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December 28, 2011

Recabling the Phiaton MS 400 Headphones

There are just some things out there that men inherently love: power tools, fast cars, beautiful women, and carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is one of the most desirable looking materials on the planet, with it's crossweave of woven carbon nanotubes that can be used to build a Formula 1 race car, aerospace technology, or... a headphone.

The BMW Hommage clad in carbon panels

Yes the use of light weight, ultra-strong carbon fiber doesn't really serve some sort of utilitarian purpose on a headphone, but it sure looks awesome. Headphones have become of a bit of a fashion statement in the past few years, with Beats by Dre, House of Marley, Skullcandy and more recently Prada. Nowadays you get to pay for a name, fancy looks, and maybe if you're lucky, more than a couple of bucks went toward making it sound good. One can really only tell on a case-by-case basis and reading the reviews. But I digress; that's a tangent I'd rather not tackle at the moment.

Prada Headphones

Phiaton is a company that seems to straddle the line between style and good sound, making use of exotic materials like leather, burnished aluminum and, wait for it... carbon fiber! They surfaced only a few years ago  (2008) in the headphone arena and offer nearly a dozen product options, many of which are designed for portable use. Perhaps this is so people can see your good taste as you strut by.

As all headphones that eventually make their way into my clutches, these would be taken apart and recabled. The Phiaton MS 400 is here for this purpose. Stock, the headphones sound pretty decent for the price. The overall sound is warm and full. Bass could stand to go lower and be a bit more controlled, and the highs are slightly rolled off. This may sound negative, but overall I'd say the headphone has very good sound quality compared to other closed portable headphones. We'll see if a recable can help at all.

The stock Phiaton MS 400 headphone

Initially, 23.5 gauge red and black Cardas internally litzed copper in Teflon is braided into a four foot cable.

Braided Cardas copper wire

Next, the wire is sleeved with 1/8" black nylon multifilament and terminated with a ViaBlue mini connector. If you'd like to know more about the connector and see the inside, check out my post on a custom mini to RCA with ViaBlue connectors.

Sleeved and prepped cable

Now, the headphone will be opened to accept the new cable. The pads slide off vertically, exposing four screws on each cup.

Headphones with pads removed

Once the driver baffles are unscrewed, they can be removed exposing the solder terminals.

Phiaton headphone interior

The plastic on the inside of the headphone is fairly flimsy and light and will bend to the touch. Some mass will be added using some Dynamat Xtreme. The foam behind the driver is removed and used as a template to cut out the Dynamat, this is placed directly on the bottom, then a strip is run around the driver cavity. 

Mass damping using Dynamat Xtreme

The foam is then placed above the Dynamat is the same place it was initially. 

Foam returned to driver cavity

At this point, the new cable is soldered to the drivers, a small zip tie added for strain relief, and the headphone sealed back up. All done!

Recabled MS 400 Headphone

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this post. If you'd like your headphones recabled with some excellent sounding wire, contact Zynsonix today. 

The Fine Print:
The above steps detailing the recabling of a headphone are for entertainment purposes only, and not to be performed under any circumstances. The owner of this blog and all associated parties can not / will not be held responsible if you attempt the process posted and cause physical harm to yourself, your surroundings or your property. Please keep this in mind.


December 6, 2011

Recabling a Pair of Beyerdynamic DT880 Headphones

Beyerdynamic is a family-owned audio equipment manufacturer based in Germany that produces headphones, microphones and wireless audio systems. The headphones produced by Beyer are very solidly made, I'd imagine the rugged designs have the travelling DJ in mind. Still, the sound produced by Beyerdynamics top-tier headphones is something the discerning audiophile can really appreciate. The DT770, DT880 and DT990 models are ideal choices for the listener on a budget, and if one likes what they hear, there are pricier Tesla-based models that Beyer has recently introduced, namely the T-1, T-5p, and T-70.

The Beyer DT770, DT880 and DT990
The differences between the 770, 880 and 990 are surprisingly not subtle. The DT880 tends to be the most chosen for neutral listening, it is a semi-open design and has the most well-balanced presentation of the three headphones. The DT770 and DT990 are much more bassy, with the heaviest bass response coming from the closed DT770. The fully-open DT990 seems to have slightly less bass and a wider soundstage than the 770. I personally think that the 770 is the ideal movie and gaming headphone, the 880 is the best for analytical listening, and the 990 is good for audio enthusiasts who need a fun-to-listen-to headphone that matches a typical speaker system's bass response. 

While the sound of each headphone varies, the process of recabling them is nearly identical. Aside from the driver and cup design, the headphones appear to be identical inside and out. For this post, I will be recabling the Beyerdynamic DT880 headphones. Below is a stock DT880.

The Beyerdynamic DT880 Headphone

The wire for recabling a Beyer and still keeping the single-entry look takes a little bit more care than a typical headphone cable. When braiding, the wire should go from a litz braid to two twisted pairs about 2 and a half feet from the end. One of these pairs is nearly trimmed off, only leaving enough wire to get to the driver within the cup. The other twisted pair will be run through the headband. 

The braided Beyerdynamic cable
The wire is then sleeved and the long twisted pair gets some heatshrink to distinguish each side. 

Sleeved Cable

Then a four pin Neutrik connector is attached for balanced operation. If you are interested in reading more about 4 pin balanced connectors, please check out my post creating a 4 pin to TRS adapter cable

Cable terminated with a Neutrik 4 Pin XLR

Now that the cable is ready, the first step to getting inside the headphones is to remove the velour pads. These pads stretch over the frame of the cup, so there are no screws to remove, etc. You will notice a number of perforations on the inside of the pads, these holes make a big difference in the sound, covering them adds unwanted reverberation. If one replaces the velour pads with leather, it is preferable (in my humble opinion) to get the leather pads with the perforations inside. 

DT880 pads removed from the cups

The next piece is removed using a typical envelope opener to pry the plastic ring out of the cups. The plastic ring retains the driver and driver surround. Once it has been removed, one has access to the driver terminals. 

DT880 driver and driver terminals

There is generally a marking on the driver to determine the positive side. In this case it is a yellowish gold mark. I take the time to use a multimeter and verify this is the case before snipping off the stock wires. The left driver has three terminals, the center is the right signal which is not electrically connected to the driver but the wire that runs across the headband is connected to this terminal. The ground is also run from the ground of the left driver to the right driver. This is all removed and ignored as dedicated wires will be run directly to the drivers in the recable. This will remove unnecessary solder joints in the signal path and isolate the ground for balanced operation. Below is a photo of the shell of the DT880 stripped and ready for the recable. 

Beyer DT880 Shell

The latest models of the 770, 880 and 990 have a square opening that the stock wire is fed into, This square hole needs to be dremelled out so that it is round, then heatshrink built up on the new cable for a perfect fit. A custom retaining system is set in place to keep the cable from being tugged out of the cup. 

Wires soldered to the DT880 driver

The wire is soldered to the driver terminals with the assistance of engineer helping hands. The wire is then fed through the little grommet to the other cup. The headband is now placed over the wire and sealed back up using the zip-lock bag type mechanism. 

The wire is fed through the little grommets in the cups
The second driver is soldered on the same way, and we have a complete headphone!

Completed headphone

This headphone also has a balanced to single ended adapter so it can be used with both types of amps. 

Another angle
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you'd like your Beyerdynamic headphones (or any other headphones) by an experienced recabler with some excellent sounding cable, contact Zynsonix. Since the 770, 880 and 990 are all quite similar on the inside, each can be modded / recabled the same way. Here's a Beyerdynamic DT990 PRO with a recable with both a standard mini and a Pono output to maximize utility out on the road. 

Beyerdynamic DT990 modded with new cable, mini and pono connectors

The Fine Print:
The above steps detailing the recabling of a headphone are for entertainment purposes only, and not to be performed under any circumstances. The owner of this blog and all associated parties can not / will not be held responsible if you attempt the process posted and cause physical harm to yourself, your surroundings or your property. Please keep this in mind.


Attack of the Miniature Amplifiers!

Two exciting project completions to report today. Click on the links to read the full posts.

The JDS Labs CMoyBB, which is a miniature PCB based CMoy amplifier with bass boost.

...and the Miu Audio RA-1, which I believe is a design based on Grado's famous RA-1 headphone amplifier.

Need an excellent sounding audio cable for your portable amplifier or device? Contact Zynsonix Audio today.

The Fine Print:
Please remember that building circuits and performing circuit modifications can be dangerous to you and/or your surroundings and should only be performed by a certified technician. The owner of this blog and all associated parties can not / will not be held responsible if you attempt a build or modification posted above and cause physical harm to yourself or your surroundings. Many electronics contain high voltages that can kill, and mods, if performed improperly, can be a fire hazard. Please keep this in mind. 

December 1, 2011

The Kobiconn Connector for Balanced Portable Amplifiers

Ray Samuels, one of the most prolific builders of portable amplification, created one of the world's first portable balanced headphone amplifier back in 2010; the Ray Samuels Audio Emmeline SR-71B. Shortly thereafter, The RSA Protector was added to that list. These were the first headphone amplifiers to make use of the Kobiconn 163-157J-E connector as balanced headphone connector. The Kobiconn is a repurposed camera connector from Mouser that ultimately serves balanced duty quite well. The connector has four pins and is relatively inexpensive at under $4 for the corresponding plug, the 163-191J-E. 

Mouser's catalog page detailing the Kobiconn Connector Offerings
A pair of photos of a Kobiconn in the wild

Another connector to watch is the Hirose 6 pin, used in the iBasso Toucan PB1 and PB2. These connectors require a steady hand to solder to and retail for approximately $11 as of this writing. It's hard to say if either of these connectors will be adopted as a standard in the portable amplifier world, or some other option will surface later on. 

When wiring up the connector as per the Ray Samuels website, balanced pins are terminated as follows:
Left channel: PIN # 1 is Positive Signal. PIN # 3 is Negative Signal.
Right Channel: PIN # 2 is Positive Signal. PIN # 4 is Negative signal.

Below is a photo of a Denon AH-D2000 headphone recabled with a short four foot cord and Kobiconn for portable listening.
A Denon D2000 wired for a Ray Samuels amplifier

Below is a photo of an AKG Q701 that was internally recabled for balanced operation using a 4 pin mini XLR, then a cable was made for it with a 4 pin XLR to Kobiconn adapter.

Balanced Q701 with a special custom cable

Need a cable or headphone cable making use of a balanced connector like the Kobiconn or Hirose connectors? Please contact Zynsonix for an affordable and excellent sounding solution. 

The Fine Print:
The above information detailing the building of a cable are for entertainment purposes only, and not to be performed under any circumstances. The owner of this blog and all associated parties can not / will not be held responsible if you attempt the process posted and cause physical harm to yourself, your surroundings or your property. Please keep this in mind.