I finally built some headphones

Well, I got so deep into modding and so persnickety about all the headphones I own that the next logical step was to just build my own. Happily I’ve now finished an engineering prototype of what I’m calling the HH1. The final grills will be metal, the final headband wood, the final strap thicker, and I might try walnut instead of ash for the cups, but the geometry, mechanical design and most importantly tuning are in pretty good shape!

For now, I’m just enjoying listening with them and making final tweaks to the front damping.

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Crafted with care.
Looks fantastic!

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The HH1 looks beautiful. You’re clearly very talented.

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Neat! Congrats on getting your prototype complete. what kind of sound were you targeting with them? What type of driver did you use?

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I was targeting something that “sounds good” to me, that’s comfortable on my head (not too heavy, not overly clampy) and that looks nice. My baselines were the HD58X, LCD2C and to a lesser extend the DT 1990. I’m shooting for something that

  • Sounds natural with a neutral to neutral-bright signature
  • Has decent bass presence but more in the audiophile sense, meaning good sub-bass extension and punch, but without sounding bloated
  • A well balanced mid-range presentation, with clear vocals and lead instruments that fit into the mix rather than standing out from it
  • Reasonably energetic but non-fatiguing, which for me primarily means that it’s got to have decent upper midrange presence but it’s better for the upper mids to be a tad recessed rather than a tad overemphasized
  • Clear and sparkly treble without becoming sharp

I’ve come a long way to wards hitting these goals. The main area where I’m still tweaking is the treble, which is already less sharp than the DT 1990 but which I’d like to tone down even further if I can without sacrificing detail.

I’m using a 50mm moving coil dynamic driver with a composite paper/plastic cone (AFAIK it’s the same driver as in the Aurorus Borealis). It’s been really interesting playing around with the damping. The driver makes the sound, but the bulk of the tuning is actually in what goes around it. Just the bare driver with random pads and no custom damping sounds terrible, but with the right pads and damping things really come together.

Measurements don’t tell the whole story, but here’s a comparison of the current HH1 against an early version, along with the DT 1990 and LCD2C. This is all on a MiniDSP E.A.R.S. HEQ compensated, smoothed using psychoacoustic smoothing.

The DT 1990, LCD2C and current HH1 all look like serious headphones, while the early experiment HH1 looks, well, odd :slight_smile:.

The three serious headphones all have pretty good bass and midrange tonal balance up to about 3 KHz, with the DT 1990 standing out as a bit warmer, the LCD2C a bit shouty around 1KHz, and the HH1 a bit laid back in between 2-3 KHz. In the treble, the LCD2C is the dark one, the DT 1990 the bright one, and the HH1 lands in between, leaning towards bright.

As much as the tuning has been a fun challenge, the most time consuming part was actually the physical/mechanical design, especially w.r.t. to making it reproducible for making more of these.

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Looks awesome, great project. Really looks beautiful, and I like your description of your targets and how you arrived at most of the pieces.

I’m curious about the final headband being wood. Will you have do do custom fittings?
image

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No fair, how’d you get photos of my user tests? Somebody must have broken their NDA!

Seriously though, the headband will be a laminated affair, think Eames plywood chair but thin enough to remain flexible.

The other option I’m considering is stainless steel, which would be less work but also less unique I think.

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Very nice work and congrats on the HH1!

“Sounds good to you” is probably the most important thing when introducing a hand-crafted artisan product to the world. And it’s good to hear how this suggests that you weren’t going off of only measurements in your tuning/production.

Stating your baselines and targets were helpful.

I would think that a bit of time/effort/thought was put into:

  • driver material and design/tuning
  • cup material and opening
  • earpad distance, material, angle/opening
  • cup material, density, porosity, weight
  • all things damping

It’s cool to see the progression of the curve from the early experiment to current HH1.

Some quotes that came to mind:

Films are never finished, they’re just abandoned.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Based on what you were shooting for, I noted that Focal and Hifiman weren’t listed as baselines (in no way a criticism, just an observation). Again, I respect and note that it should/needs to sound good to you.

Will units be available to buy by Black Friday jk? Looking forward to tracking any developments!

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Very nice man. Would love to try them sometime in Austin when you get them where you like them.

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Never underestimate how much work metalwork is :wink:

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Yeah, I find they go hand in hand. Measuring gets me in the right ballpark, listening uncovers some specific things I want to tweak, and remeasuring helps me quickly iterate on tweaks before I go back to listening.

Yeah, I’m understanding now why companies constantly come out with new models. I’m going to have to reach a point with the HH1 where I’m happy with “really good” and keep myself open to working on an HH2 that sounds different, but “really good” in its own way.

They both make some great headphones. I don’t have any Focals on hand, but based on my notes and measurements of an Elex, the HH1 is a bit more laid back, especially in the mid bass and around 1KHz. I do have an HE4XX, but I only enjoy it with EQ, so it didn’t make a suitable benchmark.

Haha! If I get this to a place where I’d be confident putting it out there, the next step would be to send out some demo units to collect feedback, and if things look good move to a slow roll out. For now I’m thinking of this as a hobby side business that scratches my creative itch, gets me away from my desk and let’s me work with my hands, but I’m always open to seeing where things lead.

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I came across some posts where ZMF Zach said he used to listen and tune first then measure, and then he moved on to measuring first to get into a certain ballpark and then listen. Sounds similar to your process.

Focal and Hifiman aren’t necessarily my favorite headphones, just noting as they generally are highly regarded.

Thanks for your responses and good luck with your side hobby/hustle! It’s cool being able to blend a hobby with scratching a creative itch.

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If I could double like this thread starter I would.

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Totally cool… What a neat project. They look gorgeous.

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Oh wo those are truly beautiful. Congratulations @pwjazz.

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Good luck with this endeavour @pwjazz. I wish you all the success in the world. Fingers crossed.

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Hey @pwjazz, great work and nice to see you working on something you enjoy!

Good luck with the venture and keep having fun with it!

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Well done @pwjazz!!!

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Okay, treble is tweaked! It doesn’t sound sharp but maintains detail and sparkle. In HPN compensation, it looks like this compared to an HD58X (Green) and Elex (Red):

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This is super cool! Can’t wait for more updates.

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