I'd love to measure more classic headphones.

Changstar.com member takato14 has recently been sending me a variety of vintage headphones. Wow, it's amazing to me that headphone were that bad back in the day. I remember them as being better. It's got me wondering: Were there any good cans before 1985? I'd love to see if we could find some.

Here's some headphones of particular interest to me. If you have a pair that's in fairly good shape, I'd love to measure them.

  • Sennheiser HD 414
  • AKG K1000
  • Beyerdynamic DT801 and DT901
  • Original Koss Pro4AA, with liquid filled ear cushions.
  • Sony R10

If you have any of the above, or other headphone that just hasn't been measured and posted on the headphone measurement download page, just go to this thread and follow the instructions and we'll get it done!

tony's picture

Dear Tyll and everyone else,

Some time ago, Tyll mentioned he wasn't allowed to Eq Headphones.

Another time I've read of folks Equalizing a bit to "correct" a weakness of some particular transducer.

Years ago I represented Thiel Loudspeakers designed by Jim Thiel (rip), Jim loved to include an EQ box for his Speakers.

So the idea of Equalizing seems reasonable and legit to me.

Yesterday, an Old gent petitioned me to assist him in getting one of his music systems operational. He had a BSR 110X sitting there, not in use. I borrowed it and connected it in front of my delightful little Schiit Asgard 2 Amp .

I went to Tyll's response graphs for the HD580s (that he ran some time ago). I took those data an set the BSR to correct for the Bass Roll-off and 6k dropping off.

Phew, a transformation to delight.

I can bypass the Eq with the push of a button so I can easily hear the transformation.

I intend to leave this Eq device in my little system for a month or more before I give my final opinion but I can tell "Right-now" this is a significant improvement/change.

Of course I couldn't have done it properly if I didn't have access to a reasonable representation of the HD580s actual performance.

These 20 year old Sennheiser HD580s bloomed into something wonderful, they are quite good without the EQ but darned if they don't transform in 100% "keepers" with a bit of EQ.

Thank you for the measurements Tyll,

Tony in Michigan

Ps. I'm payen 25 Cents for each informed opinion on this matter of EQing headphones

zobel's picture

and it won't cost you a penny. This is crucial Tony, and probably something you already know; If EQing the frequency response of your cans sounds better to you, then that simple tweak is totally recommended. For that matter, anything you do with your system that makes it sound better to you is what I would advise.

For Tyll, reviewing headphones has to be done as they are, without modifications, or EQing, or any other special treatment or condition of operation, so that every user can get a taste of the product as delivered. He can't open up the can of worms of trying to test cans in the unending variety of tweaks they can be subjected to, even if it were possible to do that. Tyll will encourage anyone to modifying their cans in anyway they are feel inclined to, as long as they are aware that some mods are irreversible, and may be fatal to the headphone. EQing is safe of course, and can provide hours of fun coming up with just the right settings for your system and tastes. Don't be surprised though, if you find it difficult to settle on just one setting for all of your recordings, even through the same cans and player/amp combos. If you like to fiddle around with your sound, this can be a good thing. Guys like Bob Katz like to fiddle around with the sound, and are good at it. People pay him to do just that, and he produces masters of the highest quality if people let him. Since you have so many great recordings Tony, and good ears and playback gear, you can really appreciate a good recording, and can identify poorer efforts easily. Just make yourself happy with whatever tweaking you do. And keep posting here! It is fun to get your takes on tunes and gear.

zobel in Montana

tony's picture

Ok, thanks for writing.

My initial observations are holding. I'm in the excited discovery phase now.

Time will pass, I'll discover if my ears adjust to the magic.

I think i'm discovering the HD580s dynamic transducer can be tuned and I'm thinking that the Bottlehead Crack does much of what this little EQ device is doing.

I am also beginning to understand that all this modding of headphones is an attempt to tune and optimize.

Dave Wilson suggests he "Listens" to his loudspeaker designs and "carefully" adjusts the Crossovers, I'll bet he's doing just what I'm doing with my crude tools.

I'm now thinking the HD580/600/650 transducer is more capable than anyone has suggested it to be. The same may be true of other headphone transducer elements as you suggest the modifiers are exploring.

Thanks again,

Tony in Michigan

"a mediocre headphone tuner"

Eli's picture

Hey toni
EQ can really help. I recommend you go all digital though and abandon the anlog model you are currently using at some point in time. Use a software equalizer if you are using a PC or Mac or a digital EQ Box (lookup Behringer and NanoDigi). You can start with a graphical EQ like you are doing now, but a parametric equalizer will give you better results. If you are using a mac you can eq all output of your system with a combination of soundflower and audio hijack pro and a plug-in equalizer. You can insert any number of plug-ins you want into your signalpath, I for example use a plug-in called BC Gain from Blue Cat Audio to compensate for my left ear which hears not quite as good as my right. I therefore attenuate the right channel by 2db. Try it, you won't go back.

tony's picture

Thank you for suggesting all this. I'm taking "Baby-Steps" for now, I'll venture further afield in Time.

Jonathan Scull wrote me a note to recommend Duke Ellington's "Jazz Party" Album, it is an A+ recording, it just arrived this AM.

Tony in Michigan

tony's picture

Hello again Eli,

I think I agree with you.

I'm gonna continue with this un-scientific exploration, I've an eye out for a parametric .

Still, I'm trying to get away from being tethered to my electronics.

I need freedom of movement.

I haven't yet discovered any user interface to equal my iMac's 27" screen running iTunes, maybe the upcoming iPhone7+ controlling a player device.

I am hopeful and patient.

Tony in Michigan

tony's picture

Here I am again relating my fresh experiences from Eqing my aging Sennheiser HD580s .

I'm going thru my "B" grade range of recordings to discover if this new Eq change has any realistic affect on my lesser music.

I'm reviewing my entire collection of B's , assigning them either a down-grade, a no-change in rating or are they now worthy of an Up-grade to A.

So far :

None deserved downgrading,

About one third are no change,

With two thirds 2/3 clearly show themselves deserving of up-grading to A level.

I can even up-graded "a small few" Vintage Art Tatum from C/D to B for musical reasons ( big surprise here, Tatum stuff is rather horrible but important for historical reasons ).

I've had to keep Amon Tobin Electronic music at B level until now, about 50% of his stuff got upgraded to A , for delightful musical reasons.

I'm considering this to be supportive evidence in the case for Eq use in my little world of headphone listening.

So far: Eqing is improving recorded music.

Tony in Michigan staying-up late again

wnmnkh's picture

I clicked "this thread" and only forum frontpage shows up. What's the thread.

By the way, while I do not have HD414, I do have HD424 with shiny new pads. It's original 2000ohm version. As far as I heard, HD424 is far better headphones than HD414.

ultrabike's picture
Wanna see how they fare! :)
Tyll Hertsens's picture
I fixed the link. Sorry.

You should be able to get to the thread now, I'd love to measure your headphones.

markus's picture

Don't forget the vintage Stax! The SR-5 Gold I got for 150 bucks rocks heavily. I don't live in the U.S., sorry I do not dare to take the risk and cost.

Ali-Pacha's picture

I've a plenty of vintage Stax (Sigma Pro, Gamma Pro, SR-5, SR-5 Gold), but wouldn't take the risk neither since I live in Europe. Any generous american soul ? :D

BTFYaroslav's picture

I hope you'll measure two pairs of the AKG K1000 to put an end on those speculation about bass heavy/light. One pair under 4000 and one above 7000

hanshopf's picture

It does not really matter which pair he'll get his hands on (mine are between 4000 and 7000) because they sound very far away from neutral, and one can be quite sure that different colorations will only make a relatively minor difference to that disturbing fact (they are VERY bright, AKG sound signature - which already is far from neutral - at its worst). One can be happy with them due to their unmatched soundstage after careful equalizing. Just my two cents... .

BTFYaroslav's picture

I can't agree with you at all. I myself have a pair (8xxx) and it's not even close to being that bright. I can enjoy listening to it for many hours without any fatigue. I've heard many really bright headphones like the German Maestro GMP400 or some phones from Beyer (990 Ed as far as I remember)and have not been able to enjoy music at all and the K1000 is not the case.

hanshopf's picture

If there really should exist editions of K1000, which differ to that remarkable extent, I'd of course stand corrected! Nevertheless my assumption is that both of us have different opinions to what "neutral" means in that context. This would not be unusual as is proven by many recordings engineers who have got K701 or K702 lying around in their studios, which at least in my opinion are far away from being neutral.

hanshopf's picture

Probably I might ad, that they are not tiresome for me either in their natural state. But I believe that this has something to do with their tremendously open and remarkably speaker-like sound, despite their very bright signature (at least to my ears).
The most neutral headphone I have ever heard until now is HD600. The Focal Spirit Professional, which Tyll called his most neutral headphone experience (if I remember correctly), is a bit bass-heavier in the bass as what I'd still call more or less neutral.
Hopefully the future will give as capable EQ tools. I believe the guys at Sonarworks who commented in the first post of Bob Katz, ware working on this. Others surly will follow and help us to bring our headphone experience to perfection.

mikerr's picture

I have a nice pair of Koss Pro4AAA ....I have taken very good care of them and I used them up until 1 year ago! I used to love them until I got my Sennheiser 650's. LOL

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I'd love to measure them. Let me know.
cspirou's picture

I have a pair of original Sennheiser HD 250 Linear at 600 ohms that I got off ebay. They have some weird DIN cable termination with a 6.5mm adapter. I figured it would be easy to convert them to balanced but I can't find the DIN connector anywhere. The headband has a crack in it but the sound seems perfectly fine.

tony's picture

Dear Tyll and everyone.

Lately, I've been working with headphone transducers & methods to optimize them.

I'm referring back to you're data sheets.

This very morning it hit me: You're work in this ares is quite a bit like Wikipedia.

You've created a treasure of important data and you seem to be an "Eager Beaver" at getting to the un-measured headphones.

I'm coming to think of these transducers in headphones as "singing voices" such as: Reba or Michael Bolton or even as musical instruments as in pianos from ToyrUs to Steinway's Grand Pianos.

I recall one RMAF Seminar ( the first I'd seen ) where you passed around a large notebook filled with data collected. I've been following your work since. I think I'm seeing you having a "long view" about all this and I'm feeling you to have a position of integrity. Without the "light" you shine on headphones most of what we read would be one Cloud of Marketing after another.

I see your light.

Thank you,

Tony in Michigan

DisCHORD's picture

You did say the K240 Sextett was good, didn't you? Also the original Stax Lambda cane out in the 70's iirc, the original Fostex T50 was released in 1978, and Yamaha released their first orthodynamic cans in 1975... MB Quart is said to have made some pretty good cans, like the Jecklin Float electrostats. I know there's some good cans out there from that era. Just will take some digging to find, and then some more to find a pair to measure.