Audiophile Quality Headphones At A Fraction Of The Price


If you are in the market for a nice pair of Hi-Fi headphones, it is not uncommon to to find price tags in the range of $300-$500. [Stacy] loves her music, but she had no desire to pay that high a price for a pair of good portable cans. Instead, she upgraded a set of cheap, knock-off headphones to near-audiophile quality for less than $50.

She starts off by explaining the technology behind the expensive headphones you see in stores, and why the sound quality is so much better. She says the orthodynamic drivers used in these products produce far better sound due to the placement of the voice coils, and their lack of delay when producing sound.

She found a pair of orthodynamic drivers for $30 and fit them into her knock-off headphones with a reasonable amount of effort. A bit of insulation and supporting plastic was added to ensure proper mounting of the drivers, then the headset was painted and reassembled.

[Stacy] claims that the end result is easily comparable to far more expensive headsets, especially when connected to a proper amplifier. If you are looking to step up your audio game on the cheap, here’s your chance.

30 thoughts on “Audiophile Quality Headphones At A Fraction Of The Price

  1. Those drivers would be pretty sweet for some jackhammer headphones:

    @Stevie, we need to talk. You’re probably not a stupid guy, I mean, you read pretty technical blogs and you posses the fine motor control necessary to operate a keyboard. But when it comes to trolling comment sections, I have to say, you’re no great master. It was a fair attempt, you might get a few white knights jumping in, and maybe you’ll get a little happy feeling knowing you’ve riled up some strangers thousands of miles away, but all in all it’s probably a D- attempt at best. You lack originality.

    Here is some reading material that I want you to study: Come back when you at least posses at least modicum of wit or an original idea.

  2. I’m sure she’d beat him with those ‘phones for saying that. I’d back her up with an extra pair of 1979 Realistic (Radio Shack) monster airport-sized headphones (dual 9v batteries, rare model)

    I love this DIY. I’d have never thought of it, and this is right up my “square peg in a round hole” interest.

  3. I won’t feed the troll.
    I won’t feed the troll.
    I won’t feed the troll.

    Awesome hack. I’m more of an in ear bud kind of guy (I like the superior noise suppression), but if I ever need some headphones I’ll be looking into this.
    Great writeup too, well laid out.

  4. My brother in law is big into headphone modding. He’s done several driver-swaps so far, as well as adding or removing damping materials inside the cans to change the sound. You can significantly alter the sound (for the better, with some experience!) by adding foam, blu-tack, felt and other materials. In fact, I’m using a pair of modded JVC HA-RX300 headphones that he gave me as I type this.

  5. Women not capable of hacks? Jeri Ellsworth ’nuff said. Only problem I have with this hack is how ridiculous it is…Spending time to increase the quality of a pair of knock off headphones to play back mp3 that aren’t capable of producing the tones that the original drivers could handle in the first place.At least she didn’t spend $300 on them so I guess it’s worthwhile.

  6. Any 1337 audiopiles wanna clarify the “delay” thing? Are we talking phase distortion from a frequency-dependent response in the driver? As opposed to “I’m sitting 6 feet from my speaker so the delay is shorter than if I were 12 feet away”?

  7. Srsly, I like how my calling out the post author got deleted in the same breath as the sexist troll.

    Original hack is awesome hack. I’ve been looking for a cheap set of decent headphones, and this is probably going to be a lot easier than being lucky enough to find what I’m looking for.

  8. I know very well how mp3 works,it is a lossy compression scheme.Besides that that any digital “sample” of an audio file has the inherent problem of only being able to produce frequencies of 1/2 the sample frequency (cd is 44.1 khz so the MAX frequency you will EVER get is 20,500 hz) The cheap ass “logic” brand ear buds for $4 in the checkout reproduce that.

  9. Delay thing has to do with the fact that the whole driver is the voice coil instead of the voice coil being attached to the center of the driver. The driver can also be pulled forward and pulled back with the same intensity rather than just back like normal speakers.

    It is easier to think of orthodynamic as closer to electrostatic in terms of driver movement.

  10. Or, instead of spending $30 on cheap headphones and $30 on drivers, you could just buy a pair of $60 Grado SR-60’s.

    You don’t need to spend more than $100-$150 TOPS to get cans that are as good as anyone will appreciate.

  11. @StacyD Interesting, I always thought that normal speakers could both push and pull.

    Do you reckon it would be possible to make your own orthodynamic drivers? I was thinking depositing/etching some thin metal leaf on a suitable thin plastic membrane then constructing some kind of neodymium magnet grid might work?

  12. @hacksaw If you read her blog she clearly states listening to FLAC files and appears to be quite a audiophile. I’m sure she’s well aware of the limitations of lossy mp3’s.

  13. Philips SHS5200

    Frequency response: 12 – 24,000 Hz
    Sensitivity: 106db

    These ARE audiophile quality and are available for under $30.

    I wear them 24 hours a day when I’m indoors. Yes I sleep in them. They are light enough to not pinch my ears. Have been using these and earlier successor for about 8 years and since 1980(nineteenhundredandeighty) I haven’t found anything superior.

    Philips has been making really good electronic equipment since electronics has been.

    Sure, build your own headphones and have fun. But if you want a good cheap pair, look no further.

  14. Anyone have any specs for those drivers? They’re sold as tweeters, and the website says they do best over 5 kHz.

    They also emit sound out of the front and back of the driver.

  15. People that don’t believe in high quality headphones have never heard them. Sure most headphones can produce all the frequencies, but not at the same crispness, distortion, intensity, etc.

    And MP3s will sound better through higher grade headphones than through cheap ones. My friend hooks up his nice 300 dollar headphones to a nice amp through the LOD of an iPod and it sounds amazing, like being in a different world, lol.

    For the average reader, stuff in the audiophile community may not make technical sense, but sometimes it produces different audio, or it may all just be bias.

    For example, people claiming that silver wire is better than copper and offers better sound. Technically it doesn’t really make sense, just like how oxygen free copper supposedly produces better audio, but don’t judge until you try yourself.

    Cool hack, only thing I’m a little concerned about it is how the enclosure/padding effects sound.

  16. There’s ‘good’ headphones that makes some music sound better by way of drivers and EQ that makes certain frequency ranges sound louder than others etc. And then you’ve got actual good headphones that have a wide, and most importantly flat frequency response. These are the sort of cans you’ll find any decent audio engineer working with – stuff like Beyerdynamic DT100s are the standard in broadcast and recording in the UK at least.

    Audiophile stuff is about changing the sound to make it sound better to your ears, not about making things technically better in terms of the faithful reproduction of good audio. And as far as ‘fixing’ MP3 etc with good headphones goes- you can’t polish a turd. If you throw away data via compression you can’t get it back.

  17. @Brian. Not all audiophile stuff is technical garbage, but a lot of it is.

    Getting a decent “audiophile” set of speakers, and very nice amp with loads of current capacity rather than a cheap amp who’s definition of 500W 5.1 ch can only be achieved by driving one channel and multiplying by 5 makes a huge difference.

    For the rest of the claims I will judge before trying it. We live in a world where distortion patterns can be measured in the parts per million range. Voltages down to nanovolts. Frequencies from 0Hz up to 60GHz can be directly displayed. Basically we can measure everything there is about a 0-20kHz signal in the finest detail, yet there has never been a single measurable example of an audiophile cable of any cost being any different to any cable of sufficient size for the job. And let’s not get started on the power cables making a difference on an amp.

    What you hear in a nice audiophile setup is the result of great electronic design, great speaker design, and a nicely laid out listening space. Nothing more.

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