Pros - DIY and "Tailor Made", Comfort, Lightweight, Soundstage, Value for money
Cons - Fragile, may lack of intimacy
SennGrado 01 - by Esteboune
(01 because i love them so much, i will certainly build more)
i'm a French guy living in South-East Asia.
33 years old.
Still quite new to this fantastic world of Head-fi, started with a LittleDot Mkiii about 2 years ago.
10 years of Hi-Fi experience.
It is my first review by the way.
I really want to thank you all, active members of this great community. This forum is a tremendous source of information.
This specific project, the SennGrado, have been made possible thanks the people of this forum.
Thank you very much!
About 3 months ago, I discovered a thread named : “Post you Grado mods”
Needless to say that I have been quite astonished by some realizations…!
One week later, I bought myself a pair of Grado SR80e and really enjoyed modding it.
Inevitably, I ended up discovering the SennGrado. I read the reviews, the assembly tutorials, etc…
Next step: order all the parts!!! I was completely sold to the project.
2 weeks later, I was ready for the assembly; nevertheless, I was not ready for the audio quality!!!
ready for action.
Enough talking let me try to give you an honest review of this DIY project I enjoyed immensely.
Macbook Air -> Audirvana Plus -> Schiit Wyrd -> Arcam IrDac
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Dire Straits – Money for nothing
Neil Young – Old Man
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
Miles Davis – So What
Jazz at the Pawnshop Vol1 – Limehouse Blues
Holst – The Planets – Mars
Tchaikovsky – 1812 Ouverture Op49
Daft Punk – Giorgio by Moroder
Massive Attack – Angel
This playlist has been made over the past year, and is composed first of all of tracks I deeply enjoy, but also to monitor sound quality.
Ex: sound stage, instruments separation, bass, middle, treble, vocals, dynamism…
I sourced for high quality components, Cups made from Indonesian Rosewood, aluminum Gimbals, Leather headband.
Rosewood Cups and Aluminium gimbal
Brown leather headband
I made the cable myself with Viablue products: T6S Jack 3.5, Y splitter, Silver Solder. The wire itself is Silver plated OCC Copper (Teflon) cable 24awg.
DIY cable - Silver plated OCC copper + Viablue.
As for the drivers, obviously, they come form Sennheiser PX100 ii.
The result is beyond my expectation.
Feels and definitely looks great.
The only complain is the G-cush grado pads. It is a bit ordinary and cheap to my point of view. Moreover, it is still new so fell like sandpaper and has a strong chemical smell…
The G-Cush pads. Feels like sandpaper...
The overall build quality is great; nevertheless, it is not as sturdy as the B&W p7 for instance. This specific pair of SennGrado (SG) is more delicate. I believe it requires a bit more caution during handling. 8.5/10
Ps: Those SennGrado look good on a headphone stand, for sure. I was on Skype with one of my friend yesterday, SennGrado over my ears, he told me:
"wow, what are those ugly headphones???!"
judge for yourself:
The Grado frame is kind of difficult to beat. The weight is very light. The G-Cush pads offer a wide surface of contact with the head and gently distribute the weight.
During this review, I found myself looking for the SennGrado… and they were over my ears!
Those SennGrado are by far my most confortable pair of headphones. 9/10
n.b: I do not comment on the discomfort of the brand new G-Cush pads as I know that they will get softer and will soon fell better.
Imaging / Soundstage:
From my point of view, Soundstage is one of the strengths of the SennGrado.
I guess the lightweight is also quite decisive in this area.
When I closed my eyes, without being able to actually feel the SennGrado on my head, the music completely surrounded me. It was magic for jazz (So what) or Classical (1812 ouverture).
The instruments separation is trully excellent.
In addition, the detail and resolution of the tracks/records are really well presented on the SennGrado.
As stated the presentation is very airy. I just discovered that it does not suit all the types of music.
The LCD2 has a much more intimate presentation, the music is more IN your head rather that AROUND (SG).
For Dreams or Grace, the intimacy given by the LCD2 is much more enjoyable that the airy presentation of the SennGrado.
I found the B&W p7 quite in the middle.
Grado SR80 is not as good, by far.
No problem here. Bass have a great texture, very well controlled. Authoritative but not overwhelming.
In Angel – Massive attack, the bass are very punchy and dynamic, not too forward. There is still plenty of room for the Vocals to be delivered.
No distortion noted.
Chrystal clear. Very clean Mids.
As stated above, even though the Vocals presentation is really good, sometimes they appear a bit lost!
That was the weak point of my Grado SR80e. I dislike the fact that the treble, on the SR80, are too much in front, very aggressive and overwhelming.
Well, the SennGrado solved it all!
The trebles are not harsh, perfect dosage.
The cymbals of Jimmy COBB in So What are present, enjoyable and yet not too loud.
Overall sound quality 8.5/10
They do sound goooood! Pairing the SennGrado:
Type of Music:
I found that the SennGrado performed really well with an analog signal.
I’m having fantastic moments with my classical and jazz records.
The wide soundstage gives a lot space to each instrument, it is really super enjoyable.
Same conclusion for Electro, Giorgio by Moroder (Daft Punk) was a very pleasant listening session!
However, for more intimate music, I prefer my LCD2 and P7.
Easily driven by all my equipment, the SennGrado with the 32 Ohms drivers will pair well with all your devices.
Tidal + the Galaxy Note 5 is satisfying.
Zx2 to Aune B1 to SennGrado = Yummy
Out from the Sony ZX2 the SennGrado does benefit from the portable amp (aune b1). Impressive set up…!
However, the SennGrado is not what I call a portable headphone.
I love them!
Yes, i know, I made them, for sure. But also because they provide a lot of audio pleasure.
They completely outperform all the Grado(s) I listened to. (up the SR325e).
As for the LCD2, it is not the same league. The audeze give more details more presence and a warmer sound, but the SennGrado are a bit better for jazz and classical. (No generality here).
Still it is quite impressive that the SennGrado may be compare to the LCD2, without being ridiculous at all.
The SennGrado definitely won a special place on my desk, together with the LCD2. The value for money of the SennGrado is quite awesome.
Just ordered a new Omega stand for the SennGrado
Finally, to go back to the DIY project, it was a lot of fun. Sourcing the parts, calling the suppliers, making the cable, and tracking the different packages!!!
Thanks for reading and of course, thanks for mentoring found lad like me in those great projects.
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.
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.
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.
All this is info is great and all, but how do they sound?
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 and MacGyver Beyerdynamic pads onto them if want to. https://imgur.com/a/1kaKo
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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!
I currently own the O2 DAC/AMP combo and will be using that with my laptop for this review.
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.
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.