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One of the most well known, and greatly lauded replacement driver for Grado headphones , is the Symphones (previously Magnum) line of drivers, now on version 8. Replacing the driver has the greatest change to the sound and character of the headphone.

Symphones V8 Drivers for Grado

Rating:
4.5/5,
  • Symphones V8 Drivers for Grado

    IMG_0319.jpg

    I’ll let Rhydon Rayment introduce his company and philosophy: “Since 2010 Symphones has done more than refine an old tradition: we've started a new one. By fusing dynamic design with the vivid DIY culture we work to enable a new movement of designer artisans. Symphones empowers DIY builders through our dedication to making the highest quality headphone drivers. To achieve optimal results, our products undergo years of design, testing and verification, making each driver worth your patience and skill.”

    “At Symphones we make headphone drivers by hand using carefully selected materials from local suppliers in Ontario, Canada. Detail is our passion and its no secret that even the adhesives used in our drivers are formulated in-house to our exact specification. We want to give our builders the smoothest, most dynamic and pure sound to showcase their designs. Most of all, we want to expand people’s musical tastes and prove that the best headphones don’t always come mass produced.”

    The V8 is (unsurprisingly) the 8th revision of the popular “Magnum” driver series. Gone is the Grado house sound of the Prestige series, and a more refined, natural and smooth sound signature rivalling far more expensive headphones is achieved.

    Throughout the revisions, the Symphones’ line-up retained the easy to drive, low (32 Ohm) impedance of Grados, which makes them very portable device friendly and do not require a dedicated amplifier. Symphones’ drivers are known for improved soundstage, clarity, and detail compared to stock drivers. They have better extension on both the high and low frequencies, with the bass hump a little lower in the range. In a (very brief) summary, the V1 driver was similar to the 325is, with some peaks in the midrange and treble with tight bass but rolled off sub bass. The V2-V3 drivers were less bright and peaky, with forward midrange and strong mid-bass with rolled off deep bass making them excel with acoustic music. The V4 was very well liked and often described as more neutral. V5-V6 drivers also featured aluminum sleeves and a livelier treble, flatter impedance curve and greater, resolving bass. The V6 extended a bit further in highs and lows and had a bit of a mid bass hump (more v-shaped frequency curve) resulting in a fun sound signature, if not especially neutral. The V7 drivers sounded very different than stock Grados with deeper bass and a forward midrange, balanced with an extended high end.

    In Rhydon’s words the “V8 encompasses improvements related to the diaphragm and its motion, damping of resonances, and bass refinements. Sound lovers will note improvements to the upper, mid, and lower registers, both in resolution and control. Drivers are matched to the tightest tolerance of +/- 0.1db.”

    IMG_0355.jpg

    In back to back, A-B testing, the V8 is a noticeable improvement over the V7. It is smoother, more balanced and exhibits greater control. The V7 driver could get a bit loose with deep bass tracks and this is essentially resolved with the V8. The midrange steps back a little (compared to the V7’s forwardness) and the overall sound presentation is more balanced and refined. These can be described as having the smoothness of the Sennheiser HD650’s paired with the clarity of a Beyerdynamic DT880. Note: my favorite headphone pairing is a modified Bottlehead Crack and HD650 – so this is high praise indeed. Prior to this proper amplification combination, I found the HD650’s a bit lifeless or (forgive me) “veiled” for my tastes. The V8 sounds more like this perfect combo, without lugging around the tube amp.

    The Symphones V8 sound quality is extraordinarily sweet, clear and neutral. Music comes across in a very transparent manner, with oh-so-smooth midrange and controlled, accurate and deep bass. Vocals are natural in presentation, with no noticeable frequency peaks or rough edges. Texture of complex passages remains clear, separated and detailed with superb imaging. Soundstage is very good for an on-ear headphone, if not quite as wide as the best (albeit much more expensive) headphones – although this may simply be a limiting factor of the supra-aural nature of the Grado design.
thesebastian likes this.

Recent Reviews

  1. johnnyb
    When is a Grado not a Grado?
    Written by johnnyb
    Published Dec 21, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - High end detail
    Forward and sweet mids
    Nice balanced presentation
    Cons - Soundstage lacking
    The Symphones V8 drivers are a replacment driver for Grado headphones. Now why would someone purchase a pair of Grados, only to perform a modification as dramatic as replacing the driver? I wondered this myself. I purchased my pair of Grado SR125i's a number of years ago, and enjoyed listening sessions on them for some time. Eventually I mellowed them out with a tube amp. Then mellowed them further with rosewood cups. I guess the simple fact of the matter is that the original Grado drivers don't have the sophisticated sound of other headphones, either in detail or balance. So, when the V8 went on sale, I took the bait!

    The V8 drivers look very similar to the original Grado drivers. They come in well-designed bio-degradable packaging. In order to use them, you will need to solder your cable ends to the driver terminals -- quickly and easily done if you have a soldering iron. I ordered a Venus Audio Grado replacement cable so that I wouldn't have to detach my original cable from the original drivers. All of my listening was done with rosewood cups, Grado L-Pads, the Mogami cable from Venus Audio, and a portable Topping NX4DSD DAC/AMP.

    Initial impressions - wow what an upgrade from the Grado sound! It's missing the "Grado bite" - an artifact of high end peak in the Grado drivers - but the fun isn't missing. 70's Rock sounds alive, guitars have plenty of detail. Vocals are forward and smooth. Bass is improved although not as deep as many other headphones these days. Bass resolution is quite definitely improved over original Grado drivers.

    I put a favorite jazz piece on: "The Bridge" by Sonny Rollins. Drumset was amazing! Remarkable tone from the cymbals, visceral crack from the snare, the toms were very realistic. Speaks to the quality high frequencies that are put out by these drivers. String bass had some trouble getting noticed, but was well defined. Sax and guitar were forward, detailed, and sweet sounding. I compared the sound to Beyer DT880 Pro, my go to jazz headphones, and the DT880's were outclassed, especially for the texture of the cymbals.

    v8.jpg

    Now I always enjoyed the Grado SR125i's with classical chamber music and vocal music. As long as the venue was small and intimate, they provided detail and gave an impression of being "in the room", or even "on stage" with the performers. Large venue classical, however, was unlistenable. The Grado's have no decent soundstage, and the effect turned a symphony into a tin can performance.

    What about the V8's? I queued up Alisa Weilerstein's Shostokovich Cello Concertos. This a fantastic recording and the Symphones project all of the detail and energy of the performance. I'd say there is something of a bass hump that seems a little overweight for classical music. But the control and the tonality heard in the jazz pieces show up in the cello's grain and the reverberation of the tympany.

    I put on a favorite symphonic piece: "West Side Story - Mambo" with Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony, Gustavo Dudamel conducting. This is dynamics and energy at its best. I compared Senn HD650 to the Symphones V8. This is where the limitations of V8 started showing up. Once again, percussion was facinating, detailed, and fun. The bells had great texture on the V8's. However the limits of the V8 soundstage made the piece feel flat. The sound of the room was largely missing. With the HD650's you can get plenty of spacial clues so that when the orchestra shouts "Mambo!" it hits you from all around, and when a lone voice repeats it a few seconds later, you can visualize it in the hall. That's just not there with the V8's.

    So to sum up, the V8's are a step up from the original Grado drivers (at least SR125). They don't do much more for soundstage, but the dynamics, detail, and texture of the sound is a very nice add. I have a new goto set of cans for jazz. The V8's are comparable and better in many ways to the DT880's for jazz -- and rock music as well. For classical, although the V8's compare favorably to the original Grado's, I will stick with my current favorite, the Sennheiser HD650's.
      TravAndAlex, volly and BigBadBirdman like this.
  2. TravAndAlex
    Sweet, smooth detailed sound with great control.
    Written by TravAndAlex
    Published Jan 31, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sweet, clear, neutral, transparent, controlled bass. Natural and clear vocals.
    Cons - Not the widest possible soundstage.
    Symphones V8 Drivers

    I’ll let Rhydon Rayment introduce his company and philosophy: “Since 2010 Symphones has done more than refine an old tradition: we've started a new one. By fusing dynamic design with the vivid DIY culture we work to enable a new movement of designer artisans. Symphones empowers DIY builders through our dedication to making the highest quality headphone drivers. To achieve optimal results, our products undergo years of design, testing and verification, making each driver worth your patience and skill.”

    “At Symphones we make headphone drivers by hand using carefully selected materials from local suppliers in Ontario, Canada. Detail is our passion and its no secret that even the adhesives used in our drivers are formulated in-house to our exact specification. We want to give our builders the smoothest, most dynamic and pure sound to showcase their designs. Most of all, we want to expand people’s musical tastes and prove that the best headphones don’t always come mass produced.”

    The V8 is (unsurprisingly) the 8th revision of the popular “Magnum” driver series. Gone is the Grado house sound of the Prestige series, and a more refined, natural and smooth sound signature rivalling far more expensive headphones is achieved.

    Throughout the revisions, the Symphones’ line-up retained the easy to drive, low (32 Ohm) impedance of Grados, which makes them very portable device friendly and do not require a dedicated amplifier. Symphones’ drivers are known for improved soundstage, clarity, and detail compared to stock drivers. They have better extension on both the high and low frequencies, with the bass hump a little lower in the range. In a (very brief) summary, the V1 driver was similar to the 325is, with some peaks in the midrange and treble with tight bass but rolled off sub bass. The V2-V3 drivers were less bright and peaky, with forward midrange and strong mid-bass with rolled off deep bass making them excel with acoustic music. The V4 was very well liked and often described as more neutral. V5-V6 drivers also featured aluminum sleeves and a livelier treble, flatter impedance curve and greater, resolving bass. The V6 extended a bit further in highs and lows and had a bit of a mid bass hump (more v-shaped frequency curve) resulting in a fun sound signature, if not especially neutral. The V7 drivers sounded very different than stock Grados with deeper bass and a forward midrange, balanced with an extended high end.

    In Rhydon’s words the “V8 encompasses improvements related to the diaphragm and its motion, damping of resonances, and bass refinements. Sound lovers will note improvements to the upper, mid, and lower registers, both in resolution and control. Drivers are matched to the tightest tolerance of +/- 0.1db.”

    In back to back, A-B testing, the V8 is a noticeable improvement over the V7. It is smoother, more balanced and exhibits greater control. The V7 driver could get a bit loose with deep bass tracks and this is essentially resolved with the V8. The midrange steps back a little (compared to the V7’s forwardness) and the overall sound presentation is more balanced and refined. These can be described as having the smoothness of the Sennheiser HD650’s paired with the clarity of a Beyerdynamic DT880. Note: my favorite headphone pairing is a modified Bottlehead Crack and HD650 – so this is high praise indeed. Prior to this proper amplification combination, I found the HD650’s a bit lifeless or (forgive me) “veiled” for my tastes. The V8 sounds more like this perfect combo, without lugging around the tube amp.

    The Symphones V8 sound quality is extraordinarily sweet, clear and neutral. Music comes across in a very transparent manner, with oh-so-smooth midrange and controlled, accurate and deep bass. Vocals are natural in presentation, with no noticeable frequency peaks or rough edges. Texture of complex passages remains clear, separated and detailed with superb imaging. Soundstage is very good for an on-ear headphone, if not quite as wide as the best (albeit much more expensive) headphones – although this may simply be a limiting factor of the supra-aural nature of the Grado design.
      7keys likes this.

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