Decked out in Dekoni. If you’re no hifi virgin, you know that everything can make a difference. You learn of AC conditioners, DC filters, linear power supply replacements for switching wall warts, better cables, resonance control via racks and footers. You explore digital filter options, compare Audirvana to HQPlayer and Roon, upsample 16/44.1 to 32/705.6, resample PCM to DSD, roll tubes or opamps, elevate speaker cables, install a sub, high-pass your mains… the list goes on. The longer it grows, the more it dawns on you. While indeed pretty much everything does make a difference, the magnitude of this difference various enormously. Once you as a fully accredited audiophool have a few house moves on your belt, you understand. The room has by far the greatest impact on your sound. But you rent. The room is what it is. Sure, acoustic treatments could be in your future. Chances that anything big enough to actually work in the most problematic bass will be acceptable to your interior decorator are slim to none. So really, the room is what it is until you apply DSP-based room correction. That’s a topic for a far rainier day.
Should your audiophile enthusiasm remain undaunted by the room realization, you could (really should!) discover headfi. Suddenly your room subtracts. For the first time ever you hear the tonal balance as recorded, particularly the correct amount of bass and its textures plus previously obscured micro detail. Which is where today’s page could end. That’s because you may not realize that unlike your big room, you’re not necessarily stuck with the two micro rooms that a full-size headphone sticks to your ears. Just as in the big room, acoustic energies trapped in your headphone’s ear cups reflect off all boundaries and obstructions. Depending on frequency and the relative lossiness of those obstructions, parts of the sound will get trapped, others heavily damped, others bounce right off.
Aha! Is that a lightbulb flickering above your head? You got it! If an ear cushion equals miniature room, different ear cushions will change the sound just like no two rooms sound the same unless you go to a hotel. Welcome to the Dekoni club. It’s a US-based aftermarket company offering replacement ear pads for many popular headphone brands and models. My membership to this club is very recent; and I didn’t join for sonic reasons. No, the pleather ear pads on my deluxe HifiMan Susvara had developed ugly tears to show pale-green foam beneath. Argh. I wanted replacements just for cosmetic/wear reasons. My futon and holy sock days are behind me. But as I removed my original oldies, I saw how basically flimsy they were. Instead of buying original replacements, I wanted to upgrade and get properly padded out.
When a Google search spat up Dekoni high on the list, I recognized the name. I couldn’t remember who had praised them, only the 5-star rating. What’s more, Dekoni had inventory. Sure, the $99 listed became €180 delivered once I settled shipping, customs and 23% Irish VAT. But with Susvara weighing €6K, that was a pittance to revive them. The Dekoni pads use memory foam wrapped in real perforated lambskin. They make Susvara look rather posher. Also, the firmer foam and thicker skins inspire far more confidence for the long haul. Upgrade itch scratched.
But there was more. Even though I hadn’t approached my pad renewal for sonic reasons, Suvara’s gestalt changed too. I’ve always thought that relative to other planarmagnetics from earlier Audeze to Camerton, Dan Clark, Final, Kennerton and Oppo, HifiMan’s best packed a more electrostatic quality. Think speed, airiness, precision and spaciousness. Champagne fizz, not chocolate density. In their new Dekoni finery, Susvara has more bass, chewiness, mass and oomph. I no longer see and hear a quasi electrostat which itself still slotted below the Unlimited Autobahn ribbons of my Raal-Requisite SR1a. What Susvara reminds me of now is a very high-resolution dynamic driver.
It’s not what I expected. I’ve done many headphone cable upgrades with ALO, AudioArt, Forza Audioworks and Moon. I know how much or not one can shift a can’s voicing with new wiring. But I’d not previously swapped ear pads. Now I have – and I am here to tell you that on Susvara the change is more pronounced than upgraded cabling. Well, duh. I had in fact changed two small rooms. Their walls had different construction and filler, even the wallpaper wasn’t the same.
Now my miniature ‘review’ hits the checkered flags. The whole point of today’s lap around the hifi track was this: different pads = new sound. Sure, you’ll have no idea how a certain replacement pad not the original will change the sound. For that, you want reviews or user feedback like this. But considering the replacement cost—Kennerton sheepskin pads too are ~€90—many hifi enthusiasts could spot a worthwhile risk like a mystery-box surprise. For sure it’ll be par for the audiophile self-education course. Should you prefer the sound of your oldie pads, put ‘em back on and consider yourself more educated. As any medical student would say, you got off real easy, pal!
Further information: Dekoni Audio