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Old 17th March 2012, 05:37 PM   #1
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Default Interested in Building a Set of Headphones, but Confused Where to Start.

I've been interested in building my own headphones for a long time, but the more research I do, the more confused I become due to the overwhelming array of design options. Moreover, it is extremely hard to find objective, or at least clear answers to these sorts of questions. In my searching for comparisons, mostly everything I've wound up with was either flavour of the month bandwagonning, suspicious exagerration, or meaningless subjective drivel (that is not to say all subjective opinions are worthless, but words like "breathy," "air," "musical," etc don't seem to have any clear definition). Before I can continue exploring my various options in greater detail, I need to figure out which driver principle would be the best fit for me.

My genre of choice is instrumental music: mostly classical, with the occassional soundtrack. I mostly value clarity, detail, flatness, and accuracy. I have experienced, briefly, the sensation of a large soundstage, which is very awe-inspiring, so that would be a bonus as well.

Here are the various options, with their pros and cons as I currently see it

1. Electrostatics:
Pros:
  • Consistently are praised for their quality in areas I care about most
  • Seem to be the easiest to build (possibly cheapest)
  • Wide array of design options
Cons:
  • Seem to generally lack bass
  • Bewildering amount of variables to consider
  • Must be driven by special amp
Electrostatics were my first choice, but I became worried about bass. I'm not a bass-head, per se, but I do like it to be full. The various options in driver design is both a pro and a con; while it gives me a lot of leeway in making the driver that suits my taste, it also is quite intimidating, and as a result difficult to make an informed decision on. One idea I toyed around with briefly was a sort of hybrid, with a dynamic drive to complement it, like loudpeakers have, but I am not sure that would be practical. I feel like getting the physical design of that idea would be difficult, as well as working out the circuitry.

2. Orthodynamics:
Pros:
  • Most of the things I've read about describe these as sort of in between elestrostatics and dynamics in their nature
  • Appear to somewhat rectify the bass issue of elestrostatics
  • Drivers can be bought pre-assembled
  • Extensive documentation on various mods that can be performed on them
  • Can be driven from regular amp
Cons:
  • Might be more expensive to source parts
  • Issues like damping, and proper mounting of the driver are worrisome
  • Less intuitive sense of their quirks
  • Consensus seems to be that they are not as clear in their sound as electrostatics
The biggest appeal of Orthos is that they don't require a special amp, in my opinion anyhow. All things equal, they would be my choice for that reason alone. However, quality concerns, expense, and lack of a feeling for how they match up to other technologies makes me reticent to choose them.

I won't bother making a pro/con list for this, but I've also thought briefly about plasma style headphones, in a mad-scientist sort of way. I am almost positive that this is highly dangerous, impractical, and implausible, but I thought I would give it a mention. They also seem to lack bass much more dramatically than electrostatics do, so whatever marginal benefit they might have is severly marred by that fact.

Thank you so much for your time!
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