Alessandro MS1000 and MS Ultimate - DIY & modding [56K warning]
May 6, 2008 at 3:07 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 2,475

nickchen

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I proudly present the actual FOTM in the german hifi forum,
 
[size=large]Alessandro MS 1000[/size]

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[size=large]Part 1: Basics[/size]

[size=medium]What is a MS 1000?[/size]
An Alessandro MS 1000 is a DIY tinker can. You need 3 components to build one:

An Alessandro MS1
ms-1.jpg


Indispensible: 1 Set of distancer pieces or a comparable DIY solution (to be glued)
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A set of Grado GS1000 Pads
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Optional: A piece of felt to be glued into the inner part of the distancers. Tames the highs, if you do not belong to team treble.
[size=medium]History: How did the MS 1000 come into existence?[/size]
Pure chance. A coincidental synergy effect.

I once had ordered the Liberator distancers when they were still in production. I quite liked their effect on my MS2i, consequently I build something analogical out of wood for my MS1 after I had sold MS2i & Liberators. A nice effect at least, an Alessandro with a bit of soundscape - not spectacular, but nice.

Then I went to a bigger german meet, where someone mentioned his unloved GS1000 Pads, which (as you might know) sound absolutely horrible on every "normal" Grado. I wasn't too exited, but nevertheless put them on my MS1, which had the distancer pieces on...and then a little miracle happened!. That thing turned out to become the sensation of the meet, someone baptized the result as "MS 1000" (wasn't me), so that is what many folks in germany organize and build right now, and that is what I wanted to share with the outer world in form of this thread.

[size=medium]What are the main sound differences between a MS 1000 and a stock MS1?[/size]
Everything and nothing.

Who has ever tinkered Grados and Alessandros with Beyer pads, sock mods or alike might already has experienced, how horrible squawky things can sound when being misequipped and unsuitable. Here is the good news: Nothing changes, the mids and highs keep their complete stock homogenious consistency.

The emotionality and musical bandwidth (I am picky with this) changes at least a bit. The MS 1000 still provides the right "tone", and the amount of genres that can be thrown onto it has changed remarkably, the MS1000 is a musical bandwidth monster of the HD600 sort. Things have a bit moved away from the ancestral blues- and rock corner (it still can do that) in favour of electronica, progressive, post rock, hiphop and all other stuff the stock MS1 did not like that much.

Nevertheless, much more changes.

First thing you notice to have changed is the [size=small]bass[/size]. The MS 1000 provides mentionable deep bass, whereas the MS1 has almost none. The punching kick has decreased a bit, but overall, you get a very good "audiophile" bass with some extra layers. There is still no intruding of the bass into the other frequencies. The sheer bass amount is somewhat on MS2i- or CD3000 level, a bit more than the DT880 - that is no big boomy midfi bass for sure.

The biggest change, the real sugarpiece of the MS 1000 in comparison to stock, is the enormous [size=small]monstrous soundscape[/size] it provides. After almost 3 weeks of testing, I have to announce that the soundscape easely exceeds the DT880 and even of the huge caveous CD3000. The increased distance from eardrum to the driver leads to a kind of "natural crossfeed", where the usual position of the music somewhere in the head gets totally dissolved. This reminds me a bit of nearfield solutions à la K1000, it's easely one of the greatest soundscapes I ever experienced.

Consequently, we have an Alessandro which really exceeds at (!) ambient stuff or snobbish post rock and can be (at least) consulted for classical. Much better than stock. Of course, voices or brasses don't have the highend authority of a K701 or a DT880, but apart from that, it sometimes rivals or even beats my venerable CD3000 for electronica or post rock music. I guess you agree that this is a quite recognizable progression.

Comfort is great - logical. With the GS1000 pads, you get an almost circumarual wear feeling with almost no weight at all.
[size=medium]Result:[/size]
The MS 1000 is a completely new creature, which provides good sound, a highendish soundscape, and a level of detailling that easely exceeds the usual midfi contenders (HD595, A900, DT531, ...). Not as "audiophile" as a K701 or a DT880, but loads of fun on at least D2000 quality level.


_P1010084.jpg
 

[size=medium]How can I get an MS 1000?[/size]
First, you need an Alessandro MS1. Next thing necessary are GS1000 pads, the actual best source for that is Todd the Venyl Junky (at least outside the US). Canadian store "Planet of Sound" turned out to be even cheaper, especially under actual € exchange rates.  Also http://www.amazon.com has put them into their portfolio lately (US amazon only)


2010-04-25: New EU-Source for Jumbopads: Stoneaudio in GB, search term: "Grado G Cushion"


Bigger problem are the distancer pieces (and believe me, you need them, doesn't work without).
[size=large]DISTANCER SPECS[/size]
th_xP1010088.jpg

distancer-2.jpg


Don't try just to put GS1000 pads on your [whatever], it _kills_ the mids. One possibility is that you are good at DIY and build your own (inner diameter 40 mm, total height 13-14 mm, and 3 drills à 1,5 mm per distancer), or you are not so good at DIY and need someone's help, then see below. It turned out to sound best with 3 drillings à 1,5mm (that has to do with their lower overall sealing).
Distancer sources:
Actually only me and ApatN in the EU, and nakattack builds them in Australia.
Note that felt layers as to be seen on the sceme above become obsolete if you do the pad coating mod (read below).
FURTHER MODIFICATIONS
 ​
  1. Punch hole mod
 
You open the back of your MS1 (best method is warming it with up before, by means of a hairdryer from sideways) so that you get access to the rear side of the driver. You'll see that it's covered with some black fleece stuff. Now you take a pencil or something similar and punch 4 holes into the fleece.

 
The result is an increase of the bass amount, especially the kick bass section. I do not recommend more than 4 holes, unless if you are a severe basshead. That mod is only suited for the smaller models having the plastic sound chamber as to be seen on the pic above (MS1, MS2, SR60-325), do not do it with higher tier models (MS Pro, RS1 etc.) as you'll end up in a rumbling midfi mess!
 
 
  1. Pad coating
 
It turned out that coating of the inner parts does not only increase the comfort (I personally find the foam a bit scratchy). It also has a similar (but better) effect to undesired brightness as putting felt or fleece thingies on or in the distancer. In difference to that fleece- or felt thingies, you don't put a barrier in the way, hence bass amount and detailling do not get damaged. In addition, you'll get much more warmth into the overall sound sig.

 
Material of the coating and its ability still to provide sufficient breathing matters though. It's a fine line with the pad lining between the smooth and "real" sound it brings and it slipping over in to muffled and too thick a sound. NoXter & me had the best results with ordinary T-shirt textile material, you may experiement a bit before the final fixation. A provisorical fixation of the test pattern may be done by means of needles, final fixation may be done with ordinary paper glue.
 
I personally haven't tried it, but I guess by means of pad coating it will be possible to do the MS1000 with the shriller models (MS2, SR325, etc.) as well, as its effect can be really mighty, dependend from choice of coating material.
 
 
Allover, the punch-hole-mod and the pad coating are a very nice bundle. You'll get 98% of the nicer MS-Pro "Ultimate" tonality when applying both modifications together. Not the sheer resolution and blackness though, there's still a gap between the 99$ and the 700$ model...
tongue.gif

 


 
[size=large]DISTANCER VARIATIONS[/size]
Some uttered issues about the soundscape being big and airy, but lacking precision in respect of instrument placement. For that purpose, I developed a SHORTER DISTANCER (11,5 instead of 14mm), and also one bevelled set. You also see the black distancer on the pic, which is the "stock" one.

P1010091.jpg


As one of our kraut headfier follows the bluetac fixation principle with his MS Pro "Ultimate", we could easely compare the results with my "stock" Ulti. The bevelled distancers simply sucked (satirical wideness of soundstage), but the shortened distancers made a really nice result:
  1. same amount of deep bass, but more kickbass (almost like unmodded)
  2. more "Grado" energy with the mids section
  3. more realistic soundscape
  4. more realistic instrument placement
  5. only downside: Loss of that special airyness that mod is famous for, you end up DT880Pro-ish or so in that respect
The guy ended up keeping the shortened version on his MS Pro, whereas NoXter and me still prefer the airier stock version (but not by much). It's a question of taste and genre choice.

As summary, the mod seems to be fully adjustable, if you want airyness (e.g. electronica and classical) you choose 14 mm, if you want more Grado sound and more soundscape precision (e,g. Rock & Metal) you choose 11,5 mm or so. I guess also something "in between" with 12,5 or 13mm might turn out to sound really nice.
[size=medium]What about other Grado/Alessandros models to be pimped in that way?[/size]
See & read below.
These modifications on the MS Pro -> "MS Ultimate" turned out to be the really big thing.
basshead.gif
Modifying Grados in that way is unfortunally somewhat ambivalent (Ssss-Booom). Some folks quite liked a SR325 with distancers and bowls, but I do not agree with these opinions.
 
May 6, 2008 at 3:07 PM Post #2 of 2,475

nickchen

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[size=large]Part 2: Boutique[/size]
 
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May 6, 2008 at 3:08 PM Post #3 of 2,475

nickchen

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[size=large]Part 3: Other models[/size]

My buddy Noxter has the complete Alessandro line (MS1, MS2i and MS Pro), a W5000, a W2002 (gone: W1000 & W10), a DT880, a MB Quart 400...
...so we consequently became curious how this mod would be like if being put onto a "better" model than the little MS1.

We put a closer look on the [size=medium]Alessandro MS Pro[/size]

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Verdict:

That was very similar to the MS1000, in the same way that the MS1 is similar to the MS Pro. I'd say this is almost like the MS1000, being presented on the quality level of a DT880/K701/HD650 - but no clinical "boredom" as these!!! Moreover, a Jack of all Trades, we just didn't manage to find anything where this monster failed. Noxter consequently baptized it
 

[size=xx-large]MS Ultimate[/size].

Next thing was comparing it to a reference, of course we chose the mighty W5000. We compared them for ~2hours side by side, covering every genre thinkable, and in the end, the mighty W5000 was shattered. My buddy went home in deep thoughts, and next morning, he decided to sell his W5000s, as they were absolutely redundant when having such a strong and entertaining performer as competitor.

Go figure!
eek.gif


The overall result is somewhat very close to a "Grado'ed" K701. Tonality is very similar to the AKG, but you get (a bit) more bass, more emotion and better genre bandwidth. The K701 has a more precise soundscape (good for orchestra), whereas the MS Ultimate soundscape is wider (good for echoes and other sound effects).

Edit, almost 2 years later: The "Ulti" is still my favourite set of cans. I really looked for something better, but haven't yet to find anything. The HD800 and the Stax fraction are boring, ATs and Ultrasone don't sound natural, and DT880/K701/HD650 also don't cut the mustard. If the new T1 doesn't surprise me, I fear I have to stick with the Ulti for lifetime.
 
Edit, 2 and a half years later: Neither the HD800 nor the T1 or the D7000 have been able to drag me away from my Ulti. I did have the money principally, but I just can't be bothered to sacrifice such outstanding musicality and genre bandwith against clinical detailling abilities. Guess I'll end up here.


[size=medium] MS 2000i:[/size]

No pics available, and we only made a brief test. The mod works as well here, but IMO not as good as on the MS1 or MS Pro. The MS 2000 can sound damn great (even better than the MS Ultimate), but with the "wrong" genre and timbre, everything gets shrill, annoying and pushy. Somewhat the similar problem as the stock MS2i, not my cup of tea. You may like it though.
smily_headphones1.gif


Edit: Quite a while later, NoXter & me managed to work out a handling for the MS2i, which provides a similar effect as "1000ing". You equip it with HD414 pads or comfies, and you glue AKG K270 velours pads onto them. You get a nice wide soundscape (not as monstrous as MS1K or the Ulti though), and the stock shrillness gets even dimished to a certain extend. We think that this is a good thing, as this is the main reason why the MS2i has so little amount of longtime owners.
ms2b.jpg


----------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanksgiving

Many thanks to the german users Cynric and ATHome for the beautiful high quality steel grid. My special thanks to the german user Saibot for the GS1000 pads. Thanks to all those german users, who accompanied me through the process and beared my partly overboarding enthusiasm.

Disclaimer

Everything mentioned here is just my opinion and has no claim to be universally valid. It's your ears, tastes and listening habits which decide how things have to be judged.

I'm not a native speaker, so please excuse misplaced or ridiculous formulations.
 
May 6, 2008 at 3:22 PM Post #4 of 2,475

mnemonix

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I have a pair of dismantled MS-1s ripe for conversion. I think I'll give this a go. A plumbers supplies might provide some rigid pvc pipe of the right diameter to make the liberators.
 
May 6, 2008 at 3:37 PM Post #7 of 2,475

nickchen

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Originally, I made them this way:

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Whatever you choose as material, take care to stay within the 4 cm diameter. One earlier attempt I made had a slightly bigger diameter and sounded really horrible.
 
 
Meanwhile, I use a lathe:
 
       
   
 
May 6, 2008 at 6:49 PM Post #9 of 2,475

vvanrij

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Anyway some non-diy'ers could get this? The website stated that they don't deliver the 'liberators' anymore, and I wonder if I could do this mod to my 325i's
biggrin.gif
 
May 6, 2008 at 6:54 PM Post #11 of 2,475

nickchen

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Not a overwhelming problem for me to help at least EU-headfiers with this mod. Things would only get complicated when it gets to overseas.
 
May 6, 2008 at 6:58 PM Post #12 of 2,475

TopPop

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Wow... my MS-1's are feeling extremely self-conscious right now!
tongue.gif


Wonderful work, I'm sure they do sound amazing. It'd be nice to be able to order Liberators again so that the rest of us could try something like this... I don't have the tools to make my own!
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Congrats, and thanks for the write up.
 
May 6, 2008 at 7:02 PM Post #13 of 2,475

RokabillySwagger

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Anyone able to put together some decent mechanical drawings of the DarkAudio Liberators so I could try and make some Please? I was going the SR-60/80 route with my next headphones but the MS-1s just got a huge boost in my book. I just need basic dimensions so i can machine them properly out of nice wood. and maybe try to make some woodie cups while i'm at it. I'll post pics if this ever happens.
 
May 6, 2008 at 7:09 PM Post #14 of 2,475

vvanrij

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I live in The Netherlands, how would you be able to help me, do you make the mod yourself?
 
May 6, 2008 at 7:19 PM Post #15 of 2,475

nickchen

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Please contact me per PM if you want help, I am somewhat unsure what I am allowed to do here in "publicity".
 

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