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May 19, 2016

Massdrop x Fostex TH-X00 Recable - Removable Mod

I was quite excited to head about Massdrop and Fostex teaming up to offer the TH-X00, a headphone created by the same OEM company that produced headphones for Denon (the legendary D2000, D5000 and D7000). I still to this day feel that the D2000 was the best headphone in this price range, and the D7000 is still an amazing sounding headphone compared to the latest and greatest. With this Massdrop Fostex team up, audio enthusiasts would be able to get very solid drivers that are similar to the Denons with luxurious wood cups at a very attractive price point.

An interesting phenomenon with the Denon headphones was that they were extremely receptive to a new cable (despite the stock cable being fairly decent construction). In fact the sound changed more than any other headphone I've heard, aside from the HD600, which was close (try a solid silver in teflon cable and a Cardas copper cable side by side with that one). The TH-X00s seem to follow that trend from my brief impressions (had to get them back to a client quickly).

I found the Zynsonix Xev had nice synergy with the D2000, opening up the highs and adding coherence, so that's what was used with the TH-X00s. The Xev is a silver clad copper design which has a detailed signature. It's hand braided, which you can see below, from a four wire litz braid to two twisted pairs, then sleeved with a soft black non-microphonic sleeving.

Hand braided Xev cabling

This particular headphone would have a removable/replaceable cable cable option, so whenever there is an option, I prefer to use 4 pin mini XLRs. They have a great connection, lock in place, and are used for many Audeze headphones. Since few headphone manufactures use the same connectors, we can try and standardize to some degree, so this design would not only be able to use Audeze cables, but the cable could also be used with Audeze headphones. For that to happen, the pins need to be shorted on both sides (male and female), note the small piece of bus wire connecting two pins below. You can learn more about this in a previous post.

Shorted pins for Audeze compatibility

You guys have seen me build enough cables, so we're not going to cover that, but how the wire is attached internally in the Fostex TH-X00 headphones. The pads have four plastic connectors that fasten to the cups, twisting them to the left allows them to be removed quickly and easily.

Fostex TH-X00 with removed earpad

Four screws need to be removed to remove the wood cup from the frame, then another four screws are removed to separate the driver and wood cup. 

Removing the cup from the frame

The existing cables feed in through the frame, go about an 1/8th of a turn up the cup, then enter the driver chamber. At that entrance point the cable is tied in a knot and there is a bit of epoxy/rubber cement that holds the old cable in place as a strain relief system. It's important to recreate this with the new cable to prevent damage to the soldering tabs on the driver from an inopportune yank. I personally use a special adhesive gun that creates a plastic-like joint holding the cable firmly in place. The wire is soldered to the top two pins, the red marked one being positive, the other negative. These joints should be quickly formed to avoid harming the driver and/or the thin wires leading to the diaphragm. 

Interior driver view with strain relief

While everything is taken apart, it's a good opportunity to add a bit of mass damping to the inside of the wood cup. Dynamat Xtreme, or other automotive based damping materials work here. This helps tighten up the bass. Tweaking the amount can be to preference. Since the cup is nice solid wood, only a moderate amount is necessary. Were it flimsy plastic, it would likely need a lot more. 

Dynamat Xtreme mass damping

The headphones are reassembled the same way they were taken apart. The "pigtails", or little dangling mini XLRs may look like they'd get in the way, but with the headphones on your head they are very hard to notice. Flexible joints assist with that. Removable cables are great for people who like to experiment with different cable types, lengths (portable vs. home), use one cable for multiple headphones... or who have teething pups or curious felines. The Xev is actually pretty strong against cats :)

The finished / modded Massdrop x Fostex TH-X00

If you've taken the plunge on a sweet set of Massdrop x Fostex TH-X00s and are itching for a recable, please check out Zynsonix Audio

The Fine Print:
The above steps detailing the modification and re-cabling of a headphone are for entertainment purposes only are not intended to be instructional. 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.

May 10, 2016

Bowers and Wilkens B&W P5 Audio Cable

The Bowers and Wilkens P5 is a luxurious looking portable headphone with some nice comfy pads. Unfortunately B&W did not make replacing the cable with something custom very easy. First, finding a plug to fit into the jack inside the cavity behind the ear pad requires trial and error, ordering small connectors from overseas and hoping that they fit when they finally arrive. The second matter is getting the wire to fit in the tiny little tributary that leads to the bottom of the unit. However, if you are patient, it is possible to overcome these obstacles. Below you will see the unit with a single pad removed and the dis-connectable cable exposed, note the silver area where the cable feeds through.

Bower and Wilkens P5 headphone cable

The first task was to find a small bodied 2.5mm connector that would physically fit in the unit. For this you pretty much have to spray and pray, ordering generic (no name brand) connectors by eye from AliExpress or eBay and hoping you end up with one that fits a couple weeks later once it crosses the pond. I found a unit with a set screw on the barrel that fit perfectly. Do note that the extended slim barrel typically used for mobile phone case clearance was necessary here to go through the "pinched" area near the jack.

Narrow bodied 2.5mm connector

You could also use a connector with a larger barrel, but leave the barrel off and use heatshrink over the area the barrel would normally cover. Be very careful with the amount of heatshrink used and the length as the cavity doesn't give much room for error. The below images will give you an idea of how much I used, and even then, when the barrel was screwed on, I needed to reheat the heatshrink to give it a mild angle downward to fit.

Small bodied 2.5mm plug with barrel

Three runs of 24 gauge Trebuchet wire were used, and there actually was not enough clearance. The dielectric needed to be heated and pressed several times to fit into the "tributary" that leads to the bottom of the 'phones. You can click the image below to zoom in and observe the tight clearance. I'd recommend 26 gauge wire with thin dielectric if you have the option.

Once all is said and done, a big bottleneck is removed from the P5 and your ears will thank you for it.

If you'd like a custom cable built for your B&W P5 (or any other custom audio cable) please visit Zynsonix Audio.