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Sennheiser Grado Hybrid a.k.a. SennGrado

Posted

Pros: Fantastic performance for cheap

Cons: Requires DIY Skills

I like to mod…yes, I am one of those head-fiers.

 

My specific area of interest is Grados, and wooden cups for them. I delight in sourcing cups, finding the drivers, and transforming a prosaic pair of Grados (a triumph of dogged determination in industrial design in their stock form) into a personalized, beautiful-sounding, pair of killer conversation pieces to listen to at my office.

 

I have been watching the “non-Grado Driver” thread for a while now, and have long been interested to find out why there has been so much fuss over the new build currently in vogue, the SennGrado. When JoeDoe and 7Keys very graciously offered to do a tour of a pair lovingly built by JoeDoe using some of 7Keys beautiful Cherry cups, I leapt at the chance to spend a little time comparing them to my Magnum X build. As I understand it I was the first in line, I hope more folks get to hear these. My impressions follow…all listening was done on a FiiO X5, with no amp and using FLAC 16/44 files.

 

I switched between high and low gain a few times. The SennGrado definitely benefits from high gain for some reason, even though both the Sennheiser and the Magnum drivers have a 32 ohm impedance. I did my best to volume match simply by ear. My impressions below are probably minimally, if at all, biased by the “louder sounds better” slant.

 

The SennGrado showed a more natural presentation, and performed better with bass. It wasn’t shy, didn’t repress it and try to compensate with mids and treble as the Magnum X did. The Magnum tends to have a slightly one-dimensional bass presentation. Think doof-doof as opposed to boom-booooom. In addition, the SennGrado actually sounded a little more open sometimes, but at the same time a touch less controlled as a result. Both headphones showed similar levels of detail retrieval.

 

The SennGrados, surprisingly (given the drivers cost just over half of what the Magnum ones do) go head-to-head with the Magnum X. I found that comparing the two is more a question of sound signature preference, and not a “…yes, they will do as a poor-man’s substitute…” thing.

 

It’s clear that wje really did create a beautiful monster in the SennGrados. He needs to be credited with bringing the gorgeous sound the modding community craves in every build a little closer to everyone by discovering a very worthy driver substitute in the rough. A very worthy driver that costs very little. In all of my listening, I found a little more air in odd passages here and there using the Magnums. This came at the cost of a little bass though. The SennGrado consistently delivered a richer bass experience.

 

The only thing I need to verify now is…how do the PX100 ii sound in their stock form? Is this the end of my world as I know it?

 

Here is my listening list:

 

Diggable Planets – Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Space and Time)

A thumpy, warmer album from the mid-nineties, with a definite, strong lean toward warm analog, hip-hop production.

The Awakening – Hear, Sense, and Feel

Jazz from the early seventies off a short-lived but super-hip label called “Black Jazz”. Production on the albums I have heard from the  label tends to be great, some would say in the Rudy van Gelder style I suppose.

Jobriath – self-titled

The US’ answer to Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust in the seventies. A tragically overhyped and later discarded artist. All that aside, a nice example of glam-rock realized on a grander scale. Pleanty of great, elaborate arrangments.

Pink Floyd – the Dark Side of the Moon

No explanations needed here…I believe I am listening to a bog-standard, regular copy (none of the new remasters/re-issues/digital orgasm versions that have since been released) and it’s the best production job on a Floyd album in my humble opinion. Mr. Parsons deserves a medal for what he did here…

Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes

The latest from the LA beatmaker with a serious side. Flying Lotus’ albums stand out in that despite his shows being geared toward a party atmosphere, they are built as continuous, themed pieces, made to stand alone as serious listening. The only downside is that he has no qualms about pushing all of the levels and compressing the hell out every track. This means some headphones battle to make sense of what, if more delicately mastered, would be a sublime body of work…

Taj Mahal – The Natch’l Blues

Great, simple blues from the late sixties. Lots of acoustic and electric guitar, and nicely recorded, unlike a lot of the blues canon out there.

Posted

Pros: Excellent SQ, Value, Lightweight, Modifiable

Cons: Requires some DIYing

Ah yes, the SennGrado. Like a unicorn or a woman with brains and beauty, this one is almost impossible to believe. But I'm here to tell you: believe it.

 

If you want background info, head over to the non-Grado thread. Basically a handful of modders (led by @wje) have installed the drivers from Senn's portable PX100 II in Grado-style cups with astounding results. If you're not sold yet, consider the fact that most who have tried the SG have considered, if not already sold their higher end Grados.

 

The SennGrado bests anything in the Prestige series to these ears. They are of the same sound as the RS1/GS1000  with slight differences. 

 

Bass

The low end is punchy and dynamic. Nice and full with plenty of texture. I prefer the SG's bass to the RS1i's. It reaches deeper and seems more linear where the RS1 has a little extra in the midbass that seems more round and less detailed in comparison.

 

Mids

In the mids, the RS1 wins as they seem more forward and lush. That's not to say that the SG is a slouch though. still very clear and easy to listen to. For those who've heard both the GS1000 and RS1, the SG's mids are more similar to the GS1000 with respect to how they are framed by the upper and lower ends of the spectrum.

 

Treble

The upper end is nicely extended and detailed. It's not as aggressive as the RS1 or 325 but certainly isn't rolled off either. This treble is what I think of when I think of non-fatiguing. 

 

Soundstage/Separation

The intangibles are right on par with the GS1000. Bigger soundstage than the RS or Prestige series. Nice air up top without sounding unnatural. 

 

Overall, the SG is one that any Grado fan should hear once. I've never head a Magnum, so I can't compare, but used PX100s can be had for less than $40, so for sound on par with upper end Grados, a pair of SennGrado's can be assembled for less than the cost of Magnum drivers. Not to mention that they can be installed in whatever cups you'd like so the customization options are endless. Do yourself a favor and check out these exceptional headphones. 

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Sennheiser Grado Hybrid a.k.a. SennGrado
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Sennheiser PX100 (ii) drivers installed in Grado-style cups.

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