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.