Since I’ve decided to let the season finish itself before returning to weekly thoughts, I figured I spend the time returning to some of the unique articles that I had stashed away in the back of my head. In particular, it’s a return of the prodigal Anime and the Love of Headphones segment, where I talk about all things gloriously audiophile and anime. Indeed, I’ve noticed a small spike in viewers looking at the old posts — in particular, a comment from a certain Shawn Cayago requesting for more. Don’t worry buddy, your words have been heard.
For this entry, we take a look at none other than our headphone-clad digital princess, Hatsune Miku. Though she isn’t strictly an “anime character” per se, her origins in the self-published music and arts community earn her a special place in the hearts of anime fans, alike. So sit back and enjoy this short return to our introspection into animated figures gracing the frames of real-life audio equipment!
If you remember our last entry, we talked about the Hifumi sporting the AKG K142HD. Indeed, my past two posts have both been about AKG; we take a marked departure this week and introduce a particularly noteworthy headphone sported by the Lat. Version of Hatsune Miku from the prominent fan-based software Miku Miku Dance.
Before going on, it’s important to note that Miku, in general, sports numerous headphones with some allusions to real-life headphones. But in many designs, alterations are added, such as the inclusion of a headset dongle to serve as her “microphone” when singing. This particular version of Miku (Lat. version) has several options with regard to headphones, but this particular pair is one of the only headphones left unchanged from its real-life inspiration. The headphones in question? The venerable Yahama HP-1 Orthodynamic Headphones designed by Mario Bellini.
These headhpones are particularly important in the history of Japanese headphone manufacturing in that they were one of the first Orthodynamic headphones to be mass produced by a local music/electronics company in Japan. They were first produced in the mid-70’s, and with their success came several other iterations of varying quality. The result was perhaps one of the most affordable Orthodynamic line-up during a time where the technology made it considerably out of reach for even the most casual audiophile.
But wait, what the heck does Orthodynamic even mean? So as not to bombard you with the technicalities, Orthodynamic simply refers to the mechanism by which the headphones produce sound waves that we perceive as “sound”. This is referred to as “transduction” (converting electrical signals into sound waves), and the most common method of transduction utilizes a coil of metal (called the “voice coil”) that moves a diaphragm back and forth with the aid of a magnet. This is commonly referred to as “dynamic transduction”, and is used in both AKG models that I previously talked about. Orthodynamic drivers like the Yamaha HP-1, on the other hand, have two sets of magnets with a thin membrane that has a printed coil pattern on it. The magnets then change polarity, which cause the entire membrane to move back and forth, thus creating sound waves.
What this means is that Orthodynamic headphones have less acoustic distortion than dynamic headphones, but this comes at the expense of requiring more electrical current to drive the headphones. This is similar to the problem I mentioned with Mio’s AKG K701, which requires an amplifier to function appropriately.
But this wasn’t really much of a problem in the 1970’s, where portable stereos were still not common. People were more likely than not listening to music out of stereo systems that had some form of amplification. The technology, however, was not as widespread, making it somewhat expensive. Thus enter the Yamaha HP-1 and its reasonable entry-level prices.
Miku sporting the Yamaha HP-1 makes more than enough sense, given that she was an innovative stroke of genius that gave desktop musicians a “voice” to base their music on. And so Miku’s Lat version is a tribute to this important headphone in Yamaha’s history of headphone development — so much so that the official Miku Lat Version figurine features the Yamaha HP-1 prominently:
But for a 30+ year old headphone, how do they sound?
Pretty good, surprisingly. I bought one a couple years back on Ebay for $99, and it has a noticeably warm tone with a slightly muffled lower bass section. Many people have changed the default copper wires with silver, which they claim clears up the muddiness and “opens” up the higher registers. I, personally, like it as it is, although I’d like to see how it does with my new amplifier setup that I recently bought in the UK. On the downside, these headphones have a strange headband design that is prone to cracking (mine has some cracks), and one bad fall will ruin the ballast that holds the driver cup in place. The jack is also a 1/4″ plug type, so you’ll need an adapter if you plan on using it on a device with a 3.5mm jack.
Today, however, orthodynamic headphones are still somewhat more pricey compared to dynamic headphones, simply due to economies of scale. The more prominent brands of orthodynamic headphones include HiFi Man and Audeze — which if you try and google to check their websites, you may find their prices pretty insane. I, personally, prefer orthodynamic headphones over dynamic headhpones — but that’s just my personal preference. But Audeze just recently released a relatively affordable “portable” orthodynamic headphone called the SINE. I bought one last season, and damn is it good. In fact, I think it’s an excellent starting headset if you want to experiment with what it feels like to listen to orthodynamic headphones without having to break the bank.
And there you have it! Hopefully, I can bring out the next segment in a more timely fashion. Until next time, happy listening!