DIY Headphone Measurement Contest Winners!

The Contest
First and foremost, this contest is just a bit of fun. What's really more important is giving DIYers the opportunity to get their headphones measured so they can get a little objective feedback for their projects. I think this is an important service I can provide U.S. DIYers (sorry, I can't afford to do worldwide return shipments), and I will continue tooffer this service to headphone DIYers. If you're in the U.S. and would like to have your DIY modified headphones measured, simply send me a PM on Head-Fi, or contact me through my email address: None the less, it was fun to measure a bunch of hobbyist's efforts and spend a bit of time separating the wheat from the chaff.

There are three categories in the competition:

  1. The Coolest Looking - I wasn't necessarily looking for the best looking headphone, but rather the headphone that struck me as the most visually interesting and engaging.
  2. The Worst Measuring - I remember measuring some DIY cans Duggeh built at a show a couple of years ago. He achieved nearly 100% total harmonic distortion. He was so proud at his full marks that I just assumed someone would love to try to beat his record.
  3. The Best Measuring - It turns out this was much harder to judge than I anticipated. There were about 10 headphones in the running here, and it wasn't easy to come up with a clear order. There was always something a bit wrong with all the cans---not unlike commercial offerings, though usually a bit weirder.

Initially, I was just going to have one winner in each category, but upon looking around my lab for things I might give away, I found enough goodies that I could have five winners in the "Best Measuring" category, and three winners each for the other two categories.

I have put together a .pdf of all the measurements for DIY headphones so you can peruse the results as you read. You can download it here.

I will try to contact all the winners, but sometimes that's not as easy as it seems. If you've won, please feel free to send me an email ( and please include your shipping address. I'll get your prize shipped quickly.

Okay, let's get on with it. Coolest Looking first!

germansok's picture

AH!! All three of my headphones made the cover photo!! AWESOME!!!

Thanks for all your hard work Tyll!!!

ultrabike's picture

Its very intersting that almost all of the top cans have a 5 to 10 dB peaks around 6 to 10 kHz (perhaps even more than 10dB in some cases). The Beyerdynamic offerings have this same behaviour. Maybe this has to do with how the HPs where voiced? If they where voiced at low volume the results would be different compared to that if they where voiced at higher volumes:

These days, it seems the trend is a much more laid back signature from 6 to 10kHz following the examples of the HD600, HD650, LCD-2, and some other high end HPs...

These days, the HD580 seems better regarded than the a bit brighter HD590, and seems that the HD580 spawned the HD600/650 and the HD590 the HD598 ... Still, Senn voiced the HD800 brighter (same 6-10kHz) area.

I'm sure Tyll has seen this x10: "Times r a-changning". Hi end is going from brighter to darker... Or maybe it was this way all along?

I also forgot the most important thing: Very cool job to all DIYers! I may yet one of these days be on my way to DIYing... But still need to deal with my money making job, lil ones, and need to fix the box filled garage (moved end of last year)... :( Salivating

dBel84's picture

What more to say, the DIY world really appreciates your commitment to propogate the madness. :-) ..dB

nick n's picture

Just another thanks for the hard work, above and beyond the running of the site here. It's an invaluable service to the DIY people. I'm really looking forward to the changes after reworking those shabby Alders I submitted. I can honestly say the entire lot I first submitted ( 4 of em ) sounded like tin cans at that point. A new damping scheme with proper handmade pads should hopefully show some radical changes. I know I hear a difference far beyond anyhow.
If those graphs never got done it wouldn't have given an extremely crappy baseline to work from, so in that sense it's great!

I'll send all 4 back again. Of course I'm paying the return shipping arguments!

Congratulations to all !
I had a sneaking suspicion those Aiwas would be the thing to beat after first seeing those graphs.

And those popsicle stick shelled ones! That's quite a departure from the open backed Sony 150's I saw they made before.

Kabeer's picture

Thanks Tyll for offering the service of DIY-ers to see their cans measured, thats actually the reason i initially wanted to send my cans in myself to see what my DIY ears heard translated onto paper, and to my suprise I won a prize :).
Thanks so much for your service to the DIYortho community.

sankar's picture

Well deserved. Tyll, I am pretty sure Kabeer can put the LCD2 back together again.

Kabeer's picture

Thanks Sankar :), nice to hear from you.

4nradio's picture read that I had won a prize in the DIY "coolest looking" headphones category. That's just icing on the cake as the real fun was in the making of the "FrankenTex" orthos.

Thank you for your efforts to promote DIY headphone building and measurements. Your contribution is unique and appreciated.

rhythmdevils's picture

It has been really fun having a concrete goal while working on different orthos for the past year. I only wound up able to send you one in time, but it was well worth it, and really cool to see something I've worked on with nothing but music and my ears measured on paper!

Also very cool that you're reaching out to DIYers obsessed with decades old headphones. Cool to see such a broad range on your site.

ultrabike's picture

I have seen rythmdevils, Kabeer, dBel84, and LFF posts here and pretty much almost every forum site related to headphones. Haven't heard much from the other participants, but that is more likely from the fact that I'm very new to all this. Learning a lot from Tyll and guys like you. IMO you guys maybe hobbyist, but commensurate to professionals. I will say GREAT JOB!, not much because I feel you guys deserve some back patting or encouragement, but because I've learned, and continue to learn, from your work and posts.

In the past I have read about the "objectivist" and "subjectivist" "school of thought" when it came to audio. It seems that a new more balanced and realistic "school of thought" is becoming increasingly popular, and results show.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
"In the past I have read about the "objectivist" and "subjectivist" "school of thought" when it came to audio. It seems that a new more balanced and realistic "school of thought" is becoming increasingly popular, and results show."

^^This ... is one of the things I hope greatly for.

Willakan's picture

Let's not forget that other things are rather less complex to characterise than transducers.

LFF's picture

Thanks for everything Tyll. This competition sure was fun!! The prizes are much appreciated and many congrats to Kabeer!

Currawong's picture

I understand more now why some people are so obsessed with the old-school orthos. I was surprised how well some of them could be made to sound. I have an old pair of AT orthos here which I might try modding sometime.

ultrabike: You're absolutely right. I'm always disappointed to see people who treat science as some kind of religious arbiter of truth and they put down people who don't subscribe to their view, when really its purpose is to help our understanding of ourselves and the world (and universe) around us.

More importantly, it should be for fun! That's why we listen to music!

sgrossklass's picture

"I'm always disappointed to see people who treat science as some kind of religious arbiter of truth and they put down people who don't subscribe to their view, when really its purpose is to help our understanding of ourselves and the world (and universe) around us."
Uh... "religious arbiter of truth"? Few things could be further apart than religion and science. Religions have a lot to do with humans and not much at all with an accurate representation of the world around us (in spite of claims to the contrary). Of course there'll always be those repeating viewpoints in an unreflected manner ("sheeple"), in any camp. That's a fact of life.

In any case the scientific camp has generally had a far better track record in terms of getting the methodology right and obtaining reproducible, meaningful results. Science thankfully is one of those areas where, as soon as you do things right, they start to work (miraculously, one might be tempted to say, but of course miracles are firmly reserved to religions).

Subjectivists seem to subscribe to the diplomatic "all OPINIONS are equally valid" philosophy regardless of how these were formed, i.e. there is no inherent quality control. Opinions tend to be all over the place, which equates to large sigma or a low signal-to-noise ratio (hence people will instinctively form a network of others whose opinions they trust in order to get S/N back up).
Even in politics it's perfectly clear that everyone's statements cannot all be true at the same time, especially as they pertain to the real world.

If there is an "objectivist" counterpart philosophy, it would be "everyone's OBSERVATIONS are equally valid when getting conditions right". IOW, someone who couldn't think straight if their life depended on it can still make a perfectly valid contribution in a scientifically conducted test (with all the little ifs and buts involved - proving a null hypothesis in particular tends to be a real pain).
It should be no surprise that participants' experience very much does count - the folks at Harman found that audio professionals (those who make a living with their hearing, studio folk and such) picked up subtle differences a lot more reliably than the general public. Hi-fi sellers still fared a little better than average Joe, and self-appointed "golden ears", well, they pretty much didn't do better at all (i.e. results are all over the map).
IOW, the average "golden ear" essentially trains their hearing with random input, and as anyone in the field of learning will readily tell you, that just doesn't work. Rules (regular patterns) have to exist before they can be extracted.

Now especially in the field of headphones, there still is a large amount of things one can pick up even without scientific rigor (hey, most people seem to get through everyday life just fine like that). Still, results tend to be of better quality with it, so if you're interested in that, there pretty much isn't a way around scientific methods. You can call 'em a toolbox.

ultrabike's picture

I don't mean to come across as a condescending know it all, but rather as a dude with a passion to contribute... even if sometimes even I don't understand what the hell I wrote... and come across as a condescending know it all to myself. That said take the following with a grain of salt, 'cuz it comes from a fellow human being :)

I believe both religion and science are human.

Classical Mechanics do an OK job, but Quantum Mechanics just kicked its butt @ the micro level. And man does it rely on probabilities and uncertainties.

I subjectively believe a dark can does not sound good, a bright can sounds great, and too bright a can is unbearable (glad I can eq the DT990).

I can tell in a blind test a Fostex T50RP, from a Beyerdynamics DT990... a Koss KSC75 from a Sennheiser HD202... a Grado SR60i from a Sennheisser HD518... Apple earbuds from Audeo PFEs. It is not subtle I can tell you that... For me, it is harder to tell a B&W 683 from an Energy CF-70... At Best Buy's Magnolia demo room... But that's just me (I probably haven't heard enough speakers... with enough music).

I believe you can tell a lot of a headphone by looking at its SPL impulse response, THD, and isolation impulse response. But not all, I don't know how a can with a 3 dB emphasis in some region of the midrange will compare to another almost identical can without it. Less straight forward is what you like... Most of us can objectively quantify what overweight means (may be based on the average, median or some other arbitrary measure), but are you a butt man or do you like 'em melons... Subjective no?

scompton's picture

I'm shocked I came in 4th. It's interesting how some that don't measure as well sound good, such as Don's Wharfdale. I also listen to the T30 much more than the T20 that measured better.

Somehow I missed some of the reviews. I'm going to have to go back though old posts. I'm especially interested in the SE-500 I see in the picture at the top. The measurements look a lot better than I thought they would.

rhythmdevils's picture

I got my PX-200IIi-IV-i-2 in the mail today! Thanks Tyll! Looking forward to listening to them. :-)

jerryshaw88's picture

DIY headphones is always one step ahead in industry, Their best quality sound and antique designs make them eye catching and gives superb quality of sound. We at How to No No appreciate the DIY winning contest.

prem's picture

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