Hello everyone, here is a review of a new competitor on the market of high end custom headphones!
The recently established "company" Martin Custom Audio ran by the one and only, you guessed it, Martin! You may have followed some of his other projects here on head-fi, building suspiciously good looking bits and pieces for grado headphones out of wood. Now he considered to share his skills with the world.
This will be a review of the first of hopefully many beautiful headphones to come out Martins workshop.
Whats in the package?
When you open the well packaged box the first you see is a wooden box. Nothing too ambitious but very pretty none the less and gives that distinct feeling of something above the average.
Inside the padded box lies a sleeping beauty.
The headphones no longer looks (nor sounds) like the crinky plasticy pair of headphones that at some point got spat out of a machine at Grado Labs. only to land on Martins doorstep, unaware of their glorious future in his care.
The headphone has been hand made from headband to goldplated jack-tip. The headband is made of soft black leather with strips of foam padding inside. Going on from there we meet the two Cebil Wood Rod Blocks. The rods themselves are flat pieces of brass with a steel cap on top. These are then connected to the Padauk Gimbals that hold the Cebil cups with a wide mesh in the back. The pads are the Grado L-Cushions which are by many considered the most comfortable.
The drivers have had 4 holes carefully poked into them, also known as the bass mod, which you can probably guess what does.
The cable is the stock Grado cord sleeved in white mesh and shrink tubing. This looks fantastic but causes a few minor problems, but as i personally re-cabled mine anyway, that wasn't too much of a problem.
The clarity of these headphones are phenomenal. First thing i did after i got these was to go see what i got for my money, in other words, what could these compete with? I went to a local Grado dealer and listened to most of the range of headphones they had to offer. I found that the RS1 resembles this quite a bit, to my ears anyways but the full size Grado's were in a different league. Not that i think they sound better, just different. So for 350$ i got something that can compete with 500$+ and that without thinking of what it started as at Martins doorstep.
To give you somewhat an idea of their sound it is just crystal clear, sharp, crisp and fast. The only thing it will not do (obviously) is produce low frequency hard hitting bass - but don't let that scare you, because it doesn't mean it cant reproduce bass, it can! They shine with everything but most electronic music and the like - simply due to the above.
Now, to what it is good at. I started off (as the fool i am) with some electronic music just to try it, and coming from a Denon AH-D2000 i felt i had just wasted my money. Then i thought maybe I'm just feeding it the wrong music and i dished out Ayreon's legendary "Timeline" cd and my mouth was just a big "O" and i ran to my father as a five year old with a new toy and told him to try it on. He had the same facial expression and would hardly let go of them (He is normally a Sennheiser/Bose fiend). It performs incredibly with anything acoustic, as well as most of the genres i love: Metal, Rock, Celtic music, Ambient music, Symphonic Metal (aswell as normal classic music) and the list probably goes on if i begin to listen to other genres.
The highs are like lightning and sharp without being uncomfortable.
The mids are inviting, crystal clear and again hits spot on!
The bass is very controlled and precise and extends low enough for most genres, and dances rather than packing a wallop like the Denon AH-D2000.
Feel and built quality:
The way these are assembled may seem alien to some (me), but turns out to function brilliantly and comfortably. They are very light yet they feel sturdy and the lamb skin on the headband is rather thick, so you wont need to worry about rearing or by other means damaging it.
If you want a headphone that sounds sharper than a samurais blade looks, these are what you should look for, with their not too heavy price-tag and phenomenal performance. They are primarily for home use but can without any trouble be worn in public with their slick look and size.
When the recabling has been done i will probably let these move on so more people can experience these, because as there is only one pair in existence at the moment i feel more should have the chance to try these and encourage Martin Custom Audio to make more, because he has given Grado Labs a serious run for their money.