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Sennheiser Grado Hybrid a.k.a. SennGrado

Posted

Pros: Detailed, soundstage, Airy

Cons: Requires DIYing, Depth in soundstage

INTRODUCTION:

 

First of all I just want to thank everyone involved in making these headphones and for providing me an opportunity to write a review on these. I'd like to focus this review by mainly comparing the SennGrados to other Grados, but I'll also compare it to other headphones like the Mr.Speakers Mad Dogs 3.1 as well as a surprise boss battle by the Grado HF-2s!

 

EQUIPMENT:

 

I currently own the O2 DAC/AMP combo and will be using that with my laptop for this review.


SOUND:

 

When I first listened to the SennGrados, I immediately noticed the wider soundstage and  greater detail compared to the Grados I've listened to in the past. They provide a wider soundstage and greater detail compared to the SR-60s, MS-1e (based on memory), and SR-225. The SennGrados sound open and free while lower end Grados  can sound a bit congested and lost especially when listening to classical.  In the past I have owned Grado RS-1s but it's been so long since I've listened to them that I won't comment on whether or not I believe the SennGrados provide greater detail.

 

I can say though, I was not impressed with the Grado RS-1 for the money  (imo SR-225s get you pretty close) and the SennGrados according to memory do have a wider soundstage than the RS-1s. An awesome feat for $40 drivers!

 

One thing I found lacking at first was a slight thinness to the sound and lack of bass, when switching between my modded Grado SR-60e and SennGrados . However,I noticed they needed quite a bit more power so I switched to high gain and that made a big difference. Bass became very present but not overpowering. The highs and mids filled out, really completing the sound. Comparing the SennGrados to the SR-60es the highs extend further, mids or vocals may seem a little less lush at times, and the bass is simply just better. I feel the SennGrados bas provide a perfect balance between, tone and impact. The bass is present but never overpowering.

 

The SennGrados provided my literally first jaw dropping moment in listening to music, it was so powerful that I had to step away, it was quite an emotional experience.  It happened while I was looking up songs for this review and I was randomly going through classical songs until I found Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major op.3. If you can I suggest looking up that song on youtube, it's performed live, and led by Sayaka Shoji. These cans are simply amazing for classical and really anything that can show off the soundstage of your headphones.

 

The exact moment my jaw dropped was roughly around the 6:44 mark where the full orchestra comes to support Sayaka Shoji beautifully. The extended smooth highs and soundstage are well represented in this song. The SennGrados seemed to be tailor made for this song. I preferred listening to that specific song over the modded SR-60e, stock SR-225, Mad Dogs, and yes the HF-2s. The Grados and Mad Dogs just don't provide as much air or open in sound. One thing I can say the Alpha Dogs and HF-2s seem to have more depth in soundstage whereas the SennGrados soundstage seems to mainly go left to right. I'm not sure exactly why but the highs for SennGrados are amazing for string instruments.

 

Comparing the SennGrados vs the Mad Dogs 3.1 and HF-2s I find instrument placement more accurate as I find that they both have more depth in soundstage and maybe that's why they seem more detailed.

 

When listening to rock music however I feel the SennGrados don't have the same grit or intimacy (probably due to smaller soundstage) as a Grado. In general the Grados have a warmer tone overall compared to the SennGrados. The guitars on my modded Grado SR-60e and stock SR-225 have a bit more grit and twang compared to the SennGrados. By no means do the SennGrados sound bad with rock music, but I find guitars just rock a bit more on Grados in general. In my opinion it became clear when listening to AC/DC - Thunderstruck and Funkadelic - Maggot Brain. I did a quick A-B comparison and there was just a bit more soul in the guitars. Not all rock sounded best with Grados though  because when I put on Talking Heads that was a completely story. The SennGrados clearly outperformed the modded SR-60e and stock SR-225. The wide, detail, open sound of the SennGrados carries all of the instruments wonderfully and really showcase Talking Heads well. 

 

Now, when putting on Daft Punk I think you could go either way but I prefer the SennGrados due to wider soundstage and a bit of a cleaner sound. It's really fun listening to all the synths and small details with the SennGrados. In my opinion it's one of the best headphone I've heard for artists like Daft Punk and Radiohead.

 

Highs: Extends very well, bright but not harsh, String instruments sound amazing

Mids: Slightly forward, could be a little more lush in vocals but still good

Bass: Very well defined, present but never overpowering (I really like the bass it's spot on imo)

 

COMFORT: These particular headphones use the grado frame, and so obviously wears like a Grado. If you find Grados comfortable you'll find these comfortable and if not well then they won't be comfortable. One thing I want to mention though are the wood cups are surprisingly light.

 

BOSS BATTLE: Grado HF-2s vs SennGrados
So how do the SennGrados fare against the Grado HF-2s? Well, it's a bit of a David vs Goliath situation but the SennGrados put up a good fight, and the SennGrados have a  wider soundstage compared to the Grado HF-2s. The Grado HF-2s however exhibit greater detail, warmer and a fuller sound. It's a bit easier to hear all the small details in a song compared to the SennGrados. Keep in mind though I still feel the SennGrados out perform Grado HF-2s in classical due to the soundstage.

 

CONCLUSION:

 

I feel like I could go on and on comparing the SennGrados to the Mad Dogs and HF 2s along with the lower end Grados and compare the nuances of each headphone but that would make my review way too long.. Do I feel they are the be-all and end-all of headphones?  No, I still think guitars on Grados sound best, but considering the drivers are only $40 the value these headphones provide is outstanding. The SennGrados are still quite versatile and perform incredibly well  especially for classical, electronica, and jazz. They exhibit an open and wide sound that is unheard of in a Grado headphone (at least from what I've heard.) I've never listened to the Grado GS-1000 or Grado PS series at all. In some cases the SennGrados can still rock very well and outperformed the lower end Grados when listening to Talking Heads.

 

It really is an amazing headphone considering that the drivers only cost $40. I like to say these headphones have a stupid, good value and hopefully I'll be able to have my own SennGrado in the future. They are no slouch at all either when comparing to "higher end" headphones such as the Mad Dogs and the Grado HF-2s and in some cases outperforms them.

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed the review.

Posted

Pros: Sound, detail, fun, engaging, low cost to build

Cons: moderate DIY project

Ok guys, here's my take on the SennGrados...

 

First of all, I would like to mention that these are not my personal cans, they are on loan to me as part of a tour that's spreading the word on these cans, the SennGrados.

Many thanks to Head-fi members JoeDoe and 7keys for organizing this tour, and putting this excellent headphone together, and out for loan.

 

I first found out about this tour from a post that 7keys posted on the "post your Grado mods thread". I've been following this thread for a while know, since I build a pair of Magnum cans last year.

 

The SennGrado cans are essentially the drivers from a Sennheiser PX100 II incased in a Grado style headphone (wooden shell, headband, pads). I believe credit for this particular mod goes to head-fi member wje, which he first brought to light on the "non-Grado driver thread". Thanks wje!

 

 

 

 

Sound

 

Strengths: Detail. This headphone is surprisingly detailed. Treble and mids exhibit very nice detail. Very easy to focus on different instruments and voices.

 

I wouldn't know exactly how to classify it as far as signature goes, except to say that it has some boosted midbass and forward mids as voices and guitar are always quite present.

 

 

Bass: The Bass is punchy and has good texture. Good body. Never muddy, very good tone.

 

Mids/Treble: Both midrange and treble seem a bit forward to me, pushing lots of detail through. High-mids seem boosted. I must say though, I had very little problems with sibilance or of it ever sounding harsh. 

 

Weakness: Depth. I'd say soundstage is normal/average but lacks a bit of depth. I believe this is due to the forwardness I just indicated above.


Other thoughts...

 

The Senngrados do a great job of staying true to the source, changes were very apparent between gear that was being used at the time, which I like very much. Also, they truly shine with good recordings(Chesky!), but still forgiving enough to enjoy crappy recordings (yeah, I'm looking at you mid-late 80's Megadeth!)

 

Comfort:

These cans are based on Grado cans so your mileage may vary. 

 

Amping:

These headphones are not particularly hard to drive, but sources like my Galaxy S4 did lack volume on them.

 

Synergy: 

 

These headphones are superbly adaptable to the source you are using, like I mentioned earlier, so to me, they had very good synergy with my gear. 

 

Gear Used: 

 

Hisound Studio 3rd Anniversary, Headroom Desktop Amp/Dac, and Samsung galaxy S4. All my files are FLAC ripped from CD's, Spotify and Youtube were also thrown in the mix.

 

Update: I did manage to squeeze in a good 20 minutes with my desktop setup (USB to COAX converter > Bifrost Uber > MAD ear+ HD) before having to ship these headphones out to the next person on the tour, and MAN this little can ROCKS! 
Great up-scaling! 

 

Overall, I'd STRONGLY recommend this headphone. Outstanding price to performance ratio, not to mention the thrill of putting together your own headphone can be quite an awesome experience! 

 

Thanks for reading, and Happy Listening!

Posted

Pros: DIY, Midrange, Relatively Comfortable, Wooden Cups are cool

Cons: DIY, Distorted Bass, 2kHz Spike, Treble

Introduction & Build Quality

The SennGrado is a mod in which the drivers of the Sennheiser PX-100 II are removed and mounted in Grado style wooden cups. Variation between pairs, of course, is very large. The wooden housings are chosen by discretion of the modder. Your pair will most likely not sound the same as my pair.

 

Some mods will opt for the smaller housings similar to the RS1 / RS2. My pair has deeper wooden cups, which frankly look quite ridiculous when worn. Of course, these are not portable headphones, and there are no mirrors within close proximity of my listening station. This is a non-issue.

 

They are, however, quite gorgeous to marvel at when they are not being used. The cherry wooden cups feel very solid and are of high quality. This is exactly what I was searching for when I was considering the purchase of the SennGrado. A pair of beautiful wooden headphones under ~$200. In this regard the SennGrado passes with flying colors.

 

The cable is also surprisingly nice as well. Very thick and braided with cloth, terminating into a 1/4 inch plug. Slightly prone to tangling and kinks, but very nice and supple.

The headband, though comfy, is easily the biggest downside of the headphone. The hinges are made of very thin plastic. I am afraid that they may crack or break off eventually.

 

Long-term durability is a concern. However, with considerate care these headphones should be perfectly fine. When not in use, I keep mine stowed away in the case that comes with the HD 650. Have I mentioned that they look absolutely gorgeous? If I already did, the statement warrants repeating: They're gorgeous.

8/10


Comfort

 

Comparable to Grado headphones. Not as heavy as the SR-325. Earpads are fine, but can get itchy when worn for extended periods of time. The bowl pads are awful, and alter the sound in a way that I do not find enjoyable. More on that later.

6/10


Impedance & Sensitivity

 

The PX-100 ii is rated at 32 ohms and 114 dB SPL/V. They are quite efficient and do not need extra power from dedicated amps. I am able to power these out of my desktop computer's line out and iPod just fine.

 

When plugged into a Magni/Modi Schiit stack, however, this pair of headphones unfortunately creates audible lower end distortion in the left ear cup, and render the headphone unlistenable. There is only one other pair of headphones I have encountered this issue with, and that is the AKG K240.

 

This may be because of an improperly seated driver or a damaged cable. All other headphones I have tested with the Magni do not have this issue.

 

Sound Quality

All this is info is great and all, but how do they sound?

Here are the measurements from Innerfidelity. Measurements are a great way to get a quick and objective idea of what a headphone sounds like.
http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SennGradoDIYModifiedJoeDoe.pdf[1] 

 

The SennGrado, despite its amusing moniker, does not sound like any Grado I have ever heard. Instead they sound more akin to the Audio Technica line of AD500/AD700/AD900. The sound is entirely dependent on the pads that you use. I personally hate using the bowl pads. Not only are they unbearably uncomfortable, but they make the headphones extremely bass-heavy. Some may like it, but I don't. I prefer using the supra-aural ear pads, as they are similar to the Sennheiser PX 100 ii. Hell, you can be like /u/2800fps[2] and MacGyver Beyerdynamic pads onto them if want to. https://imgur.com/a/1kaKo[3]  

 

Here's a quick run down. Compared to all of the other headphones in my collection, it is like a combination of the V-Moda M-80 and AKG K240, with a midrange that almost rivals the HD650 (yes, seriously). The pads sit on the ears like the M-80, and presents a full midrange like the AKG K240. The 2 kHz peak will create some unwanted sibilance with vocals. If a singer has a breathy or nasal voice, you will certainly notice it. Treble is similar to the M-80; it is recessed and in the background. The bass, surprisingly enough, is very impactful. Sub-bass creates some harmonic distortion, increasingly so as it goes deeper. Depending on the genre of music, it can be a pleasing distortion. If you like the sound of OTL tube amps, this would be a neat way to get a similar experience.


Soundstage/Imaging

 

These headphones are very good at providing that "outside-of-your-head" soundstage. Music sounds like it is being played in a large auditorium rather than a small concert venue. In fact, the width of the soundstage is one of the headphone's biggest strengths. Want to provide your friend compelling evidence that open headphones sound better than most closed headphones? A listening session with the SennGrado would do quite nicely.

 

They do sound more open than the HD 600/650. However, the HD 600/650 does a better job with imaging. It's easier to place where musicians are onstage.

 

Thanks to the large wooden cups, the SennGrado gives an awesome presentation of the music. It reminds me a lot of the AD500/AD700/AD900. Excellent. 9/10

 


Treble

The SennGrado does not have the hot treble characteristic of Grado headphones. It is almost as if the drummer is using nylon brushes instead of drumsticks. Frequencies past 3 kHz are recessed, but there are some uneven dips and peaks up to 10 kHz. This means most of the time hi-hats, cymbals, and snares are usually soft, but present. However, if you enjoy listening at louder volumes you may find yourself reaching for the volume knob with those Classic Rock and Electronic tracks that are mastered brightly.

 

 

Personally, I prefer recessed treble over treble which is much too loud. However, the deep wood cups unfortunately create resonances, so hi-hats and cymbals sound slightly off. Not too bad, but not good either. 6/10

 


Midrange

The highlight of the SennGrado. It is very nicely done, and was the most surprising aspect of the SennGrado for me. I was expecting it to sound like the SR-60's aggressive midrange. Not so. Again, it sounds similar to my AKG K240, which slightly emphasizes the lower midrange. The HD650 also does this as well, and this is a tuning that many people prefer, myself included. Sounds a bit lush, but natural.

 

I say this as a singer and as someone who has had many years of experience with guitar, ukulele, and piano. It's damn good. 10/10

 


Bass:

This is very much a love/hate thing for me. Because the bass becomes audibly distorted the deeper it gets, the headphone does very poorly with genres that use acoustic instruments for the bass section. I notice this issue mostly with Classical, Folk, and some Jazz music. But with Rock and Electronic? You can imagine how it would benefit those select genres. I enjoy it from time to time, but the added distortion due to the resonances in the wood housing interferes with my enjoyment of certain albums. Make no mistake about it, the bass is not of high quality. But it is very fun to listen to every once in a while with certain albums.

 

It is not at all an accurate representation. But the harmonic distortion compliments certain songs so very well. In Olafur Arnalds' song Tunglio,[4] 

 

 there is a very soft rumble at the 3:00 minute mark. It's incredibly easy to miss if you are not actively waiting for it. I have listened to this song dozens and dozens of times, and it wasn't until now that I realized it was there. 

8/10

 


 

Conclusion

 

So. Would I recommend the SennGrado mod? I originally purchased this in search of a <~$200 wooden headphone that is aesthetically pleasing. I primarily wanted to obtain one as a conversation piece, a unique oddity to show to friends as they visit. In fact, it was my intention to sell the headphone after trying it out of curiousity.

The SennGrado does exceed my expectations, sonically. It is my affirmation that compared to the Grado RS2 (the official wooden headphone from Grado labs) the SennGrado surpasses it in audio fidelity. The frequency response is suited towards a less fatiguing listening experience with rolled off treble, but audio hobbyists who swear by neutrality will remain unimpressed. The bass response, gives an impactful "oomph", which is either entirely complimentary to the selected music or wholly inappropriate, depending on the genre of choice. The measurements graphs provided by InnerFidelity may initially give the impression that these are bass light headphones, but taking into account the 30 & 300 Hz Square Wave and high %THD+noise measurements will show that it is clearly audible.

I commend the SennGrado for its impressive midrange. Vocals, guitars, strings and brass instruments sound fantastic. It may very well be that the midrange only seems amazing in comparison to the rest of the frequency response, but notwithstanding it provides for a very enjoyable listening experience.

 


 

Should you run out and purchase the materials necessary to assemble one for yourself? Well, the process will certainly require a couple evenings dedicated to the project, and the handiwork of the craftsman is especially deterministic of the end result's quality of build. If you are okay with that, then yes, I believe that this is absolutely a project worth taking on.

For those of us who are not DIY inclined, however, that answer becomes much trickier. There is no one sole modder that is selling these -- e.g. Mr. Speakers -- and variability between pairs is one of the highest I've ever seen with the mod sharing the same name. Prices vary, though I believe they range from ~$150 to ~$220. Furthermore, my pair will most likely not sound identical to your pair. Build quality is inconsistent. You may receive a pair like mine that has drivers which look quite garish when exposed,[1]  or it could be beautifully crafted through and through . If possible, open up a conversation with the seller before purchasing.

 

There is a reason why the seller would be willing to part with the headphone, and that is because it is not a headphone for everyone. It does, however, provide a very unique presentation which may or may not captivate you. I remain somewhere in the middle. I've spent many dozens of hours listening to the headphone, and I still enjoy poring through my music collection nearly every day with the SennGrado, despite having access to headphones which are technically superior. That is more than can be said about other headphones I've acquired over the years.

 

I like it.

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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