Look and feel
The first thing you’ll notice about the fit of all four Dekoni Elite pads is how much thicker they are compared to the original pads. The face of each pad is fat and flat, unlike the round and shallow profile of the originals. Also, unlike the original pads that are filled with a squishy, semi-firm foam, the Dekoni pads are filled with a heat-activated memory foam that’s initially quite stiff and cold to the touch but quickly softens as it’s warmed up and ‘moulds’ to the contours of your face.
The extra size takes a bit of getting used to, both visually and physically. In my case I needed two or three further clicks on the headband to get the pads to sit flush with my ears on my very average-sized head, and while I love the look of the pads, they do make the HD800 seem a little less refined and more aggressive in appearance. Size-wise, take note, because if your head is larger than average and your HD800 headband is already maxed out, then you might find the Dekoni pads are just too tight for comfort. Conversely, if the HD800 has worn too loose on your head until now, the Dekoni pads will grip you like Goodyear tyres on a freshly tarred road.
Speaking of grip, one of the advantages of the HD800, for me, is its relative lack of clamp with the original pads. Due to the thickness and resulting slight change of angle of the cups on my face, the HD800 with Dekoni pads is both tighter and grippier. It’s not uncomfortable, it’s differently comfortable. The Elite Velour and Elite Hybrid pads are the most comfortable of the set, like two warm cushions on the skin, and while the leather pads are supple and smooth to the touch – and the leather is good quality real leather rather than the cheap pleather used on so many other aftermarket pads – they’re slightly harder and cooler, at least initially.
All the comfort in the world doesn’t make a difference if the sound isn’t up to par, and on the whole, the sound quality of the HD800 with all four Dekoni Elite pads is excellent. It’s also different to stock, no matter what it says on the tin, so how much you love the ‘original’ sound (or in my case the HD800 SDR sound), and how far you’re willing to go for better fit or comfort (if indeed the Dekonis are more comfortable to you), will determine how much more (or less) you like them over the stock pads.
In designing the HD800, Dekoni founder and owner Tal Kocen said the one thing he tried to do was to smooth out the 5kHz (although most measure it as 6kHz) peak and by testing with different baffling materials. He also suggests the ‘openness’ of the HD800 design means that sound changes are far more subtle with a pad swap compared to pad rolling a closed headphone, and that “the biggest difference is that while they don’t necessarily change the frequency response much, they move the drivers away from the ear and create more space within the headphone.”
My HD800 listening aligns fairly closely with my preferred musical styles, those being acoustic female vocals, female-driven pop, light classical, cinematic scores, female vocal jazz, and soft rock. I listen to other genres as well, but in most cases anything that needs a heavier hand with bass or warmer, more intimate vocals is deferred to my second love, the ZMF Auteur.
It’s safe to say that if your listening tastes closely align with mine, you’ll find a lot to like, and much to love, with the Dekoni Elite pads. To keep it simple, I’ll cover how Dekoni measure and describe their own pads, and then compare what I heard with each of the pads on my own system.