I reviewed the original Monoprice M1060 here, so those who haven’t read that review yet should check that out first. I was given the opportunity to try to mod a new pair. This article is meant to outline the three most popular mods for these “budget” planars meant to tame the ringing and overall make them more enjoyable. For the impatient: the Fuzzor mod and the Audeze Vegan pads don’t help fix problems; I’d actually argue they made the problems worse.
I was wondering if Monoprice did some silent revisions to the drive in the switch from MMCX to 2.5mm connectors but if my memory serves correctly, I don’t really hear much of a difference. Or at least, I have the same complaints I did back in March when I first reviewed the M1060: one-note, unclean, thin bass; terrible, plasticky midrange timbre (think AKG K701 on steroids); not much treble or air, and severe ringing.
I decided to try the “Fuzzor” mod first. This was popularized by Head-Fi user jerg with Hifiman headphones, and some M1060 owners decided to try to replicate it with the M1060, allegedly to reduce the ringing. It doesn’t. I honestly have no idea what gave the idea that it would possibly do that, as the ringing is likely a function of the tension of the driver, going off page 598 of John Borwick’s Loudspeaker and Headphone Handbook. What the Fuzzor mod entails is cutting strips of sticky felt and sticking them on the magnet bars, then running the back of a pen to smooth the edges of the felt, which should make them look like this:
Despite how the picture appears because of the angle I took it, the felt should not cover the slits showing the diaphragm.
Subjectively, I heard exactly what it did with my HE500 when I did a similar mod; the Fuzzors act as a waveguide that increases low and mid treble. It certainly didn’t hurt the M1060 because they definitely need the extra treble, but as expected, they didn’t do anything for treble. I measured both before and after:
This is the result I consistently got; the odd resonance spike at around 5kHz with stock actually seems to be increased. It’s such a small increase I wouldn’t expect it to actually be audible, but as it stands, the Fuzzor mod does, in fact, not decrease ringing.
The CSD didn’t show an improvement either:
This makes sense, because when I measured the impedance, there was no change:
The hump at around 4-5k is likely the cause of the weirdness and the Fuzzor mod obviously couldn’t have changed anything with this.
Audeze Vegan Pads
The second most popular mod for the M1060 seems to be using Audeze’s Vegan pads for the M1060. I actually welcome the idea of this mod because Audeze pads are incredibly comfy so at the very least, comfort would be upgraded. One thing I would like to bring up though is a theory a friend had about why a spike appeared at 4-5k on many rigs but on Tyll’s measurements, they don’t: the pad openings are the exact size to create a resonance spike at that point on flat plate couplers, which most DIY rigs are. Simply changing the pads should reduce the spike because the pad opening is a different size so in reality, if the Vegan pads do reduce the peak on measurements, it’s because of a problem with flat plate couplers, not because the Vegan pads are a magic fix. Hilariously, on my flat plate coupler, the spike didn’t disappear. It was just as bad or slightly worse in some measurement runs so I don’t really know what’s going on there.
I actually didn’t expect this mod to help much either because of my experience with Vegan pads on the Hifiman HE6. The Hifiman HE6 is my favorite headphone, full stop. I like it more than the Sennheiser HD800 and from my limited time demoing the Focal Utopia, I actually prefer the tonal balance of the HE6, though the Utopia does win out in absolute quality, as does the HD800. The HE6 does something special though; I’ve never had a headphone engage me in my music as much as the HE6 did. I plugged it into a speaker amp and just cranked it to 90dB and beyond and it was fun. I got to forget about how maybe it wasn’t the most resolving headphone because it just had this sense of raw energy. But then I heard the HE6 with the Vegan pads slapped on them and…the magic was gone. They sounded more congested and darker. That’s what I expected with to happen with the M1060, but something bizarre happened:
They actually measure brighter, though the other changes may make the brightness less obvious. They sound much more congested, which is likely a function of both the increased bass (probably due to the much better seal) and the dipped upper midrange. This creates a sensation of more “thickness” to the sound, which some may like, but it makes the ringing sound much more obvious. At first, I actually thought the ringing had lessened, but I soon realized that the Vegan pads make them ~3-4dB quieter. When I turned them up to my normal listening volume, I noticed they actually sounded harsher. Like I said earlier, I even consistently measured the peak to be the same or higher with the Vegans and comparing CSD measurements, the Vegans are significantly worse-measuring.
I thought this seemed really severe so I measured again with a different position and a different room:
Of course, take these with a grain of salt because my rig is definitely not the best and is not in a soundproof box, but they did in fact sound more ringy than stock pads to me before I measured them.
Paper Towel Mod
Next, I tried the paper towel mod I’ve seen on Head-Fi, which consists of placing a paper towel behind the foam. I expected the paper towel to act as a reflector, so the treble would be increased, and it in fact did exactly that. Though it seemed to increase upper midrange too, which was welcome, but the upper/midbass increase that also came made them sound slightly more congested.
Since none of the most popular mods failed to address the main problem of ringing, I decided to try my own mods. I didn’t expect to eliminate or even reduce ringing, so my main goal was just to bring up upper mids and treble to hopefully make the ringing less obvious. After a few hours of experimentation, I ended up with something incredibly simple.
Since removing the Fuzzors was too much work, I decided to keep them on, since they did seem to increase treble which was very welcome. I removed the paper towel because it seemed to congest the sound a bit. I then used the foam circle to trace a circle of fleece and Thermolam. The fleece brought up the upper midrange and the Thermolam brought up some of the midrange and some low treble while also decreasing upper bass. I ended up using both in conjunction, with fleece on the driver and Thermolam on top of the fleece.
I’ll be honest, after all this effort you still end up with something noticeably inferior in quality to the similarly priced stock Hifiman HE500. Of course, one has to worry about repairs should something break, and the HE500 headband is definitely not the last word in durability. None of these mods actually fix the problems I have with the M1060: they still have terrible upper midrange timbre, lack of air, and muddled bass. The mod does make the sound signature a little more tolerable and fun, but I really, really don’t think this sound is worth the price of admission. While I’d place the stock M1060 somewhere below the Sennheiser HD598 and the like in quality, after all these mods and expensive pads this still isn’t something I’d feel comfortable spending more than around $150 for. The AKG K701 and K712, Beyerdynamic DT880, and Sennheiser HD6X0 still are a tier above in absolute quality in all areas other than bass extension. If bass extension is that important to you, consider the Hifiman HE500, as that can do everything this does, but much better for not that much more money used. I wouldn’t recommend buying the M1060 for a penny over $100. And honestly, I don’t think the Vegan pads’ tradeoffs make it worth recommending them. They do significantly increase sub bass impact by creating a much better seal which makes them more fun-sounding, but it makes their flaws much more obvious so what’s left is trying to cobble together a band-aid to salvage them.
I just…don’t understand the hype for these. I’ve read from some that these sound close to an Audeze LCD-2, but I can’t imagine anyone with actual critical listening ability would agree with that statement. They may resemble Audezes in frequency response, but in practice, the differences are glaringly obvious, and the M1060’s flaws are just too annoying to forgive. As much as I want to recommend the M1060 because we do need more affordable planars, I can’t, especially with the Hifiman HE400i being so cheap at around $200 at the time of writing. It does lack bass and resolution in stock form, but it is a superior base headphone versus the M1060 and given some mods or even different pads (which I hate to suggest because I believe that in all but a few circumstances, swapping out pads has made the sound of a headphone worse to me), I have zero doubt it makes a better option for most people. I said in my original review that these may be fixable with mods to an extent, but I have a feeling there aren’t any mods that’ll fix the inherent problems the M1060 has. Seriously, just skip these; they’re beyond help.