Vintage Yamaha Orthodynamics: YH-2, YHD-2, and YH-3

During this past year, the local headphone enthusiasts have caught the orthodynamic bug. In every local meets, orthodynamic headphones (let’s call them ‘orthos’ in short) can be seen everywhere. I even saw some of the rare vintage orthos from Yamaha, Wharfdale and Sansui. The first ortho I listened to was an Audio Technica ATH-2. My first impression was that it has a very clear delineation between bass, mids, and highs, and I was instantly hooked. Since then, I have auditioned some Fostex vintages and Yamaha vintages which are even better than the ATH-2.

I have been planning to own some orthos for myself to listen to them more carefully. However, due to the increase in vintage orthos price this year, I’ve started by buying the less expensive and more widely available vintage models, the Yamaha YH2 and YH3. These two are fairly common in ebay and can be had for $50 or less if you are patient. I was also lucky to be able to snatch the rarer YHD2 at a reasonable price. All of them are supra-aural, though with quite a good comfort. These three Yamahas were produced as far back as the 1970s but the construction and drivers hold on pretty well considering their age.

The Yamaha YH2.

For those of you interested in owning some vintage orthos, keep in mind that you should be ready to open the headphones and apply some damping. Damping is essential for many vintage orthos to sound anywhere near their potential. For some reasons, many of these headphones are not optimally dampened in their stock form, resulting in a sound that can be dull, dark, and/or lacking serious treble. The three headphones in this review have been redamped by iQEM, a local ortho enthusiast. I found their sound to be muffled before damping, almost to the point of being disappointed with the Yamahas, but they are now much more coherent sounding. Reading this review, keep in mind the different damping scheme that my friends applied to the three. Damping generally doesn’t change much of the basic tonal character of the headphone; however, the frequency response has been tuned toward the damper’s liking.

The three Yamaha orthos share some similarities in the mids-treble presentation. The presentation of the mid-treble is very bodied, in a smooth kind of way, but at the same time maintaining a still light-footed and clear tone—which is an unusually sweet and special combination at this price range. The upper treble is a bit rolled-off when compared to the best at this price range, but within the frequency range that they give you, they produce it very well and more importantly they sound natural, not artificial. In terms of bass presence, they seem to have an adequate amount; however, they are generally quite light on bass punch, and the low bass are rolled-off. They sound fine unamped but an amp definitely helps to bring the best out of them as they are not most efficient to drive. So in general, they do very natural, bodied and sweet midrange-treble, but with limitations in frequency extension and bass impact and punch.

The Trio (from left to right): YH-3, YH-2, YHD-2.


Vintage Yamaha Orthodynamics: YH-2, YHD-2, and YH-3
3.8 (75%) 4 votes

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26 Comments

  • Reply October 5, 2010

    Mike

    After a week long absence (I was moving to a new house this week), here is an article to help fill up the void.

    Hadi has such a structured and very clear way of writing his reviews. I couldn't have done it better. Reading the article really makes me want to listen to these sweet headphones once again. The midrange and lower treble is really sweet.

  • Reply October 5, 2010

    Professor00179

    Damn you Hadi! You made me wanna try orthos though I still do not have serious pair of dynamics. This is getting more and more expensive…

    @Mike – hope you like your new house… and hope you will make up for the absence soon.:P

  • Reply October 5, 2010

    Mike

    The orthos are fun and cheap. Stick with the ~$100 ones, and make sure that you stay away from the ultra-expensive vintage ones.

  • Reply October 5, 2010

    Professor00179

    Yee I have already seen how much some of them can cost. ~$75 is not that bad. That's the price that YHD-2 and YH-2 weere sold recently on head-fi forums.

    • Reply October 5, 2010

      Mike

      For ~$75 these headphones do have an amazing midrange!

  • Reply October 5, 2010

    laon

    I wonder how those fare againts Fostex T50RP, one of the few affordable in new condition ortho out there.

  • Reply October 6, 2010

    Mike

    Personally I like the Yamaha upper mid and low treble far more than any of the Fostex.

  • Reply October 6, 2010

    laon

    awww now you're making me regret my order… ah well planning to mod them into thunderpants anyway, let's see how yamaha up against it, someday. :p

  • Reply October 6, 2010

    Hadi

    @Professor00179. If you can find the YHD-2 for close to $75-ish, I would say grab it :D. There is something about the midrange that is really unique though I couldn't use it as my main headphone.

    @laon. I think you should be happy with the Fostex if you mod it, I did some quick listen to a damped T50RP refitted with new pads in the previous local meet. Though I don't remember it specifically, they are not as laid back as the Yamahas and can be preferable for some people.

  • Reply October 6, 2010

    Professor00179

    Thanks Hadi.;)

  • Reply October 9, 2010

    Ron G.

    I had a pair of YH-2s in the late 1970s in college — along with a Yamaha receiver and a Connoisseur turntable with an NAD-branded Dynavector high-output moving coil cartridge. Sublime…until somebody stole the headphones.

    • Reply October 9, 2010

      Mike

      "until somebody stole the headphones.."
      That's hillarious, Ron.

  • Reply February 19, 2011

    nancy melody

    Any idea whare I can buy a replacement head band for a pair of YH-2 headphones? It’s the black part that actually adjusts for size.

    • Reply February 21, 2011

      Anonymous

      Uh, sorry I can’t help you with that information.

  • Reply March 2, 2011

    Wade

    I just found the yh-3s that I (accidently0 took from my father about four years ago, in short they have been simply awesome.

    • Reply March 2, 2011

      Anonymous

      The Yamahas are really awesome, especially in the mids. One of the most
      special mids I’ve heard have come from these Yamahas.

  • Reply April 3, 2011

    Trey Takahashi

    If I remember correctly, the YH-3 and YH-2 shared the same drivers, the only real difference was that the YH-2 shared the same headband as the YH-1.

    Either way, the YH-3 is still one of my favorite phones. You’d be correct in stating that they are very comfortable and relaxed. In fact, I’m wearing them right now.

    • Reply April 4, 2011

      Anonymous

      Nice input. I didn’t know that, but perhaps the damping and the housing
      changes the sound slightly.

  • Reply April 14, 2014

    nsgarch

    Hi everyone,
    I just wanted to let folks know that I’ve embarked on a project to reproduce the (soft) headbands for the Yamaha YH and HP series of headphones using the latest 3D printing technology. I will be updating on the Head-Fi ‘Orthodynamic Roundup’ thread with pics, availability, prices, etc. Look there for more information starting June (or maybe a little before, hopefully ;~)
    Thanks very much,

    Neil

    • Reply October 24, 2015

      Brent Weber

      Any more information on the reproduction headbands?

  • Reply March 11, 2016

    Steve Baker

    I bought a pair of YH-3s new in 1983 for $40 as backups (or second person) for my B&O U-100’s (also bought in 1983), the yamahas sound nice (I’m using them as my main now, since the B&O’s died a few years ago) but the U-100s stomp all over them, I miss my U-100s 🙁

  • Reply July 2, 2017

    Mike

    I have YHD2 and love them

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