Symphones V9 Build - Random Impressions and a Billion Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by Hands, Mar 31, 2020.

  1. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    @Philimon Asked if I would be willing to test out his Symphones V9 build, which he got from Wabi Sabi Headphones. Given @purr1n's recent love thread on the RS2e, I was admittedly curious.

    The headphones look pretty darn slick:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    He sent them to me with the L-Cush, G-Cush, and these Geekria Large pads. I am not sure if the two former pads are "authentic" Grado pads. I also purchased a couple cheap pads to try myself, after finding my self quickly intrigued with initial testing.

    Given the cups, pads, and all variables in between affect how a Grado, or Grado-type, headphone will sound, it's difficult for me to generalize how the Symphone V9 drivers sounds. But I will do my best!

    - Mild to moderate mid or upper-bass boost, primarily depending on choice of pads (i.e. pad density). Generally more concentrated and with less bleed into the mids than a Sennheiser, so it can sound full and punchy without being as cumbersome at times.

    - Very snappy and very fast. No veil here. I'm sure a lot of this has to do with the often-exaggerated 2KHz area, and some just the nature of the drivers. Very engaging and in-your-face about this. Lots of fun, actually.

    - Can sound balanced, warm, or bright as hell. But there's almost always a lot of upper-midrange liveliness. Surprisingly, this is not nearly as bothersome as measurements would indicate on many pads.

    - When you find the tone you like, these can be surprisingly smooth sounding without being sleepy or dull.

    These remind me a lot more of the HP1000 I heard years ago than they do the SR60s I owned even more years ago (many more years). They are brighter and more aggressive than the HP1000. Less dark and warm overall. But they have more of the sense of refinement I remember from those, whereas the SR60s were grating and rough.

    Major downside? That driver grill. Holy cow is it uncomfortable. Want to use flat pads with a hole in the middle? It will probably sound great, but those grills are hard and kind of sharp. It feels like someone pressing their fingernails into your ears.

    Unfortunately, many of the pads that add some distance between the driver and your ear just don't sound too great. So, take your pick: good sound and noticeable discomfort or nasty sound and...well, I wouldn't say comfort, but something more wearable.

    And, by design, the driver is meant to sit flush with the opening of the cup. This means the grill protrudes out from the cup, rather than being level with it.

    It's a total marketing gimmick, unfortunately.

    Still, there's lots of great things going on, sound wise, with the right pads. Good enough to the point I'm still compelled to listen for stretches longer than I really want to physically tolerate, in terms of comfort, and still playing around with tuning variables.

    That said, I can't answer if a Symphones build might be worthwhile over a mid-tier Grado. I mean, the sound potential is definitely there, and the custom build stuff is fun. All I can really say, then, is that it's not a bad route to take, but can't say if it's the best route to take.
     
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  2. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Frequency Response Measurements of Pads and Tweaks

    Commentary may be sparse. I found all the pads to sound at least...interesting. Not always in a good way, mind you. But interesting enough to warrant showing all the possibilities.

    Using a stock HD6XX as a common reference point in all these. And note that the on-ear nature does make true repeatability difficult.

    First up, the Symphones-recommended L-Cush pads. These are the small bowls. Too bright and not enough bass for me.

    V9 Symphones Build L-Cush Pads Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png

    G-Cush pads, I think sometimes referred to as salad bowl pads. These sounded weird as hell. Interestingly, the 2KHz peak dropped, but treble shot up like crazy. The upper-bass boost could not save these.

    V9 Symphones Build G-Cush Pads Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png

    I've heard some people like to reverse pads. I tried that with the L-Cush pads and got the following. Much better, but still not quite right.

    V9 Symphones Build Reversed L-Cush Pads Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png

    A common mod is to tape the edge of the L-Cush pads. I think this has a lot of promise. The 2KHz bump is mitigated, but there's a treble shelf of sorts that could be addressed. Some damping over the driver might help, which I haven't yet tried with taped pads.

    V9 Symphones Build Taped L-Cush Pads Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png

    These pads are interesting (link in first post). They very large and quite comfortable, though a bit unwieldy for this particular build. The foam in use is surprisingly soft, supple, and bouncy. It's much more dense than you might expect. They're a little bright and tizzy, but not too bad. Decent sense of heft and fullness.

    V9 Symphones Build Geekria Large Pads Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png

    Same pads, but reversed. They're even more unwieldy like this, in that the gimbals like to pop them off all the time.

    Very similar, but this does add more low-end and drop the 2KHz hot spot a bit. Pretty decent sounding.

    V9 Symphones Build Geekria Large Pads Reversed Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2020
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  3. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Round 2 of Frequency Response and Pad Results


    I took those Large Geekria pads, installed in reverse, and added some front damping over the driver: 1 ply TP, the really cheap kind, and a 2mm layer of moderately dense open cell foam.

    This I really quite enjoyed! They sounded full, punchy, slightly warm but balanced, and the 2KHz spot wasn't nearly as bad as it looks. Though you do have to play around with exact placement to get the sound just right.

    V9 Symphones Build Geekria Large Pad Reversed w Front Damping Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png

    Geekria also proves some flat pads with a center hole. I liked these quite a bit too! They're definitely on the thicker, bassier side of things, but otherwise I liked their overall balance. Unfortunately, while the pads themselves are comfortable, they're of the sort that really bring that driver grill up against your ear.

    V9 Symphones Build Geekria Flat Pad w Hole Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png

    I tried the above pads with some foam and fiberfill damping inside the cups. I'll post CSDs later, but while the 2-3KHz hump is still a factor, it's not as sharp and doesn't ring and echo quite so much in listening. Treble smooths out for the most part. Bass is tightened a wee bit.

    V9 Symphones Build Geekria Flat Hole Pad w Rear Damping Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png

    Geekria also offers what I believe is an equivalent to the Comfy pad. Flat, basic, with no center hole. I have not yet had a chance to listen to these.

    V9 Symphones Build Geekria Flat Comfy Pad Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png

    Here's an interesting one. I tore apart some aftermarket Beats Solo earpads, which are pretty small, and stretched the memory foam ring core around the V9 cups. This left me just enough to have the foam grip on while giving some amount of usable cushion.

    Upper-mids and treble went out the window, but the results are quite interesting.

    V9 Symphones Build Memory Foam Ring Pad Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png

    The memory foam experiment above got me curious. I have way to much of this Super Max foam, in 1" thickness, at home. Can't remember why I bought it or what I planned to do with it.

    Still, it's an open-cell foam, and very dense, but not nearly as much as memory foam. Why not try to make some proof of concept pads out of them? What if I went for a sort of flat pad with about 1/2" thickness relative to the end of the cups? And so I did, with these results.

    They sound surprisingly good! I think with the right size, depth, and geometry, these could really dial in the sound nicely.

    Problem is, the foam itself is really firm and slightly scratchy, so not particularly comfortable. :(

    Nonetheless, it might be feasible to get a variety of their other, dense open cell foam types and make pads from those. If something is good enough, and the design not too complicated, they could probably custom cut a bunch were there enough interest.

    V9 Symphones Build DIY Dense Foam Pad Frequency Response vs HD6XX.png
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2020
  4. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    CSDs and distortion results will have to come later. Takes a while to put all this stuff into pictures.
     
  5. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    c'mon Van Gogh- paint the picture faster.
     
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  6. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    [​IMG]
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    @Hands: Have you ever had a chance to try the TTVJ pads. I suspect they would be similar to the DIY dense foam pads? Any photos of this pad?

    Also any more photos of the rest of this headphone? @Philimon: Can I borrow this? Very curious about the latest version of the Syphones drivers; and besides, we all know @Hands hates Grados.
     
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  8. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I have not tried those pads, but would very much like to. I just wish they were not so expensive.

    @Philimon has an album with more pics, but I don't want to hand out the URL without his permission.

    With the right pads, I actually enjoy these quite a bit. :) Save for the pokey grill.

    I'll get pics up of my ugly custom pads soon, yes.
     
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  9. Philimon

    Philimon Acquaintance

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    @Hands please send headphones to @purr1n when you’re ready. purr1n please send Hands your info. I’ll cover shipping if you would provide paypal address!

    I just sent Rhydon of Symphones a PM on HF about joining the discussion. FWIW in my experience Rhydon is a great guy: helpful, thoughtful, and generous.
     
  10. Philimon

    Philimon Acquaintance

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    I don’t know about that. Hands asked to borrow my Grado HF3.

    Edit: I use this flickr account just for public forum posting so: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2020
  11. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    For my Symphones V7 - my simple pad "mod" is to use a KSC75 / PX100 type replacement pad first and then place the L-Cush (Standard Grado Bowl) over those. It helps with comfort and take a bit of the treble-bight off. Clearly this isn't as elaborate as Hands work, but its a quick and dirty that works well enough for me. I am using the TTVJ Deluxe pads on my Symphones / Magnum V4. The V4 actually works pretty well with the deluxe pads, but I still prefer the V7 with bowls.
     
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  12. Philimon

    Philimon Acquaintance

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    Interestingly, @cskippy took some measurements as well but didn’t show 2kHz peak as so strong. And Hands mentions that it doesn’t sound as bad as it looks.

    With the HF3 I sent Hands a couple more pads to try including HD414.

    The L-cush measured in OP are genuine Grado, the G-cush are not.
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Hands measurement rig is is head and ears. @Hands big ears have mega pinna gain, so it shows up this way on measurements. His brain's inverse function likely subtracts a lot of this given that the supraaural on-ear Grados don't trigger pinna gain relative to HD600 or HD800.
     
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  14. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Makes sense. I played around with some EQ on these and found, on some of the darker pads, I only needed maybe a 1dB, 2dB max correction around 2KHz.
     
  15. Philimon

    Philimon Acquaintance

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    You mentioned some ringing at 2kHz that you reduced with internal damping. Is that ringing inherent to the driver or a symptom of cup dimensions or material? Rhydon of Symphones says he will join us shortly so maybe he will share some insights. purr1n in the RS2e thread demonstrated ringing(?) in the lower tier Grado models. And I believe @wormsdriver found that all of Grado’s higher tier models have mass damping applied to back of the drivers. Related?
     
  16. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Hmm, I want to say I've seen measurements of non-Grado drivers in Grado-style cups with Grado-style pads. Similar 2KHz bump on frequency response graphs, at least, so likely some ringing there too.

    So, I'm going to have to answer your question with both a, "Yes to all of the above...maybe," and a big shrug.

    I'd have to do a lot more experimentation with different cups, including entirely different designs, pads, damping, etc. before I might be able to narrow in on most probable causes.
     
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  17. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Here's a pic of the, uh, custom pads I cut out of the Super Max foam. I am tentatively calling these the PP Pads, short for Pretty Pretty Pads.

    pretty pretty grado pads.jpg


    I know, my craftsmanship is astounding. Don't feel bad if you can't live up to this in your own efforts.
     
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  18. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Time for some CSD plots! Note that these are all set to -45dB for the floor!

    Also keep in mind that a theoretical, totally flat response will show how long it takes each frequency to decay to -45dB.

    Since we can see large variations (i.e. spikes, dips) on this V9 Symphones build, it all becomes relative.

    Pad type listed in top left corner of each picture. Ordering should match my FR measurement posts. Will add commentary for specific results.

    V9 L-Cush Pads CSD.png

    V9 G-Cush Pads CSD.png

    V9 L Cush Reversed Pads CSD.png

    Taping the L-Cush (small bowl) pads seems to reduce not just the 2KHz peak but also some of the excess energy in that area. However, given how much the response changed, I can't tell for certain if there's additional energy in the mids and lower-treble than before, relatively.

    V9 Taped L Cush Pads CSD.png

    V9 Geekria Large Pad CSD.png


    V9 Geekria Large Pad Reversed CSD.png
     
  19. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    V9 Geekria Large Pad Reversed w Front Damping CSD.png

    V9 Geekria Flat Pad w Hole CSD.png

    Subjectively, the Geekria Flat Pad (w/ hole) had some sort of upper-mid echo to it that was strongly mitigated by adding some rear damping. It otherwise had a decent response out of the box. The rear damping consisted of a bit of light-to-moderately dense open cell foam behind the driver and a bit of Acousta-Stuf toward the very rear of the cups.

    What's interesting is how the upper-mid hump becomes more broad overall, less sharp. And there's much less of a distinct ridge coming right off that ~2KHz peak, though still some lingering energy in that area beyond the 2ms mark.

    It could also be that, despite a possibly higher 10KHz peak, the treble as a whole became a bit softer and flatter.

    It makes sense to me that, with the driver being essentially vented through a tube rather than a more common, larger housing, reflections play a large role in the sound.

    V9 Geekria Flat Pad w Hole and Rear Damping CSD.png

    V9 Geekria Flat Comfy Pads CSD.png

    V9 Memory Foam Ring Pad CSD.png

    Subjectively, I would have expected less upper-mid energy with the Super Max foam pads. Again, it's hard to tell for certain given the 2KHz peak is lower than most of the other pads, so there's the whole relative aspect. That, and measurement variation could definitely play a role.

    These didn't have that sort of upper-mid echo like the Geekria flat w/ hole pads subjectively.

    V9 Custom Super Max Dense Foam Pad CSD.png
     
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  20. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Distortion results...But, the thing is, the pads all measured very similarly in this regard. So, I'm only going to show results from the Super Max PP Pads.

    As a rule of thumb, any pad that was more dense and/or put your ear closer to the driver had a little bit less bass distortion overall. Makes sense, because leaky pads, or ones that put your ear at a distance, require more power to hit that 1K @ 90dB mark. You're more likely to distort the driver as power increases. (At least, I hope my understanding is correct!)

    Still, the variances here were generally small, enough to where even natural measurement variance could account for the differences.

    However, some notable exceptions to the graph below:

    1. The memory foam ring "pad" had notable distortion improvements in the bass. D2 didn't hit 10% until 40Hz, D2 barely cracked 1% at 35Hz, and D4 was consistently below 1%. It also exhibited little in the way of the slight extra 3-5KHz distortion.

    2. The Geekria Large Pad, reversed, and with front damping over the driver did not have the distortion spike around 3-5KHz.

    3. The G-Cush (Salad) Bowls easily had the worst distortion out of everything I tried. They're also much harder to drive at this level.

    V9 Symphones Build Distortion.png

    And since I was using a stock HD6XX as a reference point for the FR measurements, here's what I get for distortion when 1KHz is at 90dB.

    Stock HD6XX Distortion.png


    I don't know how many HD6X0 pairs, stock or modded, I've measured at home. All I know is it's been at least several, and many, many times over several years. Their low-end distortion no doubt picks up quickly when you go above [email protected] Nonetheless, I almost always get results similar to this, and even the worst results still have far lower distortion than the V9 Symphones build. I'm due to run some tests at higher levels with the Sennheiers, I know.


    That said, I don't think it matters all that much when listening subjectively. The V9 build can definitely sound kind of thick and lack some bass clarity at times, but it's more a little euphonic than particularly sloppy. It still sounds punchy regardless. Maybe distortion plays a role, or maybe not so much.

    There's definitely an element of speed and liveliness on the V9 that you don't get from the HD650, generally. A lot of times, the bass sounds less soft, with better impact, on the V9, but I'm not sure the absolute quality is necessarily better. In general, it's a very gripping, fun listen.

    It could be the way that, on many pads, the bass hump on the V9 sits a little bit lower in the spectrum than where the hump peaks on the HD650. It could be the way it dips down a little further in the lower-mids rather than descend slowly till about 1KHz. The V9 has a more concentrated hump and less of the broad hump exhibited by the HD650. It could be the extra upper-mid and treble energy contributing to more aggressive transients on low notes.

    My guess: It's probably a mix of all the above.
     

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