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Grado RS1 "Shack Hack" Mod (56K beware!)

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
Grado RS1 "Shack Hack" Mod
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(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.

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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:

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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!!
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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
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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:


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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:

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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!
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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:

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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:

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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!

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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!
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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:

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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:

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Lovely, eh?


Final Thoughts
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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.

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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.



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*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!


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



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EDIT 02/09/08:
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After listening to the "5 hole" configuration for a full 15 hours or so ... I can say that the punched Radio Shack pads are still lined up in their original place; it's all quite secure ... even with moving the headphones around all day.

Also ... even with five holes, the highs may be just a tad too held in check.

I'm going to try a 7 hole and 9 hole mod in the next week or so but want to find a cheaper and more available source of foam than buying Radio Shack pads.

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Also .. it should be stated here that several users have suggested much more readily available 'punch' devices than my modified brass valve stem.

1. Head-fi user, onlysleeping suggested a rather brilliant alternative to my above brass option in the form of using an empty pencil eraser housing to punch out the circles from the foam; IMHO, this is by far the best solution since everybody can drop 5 cents on a new pencil and then yank the eraser out of the aluminum housing (resulting in an already sharpened and perfect foam hole punch!).

2. Secondly, Head-fier wolfen68 suggested using a spent .22 caliber shell as a hole punch; yet again ... another fine arse suggestion!

3. Third, regarding the punching of holes through foam ... there has been some mention of using a standard office (paper) hole puncher. This might work but also, it might not cleanly sever the foam ... resulting in the need to pull or stretch the 'plugged out' portion away from the main foam flat ... which could also result in tears. So .. try the office hole punch and see if it works ... but the far better way to cleanly cut the holes would be some sort of punch used with a hammer.

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(keep modding!)

post #2 of 50
Wow, thats such a genius idea, one of those "why didn't I think of that" type of thing. This should work on grado sr-60s right? I'll have to try this one day, thanks for the detailed tutorial.
post #3 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by goober-george View Post
Wow, thats such a genius idea, one of those "why didn't I think of that" type of thing. This should work on grado sr-60s right? I'll have to try this one day, thanks for the detailed tutorial.
I've never used the SR60's ... but I figure some version of the above mod (if not the exact same) would work fine with the SR60's.

My roommate has some SR80's and SR225's ... so tomorrow I'll have a look at those and see what differences there might be.

Glad you liked the mod.

It really does work quite well ... I've been listening for about an hour and it's a whole new take on the previous sound.

I'll most likely mess around with different hole configurations in the near future ...

Fun stuff...

post #4 of 50
I wonder if popping the eraser out of a pencil, then using the pencil would work as a punch.

I may try this on my Sr80s tomorrow since it does look comfy. I'm still waiting for my 414 pads to come in the mail. Maybe a quick trip to Radioshack is in order!
post #5 of 50
Great mod! It seems as if the ratshack pads wouldn't even have to be used in particular. Just about any foamies would do, it seems. Thanks for write up.
post #6 of 50
Nice mod and looks clean Im gonna do it to my MS2i too.

Thanks for sharing!
post #7 of 50
Very cool and extremely cheap mod! Thanks for sharing! If, as you've described, this mod helps to tame the RS-1 highs and bring them a little closer to the HD600 type of sound (of course there is a great distance between the two, but I know what you're saying), then it's certainly worth $5 to give it a try for any RS-1 owner, no matter how much he/she loves the stock sound.

I've never owned the RS-1 myself because my ears just can't handle their highs (at least as I've heard them at some meets). So a simple mod that would tame them a bit would be fun to experiment with. I've got several other Grados and I might give this a try with some of them. Just need to remind myself to pick up some of those Rat Shack pads next time I'm in a mall.
post #8 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by onlysleeping View Post
I wonder if popping the eraser out of a pencil, then using the pencil would work as a punch
That would probably be perfect. Wish I'd have thought of that before I started grinding. The pencil eraser housing is even pre-sharpened. Just don't tap so hard that you crumple the metal ...
post #9 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by autosound View Post
Great mod! It seems as if the ratshack pads wouldn't even have to be used in particular. Just about any foamies would do, it seems. Thanks for write up.
why not use a hole puncher?
post #10 of 50
Thanks s1rrah. I have lots of spare foam so I'll give this mod a go.
post #11 of 50
Gave you praise on OCN, but this is both logical and simple. Excellent all-around. .
post #12 of 50
Nice idea but….

It doesn’t appear to be anything like the Flat Pads. The Flat Pads move the drivers closer to the ear not further away.

The HD414 pad mod is easier and closer to the Flat Pad.

Your mod is different but until you’ve heard Flat Pads it’s inconclusive what it does to the sound.

I believe if you take the raw RS-1 pads and reverse them it will give you an idea of what the Flat Pads sound like.


Mitch
post #13 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pez View Post
why not use a hole puncher?
Hole punch would work fine as well.

I just like brass ... and all the tools made the photos look better.

post #14 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by braillediver View Post
Nice idea but….

It doesn’t appear to be anything like the Flat Pads. The Flat Pads move the drivers closer to the ear not further away.

The HD414 pad mod is easier and closer to the Flat Pad.

Your mod is different but until you’ve heard Flat Pads it’s inconclusive what it does to the sound.

I believe if you take the raw RS-1 pads and reverse them it will give you an idea of what the Flat Pads sound like.


Mitch
It's simply a way to alter the sound.

Never claimed it altered the sound the same way the flat pads do; I do intend to try the flat pads but in the meantime I'm going to try different types of foam and different hole arrangements.

My main reason for doing the mod is to discipline the high frequencies a bit. And regarding that goal ... the mod works very well and is quite extensible.

And for me ... making stuff is more fun than ordering online ... though ordering online runs a close second.

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post #15 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by onlysleeping View Post
I wonder if popping the eraser out of a pencil, then using the pencil would work as a punch.
I know everybody doesn't own a .22 rifle, but if you have an empty brass .22 casing, they make the best punch you could ever want.
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