by “Skippy” et al.
Editor: Although Grado headphone owners enthusiastically praise the sound quality of their headphones, they are equally likely to complain about the styling, fit and spotty reliability (such as the infamous “Grado grattle”, a distorting condition that occurs when the transducer diaphragm develops a crease or wrinkle). Over the years, DIYers have devised several modifications to improve the sound, comfort and even the reliability of their headphones.
This collection of Grado headphone modifications comes from posts by Skippy, Beagle, TimD, Voyager, Neruda, Chych and Squirt in the HeadWize forums and from Kevin Gilmore’s Pure Class A Dynamic Headphone Amplifier project. Most of the mods apply to the Grado SR-60, SR-80, SR-325 or the Alessandro-Grado MS-1, but may be adaptable for other Grado models (and for other brands of headphones). Some of these mods (especially the transducer mods) can permanently damage the headphones. Neither HeadWize nor the authors accept any responsibility for the destruction of Grado headphones resulting from any of these mods.
The Transducer Mods
Damaged headphones should be sent back to Grado Labs for repair. On occasion, it may be necessary to open the earcups either to repair the transducers (if returning them to Grado Labs is not an option) or perform other modifications to improve the sound. The components inside the earcup are fragile, so DIYers must exercise extreme care to avoid damaging the transducer further. Again, neither HeadWize nor the authors accept any responsibility for the destruction of Grado headphones resulting from these mods.
Be especially careful working with metal tools near the strong magnet of the voice coil. The pull from the magnet can cause a tool to rip the diaphragm or a piece of metal can snap off and attach itself to the magnet, altering the sound.
Opening the Grado Earcups (SR-60)
Method 1 (Skippy): Pour boiling water onto a cookie sheet (about 1/8-1/4″ deep) and put the Grado earcups grill-side down into it. Keep them there for about a minute, and then remove them. The glue softens and the earcup sections should slide apart.
Method 2 (Skippy): Insert a small screwdriver (a jeweler’s screwdriver will do) into the crack between the 2 halves of the earcup and carefully pry. Insert a second small screwdriver a bit to the right of the first one. Carefully pry. Take the first screwdriver and insert it a bit to the right of the second one. Pry carefully. Repeat this process, going around the cup until the seal loosens. Finally pull the cup apart.
Method 3: (Beagle): “Blow dry” the plastic enclosures with a hair dryer for about 1 or 2 minutes. Point the hairdryer at the sides of the enclosure, not directly at the front or back. If you fire from 3 or 4 inches away and take a little more time, you get the same results with no risk of affecting the plastic diaphragm. This softens the glue, and you can they pry or twist the enclosure apart.
Note: Beagle says that this method has also worked to open the earcups of his SR-325 headphones, but NOT to use a screw driver: “The aluminum actually conducts the heat better so you have more time to work. Don’t use the screwdriver method as it would make marks on the housing. I heat the sides of the air chambers, then use the pull/twist method to extract the driver portion. I remove all the original glue and use my gluegun to re-seal. This glue is easier to soften if I need to go in again.”
Method 4 (Mole): Thanks to the collected Grado mods page I got the courage to take apart my Grado SR125s. It was nerve wracking to say the least, because none of the suggestions on how to take Grados apart seemed to work. First I tried prying with a small screwdriver, but I didn’t have the heart to do that much damage to the housing. Then I tried lowering the grilles in hot water. No effect. Still couldn’t twist the cover off.
Finally I came up with another idea: I found a teaspoon with a sort of tapered handle that I used as a wedge to gradually ease the two parts of the cans apart. You keep the handle of the spoon pressed flat into the crack between the two halves of the Grados using your thumb, and then you pull on the “bowl” of the spoon so that the wider part of the handle forces the two halves apart. You start of where the handle is narrow enough to fit and then force the halves apart. It’s all a matter of finding a teaspoon with the right shape.
One of the reasons I think the other methods didn’t work was that the SR125 has some kind of rubbery superglue applied where the edge of the transducer half meets the grille. From what I understand other Grados (SR80, SR60 etc) have superglue applied BETWEEN the two halves of the housing, so by prying them apart the glue will “snap”. I also doubt the rubbery stuff (somewhat like Liquisole used for repairing shoes) is affected by moderate heat in any substantial way.
Instead of resealing with a glue gun, I placed a strip of black electrician’s tape along the inside of the grille part to make the fit nice and snug. That should make it easier to take the cans apart again if the need should arise. (I’m planning on applying the “mini-phono jack” mod in the future.)
Removing the Transducers (SR-60)
Method 1 (Skippy): There are little bumps on the back of the earcup that serve as clips to hold the transducer in place. Sand the bumps down just enough to take out the driver, so that they can go back into position with a bit of force. If the bumps are sanded down too much, the driver will not stay in place when reinstalled. Beagle wrote that he glued them in place. When I installed the submini jack for the replaceable cable (see below), the jack pressed against the back of driver and holds it in place.
Note: the voice coil wires are fragile. Be careful when removing the transducer to avoid breaking a signal connection.
Method 2 (Beagle): Using a medium size screwdriver, going in from the back of the driver, insert the screwdriver along the edge between the driver and the plastic housing. Turn the screwdriver with a slow wiggling motion, gently attempting to “pry” the housing away from the driver. Do this every 1/4 inch or so. You should hear a cracking sound as the glue (probably superglue) lets go.
You may get the driver itself loose or the driver with the perforated cap still attached. If the cap is still attached, the driver should come out through the front of the plastic enclosure. If you have pried just the driver loose, you will either have to remove the plastic bumps on the enclosure and bring it though the back or try prying the driver cap from the enclosure. Use your judgment.
Fixing the Rattle Noise in the Diaphragm (SR-60/SR-325)
Method (Beagle): One of my SR-60 drivers developed a “rattle” on bass notes at somewhat high volumes, and it also caused a channel imbalance. Since they were out of warranty, I decided to try and fix it myself. I think the “wrinkle” occured when the diaphragm was hit with a sudden or prolonged low bass resonance at high volume. I know that his was indeed the case with the SR325, while I was playing the HDCD remaster of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”. There is a lot of low bass energy and extreme dynamic range from quiet sections to loud. I think it is probable that the energy caused the diaphragm to snap back suddenly and retract a tad too far.
Once I got in view of the diaphragm, I could see a “collapse wrinkle” on the diaphragm. Using a small piece of duct tape, I VERY CAREFULLY applied a small area of the tape VERY GENTLY on the affected area of the diaphragm and pulled up slowly and gently. A couple of attempts and the diaphragm “snapped back into place” i.e. the “wrinkle” was gone.
I then used the hair dryer (held about two inches away) to “cure” the diaphragm by “stretching back” the plastic. I applied the heat for about 15-20 seconds. Before gluing everything back together, I placed the driver back in the enclosure, placed the rear enclosure on and gave it a listen. I used superglue to adhere the drivers to the housing and glue gun to hold the enclosure halves back together. This method worked to fix a similar problem with my SR-325 a few months back.
Reattaching the Transducer’s Signal Wires (SR-60)
Method (Skippy): A voice coil wire broke underneath the diaphragm of my SR60, so I peeled off the diaphragm, and extended the wire to repair the driver. The transducer consists of the diaphragm, the coil, the magnet assembly, and the big plastic cup part. The coil is glued to the diaphragm, and the magnet assembly is plastic cup. the magnet assembly consists of a circular magnet in the center, and a metal ring (more like a cup actually) surrounding the magnet. the voice coil sits inside the gap in between the magnet and the ring.
First, I applied some masking tape to the diaphragm to keep it from ripping or stretching during the operation. The shape of the diaphragm isn’t flat, so one big circle just doesn’t work. I put little strips in a radial fashion overlapping a lot. And I put some ring-shaped pieces on top of those, and then some more just X-ed all over the place – a lot of masking tape. It is very important to use masking tape; The adhesive on other tapes would cling too strongly to the diaphragm, and you’d probably ruin the diaphragm removing the tape.
The diaphragm is stuck on to the big plastic cup part using glue. This glue isn’t too strong, around the same adhesiveness as scotch tape. I used a pin to separate the diaphragm from the plastic cup – moving very slowly and very carefully.
I slowly peeled the diaphragm off, exposing the voice coil. Carefully, I unwound a loop of wire from the coil. Then I replaced the diaphragm back onto the transducer. The glue residue was still sticky enough to hold the diaphragm without using any extra glue. That part was hard, but it gets harder.
I couldn’t dissolve the enamel coating on the wire. Usually I scrape the stuff off, but the Grado wire is so thin and fragile that any scraping would rip the wire to shreds. Unfortunately, scraping the enamel was the only method I had left. I shredded the wire many times and almost had to remove the diaphragm again to unwind another loop, but I was finally able to scrape off the enamel without breaking the wires.
Soldering those wires is hard because they’re so thin and fragile. I couldn’t even hold them with tweezers without snapping them. I ended up using the tip of the soldering iron to control the wire. It actually worked very well.
Note: the wires that connect to the transducer are uninsulated. When the cord moves around the uninsulated wires brush up against each other, causing clicking sounds. A little electrical tape fixes this easily.
The Earcup and Headband Mods
Replacing the Plastic Grill with Wire Mesh (SR-60)
Regarding the value of having a mesh grill, Beagle had the following comments comparing the SR-225 to the SR-325: “The rear screen on the 225 is metal and more open than the plastic one on the 125. This lets more the rear firing sound out. The plastic one, being plastic and not as open, causes some sound to bounce off of it and causes a slight honky quality compared to the SR225.”
Method (Skippy): The drilled plastic comes of easily from the inside. I cut out a circle of wire mesh (called screen fabric at hardware stores) and put it in place of the drilled plastic grill. I was hoping that the mesh would improve sound, as Grado Labs advertises mesh grills on the higher level models; however to my ears, no improvement was recognisable.
Adding a Cable Jack (SR-60)
Method (Skippy): I made the cable of my SR-60s replaceable by mounting a mono 2.5mm sub-mini phone jack to each earcup, and a 2.5mm phone jack on the end of the cable for each channel. Just open up the earcups. Desolder the cable. Solder wires from the transducer to the phone jack. Mount the small 2.5mmm mono phone jack to the front part of the earcup. The back piece of the earcup may need a little filing (I used mini files that I got at Radio Shack).
I can remove the cable easily, so swapping cables is easy. My Sennheiser HD490s have a similar plug. I kinda like the fact that when the Grado cable is tugged, it falls out. When i used my HD490s portably, the cable would get snagged in odd places. If the cord didn’t come out, either i would have fallen, or some serious damage would have befallen my headphones.
Adding a Collapsible Headband (SR-60)
Method (Skippy): I replaced the Grado headband with a earmuff headband and bent pieces of a wire coat hanger to hold the transducers to the headband. My Grados are now collapsible, very comfy and very portable. It’s surprising how small SR-60s actually are. When the cable is removed and the headband is collapsed, they’re small enough too fit in a minidisc bag!
Now for the bad part: the earpieces no longer swivel, nor do they have the cool looking “antenna.” For my next project, I will attempt to preserve the swiveling feature and the antenna, while keeping them collapsible.
Removing the Model Number Button on the Earcup Grill (SR-60/SR-80)
Method (Skippy): The model number button comes off very easily. Just grab the button with a pair of pliers and twist it off. Now they look like those Alessandro-Grados. Using some bent-tip needle nose pliers (probably easier to grasp the buttons than normal pliers) in a twisting motion should be safer.
Note: Grado may now be gluing the button to the grill. Soften the glue by applying hot air from a hair dryer before carefully twisting/lifting off the button. If the glue is not softened first, attempting to remove the button could destroy the grill.
An Earcup Facelift for the Alessandro-Grado MS-1
Method (TimD): I don’t like the cheap looking silver paint on plastic decals. I also am apathetic to the bump texture as well. This mod came to me in accident, I actually tried repainting the decals, screwed up pretty bad, decided to sand the thing down to a smooth black beveled face, and said, “I like that look!”
This mod is only for plastic versions of Grados. You’d be insane to even attempt to harm the wooden or metal ones. First, put tape over the grill so the shavings don’t ever get inside. I used different grades of sand paper, twisting and turning the front side of the Grado over it until it became a smooth black surface (using rougher to really fine sand paper until you are left with a nice thin black surface with no decals). It is a very easy process, however OBVIOUSLY it is NOT reversible.
An Earcup Facelift for the Grado SR-325
Method (M Rael): I removed the button the SR325 and took the black paint off the driver vent screen. I changed the cord so it terminates in a mini jack (and made it shorter), and lastly, I took the black paint off the driver housings. The driver housing needed to come apart in order to take the paint off the screen. I took the screen entirely off and used lacquer thinner and a small wire brush – this also removes the blob of glue underneath the button.
My SR-325’s were all black when new. The driver housings are aluminum. To get the paint off the housings, I tried a few things. The best was a sanding drum attached to a Dremel tool. With a steady hand, it’s actually pretty easy. The remaining paint came off with a fine metal file. It’s worth noting that the screen and the housing could now be sprayed virtually any color at this point. I like the natural metal look; it reminds me of the dearly departed HP-1.
Padding the Grado Headband (MS-1)
Method (Tim D): The paper thin vinyl of the Grado headband comes off as “cheap” to me. You have two big earcups connected by paperthin vinyl and metal wiring – looks weird.
I glued the rubber cushion from the headband of my Sennheiser HD490 to the underside of the vinyl strip of the Grado headband. It makes the headband look much beefier and fits better. The black coloring of the rubber headband is PERFECT and matches perfectly with the black coloring of the Grado. Plus, it makes the Grados seem light as a feather on top of your head. The HD490 headband and cushion can be ordered as a replacement part for $8.60 from Sennheiser USA.
This mod may or may not be reversible depending on the way you “glue” the cushion to the band. I used a thin layer of acrylic caulking. When the caulking cures, it becomes clear, barely noticeable unless under really close inspection. The cushion is bonded well to the bottom of the vinyl. I never tried undoing this modification myself, but I should be able to pull off the cushion and caulking on the vinyl should the need arise. The caulking is very sticky, but it doesn’t make a HARD bond, so pulling off the caulking should be easy.
I thought about using the entire Sennheiser headband, but decided not to, although it is also very easy to do. However I couldn’t think of a way of removing the vinyl headband that wouldn’t be “permanent” and didn’t want to fiddle with the metal attaching to the plastic pieces. Also I am not brave enough to fiddle around with cords and wiring. Besides, the rubber headband pad of the HD490 fits very well right under the existing vinyl. Someone who never saw a Grado before would not think I modded my phones.
New Earcups for the Grado SR-80
Mike Lin replaced the earcups of his SR-80 with larger earcups comparable in size to the ones on the Grado RS-2 headphones. He first disassembled the original earcups using Mole’s method. The new earcups were constructed from three parts cut from pvc piping and aluminum screening: a rear chamber, a vent screen to replace the drilled plastic plate in the back of the original earcup and a small ring glued to one end of the chamber to hold the rear vent screen. The chambers are made from 1.5-inch repair PVC couplings and the rings are made with 1.5-inch schedule 40 PVC pipe.
The larger rear chambers were machined from 1.5″ PVC Repair couplings. Standard PVC couplings could be used but they have a tapered inner profile, contain middle stop lips, and their outer surfaces are generally less uniform.
The 1.5″ coupling is what this particular size of coupling (an adaptor to join two pieces of pipes together) is called. It is what one would ask for in the plumbing store to obtain this item. But the 1.5″ does not correspond to either the inside or the outside dimension exactly. By plumbing industry standards, 1.5″ pipes would actually have an outer diameter (OD) of approximately 1-7/8.
The new rear chamber dimensions are: 1-29/32″ in diameter, 11/16″ from the transducer housing (the outer part that contain the four notches) to the aluminum screen. The 1.5″ PVC repair couplings were first shortened using a miter saw, and the resulting cut-ends were hand sanded square.
A router fitted with a home-made jig was used to enlarge the inside diameter of the cut-ends to fit the transducer housing. The distance between the two bolt heads determines the routed diameter. Small adjustments are made by rotating the heads of the bolts (ie, coupling contacting the angle part of the hex head will result in smaller diameter compared to coupling contacting the edge part of the hex head).
One other way to do this is to use a lathe, but if I had access to a lathe, I would have made the chambers out of mahogany wood. Anyways, mounting the PVC couplings/pipe to the lathe could get complicated. I considered using a sanding drum attached to a drill press, but a router bit cuts much faster and much more precisely.
People may attempt to hand-shape the coupling using tools like Dremel tool. I highly recommend AGAINST this. The cuts need to be exactly square, and the enlarged hole needs to be nearly perfectly round. In addition, the cuts need to be precisely reproduced in the two chambers; any difference would introduce misbalance between the L and R transducers. Unless a person has super-human steady hands, hand-shaping will produce inferior results.
On the other hand, a Dremel tool mounted to a stationary stand could be used if a similar jig is employed.
In the picture above, the white circles represent the coupling and the pipe viewed from the end. One of the bolts needs to be moved to accommodate the different diameters. In each case, the bolts are spaced apart so that the router bit would route away the appropriate amount of material from the inside. One would simply hand-turn the coupling/pipe against the two bolts (while the router is running) so that the router bit would cut away the entire inner diameter, enlarging it.
Fine adjustments were made by two steps: I made the bolt’s holes slightly larger so that I could slide the bolts around a little; when the approximate position is reached, the bolt’s correponding nut on the other side of the wood (masonite) board is then tightened to secure the bolt head. Further fine adjustments could be made by rotating the bolt heads – an angle of the bolt head contacting the coupling/pipe would push the coupling/pipe slightly away from the cutting edge of the router bit (compared to if an edge of the bolt head were contacting the coupling/pipe).
The depth of the cutout is obviously determined by how far the router bit protrudes above the masonite board. This was set at 8.8mm for the couplings (for the rear chambers), and about 1″ for the pipe (for the lip rings discussed below). With 8.8mm-deep cuts in the rear chambers, enough of transducer housing is exposed to accept the foam ear pads.
I took great care to make sure both chambers had the same portion routed – this is critical to ensure that the chambers are the same size. The chamber is routed so the opening provides a tight fit with the transducer housing; no adhesives are used to attach the two together.
To make the rings, a small section of 1.5″ schedule-40 PVC tube was routed to create a section of pipe having ~3/16 inch thickness, and two rings were cut with a miter saw from this section of thinned pipe. These rings are sanded squared and glued (PVC glue) to the not-yet machined ends of each of the couplings to create lips that will accept the aluminum screens. The rings can be cut with a coping saw or hack saw – just be careful, because the rings are thin and can easily break. Hand-cutting will also require more sanding to get them square and to match the left and right rings.
The resulting lip ends were then sanded square, and an angle was routed into the inner and outer edges prior to securing the screens using Superglue. Appropriate sized cut-outs and holes were introduced into the resulting rear chambers to accept the mounting pins and wires. For the rear screen, I used aluminum window screening available at most hardware stores (probably similar to the screening described in Skippy’s mod).
Since I don’t have access to equipment that measure frequency response, and since this mod is readily reversible (no glue used), I performed some listening tests with the aid of a MCM Electronics diagnostic test CD. This CD (MCM 80-815) contains a frequency sweep from 5Hz to 20KHz (-15dB). The tests were performed with Sony Discman D-25; a stereo to mono adaptor jack was used to ensure that both transducers were driven by the same channel (to eliminate any difference between the Discman’s R and L channels). The tests were the following:
1. sweep with OEM chambers
2. sweep with new chambers
3. sweep with OEM chamber on L and new chamber on R
4. sweep with new chamber on L and OEM chamber on R
Tests 1 and 2: during both of these tests, the tone localized in my head slightly deviated left and right from the center, indicating driver mismatch. There is a gross mismatch at low frequency (mid 30 Hz, I think) and the rest of the more slight mismatches occurs mostly in high frequencies (higher than 5KHz).
Now the peaks (resonances): Both tests 1 and 2 revealed a significant peak (resonance) somewhere around 3-5KHz, and a couple of smaller peaks are I think around 8-10KHz. My impression is that the higher peaks (the ones around 8-10KHz) are slightly less noticeable with the new chambers. Keep in mind that I could not do a blind test (I always knew whether I was listening to the new or the OEM chambers), so I cannot rule out subjective bias.
Tests 3 and 4: these tests indicate that the new chambers changed the sound at the higher frequencies (above 3-5KHz I estimate). The tone deviated slightly more dramatically from the center (compared to tests 1 and 2), and the deviation occurred in both directions (moved back and forth 4 times) in both tests.
My conclusion is that the new chambers sound different, but do not have any significant peaks or resonances. The modified headphone sounds more open and has less midrange coloration. The bass is subtely enhanced and now extends slightly deeper.
The Ear Cushion Mods
Over the years, there have been three types of Grado ear cushions: the original doughnut-shaped flat cushions, the “comfy” cushions on the SR-60 and the bowl-shaped cushions on the other Grado models. The shape of the cushions has an effect on the sound quality.
Converting the Bowl-Shaped Pads to the Old-Style Doughnut Pads
Method 1 (Beagle): The old style pads have been discontinued. By trimming off the cupped area of the new bowl-shaped pads, the driver moves closer to the ear and back comes the warmth, bass power and smoother top end.
Make the old pads out of the new bowl-shaped ones by cutting the pad to a 1/4″ thickness (from the driver). You end up with a basically flat pad that pretty much simulates the old one physically and sonically. Take a very sharp knife (or better yet, a blade from a disposable razor) and glue it to a popsicle stick (keeping the sharp side outside the surface of the stick). You may need two blades, as one might not be sharp enough after you do the first pad.
Either draw a line along the outside of the pad (at the thickness you would like – you’d probably be trimming about 3/8″ thickness off the top) or put a strip of thick tape such as duct tape around the outside. This will act as your guide.
Keeping the blade flat, VERY slowly “saw” the blade along the top (face up) side of the pad, shaving off the upper layer of the pad, moving forward, slowly along to keep the cutting level. If you go SLOWLY, and keep the blade level with the top surface edge of the inner hole and the outside line (or tape edge) you should be able to make a fairly clean, even cut. When you come around to reach your starting point, you should have a pad similar to the old style, but a lot sturdier.
WARNING: You should ONLY attempt this if you are desperately seeking the older pads and feel that you are up to the task. THIS IS BASICALLY A ONE-SHOT ATTEMPT! If you bungle the job, the pad is ruined and you have to buy a new pair.
Method 2 (Skippy): When I sliced up bowls, I used a Ginsu knife – it made quick work of that pad. Take time to mark off where you are cutting to avoid cutting the pad too thin. I’ve seen the original doughnut pads, and they look very similar to the sliced up bowls. They’re made of the same material and the shape is practically the same.
Some people find the old doughnut-shaped pads too dark sounding, and some people find the new bowls too bright. Slicing up the bowl pads a bit thicker than the old doughnuts might be a good compromise in sound.
Mods and Substitutes for the Grado “Comfy” Pads
Method 1 (Kronsteen): Making a hole in the center of the Comfy pads to get more detailed sound: I had great success with the “coin” technique. I used a nickel for mine and it worked perfectly (just the right size). Just take your Grado pad, line up the nickel with the center of the pad and hold it down firmly with your thumb while carefully cutting around the nickel’s edge with an x-acto (sp?) knife. My pads now look great – as if they were designed that way. I recently upgraded from the Grado SR-60 to the Grado RS-1 (ten times the price) and (I hate to confess this) my biggest impression is just how good the SR60’s are. Give them a chance.
Method 2 (TimD): The Radio Shack RS 33-379 replacement cushions ($2 US) are cheaper than Grado’s Comfy cushions for the SR-60 ($10 US). They have a smaller footprint than the Grado’s (3/4th the thickness of comfy’s and are a smaller diameter) but they look much better (IMO), and you wouldn’t notice that you were using non-Grado pads at first glance, since they fit perfectly.
Method 3 (Strap): The replacement cushions for the Sennheiser HD410 are available at Sennheiser USA for about $3 US. In terms of comfort, the Senns are softer, not scratchy, tapered, the inner rim diameter a bit smaller than the outer (2-3/4″ vs. 3″). Because they are softer, they sit closer to the ears. The central aperture is about 1-5/8″ for the Senns and 2″ for the Grados.
Circumaural Earpads for Grados
Method 1 (Voyager): The sock pads for Grados are the best compromise between sound and comfort. Its not really a compromise though, because they are much more comfortable than the original pads, being circumaural on my ears, and not changing the sound in any profound way. I used 100% cotton socks for this. You must have bowl pads for this to work exactly as described and it will not hurt them in any way. (I have not tried them with other pads, but the bowl pads seem as ideal as possible) If you do not like the new pads, simply remove them and you are only out a pair of socks.
The first thing to do is get a pair of clean tube socks. Then cut the end off of each sock, leaving a tube that is 10 inches (I think about 25.4 centimeters for you metric people) in legnth. The next thing to do is flip the 2 tubes inside out. This will make it so that the nice outside is seen when you are done with the pads. Then fold the cut end over the rest of the sock about 1 1/4inches (3.175 cm). Repeat the folding process until the entire sock is rolled up. When you are finished, try to not have any slack left over at the end. If you do it’s ok, but it is neater looking without the slack.
Stretch the pads out and over the bowl pads so that they both start at the same point in the rear and the sock pads extend abot 1/2 inches (1.27cm)above the bowl pads. It may not look good at first, but with fine adjustments they can actually look like the belong there. In my opinion they are more comfortable than all of the Beyers and Senns I’ve tried (HD545, HD565, HD570, HD600, DT330, DT831, DT990) because they don’t press as hard against the head, and still 99%, if not all, of the Grado sound is intact.
Neruda’s comments: First off, less is more when wrapping these things it seems. The more you use the denser the pads are and the harder they become. The less you use the softer the pads are. Also, the more you use the darker they sound. If you try hard and decrease the length of the sock in small increments, you can find something of a “sweetspot” where the sound is detailed but not too bright (as some complain about) and the pads are comfortable. When unrolled, the tubes I used are only four inches in length. Also, the ones I made are not nearly as big as the ones voyager made as far as diameter goes. mine are closer to the size of the original pads, whereas his are much larger. All in all, I’m very pleased with what i’ve got so far. (See below for Neruda’s update.)
Chych’s comments: Just did the mod myself. I rolled a 4″ cotton sock and put it over my sliced bowl pads. It was a bit of a pain to put it over the sliced bowl pads, since they are a bit unstable and can’t take the pad pressure that well. Anyways the sound is much darker, more emphasis on the bass, richer and deeper soundstage, more involving and all, BUT I can’t hear mid-highs, and voices are a tad bit distant. Also the bass can be slightly muddy – just try and listen to them with mega bass on full. They are probably like unmodded ex70s… makes you dizzy quite fast. I’ll have to try a different material (this is 4″ of thick cotton black sock, looks like the HD590 pads).
Method 2 (Neruda): I just did the mod again, by wrapping the sock around the bowl pad. I cut it so that it wouldn’t even wrap around the entire pad once – there’s still a bare section where the pad connects with the earcup to improve the fit of the pads. Whoah! Even more comfortable! They look even better now and look like they were really meant to be on my SR80’s. Of course, my pads are perfectly round. Also, they’ve gotten thick enough so that they’re almost circumaural on me. Even though they’re not quite, they’re still one of the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever had on. I was using my pads all day yesterday in the sun, and my ears never heated up. It seems the socks keep nice and cool, for some reason. A nice plus, since the foam pads always got my ears hot.
Method 3 (Squirt): As a variation of the Voyager sock mod, I tried taking off the ear pads from my old AKG 240 and placing them over the donut pads. It works ok, but you will need to use two-sided tape or something to hold the AKG pads in place, or just leave them as is and just use the spring pressure to hold them in place on your head.
I was shocked to find how much this widens the sound stage and also improves the high frequency details. I’m hearing high frequency details i’ve never heard with the RS-1 before and sounds at the outer edges of the sound stage now sound like they are outside your head. You lose some bass and mid-range impact though i’ve felt my RS-1 are a little too punchy and bassy anyway.
Method 4 (Chych): I glued the vinyl (or plastic, some material I’m not too sure about but were somewhat comfortable) earpads from some freebie or cheap headphone I found in my basement onto the Grado pads. I just used a few drops of super glue. The adhesion probably isn’t too strong; I kept it this way in case I wanted to change the pads once again.
The Headphone Cable Mods
Converting Standard Grados into Dual-Mono Grados (SR-80)
This mod comes from Kevin Gilmore’s article for A Pure Class A Dynamic Headphone Amplifier, which describes an option for a bridged output. Some commercial headphone amps, such as HeadRoom’s BlockHead, have bridged outputs. Bridged amps require separate ground connections to each transducer, instead of the common ground of standard headphone cables.
Method (Kevin Gilmore): Dual mono Grado SR-80s have more and tighter bass when driven with the bridged dynamic amplifier, which can output twice the voltage, twice the current (not at the same time) and double the slew rate, giving better control of the diaphragm and a higher damping factor.
I cut apart a pair of Grado SR-80s. I had to take them apart anyway – one side was damaged by my toy terriers. There are two ways to wire Grados for dual mono operation: the easy way and the harder way. The easy way is to cut the wires just above the “Y” of the headphone cord. Carefully splice new mono connections to each of the wires.
The hard way is to take the headphones completely apart and rewire all the way to the transducers.
- Take the transducers out of the headband.
- Take the ear pads off.
- Very carefully, with a sharp jeweler’s screwdriver, pry around the side seal. It is superglued in only a couple of spots. Comes apart real easy.
- Buy a set of 20-ft, 1/4″ headphone jack extender cables from Radio Shack. Cut one end off at the length you want and then solder to the transducer. I use the tip and sleeve part of a stereo 1/4 jack, and leave the ground connection unconnected.
- On the amplifier, use 2 separate stereo 1/4″ headphone jacks (one for each channel) and wire the tip and sleeve to match the headphone plugs. The ground sleeve IS connected to ground in the headphone jacks only (actually decreases the noise level a bit).
Portions c. 2001 Chu Moy.
4/30/2002: Added tips by Mole and M Rael.
6/22/2002: Added MLin’s replacement earcups for the SR-80.
1/21/2004: From forum member Reeseboise, another technique to fix the Grado “grattle” problem:
I was reading the page of Grado mods not more than a few minutes ago looking for the easiest way to fix the low-frequency rattle in my SR60s, when I realized that all that was suggested could be accomplished by much simpler means. So, I had an idea: I sucked on it. Now apparently this “Grado Grattle” is caused by a small crease in the diaphragm, and what was suggested to fix it involved removing the drivers, preforming some careful duct tape artistry to correct the crease by pulling it outwards, and then putting the drivers back in, all of this without damaging something (obviously). So, I figured, if the basic premise of the fix was to pull out the crease, why not do so with air pressure? I removed the pad from the offending earcup, put my mouth on the mesh, and VERY gently breathed in. Heard a little snap, got a hair dryer and “cured” the diaphragm, as per Beagles instructions, performed a couple of tests, and now they work like champs. Massive Attack is once more enjoyable.
Well, I can confirm that this method actually works for sure now, since I just did the same thing to the right earcup (it was the left before), which got the Grattle pretty badly today, after some very loud listening sessions with very bass intensive music. Now, it sounds grand.
1/16/2004: Forum member Hollowhead submitted this idea for trimming Grado ear cushions so that they’re more comfortable:
I stumbled across the article on Grado mods, and found it to be fairly interesting. The primary thing I want to change about mine is their comfort, or rather uncomfort. I read the section re: trimming headphone pads, and just have a little technique to share that I used when constructing prototypes for industrial design projects. I’m describing the basic concept, you’ll have to make it work for your particular pad.
For trimming them to a thinner profile, that is, getting closer to the diaphragm:
- Attach the headphone pad to some sort of circular item, with double stick tape, carpet tape (heavy duty white foam double stick tape), anything to make it snug enough to resist a little tug. A plastic lid, tuna fish can, etc..
- Drill a hole near the center of the can, lid, etc.. it doesn’t have to be dead center, but the closer the better.
- I would use a utillity knife razor blade (i.e. Stanley), or replacement blade for a “snap-off” knife (Stanley makes these too). Square razor blades aren’t very big, and the extra thickness at the back can be annoying.
- Set the headphone pad flat on a table, such that the pad is facing up, and the disk thingy you’ve put in the center is contacting the table, flat. If the disk thingy isn’t tall enough, find a new disk thingy.
- Use anything you can get your hands on to make a small block, to which you will tape the utility blade. Something shaped similar to a pack of cigarettes would be pretty decent. It can be a small piece of wood, plastic, etc.. but should be flat, and not shift around much if it’s made of several layers.
- Tape the blade to the block. When the block is set flat on the table, the blade should be touching the pad at the height you need them trimmed to.
- Hold the pad steady, and rotate the block around the pad, until you have to rotate the pad and block together, to continue the motion. The blade should probably be close to tangent to the earphone pad, meaning, let it slice the foam, as though you were cutting a tomato, not cheesecake.
- WATCH OUT for your hand holding the pad.. the blade is headed straight towards you! To minimize the chance of getting cut, use a NEW, SHARP, blade, and try to never let your rotating hand be in a straight line with the blade. Imagine it suddenly slipping, it should pass by your hand without coming near.
Depending on the density of the foam, this whole procedure will be more or less difficult. Snap off blade replacements will cut wider pads, but may tend to “swim” in the foam, and make imperfect cuts. Use as short an amount of the blade extended off the block as in possible. This is also safer.
You can place a shim under the the blade to create angled cuts, or make multiple cuts at different angles to make a contoured pad surface.
I hope someone finds this useful!
6/2/2004: Forum member Shell submits this creative mod that makes the cord removable and allows the Grado SR80 to operate in regular stereo or dual mono mode. The headphone cable is removed and two mini jacks (with switches) are installed on each earcup. The left channel jack can receive either a standard stereo signal or a mono signal. If a mono signal is then inserted into the right channel jack, it plays only that mono signal (the right channel information from the stereo signal is cut off).
I recently got me a pair of Grado SR-80s. This is, technically, my first pair of high-end headphones, and i must say the 80-somehting dollars that they cost me were well-spent. These things are just begging to be modded though. [And yes, I’ve read the Collected Grado Mods page] First off, I plan on “velvetizing” the earpads, and perhaps putting a very thin velvet fabric over the white fabricky mesh of the headphone, with the circular holes matched. Next is the cable. The original cable is a bit too long and bulky for me, and the conector is a bit bulky as well. However, rather than doing just a mono-plug mod, I decided to do something a bit more useful.
I ordered a pair of 3.5 mm stereo jacks with 2 NC (normally-closed) switches, along with a bunch of other stuff. I put each of these in each of the headphones so that I have both the capability to use them as 2 mono plugs and one Stereo plug coming from only one side.
How? This is where the 2 NC switches come in. The right headphone’s jack is wired through the NC switches to the left headphone’s stereo jack (the wires go through the headband). This way, I can plug in a stereo cable to the left headphone’s jack to use the headphones, and if i plug in a mono (or stereo, doesn’t matter – as long as I plug something in) connector into the right headphone, the NC switches open and I’ve got 2 separate headphones with separate ground.
The first step was to take apart the driver housing. This was actually very easy with the spoon method discussed on the collected grado mods page. The cable is desoldered from the transducer. Then the jack is mounted on the earcup in the hole where the cable used to be. There was a lot of filing involved to get the jacks to fit in the earcups. To connect the right channel, I used about 15″ of 20AWG wire (way too thick – overkill, really).
Installing the jack for the left channel is done similarly. After I had finished with the right channel, I “threaded” the wire inside the headband so it came out on the other side. Then I connected the right channel to the stereo jack in the left channel.
After putting everything together, everything worked except the right headphone in mono mode. The reason? I thought i could get away without soldering the center band (“right channel” of the jack) and the ground together, but apparently the contact didn’t reach ground on a mono plug. So, insert small wire connecting the center band and ground. Voila: I have, if I want, two completely separated headphones (they don’t even share common ground), or a stereo cable in the left headphone for both of them.
8/10/2004: Forum member Wallijonn transplanted the tranducers from his Grado SR-80 to an Aiwa AK100 headset assembly. He writes:
found the Aiwa AK100 on Ebay, and I paid $30 for two. The headband is light flexible plastic, mimicking the AKG K501 and ATH AD10 type of headband – dual plastic covered wires. It has very comfortable over-the-ear earpads and cloth-like (top) covered leather (bottom) headband tensioner. Even though they are of an open design, the middle of the transducer leaks very little sound. If you know what a dome tweeter sounds like, you should have some idea of what these headphones sound like. The cable is Sennheiser thickness like and is 15 feet long, making it perfect for television and movie viewing. I used the Aiwa AK-100 headphone for a basis and used Beyer pads. I made two aluminum donuts 3 & 31/32″ inch in diameter and made a 2″ hole in the centre. I turned the finish into brushed aluminum. Black & Silver. GORGEOUS. I unsoldered the transducers and mounted the transducers in the aluminum hole. I then resoldered the wires. I cut the Grado pads so that the angled portion of the bowl fits inside the Beyer DT831 pads. The sound: SOOO MUCH BASS! This thing shakes when it’s playing bass notes. I’m wondering if adding cotton batting to the cup side will tame it. I doubt it as cotton batting tends to increase volume space and therefore increasing bass, but I may be able to push it towards an infinite baffle type enclosure. This thing has to blow away DT770s! The transients are all there, as is the forward sound of the midrange. The highs are super smooth. Maybe it just matches well with the Crown D60 amp, as I have found that the K501 has a LOT of bass, as does the K1000s when I play them through my Crown D60 amp. So let’s chalk this one up to my modifications AND the Crown amp. Phase 2 is the tuning. Phase 3,The final phase, would be the headband. I’m still undecided if I want to destroy the Aiwa AK100s. It should be easy enough to mount it on new pivot points. The bass is super TIGHT: sub-woofer tight. I can’t believe my ears! My head is shaking from the bass notes. I feel like I’m inside a car with a $5000 stereo – the ghetto blaster woofers being heard from 10 blocks away! HOORAY! Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” sounds like it would at Studio 54 on a saturday night! I can feel my ear lobes shaking!!! AND THOSE HIGHS! AND THE MIDS! WOW!!!!!! MAN, OH MAN!!! Kiddies, throw away your dt770s and V6’s. There’s a new king in town. Since the AK-100s have “angled” drivers, I removed the drivers, extended the Grado as far as possible (a little over 9/16″) and put wires over the inner hole (inside the Aiwa ear cup) while I glue gunned all the parts together. In this configuration the Grado driver comes into contact with the ear lobe (as is normal). But now it is angled. It took a few rubber bands to hold everything in place while I glue gunned all the parts together (both the Grado driver housing, and the Grado driver to the Aiwa inner hole). Yes, the wires were removed after the glue dried. I kept the original driver cloth cover as it does not rub as much as stock. The sound? Well, it sounds just like a Grado. (A sound which I have outgrown). But it is a lot more comfortable, thanks mainly to the beyer pads.And some of the high end harshness is gone. I find that the drivers, when they fire directly into your ear canal, are too harsh. I expect the bass and midrange to improve slightly as the pads compress a little more. (What some people mistake for burn in). The wires no longer get tangled. The cable is still too short. It just makes it to my soundcard. And it is way too short for 12′ viewing from a TV set. I definitely like my DT880s a lot more.
The headband is somewhat flimsy as it is flexible plastic. I took off the wimpy pads and put on the Beyer DT831 pads on it. It would be interesting if other headphones can be adapted. I would think that any headphone which presently has angled drivers could possible work. The trick will be to see if a closeout item can be adapted. I would wait until they go for $15.