Dekoni released pads for the HD600 types (600, 6xx, 650, 58x,660) and the HD800 types about a year ago but didn’t release pads for the HD700. While speaking with a representative of Dekoni, I lamented the fact that I was one of those that really liked the HD700 and kept checking Dekoni’s site for pads. I have installed Dekoni pads on my Beyers, Fostex, and HD6xx and have been thoroughly pleased in all cases. I think the Fenestrated Sheepskin Elites are easily the best pad I have tried on the Beyer 880s, The t50rp leather pads make a world of difference on the Fostex models, and the HD6xx is made way more comfortable (not to mention better looking) by the Elite Fenestrated Sheepskins as well. I was hoping I wasn’t going to be told there just wasn’t enough interest in the HD700 to develop a pad specifically for it although I know the HD700 to be a very divisive model. I was told Dekoni was developing HD700 pads and they would be released in the near future. I was excited. Then the question came; “Would you like to try them when they do come out?” I immediately jumped at that opportunity and about 8 weeks later a large Dekoni box arrived at my doorstep. I figured they would send me a set of HD700 pads to try and was hoping for the Elite FS model I usually prefer but was happily surprised when I opened the box and not one but four sets of pads were inside.
Dekoni shipped me the Fenestrated Sheepskin Elite, the Sheepskin Elite, the Hybrid, and the Velour pads for the HD700. I’ve now spent a couple weeks listening to each of the pads and decided it was time to write some notes.
About the pads:
All four pads have some common elements so I will hit those first before looking at the differences.
First, the frame is the same on all four models and is a two part design. An outer plastic ring snaps into the cup of the headphone while an inner plastic ring attaches the pad itself to the outer ring. One reason I bring this up is, alignment of the outer ring to the cup of the HD series headphones is a bit easier if you (gently) remove the pad from this outer frame and then install the pads in two steps. (locking the outer ring into the cup, and then locking the pad to the outer frame). By locking the outer ring into the cup without the pad attached, you can easily see the locking points and make sure the frame is aligned properly both with the cup and locking points. This can be difficult to see with the pads installed. Once the outer rings are locked in place, the pads lock into place fairly easily. I have now installed these pads no less than ten times in swapping them back and forth for listening sessions both as a one step and a two step process and find the two step a bit more foolproof. The drawback to the 2 stage process is the outer ring has no support when installed seperately so this part of the operation needs to be performed rather gingerly or the ring will break. We are talking about $80 pads and $500 headphones, some caution and care is warranted I would say.
The other notable similarity of all the pads is the frame sits entirely behind the pads and not to the outside edge as the factory model did which gives the pad a bit more height and leaves a bit more open space between the rear of the pad and the driver when compared to the factory pads. This is not due to the height of the pad itself, but due to the frame construction and design. Pad height varies by model but all are taller than the factory pads by nearly double.
In looking at the pads, I will start with those closest to factory and work my way to those the furthest from the factory pads. Understand that observations are exactly that and that you may feel differently. I do not have the kind of sophisticated instrumentation to realistically test the difference in pads so all of my notes are based on listening tests.
The velour pads are notably taller than the factory pad and the face is squared off rather than rolled/domed. This gives a broader surface in contact with skin and improves the seal. The improved seal does give a mild boost in the sub-bass region but the most obvious difference between the stock pad and the Elite Velour is found in the mids. My guess is this has more to do with the distance between the ear and the driver than with the velour itself. The net is that lower mids move from being the most recessed part of the signature to being nearly equal to the mid-bass. The 6kHz spike that is a fixture of the HD700 is still present and the Anax mod is still needed to help tame that spike. (I have a link to a DIY Anax mod at the bottom of the page).
The hybrid is the pad of choice for those who prefer the isolation of leather pads with the comfort of velour for longer listening sessions. The pads are sheepskin on the outside surface, fenestrated sheepskin on the inner surface and velour on the face where the pad meets skin. This does improve isolation and gives the sub-bass a bit of a boost along with the mids being moved slightly forward of the original signature. This style of pad needs the Anax mod as if anything it made the 6k spike seem a bit more pronounced than the factory pads. This is likely just that with better isolation and less leakage more of the original sound makes it to the ear.
These are my favorite pad both for comfort and for what they do to the HD700 sound. Sound wise, they bring the entire range from mid-bass to mids forward slightly without having a large impact on the treble. The 6k spike is still present but doesn’t seem to be more pronounced than the factory pad to my ear as it does on the Hybrid and Solid Sheepskin pads. When I bought my first set of the Fenestrated sheepskin pads for a Beyer, I was somewhat concerned with heat and whether the pads would begin to be uncomfortable after longer listening times. For me the fenestrated pad allows just enough air movement around my skin to keep it from getting hot or sweaty and I have now used them for periods of 4-5 hours at a time while without any notable discomfort. Some may be more sensitive and find these to be hot, but don’t simply write them off because you fear that. I was concerned at the outset and they are now my go to pad if available for a particular headphone.
The sheepskin pads are the farthest departure from the original pads in materials but oddly the least distant in sound signature. Lower mids are slightly forward of the original pads but that is only distinction I was able to make sonically. Even there, the difference can be overlooked unless a track really focuses on that range. The leather is supple and very comfortable even for long periods although I did find them to get slightly warmer than the others. For those who prefer the feel of leather, they are a very comfortable option.
In my opinion, the HD700 is a much maligned product. It does a lot of things right but gets bashed for being less than the sum of its parts. Those of us who like it, go to lengths to defend it and there are enough of us that Sennheiser has kept it in the active line-up for quite a few years now. It is nice to see Dekoni spend the time to design not One but Four different types of pads for the HD700. Dekoni has taken the time to really do their homework and release pads that bring out the best of the HD700 and provide superior sound and comfort when compared to those supplied by the factory. Honestly, I’m not sure why bigger names don’t sub-contract Dekoni to make all their pads. I have yet to find a pair of Dekoni pads that I don’t think are an improvement on the factory options and the pads for the HD700 are no exception.
Anax Mod for HD700:
This is a ring around the driver to tame the 6kHz spike and is a popular mod on both the HD700 and HD800 that helps eliminate the fatigue caused by the spike. It will not completely eliminate the spike but will lower it by roughly 3dB. Some kits now include both the driver ring and a spacer to fill the area between pad and shell. The original mod consisted of the driver ring only and is in my estimation 90% of the improvement. Ryan Soo did a great tutorial on EveryDay Listening so I see no reason to reinvent the wheel. If interested, go here.