DIY HiFi Orthodynamic Portable Headphones (aka Ribbon Driver Headphones)

Are you sick of cheapo portable headphones? 
Are you sick of paying $200+ for a decent set of portable cans? 
Do you like Unique Technology? 
Are you DIY?

These headphones use drivers that are Orthodynamic. To sum it up, they are very similar to electrostatic and ribbon drivers in that they are planar. However, one major difference between electrostatic and orthdynamic is that Orthodynamiccan be driven from simple headphone sockets whereas ‘Stats  need several hundred volts for bias. This makes them the best possible candidates for HiFi drivers in most headphones with some costing more than $550 a set. Unlike most headphone or normal drivers/woofers, this type actually has the voice coil printed onto the thin mylar diaphragm instead of attached to the back. This mylar piece is actually then suspended between two strong magnets with holes in them. When a signal is applied, the diaphragm will be charged to go back and forth with the sine wave. Since the diaphragm is flat, there is not peakiness and almost no delay due to “return”. Please see th diagram below for a better understanding.

What you will need:
- 1 Set of FAKE Audio Technica ESW9/ES7 or other 40mm driver portable headphones. (ebay, dealextreme, etc. will have many of these).
- Small Rubber Case feet ~$2 (can also use foam tape circles your gf or mom might have for scrap-booking)
- Extra Rubberized foam ~ $0.50 (you can ind similar at craft stores, just had some extra of this lying around)
- 1 Sheet of Dense Wool Felt ~$0.75 at the local craft store in the kid’s section
- 1 Sheet of looser, Soft Wool felt ~$1.25 usually found in the fabric section with the other felts on the spool
- 2 Kleenex Tissues ~ Free
- Some scotch tape for the driver fronts
- Borrowed Dremel for drilling holes in the cups
- Krylon Fusion Plastic paint in your favorite color (Rustoleam works just fine too) or whatever way you want to paint these.
- 50ft. of 28AWG black teflon coated silver plated copper stranded cable (SPC, can find on ebay as military surplus). I did my cable in an 8 conductor configuration with 2 strands for each channel going to a driver in a tight litz braid. The wire I used is 11 strand, cryo treated, 1000V Teflon, 99.99% pure silver covering 99.999% pure copper. Literally some of the best wire on earth and when done in this way, minimal skinning, thin, and very durable. Bought it as military surplus meant for fighter jets made by Alpha Wire (no on their site).
STEPS:
Unscrew the Headphones and Remove the stock Drivers. Replace them with the SFI (the front of the driver has smoother cloth).  Remove the cups and drill the holes, then sand and paint.
Once dry, place a layer of the damping foam around the edges of the cups and sides of the back of the driver baffle as seen above. This will keep the plastic in check.  Heat up some shapelock with a torch or coffee warmer, then surround the driver edges so that the driver is molded into the plate. Then place a rubber foot over the center hole of the Othrodynamic driver, this is to tame the driver and prevent bulging when in use.
 Place a disc of the Dense wool against the back of the cup (black matched best for me).
Now, place the disc of the Softer Wool Felt into the back of the cup.
Here, you fold the Kleenex so that there are 4 layers of “tissue”.
Cut out the tissue to the shape of the back of the driver and cut a center hole the size of the rubber feet.
Fit all 4 layers over the back of the driver.
Screw the assembly back together and put some tape over a couple of baffle front paper covered areas to prevent air leakage.
Put the Ear Pads back on and Enjoy the Fun!
They will be unique, and VERY inexpensive considering how well they compare to much more expensive headphones and can still be driven with an iPod or such, but still does do best when attached to an amplifier.
You can make these as custom as you want and continue tweaking them! I have been tweaking these for nearly two years now and they are my at work cans since I can hear people when I need to, but they can’t hear my music.
Cheers!
EDIT – POSSIBLE NEW DRIVER SOURCES!!!!!!

 

Comments on: "DIY HiFi Orthodynamic Portable Headphones (aka Ribbon Driver Headphones)" (46)

  1. Hi,

    Great job on the headphones! I was wondering what the bass response is like on them seeing as the drivers are tweeters, and the spec says they're best above 5kHz?

  2. Anonymous said:

    Amazing! Sent here from hackaday.com, I'd love to try your DIYphones, but I'd want to put them in a retro 1979 set of monster Rad Shack phones instead (converted to MP3 but I cant see the stations, should have just used an iPod Shuffle. This will be a great re-work). Let's hook up and hack!
    -KanchoBlindside

  3. Anonymous said:

    Do you have any links to where you got your Audio Technica ESW9/ES7 fakes? Couldn't find anything that looks similar on eBay or DX.
    Thanks!

  4. Anonymous said:

    pretty and smart! nice combo ;)

  5. Anonymous said:

    What am I supposed to do with all this wire?

  6. Bert Keuken said:

    Do these drivers deliver low frequencies? These drivers are advertised as: "best used at 5khz and above".

  7. I hook these up to a BT stereo receiver that is connected to a High end portable headphone amplifier. Made a BT-kernel mod so that my phone always plays at the highest quality 320k mp3 or whatever file format the original file is in (no up-sampling) instead of transcoding to SBC in low bit rates (crappy iPhones!).
    These do better when they have more current. Actually they are the reason behind my third digital portable headphone amplifier I am designing based off of the PGA2311/TPA combo, still needs a lot of work.

    I came across my fake AT-ESW9's when I bought some from an online retailer and turned out that they were fakes. They gave me my money back and told me to keep them. Alibaba has them if you buy in bulk, but otherwise a little difficult to find.

    Navships on eBay sells nice SPC wire very cheaply and you really don't need that much of it here (50ft.)- its optional

    These should all work for fosterphones (shipping included):

    Fake ES7's:
    http://www.focalprice.com/EP610B/Sleek_Design_Stereo_Headphones_with_35mm_Jack_12m_Cable_for_MP3MP4_Black.html
    http://www.focalprice.com/EP610S/Headphone_with_35mm_Jack_for_PC_MP3_MP4_Silver.html

    Fake padded AT's:
    http://www.focalprice.com/EP607B/Fashion_Stereo_and_Bass_Headphones_with_35mm_Jack_12m_Cable_for_MP3MP4_Black.html
    http://www.focalprice.com/EP607W/Fashion_Stereo_and_Bass_Headphones_with_35mm_Jack_12m_Cable_for_MP3MP4_White.html

    All of the Kanen Line should work as they use 40mm drivers, but the structure is different:
    http://www.focalprice.com/EP238X/Kanen_KM880_Stereo_Headphone_Earphone.html
    http://www.focalprice.com/EP612R/Dynamic_Stereo_Around_the_Ear_Headphones_with_35mm_JackConnector_05M_Cable_for_PCMP3MP4_Red.html

    Enjoy Guys!

  8. Anonymous said:

    If you're the type considering a DIY headphone project, you'll eventually have a need for more wire.

    This is pretty cool.

  9. Anonymous said:

    somehow i'm very skeptical that these are of listenable quality. transducers with a flat response do not sound flat when shot directly into the ear, because it bypasses much of the reflections from the room and the outer ear. for this reason headphone transducers are free field, or more commonly, diffuse field equalized.

    orthodynamic tweeters meant to be used for speakers are equalized to have a flat response for frequencies over 5khz or so.

    i would be curious how the freq response graph of these cans would be. my guess is that it wouldn't be pretty.

    headphone design is VERY different than speaker design, and more complex in many ways.

  10. Rusty Stanberry said:

    Sell me a completed set?

  11. I want to do this but am having a hard time sourcing the fake headphones. Any more ideas? Send me an email if you don't feel comfortable posting. Thanks

  12. stacy..how abt utube video of this

  13. Anonymous said:

    They're called "planar-magnetic" drivers. Ribbon tweeters are quite different, and Orthodynamic is a Yamaha brand name — like Kleenex vs. tissue.

  14. I'm 17. What do I have to know to begin to understand what you're talking about?

  15. Brett W. (FightCube.com) said:

    I guess I was wondering the same thing as Owen, the lows really make a song complete. Sounds like a wonderful project.

  16. How did you figure out the right combination of baffling?

  17. Bass is NOT a problem. Remember that these drivers were originally meant to be tweeters and are advertised as such. I described these as ribbon tweeters as well most every pro-sumer thinks of these as ribbon, even Infinity advertises them as ribbons! This was written for most people to get who have some technical skill, not pros.

    For examples of Great Isodynamic/Orthodynamic headphones, see Faust3D's site Wikiphonia
    http://wiki.faust3d.com/wiki/index.php?title=Isodynamic_%28aka_orthodynamic%29

    Isodynamic Headphone Rating Chart:
    http://wiki.faust3d.com/wiki/index.php?title=Orthodynamic_Headphones_Rating_Chart

    Currently, I own Yamaha YHD-2, Audio Technica ATH-2, Fostex T20v1, and Fostex T50RP Isodynamic/Orthodynamic headphones. Modded the crap out of the ATH-2 and gave them to my BF as he LOVES anything 70's. The ATH-2's are portable and run fine off of portable devices, but honestly these DIY cans sound better (even though both cans have similar mods and cables) just from having a bit more detailed sound.

    Iso/Ortho drivers are also a lot easier to fix than most other headphone drivers. You basically bend the metal back, remove the magnets and take out the mylar diaphragm. Then use a bit of conductive paint on a needle and trace together where the break in the driver is. Often times, it is the center connector that has lost contact which can be fixed by conductive paint or a bit of copper leaf on top (brush off excess with a dry soft paintbrush).

    Normal drivers (old AKG's for instance) normally require you use a heat gun very gently to melt the glue holding the mylar drive against the housing. Then, you have to try and find where the break is in the coil. Tha involves unwrapping a wire that is about 0.1mm thick and not breaking it in the process. Hopefully (ie most of the time), the break is pretty close to the positive input and requires only 5-10 unwindings. If it is not too far, then you have to take this metal hair and re-glue, resolder, and completely reassemble the driver. Hopefully it will test within tolerance….otherwise its spent.

    I am not selling anything to anyone, got a full time job and 5-6 projects going. Sorry! Maybe ask a college kid?

  18. quintixbox said:

    Hi Stacy,

    My name is Quinten from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I just stumbled upon your rather elegant mod through Gizmodo (you must be getting a ton of hits at the moment, cool), it sons like a fun project one could sink one's teeth into.
    I currently use a heavily modified Class-T Tripath Switch Mode AMP32-PS designed by Jan F. of 41Hz (link: http://shop.41hz.com/shop/item.asp?catid=15&itemid=39) to drive rewired (separate + and – for each driver) Sennheiser HD600 headphones. If you're ever shy of a fun DIY project, play with Tripath chips, if well used they sound amazing.
    Up until now I've been pretty happy with this very clean sounding rig. My only beef is with the lack of low frequency 'oomph' of the otherwise great Sennheisers.
    What sort of low frequency response do the ribbon drivers you use have?

    Kind regards,

    Quinten

  19. quintixbox said:

    Darn,

    I just saw your last post after posting my question…

  20. A girl that does DIY headphones? That's the most attractive thing i've ever seen! :D

  21. Billy Gee said:

    You Mrs Macgyver! Great post.

  22. @Quinten

    Get rid of the T-amp as they really are NOT meant for headphones at all. The 41hz T-amps are amazing and VERY well priced (built two, one for my Stax that I fit into the Stax SB box and one for my home office speakers). You need a Lot of current and Voltage to drive Senns properly.

    I would say that this would be your best option DIY as all the parts can be found at radioshack. I can send you a PCB trace for a 3-channel one I made if you want to make your own PCB, but it is simple to do a point-to-point wiring job. http://gilmore2.chem.northwestern.edu/projects/showfile.php?file=szeke1_prj.htm

    If you want more gain, you can add a simple Op-Amp front end and 8x gain would be plenty.

  23. awesome

  24. Anonymous said:

    Headphone drivers and these drivers have completely different frequency response. But I suppose most people won't notice.

  25. Anonymous said:

    http://www.apexjr.com/speakerstuff.html
    Has 8 ohm closed-back drivers for another option. Most headphones are between 16 and 60 ohms.

    I have an AudioXpress (June 03) project amp built that does 100mW @ 8 ohms, and 320mW @ 32 ohms,
    (http://s18.photobucket.com/albums/b117/wolf_teeth_speaker/Candor%20HP-Amp/)
    as well as 2 pair of the 8 ohm Apex ribbons, so I may give this a shot…

  26. quintixbox said:

    Hi Stacy,

    Thanks for the tip, that MOSFET circuit looks like the ticket.
    A diagram of your PCB trace would be greatly appreciated.

    As for the T-amp, I know they are far from ideal for driving headphones, but I had this one lying around after I replaced it with an AMP9 for in my car. It was basically a 'can it be done' feasibility project which turned out to sound ok.

    Wow, you actually have a pair of Stax, I love that they're called 'Earspeakers' ;-)

    Cheers,

    Quinten

  27. Anonymous said:

    Can't find the fakes……..dxextreme have nothing even close. Any links?

  28. Anonymous said:

    StaceyD,

    I have just found your blog and quickly concluded that you are an impressive young lady.

    I may have missed it, so can you detail instructions for rewiring the cans? Any tips you have for sourcing quality cable (like your surplus score) would be greatly appreciated.

    Keep up the great work!

  29. Mitch Russo said:

    Congratulations Stacy, you managed to create an interesting project and carefully explain each aspect of it's evolution. Too lazy to actually try this myself, I will keep reading about the experiences of others as they experiment. As a EE, I keep wondering why none of the other female engineering students at Northeastern was as beautiful and charming as you. I can see it now, you probably had a crowd of nerds following you through the hallways, as you walked from class to class. But please keep writing and thanks for your entertaining and informative posts.

  30. Impressive! Still, would have been better if accompanied by not only a bill of materials but a useful source list for said parts. i.e. source and pertinent part #'s. Cool idea in any event!

  31. Anonymous said:

    Interesting, but really.. same cost as a pair of Grado Sr-60i's. This is DYI for the sake of DYI, and if that's your thing, cool, but if you want incredible sounding headphones at a decent price, you're not going to beat Grado with anything homebrewed. Cool project though..

  32. Anonymous said:

    i have some grado SR225s those are a lot more than the cost of this project and these drivers are not only utilizing a different technology but sound as good if not better when amped properly. don't knock it until you try it! as a side note… you don't HAVE to use a pair of old headphones. the drivers are the important part of this project. the old headphones literally just act as a way to hold the new drivers to your head. if you want to get mega DIY you could build your own head band.

  33. Anonymous said:

    Kinda cool.
    I've been wanting to do something like this for quite a while, but also embedding one of these cheapo ipod nano fakes in the headphones so as to make them cordless (I'm unable to find anything decent on the market). What's been keeping me is that I have absolute zero technical know how. Encouraged by this posting I just might take the leap.

  34. [...] here: Stacy Devino / D&#959&#1077&#1109 &#1110t Pew? » DIY HiFi Orthodynamic Portable … Posted: 21 Mar, 2012 | No Comments Categories: Hi Fi Seperates | Tags: | By: [...]

  35. How’s life ?, fantastic website but a tad slow anytime I look around it, it’s generally my web connectivity, I am not certain. Regards

  36. The Riviera Times…

    [...]Stacy Devino / Does it Pew? » DIY HiFi Orthodynamic Portable Headphones (aka Ribbon Driver Headphones)[...]…

  37. Mike Moon said:

    so you probaby get this a lot but… where do you get the ribbon tweeters? That link doesn’t seem to have them anymore.

  38. Hey Mike,

    Try these:
    http://www.ebay.de/itm/Sawafuji-Mini-Ribbon-Tweeter-Dipol-SZ-2T-120-Ohm-NOS-/140721688188?pt=Lautsprecher_Selbstbau&hash=item20c3aa8e7c#ht_1610wt_992

    They are the 120ohm version, which sound a bit better IMO.

    Keep your eye out for a pair of fostex T10’s. If they can be found cheaply, they can be modified and sound better than MANY of the fostex of that era and are not hard to power compared to most iso/ortho’s .

    Good Luck!

  39. Mike Moon said:

    Thanks for that Childofthehorn, So… I thought I only needed the ribbon tweeters. I found those okay on another site but… the fake headphones I found on ioffer.com are no longer in stock. Does anyone have a link to a place that sells the fake ESW9’s?

  40. I am wondering about your bluetooth kernel mod that avoids the transcoding to sbc. Android or apple?
    Also just purchased the 8ohm version of ribbon tweeters, only ones available. Are they going to be driven OK by my galaxy note? Note has around 3ohm output impedance.

  41. I needed to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of
    it. I’ve got you book marked to look at new stuff you post…

  42. Anyone had any luck ordering these from Germany? I’m pretty interested in doing this, but am hesitant trying to order through german ebay. Also, if anyone did, were you able to use your american ebay account?

    • Well… scratch that last comment. I tried to order them and it doesn’t look like they will ship them to America. At least the only one I could find that was still up.

  43. Does your site have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to send you an email.
    I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

  44. daniel mans said:

    hey!
    This is great! I want to make these, but I cant find the right driver on Ebay.. can you help me?
    (living in holland btw..)

  45. What’s up, everything is going fine here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts, that’s really excellent, keep up writing.

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