The Fugly Mods (An HD800 Adventure)

Discussion in 'Modifications and Tweaks' started by ThePianoMan, Mar 7, 2018.

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  1. ThePianoMan

    ThePianoMan Almost "Made"

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    Howdy all. I've been modding My HD800's for several years now, and Have spent a lot of time getting to the current mod stage... It's gonna be a bit of a longer post, so bear with me.


    Why I mod the HD800's: I got my HD800's in a trade for $20 and a handful of thriftshop records. It's a funny story, ask me about it if you see me in person some time. the Tl;DR is amazon shipping mistakes are hilarious and rich hipsters don't know anything. But basically, being a recent, underemployed college grad, I have limited funds, so the option of buying flagship cans isn't really on the table. I do a lot of mixing and mastering projects though and I live with others so a good pair of headphones is a must.


    What I'm looking for in a pair of headphones: Linearity. I need the headphones to be neutral, but slight deviations from this aren't a problem (I use EQ in my daw to hit a target curve) However the headphone can't have wacky peaks or valleys or be super fatiguing. Plus I'd like to also be able to use it as a daily driver with minimal EQ if possible.


    So here's what I currently have:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Internally:


    I'm using the SDR mod, a variation of the SBAF rug mod, except instead of the thick rug liner I have a thinner, more rubbery shelf-liner material which soaks up less high-mid/treble energy, and evens out the low mids more, I also use the trapezoid mod on the black plastic, my chosen material is a kind of closed-cell double-sided foam tape. It's a little thicker than cork and I prefer the absorption characteristics and CSD results. I also have used some medical tape to make the pad opening a little smaller than the ZMF pads already do.


    Driver:


    I have done Serious' driver dynamat mods, re-using the foam from the underside of the metal ring as baffle damping stuck on top of the dynamat. I've also more extensively dynamatted the back of the driver spider. Accidentally broke the teeny wires on one of the drivers and it was a massive pain to get it soldered cuz it was so small. Not recommended.


    Externally:


    I had a really complicated damping scheme previously on the back, involving closed and open cell foams covering the center hole and ports, a bizarre taped-up cotton rear-chamber that looked like Princess Leia's hair had grown infested boils. Kinda the reason I named if the fugly mod. Fashion potential was up there with audiophile fanny packs.

    Now I just have dynamat on the silver outside part of the cup. In investigating the behavior of the HD800 enclosure, there's been a wealth of great mods involving the inside of the cup, but I found the spun aluminum stuff to be relatively transparent to sound... The cheap silver plastic however, is a nasty and awful material to use in audio. So once we SDR, SBAF and pad swap, we have a basically much improved 'room' or cup environment. A backwave damping scheme can help to linearize the bass more, but often at the cost of imaging and soundstage, and the HD800 driver really will never have tight punchy bass like a Focal can for example. Doing more internal cup modding can either overdamp or horn load the driver which causes terrible bass and usually shouty middrange issues.

    On doing some poking and prodding of the enclosure after removing the fugly backwave damper thingy I noticed that applying a little bit of dynamat to the silver outside of the cup helped smooth out the treble and bring up subbass... so I basically covered the entire back/outside of the headphone in dynamat. The results were some funky treble dips and crappy, overdamped bass. So I removed dynamat until I got the balance you see here. Just the silver outside and the back of the driver. This seemed to produce the best combination of bass while smoothing out but not killing treble.

    Oh, I also use a ZMF protein leather headband pad. It's really nice and soft, and I have kind of a big noggin so the smaller openings of the ZMF and the increased weight of the pads mean the thicker headband is more comfortable for me. YMMV.


    So how does it sound? Here are some miniDSP EARs measurements. I removed the calibration file (basically just a scoop at 4Khz)

    My EARs seems to have a bump at 5khz, and then a weird spike at 9khz which moves around a lot depending on position. Ignore those two areas for now. I haven't got around to calibrating it precisely because positioning changes the exact locations. I'm fairly certain they are measurement rig deficiencies however.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]



    My setup is a bit noisy, so distortion and CSD measurements aren't as good as they could be, but still very clean. The worst offender is actually in the bass now - you can see that the treble and midrange is almost entirely cleaned up with practically no ringing or junk.


    Subjective impressions:


    For how easy this mod is to do, I'd have to say it's yielded the most peace of mind in a while. I don't recommend Serious' dynamat driver frame mods unless you're willing to void the warranty. The screws are so small and absurdly tightly torqued and the plastic threads fragile enough that breakages are nearly guaranteed unless you have a featherlight touch.

    However, with all these mods in place (the ZMF pad swap is huge) the HD800 retains an above average soundstage, very linear, neutral sound with just a touch of sweetness and darkness in the lower mids. I think this is an inherent characteristic of the sennheiser drivers, resolving with a touch of low mid/mid bass a la HD650. The lower bass is still kinda soft sounding even though the level is better. Treble is clear but not harsh at all, the only thing I'd want would be tighter bass and a tad more subbass, but otherwise the headphone is wonderfully smooth and even more highly detailed than the stock HD800.
     
  2. No_One411

    No_One411 Fired by Jude

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    I applaud the effort but ...

    Y I K E S
     
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  3. Elnrik

    Elnrik Friendly

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    Grell is weeping.

    It is very interesting though.
     
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  4. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    Frankencans! D:

    Results are impressive but dang, did you really need that silvery Kintsugi look on the outside?
     
  5. munch

    munch Friend

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    stuff of dreams, stuff of nightmares...

    good job on the resulting frequency response. :D
     
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  6. ThePianoMan

    ThePianoMan Almost "Made"

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    It's the metallicy outside of the dynamat. I could take it off (and would like to because its a bit sharp and pokey) but that would leave just the dynamat... which is basically a stinky, sticky black petroleum tack. Which I don't really want all over my hands every time I put the headphones on.
    : P

    Will post more pics of internals and previous funny cinnamon bun backwave thingy.
     
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  7. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    Can you do an overlay with your stock HD800 or a HD650? Good work men!
     
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  8. ThePianoMan

    ThePianoMan Almost "Made"

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    I don't have truly stock measurements, but I can overlay the following cans:

    Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Closed
    ZMF Ori Cherry
    Beyerdynamic DT880

    I'll do at least the Ori and Aeon tomorrow...
     
  9. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    Any or all of those will do. I'm actually curious how the Ori measures. Thanks!
     
  10. pandather

    pandather Acquaintance

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    Dude this is amazing - how would you say the dynamat affected the sound? Damplifier Pro is a bit better at massloading and has much more subtle advertising. I'd look into that if you care about the looks, if not the (most likely imperceptible) change in sound.
     
  11. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Removing the metallic backing would also significantly reduce the properties of the dynamat. That stuff falls under the category of "contrained layer damping". As the name implies, it needs that constraining layer in order to actually work. Otherwise you've just got goopy poopy headphones.
     
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  12. David De Lucena

    David De Lucena Science Nut

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    [​IMG]
     
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  13. ThePianoMan

    ThePianoMan Almost "Made"

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    Hey y'all, sorry I was in LA and Reno the last week for work stuff. I'll put up comparative measurements and other info soon.
     
  14. ThePianoMan

    ThePianoMan Almost "Made"

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    Hey folks, here's updated measurements. The Blue is the ZMF Ori, with the ori lambskin flattish pads, and zmf braided cable. The Aeon is in Pink and has the Filters in it. I couldn't exactly level match them since my interface doesn't have quite enough juice to make the less efficient planars go all the way up to the levels I pushed the HD800 to. Again, ignore the 5khz and 9khz weirdness.

    And yes, thank you @Armaegis for pointing out that it is constrained layer damping. A good point to make.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     

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