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Superlux HD681-EVO an Evolved HD681 ?

The Superlux HD681-EVO is put on the market as an 'upgraded version' of the still available HD681 (red trimming version).
Superlux makes the following statement about the HD681-EVO:
The best-selling model HD681 is a high quality headset with rich bass, crystal clear high
resolution and accurate sound field positioning. Now the new HD681 EVO upgraded version
has a completely new, more slender shape and an improved smoother, more neutral, treble
tone. The HD681 EVO easily meets the requirements of stage and studio professionals for a
high-quality sound in monitoring headphones.
The HD681-EVO is in NO way reminiscent of the 'original' HD681 version(s). The looks are
different, the cups are different, the pads are different, the headband is different, the cable is
different, the sound is different ,the price is different and the driver is different.
In stock form the HD681-EVO is a very 'dark' sounding headphone, overly 'warm' with 'fat' bass
but indeed doesn't have piercing highs that characterizes the HD681 series. I think in stock
form it may be popular with young people that listen to a lot of electronic music. A few seconds
of listening was all it took to realise this is NOT an HD681 that has EVO-lved or 'improved' to
MY ears and it doesn't have much of the sonic qualities the original HD681 has (except for having lots of bass). Personally I would have
given it a completely different type- number simply because it IS a completely different headphone in ALL aspects.
There are some similarities though and that is.. the cable is also microphonic (but this cable is detachable like that of the HD668B) and the
pads are still a bit 'sticky' and 'sweaty' after a while, they are also made of vinyl (thick pleather). Admittedly the pads are not exactly the
same. The EVO pads are better looking (stitching and mounting method differs) and are also a bit 'softer' to the touch and slightly thicker.
The headband has a thin layer of rubber on the underside with 'air filled cushions' and
is a bit more friendly to follically challenged heads (like mine) than the plastic ones on
the HD681-series. The shiny surface fortunately is not a fingerprint magnet but
scratches will be quite visible. Not the greatest asset when viewing it from professional
usage standpoint where headphones usually aren't treated gently to say the least.
Looks-wise it seems to be targeted at mobile younger people or the classier looking HiFi market though.
Stevie Wonder and Jeff Healey might actually like the HD681-EVO as it has Braille
markings on it, indicating the letter L and R.
People with good eyesight have to recognise L and R
by a very small and hardly visible small R in a
brownish/red circle on the inside just below the small
headband screw. The newer EVO has a clearer R
The cable concept is similar to that of the also well known and liked HD668B. In other words a very short
piece of cable is dangling out of the left cup. It is a single entry headphone cable and just like with the
most other Superlux headphones the two metal rods that are part of the headband construction are the
'connecting wires' to the other driver. The HD681-EVO comes with 2 wires of different lengths which can
also be connected in series making an even longer wire. A bonus of this construction is that when for
some reason the cable is pulled upon it simply disconnects instead of ripping the whole headphone of your head or breaking a cable or
expensive equipment. Purists, however, will frown about these extra connections as well as the EVO not being dual entry, I have no such
reservations and feel re-cabling is only needed if you want different lengths or a more supple or less microphonic cable, not everyone will
agree with me there though.
The big question is if this headphone is worth the price..... well that depends. If you are looking for a headphone that sounds neutral and
doesn't need any modifications I would suggest the HD668B, If you want a more 'fun' headphone with a modern look perhaps the HD661
(although a bit shrill at times) . If you aren't afraid of hot treble the HD681 and HD681-B could make a better choice. Only when you hate
hot treble and love excessive warmth and pronounced bass (as in opposed to 'tight' clean bass) the EVO is a good choice.
In various forums there have been some remarks about the HD681-EVO and it seems they listened and
above all acted on the comments.
Only a few months after it's initial launch an improved version of the HD681-EVO is
already out there. Sound wise it did not change much at all but the newer version has
an improved headband tensioning mechanism. The differences between the tension
rubbers (silicone) are shown on the left. Upper one is the 'older' version, the bottom
one is of the newer version. Another difference is the addition of velour pads, velvet
pads included is mentioned on the box of the newer version.
Another change that is made becomes visible as soon as the pads and foam disc is
removed. The 'acoustic paper' that covers the 6 holes and let some of the sound waves from the rear of the
drivers enter the 'ear chamber'. The differences are shown on the
picture on the right and is the best way to tell the two 'versions' apart as there are no visual clues on
the outside. The differences in sonic signature are negligible in my opinion though. Can't tell if
Superlux also changed the drivers themselves but measurements suggest this is probably not the
case. The addition of the velour pads with NO increase in price is admirable !
Of course, those reading this article will probably like to know IF this headphone can be made to
sound a lot more neutral. The good news is.... yes... it can be made into an excellent sounding
headphone with some effort. With very few extra funds, the modified HD681-EVO will give more
expensive headphones a good run for their money.
Superlux headphones are excellent value for money anyway and can easily compete with MUCH
more expensive headphones. Those that like to read about the HD661 as well as the HD681 and it's
modifications can do so in the article 'HD681.... revisited' and 'Superlux HD-661'.
These articles can be found here: http://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/schematics/headphone/

Some observations and measurements and analysis


A lot has been said about the issue of 'burn in'. All I can say about it is;
having modified many HD681 I have found that some of them showed
poor bass response right out of the box that improved in the first few
minutes and in one case even took an hour. I also found not all HD681
had a similar amount of bass. This is not backed up with hard facts
(plots) but determined subjectively by means of comparing between my
own (modified) HD681 and another modified version. The first test to see
if large differences occur in the first few hours is by measuring the
headphone directly out of the box (magenta trace) leaving it un touched
on the measurement rig. 'Burn it in' with LOUD bass heavy music for
5 hours and directly after that measure it again (turquoise trace) to see if
there are noteworthy changes that would make me think would be quite
audible. I would see a tiny difference (max 0.4dB) in the lowest frequency
range but don't think would be 'clearly' audible. Waterfall plots show no
change as well and thus aren't shown.
The differences between stock HD681 (red trimming) and stock HD681-EVO are shown below.
Green trace = HD681 (red trimming)
Red trace = HD681-EVO (with the felt removed)
From 10Hz to 1kHz they behave very similar, that part could be the
'HD681' in the type number HD681-EVO. Above that point things start to
differ, I guess this is the 'EVO' part in HD681-EVO.
The piercing highs of the original HD681 are clearly visible in the green
trace. They reach similar levels as the lows so the HD681 sounds bassy
and (piercingly) bright at the same time with subdued mids.
The upper mids (from 1kHz to 4kHz) are a good 5dB louder in the
original HD681 making it sound a LOT 'clearer'. Above 5kHz the highs of
the EVO are a good 10dB softer and less 'ragged', a real improvement.
The lower mids and highs make the EVO sound MUCH darker and less
'fresh'. The mids and highs may be 'more balanced' but they are hugely
'overpowered' by the massive amount of lower mids and lows.
When comparing the HD681-EVO without felt and the HD681 one thing is very obvious. While the HD681 driver looks the same (when the
foam disc is removed) they certainly do not measure nor sound the same or even remotely similar. In some fora it is claimed that when the
felt disc covering the EVO driver has been removed the headphone sounds a LOT brighter and is (almost) indistinguishable from the
original HD-681, thereby suggesting the drivers are probably the same. Either 2 'versions' exist or quality control is bad if this were true.
Next measurement... What does the felt do? Blue trace = felt removed, green trace stock (felt on driver).
As expected the felt does affect the highs but not nearly enough as
some people claim it does.
From 6kHz upwards we can see some influence and around 10kHz the
felt seems to dampen the highs by a good 2-3dB. Above 10kHz the
difference is well over 5dB.
Indeed the removal of the felt makes the HD681-EVO sound a bit
'clearer' and a lot 'airier' but the area between 1kHz and 5kHz is still a
good 5dB lower than the original HD681 and unaffected by the felt. As
seen in the plot above the highs of the original HD681 are a good 10dB
louder while the felt removal only yields an increase of 2-3 dB in the
same area. Granted that +10dB of the HD681 is arguably WAY too
much and makes it sound sibilant or harsh. Based on measurements
we can conclude, that when the felt has been removed some of the
highs are clearer and it sounds better without the felt to most people.
We can also conclude that the drivers themselves do NOT seem to be the SAME given the fact that under the same circumstances (no felt
over the driver but foam discs in place) the HD681 and HD681-EVO measure very different from 1kHz upwards.
Most people with experience in modifying headphones will be very much aware of the fact that pads that may look the same may sound
very different, the DT770 DT990 pads are a good example. This raises the next question. Are those differences in the 1kHz to 20kHz
region caused by the different pads because they do differ in material and depth (or height depending on how you look at this) ?
Blue trace = EVO pads (felt removed)
orange trace = HD681 pads (felt removed)
As expected there are some differences but not in the 1kHz to 5kHz
region, some differences are seen above 10kHz but could also partly be
a measurement artefact because of slightly different positioning. What
differs mostly is the lows.
It seems the HD681 pads absorb some of the energy between 10hz and
500Hz resulting in slightly (2-3dB) less bass. So a slightly less 'dark
sound with HD681 pads. The EVO pads thus seem to contribute a bit to
the massive bass and 'warmth' signature as well. The sharp dip at 4kHz
(reaching -20dB) did not change which also seems to confirm the idea
that the drivers indeed DO differ. The substantial measurable differences between the two models do not seem to be caused by the pads nor
the felt and appear to be mainly a driver issue.

Pads what can they do ?


Personally I don't really care much for pleather pads. They tend to flake as time goes by and they are used intensively or 'harden'. Also
they feel quite hot on your ears and become quite sweaty after a while. Velour pads have a nicer feel so it stands to reason to find out what
other pads can be used and how they influence performance. As the diameter of the HD681 and HD681-EVO cups is the same the most
obvious choice is to use the AKG-K240 velour pads as they do not seem to alter the sound a great deal, fit perfectly and are way more
comfortable. Also Shure SRH-940 pads have almost the same diameter and can just fit on there. While playing with different pads also the
pleather version (SRH-840) was tried. As these pads were once bought for modifying Fostex T50RP headphones, I also had some original
Fostex pads at my disposal which also fit, albeit a bit 'tightly'.
Below the results of these experiments, blue trace = original HD681-EVO pad, red trace is other pad.

Above: red trace = AKG K240 velours pads.


The K240 pads add 2dB between 100Hz and 2kHz and the
treble is considerable less 'jagged' and better extended.

Above: red trace = Shure SRH-940 (velours) pads.


The SRH940 pads do something similar as the HD681 pads.
Bass is lowered by 2dB and 1kHz to 3kHz region is raised by
2dB. Highs are less 'jagged' and also slightly higher in amplitude.
Overall the 'warmth' is reduced by about 4dB and indeed the EVO
sounds better but still quite warm and bassy. Interestingly enough
the 4kHz dip is smaller. The SRH940 pads are oval pads and are
actually a bit smaller but can be fitted. For some people only
changing the pads to SRH-940 ones may all be that is needed !

Above: red trace = Shure SRH-840 pleather pads.


Bass levels are about the same but the mids and highs are
raised about 4dB effectively creating a similar effect as the
SRH-940 pads do but in a different way. Somewhat more
'jagged' and with more 'clarity' compared to the stock EVO pads.
Overall the 'warmth' is also reduced by about 4dB.
They are more V-shaped like the HD681 which makes it a more 'fun'
sounding headphone when these pads are used. The 'sucked out'
mids still don't make it into a realistic sounding hi-fi headphone.
The 4kHz dip is also smaller, just like with using the SRH-940 pads.
Maybe using these pads is all it takes for some people

Above: red trace = Fostex T50RP pleather pads.


Because these pads are MUCH thinner as the original pads
the drivers are much closer to the ear, thereby increasing the
mids in amplitude. There is still a firm bass but the slope between
100Hz and 4kHz is much less and thus sounds much less warm. .
The increase of mids by a good 5dB is more than a subtle change
and makes it MUCH better sounding. Add the fact that from 1kHz
to 20kHz the levels are quite 'flat' makes a world of difference.
If you do not like to do any modifications that require opening the
Headphone or tinkering with electronic components and are not
bothered by thin pleather pads this will be the easiest modification
that makes the HD681-EVO into a much better sounding
headphone with the smallest amount of effort.

If you find the HD681-EVO way to bassy and lacking clarity and mids, all it takes may be to remove the original pads, pull off the felt (only
glued around the edges) and fit the (oval) T50RP pads.
A little bit of searching on the web will yield a few addresses where these pads can be purchased. In the Fostex T50RP modification scene
some people might be able to supply you with a pair of those pads as well.

Driver properties
So far we have been looking at one driver only to make comparisons and see what changed but headphones have 2 drivers and they have
to 'match'. Both sides have to play equally loud at each frequency. Even with more expensive headphones there can be considerable
differences between both drivers that may reach several dB's.
On the left the FR plot of the left and right driver of a stock
HD681-EVO (so with felt over the driver) in one plot.
Blue trace is Left driver, Red trace is Right driver.
As this wasn't a review sample that could have been selected to
perform best but was bought in a store we can assume this is a
representative sample of what has been put on the market.
Driver matching seems excellent. The differences above 10kHz
should not weigh too heavy as they could very well be caused by
slightly different positions on the test rig as well.
Some headphones have wildly varying impedances indicating
resonances. When the impedance rises a factor two or more and
the headphone is driven from an amplifier that has a high output
resistance these headphones can sound a lot different. This is
explained in the article 'resistance, impedance and other issues' found on: http://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/tutorials/articles/. We can
measure the impedance but would have to calculate the effect it has on the sound. It is thus easier to measure the effect different output
resistances have on the HD681-EVO from an amplifier (Project Ember) in 2 settings (0.1 and 120).
Blue trace = 0.1 output R, greenish trace = 120 output R
It seems there is very little influence in the frequency response
aside from the 13dB drop in SPL which was compensated for.
The plot was compensated in amplitude so it is easier to see
what happens in the frequency domain. At the point where the 2
lines deviate there is some influence and this generally points to
resonances. For the higher frequencies the deviation is not
caused by resonances but rather by a rising impedance caused
by the inductance of the voice coil.
The deviation at the main resonance point (around 50Hz) is only
boosted about 0.5dB indicating the impedance has not risen
much at that point. We can also see a VERY small deviation
around 800Hz, 3kHz and 5kHz indicating resonances. Above
10kHz the inductance of the voice-coil makes the impedance rise
and thus starts to deviate. The original HD681 shows similar
behaviour regarding a change in FR. The drop in overall SPL,
however, can easily invoke the feeling the sound changes
considerably while in reality the real change isn't that big.
Of course frequency range behaviour doesn't tell the whole story and the most feared,and on 120 considered 'ruined', damping factor
might show itself more in CSD (waterfall) plots as these plots show how the sound decays over time when the sound is suddenly muted.

Above 0.1 amplifier waterfall plot 1ms/div 500Hz to 2kHz

Above 120 amplifier waterfall plot 1ms/div 500Hz to 2kHz

Below 0.1 amplifier waterfall plot 10ms/div 20Hz to 2kHz

Below 120 amplifier waterfall plot 10ms/div 20Hz to 2kHz

As can be seen the HD681-EVO does not behave very different on vastly different output resistances. This IS a very good thing because
the electronic filter that is going to be discussed on page 6 uses resistors in this range.

Foam, wool, felt and pad tweaks


Most people that have fun or take pride in modifying headphones play around with felt, foam, bitumen, wool, glass/rock wool, cotton or
other damping materials. It is, however, quite difficult to determine (and above all reproduce) the same effect when these mods are
performed by others as different densities of materials can have a profoundly different effect. While it is possible to do some tweaks by ear
what one really needs is a way to measure what is being done. Also it is very hard to compare a before and after mod comparison as more
than just a physical change has occurred in the passed time frame and auditive memory isn't what I would call a reliable thing.
The effect of the 3mm thick and dense felt disc that is glued in front of
the driver has been discussed on page 2 but as a reminder it is shown
on the left.
Blue trace = felt disc removed.
Green trace = felt disc in place (stock condition)
The felt disc starts to work above 5kHz and filters more the higher the
frequency is.
When a headphone is considered to sound very 'detailed' we often see a
rise in the 5kHz to 10kHz region. In a lot of cases we also see a drop-off
above 10kHz after such a peak.
This is only perceived as sounding 'detailed' but is a fake form of it
'detail'. Only when the range from 5kHz to 18kHz runs reasonably
'smooth' and isn't raised we can hear true details. This isn't something
that all headphones do well, in fact most roll off before 18kHz.
The felt apparently also removes a lot of 'energy' above 10kHz while the driver itself still produces this. Removing the felt thus not only lifts
the highs (above 5kHz) but also extends the frequency range. Above 10kHz we get in the area that defines the 'air' around instruments and
gives that realistic 'shimmer' to certain instruments. Headphones that are well extended and do not show a very 'ragged' top end in their
frequency plot usually sound very detailed and airy, while headphones that drop off above 10kHz may still sound detailed (especially when
the 5-10kHz region is raised a bit) but lacks 'air'. Removing the felt will yield more (fake) details but also brings forth the 'air' it lacked.
So far the effect of the felt. However, in front of that felt there also is a
foam disc with cloth on it. Of course this too has an effect but not as
dramatic as that material is a lot thinner and less dense.
On the left it a plot that shows what the foam disc exactly does.
Red trace = without foam disc,
Green trace = with foam disc.
It only seems to influence the area between 6kHz and 12kHz and by just
a few dB. In order to get the 'critical' area between 5kHz and 10kHz a bit
lower the foam should thus not be removed, otherwise some shrillness or
sibilance may be the result.
The plot on the left is with the felt removed and an electronic filter is
used. I can thus highly recommend to leave the foam disc in place.
For those that like to but damping materials like wool or cotton etc. In
cups to address bass issues the plot on the left shows the effect of
added wool in the 'chamber' directly behind the driver. In this case real
sheep wool was used and the density was rather high so a bit crammed
in there. Blue trace = without wool, magenta trace = with wool
The effect is not subtle and the lowest frequencies are affected most.
About -5dB around 40Hz dropping to 2dB near 100Hz.
Above 200Hz the effect is as good as gone.
The differences seen in the highs are not caused by the wool but by
slightly different positioning of the headphone which often causes small
changes in that frequency area.
The measurements on the left are made with an electronic filter and
Shure SRH-940 velours pads.
Adding wool behind the driver does not affect the entire area that needs
to be addressed (20Hz to 1kHz) so cannot be used to obtain a 'flat'
frequency response by itself without using the electronic filter. It can be
used to remove the small peak around 50Hz. Personally I don't mind that small peak as 40Hz is 'subwoofer' territory and much lower than
actual bass notes, so adds some 'fun' in the headphone. Slight damping is advisable and have applied some in this version.
Pads have been discussed on page 3 already and shows that the stock pads exhibit more 'jagged' behaviour in the, rather critical, area
between 5kHz and 20kHz. Because of this velours pads (both AKG K240 and Shure SRH-940 pads) show a worthy increase in sound
quality regarding the highs. Extension, smoothness and detail retrieval have improved noticeably.
Below: red trace = K240 pad, blue trace = stock pad

Below: red trace = SRH-940 pad, blue trace = stock pad

old and new .. what changed ?


As mentioned on page 1 Superlux made some changes in the HD681-EVO. The most obvious one is the addition of velour (velvet) pads.
On the left the 'old' and the 'new' HD681-EVO version in one plot (left
channel only). This is the stock version so with no modifications and the
felt discs still in place. There are some differences where the most
noticeable one is the dip at 4kHz and a slightly different reaction above
10kHz. Another difference is the little 'wiggle' that moved from 700Hz to
400Hz. Some slight differences between 20Hz and 100Hz as well. Overall
there seem to be no big changes in the overall sound signature.
As the frequency range doesn't tell everything about the performance it is
good practice to look at the decay as well using a CSD (Waterfall) plot.
Below the 'old' and the 'new' HD681-EVO superimposed. As can be seen
the ringing is slightly shorter and the ringing around 3kHz is gone.

The addition of the velvet pads is something that increases the comfort
significantly and at no extra costs is a really nice gesture.
The quality of these velvet pads is very nice and very feel quite comfortable.
The pads are easy to replace.

Using velour pads from the AKG K240 headphone was one of the very few
possible fixes for the pleather pads that become 'sticky' and hot after a
while. Also the material has slightly different properties for sound also.
The price of the K240 pads (included shipping) is about the same as that of
the HD681-EVO by itself. With this newer version this is not needed
anymore.
On the left the differences in sonic signature between the pads.
Stock pleather pad versus Velvet pad, left channel only.
As can be seen there is no difference in the lows. The mids between 200Hz
and 1kHz are slightly raised (max 1.5dB). The biggest differences can be
found in the highs above 5kHz. The sharp dip at 6kHz is now gone and the
response is less 'ragged' above 10kHz as well. Subjectively it sounds that
way as well.
To have a small look in the kitchen of headphone manufacturers it is always fun to play with 'vents' and holes present in the headphone
cups and find out what they do and if that can be used to (drastically) change the sound by (partly) covering them. Some experiments.

Above the influence that covering (some) of the 6 'ports/holes'


next to the driver has on the sound:
6 holes covered with tape
5 holes covered with tape
3 holes covered with tape
no holes covered (stock)

Above the influence that covering (some) of the rear vents on the
rear of the driver enclosure has on the sound.
All vents sealed with tape
Only round vents sealed with tape
Only upper and lower vents sealed with tape
all vents open (stock)

Covering the ports/holes does not influence the lows but does
influence the sound between 400Hz and 2kHz. Covering the vents
changes the frequency and the amplitude of the dip around 1kHz.

Covering these 'vents' has a definite influence on the tilt of the


sloping part between 100Hz and 3kHz. The more vents are
covered the darker (muddier) the EVO will sound as the level
between 100Hz and 1kHz is increased and the upper mids
(1kHz to 3kHz) are reduced in level.

Covering the upper and lower vents on the rear combined with sealing 2 'ports' on the baffle around the driver gives a nice tonal balance.

The electronic filter... a tunable solution.


Even though the T50RP pad modification is simple and effective in creating a MUCH better sounding headphone it also has a few
downsides. These pads are about 2 times thinner than the original pads which means someone with more protruding or sensitive pinnae
may experience some discomfort when the ears touch the driver enclosure. Another downside (to me) is they are pleather pads and thus
also get sweaty and 'sticky' on warmer days. My preference lies in thicker velour pads. The most obvious choice would be the AKG K240
pads as they have the same diameter and are comfortable. They also do not alter the sound too much compared to the original pads and
thus an electronic filter will have the same effect with both the original pads AND the K240 velour pads.
Another option is to use Shure SRH-940 pads BUT these have less bass compared to the original pads. When these pads are used the
filter should be altered accordingly. This also means that when a filter for the SRH-940 pads is fitted and the original pads are used you will
be experiencing about 3dB more lows, as if you turned up the 'bass' control a few notches on an old fashioned amplifier.
The next question would be to ask yourself if you want 'reference grade' lows, in other words accurate bass but only accurate at higher
listening levels, or a more 'fun' type of bass. One has to realise that perfectly flat reproduction may sound dull and boring with lots of
commercial music as that is intended to be played on speakers or 'warm' headphones. Well recorded music, however, will sound very
good on a 'flat' headphone. When you want more 'speaker alike' sound reproduction the 20Hz region should be about +4dB compared to
1kHz so basically be a bit tilted downwards to 1kHz . From 1kHz onwards 'flat' is considered by most to give a detailed sound. Those that
like a very mellow sound will most likely prefer slowly downwards sloping highs that have dropped about 2 dB around 16kHz.
For this reason it would be nice if the filter could be adjusted to have different bass responses. It would also be nice if the highs can be
adjusted independently as well to suit your taste. Fortunately the HD681-EVO isn't responding in a bad way to resistors being added in
series with the driver and this opens up possibilities. Another very fortunate circumstance is the fact that from 100Hz to 1kHz the curve is
sloping downwards in a 'linear' way. This is a LOT easier to compensate as when this slope wasn't as gradual.
Because of these assets of the HD681-EVO a simple yet very versatile filter can be constructed with just 4 components.
The schematic is very simple and basically consists of 2 separate sections.
R1 and C1 form the low filter section. R2 and L1 form the high filter section.
The capacitor has a value of 10F and must be of the non-polar (or bipolar) type. Film type capacitors will be rather big in size but you can also
use bi-polar electrolytic types. A minimum voltage rating of 25V should be
used. These type of capacitors may be difficult to obtain. There is, however,
a trick so polar electrolytic capacitors can be used. Tantalum capacitors
can NOT be used this way. Two polar capacitors, that have to be double the
value of the capacitor it replaces, must be connected in anti-series. This
means connect the of both capacitors together and the 2 '+' connections
now form the bi-polar capacitor as shown below.

In this case 2x 22F/25V polar electrolytic capacitors will become an 11F/25V bipolar capacitor which is close enough to replace the
10F. Of course 22F/35V or 22F/50V can also be used.
R1 and R2 can be small sized resistors, power rating can be anything between 0.4W & 1W.
Resistor R1 determine how MUCH lows are filtered. The effect of a few
different practical values is shown on the left.
Magenta trace = 0
Yellow trace = 22
Red trace = 33
Blue trace = 68
Green trace = 100
You can select the amount of 'bass' and 'warmth' you will need. This will
depend on the used pads.
For K240/stock/velvet EVO pads 82 is optimal for a 'flat' sound.
For K240/stock/velvet EVO pads 56 is optimal for a 'fun' sound.
For SRH-940 pads 68 is optimal for a 'flat' sound.
For SRH-940 pads 47 is optimal for a 'fun' sound.
The filter section that controls the highs consists of L1 and R2. The felt pads have to be removed for this trick to work. This will also extend
the higher frequencies and make instruments sound more 'airy'.
L1 = 1mH, it's resistance should not be higher than 2.5 and must be
able to handle 150mA. Mind the physical size when ordering as low
resistance types can be huge in physical size.
Because the highs don't need to be lowered that much smaller steps can
be made. On the left the effect of a few resistor values is shown.
Blue trace = 0
Yellow trace = 10
Orange trace = 22
Green trace = 33
Values above 39 won't affect the filter action any more.
For those that don't like highs 33 will do just fine.
For those that want a bit of extra 'sparkle' 15 to 22 might be better.
In case half of the felt disc is used a 470H and 22 is needed this
modification is described on page 12.

practical filter options


A practical filter can be made in an extension cord. This will give you the possibility to use 100 potentiometers for R1 and 50 for R2 in
case you want to tune it to your liking in an easy way while listening. This is much more convenient than dismantling again and again to
tinker with all sorts of damping materials that will not be able to yield similar results. Once satisfied with the results you can leave them in
there or replace them with fixed resistors of a value closest to that of the potentiometer(s). The amount of parts is so low you can just
solder them together in flying leads style or mount them on a small piece of experimenter board. When substituting the resistors for
potentiometers you will have to connect the middle pin and 1 of the outer pins. The outer pin you picked will determine if the resistance
goes up or down while turning clockwise.
For those who like to try the filter and are looking for parts below some part-numbers of the 10F bipolar capacitors and 1mH inductors.
C1 = Nichicon UVP1H100MED1TD, Panasonic ECEA1HN100U / ECE-A1EN100U or Multicomp NP35V106M5X11
L1 = Murata 13R105C, Multicomp MCSCH895-102KU / MCBFS7330-102LU, Wrth Elektronik 744743102, Epcos B82476B1105M100
C1 can be replaced with 2x 22F/25V (or higher voltage rating) in anti-series. This means 2 of these polar capacitors are connected in
series with either the 2 minus pins of both capacitors tied together or the 2 plus pins tied together, this makes no difference.
The inductor should not have a resistance above 2.6 and must be able to handle at least 150mA. They may have ceramic cores which
makes them smaller in size. Also SMD inductors can be used when they can handle at least 150mA.
Resistors can be metal film or carbon film as long as they have a power rating between 0.4W and 1W. Higher power ratings can be used
but are much bigger in size and is pointless as even the smaller ones do not get warm.
On the left 2 separate filter sections are shown. The 1mH inductor (should say 105
or 1mH on it) with a resistor in parallel. In this case 39, which is the maximum
value. Higher values will have no different effect. When you feel there still is too
much treble either attach the 3mm felt disc again or increase L1 to 1.5mH or even
2.2mH. In this case R2 may be as high as 68.
On the right 2x22F/100V polar capacitors in anti-series with the + pins connected
together, a 68 resistor fitted. 100 is about the maximum and will lower the bass
even more. 22 is about the smallest resistor value that will lower the bass of the
stock HD681-EVO by only 3dB. I recommend values between 39 and 82.

Removal of the felt disc


To gain access to the felt disc the pads have to be removed. This is very simple, gently pull
the pad outwards so it comes away from the cup.
A foam disc will also drop out when the pads are removed. The pads are easy to place back
again, make sure the edges fall in the narrow slot between the baffle and cup. Make sure the
foam disc is replaced again when placing other pads.
When ordering AKG K240 pads they also supply foam discs.
The differences between these foam discs will be quite small. yet I recommend to use the
original foam discs. In case SRH-940 pads are to be used which have a cloth dust filter
attached to it also use the foam pads underneath that cloth dust filter. Shure SRH-940 pads
are oval and smaller in diameter but can still be fitted quite secure.

Underneath the pad and foam disc you will find a


driver covered with a 3 mm thick dense kind of felt.
To remove this you simply have to grab the felt at
its edge and pull it off. It is only glued around the
edge. Some force or prying the edge may be
needed. On the right a picture of what you will end
up with once the felt has been removed.

A very fairly familiar sight to those who have seen the drivers from many
other Superlux headphones and of the Samson SR850 and Presonus
HD7. The picture on the right is of the Samson SR850 driver.
Notice the 'acoustic Damper' sticker that is present on these models
and is NOT present on the HD681-EVO.

On the right the 3 different parts and their relative sizes. The small felt disc is the
one that will be removed for this modification. Of course it can always be glued
back in case you like what it did to the sound. Some people prefer rolled off treble,
others don't.

Taking the EVO apart... a great way to start


Electronic filter components can be used outside the headphone (in an extension cord) but another place where they can be mounted is
inside the driver cups. In that case the components should be as small as possible. On the following pages some step by step pictures in
case you want to open the HD681-EVO to either re-cable, add some wool behind the driver or install the filter components inside the cups.
Note: in the pictures the pads have been removed, this is not actually needed to access the rear of the driver.

Remove the screw just below the headband.


The 3 screws around the driver do NOT need to be removed.
Note: the newer HD681-EVO types have black screws, the older types
have silver coloured screws.

After the screw has been removed the side panel can be pried off.
It won't come off easy though, so you have to bend /wiggle the side
panels a bit outwards. Pull it ONLY sideways near the headband.
When it came loose slide the plastic side panel a bit downwards.
This is needed in order to free the plastic side panel as on the bottom
side it is hooked. Observe how the side panel slides over 2 pins near
the cup. The 'chrome' insert is loose and you need to remember how
it was placed and be careful when re-assembling this part later on.

Remember or make a note on how the wires have been connected.


The thin blue wire (left channel = tip on the plug) is soldered to the red
wire coming out of the cup. The shrink-tube surrounding the solder
connection needs to be removed carefully. You can use a utility knife to
cut the shrink-tube open. The white wire, coming from the cup, is
connected together with the copper wire (common = body of the plug)
to one rod of the headband. The red wire (Right channel = ring on the
plug) is connected to the other rod.
De-solder all the wires.

The rods carry the signal to the right channel driver, similar to how this is
done on the original HD681 as well as MANY other headphones.
Personally I am not bothered by this construction and am of the opinion
such a construction is NOT detrimental to the sound in any way.
Purists may hold another belief and might question the 'quality' of the
conductors (rods) and fear extra solder joints are detrimental to the sound.
Remove the screw that holds the cup.
You will end up with the cup looking like the picture on the right.

Pull off the part that was connected to the headband.


Make sure the wires do not get caught in its hole
while removing it.
Note the paper filter on the left. It may be stuck
inside the removed headband part or may still lie on
top of the driver.
Do not forget to put it back when reassembling the
headphone. The effect it has on the sound has not
been researched but just like damping material has
an influence the paper will most likely also have
some influence on the bass response.

A close-up of the connection board (PCB) of the driver.


The white and red wires will have to be removed.
ONLY solder the pads indicated by the orange arrows.
NEVER touch (or solder) the pads in the blue circle, these are the pads where the
extremely thin wires from the driver itself are connected to and these wires are VERY
fragile and easily damaged !
Before un-soldering these wires carefully 'lift' each wire from the 3 plastic pins in the
purple circle. They are sort-off 'glued' with a kind of sticky material. The wires can be pulled slowly and gently. Make SURE you do NOT
pull too hard or you will risk tearing off the pads from the small connection PCB.
Repairing this won't be easy so really take your time, dose the amount of pulling force on these wires and closely observe what's
happening.
Once the wires are free (picture on the left) both wires can be un-soldered. Do NOT heat these pads
to long or use 100 Watt soldering irons or soldering guns as the solderpads may come off from the
PCB material

Make the two individual filter sections as


in the example shown on the right.
A 1mH inductor (L1) and 39 resistor
(R2) are soldered together.
The resistor size is SFR16 (6.2 mm body
length).
As I did not have a 10F bipolar capacitor (C1) at hand I made created by
soldering 2 x 22F/100V in anti-series (+ of both caps connected together and
both legs are connected to a 68 SFR16 sized resistor (R1). When using a
single 10F bipolar capacitor simply solder R1 to its pins similar to how L1 is soldered to R2. I recommend values between 39 and 82
As the 2 filter sections are in series it doesn't really matter if they are connected together and then tied to one connection of the driver OR
that each section is connected to either side of the driver's connection. This trick cannot be done in an extension cord as in that cord only
the signal wires may have the complete filter section in series and the common wire must NOT have parts in its path.
The small connection PCB has a few unused pads of which we
are going to use the biggest one (on the left in this picture).
Solder one side of the C1/R1 to the unused pad and solder the
red wire to that same point (in the red square). This will ensure
the filter capacitor is held firmly in place. The other part of the
filter has to be soldered onto the pad where the red wire was
removed from earlier. This is the pad in the blue circle.
Be sure NOT to touch the pads next to the one in the blue circle
as this will almost certainly destroy the driver !
The capacitors can be fixed to the magnet with some hot-meld
glue, silicone kit or glue.
Solder the wires quickly. Don't heat the pads for too long or they
will detach themselves from the PCB material.

10

The Inductor/resistor combination (L1,R2) needs to be


connected to the pad (in the turquoise circle) where the white
wire was removed from.
Solder the white wire to one end of the L1,R2 filter section.
Solder the other part of that filter section onto the pad in shown
in the turquoise circle.
Secure the inductor with some hot-meld glue or silicone kit to
the side as far away as possible from the driver's magnet.

Route the red and white wires through the


hole with the protruding rim on it.

In case you want the lowest part (20Hz to 100Hz) of the frequency
range lowered a bit more you can add some wool in the driver
compartment. The effect of this is discussed on page 5 and as a
reminder shown below. The turquoise trace is with very densely
packed wool, the blue trace is without any wool.
Make sure to use the exact same amount of wool on both drivers !

Place the paper filter as shown on the left and carefully align the cup holder (the holes
must be aligned) and push it back in place.
Mount it on the headband assembly and tighten the screw.
Resolder the wires exactly like they were connected before. Isolate the blue wire, that
is connected to the red wire from the driver assembly, with some shrink tubing or
isolation tape. Tuck all the wiring nicely inside the boundaries of the headband part so
the plastic panel can close correctly and doesn't catch or mutilate any of these wires
while putting it back together.
Observe how the headband tensioning mechanism works and make sure everything
slides freely in its proper position and everything aligns perfectly.
Make sure the plastic side-panel catches onto the hooks (highlighted in the picture on
the right) of the driver assembly and pull it upwards towards the headband. The chrome
top plate (shown below in red) has an indent and the side-panel must be aligned so it
falls into a small slot in the side-panel. Press everything together till it snaps shut.
Mount the small screw that holds the side-panel.
Repeat the process for the cup on the right side. Make sure to
note the wire orientation from the driver assembly to the rods.
If these wires are accidentally swapped you will get a weird fuzzy
stereo image.

11

Vents and ports


The HD681-EVO has 6 holes in the baffle that are covered with a kind of paper. These are present to make use of the sound pressure
coming from the rear of the driver. The effects of covering these holes are shown on the bottom of page 6.
For the modifications to the HD681-EVO used here I covered 2 of the 6
holes in order to lower the peak around 2kHz somewhat. This is done
by simply applying a small piece of electrical insulation tape over these
holes.
Another obvious modification is performed on the felt discs.
One of the discs is cut in half and those halves are glued back in place
over the driver. Use very little glue and apply it only to the edges of the
felt. Make sure NO glue can drip onto the driver. Do this by letting the
glue harden while it lies on a table with the driver facing down.
The half disc must be positioned so that when the headphone is put on
the head the felt part points to the rear of the head. This lowers the
highs coming from the rear of the ear by several dB yet those coming
from the front of the head will be heard clearer. A small 'directional'
effect is there.
Of course the felt disc can be completely removed as well. Subjectively
I feel the highs/imaging is slightly better with this strange modification.
Another possible modification is closing the upper and lower 'vent' on the cups. This is easily done when the cups are apart and is a simple
matter of just applying some electrical insulation tape to these 2 venting slits.
They are situated on the bottom of the headphone and under the headband part
indicated by the blue arrows and in the highlighted area in the picture below.
The bigger round vents (in the red ovals in the picture on the right) should be left open.
The effect of closing these vents is also described on the bottom of page 6.
The effect of closing these vents is rather small
but combined with the modifications above ( felt
disc + 2 ports closed) the area between 1kHz
and 3kHz becomes slightly better.

What you end up with


The newer type EVO is modified as above has a small amount of natural wool added in the rear chamber and also has a filter with
R1 = 75 (2x 150 in parallel), L1 = 470H and R2= 22.

Above the difference between a stock HD681-EVO with pleather


pads compared to a filtered and modified as above HD681-EVO
with velvet pads.

Frequency plot of the modified EVO with velvet pads.


Left channel, Right channel
The FR plots in this article have a rather large vertical
scale (dB scale) which is done to clearly show what
changes when an alteration is made.
For those that find these plots 'exaggerated' on the
left the frequency plot with dB scales in a similar
fashion as most websites tend to show them.

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All these modifications have one goal and that is to obtain a much 'flatter' and accurate frequency response that is more true to the actual
recording. The results shown below are made with the 'older' HD681-EVO without the felt discs and R1 = 68 , L1 = 1mH and R2= 39.
When you are of the opinion the HD681-EVO sounds perfect as is and you like the overly warm sound signature with huge bass you need
not bother doing all these modifications, just enjoy it as it is. If, like me, you feel the headphone needs some improvements I can highly
recommend the described modifications.
If you would only like the bass to be slightly less than all you need is a lot of dampening wool behind the driver or only the C1/R1 section
and use 10F with 22 for R1. If you feel the highs are good as it is leave the felt in place. If you like to spice up the highs slightly simply
remove the felt disc.
However if you want this headphone to become a far more accurate headphone and/or tune it to your taste the complete filter in an
extension cord with the resistors replaced by small linear potentiometers or trimmer potentiometers. When you have set it to your
preference you can replace the potentiometers by fixed value resistors and leave it in an extension cord or mount it inside the cups.
I found the values for R1 = 68, R2 = 39 and L1 = 1mH to give the
'flattest' sound. The headphone went from 'dark' to 'accurate',
a total transformation of the sound.
For a more 'fun' headphone I recommend R1 = 33-56, R2 = 10-22
and L1 = 1mH
The sound also changes slightly with different pads .
I found the Shure SRH940 pads to be the most comfortable and best
sounding option, closely followed by the AKG K240 velour pads.
On the left, a plot of the filtered HD681-EVO with SRH940 pads and some
dampening wool in the rear of the driver (blue trace) compared to the
stock (orange trace) version.

A plot of both channels of the end result (filter, SRH940 pads and some
wool). Some very slight imbalance between L and R drivers below 200Hz
is visible but below audible detection. This could be 'tuned' a little by either
varying the value of R1 or changing the amount of damping materials. In
this case the imbalance is caused by both drivers having somewhat
different amounts of wool.
The sound of this headphone is very 'balanced' and may not be liked by
every one. For this reason I recommend to play with filter values in order to
find the sound that suits your taste.

As with everything in life each upside has a downside. On page 4 it can be seen that different output resistances of amplifiers have little to
no effect on how this headphone sounds. WITH the filter, however, a different output resistance will have a pronounced effect on the sound
as the filter action is (partly) undone.
In order to make the headphone perform as in the frequency plot above the output resistance of the amplifier must be low (<5 ).
Most modern amplifiers and portable equipment fall in this output resistance range by the way.
For those using amplifiers with different output resistance settings this dependency provides a fun 'tuning' possibility.
The higher the output resistance of the used amplifier the more V shaped the modified HD681-EVO becomes.
The turquoise trace is taken with the output resistance of the amplifier (in
this case the 'project Ember') in 120 setting. The orange trace is taken in
0.1 setting. The 35 setting is not shown but falls exactly between these
2 traces.
This plot is made with the stock pads.
With the filter and different output resistance settings this headphone can
be made to sound either accurate, a bit more fun and to have a big, but not
overwhelming, bass by a simple selection of another output resistance.

For those interested in the amplifier designs used (all with selectable output resistance) and the original HD681 as well as the HD661
modifications these can be found in the links below:
HD681, HD681-EVO and HD661 modifications: http://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/schematics/headphone/ (scroll somewhat down)
Project Sunrise-II, Horizon, Starlight and Ember amplifiers: http://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/schematics/amplifier/ (scroll down a bit)
Remark, comments, discussions and more background information can be found on this forum: http://diyah.boards.net/ in the HD681-EVO
thread. I can be contacted on this forum as well in case it is needed.

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Alternative and easier and more effective modification


While trying out some pads from e-bay that are supposed to be velour replacements for AKG K240 / Superlux HD681 I found these pads
reduced the bass levels well over 10dB and while not really usable for the HD681 these pads are well suited for the HD681-EVO.
These pads can be bought cheaply here: http://stores.ebay.com/wang-yifei-2009?_trksid=p2047675.l2563
or look for: wang-yifei and descriptions like:

Velour Cushion For Superlux hd681 Series hd681f hd681b hd 681f 681b Headphone
I believe these are the same pads as the descriptions listed below.

Ear pads earpad replacement for AKG K240 K240S K240 STUDIO K240 MKII headphones
Velour Cushion For SUPERLUX HD668B HD669 HD 668B 669 Pro Studio Headphones
The finish quality is not great but they are comfortable and soft and are easy to fit on the
HD681-EVO and sound very good on the HD681-EVO but not good on the HD681/K240.
Similar pads can be bought from Ryan's store on Aliexpress:
http://www.aliexpress.com/store/606703 look for: Ear pads earpad for

SUPERLUX HD668B HD669 HD 668B 669 hd668 Pro Studio Headphone


Stock HD681-EVO (pleather pads)
HD681-EVO with wang-yifei velour pads
As can be seen the bass is lowered by almost 13dB.
This is JUST what is needed for the HD681-EVO to become 'flat.
All that is needed is to simply replace the original pads with these pads
and you already have a great pair of headphones.
Of course to get the best possible highs it is still recommended to
remove the felt discs (page 12) and cut these in half and mount these
half pads back. Because of the increase in highs that would be the
result a simple filter is needed (shown below).
The schematic for the filter is shown on the right. A practical circuit that
can be built in the headphone (page 10-11) is shown on the left.
It consists of a 1mH inductor and a resistor of 33.
The observant reader will notice the resistor in the picture on the left is
39. There are no other mechanical modifications needed except for the
removal of half of the felt disc.
Do not tape off the holes and vents (as described on page 12).
You end up with a driver looking like this
(on the left). The right driver should be
mirrored from this one so the felt on both
cups is positioned towards the back of the
head.
The end result is shown by the FR plot below.
Almost exemplary behaviour aside from the part between 3kHz and 6kHz
which shows some odd behaviour (also the phase is affected in the area).
This seems to be a driver issue and cannot be changed.

For all plots:


Left channel
Right channel
The CSD plot below shows slight ringing around 4.5kHz which is a
resonance that also causes the wiggle in the FR and Phase plots
(shown on the left).
The ringing dies out pretty quick and is not problematic.
Note the frequency scales of both plots below.

Phase response, notice the weird behaviour around 4kHz.

CSD (waterfall) plot, L and R channel superimposed.


Solderdude, November 2013

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