Loaner: ESX900 (owned by DEATHxMACHINE)

Discussion in 'Loaner Programs' started by E_Schaaf, Oct 27, 2020.

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  1. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: Upscale Audio; recovering HFM addict

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    Skip down to the bottom of this post for loaner terms and signup. Please post your approximate location as well as a 1-2 sentence statement of interest as to why you're a suitable tour candidate.

    I already went into detail about my vision for this project on a few threads (linked below), but as an overview for this loaner signup I thought I’d come up with a corny intro that sums up the idea behind this headphone along with a description of the modifications done to the headphone to get it to sound the way that it does.

    reference threads -

    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/esx900-impressions-slamhead’s-delight.9777/#post-314605

    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...od-extravaganza-stream-of-consciousness.9452/

    INTRO

    In a world…

    Where face-tweeters with massive treble peaks (don’t make me make a list) are considered some of the world’s best…
    Where closed-backs almost always have squiggly, unlistenable tone…
    Where few headphones give both satisfying sub bass and also great kick with controlled treble (looking at you, planars)...
    Where few decent-sounding full-sized headphones can be driven well by a portable device…
    Where pop music and lean recordings can only be enjoyed at low volume without fatigue…
    Where few headphones can make sense of a high bpm double kick…
    Where decent tonal translation between speakers and headphones is considered near-impossible...

    enter the ESX900.

    WHAT IS ESX900?

    This headphone is a completely overhauled vision of the 548843 driver made by Foster for Fostex’s use in the TH900 headphone. I’ve renamed this headphone ESX900 and not simply ‘modded TH900’ because it has been modded in literally 16 sonically significant ways and deviates quite a bit from the sound of the stock TH900. All that is shared is Foster’s drive element and the headband assembly (which I might swap at a future time).

    This particular tour features a headphone voiced to DEATHxMACHINE’s ambitious vision - (paraphrased) ‘I want EDM to be enjoyable near 100dB’.

    I’ll leave it to the community to decide whether these mods approach the very lofty goals, but after 9 months of daily exploration, hundreds of hours (and dollars) sunk into materials cost and labor, I feel this headphone has many unique things to offer.

    This is an ongoing project, and every ESX900 will be different according to the desires of who I’m making it for. My rate is very competitive compared to other custom modders, and I don’t charge for labor until you’re satisfied with the tuning. If you’re interested in my work, send me a DM.

    DESCRIPTION OF MODS:

    Exterior -
    1. Audio Technica AP2000Ti pads, mounted upside-down (thicker on top)
    2. Geekria headband cover (stock headband was flaking)
    3. Palo Santo unfinished cups (same dimensions / spec as stock Fostex cups)
      1. Alternative cup designs (deeper, vented, passive radiator, etc) are possible and can be made to custom spec. Lots of tunability here. Going with a ‘normal’ cup shape on this tour shows what’s possible to those not interested in shelling out extra for custom cups. I can work with stock cups for a similar result.

    Headband / Pad Mount assembly -
    1. Double-stick tape pad mounting to improve seal
    2. Taped over stock mount latch holes to improve seal
    3. Snipped mounting ring nubs for direct coupling
    4. Removed cable outlet rubber sealer
    5. Slightly larger (wider and longer) baffle mounting screws for improved hold and longevity

    Front of baffle / ‘earside’ -

    1. Custom die-cut non-vented medium density neoprene rings
      1. 75mm outer diameter, 50mm cutout diameter
      2. Recommended for use WITH pseudovent mod (below)
      3. Can be tweaked to shift frequency and degree of bass emphasis
    2. Sealed stock baffle vent via paper tape
    3. Light front filter behind pad hairscreen (optional)
      1. While front dampers are generally rightly frowned upon, in this case I found it necessary for control at very high SPL. I spent more time tweaking this than anything else aside from cup stuffing. Filter works well with these pads for a generally superior result compared to the pancake pads with no front damper, which measures similarly. Opening of rear driver vents made the headphones dynamically livelier than stock. Like a snare drum hitting 10mm from your face, had my ears ringing. This brings back the control without losing scale or extension.

    Rear of baffle / driver assembly -

    1. 11/11 open rear driver vents (stock is 2/11 open, completely configurable for preferred high frequency response and wood timbre)
      1. Allows cups to impart more color and provides a ‘room response’ for a more speaker-like sense of dynamic tactility. NOT RECOMMENDED with unstuffed cups or without pseudovent / baffle seal mod (below)
      2. Reduces treble quantity and peaks
    2. ‘Sushi Mod’ - primary magnet vent height extension and filter with rigid adhesive felt and tightly packed cotton
      1. Opening up the central driver vent normally results in a MASSIVE 20dB dip around 2.5-4.5khz. Sushi mod narrows and minimizes this dip while keeping the strengths of the open vent (improved bass tactility and sustain, reduced low treble peaks)
    3. ‘Pseudovent Mod’ - 4 pieces of weighted thick tape near cup-mounting screw holes to induce a ~.5mm air gap between the rear of the baffle and the cup when mounted. Longer cup mounting screws required.
      1. Provides pressure escape from driver backwave, which is now dramatically enhanced by rear driver venting. Reels in midrange resonance and reduces treble ringing but maintains extended sustain and ‘room response’ in low bass.
      2. Complementary mod to non-vented front baffle rings and sealed baffle vents for improved lower midrange linearity

    Cup stuffing -

    1. Thin strip of dynamat-like goop (3mm) around circumference of cup closest to baffle mount
    2. Porous open-cell coarse foam bottom layer around cup side walls. Donut shape, ~1mm deep - not covering the back cup wall.
    3. Two strips of extra thick adhesive felt with parallel placement on the outer sides of the flattened back cup wall.
    4. One strip of extra thin polyester felt between the thicker strips, through the center of the back wall.
    5. Cotton stuffing (preferred over acoustic wool) packed in an attenuated cone shape - thicker on the sides, thinner in the middle, none in the center over the felt from (3) and (4)

    Disclaimer - this is a fickle recipe of tweaks that all work together towards a synergistic end. Some of these mods are irreversible and can easily irreparably damage your headphones if improperly executed. While I support DIY, don’t hold me liable for any accidents or poor results yielded from trying similar experiments yourself.

    LOANER TERMS
    :

    This is considered a personal loaner by DEATHxMACHINE (owner). He agreed to send this pair on tour in exchange for free modification work aside from the cost of the cups. These are the terms:

    1. 5 to 10 established Friends (plus interested Staff Members) only. USA48 only. Ideally those who are potentially interested in seeking modification services in the future.

    2. The tour will be broken into two legs, with a short break for Marv to measure and post impressions whenever is most convenient to him. DEATHxMACHINE may request a position in the tour at any point. If the headphone needs repair or tuning is unsatisfactory, it can return to E_Schaaf for a tune-up at any time.

    3. 5 day review period with posted impressions in the ESX900 impressions thread - https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/esx900-impressions-slamhead’s-delight.9777/

    4. Shipping using Fedex or UPS with $1000 insurance and signature required.

    5. Absolutely zero disassembly, including pad rolling.

    ROSTER:

    I'll populate this list according to geographical location once we get enough interest - a day or two. I'll tag you when it's finalized, but will continually edit this list as a placeholder until we can fill this up. You may be moved around or booted per discretion of DEATHxMACHINE.

    x. DEATHxMACHINE (WA)
    1. @Inoculator (WA)
    x. @ChaChaRealSmooth (CA)
    x. @purr1n (CA)
    2. @famish99 (TX)
    3. @SoupRKnowva (TX)
    4. @Phantaminum (TX)
    5. @dubharmonic (IL)
    6. @dncnexus (MD) - skip
    7. @Vtory (PA)
    8. @skem (MA)
    9.
    10.
    __________________________________________

    One last listening note - with this tuning, there might be some brain burn-in given the strong downslope. If the listening experience is lackluster, try branching out and exploring different types of music, or turning up the volume just a little bit. Seal is important, and the pads are at a bit of a tilt by design, so the headband might sit further forward or backward on your head than other headphones for optimal angling. This particular unit is built to a specific vision, though I have tremendously enjoyed it as a daily driver with a wide scope of content as well.

    ***edit - the headphone is hard-wired to 1/4"***

    If you'll be measuring the headphone, keep in mind you may have to apply gentle pressure to get a good seal. Positioning relative to pinna on EARS will have a DRAMATIC EFFECT on measured treble, though on the head with a good seal it doesn't audibly shift. I am most interested in flat plate and non-EARS measurements.

    Thank you @DEATHxMACHINE and @ChaChaRealSmooth for facilitating this tour. @purr1n feel free to request a detour to your place at any time when you’re available for evaluation. I know you’re busy with some other stuff ChaCha just sent your way.

    Cheers!
     
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    Last edited: Dec 16, 2020
  2. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    I'm in.

    Logistic info: Philadelphia, PA

    Added as per the request:

    I am interested in this loaner from the following aspects.
    • Closed back: I've long been a closed-back (half) hater. Recent insights gained from specific products (VC and M200) made me rethink about this structure in a positive direction. There is a certain group of traits I'd associate with '(bad) closedness' in my book, and good products seem to address it somehow without too much sacrifice. And from this standpoint, I am inherently interested in any closed-back well received by good ears.
    • TH900: I can't say I am familiar with TH900 OG sounding as the headphones did not allow me to endure more than 10 minutes (in multiple meets). I am really curious how TH900's inherent capability shines once they acquire more likable tone balance. I still own some marginal recordings where I particularly disliked to hear with og th900. Would like to test them again with esx -- even though I am 95% sure annoyance would be completely gone.
    • Evan's work: I've always curious about Evan's mods and his works (since he was actively in HFM modding) but had no good chance to get my own hands on the actual implementations. Based on multiple posts and measurements he uploaded to the forum, and triangulating myself, I could identify mild to moderate correlations in preference. But there are some region in his book that aren't quite clear to me through subjective descriptions only (mostly because I am less experienced lol). That said, I want to figure out what he seeks for and what could be possible agreements/disagreements between our preferences.
    Honestly I'm a little concerned that my chain these days aren't as uber as they used to be. So might not be the best situation to pull the most out of highly-capable transducers. That along with other reasons make me feel a little unsure about my eligibility, so please feel free to screen or take me out based on the statement above.

    @ChaChaRealSmooth I think this way will work great. Can we extend this method to the entire sbaf loaners?
     
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    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
  3. skem

    skem Friend

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    Definitely, Cambridge MA

    EDIT: Why me? Well let’s be honest. I don’t deserve to try this; I’m no guru. I try to limit my auditions to stuff that catches my attention and not try everything. Currently looking to replace a Verum with something I can drive from iphone, but not sure this is that. Best argument is probably I write substantive impressions. Feel free to pass on me if this is deemed insufficient.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 28, 2020
  4. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: Upscale Audio; recovering HFM addict

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    Since this is a very limited tour and a very niche item, I've edited the top line of the first post. DEATHxMACHINE and I would like a statement of interest (can just be a sentence or two) as to what makes you a good candidate for the tour. Staff members are exempt from this. I might do another tour with a different tuning in the future, but for round 1 we're going to have to be quite selective depending on the number of interested Friends.

    The statement could be that you can offer good comparisons against other headphones you have on hand, you're intimiately familiar with the stock TH900 (previous owner for example), you love biocellulose drivers, you're a basshead who doesn't want fucked up mids and treble, you're looking for an easy-to-drive full size headphone, etc. Just something to make your voice and perspective stand out, given DEATHxMACHINE is taking on appreciable risk of damage or lost shipments, etc. @skem @dubharmonic please edit your post to reflect this! Thank you for your interest.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
  5. Inoculator

    Inoculator Friend

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    I would love to join the tour! On the hunt for a good biocellulose driver closed back and want to see if this is the one that hits the mark for me. I will be comparing to the biocellulose implementation in the Auteur, and previous experience with the Eikon.

    I am located in Tacoma, WA.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
  6. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    Very curious about them, I'd love to be included!

    Evanston, IL
     
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  7. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    We can definitely implement this for some loaners on a case-by-case basis.

    I would like to participate in the loaner. Even though I'm staff, I will still give a reason in the interest of fairness: closed headphones are just something I've never seem to gotten along with, with Elegia being "good enough." The Verite Closed really is the only closed headphone I tried where I did not feel like I was giving up any sonic attributes by going closed. I'd like to explore the ESX900 more to see if it would be a closed can that I can love (potential buyer).
     
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  8. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: Upscale Audio; recovering HFM addict

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    Edited the first post to reflect this but figured it'd be useful to point out again that these are hard-wired to a 1/4" termination.

    Total bummer for 3F owners because I have a feeling that combination would be DOPE AF. I can hard-wire to 4-pin on future mod commissions but I don't mess with installing detachable cable mods (ask @tommytakis why). I remember the 4-pin to 1/4" adapter that came with the Torpedo 4. Does that exist for the 3F?

    Anyway, don't feel like you need $$$$ gear to be eligible to participate. The headphone scales at least as far as the HD650 on the upper end (Senns sound better with some mid-fi amps than these, but when we get to the Super 7 these pull decidedly ahead in slam and staging for example), but they should still reveal their tonal character and timbre with lesser gear for an enjoyable experience. I've been most impressed with them when driven by cheapo DAPs or unobtanium baller shit.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
  9. DEATHxMACHINE

    DEATHxMACHINE Friend

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    @Vtory Don't worry about your chain. The th900 drivers are 25 ohm impedence. As long as you have a clean source and power, your chain will be just fine. Also I want you on this loaner. You provide clear, thorough and concise reviews.
     
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  10. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: Upscale Audio; recovering HFM addict

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    ^ Yes, and also their impedance response is nearly flat like a planar. I have driven them with OTLs over 50 ohms OI and they measure the same.

    Also I'm unsure if opening all the driver vents has had an effect on impedance and/or efficiency. They are extremely easy to drive. Like under 8:30 on Vali 2 high gain for ear-splitting volume. I have many IEMs that take more juice.
     
  11. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    one thing I suggested to @CEE TEE when he was at drop, wire to terminate with a 4 pin mini-XLR at the splitter. Then you can swap cables super easily and you have a "detachable" cable option.
     
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  12. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    Well, I can try this on my EC Ultralinear. That thing is along very similar lines in terms of sound.
     
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  13. tommytakis

    tommytakis Gear Cycler SoCal Edition

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    unless you can find small enough connectors, the mod is pretty invasive and doing it will FUCK with the tuning... please don't make the same mistake I made lol If you really want detachable cable, just find a stock pair that already has that option. (TR-X00, Emu teak, TH610, TH900 mk.2, etc)

    Yes, part of why I love this headphone so much is that it doesn't sound like shit when you plug it straight off of your laptop or smartphone. still very enjoyable and slammy but can scale with better setup
     
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  14. CEE TEE

    CEE TEE Free Agent

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    Nice- Palo Santo unfinished cups...Chan of E-MU sells these and I really like these.
    Especially if the wood has the green alternating grain.
     
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  15. dncnexus

    dncnexus Friend

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    I wanted to join this loaner but wasn't originally going to apply for this since I did not meet the Friend status, but @E_Schaaf said it might be a good idea to try so I would like to say why I think I would make a good participant for the loaner.

    - I believe I have a good enough chain to fully drive them to their fullest potential.

    - I have been having an interest in closed backs recently especially those with biocellulose drivers due to my love to the Auteur and its timbre, and by the time the loaner would come I would have a Verite Closed to be able to compare to.

    - I have headphones that would be a good reference for those who might be wanting to buy these. Auteur, HD 6XX KISS, and Verite Closed.

    - I have had conversations with @tommytakis and he seemed to really love these. I found my preferences align closely to his so I was eyeballing these to potentially purchase but was waiting for more impressions from those here. Being able to hear them on my own chain would be really helpful in the ability for me to decide to purchase these for myself.

    - I don't have any more compelling reasons why I would be a good participant..... I am a nice person AND I will treat the headphones with the utmost care, as if it was my own first born child.... if I had children...... yeah lets go with that one :)

    Anyways, joking aside I would just be really appreciative if I could be a part. I love seeing what people can accomplish and create and I think the ESX900 is very impressive and would love to see it myself.
     
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  16. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: Upscale Audio; recovering HFM addict

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    I'll leave that decision to DEATHxMACHINE but I'm comfortable with you participating. If he'd rather you don't, I am currently working to clone the loaner pair and I can send the clone your way so the liability is on me. Either way you'll be taking a listen at some point in the next few weeks.
     
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  17. DEATHxMACHINE

    DEATHxMACHINE Friend

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    @dncnexus I am going to let you join just because you purchased my BW2.
     
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  18. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    ...and that seems to have changed as well...congrats.
     
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  19. tommytakis

    tommytakis Gear Cycler SoCal Edition

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  20. Phantaminum

    Phantaminum Friend

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    I'd love to try these as a matter of fact.

    If you have space to swing it down to Dallas, Texas please add me to the list. I do like me some tastefully bassy headphones.

    Thanks @tommytakis
     
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