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post #1871 of 37653
Grado RS1 "Shack Hack" Mod
-------------------------------------------------------------------------

(this should also work with most other Grado headphones which use the standard Grado 'bowls.')

I recently stumbled upon a rather fun and simple way of significantly modifying my Grado RS1's default sound signature without spending 35 bucks on the well known 'flats' (which I'm still going to do, BTW )

This mod requires only minimal expense (about 5 bucks, and an hours worth of your time). I'm posting this rather lengthy guide in the hopes that other Grado owners might explore the possibilities that this mod allows.

...

But first ... let me just say ... props must go out to my fellow head-fier (and Grado RS2 owner), JMBNaples for tipping me off to the Radio Shack foam ear pads that are essential to this mod!

He and I have been discussing our new Grados for some time ... me with the RS1's and he with the RS2's ... both of which, according to reviews online are nearly indistinguishable when listening. And primary to both of our experiences thus far has been to investigate some of the popular mods used by other long standing Grado owners to enhance, change or otherwise affect the default sound signature, especially (in my case) any mod that might easily allow adjustments of the default high frequencies which, as cited by many reviewers, really can come across as a bit shrill at times and a tad too in your face.

He PM'd me just a day or so ago that he was having some positive results test listening with some very cheap ($4.99) Radio Shack ear pads that others online had said were interesting as a replacement for the stock Grado 'Bowls.'

I of course was intrigued.

So I visited my local Radio Shack and quickly located the 5 dollar pair of replacement pads. They are model number: 33-379:

...





...


They are really quite thin and flimsy; and, after removing my Grado bowls and placing these over the wooden driver housings, I knew I would have to figure out some other way to use these than as a simple ear pad replacement.

Contrary to many user comments online, I really like the feel/fit of the standard Grado 'bowls' ... especially after bending the headband of my RS1's a bit so that they sufficiently 'clamp' my ears.

Another thing I couldn't stand about using just the Radio Shack pads alone was the fact that the drivers were resting right against my ear; the stock Grado bowls lift the driver housing away from my ears enough for me to notice quite a difference in sound stage and my head/ear is much less affected by bass heavy tracks which tend to vibrate the drivers.


Combo Mod to the Rescue!!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So, the above qualms considered, I decided to combine the stock Grado pads and the Radio Shack pads in a way that fit like the regular bowls but also benefited from the addition of the Radio Shack pads extra foam (which I was hoping would curtail the ever so slightly harsh high frequencies of the default RS1 sound) *see footnote

As it turns out ... the mod worked wonderfully ...

It took a bit of work and thought (maybe 1 hour max, including making custom tools) ... but in the end it's quite a bit more elegant than just using the Radio Shack pads alone; and, also, it's extensible, meaning, a variety of progressively varied sounds can be tried until you land on something that works.

And finally ... this mod dramatically affected the high frequency rendering of my RS1's ...

Here's the steps to take in case you want to do the mod yourself:


Step 1: Trim the 'Flats' out of the Radio Shack Pads
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The first step is to use a small set of scissors to trim only the flat portion (that would rest against your ear) out of the Radio Shack ear pads.

This takes a couple of careful snips and then a complete course around the outside edge of the ear pad to complete.

First, snip through the 'wrap around' portion of the Radio Shack pad so that you can then follow with a course of snips around the circumference of the pad itself:


...




...


Once you've made these necessary snips, very carefully snip around the full circumference of the pad, effectively separating the 'flat' center portion of the Radio Shack ear pad from the portion that would wrap around your Grado's driver housing if you were to be mounting them in place of your standard bowls:

...





...


When your finished trimming the centers out of the Radio Shack ear pads, you will then have to break out the heavy equipment so that you can easily begin modifying the foam centers to better convey high (and other) frequencies ... that is, better than they would if you just had a layer of foam covering the drivers!



Step 2: Punch Some Holes!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Since I found that simply covering the drivers with the full foam of the Radio Shack pads resulted in way to muddied highs (and mids) ... I decided to experiment with punching small holes into the flat area that would mount under the standard Grado Bowls.

For this step, you will need the following tools: A hammer, a cutting board or wood surface of some kind, and any sort of small (1/5") homemade punch with which you will punch out small circles from the Radio Shack ear pad section:

...





...

As the above image shows ... I used a brass valve stem from a truck stop/tire repair center (where, literally, they will have hundreds of such laying around) but you can just as well use any other item at hand.

Also ... I filed the end down to a rather nice edge so that when I punched through the foam ear pad, the cut would be very clean and complete.

Starting out ... I only made a single hole in the middle of the foam piece that would ultimately be installed over the driver surface:

...





...

After a test listen, however ... I still found the highs to be much too subdued for my tastes ... and also the bass was a bit boomy and not right.

So, the obvious solution was to begin punching more holes, yo!

...





...

With the five hole pattern complete, the next and final step was to combine this flat piece of perforated foam with the original Grado bowls in a way that is seamless and secure.

This step requires a bit of finessing, but if you use both hands, you can easily get the flats set in place beneath the Grado bowls with little trouble.


Step 3: Assemble Your New Ear Pads!
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As mentioned above, if you want a very clean and professional look/feel to this mod, you will need to take your time and make sure your new Radio Shack flat foam inserts are installed cleanly beneath the Grado bowls.

First, simply set the Radio Shack punched-out foam sections on top of your Grado driver assembly:

...





...

The Radio Shack foam center portions which you punched the holes in should just barely overlap the main driver housing of your Grado headphones.

This way, when you set the Grado bowls on top of them and begin working the bowls over the driver edge (evenly) the Radio Shack foam pieces will be neatly held in place.

Do one driver/pad at a time and simply work the Grado bowl over the Radio Shack piece; it takes a bit of care and finesse but it's quite easy really.

When your finished, this is how your new ear pads will look:

...





...

Lovely, eh?


Final Thoughts
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I did this mod on Grado RS1's but I figure it will work on any other Grado headphone that uses the standard Grado 'bowls' as well.

This mod will dramatically affect the default sound signature of your Grado headphones; the extent to which the mod affects such default sound will depend, of course, on how many holes you decide to punch.

Myself ... I'm really enjoying the slightly diminished, slightly 'smoother' and less fatiguing high frequency signature that my 'five hole mod' has acheived.

Also, strangely enough ... the overall frequency mix (mids and bass) is somewhat reined in by this mod, ever so slightly being backed away from the stage a bit (if I may wax poetic) as opposed to the 'in your face,' or 'on stage' default sound signature that Grado's fine line of headphones are known
(and somewhat adored) for.

Having just demo'd a set of Sennheiser HD600's which are sort of the antithesis (IMHO) of the Grado RS1's but also which have some endearing qualities such as more distant and refined high freqs ... I find this simple mod to have been somewhat of a step towards bridging that default and huge gap between the trademark Grado and trademark Sennheiser sound.

I of course am an amateur at all this ... so please don't take anything I say as matter of fact; it's not.

The great thing about this mod, overall, is that the Radio Shack pads only cost 5 dollars!

Therefore, it really is quite cost effective to simply try several different configurations; that is to say, spend 20 bucks or so and buy three or four sets of Radio Shack pads and try them with different hole-punch configurations.

...

So I hope you all find some value in this mod and pardon me if such has been posted before ... just thought I'd pass it along.



...

*footnote: Though I absolutely adore my Grado RS1's ... the many and varied comments online regarding their default high frequency 'signature' are rather accurate.

Depending on volume and type of music, the high frequency interpretation really can become a bit painful and/or 'shrill'. I mean ... $700.00 price tag and all aside ... this is just a physical fact.

I arrived at this conclusion after doing A/B listening tests with a set of Sennheiser HD600's which I didn't overall enjoy as much as my RS1's ... but which I liked better for their high frequency image.

Ironically enough, I didn't really notice this characteristic in my Grados before listening to the Sennheisers ... but as they say ... experience is the only real teacher.

The above mod, as well as other options such as purchasing the very popular 'Grado Flats' can dramatically change and improve this trait inherent to most high end Grado headphones (of course ... my opinion).


**footnote:

For those of you finding a hard time finding a suitable punch device ... please feel free to PM me as I can hook you up with one like that shown above. I happen to have valve stem/tire company connections!


...

(sweet lawd! I can't believe I posted a message with footnotes!)



[ this mod made possible by Insomnia! ]
    
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post #1872 of 37653
S1rrah - have some rep for a very detailed and useful guide.

Nice job bro.
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post #1873 of 37653
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aura View Post
S1rrah - have some rep for a very detailed and useful guide.

Nice job bro.
Thanks ...

I have to tell you ... if you own some Grados ... it's definitely worth trying. Totally different sounds are possible depending on material and how many holes (and size) you punch.

I'm investigating some foam/textile places here in Houston so I can make a bunch of diffferent types to try.
    
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post #1874 of 37653
Thought I'd jump the gun since I know Ducky will want to post pictures anyway so I thought I'd post a couple pics of what his headphones look like after a little bit of TLC





Beyer DT880 headphones that now have a solid silver Reference cable. I also modded the cans to be dual entry instead of single-sided entry.

They go with this amp I built. It's a Millet Max with several upgrades to the stock design including boutique caps, hand matched resisters and transisters, silver internal wiring and gold-plated tube sockets. I'm actually kinda sad to see this amp go as it is my own personal Max... I'll build myself a new one, but the parts I ordered didn't come in when I had time to actually build it and now it seems I never have time... oh well...





The cable connecting the amp to the CD player is also solid silver and goes with the amp and cans to complete the setup. He'll be running digital output from his computer to a DAC (can't remember what he got right now, but I think it's a Zhaolu) Overall, one hell of a desktop headphone rig!
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post #1875 of 37653
Quote:
Originally Posted by soloz2 View Post
Overall, one hell of a desktop headphone rig!
Hell yeah - fantastic work as always Jacob.

Ducky is going to eargasm methinks .

Btw - did that recabling tame the overly-bright highs on the DT880? If it wasn't for that lack of neutrality, I would be a lot more willing to drop some $ for the Beyers. Right now I'm leaning towards copying you - HD580 w/ 600 grills and a 650 cable.
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post #1876 of 37653
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aura View Post
Hell yeah - fantastic work as always Jacob.

Ducky is going to eargasm methinks .

Btw - did that recabling tame the overly-bright highs on the DT880? If it wasn't for that lack of neutrality, I would be a lot more willing to drop some $ for the Beyers. Right now I'm leaning towards copying you - HD580 w/ 600 grills and a 650 cable.
I only gave them a quick listen, and before spending about 10 min w/ Ducky's pre mod and about 20min with them post mod I don't know that I'm fully able to answer your question. I only listened to one CD, Artemis: Undone with them. I didn't notice them being too bright. They were detailed with sweet mids. The 880's don't have the bass slam that the 770's do, but the Max has lots of slam so the bass was nice, present, but not overbearing. I would say that the highs did sparkle a bit, not too bright though.
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post #1877 of 37653
Quote:
Originally Posted by soloz2 View Post
I only gave them a quick listen, and before spending about 10 min w/ Ducky's pre mod and about 20min with them post mod I don't know that I'm fully able to answer your question. I only listened to one CD, Artemis: Undone with them. I didn't notice them being too bright. They were detailed with sweet mids. The 880's don't have the bass slam that the 770's do, but the Max has lots of slam so the bass was nice, present, but not overbearing. I would say that the highs did sparkle a bit, not too bright though.
That does sound more promising - apparently at stock the upper register is very exaggerated, even more than Grado's (I think this would be regarding SR125 and 325i's, which are the brightest of that series). The bass really isn't a concern of mine, though initially I think I had told you I liked the DT770 for its bass proficiencies.

How is the Max with your 580's compared to the DT880's? Sorry for grilling you as usual .
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post #1878 of 37653
I expect you'll be rewiring my Beyers at some point as well. Need to upgrade some other stuff before doing that would make sense, though.


Great job, as always.
post #1879 of 37653
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aura View Post
That does sound more promising - apparently at stock the upper register is very exaggerated, even more than Grado's (I think this would be regarding SR125 and 325i's, which are the brightest of that series). The bass really isn't a concern of mine, though initially I think I had told you I liked the DT770 for its bass proficiencies.

How is the Max with your 580's compared to the DT880's? Sorry for grilling you as usual .
Yeah, well my only other experience with 880's was with a pair of Manufacture 600 ohm with leather pads. They were great with the Millet Hybrid I listened to them on. As I recall they had more bass than the regular 880's. Not as much as the 770's but much, much more refined and smoother, extending lower as well.

Yes, definitely not as forward as Grados.

My HD580's? loads of slam

Quote:
Originally Posted by Namrac View Post

Great job, as always.
thanks much!
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post #1880 of 37653
Proud owner of these:

Shure E2c for on the move
Grado SR80 for HiFi listening

Soloz2:Love the headphone modding. Those braided cables look impressive
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