it in a headphone, they somehow manage to make it extremely listenable and enjoyable. They are liquidy smooth and euphonic, with delicate, refined, hyper-extended highs and good transients. They have good soundstage (although the width is restricted) and they have a nice sense of air. While they lack bass, they somehow seem to be able to provide impact/punch that's on par with most good dynamics.

 

So basically, it's the piezo version of a stat, with dynamic impact and orthodynamic smoothness? I don't really know. Maybe I'm crazy, but even now these headphones are still listenable for me and I do enjoy them quite a bit. If you're feeling adventurous, grab one off of eBay and give the mod a go.

 

Note:

 

Like all of Pioneer's vintage headphones, the pads of the SE-500 deteriorate and crumble over time. My pads are 100% fabric/velour due to this. It's part of what gives the sound it's magic, in my opinion.

 

Modifications:

 

Closed-Back Mod: (Click to show)
There are two ways to perform this mod. By far the simplest way and the method I started with is using electrical tape. Unscrew the two screws at the top of the earcup and the back will just come right off. The driver is cemented to the baffle so don't worry about it falling out or anything. Simply cut strips of tape (4 should be enough) and line the inside of the cups with them, effectively closing the headphone.
 
The "harder" method is essentially the same thing, but produces slightly better sound. Instead of tape, cut rectangles of this pleather in the shape of the inside of the cups and stick it in the cups, you don't need any adhesive but you may use some if you choose. The back of the vinyl is layered with felt so it adds a bit of extra damping to absorb resonances and reflections. Alternately you can probably just layer the tape with your own sheet of felt but I had this stuff lying around so I thought why not.

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #2 of 12

 

--Level: idfk

--Sound: 8/10 (very uniquely bright)

--Comfort: 5/10 (clampy; fixed yokes; crappy leather)

--Build: 8/10 (solid but plasticy)

--Looks: 8/10 (gorgeous)

--Recommended? Yes, mods recommended

--Modification Potential? Yes, significant

 

Specifications:

 

Driver: PVDF Film/Kynar, 5 microns, rectangular, curved, unilaterally tensioned with foam

Implementation: Open (modded to closed); Sealed baffle

Impedance: 
Sensitivity: 100dB/30V
Earpad type: Supra-Aural; pleather (usually deteriorate into fabric/velour)
Weight: 290g (without cable)
Cable type: Straight, fabric-sheathed, single entry
Cable length: 3m

 

Pictures:

 

  

 

1/14/14

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 10:04am
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 

Pioneer SE-700


 

The SE-700 is considered by many to be the epitome of what the piezoelectric technology can do, save for the TakeT H2+ (which isn't even a piezo, it's an AMT). However, I disagree with this ideal (as stated before) and here's why.

 

The SE-700 has a pleasant, clear tonality at first listen. Very smooth and flat, no obvious flaws, a bit lacking in treble. Basically, it sounds like a darker T50v1 in tonality. However, after a while listening to them, it becomes quite obvious that something just isn't right. They have a very odd veiling to the sound, its not so much that their attack speed is slow, nor is it the tonality. It sounds as though, to my ears, that instead of rendering a sharp peak when the source demands it, they render a rounded edge. I've drawn up a mockup to illustrate this.

 

This is a simple test signal, used to measure impusle response.

 

This is about equivalent to how a headphone would "normally" measure.

 

And this is how I believe the SE-700 would measure. I suspect that this "rounding" is related to the limited excursion of the piezoelectric driver principle as well as the high overall weight of the diaphragm. The headphones also sound a tad dry and suffocating to my ears due to a lack of breathing room in the cups--it's literally just a wall of driver. Pioneer was trying to get as much bass out of this headphone as possible; unfortunately that seemed to compromise everything else in the process and wasn't even very effective. Basically, take an orthodynamic, give it more bass, less treble, no soundstage, and less detail. That's what the SE-700 sounds like.

 

Build is great, but not the best I've seen. Metal yokes, plastic cups, kind of hollow feeling, too light for my tastes. Drop-dead sexy, but unfortunately poorly designed from a functionality standpoint. The fixed yokes, thin pads, and extremely strong clamp not only do a number for comfort but also prevent a proper seal from being formed under most circumstances, making it a real adventure trying to get that bass Pioneer so desperately wanted out of these old things.

 

Note:

 

This is actually a review of an SE-700 that has the leather in tact on the pads. The headphone sounds even worse with the decayed pads, which are far more common, and essentially kill whatever bass the SE-700 manages to have. There are also two versions of the SE-700, an Early Production version and a Late Production version. The EP model sounds considerably better with more engaging treble but is also more fragile and the drivers aren't cemented into the frame. I'm trying to find an EP model with both channels working but it's not going too well.

 

Another note:

 

I would not suggest using these headphones with anything less than a speaker amp connected to Pioneer's JB-21. Despite being the TOTL model the headphone transducers are very fragile, much moreso than the other two, and are highly susceptible to voltage overloads. Most headphone amplifiers are voltage-driven and can effortlessly destroy the SE-700. Using the JB-21 attached to a speaker amp is current-driven, which will get enough volume without being dangerous to the headphone.

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #7 of 12

 

--Level: Mid-fi

--Sound: 6/10 (nice tonality but otherwise unimpressive; dull and lifeless)

--Comfort: 5/10 (clampy; fixed yokes; crappy leather)

--Build: 8/10 (good but plasticy)

--Looks: 9/10 (gorgeous)

--Recommended? No

--Modification Potential? Yes

 

Specifications:

 

Driver: PVDF Film/Kynar, 7 microns, ovular, bilaterally tensioned with foam

Implementation: Open; Sealed baffle

Impedance: 
Sensitivity: 100dB/30V
Earpad type: Supra-Aural; pleather (usually deteriorate into fabric/velour)
Weight: 265g (without cable)
Cable type: Straight, fabric-sheathed, single entry
Cable length: 3m

 

Pictures:

 

Takato14&#039;s SE-700  

 

1/28/14

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 10:03am
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 

Bang & Olufsen U70


 

Many audiophiles have probably heard of Bang & Olufsen. Their speakers in particular have a good reputation. However, these headphones are a different story. 

 

They're an orthodynamic headphone, one of the earlier ones, and use a 120 ohm Peerless MB driver. The intriguing headphone frame and adjustment system was designed by Jacob Jensen, a famous industrial designer. The looks absolutely scream class, and the sound... well, it just screams.

 

Simply put, these headphones sound terrible. They're uncannily middy and poorly extended, and they almost completely lack any sort of control. The bass is boomy and shallow, the soundstage is very closed in, and they're a nebulous distorted mess throughout the frequency spectrum. The transients are mediocre at best and they have some of the worst treble extension I've ever heard. On the upside, the sound is non-fatiguing so they're not unpleasant to listen to, they have some of the orthodynamic smoothness (though the distortion takes away from it) and there are no particularly obvious resonances or ringing. 

 

However, even though the sound isn't aggressive, the frame makes up for it with ruthless clamping force. These things are like wearing a vice. Couple with that a very rickety feeling frame that rattles and just feels generally breakable, and this headphone has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Plus, they tend to go for ridiculous sums when they do show up on eBay for no conceivable reason, other than the fact that they're from B&O. 

 

Stay away from this one unless you find it REALLY cheap. I'd never pay more than $50 for a pair. They're not all that rare so the drivers can be used for a DIY project or to repair most PMB-made orthodynamics, but that's about the extent of their usefulness.

 

Note:

 

I have owned this headphone twice now. I bought a second one because I was suspicious that my first pair might've just been a stinker. Unfortunately, the second pair didn't perform any better than the first, so it's safe to say that they're just bad.

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #11 of 12

 

--Level: Lo-fi

--Sound: 4/10 (distorted mess of midbass, no high treble, no soundstage, meh transients)

--Comfort: 3/10 (super clampy)

--Build: 5.5/10 (too plasticy, feels rickety and breakable)

--Looks: 8/10 (mixed bag; I think they're pretty)

--Recommended? No

--Modification Potential? Yes; transplant only

 

Specifications:

 

Driver: 55mm Peerless MB orthodynamic, untensioned pleated diaphragm

Implementation: Closed; Unsealed baffle

Impedance: 120 ohms
Sensitivity: 94dB/mW
Earpad type: Supra-Aural; pleather (usually deteriorate into fabric)
Weight: 280g (without cable)
Cable type: Straight, dual-entry
Cable length: 2m

 

Pictures:

 

(will upload soon)

 

2/2/14

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/8/14 at 11:49pm
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

Yamaha YH/HP-1


 

Another orthodynamic and one of the favorites of the Head-Fi community. The YH-1 and HP-1 are identical inside and out, with the exception of some YH-1s (which have stronger magnets that improve sensitivity). The YH-1 was Yamaha's TOTL orthodynamic 'phone from the late 1970s and is widely regarded as one of the best sounding vintage headphones there are. The revolutionary suspension headband frame was designed by Marco Bellini and was far more comfortable than the huge heavy clamp machines characteristic of the time period.

 

Immediately once you place these on your head you are treated to an extremely comfortable fit. The headphones are very light and clamp very little, they're easily one of if not the most comfortable vintage cans I've ever used, despite being on ear. Once you actually plug them in and run music through them, you get an amazingly smooth and pleasant tonality with prominent bass and a small but clear soundstage. They are quite detailed and are completely devoid of distortion,  and are just generally a very musical and addicting headphone to use. On the down side, some people might find them a bit dark, but in my opinion this actually adds to the sound rather than take away from it. The bass is just a little bit loose and boomy and the low end extension isn't the best.

 

Additionally, there has been some criticism regarding the transient performance of these headphones in stock form. Personally, I do not believe that the YH-1 sounds "slow" in stock form; rather, I feel that the issue is more in the internal cup reflections caused by the lack of sufficient damping, coupled with the recessed upper treble, which gives the impression of being slow due to the excessive noise up top. They couldn't be as detailed as they are if they had poor attack speed, and a damping tweak would not be able to fix a driver-bourne issue such as that.

 

Build leaves a bit to be desired, the joints are all plastic as are the cups, and they don't feel very sturdy. There have been issues with the YH-1's cups breaking off at the pivot joint as well as the headband strap snapping. The pads are also infamous for cracking and falling apart over time due to age and wear. The joint between the metal and the plastic of the headband doesn't feel particularly strong either. The drivers however are quite resilient; the max input is somewhere in the 10 Watt range... 

 

The looks are okay, not the best I've seen but still pretty fetching. They have a retro styling to them that I find pleasing.

 

Modifications:

 

I haven't experimented with these myself but it is possible to get rid of the cup reflections and tame the midbass hump with the addition of extra damping. In other words, you can fix nearly everything that's "wrong" with this headphone with a slight tweak. This fact makes these headphones very desirable to the Head-Fi community and thus prices on eBay are rather horrible.

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #3 of 12

 

--Level: Upper mid-fi

--Sound: 7.8/10 (liquidy smooth and succulent, a bit boomy down low, somewhat dark)

--Comfort: 9.5/10 (excellent)

--Build: 4/10 (too much plastic; breakable)

--Looks: 7/10 (eh, could be better)

--Recommended? Yes

--Modification Potential? Yes; significant

 

Specifications:

 

Driver: 55mm orthodynamic, Tensioned mylar diaphragm, 12 microns

Implementation: Vented (semi-open); Unsealed baffle

Impedance: 150 ohms

Sensitivity: 96dB/mW
Earpad type: Supra-Aural; pleather (tend to crack and fall apart)
Weight: 270g (without cable)
Cable type: Straight, dual-entry

Cable length: 2m

 

Pictures:

 

(will upload soon)

 

2/3/14

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 10:02am
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 

Sony DR-S7


 

Yet another 2-way design. This model was top dog of Sony's consumer headphone line in 1978. It has volume and tone controls on top of big silver cups and a unique two-part yoke design. The drivers are positioned behind the head to improve depth perception and they cost a whopping $30 back in 1978.

 

Unlike the other 2-ways I've reviewed (the Stanton Dynaphase Sixty and the Sansui SS-20), there is no obvious separation between the two drivers. The woofer doesn't lag behind the tweeter and there's no jarring transition between the mids and treble. In that sense the S7 is better than either of the other 2-ways and its rather impressive that Sony managed to make them mesh together so well. They're also significantly smaller than either the Sixty or the SS-20. Unfortunately that's about the only good thing I can say about these cans. Their distortion is very high and their extension extremes are mediocre at best. The soundstage is average sized and cloudy, and the transients aren't anything special. The frequency response is mostly flat with a bottomless pit after 10kHz and a bit of roll off in the bass. It's like most of Sony's headphones in that regard, but the distortion is so high that it's just flat out worse than most of everything I've reviewed. It's rather odd that the driver has such bad modal behavior, perhaps they made the diaphragm too thin in an attempt to improve the transients?

 

The build is good, but not anything to write home about. Mostly plastic with metal yokes and headband. Very solid headband structure and sliders, nice pleather sleeving over a solid spring-steel headband core. Very strong plastics used for the earcups and baffle plate and surprisingly soft vinyl earpads. The fit is rather unusual as the drivers are angled forwards to "loft" the drivers behind your ears; the pads are designed to sit so that the front of them is on your ears and the rest is on the back of your head, which would be comfortable, except they're too thin and the hard plastic baffle touches your ears. Couple this with a complete overkill on the clamping force of the headband and they're just flat out undesirable to wear.

 

When I first saw these I thought they were all metal like Sony's other TOTL gear from the time period, which is why I jumped on them. When I got them I received a plastic-tastic headphone covered in that nasty chip-prone silver paint the likes of which is seen on the Sennheiser HD800. I do like their styling and they would be pretty if they were black (like their lower end counterparts DR-S3, 4, and 5)or if they were metal. However they're already so heavy that the latter would be pure suicide; needless to say that's why it's made of plastic.

 

Interestingly, this headphone was featured in one of Sony's recent commercials. I would think they would've used a headphone they were more proud of (like the DR-Z7, which was released alongside the S7) but I guess they didn't have a pair. Either that or they were going for something that more people owned...

 

TL;DR:

 

Overall Ranking: #8 of 12

 

--Level: Lo-fi

--Sound: 6/10 (good but not great; average soundstage, flat response, high distortion, poor extension)

--Comfort: 5/10 (too heavy; unpadded headband; weird earpads)

--Build: 7.5/10 (absolute tanks despite being mostly plastic)

--Looks: 6/10 (nasty silver paint, otherwise good)

--Recommended? No

--Modification Potential? Untested

 

Specifications:

 

Drivers: Woofer: 60mm carbon fiber cone; Tweeter: 30mm mylar dome

Implementation: Closed; Sealed baffle

Impedance: 18 ohms
Sensitivity: 102dB/mW
Earpad type: Circumaural; pleather 
Weight: 470g (without cable)
Cable type: Coiled, single-entry
Cable length: 1m

 

Pictures:

 

(will upload soon)

 

2/5/14

 

~Tak


Edited by takato14 - 2/5/14 at 6:19pm
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