DIY Orthodynamic Headphones by dBel84

Aw geez ... I feel so lucky. I teared up a bit as I unwrapped six DIY headphones from dBel84 on Head-Fi. The work, love, and enthusiasm of this owner/modifier/enthusiast just radiated from them. I feel so privileged to have people send me their pride and joy DIY cans. It's a very special thing for me personally.

Come, let's have a look at this very personal "personal audio" collection.

Orthodynamic DIY Headphones
A couple of prefacing remarks and we'll get right to it:

I've decided that the DIY cans are so special I need to make a new post each time, rather than simply add them to the first post on this topic here.

I'll simply remind folks that there are three things going on:

  1. I am asking people to send in their DIY cans for measurement so that DIYers have an objective form of feedback to improve their craft. If you have some DIY cans (the contest is now open to any type of DIY can; no longer restricted to Orthos only), I would love to measure them for you. Please contact me at or and we'll arrange it.
  2. We're running a contest for best measuring, worst measuring, and coolest looking DIY cans. Even though I'll be making new posts for DIY cans, they will all still be participating in the contest, which will run until April 1, 2012.
  3. Headphone pRon --- we all love to look at pix of interesting cans, and boy, the DIY cans are so very interesting. All the work and love these cans get as they're built is very special, and is obvious in their construction. There's just something so unique about each one; it's great to see them.

I am changing my measurement routine a bit for DIY cans: I feel very responsible for the care of these headphones, and have decided not to test the THD+noise at 100dB as it simply may be too much for some of these headphones to survive. So you will only see the 90dB THD+noise measurement on DIY cans from now on.

So, without further ado, let's take a look at the very cool DIT Ortho headphones sent in by dBel84.

DIY Orthodynamic Headphones by dBel84
dBel84 has sent in six lovely samples, and has provided a short description of each. I will be showing a pic; posting his comments; then I'll make a short comment and post the measurement sheet. If you click on the measurement sheet image, you will download the full .pdf datasheet for closer inspection.

Zebrawood Wharfedale

dBel84 - Original Wharfedale isodynamic. Driver relocated into zebrawood cups - on a whim. It sounded like it had potential for a closed phone (the majority of my listening). Driver is damped with thick, dense felt (initial Smeggyfelt), cup is lined with Moorebrook cashmere (nothing but the best for the vintage planars). This has become my most used headphone, it has a fairly narrow soundfield but quite a presence. Bass is deep; mids are not as forward as many of the vintage orthos; and highs are a little rolled off. Might sound like I am describing a nasty bass booming headphone but hopefully you will agree that it is a tremendously balanced headphone.

Tyll - Man, I love the look of these cans! Perfect for writing articles on my laptop in a Tiki bar. I found them comfortable to wear and, to my old school eyes, a treat to behold.

These cans measure horribly ... but sound pretty darn good! I'm beginning to develop an idea: unskilled manufacturers may try to produce well engineered headphones that measure well (if we're lucky, sometimes they just design it in the right shape to paint a kitty on), but when they miss the mark, the cans sound bad because they haven't been listening to them intently. When ill-equipped (in terms of their engineering chops and ability to measure headphones) DIYers build cans, they're simply going for something that sounds good. When they miss the mark technically, at least there remains a headphone that's fun to hear.

Such is the case with these cans. I'd say the mid-range is the strong point with these cans. An easy, natural gate is established as the music flows by --- I'm thinking a Martini on the lanai, if you please. I did hear the treble as a bit papery and confused on louder passages, but they didn't suffer the mortal sin of being harsh or strident in the least. In quieter acoustic tracks, finger plucks and gentle cymbal taps were remarkably textured. Though the bass measurements show a significant step down, I hear it as authoritative and tight; quite reasonably balanced with the mids. Very odd. Being hand made, the headphones may prefer a human head, rather than that cold plastic objectivist head in the dark chamber who listens to square waves.

The punch and dynamics needed for kickin' tunes and slammin' bass were there very nicely, though they needed more voltage to reach a solid listening level than even the HE-6 --- very inefficient. You can barely tell they're on straight out of an iPod. Fortunately, even though you have to turn the volume knob way up, the amp doesn't have to strain much as planar-magnetic headphones are purely resistive loads. The result, with the lovely cans, is a remarkable sense of ease.

I think every bit of juicy goodness has been squeezed out of these vintage drivers in a most unusual and pleasing way. So, despite the poor measurements, I highly recommend these headphones. Unfortunately, there's a limited release of one ... and it's spoken for.

Wikiphonia Wharfedale ID1 page.


dBel84's picture

Thanks Tyll , just blown away at how seriously terribly the wharfedales measure. An old curmudgen once said, "Give a listener flat response between 100 and 10000 Hz (with nothing to compare it to) and he'll be perfectly happy. For awhile, at least" Hopefully my while will keep on going as I seriously love those cans. To fill in a few voids re the origin of the zebrawood - they came from a now unobtanium online headphone that sounded like it should for the money and the Telefunken pads were in poor shape , the stax srx were as close as I could match and that is what was on the sample you had. Very intrigued by the HP50 findings as at most small meets this is the ortho loved by most. I had a lot of fun , glad you did too ..dB

svyr's picture

>Zebrawood Wharfedale

those look pretty sweet (like Stax 4070 woodies :D )

UtzY's picture

Talking about Stax, I really want to see how well they measure. I've seen many but I not so detailed like Tyll's. :)

PS: Please Tyll, I know that they aren't your priority, but make this site a one-stop destination for this kind of things :)

svyr's picture

mm, I'd love to see the graphs for SR 202,404, 407,507 and some omegas.

Unfortunately it doesn't seem likely many people will send those in :D...Maybe if Tyll attends meet.

Same goes for high end IEMs btw.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Bringing the measurement gear to meets would be a bit of an ordeal, and the noise level might mess up the THD measurements. I've done it before, but I think it's unlikely again ... but we'll see.

I will get to electrostatics measurements eventually, I promise. It will just be a while.

sgrossklass's picture

I'm quite impressed by the results on some of these. The T-10s could almost pass for an early HD595 (albeit a much less sensitive one), or a DT880-32. Save for the lowest octaves, I'd say these are definitely better than the Thunderpants (which are likely to be limited by their drivers).

Those HP-50s look like they could even use a wee bit MORE damping still, in spite of already being quite insensitive as-is. Not bad at all for a freebie!

Now some of the others clearly measure like yesteryear's technology, but still gems like these show the potential of orthos. Without the whole ortho DIY scene, we certainly wouldn't be seeing new commercial models nowadays.