Yamaha Orthodynamic Headphones Compendium

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Vtory, Mar 27, 2022.

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

    Pyrate MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2016
    Likes Received:
    10,879
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    East Coast
    [​IMG]

    I’m starting a new thread for the impression and discussion about Yamaha orthodynamic headphones. You may wonder why we need another thread given that there are already vintage ortho threads and some yamaha-related measurement threads. While I don’t disagree much, I feel like it might be better to have an impression-focused thread.

    Well, the primary motivation is I am about to work on write-ups for at least SIX Yamaha products including one stock and five modded ones (some I have already in the house, others to come). I’d like to locate Yamaha posts in one place in a more consistent way so that everyone can easily look around. Feels like “Yamaha Quest” a bit. lol.

    I’m also making clear that the majority of them, if not all, are loaned to me by angelic friends for relatively long periods. Declaring zero financial conflict of interest, too.

    Each review might vary (or not) in structure but probably includes the following elements in common.
    • Pic(s)
    • Short intro of the model
    • Short intro of the mod (optional; only if the modder allows/discloses what were done)
    • Uncorrected tonality
    • Digital correction (optional)
    • Technicality/presentation highlights
    • Some basis measurements (optional)

    I’d start from the HP-1 stock and mod. Then will add more models (YH series for example) to the thread down the road. Of course, any relevant thoughts, first-hand experience, or other cool stuff will be welcome!

    Links

    Notes
    • Will use HP-1 as common baselines/controls (and Susvara as a golden reference).
    • 4x upsampler + PEQ + Soekris DAC 2541 hp out (usb in) will be used as a reference upstream.
    • 4x upsampler + PEQ (optional) + Gustard X18 + SMSL HO200 will be used as a reference upstream: UPDATED ON 2022-05-28
     
    • Like Like x 3
    • Epic Epic x 1
    • List
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2022
  2. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

    Pyrate MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2016
    Likes Received:
    10,879
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    East Coast
    [​IMG]

    HP-1 Stock


    Model Intro
    • Yamaha developed and released HP-1 in 1976, using 12 micrometers thick polyester diaphragm. Its original price is known $200 which converts into $997 in 2022 USD.
    • If I am not mistaken, HP-1 was the first orthodynamic headphones that established the terminology name “orthodynamics”.
    • There is a very informative and helpful article in IEEE explaining background story and history. I strongly recommend to take a look if you’re interested: https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-consumer-electronics-hall-of-fame-yamaha-hp1-headphones

    Uncorrected Tonality
    • Bass is a little light from today’s standard. Obviously not as extended as over-ear headphones. But they can reproduce down to 40-50hz without significant roll offs. This is surely associated with the seal, and I found yamaha ear pads fit and seal better on real ears rather than dummy ones. You may see bass extension measured very differently between FPC and artificial ear couplers.
    • Compared to 6xx, the upper bass to midrange sound more linear. A slight hump around middle of the midrange (i.e., a bit nasal) followed by mild dip around upper midrange (i.e., a little smeared detail) was heard. 6xx had reversed patterns for those regions.
    • I found HP-1’s treble tonality was rather dark but there was nuanced energy in the lower treble that gave the vocal expression a little edgy and sharp in good ways. Some hard-to-describe good timbre was heard (not real but very pleasing tone), too.

    Technicality/Presentation
    • As in, HP-1’s resolution can not stack against today’s decent budget-fi headphones. Switching to 6xx, except for a little forwarded vocals, many cues in the background are not properly resolved. Everything was cohesively done that way so may not be bothering unless switching to something better.
    • Later I realized HP-1 might have more potential than it was capable of in their stock. More on this in the modded hp-1 post.
    • For the small/sealed cup acoustic design, spatial components are all very decent to a surprising extent.
    • Can’t claim anything about anisotropic magnet effects because I haven’t heard non-aniso hp-1.

    Verdict
    • Groundbreaking piece in headphones history!
    • A little bass-restricted but a great vocal track performer.
    • Modding can benefit much.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    PS. This specific hp-1a pair was given to me for free by a friend. While I can confidently say I didn't advertise or upsell anything in my post, some bias might be inevitable, which readers should keep in mind and take a grain of salt.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Epic Epic x 1
    • List
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2022
  3. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

    Pyrate MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2016
    Likes Received:
    10,879
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    East Coast
    [​IMG]
    HP-1 Mod


    Mod Intro
    • I have zero idea what specifically was done internally. Please reach out to RD who did the whole mods.
    • On the surface of ear cups there are a lot of small holes which I assume transform the closed-back HP-1 into a semi-open back structure.

    Uncorrected Tonality
    • General tonal balance of hp1 mod is slightly clockwise rotated from the og tonality.
    • Bass is subtly more extended to my ears, but I am not very sure how much my perception is affected by down-tilting balance.
    • Bass, midrange, and lower treble are all very smooth and linear. Even more so than the og which is already decent. OG had a little HFM-like coloration between upper midrange and lower treble (to much less extent), but the mod does not exhibit such a sound.
    • The mod, however, is a little piercing and bright around mid to upper treble. Not unlistenable by any means, but depending on the mastering quality, Asian female vocal tracks containing /s/ or /th/ pronunciation may suffer from audible sibilances. Thus, a bit north to my preference. And for this reason, I like to hear this mod with a bit of digital eq correction.
    • Compared to 6xx, senn has more energy in the lower treble, and hp1 mod sounds sharper in the upper treble.

    Digital EQ Correction
    • I first cut upper treble energy to make this region more cohesively connect to lower regions.
    • Then I boosted the lower treble mildly to improve clarity a little.
    [​IMG]

    Technicality/Presentation
    • Unlike I wasn’t very into Yamaha technicality with og hp-1, the mod could reverse my thought. They’re competitive against contemporary main players in the market.
    • With the mod, I was thrilled to hear lots of details and dynamic gradation I couldn’t hear well with the og.
    • Not surprisingly, the way hp-1 (mod) resolves and presents is closer to hfm or audeze than to senn electrodynamics. But the mod does not exhibit timbre issues lower tier hfm/audeze products often show.
    • The OG was already pretty great in timbre, and the mod is almost consistent although I think the OG has better timbre density. Not too much different.
    • Compared to 6xx, the modded hp-1 comes with more punches, more liquid sounding, denser timbre, and stronger center images. On the other hand, to me 6XX is better in head-stage dimension, lower treble resolution.

    Verdict
    • My main motivation for the vintage Yamaha journey.
    • Technically and tonally a clear step up from the og hp-1
    • Enjoyable as is but a bit of equalization can benefit a lot.
    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    • Like Like x 3
    • Epic Epic x 1
    • List
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2022
  4. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

    Pyrate MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2016
    Likes Received:
    10,879
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    East Coast
    [​IMG]

    YH-3 Mod


    Model Intro
    • If I understood correctly, the entry model of HP lineup, HP-3, came out later than HP-1. Then Yamaha rebranded to YH with reduced prices.
    • I’ve seen some people claiming YH-1 and HP-1 sounded very similar (which I have no way to verify atm), but I’m unsure if the same argument applies between HP-3 and YH-3.
    • As per Yamaha’s documents, YH-3 (together with YH-2) have smaller ortho drivers (46 vs 55mm) as well as weaker magnets (950 vs 1200 gauss). But all the YHs had the same film thinness (12 micrometer) and magnet material (sintered ferrite).
    • Yamaha seemed to cheap out some of the comfort/ergonomic parts. While YH-3 is lighter than its bigger brother (YH-1) by 80g, they don’t come with the suspension strap. Moreover the stock YH-3 doesn't seem to have enough padding on top.

    Mod Intro
    • Along with the modded HP-1 which I introduced in the previous post, YH-3 I evaluated was also modded by RD.
    • I wasn’t told anything about internal changes. But in appearance, the mod largely resembles HP-1’s mod. One thing I noticed is that the yh-3 mod had fewer holes and smaller hole diameter each. I’m guessing RD thought such holes were optimal for yh-3, but I might be wrong.
    • The loaner pair came with additional headband cushions which partly addressed wearing comfort concerns. But the downside is, with cushions, the headphones were difficult to fit on my big head.

    Tonality / EQ
    • I really don’t have much to say about their tonality. This is because the modded YH-3 sounded very, very similar to the HP-1 mod.
    • I didn’t have to change EQ filters at all, either. Applying HP-1 filters worked pretty well.

    Technicality/Presentation
    • As usual, tonality, no matter if it’s subjective or objective, could not tell us the whole story. YH-3 was quite different from HP-1 in technicalities.. mostly in negative ways.
    • Midrange tone and timbre were still very good.
    • But the bass was a lot weaker in every aspect compared to HP-1. To me it’s even weaker than HP-1 stock although YH-3M extended slightly better.
    • Treble is a little mixed bag. Upper treble and top end extension was nice, if not better than HP-1M. But I consistently heard a little fuzziness and haziness being persistent in the lower treble around 2khz.
    • Detail retrieval was also audibly outclassed by HP-1M.

    Verdict
    • I’m impressed that RD could maintain very consistent voicing between HP-1 and YH-3 mods.
    • Nonetheless, TBH I can’t really think of any points to take YH-3 over HP-1, conditioned by RD modding. Maybe a little cheaper to get the doner headphones?
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Epic Epic x 1
    • List
  5. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

    Pyrate MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2016
    Likes Received:
    10,879
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    East Coast
    [​IMG]

    YH-100 Stock

    Model Intro
    • As per Faust3d wiki, Yamaha released YH-100 in 1979 and they’re the last YH ortho model before transitioning to YHD. Please do not confuse chronological order between YH-1000 and YH-100 (former:1978, latter:1979) like I did lol.
    • The frame was not designed by Mario Bellini, but the general design language did not change from YH-1 much. Cup dimension looks similar to YH-1 or HP-1 but vents are closer to the front of the cup just behind the ear pads.
    • YH-100 is known to use stronger anisotropic ferrite magnets with 55mm diameter diaphragm, a 4dB improvement in sensitivity over YH-1.

    Technical specifications
    • Impedance: 150 ohms
    • Frequency Response: 20 - 20,000Hz
    • Magnet: Anisotropic Ferrite, 55mm
    • Diaphragm: 12 micron polyester
    • Sensitivity: 98dB/mW
    • Rated Input: 3W
    • Maximum Input: 10W

    Tonality
    • YH100 exhibits a somewhat similar bass character to other Yamaha stocks I experienced. They similarly and gradually start to roll off from 100hz. I could barely hear notes under 35hz. While they dont’ extend as low as decent budget orthos from Audezes or Hifiman, I liked YH100’s for its own light. More on this in the technicality part.
    • I heard dips around 1.5hz followed by a peak at 2hz. HP-1 stock had this pattern but YH100 is definitely more W-shaped between lower and mid-high trebles. I also found YH100 is tougher to work with EQ than HP-1 (perceived characters persist and filters behave rather unpredictably for certain regions). Well-tailored physical damping must be necessary to tame highs imho -- I don’t guess it will be an easy fix at all.
    • Please note that, even without EQ, they’re already very enjoyable. No harshness, stridency, or over-sibilance in my zero-tolerance zone (4.5khz-7.5hz). Hence, during my evaluation time, I was not much motivated to develop PEQ filters.

    Technicality
    • By the way, I recently changed my rig and the new main headphone amplifier and da converter made almost every inefficient ortho sound better (more impactful and much clearer) to my liking. So please take my claims with a grain of salt. De-biasing is highly recommended.
    • Anyway, I was impressed by YH100 as they showed me the strongest bass slam among Yamaha stock orthos despite its tonal limitation. Bass feels tighter and more authoritative. They didn’t resolve bass gradation much.. But that’s probably because I’m a Susvara-head..
    • From time to time, the loaner pair showed me some hints of the true capabilities. I won’t be surprised if YH100 with the right mod slay the modded YH1 or HP1. No doubt it is highly potential. As is, however, YH100 is less cohesive and less complete in experience as a total package.
    • To me, the biggest disappointment was that they couldn’t resolve small details as well as nuances. After a thorough comparison with the HP1, it turned out (1) resolution per se isn’t too much different but (2) the sonic presentation made this weakness more obvious.

    Verdict
    • Yamaha’s new driver (or simply new magnet used in the driver) made meaningful changes over prior ortho models. Several major weaknesses I persistently heard during the evaluation made me think them rather a modding base for gurus.
    • I fortunately got a chance to evaluate a very heavily modded (new housing + more damping + etc) YH100 at the same time. I’ll introduce and review it next time. Stay tuned!
     
  6. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

    Pyrate MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2016
    Likes Received:
    10,879
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    East Coast
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    YH-100 Khbaur Mod aka KH-100

    Mod Intro
    • This specific modded pair is crafted by a vintage ortho guru (Khbaur@Head-Fi). I appreciate his kindness for offering me a chance to evaluate his pair for a fairly long period.
    • This is a pretty substantial and drastic modding from the stock. Not easily replicable at all. Below is my summary of his modding processes. Please refer to his own article for better and more detailed descriptions: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/orthodynamic-roundup.111193/post-16894228
      • Stock YH-100 drivers were transplanted into Sony headphones (DR-ZX701)
      • Acoustic material (Twaron Angel Hair Wadding) is applied between drivers and housing back walls. This likely does control diffusing, damping, and reducing cup resonance. But no other damping clothes directly applied/attached to the back of the drivers
      • Another acoustic material (Akasa Paxmate) is very lightly applied in the housing lines to reduce internal reflection
      • Another acoustic material (Sorbothane) is applied onto baffle rears to control and absorb plastic resonance or vibration
      • Hinges on the Sony’s housing are lubricated
      • Sony stock pads were replaced with Aliexpress compatible pleather pads.
    • He also shooted a YT video to explain his mod:
    • Anyway, with such a series of modding processes, the modder transformed YH-100 to a completely different beast.
      • Stock on-ear → Mod over-ear
      • Stock open → Mod closed
      • Stock vintage-looking → Mod modern-looking (I’m not joking much!)

    See my previous post for the stock YH-100 specifications. I believe most of those are still applicable to this modded pair. Maybe except for sensitivity, which I guess even meaningfully lower than the stock.

    For my convenience, I might call this modded pair KH-100 henceforth.


    Sound
    • To begin with, I should mention I was very impressed how the modder made yh100 drivers sound right. My understanding is each headphone driver is a result of optimization of housing design, so it should sound good with the configuration it was designed for. But not necessarily with totally different settings. If I was not told this was a yh-100 mod, I might say “what great sounding sony headphones!” lol. Everything sounds cohesive as if these yamaha drivers were designed for Sony’s closed-back enclosure. Even independently from any evaluation below, I’d like to clearly praise the modder's great job for the successful transplant.
    • Back to the sonic evaluation, KH-100 sounds well-balanced from bottom to top. Very slightly lean on bass (this needs more explanation which I will add in a bit), followed by almost neutral midrange to lower treble, finished by dark-tilted upper treble. Top-end and air region are very satisfying, too. Frankly, I was not motivated much to mess with equalization.
    • This specific modded unit suffers from inter-channel imbalances in bass. Conditioned by careful concentration in bass-heavy tracks, I hear the left channel was leaner in low to middle bass by a few decibels. This issue is also acknowledged by the modder. But eventually I didn’t bother much. Probably because bass is rather omnidirectional and plays little role in stereo imaging. Indeed I mostly hear bass as a sum of both channels which happen to be very linear/neutral (tad neutral-lean maybe) to my taste.
    • In other aspects of bass, I failed to nitpick much. I prefer to listen to bass analytically with focusing on gradation details, nuance, and texture. Not at the level of Susvara, but KH-100 resolved more details than HD650. I pulled out Arya SE and mixed into the comparison. I’d rank KH-100’s bass resolution somewhere between HD650 and Arya. There does exist what I associate to closed-back blurriness, but to less extent than any other closed-back electrodynamic headphones I heard to date (Verite Closed might be a sole exception tho).
    • KH-100’s lower mid is slightly recessed around 400-600hz inferring from vocals sounding mildly tinny and nasal. This was a bit contrary to all the Yamaha on-ear stocks and mods I heard before, which commonly exhibited smooth, uncolored, and full-bodied midrange. This weakness should be easily fixable by applying a simple peak filter (but again, I wasn’t motivated much). By the way, the rest of the KH-100’s midrange is at least decent.
    • Middle to upper treble reminds me of the Clear Mg (Focal). In the case of CMG, I witnessed people’s opinions vary in taking CMG’s voicing. I preferred the darker and more forgiving approach of CMG. So do I for KH-100. Any technicality loss was not heard to me in the mid-upper treble. It’s also worth noting YH-100 stock’s annoying lower treble peak is gone with this mod probably due to the new housing.
    • While there’s not much damping material (as per the modder), I found it interesting to see the drivers be tightly controlled yet with a healthy amount of cup diffusion.
    • Compared to my lightly modded HD650, KH-100 edges out in microdetails (marginality in frequency) and transient. But there’s something compromised in microdynamics (marginality in amplitude). Staging and imaging went to KH-100 because of its tasteful tuning of closed-back design. To me HD650 generally sounds a little more overdamped and dry by comparison.
    • Last but not least I found KH-100 scaled well with good amps. I hooked them up with DX3 pro and Magni 3+ to examine this. Then switched back to HO200 again.. This really awoke and made them sing. Much better bass articulation and stage layering with HO200. It’s a misfortune that this pair comes with non-detachable quarter-inch cable. HO200 sounds a bit better with balanced outs and the pairing with LA90 (2ch power amp) would be even more interesting to me.

    Comfort, Aesthetics, and Etc
    • KH-100 makes me recall Sony made highly comfortable and solidly built headphones toward the non-audiophile market.
    • With low-elastic Aliexpress-alternative pads, they’re extremely comfortable even with 500g weight (almost surprised when I measured them lol).
    • Sony’s BQ and design language are top notch, too. I can list numerous audiophile headphones that are more expensive but look less so..

    Verdict
    • I’m honestly hesitating if I can call them a modded pair of YH-100. Only stock drivers were used and everything else was changed. Reminds me of a famous philosophical question of the ship of Theseus. Haha. Personally I feel more comfortable to regard this pair as Khbaur’s original work.
    • Philosophy aside, this mod completely addresses all the major concerns I had with the stock YH-100, introduces only minimal and acceptable weaknesses in midrange, and makes use of all the Yamaha driver excellences. That said, I’d clearly say the KH-100 is the most impressive Yamaha ortho-based pair of headphones.
    • And the transformation to closed-back structure explosively increases versatility in use cases. Given we don’t have many audiophile options in isolating/minimal-leakage headphones, KH-100 feels even more impressive to me.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2022
  7. Notacus Tomer

    Notacus Tomer New

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2023
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Location:
    Tristan Da Cunha
    I would be very interested in your comparative evaluation of Yamaha YH-5000SE orthodynamic headphones.
     

Share This Page