Shipibo Audio Padded Leather Headbands, Wooden Cups, Aluminum Rod Blocks, and Aluminum Gimbals

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Industrial art is thriving right now. In the technology world, Apple’s unqualified successful metal and glass marvels have designs that harken back to the silver-faced stereo gear of the 1970’s. When placed side by side with black plastic alternatives, it’s easy to see what most people will reach for first. Using materials with greater intrinsic value (than plain black plastic) adds worth, and builds emotion and passion for an otherwise utilitarian product. Przemysław (Przem) Nyczaj and Michal Czok (the partnership behind Shibibo Audio located in Gliwice, Poland) are artists of industrial design, merging traditional elements like wood and metal, and crafting beauty through simplicity, material choice, and design. All Shipibo Audio’s products are 100% made in and shipped from the EU, and the vast majority of their materials are sourced locally.

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New Head-Fier
Pros: Beautiful, functional and well made.
Cons: Priced fairly and competitively but not inexpensively
Shipibo Audio Padded Leather Headbands, Wooden Cups, Aluminum Rod Blocks, and Aluminum Gimbals for Grado

Shipibo Audio included two headbands for review, one padded slightly thicker than the other (the wide comfort model). Both exhibit top-notch construction, made out of black leather, and are equally attractive and comfortable. They are fabricated from genuine calfskin leather with soft memory foam padding for added comfort. They are sewn together by hand using strong, semi-waxed polyester thread. The thinner band is ideal for custom builds with feather-light wooden cups (or the traditional Grado plastic) while the thicker band is an excellent match with the heavier metal-bodied SR325. Especially if you are using the appallingly cheap vinyl headband included on the SR225 and below, replacing it with a Shipibo Audio band is an immense upgrade.

The Shipibo Audio mahogany wooden cups are gorgeous. Full Stop. If you have ever considered wooden cups for your Grados, look no further. They have a smooth, silky semi-gloss finish, that is a pleasure to both look at and to touch. The insides of the cups are precisely CNC milled and the drivers fit perfectly in the grooves. I assembled the drivers with a couple wraps of double-sided tape, making them snug and secure, yet easily changed if desired. Of note, the plain black, square-holed grills are glued in place, however, didn’t stand up to a few unsupervised seconds with my 3-year old. Using a small hex key and Gorilla Glue I was able to fairly easily pull and fasten the grill back in place. The cups come pre-drilled with holes (sized as per the individual customer's request upon ordering) for cables, which I enlarged to 1/4” for 2.5mm sockets upon assembly.

Perhaps most excitingly, Shipibo Audio included prototype versions of aluminum gimbals and rod blocks. Although Przem made it very clear that the production versions will be much improved, I have absolutely no reservations about the fit, finish, utility or design of the prototypes. They unquestionably made the functional beautiful. These eliminate the common complaint of free turning cups that lose your preferred position while annoyingly twisting the cables. They work great, aren’t noticeably heavier than stock, look amazing and fix all my complaints with the Grado units. In other words: perfect. Przem tells me that most of the next batch of aluminum parts (gimbals and rod blocks) will be treated with plasma electrolytic oxide coatings for high hardness, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance. If the final versions will be even better than these prototypes… sign me up!

The final assembly has elicited many admiring comments of “stunning”, “classy” and “beautiful”. Perhaps the most unique compliment was that it “…looks like something Philip Glass would wear.” I’m not sure if this is a comment on minimalism, art or coolness, but it is a great compliment.

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