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

Out of the three, the YH2 is the airiest and cleanest sounding from bottom to top, while also having the least low midrange presence. Aside from mids, transients are also clearly defined, natural, sharp, and clear; there is a certain transient ‘snap’ to the sound that you don’t get from the average headphones at this price range. Definitely if you like clear and airy tone but still maintaining Yamaha ortho’s fairly laid-back and smooth presentation, the YH2 should be in your sub-$100 list. One edge that they have over the HD668B and AD700 is that they have a more linear mid-treble presentation and certainly sweeter in its coloration (HD668B is a bit cold in the lower midrange, and the AD700 has a slightly awkward mid to treble transition). Bass is relatively light in impact and punch with the YH2. In general, this particular YH2 benefits from an amp with good bass presence and slight touch of low-mid warmth, while being clear enough to let the YH2’s transparency shine through. YH2 is the least efficient to drive in this comparison, and my Ipod Nano has trouble driving it to good volume.


YH3 is the least clear-sounding of the three (still very much clear sounding for this price range) and not the last word in fidelity, but I am always partial to a warm and bodied sounding headphone, and the redamped YH3 fits this criteria. Besides being quite comfortable, the warm tone is nicely done for relaxed listening without being dull because the upper mids still sounds quite lively and forward, maintaining the presentation of the Yamaha orthos. Still, although they have a nice tonal balance, I feel that this YH3 has a lower resolution driver when compared to the YH2 and especially the YHD2 as the overall sound is a little grainier and less clear. The YH3 has the biggest bass impact here—actually quite nice in the realm of vintage orthos, but with less resolution and control than the other two. From my experience, a dynamic and clear sounding amp can really give a good boost to the YH3.


The YHD2, besides being redamped, has been fitted with pleather earpads. The stock flat pads that come stock with the headphones was a big question mark as it severely held back the sound quality. The YHD2, in essence, is a middle ground that marries a lot of what is good about the YH2 and what is good about the YH3. It has the clarity of the YH2 combined with a warmer lower midrange and bass presence that is closer to the YH3 but with better control, resolution, and a bit more bass punch. The driver just has a higher resolution and focus than the YH2 and YH3; notes are solid and transients have great control, resulting in better and clearer imaging than the YH2 and the YH3. Soundstage size is surprisingly not that different from the YH2 and YH3. Another important point is that the YHD2 can work as a good open portable headphone as it has a thin cable and a 1/8” jack, and sounds quite fine direct from the Ipod.

The YHD-2 comes with unique folding mechanism.



I undoubtedly pick the YHD2 as my overall favorite of the three, as it executes the Yamaha ortho’s mid-treble presentation in a more rounded and higher resolution than the other two, though it will be even more perfect if it can be as airy as the YH2 and has more bass impact like the YH3. One thing that kept popping up in my head is that the YHD2 may not have reached its full potential in its stock housing. I suspect that its uncompromisingly open design is unoptimal for sound quality. A local ortho and cable enthusiast has transplanted his Yamaha YHE-50S drivers (a vintage model with a somewhat similar sound to the YHD2) into a Sennheiser HD497 housing, possibly along with few other modifications, and I can say that it sounds wonderful and realizes the YHD2 potential at a higher and more refined level.


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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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