DIY Orthodynamic Headphone Measurements and Contest

In preparing my article “How Planar Magnetic Headphones Work” I became enamored of the work being done by DIYers building their own Orthodynamic cans over in the "Orthodynamic Roundup thread" on Head-Fi. The blood, sweat, and tears invested in building and modifying vintage Yamaha Orthodynamics, and cans like the Fostex T50RP is simply stunning, but more striking is the sense of fun and camaraderie so clearly evident in their headphone play that I simply can’t resist trying to find a way to enter into the party in some way.

I think I’ve figured out what I can do.

Measuring DIY Cans
One of the difficulties for Orthodynamic DIYers is tuning headphones by ear. We all know how notoriously difficult it is to agree on subjective impressions. That problem gets seriously worse when you’re trying to tweak a pair for better performance. Ortho DIYers are constantly exchanging information and tips amongst the hoard in order to get a read on their own developments and how to continue making improvement, but it’s not easy.

I’d like to offer my assistance by measuring DIY Ortho headphones. I believe this will add another layer of understanding to their process, and provide some objective feedback for Ortho DIYers efforts. If you are an Ortho DIYer and would like to have your cans measured, and their performance added to the database of cans for posterity, you may contact me by PM on Head-Fi (my profile page here) and we’ll get it done.

But! I think it would be fun to sweeten the pot and have a little contest:

The Contest
There will be three winners in the contest. I’ll be the judge:

First Place --- Goes to the best measuring headphone. Winner gets my pair of Audez’e LCD-2s. Yes … the one that’s currently in pieces after taking them apart for the article. I’ll be a nice guy and put them back together and test them before they go out to you with their own datasheet.

Second Place --- Goes to the worst measuring headphones. (This should be good.) Winner gets the best sounding headphones I’ve got available at the time. (Worst case, I’ll have another set of AKG Q701s from the burn-in testing. But I might be able to do better by the time this is over.)

Third Place --- Goes to the coolest looking pair of cans. I just love the steampuck, Beverly Hillbilly, whack-o, and weird lookin’ crazy inventiveness (and possibly lack of style sense) DIYers pull off sometimes. Coolest doesn’t necessarily mean “most beautiful,” but of course, it might. (Same story as above, I'll try to get my hands on something good.)

They have to work and make it through testing. I will play 100dB levels in them for about five minutes for the THD+noise measurement.

You have to have a piece of paper in the box with your: name; Head-Fi name; email address; home phone; and return shipping address.

Your name has to be on the headphones somewhere. I don’t want to mix them up and send them off to the wrong people. Simply scotch taping your name on a piece of paper onto the cable would be fine.

If you pack your headphones with bubblewrap, please do not tape it together. It makes it hard to get the cans out (I don't like using knives near peoples hand made cans) and hard to reuse the packing materials. Thanks.

You have to email me a two paragraph essay: first paragraph is a description of the headphones (headphone it was based on; wood used; damping used); second paragraph is your description of how they sound. Total has to be 500 words or less. Please attach a jpg picture no more than 600 pixels wide if possible. I will post these as add-ons to this page.

You pay the shipping to me; I’ll pay the return shipping. I’m sorry, I really can’t commit to return shipments of international headphones at this time, but if you pay the shipping both ways I’d be happy to do it.

Contest will end April 1, 2012. That way we can be sure to have given as many people as possible a chance to get their cans measured, and we'll have a nice big data base of measurements for the DIYers to work with.

Guess what! We have our first two contestants! Check it out after the video.


ontherivet's picture

Just so there's no confusion here, anyone familiar with the mods being done on the T50RPs will immediately recognize the craftsmanship of these cans.

I did not mod these cans, these are the work of the one and only Smeggy and are official Thunderpants. I am merely the proud owner.

They are great, I only dream of doing such great work!!


inarc's picture

It'd be nice to have a measurement of an unmodified Fostex T50RP (I reckon there are multiple versions) for reference.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
... and I will contact them to see if I can get a pair. Thanks.
shamu144's picture

Wow, ontherivet's thunderpants look really impressive on the paper !

dalethorn's picture

Tyll, you said "Measures as well or better than many commercial cans" for the first item. Would 'many' be orthos or all genres? If you meant all, that is very impressive. The bass looks flat, the highs look normal - the mod guys know what they're doing.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
... I meant that. Smeggy's cans do very well.
donunus's picture

This is probably one of the coolest things to happen in the headphone world. Its like Ortho Idol. In the end we will all see who is in it to win it! LOL

Tyll Hertsens's picture
... it's more about the fun and learning than the competition. Still, it should be very interesting to see the variations in performance and get a feel for what kinds of damping do what on paper.
donunus's picture

Are you going to be posting videos about the various orthos submitted from time to time or is the next update going to be after the deadline?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
... Videos, I'm not sure ... probably some. I will be adding the photos, text, and measurements of all the cans as they arrive, so the article above will just get longer and longer over time. Check back occastionally. I'll also probably mention it in the Orthodynamic Roundup and Thunderpants threads at Head-Fi when additions go up.
smeggy's picture

I always damp mine with newborn babies, so soft and absorbent :)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
... changing felt and stuff all the time get's tiring though, I bet.

Do you have a good diaper service to recommend?


Facial scrub?



Tyll Hertsens's picture
... to see you here Smeggy.

Sorry I didn't know ontherivets was one of yours. Just goesta showya what a n00b I am in the Ortho thing.

So, I'd love to measure some of your stuff. I saw your comment elsewhere that you're disqualifying yourself from the contest. Maybe you should try to build a crappy one and try to beat Duggeh's epic near 100% THD performance figures? (I'm going to have to post that somewhere soon.)

Seriously though, in the contest or not, I'd love to measure your cans as a benchmark. Fucking great job, dude. You really are a wizard with those drivers.

I just measured the latest LDC-2 and I'm stunned ... they're amazing. But they get to start from scratch. You take these drivers out of obscure headphones and squeeze the juice of Gods out of them. I shake my head. Really cool.

Had enough of my fawning yet?

Lemme know. PM is fine.


LFF's picture

Guess I need to get around to finishing my orthos!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I think I'm gonna give it a go myself.

smeggy's picture

it's fun times all round

GrandZechs's picture

So dose the contest part only apply to the DIY woodies? What about people who use doner phones that did not start life as orthos?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Do you have a DIY dynamic driver headphone?
GrandZechs's picture

You bet! I am modding a vintage Stanton Dynaphase Fifty with the SFI Ortho Tweeter. So lots of room to play with to try different damping ideas.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
If you want me to measure them I'd be glad to. PM me on Head-Fi if you'd like.
WhiteCrow's picture

Anybody know where to get ortho drivers?*spare the fostex*

svyr's picture

did you have any luck getting and measuring a stock T50RP?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
... yet, dag nub it.
svyr's picture

awww, darn...I'm semi-considering a T50RP smeggy edition, since it looks to measure quite well, and seems to have the FR I want for classical and maybe rock, but IDK if there's much point over stock T50RP, or is much of the difference placebo over how pretty it is :D

Tyll Hertsens's picture
... then it's not really a placebo, just another kind of enjoyment overlapping the tunes. Nuthin' wrong with that.

svyr's picture

mmm, why would the looks of HP altering what you hear vs the stock not be placebo?
('these headphones are not shiny and expensive, hence they must sound good' :) )

svyr's picture

or expectation bias :D

dye1337's picture

Are these full DIY including the drivers or are they modified magnet planars?