Grado GS3000x Statement Series


Watercooler Travel Team
Pros: Extremely comfortable with the proper mods (see below).
Beautiful timbre. Life-like, airy, and open presentation.
Sparkly treble, rich with detail while not fatiguing.
Well-defined upper bass with a natural decay.
Vocals are particularly clear sounding and enjoyable.
Very easy to drive and revealing of the chain.
Cons: Extremely uncomfortable in stock form.
Lower bass is recessed.
Sub bas is rolled off.
Complexly layered tracks are not well resolved.
Does not respond well to EQ.

I’ve never previously owned a Grado.

There are many factors that go into my process of selecting new headphones, and they are mostly focused on sonic presentation. While I value tremendously well-built headphones, I will make the occasional tradeoff in chasing a new and exciting sound. However, I will never buy headphones I cannot comfortably wear for many hours.

And that is why I have never previously owned a Grado. Until now.

When I saw a brand new Grado GS3000x offered for sale at steep discount, I decided to challenge myself: could I get that set and use less than that discount value to put back together a comfortable version of this Grado?

TLDR; yes!

Heads up Grado fans and other gentle spirits. This writeup starts with some honest criticism for its stock build, but I promise a happy ending. I am writing to share my rather simple journey reaching design nirvana, with the hope it can serve others.

Note that this is not a proper headphone review. If I may share some superficial sound impressions further below, these are anecdotes at best. This writeup’s sole purpose is simple: to offer 3 quick steps to transform the Grado GS3000x into comfortable 😱 headphones. Here we go…


After receiving the GS3000x, I noted 2 key problems:

  • Pads – the stock “G Cushion” pads are a medieval torture device that was cleverly concealed as a consumer product. A cheap, scratchy, synthetic foam that is neither over-ear nor on-ear, managing a uniquely cruel middle ground. No doubt there is “a head for every pad”, so others may find it blissful; alas, I have not. I imagine the audiophile endurance test version of a hotdog eating competition would feature a row of Grado users at a desk, battling for maximum endurance measured in listening time achieved.
  • Cable – headphones that come with fixed, non-detachable, cables are a minor felony. In this modern age, in which users want the flexibility to fit their own after-market cables, fixing your own cable is a blatant disregard of consumer demand and limits consumer choice. That said, I can appreciate how a quality obsessed boutique, such as Spirit Torino, may pursue this path in pursuit of extreme sonic quality control. Their saving grace is that their cables are ergonomic and very well made (though, personally, I’d still prefer a detachable setup). However, the Grado GS3000x fixed cable is neither ergonomic nor well made. Microphonic, heavy, and stiff, its kinks and bends never go away. The cable proudly floats mid-air, daring gravity while assisting gravity.. Did I say heavy? Measured separately, I can report this cable adds 153 grams, a 40%(!) in extra weight.
I also noted one minor opportunity for improved comfort:
  • Headband – beautifully thin and minimalist, the original headband is designed with a really nicely stitched leather. I quite like it in fact. However, it does not offer any cushioning. Frankly, I could live with that if I needed to. But, I don’t.





After doing some research and legwork, prowling user communities and reaching out to quite a few vendors, I have proceeded with following 3 simple changes:

  • Pads – there are several good options (please see further below for more info on the various pads I’ve tried and my impressions of them). I chose the Large Hybrid pads made by Silvian from Beautiful Audio in New Zealand. His pad design is clever and executed with extra care. Big, soft, over-ear pads that are supremely comfortable (shipped to NYC in 4 days, wow). One down!
  • Cable – finding someone who will perform a full detachable cable mod on this was very hard. There are only a handful of folks who undertake such mods for Grado (or in general) and, out of those, most did not want to touch these slim delicate wooden cups out of fear of risking damage. In the end, UK based CustomCans was happy to take on this challenge. I believe this was their first time working on a Grado wooden cup model of this type, and James, who worked on my headphones, did a wonderful job. We assumed that these small headphones would require 2.5mm ports, but it was a pleasant surprise to find out in real time that they could comfortably accommodate 3.5mm ports, allowing the use of one of the most ubiquitous and easy-to-use cable terminations. Two down! One to go…
  • HeadbandBeautiful Audio came through again. Silvian has an ingenious, magnetically closing, headband. It fits perfectly, and it is very soft and plush. Wonderful workmanship.
and ”After”…




As I mentioned at the outset, this is not an in-depth headphone review. I don’t feel that I have enough listening time to offer one yet (nor sufficient context to appreciate Grado’s other headphones properly). That said, in brief, here are my basic listening impressions in speedy bullet-point format. Aa always, YMMV:

  • FR
    • Treble – well resolving, forward (hi-hats sound great, yet elevated)
    • Mids – sweet sounding
    • Upper bass – well-defined with a natural decay
    • Lower bass – recessed
    • Sub bass – rolled off
  • Pros
    • Life-like, airy, open, and bright
    • Vocals are particularly clear sounding, with a very enjoyable presentation
    • Very easy to drive and revealing of the chain. Different amps sound rather differently, allowing ample room to synergize
  • Cons
    • Sibilance on some tracks (not always)
    • Complexly layered tracks are not well resolved
    • Does not respond well to EQ
These headphones have a sound signature that is quite different to what I’m used to. It took me a few hours to adjust to them, and I am not done doing so. That caveat aside, my hunch is that they will be best suited for intimate acoustic recordings and live-concert vocals. Tine will tell..


As previously mentioned, the stock “G Cushion” pads are outright uncomfortable to me. Sound wise, I will say that, for the brief time I used them, they sounded lively and enjoyable. However, the nearness of the driver to the ear was a bit too much and sonically fatiguing.

Here are the pads I tried, ranked in my order of preference:

Best Option

Beautiful Audio – Large Hybrid – 5/5

  • Excellent clarity, offering the best resolution from all pads
  • Airy, with a natural and gradually diffusing soundstage
  • Beautiful timbre
  • Tonal balance
    • Treble – sparkly, rich with detail; forward, but exposes detail pleasantly
    • Mids – beautiful and sweet timbre, presenting a feeling of a live concert
      • Upper mids – female vocals are forward
      • Lower mids – male vocals are naturally positioned in space
    • Bass – medium speed, recessed
  • Construction: perforated leather on the outside rim, solid Merino on the inside
  • Convenience: soft, complete over-ear, these pads are extremely comfortable
  • As a nice bonus, these pads are shipped with an extra pair of insert foams, which can replace the foams shipped inside the leather/merino pads cover. The inner foam replacement process is a really clever design feature and super easy to do (with a helpful YouTube clip). The default foam, aka “white” foam, is the one I reference above. The other “pink” form is less dense, trapping less energy inside the pads and offering slightly lower bass.
Viable Options

Dekoni – Fenestrated Sheepskin

  • Fastest transients of all pads
  • Soundstage is smaller than the Beautiful Audio pads, but imaging is good
  • Tonal balance
    • Treble – well resolving, airy
    • Mids – very forward; female vocals are sweet & beautiful
    • Lower bass – excellent: rich and snappy. These pads offer the best lower bass from all pads, a notable plus for this headphone’s default tuning. It almost made it the obvious choice.. except..
    • Upper bass – bleeds into the lower mids. For example, double bass plucking or bowing, lower male vocals, or lower piano notes, are diffused and lacking coherence in the presence of lower bass notes. I really wanted to love these pads for its successful lower bass presentation, but this issue put it safely in second place. Perhaps to be revisited one day
  • Construction/convenience: these leather pads are similarly shaped and offer comparable comfort to the Beautiful Audio pads
  • I may give the Dekoni fenestrated a second listen in the future to reassess my initial impressions
Dekoni – Custom Velour3/5
  • Softer sound profile: offering a more gradual attack, these pads are less snappy than the Dekoni fenestrated
  • Soundstage is smaller, and imaging is a bit less clear than the Dekoni fenestrated
  • Tonal balance
    • Treble – a bit forward
    • Mids – very forward, similar to the Dekoni fenestrated
    • Bass – high in quantity, but the resolution is not great
  • Construction/convenience: made of velour, they are otherwise identical to the Dekoni fenestrated pads in build and comfort
Do Not Attempt

Shipibo 2/5
  • These pads I believe may have been designed with other Grado models in mind. They fit physically. But don’t fit this model sonically. Like listening through a veil, these pads get fuzzier and fuzzier the lower the frequency
  • There is a total collapse of soundstage
  • In summary: barely listenable
  • Construction/convenience: these are less deep and less wide than the Beautiful Audio and Dekoni pads, so they offer a partial, but not complete, reprieve compared to the G Cushion pads. The material is a course synthetic textile (as far as I could guess), offering medium comfort.
Dekoni – (Solid) Sheepskin1/5
  • The sound is completely muffled. Clearly these pads were developed for other Grado models.

This has been a fun journey with a happy conclusion. I now have a wonderfully light and comfortable pair of Grados in my collection and can start spending time listening and getting to know this critter. I look forward to it!

If you’ve always been “Grado curious” and too afraid to try, fear nor. With a little will, there is a simple way.

There are a few things one should try at least once: see the world, start a business, make love under the starlight, and try a Grado. Now you can.

Happy listening!
:beerchug: :beerchug::beerchug:

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@bondanbon I haven’t tried those, I think they are targeted/tuned for studio work (mixing)

Hifiman sorted out its quality issues long time ago and also has very good service (in my experience).
@goldwerger—after reading the other reviews you have written, I realize how in over my head I have gotten. I really enjoyed reading them and very much appreciate the time you took to respond to my newbie questions. I think when and if I am ready to spend $1k-2k on headphones I will likely look at planars rather than grados or other dynamics. For now I’m happy to just explore what I’ve got and ask more questions. Are there any shows that pass through Denver where I could actually see some of this equipment? Or would I need to travel to bigger cities like Chicago or LA? What do I even look for?
@bondanbon my pleasure.
Best shows are CanJams, you can check their schedule (this year planned shows in NYC, SoCal, Dallas). Alternately find a local store. Either way, best thing you can do is just demo stuff and see what you enjoy!