Grado DIY Project by Starving Student Audiophile Gives New Meaning to Music

Editor's Note: A couple of weeks ago Head-Fi DIYer Kojaku sent in a pair of heavily modded Grado SR225i headphones which I measured and reviewed here. I'm not really a fan of Grados ... okay, I really dislike them, but these modded cans were very good. The best sounding Grados I've had the pleasure of hearing.

I asked him to tell his story ...

First of all, before I get started, I'd like to briefly thank Tyll for the opportunity to talk about my journey through the world of DIY headphone Hi-Fi. It's great to see that interest in headphones and headphone DIYing is growing.

So who am I? My given name is Sean Sabino. To Head-Fi.org, I'm Kojaku, a mysterious Grado-head. In reality, I'm a 21-year old college student and, well, to put it simply, I embody that ancient, trusty label in the title of this article: starving student audiophile.

Starving. Starving for something new. Strapped for cash. I had always wanted to partake of hi-fi, growing up to the soothing sounds of Al Jarreau and the soulful funk of Earth, Wind, & Fire. With no time and no cash with which to sustain my lifelong console-gaming hobby, I decided to liquidate and leave that past behind to hop onto the headphone hi-fi bandwagon. I went to the local game store and waltzed out with fresh bills burning a hole in my pocket, ready to apologize profusely to my wallet. "Sorry for your wallet," as we say on head-fi.

Student. I ran home and began the research. Grado SR-60: "best bang for your buck," "lush mids". . . all those buzz words. I scoped out a local dealer and brought my dad---the inspiration for my love of music---to sample their headphone line-up. I began at the top with the Grado GS1000. With those bagel-sized pads, it was like a comfy hay-ride through rural audio-town. $1300!?!? I dropped down to reality, tasted the SR-60, and worked my way up until . . .Bam! Like a cymbal crash in old Glen Miller big band it struck me. The sizzle of the SR-225, the king of the Prestige Series.

I ran back home to read that the SR-225i was "hot," "screechy" all those buzz . . . kill words. I had secretly bought a pair for my father for his birthday, and one for myself to begin my audio journey. He later moved on to the RS-2---the youngest sibling of the Grado mahogany models---but I refused to sit and let my love for the SR225i be labeled as ridiculous. I knew there was something warmer lurking at the heart of these headphones. I just needed to find out how to bring it out.

So, here's what I did ....

ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
ultrabike's picture

The impedance spike at around 80-100 Hz was reduced. Was it the re-cabling that did this?

BTW. Amazing job!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
It might be the the new acouosticsof the mods damping the primary resonance of the driver there.

Yes, a very nice job, indeed.

Sean Sabino's picture

I'm so honored to have been featured on your site :)

Kojaku

13mh13's picture

Hey, Hertsy ... if you dig the sound o' socks, I've got a pair of SR-80s I modded with some of my dirty drawers. Man, do they sound interesting ... but they itch a bit, so I call 'em ... Crusty 80s ;)
If you feel another Grado review comin' on ... gimme a hollar!

ultrabike's picture

From what I can tell (using headroom/Tyll HP characterizations) the closest thing to your final mod in the Grado line is the PS-500 ($600 Street price), only your mod does things a bit better.

You can look at reviews about the PS-500 which sort of mirror what has been said about your mod. Additionally, your cans a likely more comfy that the PS-500.

The PS-500 apparently uses the same cushions as the SR225i, but likely not the same driver. If everything is kosher, your mod somehow got there!

If you are in college, I would NOT deviate my path. Personally, college was a period in my life that I'm very fond of. But I got to say you have a pair of very good ears, and talent to go along with them. And if I was a HP manufacturer I would be asking for contact info.

musicman87's picture

Seriously good job, man!

Quick question though. Can you use the sock pad mod on other types of headphones as well? I want to make the pads on a pair of my AKGs more comfortable... how would you recommend me doing this to those?

Sean Sabino's picture

I only have experience with listening to the 272s/240s/ and 701/2s. I found them...Kinda cold sounding for my preference, but still great headphones.

Honestly, the pads seemed like velour to me...so they're probably pretty hollowish on the inside...Maybe if you opened them up and stuffed them with a slightly more dense damping material it would prevent bass attenuation just a bit, but that's just a guess.

Kojaku

ultrabike's picture

Hi Kojaku,

Again, amazing job! Any reports on the effectiveness of your mod on the SR60i?

Sean Sabino's picture

From what we understand from Tyll's measurements, the SR-60i has the least bass leakage in the prestige series. The overshoot in the fine-structure at the beginning of the treble square wave is actually slightly smaller on the SR-60i. Now the highs are slightly more tizzy than sr-225i, but you may be able to get a more natural sounding treble than my 225i, just maybe not as crispy.

Kojaku

13mh13's picture

I'm no Grado lover, but for some reason, I have just realized that I have HP-1s, SR-325i's and SR-80s in my collection. The sonics of Grado cans change (for the better) with EXTENSIVE (=> 1000 hrs) break-/burn-in time. Frankly, I don't like music or movies or documentaries or podcasts enough to warrant this much listening (with any cans or spkrs -- I don't care how good they sound). But that's what REPEAT TRACK is for!
Can someone comment on this issue -- your experience with Grado burn-in time? Compare/contrast with other cans if possible.

Sean Sabino's picture

In the well over 1000 hours I had these cans before hardcore modding began, I found that they had initially had really hot treble, what I called a sizzle. I did find that after a long while, they settled down just a tad. A lot of Grado guys recommend not making your first assessment of Grados your lasting impression since they do seemto have a lot more burn in than assembly-line cans do. Also, the slightly directional (what some might call punchy, depending on just how columnated the sound is) quality of the bass gave way to slightlyo more spacious sound, and I mean ever so slightly, even after awhile. My guess was the driver assembly taking a bit to loosen up after all the manufacturing processes...

Kojaku

Jazz Casual's picture

I have a few Grado cans and haven't detected any audible change in their sound with use over time. That applies to my other phones as well.

Which reminds me Tyll, that set of Grado measurements isn't quite complete without the PS1000 and GS1000i. ; )

Tyll Hertsens's picture
On my list of things to pick up today at HeadRoom. :)
Jazz Casual's picture

You've made a curmudgeon happy - momentarily. ; )

ultrabike's picture

You most likely have already seen these, but just in case:

http://en.goldenears.net/4378

If you have a pair, you may want to Kojaku them.

Another interesting option is Alessandro Music One:

http://en.goldenears.net/9296

A bit less tremble happy from their measurements

Cheers.

Sean Sabino's picture

Yeah, that's why I said ever so slightly. I feel like if it isn't something audible, which it may not be, it might just be your ear adjusting, plus placebo.

Kojaku

KeithG's picture

After reading quite a few forum posts at Head-Fi and this article as well, finally decided to cut out a pair of my old socks, first trying it out on my SHURE SRH440, not sure if it's the power of suggestion or the socks really helped with the bass, but one thing is for sure, it's much more comfortable.
Why after all this while have I not tried cutting out my own socks or buy a cheap pair? Socks are rare commodities in my wardrobe and I always forget to pick up a cheap pair of socks while in town.

Sean Sabino's picture

Doesn't the SRH-440 have pleather pads? How did you wrap around those?

Kojaku

KeithG's picture

It's pretty funny and simple.
I followed this one here.
http://www.head-fi.org/t/470304/shure-srh840-earpad-mod
Instead of using cardboard cut outs I used some extra wires that I use to make RCA cables.

13mh13's picture

Tyll is mostly correct in that the Grado sound largely "sucks". PRaT is their ONLY saving grace -- they do this better than any other cans I know -- maybe even better than 'stats.
Stock version comfort factor (especially w/o comfy foam 414 pads) sucks BIG time -- and they are butt ugly and look more antiquated than even the 40's-era beyer DT48.

Sean Sabino's picture

It's definitely not the "hi-fi"est sound ever. Just fun, and when properly tamed and modded for comfort, a lot less fatiguing :)

Kojaku

ultrabike's picture

I'm with you and Tyll in terms of tremble happy cans. I value whatever is left of my ears virginity, and there are some cans out there that are looking at my ears and wallet kind a funny.

Senn is very well known for easy sounding cans that will still give you the soundstage, the all important and firm bottom, and some some level of detail w/o destroying your hearing... But lately Senn has become wallet happy. Man, I was going to settle for a lowly HD518... and? Well they are now scarce and $179 is what they are asking! I mean the HD518 is supposed to be Headroom's < $150 bargain, and occasionally they are $129... Like Tyll says, worthy Senn is sailing with the wind in its favor. And lets be honest, the HD5xx and HD6xx have some pretty weird impedance hikes and "benefit" from an amp...

Looking at options desperately I came about the ATH-AD900 $200... well the word is that the driver touches your ear, have a small arse.. I mean bottom, and seem to be a tad bright. OK, lets take a look at the DT-990 Pro (250 ohm) $172 ( somewhere :) ), the meaty bottom is there, but it is brighter, and a bit uncomfortable unless you abuse the headband... OK Grado what gives... For $80 you get an SR60i which may sound a bit better than the HD5xx line AFTER this mode and a fair bit easier to drive... Therefore my personal interest on this REMARKABLE mod... Yes, with out the mod, Grados are sometimes described as screaming banshees... and not good looking ones either.

I mean I'm waiting on Senn to put their prices down, but hell does seem to be freezing at this point in time...

Given the market flying at Monster heights, I'm considering this mod with an SR60i, unless you take pity on me and recommend something that can deliver the goods (easy on the amp, audiophilistic sound, easy on my hearing, and easy on my wallet).

13mh13's picture

Tried it on both 325i's and 80's ... I had a REALLY hard time positioning the sox w/ or w/o the cushion mod. Ultimately, I could not get the orig Grado "L cushions" to work (fit, stay on, WTF!) -- per Kojack's instr. -- and I only had one pair on hand as the cushion foam dry-rots after a few years (so no big loss as I up for a new couple of pair, anyway).

IAC ...

With just the sock: much more comfortable ... really like the "ear feel". And the sox do get rid of the sonic edginess/hardness, but WAY TOO MUCH. IOW, way too soft now and BASS-HEAVY; and image focus is gone -- just a big blob of mushy sound...worst of all, perhaps, the PRaT is reduced.

Hmmm ... I used to have some 414 pads, so maybe I'll get some more of those again. TTVJ also has after-mkt cushions, I think, but they are $$.

Sean Sabino's picture

I used really soft cotton dress socks with my mod and I rolled 'em so they were will pretty flexible afterward...perhaps your sock was a bit thicker? Either way, it should be pretty simple...I'd like to see a pic or soemeyhing so maybe I could help. And the idea of keeping the trimmed bowls in the middle was for two main things:

1. Give the rolled sock something to wrap around that has structure.
2. Retain some of the image and PRaT.

And yeah TTVJ has flats that people seem to like, but I found them a bit dark sounding and still a bit uncomfortable...

Kojaku

13mh13's picture

Not quite ...

Seriously, cotton black dress, like yours. Maybe the Peppers' are better?

13mh13's picture

On the topic of pads, I assume you are using "L cushions" (that's what Grado call 'em).

Got mine a few years ago ... not sure whether or not their dimensions have changed. But ... as I said, I could NOT get the cushion (pads) to work.

On that note ... can you post more DETAILED pics of the pads AFTER you cut 'em up? (Couldn't tell much from your H-F post).
You can post the pics in-line if you use the HTML IMG tag:
http://www.w3schools.com/tags/att_img_src.asp

ultrabike's picture

To help complement the guide and the pictures, some simple drawings with measurements of the L-cushions before and after being moded might be helpful... The drawing should include the inner and outter radius of the final pad, as well as the height.

Also, how to secure the rolled socks to the cup or so... maybe augmenting the mod by adding velcro stuff around the pad or so might help as well... The driver cup is secured to the band by some screws or like... Maybe the sock can be attached by removing the cup and passing the socks through these screews...

Not all socks are the same ... Maybe you could recommend a common brand and size to get an idea of what to get... Sock dimmensions before and after rolling might seem redundant, but it may help double check that things were done right...

Anyhow... I think you are going to give Alessandro a heart attack :)

ultrabike's picture

Alright guys, hell froze... I was going to wait on Senn prices to drop, or may be try this mod on a not-yet-purchased SR60i, but my nature got the best of me :(

Me: Forgive me father for I have sinned.
Father: Go on my son.
Me: I... I... I cheated father.
Father: ... Go on my son.
Me: I have been married to my Sennheisers for over 3 years now... and ...
Father: Yes my son, go on.
Me: I saw this beautiful banshee, and she was calling ... she calling my name father.
Father: I see my son.
Me: I made a mistake, I strayed from my path and looked... she had sub-woofer like behind, incredible soundstage, and she was fun... I ... I.
Father: Yes my son.
Me: I ... she was a Beyerdynamics DT990 Pro 250 ohms...
Father: Indeed you have strayed from your path my son... And now you must pay the consequences...
Me: Yes father, I did... $172 to B&H Photo and Video no Shipping...

A loud cracking bang is heard as if someone had just slammed a door with herculean force...

Me: Father... Father?... Father!?

:(

I'm now stuck with my sin ... Senn made me do it.

Sean Sabino's picture

I'll head back to the original post, take some new pics and measurements, and have an updated guide ready by the end of this weekend :)

Kojaku

ultrabike's picture

Hi Tyll,

Did you included Kojaku's measurements under your "Headphone Data Sheet Downloads" ?

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