Modded LA2000 vs. Denon D5000 Review
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Tyson

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I've finally got my new LA2000 with Jarrah wood cups fully burned in and figured it was a good time to do a review. I've also got the D5000s (stock) in house, which I'll be doing comparisons with. Here are some pics showing them side by side:









Rest of the system is in my sig. I've been doing a lot of listening lately, and I'll start with my conclusions:

Stock Denon D5000's
Big, warm, strong bass, which is the foundation of the sound for the entire headphone. Mids are a bit recessed and are quite warm due to the prominent bass. Low treble (sibilance) is a forward and a bit splashy. Overall it's a relaxed sounding can, with the exception of that low treble spike.

LA2000 Jurrah Wood
This can is SUPER high energy. Dynamics are insanely percussive and strong. Bass is quite a bit lighter and the energy had definitely tipped up into the treble and upper mids. Clarity and detail is astonishing. On the other hand, this headphone is as "in your face" sounding as I've ever listened to (including most Grados). The mods completely transform the basic sound of these headphones.

Tyson Mod to the LA2000's
While I appreciate the things the LA2000 brings to the table, I simply could not live with them, I wanted a sound somewhere between the stock D5000's and the LA2000's. So, I unscrewed the Jurrah cups to see what I could do. They did not have any dynamat or any other damping applied (which I knew already, having talked with Markl before placing my order). Since Jurrah is a high density wood, mark felt it would lose too much detail if it was damped at all. However, for my purposes, a bit of damping might be just the ticket to get the sound I wanted.

Now, for damping, there's a couple of options. I could stuff the cavity with high density foam or some other acoustically absorbent material, such as sheeps wool or fiberglass (frequently used in speakers). The problem is that taking this approach would cause the cavity to "appear" bigger to the driver. Since most drivers have an optimum enclosure volume based on it's Q property, stuffing the cup might wreak havoc on the bass tuning and seriously screw up bass response. So, I think that covering the hard, flat, highly reflective interior of the cups is the correct basic approach. This should allow the cup interior to stay relatively the same, while allowing absorption of that super-high treble energy.

I have a polishing cloth, thin and soft, that would probably be about right. Out comes the elmer's glue and I cut 2 circles out of the cloth to fit the interior of the cups. Glue it in and wait 30 minutes for it to set. Re-assemble and give it a listen.

Result? Just about perfect. Strong bass (due to the excellent energy retention from the Jurrah cups, way better than the stock cups), great soundstage thanks to Markl's angled earcup mod, very clean midrange due to markl's dynamat damping of the interior frames and structures, and the highs are finally in perfect balance with the rest of the spectrum as a result of the cloth lining mod.

In fact, "balanced" is now the best term I can think of for these headphones. Bass is strong and percussive, but not overbearing. Mids are natural and organic. Highs are fully present but are not "in your face". Detail is very good indeed, but it's a presentation that reveals details naturally, without screaming "LOOK AT ALL THESE DETAILS". There is still a little bit of excess treble in the mid-treble area (8-10khz), so that s sounds are a little forward, but it's clean and clear, and not has loud/harsh/splashy as before.

And the best part is there's absolutely no listener fatigue, I can wear these for hours and not feel like turning it down or take them off.

Conclusion
For my personal tastes, the standard LA2000's were not quite what I was looking for, but with a pretty small additional tweak I was able to get the sounding just about perfect for what I want in a headphone. I'm not sure if markl would consider making this extra tweak an option during initial build, but I think it would make a lot of people happy, particularly if you are looking for more of a "Sennheiser/Beyer" (without the veil and way stronger bass), as opposed to the more "Grado/Sony" style sound I initially had. It's not perfect, due to the mid-treble still being every slightly too energetic, but no headphone is perfect and I'm happy to live with this relatively minor caveat.
 
Next Steps
I am going to go for the LA5000's, to see if there is a further improvement to be had.
 
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markl

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Hi Tyson,
Thanks for taking the time to review the LA2000 with stock D5000 cable. I'm glad you found a compromise solution that works for you.


I know that your amp is a tubed Singlepower, and I also know you are aware of my reservations with tube amps and the Singlepowers in general with the Denons. I generally recommend solid state for these 25ohm phones, FWIW.

WRT to dynamics, I feel you are dead on, that's what happens when you tighten up the loose bass of the Denons. A lot of people worry that the mods effect the dynamics in a negative way, and anticipate a weak, limp-wristed phone, but you are right to point out that's not at all what you get. I do think that the bass depth is greatly enhanced by going solid state, and that would likely balance the sound in a more natural way than your solution with the cloth. The bass should have great heft and slam, and sound should not be tipped up toward the treble in a bad way, though the mids and treble will be allowed to bloom more fully with the mods.

That said, I recognize these things are all relative. One man's "accuracy" is another man's "dark" and another man's "bright" and that can vary again from system to system.

OTOH, Jarrah is one of the highest density woods we offer, and thus controls the bass the most. Psycho-acoustically, this could cause the phones to be read as brighter, even though highs have not been emphasized so much as bass has been tightened and controlled. Lower-density woods will present more and "bigger" bass info, but with slightly less control. Whether that is "right" or "wrong" depends on the listener.

Quote:

Now, for damping, there's a couple of options. I could stuff the cavity with high density foam or some other acoustically absorbent material, such as sheeps wool or fiberglass (frequently used in speakers). The problem is that taking this approach would cause the cavity to "appear" bigger to the driver. Since most drivers have an optimum enclosure volume based on it's Q property, stuffing the cup might wreak havoc on the bass tuning and seriously screw up bass response.


You don't want to stuff the cavity behind the driver with anything, this just doesn't help sound quality.

Tyson, if you find the LA2000 worth building a system around, I have some recommendations for amps that will bring out their best.

Cheers.


Mark
 
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Tyson

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Hi Mark,
I think the brightness I hear is a result of the hard, flat surface on the inside of the cups. High frequency energy hits that and tends to bounce right back through the drivers into your ears. I've run the Denons on a pretty good PPA solid state amp, and also an a hybrid X-Cans v2 (highly modded), and the basic sound signature stays the same as what I hear w/the Supra.

25ohms is pretty low for a headphone, but the tubes I'm using in the Supra now could drive speakers, which are usually 4 to 8 ohms.

In addition to the subjectivity you mention, there's also the fact that sound changes with volume. In other words, as volume increases, bass in a small enclosed space (like a headphone) gets louder/stronger at a faster rate than the mids and treble. So, the stock LA2000's are pretty bright for me at moderate to low listening levels, but they balanced out quite a bit with MUCH stronger bass at loud listening levels. But I don't normally listen that loud, so it wasn't helpful for me and my listening preferences.

On the other hand, the stock D5000 sounds only slightly bass heavy at low to moderate levels, but gets a little "farty" at louder levels.  That's part of the reason I'm going to try doing the Lawton mods to the D5000, I think they might be even better than the rather excellent LA2000's in the end.
 
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markl

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Howdy Tyson,
Everything you say is true. You absolutely have a point about the cups affecting the sound.

We've found that the extremely high-density woods do not have good tone/timbre, and can tend to sound "cuppy", i.e. reflect too much sound back localizing the "sound" of the enclosures. We reject the super-dense woods, even though often they are the best-looking. Jarrah is one of the highest density woods we have offered, and just on this side of woods that might sound "cuppy", though jarrah escapes that.

It's also worth pointing out that our latest V.4 cups are slightly larger than the V.3 cups on your phone, and the risk of a "cuppy" sound is reduced even more.

If all our D2000 cups weren't sold out for the next 6 weeks, I'd just send you a new pair of lower-density wood for you to try and compare. In general, we try to work with the customer in advance to insure the best match of wood and listening preference, but that can mean the best looking wood to your eye may not be the best-sounding wood to your ears.


Mark
 
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Maxvla

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Great review, Tyson. These LA2000s seem very interesting and have piqued my curiosity. Perhaps I'll grab a pair later this year. Certainly would be a good companion phone for my HD600s, in that they seem polar opposites.

Markl, can you comment briefly on the sound difference when driven balanced? Also would a B22 (balanced) be a good match? Thanks.

Chris
 
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paara

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Hello Tyson,

Thank you for the review, very interesting reading.
I have an order of a similar HP with Markl.
D2000, jahrra cups v4, markl mod, D7000 cable

It seems like we could have somewhat similar taste in sound preferences.
Your comment about it being bright is a little worrisome, but I will have to hear that myself of course.
I am looking for a “dark” sounding HP with accurate, strong and deep bass, neutral mid and a bit laid back treble.

Could you do a close up photo of the wood, I am a little curious how it will look??


Markl: which amp would you mate my HP's with for sound closest to my description above?
I have a Headdirect ef-1 and darkvoice 336se, is the EF-1 a good choice?
 
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Quote:

Markl, can you comment briefly on the sound difference when driven balanced? Also would a B22 (balanced) be a good match? Thanks.


Maxvla, my experience with balanced vs. SE with the Denons on my Rudistor RP010B has been one of deeply questioning the breathless reports on Head-Fi of balanced phones always being somehow inherently superior.

My experience says, in most ways it's a toss-up as to whether any one person will prefer a balanced Denon vs. SE.

In a nutshell, balanced is cleaner, more solid, drier in tone, with a superior soundstage that is bigger and deeper. SE, OTOH, has a better, more liquid tone, and is superior in terms of dynamics, bass heft and slam. SE is more "fun" than balanced. Balanced is great for people who like to kick back, close their eyes and enjoy, where SE may be better for people who play air guitar , air drums, and want to have a better sense of involvement with the sound.

These differences I speak of here are exaggerated, as I said, the actual differences are MUCH smaller (at least with the Denons).

The Denons are the only phones I've had to A/B balanced vs. unbalanced; it may be rthat other phones benefit and change more. So far I would say, these alleged differenmces are way way over-stated.

Quote:

Markl: which amp would you mate my HP's with for sound closest to my description above?
I have a Headdirect ef-1 and darkvoice 336se now, is the EF-1 a good choice?


paara, I haven't heard either of those amps. I'm a big fan in general of the Rudistor solid state amps. I've heard and owned his top-tier solid state amps, but recommended his more real-world amps to many customers who have reported great results. Cheers.

Mark
 
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Thanks markl. As a lower impedance headphone these may in fact benefit from balancing less than say an HD600, but I have a date with a balanced B22 or something very similar later this year depending on how my entry into DIY goes so I might find out anyways.
 
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Tyson

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Quote:

Originally Posted by paara /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Hello Tyson,

Thank you for the review, very interesting reading.
I have an order of a similar HP with Markl.
D2000, jahrra cups v4, markl mod, D7000 cable

It seems like we could have somewhat similar taste in sound preferences.
Your comment about it being bright is a little worrisome, but I will have to hear that myself of course.
I am looking for a “dark” sounding HP with accurate, strong and deep bass, neutral mid and a bit laid back treble.

Could you do a close up photo of the wood, I am a little curious how it will look??


Markl: which amp would you mate my HP's with for sound closest to my description above?
I have a Headdirect ef-1 and darkvoice 336se, is the EF-1 a good choice?



Yes, always best to listen first hand and form impressions directly. The cool thing is the mod is super easy if you want to try it - the earpads come off with a slight twist and the wood cups are attached by 4 screws. Some elmers and a bit of soft cloth and you are done. Fully reversible if you don't like the change.
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Tyson /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Yes, always best to listen first hand and form impressions directly. The cool thing is the mod is super easy if you want to try it - the earpads come off with a slight twist and the wood cups are attached by 4 screws. Some elmers and a bit of soft cloth and you are done. Fully reversible if you don't like the change.


If you have thoughts of reversing it I would suggest hide glue, perhaps you are using an Elmer's hide glue, but most people think white glue when they say Elmer's. Hide glue will immediately release with warm water, can't say the same for Elmer's white. I have nightmares of people bringing in violins to my shop that they have 'repaired' with white glue....
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Maxvla /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I have nightmares of people bringing in violins to my shop


So I have this violin I picked up that says it was made by this guy called Stradiuarius.....



Kidding!
 
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Tyson

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I'll simply add that in real time a-b comparisons, the Tyson/Markl modded Denon 2000s sound almost exactly like my fully active (triamped) VMPS RM40's. That is to say, as close to "perfect" as I've heard from an audio playback system.
 
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Awesome comparison, thanks Tyson. But I'm definitely an Open Air headphone lover, so will save my money for AD2000/HD650 or DT880 instead.
 
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Tyson, may I ask for a little advice?

I just finished markl-modding my D2000 partially (taper modding the earpad, lining the driver and inner cup with dynamat) and similar to you, I'm looking to a sound which is somewhere between the high-energy sound of fully modded LA2000 and the laid-back presentation of stock D2000. Right now it's a considerable improvement already over stock but your thin cloth idea might be the key to perfection.

I'm thinking of replacing the dynamat with a cloth but the difference is I don't have high-density wooden cups like you do. So, do you think your mod will still have the same effects on the default plastic cups of D2000?

Thanks in advance!
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by K3cT /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I'm thinking of replacing the dynamat with a cloth but the difference is I don't have high-density wooden cups like you do. So, do you think your mod will still have the same effects on the default plastic cups of D2000?


That would be exactly my question too.
So to say would you get out far behind D2000 with wooden cups with dynamat/cloth/dynamat and cloth?
 
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