Three Way HFI-780 Shootout

Cable discussions are always a subject of interest to headphone enthusiasts. A while ago we did an aftermarket cable shootout for Sennheiser cables, and we find that cables tend to carry their own sound signature, and that their property can be used to fine tune the sound of your system. This time we find two different modifications of the Ultrasone HFI-780 headphone, and we seek out to find out the difference between them. ultrasone_triple780_1

A stock Ultrasone HFI-780 is already a fine headphone by a lot of people’s standard. But the question, as always, is how can I make it better? One of the headphone here is modded by ALO Audio, while the other is a DIY project. I’m going to start with the ALO modded HFI-780.ultrasone_triple780_7

Ken at ALO took a perfectly fine Ultrasone HFI-780 headphone, and installed one of the boldest recabling job that I have ever seen. He uses an 18AWG pure copper Jena, two for every channel for a total of four 18AWG badass wires braided together. This particular recabling is 6 feet long, and is terminated into a 1/8″ Canare plug. The end result looks more like a speaker cable, and simply out of place for headphones. Surprisingly, the four 18AWG Jenas, turns out to be quite flexible for headphone duties. It obviously is not as flexible as any stock cables, but looking at the thickness of these wires, I’m very impressed that they can remain so flexible. The clear Polyethylene clear jacket that encapsulates each wire is very tough, and it means that you don’t need any additional sleeving for protection, and so you can see directly into the beautiful copper wire. Even after having this headphone for one week in my possession, I still marvel at the bold and striking Jena copper wire. It’s definitely a head turner.

ultrasone_triple780_6

The sound improvements of the ALO modded HFI-780 is a natural extension of the HFI-780 sound. It doesn’t change the sound signature, but the ALO modifications improves on it. Most notable are improvements in soundstage, bass extension, better attack, and less smearing. The good thing about this kind of a modification is that if the HFI-780 fits your current music very well, then upgrading to the ALO will still give you the same sinergy to the music, but at an improved level of technicality. The ALO-780 also lessens the closed housing reverb that’s quite prevalent on the stock HFI-780. Overall, this is my favorite version of the modded HFI-780.

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13 Comments

  • Reply December 3, 2011

    Guest

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve been doing research about cables and noted that it seems to be a rather controversial issue, especially on places like Head-Fi. It seems like there are those who believe that they make a difference, and those who don’t and point to ABX and double blind tests. Could you let me know your thoughts on this?

    • Reply December 3, 2011

      Mike

      Cables make a difference, though in some cases small.

      • Reply December 3, 2011

        Guest

        Thanks for the reply. My concern is why there are few who say that the sound changes for the worse after an aftermarket cable is installed. Are aftermarket cables always superior to the stock ones?

        • Reply December 5, 2011

          Mike

          Most of the time, an aftermarket cable would give you superior technicalities. But like other components they too have their own sound signature and so it’s ultimately a mix and match thing.

  • Reply December 8, 2011

    Anonymous

    How do they compare against the Ultrasone Pro 900?

    • Reply December 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      The ALO-modded one.

      • Reply December 8, 2011

        Mike

        Talking based on a faint memory here (that review is more than a year ago and I haven’t listened to an HFI780 ever since).
        The Pro 900 is more spacious and refined. The HFI780 is more forward and engaging. Both retains a very similar ultrasone signature.

  • Reply December 17, 2011

    Andy

    Hey Mike,

    Do you think the HFI-780 is a good match with the Matrix Mini-i? They’re on sale for $155 on Amazon, and I’m not sure if I should jump on this offer.

    • Reply December 17, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Andy,
      The HFI-780s are pretty easy to drive, should be easy to drive it with the Mini-i. The question is if the sound of the headphone matches your preference.

      • Reply December 18, 2011

        Andy

        Hey Mike, 

        I listen mostly to electronic music. Right now I use the HD25-1. The midrange and treble on them are pretty much perfect for me, but I wish the bass had better extension and a little bit more impact, and a bigger soundstage.

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