Sound Science Approach to Modding Headphones

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by sanjiwatsuki, Dec 13, 2013.
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  1. proton007
     
    Depends. If you can improve the sound and sell it for $100, why not?
     
  2. SanjiWatsuki
     
    Most companies OEM out from a manufacturer, so they are rather limited in what headphones they can buy in bulk and rebrand. They can request minor changes, but that's rather limited, too.
     
    Companies that do make their own typically either offer only high end or they offer a spectrum, so I suppose they do that in some way. 
     
  3. MrMateoHead

    Most of the reasons I can think of are economic. For starters, the site of design and site of manufacture are (often) in different countries these days, making simple mods and tweaks harder to implement efficiently. Something like changing the earpad design could be a lot more of a pain in the ass than you think, depending on the capabilities of a preferred component supplier. They would also likely want their cut for the cost of the change. This is why vertically integrated firms often have an advantage - they needn't pay the cost of profit to each supplier in (their) supply chain. Or, put more simply, outsourcing bad.
     
    Also, a manufacturer may, with good reason, rather sell $20 phones in volume than $100 dollar phones in less quantities. On some level they understand "the market" and sensitivity to pricing at different levels. If you could get a $100 dollar sound WITHOUT incurring big production costs, a case can also be made to sell the "best" $20 dollar phone rather than one that will cost you for the added performance. Capturing market share by providing superior performance at a lower cost is the hallmark of innovative firms (even if profits are temporarily squeezed), with gouging to follow after competitors have been removed [​IMG]. Then again that isn't always the case . . . .
     
    My intuition is that manufacturers DO sweat the details seeking some sort of cost / performance outcome, but product cycles on many cheap headphones short (annual replacements), and are not necessarily driven by maximum sound quality. There is not a generational improvement on the same phones - instead they are replaced with a new model (I am thinking of, for example, the HD650 being replaced by the HD800). Also, the 'market' for headphones is not being driven by demand for maximum sound quality - if it were, people wouldn't be buying every pair of Beats being made over, say, the excellent-but-ugly Grados. Sales might be telling manufacturers that consumers want pretty plastic more than a 'flat' resonant-free sound. Honestly, most people I know that are uninitiated to the world of awesome hi-fi gear may try on my phones and say they "sound nice", but they don't go running out looking for the world's best phones afterward. They may miss my gear (when I take it away from them!), but they don't run out and buy it themselves. Straight up, good sound is my priority, it is not everyone else's.
     
    There are so many examples I couldn't list them all. But just look at shoes in the shoe store - are they all "function" following "form"? I think not. Nike sells style, IMHO, while my ugly Brooks are the best dang running shoe I've ever worn. In computing, people "mod" by overclocking, yes, but the performance gains are consistently tiny compared to the risk of destroying/overheating components. Why bother? Auto-tuning: yes, there is more horsepower to be had - but what is the cost in long-term reliability? In contrast swapping out pads, cables, and playing with enclosures is not that risky and nice changes in sound quality can occur. I'm not saying I am all-for modding, but I do think anyone can play around and occasionally stumble on a worthwhile result. But what we can't do is re-invent the drivers as they are installed. I car auto, it is pretty common to have access to fantastic drivers that end up in Shi*** enclosures. Quality installations are critical to getting the most from them, but most of us lack the skills / nerve to do it (you would basically need custom enclosures and careful tuning). Hence the reason I'd almost prefer ponying up for the upgraded OEM systems and just live with the compromises rather than trying to best it. A lot of OEM systems lack dynamics and ultimate clarity, but the staging and frequency response are often better than what I can achieve.
     
    TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT, I'd happily pay an extra $20-$50 dollars to have a manufacturer-modded version of the same headphone, to get good quality and to squeeze the last 10-20% of performance out of it. But I would not expect most people to be as committed to maximum performance as I. I would also prefer that, at the higher-end, manufacturers actually 'mod' phones as part of generational improvements each year. Auto companies do this all the time (improvements within product cycles), and since many flagship models stay on the market for years, interest could stay stoked by giving consumers new reasons to take a look.
     
  4. dvw
    I don't know why we are discussing the merit of modding the phones. To me, it is a hobby and it is fun. That's the same reason, I restored vintage pen, vintage amplifiers and attempted to restore vintage watch (not successful at that).
     
    I see there is some misconception here about OEM product. OEM products are not cheap nor are they just a simple rebadged product. In China, the OEM companies also provide ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) services, as long as you paid an up front engineering fee.  A lot of manufacturers prefer this model instead of selling retail. First of all, product are built to order, there is no inventory cost and you get paid right away. Plus, you don't have to deal with return and support. It is not a secret that Beats is an OEM product. I was told the design was for outdoor use. It is a close phone not for sound quality reason but for in the case of rainy day, the inside will not get wet.
     
    Some well known examples of OEM/ODM are Netgear, Linksys as well as Dell. Many of the headphones are also OEM and you can guess who they are. I am not at liberty to tell because I got my info from a confidential source. But if the company has a large marketing staff, small engineering staff and pratically no manufacturing personnel. You can bet most likely  they use OEM.
     
    I do agree with Mr.Mateohead. I am not going to screw around with my good running expensive gears. But I don't mind paying a few bucks for a broken phone and swap the driver of a cheap phone. This guide is extremely helpful to me. I just bought a broken MDR-V6. I've just put the drivers into a fake Beats. For less than $20, this will keep me busy for weeks trying out different mods. I am not looking for a perfect sound. I'm just getting an education on headphone construction.
     
    DJ The Rocket likes this.
  5. MrMateoHead
    Nice comments DVW.
     
    To return to the discussion, I will just add that, if one can back up their modifications with objective proof of a change, than the value of modding is vindicated.
     
    In like fashion, if modding is shown consistently to have little to no effect, I guess we'll know that, like computer overclocking, the change is noticeable mainly to test gear - not ears.
     
    I for one welcome a more objective attempt to modding!
     
  6. mumd2003
    For technical reasons (I know it will ruin the sound) I want to put gamer type drivers say from turtle beach 500p into completely closed cans with gel pads. Whats the best bunch of mods to minimize ruining the sound ? (Not doing it is not  an option :)  )
     
  7. Armaegis
    The usual first step is some kind of damping materal in the cups to absorb all the wonky reflections.
     
  8. mumd2003
    did that. Any thoughts about closest to the air vs deeper. Close is good. A little more base I think. I'm new to this. Interesting issue: putting in wireless. Mild noise. Apparently known phenomenon with gamer headsets. Using 500 P Turtle Beach. WITH the speakers are there in CANTT here hum.so other issues are density and backing. Any thoughts?
     
  9. Armaegis
    I don't know much about wireless sets. You might have a little more luck posting this in the DIY forum rather than sound science...
     
  10. mumd2003
    Im cool with the wireless part . thats just appliance outside the cup.the only thing inside the cup is the speakers. I took out the foam from Peltor  cups ( 3 inches thick) and put them in front (cuts out low hum) and behind the drivers. ( the latter brings the drivers real close to the ear similar to the turttle beach native configuration  and quality good but I hear hum. Hum not likely related to can acoustics but wireless circuitry.Have fooled with wired drivers same way.Does that make sense ie close to ear with foam behind = more base and foam in front cuts out mids ie hum. Of course quality is less. I appreciate all the technical no how on this site. any thoughts. thanks 
     
  11. bigshot
    What are you doing with hum in your system? Rather than muffle your cans, why not track down the source of the hum and eliminate it?
     
  12. mumd2003
    so kind of you to ask. I have dealt with ground hum on the wired turtle beach headsets. that is gone when i plug any of the empty 1/8 outs or ins to a grounded audio device.ya no wad i mean? the extra audio ports on the in line controller. It also bad if any device in the loop  is being charged with usb charger plugged into AC. I have conquered all that in the wired world.
     
    So im foolin w wireless just for kicks.The turtle beach 500p is wireless and  is very robust for speech recognition and phone hook (landline or pda) .i'm using for dication in cubicle all day..The hum is when the mic monitor is on.The mic monitor is key for  speech recognition. Helps u hear how to speak clearly.So i dont need perfect audio Enough  to playgregorian chants or pink noise.When thhe music is on thhe hhum is not an issuue. But sometimes silence is nice, Since its wireless dongle usb in theres not much else to do so at this point I am greatly relieved that the muffle maneuver worked. It does ruin the music much either but as you can see I have very minimal music needs.FYI the mic is great for speech recognition. don't know why. 
     
    any thoughts oh kind person?
     
  13. bigshot
     
    Yes. If the device hums when it is only plugged in the wall and not when any other devices are plugged into it, that pretty much means that the device isn't properly grounded. I would contact the manufacturer. It's probably got a missing connection somewhere inside.
     
  14. mumd2003
    thank you good as it turns out I am  going to just go with wired headsets. I had a hum there which was an interesting one. I'm using turtle Beach ghost specter because of the need for a good speech recognition microphone and multiple phone inputs. My cell phone  which is duplex in and out to the device on the jack that it provides was being charged and the noise from the charger which was plugged into the wall outlet was causing  the hum in that particular case. it was interesting. Since I did not have access to other plugs I just use the surplus battery charger I have to charge the phone and there is no harm so I soon ground noise gets in from the house power.
     
    As for the wireless it's not worth the effort to use wireless anyway.
     
    I'm interested in case this is an area of interest for you in the following:
     
    I would like to maximize noise isolation. It's hard to get more than 31 NRR.  It is interesting that no one pushes the envelope relative to noise isolation. The things I've been playing with almost have no sound outside leak with very good noise isolation. I actually found someone on YouTube who did a similar thing and actually has a spectrum. I'm interested in the physics of improving sound quality in the setting of severe noise isolation cans. Is there any kind of approach? Is there any optimum substance for the can. I don't care that much about cosmetics. Apparently the physics of the situation is that even with complete isolation there is bone conduction through the head which can't be blocked. I've also tried using this system with custom canal phones with molded epoxy but that method is not appropriate in a setting where the system has to be taken on an off.
     
    I've also found that the electronics of some of the gamer systems is very good. Is there a way to buy generic electronics  were purchased the electronics  wholesale. I wanted to tinker around with a bunch of different things and it's a bit pricey otherwise.
     
    Some of the things that make me go this route are the need for excellent speech recognition and connection to the telephone landline. Thanks for all your help to date much appreciated. Using speech recognition here there may be some errors. Thanks again
     
  15. mumd2003
    I sent the following to another person but in case this has any relevance to an area you would like to respond to I am sending it to you as well.I would like to modify existing designs but would rather get the raw materials is there such a way. What I have pasted below is part of a discussion with another on this thread. RSVPif it is of interest to you. Thank you
     
     
    I would like to maximize noise isolation. It's hard to get more than 31 NRR.  It is interesting that no one pushes the envelope relative to noise isolation. The things I've been playing with almost have no sound outside leak with very good noise isolation. I actually found someone on YouTube who did a similar thing and actually has a spectrum. I'm interested in the physics of improving sound quality in the setting of severe noise isolation cans. Is there any kind of approach? Is there any optimum substance for the can. I don't care that much about cosmetics. Apparently the physics of the situation is that even with complete isolation there is bone conduction through the head which can't be blocked. I've also tried using this system with custom canal phones with molded epoxy but that method is not appropriate in a setting where the system has to be taken on an off.
     
    I've also found that the electronics of some of the gamer systems is very good. Is there a way to buy generic electronics  were purchased the electronics  wholesale. I wanted to tinker around with a bunch of different things and it's a bit pricey otherwise.
     
    Some of the things that make me go this route are the need for excellent speech recognition and connection to the telephone landline. Thanks for all your help to date much appreciated. Using speech recognition here there may be some errors. Thanks again
     
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