Bill's HD800 mod thread (final version)

Discussion in 'Modifications and Tweaks' started by Bill-P, Sep 27, 2015.

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  1. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Notable links in this thread:
    Incremental measurements of different mods and stuffs: #67
    My mod version 1.0: #74 #92
    Variations in different s/n? #82
    Final mod: #164

    __________________________________________________
    Original post below:

    So I drove over to CEE TEE to borrow his HD800... for science!

    IMG_3733.JPG

    Or wait, no, not for science. Just basically, I wanted to see if I could provide an alternative to Anax mod 3.0. We shall see...

    Subjective impressions are below:

    This headphone is super revealing of any small detail within the recording. For instance, in Hotel California, I can actually hear the microphone recording the guitar buzzing and doing weird things. My "super modded" HD600 hides these details, or is unable to pull out that much. In that regard, I think the HD800 is very well the most revealing headphone I have heard. In fact, I'd say sometimes its resolution is a bit too much, and it destroys bad recordings.

    In terms of tonal balance, I feel the HD800 and HD600 are closer than not. Where the HD800 deviates is the treble, where it gets a bit hyper active, though its fast decay allows for less fatigue, the heightened level of treble is very evident. I'm unable to judge whether this is actually the reason for its hyper detail retrieval, but I'd suspect that it is partially responsible for that. Bass is in fact not lacking at all relative to the HD600, and the midrange is just as full/pleasing. It's just that the treble is too crazy, and may at times cause fatigue that would subtract from the listening experience.

    I wrote all of that while listening to the HD800 through the Bottlehead Crack with Speedball update, and even with this setup, the HD800 tethers on unlistenable to me with some tracks. Where it excels is in big orchestral music, or complicated movie soundtracks that tend to sound blended in with most other headphones. The HD800 rips apart the finest details within these recordings and lays them bare for the listener. Separation is superb, though, as is soundstaging. The HD800 somehow has the ability to rip the soundstage from any recording and present it as a grand view in front of the listener. This works really well for classical music, though it's not able to do so with recordings that don't have soundstage cues.

    IMO, the HD800 soundstage myth is somewhat overblown, as I think the HD800's tonal balance (or FR) and characteristics kind of "do" that sort of thing, but it's very recording-dependent, and with most closed-mic acoustic/pop/rock, etc... recordings, the HD800 is just a super grating experience rather than impressive. However, for mixing and analyzing sound, I can see how the HD800 is preferable to most other headphones. IMO, it's not the most versatile, most neutral, or most impressive headphone, but it does detail retrieval and soundstage almost like no other headphone can, and... for that, it deserves its flagship status.

    And here is measurement of the headphone with Anax mod 2.0 applied as pictured. I have measured this particular pair of HD800 before, and I'll reference its previous data point later, but that's not a priority now.

    Here is frequency response and distortion characteristics. I think... this is excellent! Bass distortion is as low as can be, though 3rd harmonic is acting weird from 600Hz down. 3-8KHz distortion for some reason is there... I made sure to measure multiple times to make sure it wasn't just me. The previous data point also showed this distortion, but I thought it was environmental noise doing tricks on me. Looks like there's something worth investigating here.

    FRdistortion.png

    CSD, as usual is plenty clean despite distortion. In fact, from about 1.5KHz and up, it's as clean as can be. This is very impressive for a headphone with that FR!

    CSD.png

    As Ultrabike proposed it, and just so I can keep up, I've also attached CSD with time slice of 2.5ms here for comparison...

    CSD2.5.png

    Will be posting more measurements later on if I make any head way with modding this thing, so please stay tuned!
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
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  2. Koth Ganesh

    Koth Ganesh Friend

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    Bill, I guess it does not show up in the pic but is the trapezoid also on? And obviously no rug liner... I use both so just want a frame of reference....what source/DAC did you use?
     
  3. JoelT

    JoelT Friend

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    When I was messing with mods on my pair, I found the ring around the driver to negatively impact imaging and staging (vs. no ring and using just the trapezoid & rug-liner). I don't know if this was FR related or if the proximity of the raised edge of the ring somehow messed with the driver output. Also, FWIW I found close-miced music to be grating as well, until I moved away from DS Gungnir and got Yggy. I have no issue listening to close-miced music now with Yggy-->Glenn OTL. The sensitivity of the HD800 to changes in the chain never ceases to amaze me.
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    With the old kit as described on Changstar, I too discontinued the use of the Creatology ring to just the trapezoid piece and rug-liner.

    @Bill: you might want to try both sealed coupler and open (foam) coupler measurement methods.
     
  5. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    I use a circularly piece around the ring but it's much thinner than specified in Anax 2.0. According to ears/measurements, I am getting a less bright sound with it + liner.

    Only issue that I can think of is that it might be creating some sort of horn effect. The driver is essentially delivering sound into a tube, with the rug liner adding extra depth to the "horn"

    [​IMG]

    [mainly wanted excuse to use virtual pen on Note5 ;)]
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
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  6. Ringingears

    Ringingears Honorary BFF

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    Just ears only so take with large grain of NaCl. I have the foam and rug liner at the moment. I thought I noticed a difference in the treble when the liner was pushed away from the edge of the driver and some of the metal around the driver was exposed. Think you may be on to something OJ. I'm going to have my buddy in engineering make the foam template less wide and try thinner foam if I can find it. The mods I have now were all laser cut so I can be more precise.

    Go......! Uh what are we now? Friendly pirates?

    Bill-p. I swear If I end up getting a measure rig I am blaming you. After I get my candy. :D
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
  7. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Yeah, sorry, I should have clarified.

    CEE TEE gave them to me with rug liner, but they (the rug liner pieces) fell into the box, and I took that photo before I put them in. Other than that, there's the foam ring, and complete with the trapezoid piece.

    Couple of observations:

    With rug liner, treble is only dropped by 1dB on my rig, which is to say... >6KHz is still about 5dB above my reference (HD600). Definitely sounds obviously brighter and more grating. That's why I didn't post further measurements. Will try Marv's suggestion of doing a sealed baffle measurement. The measurement above was done with an open-baffle measurement (poor/human head simulation kind of seal), and I feel that it matches my subjective impressions to a tee, that's why I posted that.

    With Tyll's method (no rug liner), it's got nice air, nice soundstage, but a bit... uhm... too peaky, too bright, too grating, and simultaneously too laid-back/recessed for some reason. Not natural. Nice soundstage though, but very song-dependent. I wouldn't have liked it that way either with Bottlehead Crack or with my DIY amp. I think stock is actually better than that. Putting some felt on the ring and the trapezoid piece does help, but still waaaaayyyy too bright.

    With RD1.0/Anax2.0 (with rug liner), the tonal balance is warmer, slightly more diffused, but nicer, and less peaky. Soundstage is obviously more closed in, though, and still bright. On some songs, I can't even stand it for 2 seconds.

    Now, shameless plug: based on what I saw of Anax's 3.0 mod (I saw his mod at CanJam and then again at the SF Bay Area meet at Wikia), I'm taking some hints, as well as from the Rabid Dog mod 1.0.

    Premilinary measurements of what I've done so far: (open baffle just as above, so comparable)

    test1.png

    test1CSD.png

    This is far from Anax's 3.0 mod FR (based on what I saw with Marv's measurements), 3KHz is way too recessed so vocals sound a lot more relaxed and distant than usual... but IMO, it's a good start, and I'm starting to notice the extreme detail retrieval of this headphone, and rather than having to withdraw after a few seconds, I can now at least keep this on my head longer. WIll keep experimenting and see. But hey...

    LOOK, MA! >6KHz IS NO LONGER 5-6dB ABOVE THE REST OF THE ENTIRE RANGE!!!

    Sorry, I just had to do that.

    Teaser photo...

    image1.JPG

    Subjectively, it actually sounds slightly V-shaped, with bass actually being more dominant than usual, but... it's still tight (look at bass distortion), which I intentionally tried to achieve. In fact, this is kinda fun... It reminds me of the DT880, but much more detailed, and actually much less grating because now treble is in line with everything else.

    Will keep playing around with this. It's only been 1 day. :)

    AM edit since I stayed awake to listen and compare (had too much coffee, nothing to do with me being slightly excited):

    Some dynamat later and now I honestly have a hard time picking the HD600 up over the HD800. The difference is exactly that high mid region, but... for some reason, having that region makes the HD600 sound kinda "small" or "telephone-like" in comparison to the HD800, which actually sounds "bigger" and "grander" in comparison. And I'm no longer thinking HD800 is brighter, so... that's good. But now I'm actually picking the HD800 up MORE than the HD600 for EVERYTHING. There are only some specific songs where the HD600's high mid region gives a bit of bite and presence to certain things, but for 90-95% of the stuff I listen to (which is pretty much everything from cat videos on Youtube to high quality lossless acoustic recordings), I'm actually enjoying the HD800.

    Or maybe I'm just that conceited, and I think I've just solved a puzzle that someone else had to spend months figuring out. So... we'll see. Now I need someone else to jump in here, demo this pair and tell me I have tin ears. Or just someone who will try the mod guide that I'll be posting later... after I have woken up and all. Going to bed now...
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2015
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  8. AustinValentine

    AustinValentine Friend

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    This is exactly how mine ended up. I ended up using a two strips of Supertape Low Profile Hairpiece Adhesive (stolen from our theater department) cut five ways into very small tabs to adhere the rug liner to the slightly thinner creatology foam gasket. For the trapezoid, I used the 2mm creatology foam and 1mm of craft felt.

    Two days using just the HD800 without a single "oh god its too bright" moment. After mods, it's not particularly warm in and of itself, but does pick up a tiny bit of warmth from the Gumby. Soundstage took a (very) small hit and the bass is better. Still revealing as fuck.
     
  9. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    PIcs please
     
  10. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    Bill's been sending me pictures of what can only be described as cut out fish shapes of various sizes. Dude is ordering dozens of random materials to try out. He's on a mission to measure, listen, describe, and repeat.
     
  11. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I remember trying some very similar stuff on the HD800, when I had it briefly. It was really hard to find a balance between lowering treble and NOT getting a big suckout around 1-4KHz. It made everything sound weird. Not saying it has to be that way, so I'm very curious to see what you end up finding. There's a fine balance between what you put directly around the driver and how much you cover the mesh with (and with what material). Have fun, and good luck! Maybe I can figure out where I put those HD800 measurements...
     
  12. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    I think the dip is inherent. However, there may be ways to mitigate the effect of it. One way I've found is to replace the trapezoid piece with something else other than closed-cell foam. Closed-cell foam deaden the sound too much and causes the soundstage to shrink significantly.

    You can also see from above that I'm using a thinner liner material, since I've also found that the thicker kind (the kind that Rabid Dog mod 1.0 uses) also deadens the sound too much. I believe the HD800 drivers "like" to have as much of the space inside as possible. And also air.

    And detail retrieval would get kinda lost as soon as you try putting anything else in front of the drivers... no matter what it is. I don't think I'll go that route.

    It is entirely possible to drop the treble by a good margin even without blocking the drivers. But then the next issue, as you mentioned, is the drop from 1-4KHz. I'm finding this region to create a sense of smoothness/refinement with the way the HD800 sounds, and also gives it a certain coloration that makes the soundstage bigger (except when you try to use materials that deaden the sound too much).

    A guide for my 1.0 mod is coming soon. There's quite a lot of small detail stuffs that I put in to tweak the tonality (toward what I think is neutral), and to address the soundstage afterwards. My goal is to basically eliminate the treble, fix tonality, and still somehow keep detail retrieval and soundstage, and that turned out to be much more monumental than I thought, hence the little things...

    I'm fairly happy with the results now. Hell, I'm actually hunting down a pair of HD800 so that I can finally own one. It may sound conceited when I say this but... I must say, this HD800 sounds so freaking awesome! It's a tad lower than neutral to me (modded HD600 being my reference), but other than that, it's superior in every way.
     
  13. Koth Ganesh

    Koth Ganesh Friend

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    Bill, which part inside the HP did you use the dynamat?
     
  14. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    The ring and the trapezoid, and specific parts underneath the ear pads.

    Anyway, some small update. I got this far:

    test2.png

    test2CSD.png

    test2CSD2.5.png

    Now it sounds kinda dark and slightly closed in, though still detailed. The details are no longer hyped or overdone/harsh/grating/etc...

    But loss of air is evident compared to my HD600, and even though soundstage is bigger on the HD800, it's not as "natural" or "coming from nowhere" as HD600... if that makes sense. There is kind of an audible wall/enclosure/thing due to lack of air.

    Admittedly, in direct comparison to the HD600, I'm not noticing the loss of the 4KHz region as much as it looks. The HD800 does sound a bit less shouty/hardened on some vocals relative to HD600, so even though this sounds like a coloration, I think I can live with that. In all honesty, the hyper detailed nature of the HD800 is still there, and things still sound a bit thin/textured despite the lack of this region. Like I said, I actually don't even notice it that much.

    Tonality is now... spot on, or at least as far as I'm concerned, the HD800 now sounds "correct". Drums sound like drums should, and snares sound like snares without overdoing or overhyping. Vocal's natural-ness still depends on recording quality, and there is still some sense of a flare (likely because of the sudden rise from 4KHz up to 6KHz), but no longer sibilant/piercing or merciless. It's actually almost as forgiving as my HD600 now while still remaining detailed.

    I'm not sure if it's due to dynamat or due to me overdoing reflection damping, but CSD does look a lot more... clean than how it was before. Decay is definitely faster than HD600 to me, though there's no longer an edge, so it's slightly softer which is what I'd prefer over stock headphone.

    Now to solve the problem of "air", and then I'll publish a modding guide with photos.

    Photo of what I have in there so far:

    IMG_3744.JPG

    I think I'm blocking too much of the vents to achieve this... but seriously, the thick white liner thing is waaaayyyy too efficient at absorbing reflections and excess vibrations. I stuffed my HD600 full of that stuff and now it has a lot more air.

    Felt ring on top of the aluminum ring seems effective at bringing down some high freqs but without deadening soundstage as much as foam IMO.

    Aside from liner, I'm using Bounty paper towel cut-outs to block the vents further, and I'm only leaving small openings in the rear part near the cable insert. Thinking of opening up more of the vents in very specific spots, and blocking more of the vents at others. Maybe I should reference my Audio Technica headphones to see how they tuned for the 2-4KHz region to see if I could fix that as well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2015
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  15. AustinValentine

    AustinValentine Friend

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    Totally. I don't want to pull the mod out (because it sounds right and I don't want to fuck it up), but let me see about snapping a couple of quick pics...

    I also snapped a picture of the cutout piece of rug liner to show how the shape lines up with OJ's sketch. The creatology foam ring is the same general oblong shape as the neutral Anax 2.0 mod but cut thinner.

    I do still have to use two EQ settings in JRMC (+1.5db @ 1k, +3db @ 3k).
     

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  16. George Mhmmm

    George Mhmmm Acquaintance

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    Bill-P, by the looks of the photo with duel layer of rug liner, the felt right around the driver might be covering the driver ever so slightly. When I first cut my felt rings and trapezoids, the felt ring covered the driver by no more than 1mm at certain parts. This was enough to fuck up the highs on the right channel. I confirmed this by swapping connectors (inverting channels) and the right driver definitely sounded smaller with less "air".

    Maybe examine your felt rings and be on the conservative side by leaving 0.5 to 1 mm tolerance to be sure you're not covering up the driver.
     
  17. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Yeah, I agree that even 1mm of it blocking the driver will change the perceived sound signature.

    But I have measured this thing multiple times, and unless you have multiple layers of fabric, paper, etc... blocking the driver, there is no way that treble will drop by that much with just felt and make this headphone any more neutral than it is. That's why the ring and trapezoid pieces are only temporary stop-gap until a better solution is achieved.
     
  18. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Acquaintance

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    Dear Bill-P,

    If it helps with your project I end up using 1mm thick rug liner and I don't know what you call it but it is a thin cloth material used to protect speaker driver for the ring and trapezoid components.

    For the ring and trapezoid components, I find the template that dsatvisk posted in an other forum to work best.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards,
    Jeremiah
     
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  19. George Mhmmm

    George Mhmmm Acquaintance

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    I honestly don't understand the dislike of the stock grill cloth. Besides the secondary layer of protection to a $1500 headphone driver, I believe it reduces the dip around 3.5 kHz. If we look at the graphs from Marvey on changstar, you can see the addition of the grill cloth reduces the dip'age in the plots.


    With Dust Cover

    [​IMG]

    Without Dust Cover

    [​IMG]
     
  20. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    Problem is the dust cover makes the treble worse. It's actually brighter and more veiled at the same time.
     
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