Dekoni: The biggest difference here is the Elite Velour pad will absorb a little more of the high frequency material and so you see a ~3dB dip between 10kHz and about 14kHz. It seems to take away some of the sparkle but causes the overall warmth to get accentuated a bit. Again, though, we see that 5kHz peak diminished and the high frequency material smoothed out.
My impressions: Easily the warmest of the pads, both in comfort and in sound. The opening sequence of guitar plucks on Heidi Talbot’s ‘If You Stay’ are as crisp and bassy as ever, but also a touch more resonant, with a slightly longer decay. That’s very possibly a factor of the added volume between ear and driver – something which also results in a marked decrease in volume over the stock pads. This applies to all the pads, not just Velour, so be mindful when making your own comparisons.
On that note, all the Dekoni pads will make your HD800 sound softer at the same volume setting, which could trick you into hearing differences in the sound profile that are only there because of the lower volume. Turn the dial up a bit to hear what the pads are really doing to the sound. I didn’t expect the volume drop to be as steep as it was, and to be honest is the change I liked least.
All that said, the change from stock sound, once volume matched, is subtle. With the SDR mod and mild EQ (I use SonarWorks religiously with my HD800 and don’t make any excuses for it), I never have an issue with treble spikes or glare, but the Dekoni Velour pads did take a hint of air away from the upper registers, and expanded the stage ever so slightly. Bass and mids, from what I could tell, were mostly unchanged.
Dekoni: This one makes the most sonic difference as the Sheepskin material by nature is thicker and less porous than the others. What this means is that the sheepskin does not absorb much of the material that hits it, it just keeps the material moving on through to your ear. The high frequencies don’t get absorbed at all and you maintain more material and ‘air’ to what you’re listening to. This pad is great for a little extra lift in the top end.
My impressions: oddly I found the Elite Sheepskin pads to have the least audible change from the original pads, probably because of all the pads they also had the least pronounced volume drop. It’s also possible that the music I listen to is generally well recorded with few glaring peaks, and I don’t have an extensive classical playlist, so perhaps the ‘strengths’ of this pad were lost on me.
Def Leppard’s cymbal splashes at around the 1:20 mark of ‘Love Bites’ can make or break a headphone for me, and if the extra ‘lift’ of the Sheepskin pads supposedly made this part any more strident, I didn’t hear it. Then again, I do have a particularly odd manifestation of hearing loss (called Cookie Bite, Google it), so it’s possible that the extra bite of the pads was cancelled out by the bite in my hearing, and the pads fit my hearing like a proverbial glove. Also I have a thing for leather pads, so of all the Dekonis, these were easily my favourite.
Elite Fenestrated Sheepskin
Dekoni: The frequency response on this one is almost identical to the Hybrid Pad, that is to say very little difference in the sound signature all the up to about 2kHz. The main difference between the two is comfort, depending on whether you prefer the feel of leather or velour on your skin.
My impressions: the biggest change for me with the Elite Fenestrated Sheepskin pads – which prior to receiving them I thought would be my favourite, given my penchant for the ‘fenestrated leather’ look – was the added airiness in the sound. Dekoni’s Fenestrated pads for the Focal Elear were easily my preferred choice for that headphone, and in hindsight that could be because of how well they balanced the Elear’s heavy-handed bass attack with the other frequencies. In the case of the HD800, I’m not sure the trick works as well, if only because the HD800 is not the world’s most bass-endowed headphone to begin with (which is also why my SonarWorks profile raises the bass level a few notches above neutral).
The heft of the mediaeval drums in Angel of Venice’s ‘Trotto’ was nowhere near as pronounced with these pads as it is with the stock pads, Sheepskin or Velour. Lorde’s ‘Royals’ also didn’t have the same aggressive thump that makes this track my litmus test for bass response. That said, if you prefer your bass leaner and more refined, the sound profile of the Fenestrated pads may be just the ticket. Strange as it seems I’ve heard the HD800 described by some as ‘warm’, especially with the SDR mod, and if you don’t like your sound too steamy, the combination of a bigger stage – even bigger than the stock HD800’s industry standard – and leaner bass will make for an appealing sonic cocktail.
Looks-wise I thought these pads would also be the most impressive, but unlike the Elear equivalent, the holes of the HD800 pads are larger, showing more of the yellow memory foam beneath, and giving the pads a less even appearance than I would have liked.
Dekoni: Much like the Fenestrated Sheep, the Elite Hybrid does little to change the sound profile of the HD800 up to 2kHz. You will also notice a smoother transition out of the ‘conchal bowl’ and a nice arch over the peak while maintaining a little more of the higher 10kHz+ material which adds some air and a hint of sparkle to the sound.
My impressions: The Hybrids, like the Velours, were the most comfortable of the lot, but I have to say I find the combination of materials rather odd looking. This isn’t limited to the HD800 pads – I also found the Focal Hybrids rather odd. They have a ‘stitched together’ look that’s somewhat out of character with the pristinely precise construction of the HD800, but I guess the contrast could also make them oddly appealing to some.
In any case, the sound of the Hybrids tallies closely with Dekoni’s findings, although I did find them reducing the bass more than I’d typically want them to given the low base the HD800 starts you off with. If you do EQ your sound you may want to up the bass a touch along with the volume. The instrumental intro sequence to Jethro Tull’s ‘The Waking Edge’ covers almost the entire frequency spectrum, with some potentially piercing pings and razor-sharp guitar strings, and not once did I wince with the Hybrids on my ears. That a good thing for both my ears and the pads, and if you like the look, want the velour comfort and are happy to live with a slightly less hefty sound, these could be the pads for you.