REVIEW Fostex TH610 headphones mod - Lawton Chambers

Discussion in 'PC Audio' started by Phatboy, Dec 21, 2020.

  1. Phatboy

    Phatboy Member

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    I ordered 4 sets of Lawton Cups a couple weeks ago for my TH610's.

    I thought about moving on to something else headphone wise but from all the reviews I couldnt really find anything that compares and I've already listened to all the top contenders except for the new Focal Radiance... so I thought why not mod some headphones that I already like!

    WOW is all I can say.... WOW WOW WOW even...

    All Museum Grade except for the Black Limba which is Exhibition Grade.

    Wild Ziricote (Type 5 - 1970 / 2200 lbf Janka Hardness)

    [​IMG]Wild Ziricote by Hilton, on Flickr

    Wild Chechen (Type 4 - 2250 / 2300 lbf Janka Hardness)

    [​IMG]Wild Chechen by Hilton, on Flickr


    Flame Marbled Walnut (Type 1 - 1010 lbf Janka Hardness)

    [​IMG]Flame Marbled Walnut by Hilton, on Flickr


    Black Limba (Type 1 - 490 / 840 lbf Janka Hardness - really soft!)

    [​IMG]Black Limba by Hilton, on Flickr
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2020
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    Phatboy

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    Phatboy

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    Just WOW WOW WOW... amazing in every way....

    The fit and finish is spectacular!

    The sound seems tighter but also deeper and fatter and also smoother in the upper midrage and lower treble where the stock TH610's have a tendancy to be siblant on some brightly recorded tracks.

    The sparkle, air, separation, width and staging is there and even sweeter since the edge has been just so slightly taken away at around 5-6k.

    Im my opinion this has made the TH610 the perfect headphones with the Wild Chechen. Not sure how I'm going to go with the others since this has spoilt me now I think!

    The bass is just sooo good, just sounds like a really good fat dynamic and fast kick that you get in a good live gig in a small/medium room with warm and tight bass from bass guitar.

    Listening to everything from Glitterbox EDM night club stuff, to Steely Dan Gaucho, Tracy Chapman Baby Can I Hold You - nice bass.. Super Tramp Still in Love...

    And Hoff Ensemble - Polarity... WOW - feels like im in the room with that beautiful double bass and Piano!
    [​IMG]Hoff Ensemble - Polarity by Hilton, on Flickr
     
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    Phatboy

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    Phatboy

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    Youtube video of Wild Chechen to Black Limba change over inbound... ;)

    Black Limba only a subtle difference in sound so far but definitely a little warmer sounding in the 70- 120hz region... No sign of sibilance. :)

    [​IMG]Lawton Black Limba TH610 by Hilton, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Lawton Black Limba TH610 by Hilton, on Flickr

    Youtube video of Wild Chechen to Black Limba Lawton Chamber Changeover on TH610.
    1080p is up - 4K is up!

     
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    Phatboy

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    Just some insight to the cup design from Mark - I'm sure he wont mind me sharing his thoughts on my question... How did you decide on the size of the cups??? to which he replied.. (that I agree with completely)

    "Myself, I feel one can only obtain just so much info from measurements, the real test is listening.

    Rather than just making a copy of the original cups, we wanted to make as many improvements as possible to the design.

    Cups serve a purpose, acting as a combination of speaker cabinet and body of a musical instrument.

    If you treat them seriously this way, you can get a lot more out of the headphone itself.

    We are on the second generation of our cups, original versions (2008-2011) were also deeper than stock cups and were an excellent upgrade.

    Ultimately, with some very sophisticated new equipment providing almost total control, we were able to do everything we ever wanted in terms of perfecting the shape inside and out, getting wall thicknesses to taper just right, etc.

    Development of the current generation was extended, many forms/shapes were tried before we reached the shape you now see.

    I may be in minority, but I genuinely prefer closed to open headphones, all other things being equal.

    But the catch always is reduction of soundstage size and a bit of a reverberant “sea shell” effect.

    Bigger cups with correct internal volume and shape really help push the soundstage out.

    We use a small piece of acoustic foam inside the cups which helps prevent some of the internal reflections which also helps the enclosure disappear a bit.

    Customers are constantly surprised at what a difference cups can make.

    Enjoy!

    Mark Lawton"
     
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    Phatboy

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    Wild Ziricote Type 5 Lawton Cup..... VERY different

    I suspect all cups will have a similar sound but the lighter woods (1-2) will have more reverb and more warmth, while the heavier woods (4-5) will have less reverb and be cleaner and more dynamic.

    I would say the sound is maybe slightly more V shaped but that’s not really an accurate assessment.
    I would rather say the bass from 100hz and down has been elevated, while the rest of the range stays mostly the same. With the new cups It’s like I’ve added 4-5db eq from 100hz and down and taken 2-3db off at 6khz. Which is roughly the EQ profile I was running in my RME ADI-2 DAC - I was running +3.5db @ 70hz and -2 to -3db @ 6Khz but no longer require that. However, with the new cups, the bass is not only boosted like with eq, it has more impact and warmth as well.

    As far as the Sibilance goes (what you are translating as hiss) , the S and T sound of some singing and the cymbals sometimes have a very sharp piercing sound around 6khz in the stock TH610, and really badly in the TH900MKii. The Lawton cups have reduced that slightly to a point where it’s hardly noticeable at all. (either that or my ears are used to it - but I suspect it is reduced)

    I’ll be sure to post more impressions once I’ve had some more time with the various cups.

    Much less bass overall and what's there is super tight and extends low. More forward mid range and top end - much more vocal oriented. No sharpness in treble but definitely brighter but not too bright.

    So far favourites are Wild Chechen (Type 4) followed by Black Limba (Type 1). Black Limba was much much warmer and fuller sounding. More listening to be done!

    [​IMG]TH610_Wild_Ziricote_Lawton_Cups by Hilton, on Flickr

    [​IMG]TH610_Wild_Ziricote_Lawton_Cups by Hilton, on Flickr

    [​IMG]TH610_Wild_Ziricote_Lawton_Cups by Hilton, on Flickr

    [​IMG]TH610_Wild_Ziricote_Lawton_Cups by Hilton, on Flickr
     
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    Phatboy

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    I auditioned the TH610 against Sony ZR1 & Z7m2 , Focal Stellia & Elegia, LCD2-Closed, Fostex 900MKII and Senn HD820s using iBasso DX220 Balanced 4.4 AMP8, AMP9 nutube, AMP1MKII and Sony TA-ZH1ES DAC/AMP.

    I loved the Stellia’s the most at the time but no way could justify $4500AU for a pair of headphones.
    Now with the Lawton chambers, I’d probably rate these above the Stellia’s now the Sibilance has been addressed and the bottom end is fatter. The Stellia’s were a little more hollowed out to me but really really nice and going from memory the only thing that put the TH610 below them was the imaging a little and the occassional sharpness at 5-7k on the TH610 - which is now fixed with the Chechen Chambers.

    Here’s my original thoughts from a mini review and a Harman Curve overlay of the Stock TH610 against Stellia. Dark Yellow is Stellia, light yellow is TH610 stock.

    About a year ago I listened to the Stellia when deciding on what headphones to buy and ended up going with the TH610 as I couldnt justify the cost difference.
    They are different, but out of Elegia, Sen 820S, LCD2, Sony 7Zm2, ZR1 and 900Mk2 the TH610 had the most neutral sound while still extending down low with punch and not sounding hollow or boring like some of the others. Here’s my thoughts below from when i did a mini review.

    TH610 headphones embarrassed many so called high-end closed-back phones.

    Tried the Sony Z7m2 and Z1R but they were both a real let down - The 7Zm2 no matter which AMP i used just sound hollow and way too laid back in midrange, Z1R was fuller and warmer but just too bloated in midbass.

    Focal Elegia - wow how bright do you like your mix… they have a clearly elevated top end that doesnt bite as such and it’s a bit tamer on AMP9 but with AMP1m2 and AMP8 they’d become fatiguing pretty quickly.

    LCD 2 Closed actually sound quite good, but they are very bulky, heavy and ultimately the top end wasnt as smooth as I was expecting with a sibilant S on male and female vocals.

    Fostex 900mk2 - wow that’s a lot of bottom end (way too much) and I was surprised how sibilant they were too - TH610 is much closer to neutral with a better top-end.

    Senn HD820’s - yes they have that Sennheiser sound, wide wide imaging, luscious midrange, nicely present and airy treble, present low-end, nothing competes with the combined imaging and midrange and bottom end balance but are they worth $2400??. The bottom end was also a bit lacking compared to TH610.

    The Stellia… How many unicorns, dolphins and dragons did they slay to create the ingredients for these?? Again I say OMFG!!! These are the real deal, end-game closed backs for sure, no doubt about it… and their price surely shows it, @ $4500 AU that’s even a bit rich for me. Having said that they do have a very slight bit of midbass bloat but the rest of the frequency range was very nice, full, present and accounted for with out any drawbacks except maybe being a bit dry at times compared to the TH610. The TH610 should’t be competing with any of the above mentioned headphones based on the TH610 price, but they most certainly do and have a sound I love apart from the occasional bite from brightly recorded mixes. I find the TH610 to be lush, warm, punchy, full and forward without being too pushy and a little bit of shimmer up top where it counts. Certain songs come on and I just have to crank the volume… i just cant help it they are such fun! Would I swap the TH610 for Stellia??? NO WAY. Would I like a pair of Stellia YES.

    Stellia is the darker orange trace and TH610 the lighter trace. Similarish bottom end and midrange upto lower treble range but above that is where they differ the most.
    Stellia was punchier and slightly into lower mids unfortunately. If the Stellia punch was 20 to 40hz lower they would have been absolutely killer. As it is the TH610 sound full, punchy and more natural… This tester actually said both headphones correlated to 69% of the Harman Curve and I’d 100% agree with the measurements based on my listening comparison.

    Stock Stellia vs Stock TH610 (Harman 2017 Correction)

    [​IMG]TH610vsStellia_Harman_Curve by Hilton, on Flickr

    TH900mkii vs TH610

    [​IMG]TH610vsTH900mk2-harman2017_curve by Hilton, on Flickr

    TH610 uncorrected
    [​IMG]TH610 by Hilton, on Flickr

    TH900mkii uncorrected - extremely V shaped and harsh in the treble - too bass heavy for me!
    [​IMG]TH900 by Hilton, on Flickr

    TH610 stock all corrections
    [​IMG]corrected by Hilton, on Flickr

    Stock TH610 CSD - very low resonances
    [​IMG]CSD by Hilton, on Flickr
     
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    Phatboy

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    Phatboy

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    Stock TH610 Walnut Cups - 1.4oz / 41grams - Type 1 - Janka Hardness 1010
    [​IMG]LAWTON_Cup_Weights by Hilton, on Flickr

    [​IMG]LAWTON_Cup_Weights by Hilton, on Flickr

    Lawton Black Limba Cups - 2.3oz / 65grams - Type 1 - Janka Hardness 490 > 840
    [​IMG]LAWTON_Cup_Weights by Hilton, on Flickr

    [​IMG]LAWTON_Cup_Weights by Hilton, on Flickr

    Lawton Flame Marbled Walnut - 2.4oz / 69grams - Type 1 - Janka Hardness 1010
    [​IMG]LAWTON_Cup_Weights by Hilton, on Flickr

    [​IMG]LAWTON_Cup_Weights by Hilton, on Flickr

    Lawton Wild Chechen - 3.4oz / 95grams - Type 4 - Janka Hardness 2250 > 2300
    [​IMG]LAWTON_Cup_Weights by Hilton, on Flickr

    [​IMG]LAWTON_Cup_Weights by Hilton, on Flickr

    Lawton Wild Ziricote - 4.1oz / 115grams - Type 5 - Janka Hardness 1970 > 2200
    [​IMG]LAWTON_Cup_Weights by Hilton, on Flickr

    [​IMG]LAWTON_Cup_Weights by Hilton, on Flickr
     
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    Phatboy

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    Incase you’re all wondering… favourite is still Wild Chechen Type 4…

    Still not certain if I like Black Limba Type 1 more than Flame Marbled Walnut Type 1.

    I think im leaning towards Flame Marbled Walnut as 2nd fav.

    The Limba has bass that can be overbearing with some electronic music that has lots of sub bass and defintely can have a tendancy to be more muddy and boomy with some types of music, but then with others they just rock hard. Definitely Bass Cannons but still not quite to the level of the TH900 (stock), which to me were definitely too bass heavy for me.

    Much more listening to be done, but for now will be comparing Wild Chechen type 4 to Flame Marbled Walnut Type 1 back to back a few times and listening for more of the subtle changes now and doing another swap back to stock for another baseline.

    PS. I loved the look of Wild Ziricote Type 5 and they are definitely the heaviest most dense wood but they are also much more clinical and clean with forward vocals and brighter topend. I could probably live with them but I think the stock cup with a bit of 4db eq bass boost 70hz and 2-3db cut @ 6Khz is much more fun. So I’d say stick to type 4 down to type 2 if you like to have a bit more warmth, the closer you get to 1 the more warmth but obviously. Type 1 is very warm and punchy, particulary the Black Limba as it’s almost a quarter of the hardness of the Wild Ziricote and about 1/2 to 2/3 of the Walnut.

    Wild Chechen Type 4 definitely my favourite overall for refinement and versatility.
    Tighter bass that extends low, still has good impact and force and a nice timbre and not boomy.

    Sweet top end that shimmers but doesnt bite and still extends nicely.

    Mid range is forward and full but not in your face.
    Just my perfect kinda headphones!

    Was listening back to back with Flame Marbled Walnut / Wild Chechen and the Walnut has a nice warmth but with double bass in Jazz it can be a little fuzzy sounding, while the Wild Chechen just sounds natural and full with great impact and articulation with just the right amount of warmth.
    (Diana Krall - Look of Love & also Jeff Hamilton Treo - Live from San Pedro)

    The walnut is great with dance and rock and just about everything else but the Wild Chechen has got me. [​IMG]
     
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    Phatboy

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    These modded TH610s are by far far far - the best headphones I have ever heard now. By a long long way.
    Wait till I start comparing to my HD600, MDR1A / 1000XM3.

    The driver technology is just so much better than most of the others out there. With the right cups and pads they really do sound spectacular. Plenty of width, depth, punch and sparkle - all in the right balance.. Im just blown away by it to be honest!

    The famous Sony MDR-R10 had Biodynamic drivers and are collectors items today. (and they were woodies too)
    Only 2000 were made and they still sell for upto $7kUS second hand.

    [​IMG]sony-mdr-r10 by Hilton, on Flickr

    The Biodynamics share more incommon with speaker technology than they do with headphones, which is maybe why they are so dynamic, fast, clean and punchy sounding.

    Listening to the Flame Marble Walnuts as I type this and they defintely have a lot more warmth, maybe too muddy for me compared to the Wild Chechens.
     
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