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My Custom Grado SR-80i

  1. PintoDave
    This was completed over a period of about a week, off an on work. These are the first headphones I have really modified. I have done a detachable cable mod to my Sennheiser HD280 Pro, but nothing else. These were a fun project, and the end results were amazing. The sound stage is nicer, the highs are not as ear piercing, and there was virtually no effect on bass (though it was VERY SLIGHTLY dampened). I have a pair of SR-60's that sound nearly the same as these SR-80's did when they came out of the box, so I have something to compare it to!
    I read through the first 87 pages of the Grado mods thread, getting ideas from several people. I still need to finish reading though it though!
    The first thing I did was make a custom headband with padding. I used my Bernina 830 Record to do the stitching. While not perfect, much more comfortable than the original vinyl thing it was shipped with!
    I wanted wood cups, they just really make the headphones pop, and give them some atheistic complement to their sound quality. Very pleasing to the eye.
    So, I went to the local woodcraft store and found two pieces of wood that were good for first time experimenting. 5x6x2" blocks of Padauk and Zapote. For these, I am using the Padauk, as I like it's sheen of red.
    Using my dad's ShopSmith at their house, we (my dad and I) set up the lathe together. This is the ShopSmith in "lathe mode". The chuck to the right is actually drill chuck from a Craftsman standing drill press we have. It was the only way we could figure out how to bore out the wood for the sound chamber. On the right, the left is the drive with a lathing disc, which the wood was screwed on to to secure it. The Shopsmith can be turned upright to be used as a drill press as well, so the head actually has a lever on it to move it in or out.
    To bore out the sound chambers, we simply pushed the wood (which was spinning on the disc) into the forstner bit on the drill chuck to the right. It actually worked out extremely well! Everything stayed center and cut very cleanly!
    One of the cups ended up with some chips where the ear pad rests, but nothing the pads or the distancers wouldn't hide.
    These are the cups after being cut, ends formed, sanded and drilled for wire and yoke holes. Not to shabby!
    Next up were the distancers, which also serve as the holder for the ear pads. Killing two birds with one stone here! :) 
    To keep the distancers from being oversized (too deep), but still have enough groove for the ear pads to sit without deformation, we sandwhiched a narrower ring of the padauk between two larger rings of oak. The thinnest Home Depot carries is 1/4", however this is still to big! So we used the board planner to plane the 1/8" oak down to 3.5mm (as low as the planner would go).
    These are the Padauk rings we lathed out of left over material from the cups.
    Once the oak was thin enough, we sandwhiched the oak (after cutting it to shorted sections) between some 3/8" pine of the same size, and clamped it into the drill press vice. This kept us from getting really jagged edges once we started to drill through the oak.
    Starting with the inside chamber, we bored out the center hole with a forstner bit in the drill press, going through the top layer of pine, down just until it made contact with the bottom layer of pine.
    Next we swapped out the forstner bit for a hole saw (again in the drill press). This cut out the discs of oak, giving us the rings we need to sandwhich the padauk between.
    After removing them from the hole saw, we were gifted with these!
    Here is a sneak peek at what's to come of them.... :)
    Because they were still to large at one end, and wouldn't fit into the cup, we had to improvise for a way to shrink the outside diameter uniformly. We came up with this!
    It's a sanding drum which is slightly larger than the inside diameter of the oak ring(s). The rings were pushed onto the drum snug as far as they would go. At 800 RPM they didn't budge, even when they made contact with the palm sander with 80 grit paper on it!
    Here is what we got when finished:
    And, all assembled:
    Back to cup assembly, I cut out some mesh from a $2.00 mail filer I got at walmart. It serves it's purpose well!
    Here are all of the parts to the new cups, on display:
    Next everything was lacqured, to bring out some of the grain and color of the padauk. I love the dark red!
  2. PintoDave
    Now time for assembly!
    Grills were glued into place, which really completes the appearance of the cups:
    While that dried, I used two wires from the Canare MiniQuad cabling and ran them through the headband and adjusting blocks.
    Once done, the wires were soldered to the driver on the right, and to two of the wires of the full MiniQuad cable on the left cup, then the other two wires of the MiniQuad soldered to the left driver, and a Canare F-12 1/8 jack on the end. The cable was shorted to around 4 feet, as the original cable was to long for comfort. I have a 10 foot 1/4" extension made of StarQuad if I really need to use it, anyhow.
    I forgot to get pictures of the wiring and soldering, but here is a driver in it's cup!
    Next the distancer was pressed in on top of the driver. The contrast of the oak against the padauk is pleasing, at least to me!
    The foam around the inside of the distancer is some left over stuff I had from resealing my Canon AE-1 Program 35mm camera. It's thin yet dense, and has a sticky backing to it. The shade of grey that it is, isn't to distracting either.
    Next the Grado L-cush pads were installed onto the distancers
    And here they are! Not perfect, but I don't think they came out to pad for never doing such a small scale lathing project before! They are eye catching and sound great!
    The plastic yokes may be replace with something else down the road, I will post it here when it happens. The plastic ones had to be heated with a heat gun and stretched out a bit to accomodate the larger size of these cups.
    Also the F-12 connector is quite bulky, I'm actually looking into getting a different connector, something smaller and closer to the size of the original plug's body. I can't plug it into my phone without taking off the OtterBox!
    I know it doesn't compare to some of the DIY cups others have made here, but I'm proud of them. Some day I will have some really nice well cut cups, but these work for now! :)
    So, what do ya'll think?
  3. Analoog
    Now that's what I call skill. How does they sound compared to originals?
  4. PintoDave
    Lund sThe first thing I noticed after putting them on was the l-cush pads are now.much more comfortable with the driver further away from the ear.

    The highs are not as harsh, softer and similar to my sennheiser he 280 cans. The bass is much more present as well, not so much left in the background as before. I am not a huge basshead but I like my trance and rock to have some body to it and a present beat through out. A lot of the trance I listen to haas a ot of bass tracks that now more defined and noticible. The mids are still pretty much the same, smooth.

    I listen to them every chance I get, and don't feel that I wasted any time or money in them!

    The soundstage is much better as well, which is what I was aiming for with the 11.5mm distancers.
  5. PintoDave
    I put a smaller high quality connector on the cable today, the Canare F-12 was just to big and I couldn't plug it into my phone unless I took the OtterBox off.
    Here's the size comparison
  6. Crispy808
    Very clean build! The cable mod makes me want to mod my SR-80s.
  7. PintoDave
    I found the cable mod to be easiest, more so with the fresh cups I made since there were not two pieces of plastic to line up and enlarge holes in. The new cable is probably the best looking part of the mod, until I add another coat or two of lacquer to the cups to make them pop more.
  8. PintoDave
    I have been listening to a lot of Within Temptation on these as of late and Aaron den Adel's vocals are bearable again! She sings in a very high tone/octaves and her voice doesn't kill the ears now. I compared them to my Sr-60's and listening to the same song, its hard to listen to for more than a few seconds. The bass of the bass guitars and drums is full, deep and accurate. Loving them!!! :)
  9. PintoDave
    Sanded down the cups back down to bare wood to smooth things out some, and to increase the presence of the wood grain. Re-lacquered and it came out great! Much more pleasing to the eye.
    Tax refund time is coming up, plans are to get a decent sized chunk of exotic wood for use for the tube amp I want to build, but I'm also wanting to get a 3x3x16 square stock of cocobolo for about $60 to turn some cups from, as well as some black walnut a friend from work is giving me.
    I still have the zapote cylinders already cut that just need turned....
  10. thelostMIDrange
    nice diy spirit dave. Those shopsmiths's are sweet multipurpose machines. With that a skillsaw and a router I could build a house !  regarding the cups, there is a way to use that machine and a router to make that cup all in one piece and a bit easier/faster if interested. It's kind of tricky and hard to explain but I'll give you a hint, it involves a router, a flush trip bit, some different sized bearings, a drum sanding attachment and a hot glue gun to glue the cups to a table. You can use the router to rout out the middle section, which you can't do with hole saws obviously and you can also use the router to create a rabbet to accept the driver so it has something to back up against. If you ever wanted to crank out many cups, it can be done without a lathe even and quite fast and with a higher degree of accuracy because routed end details and rabbets will always be the same as long as the reference where the bearing is riding against is the same, and it will be because a hole saw always cuts out an exact diameter, whether it's the inner wall or outer.
  11. thelostMIDrange
    btw, nice grill material. never thought of that one. Is that plastic or metal? I would guess those mail sorters can come in either material......
  12. PintoDave
    Thank you! I think I understand what you are getting at. I may give it a shot next month on my vacation time.

    The grill is metal, was $2.99 at Walmart, I have gotten three pairs of grills from it so far, and still have enough left for one more pair.

    My wife got me a drill press of my own for x-mas. I need to get some forstner bits of my own and I plan to start pumping out some wood cups for you guys, at an affordable price, think $10 - $40 per pair depending on wood type. Need to experiment with techniques first though.
  13. thelostMIDrange
    If you make your cut 90% though (so the cup stays in your blank until you're done with other operations) you can do this wihtout any forstner bits, only hole saw bits. I will have to check which sizes I use but there are three. One for the overall outer dimenstion, one for the inner and one for the smaller exit hole that is sized so it leaves a lip for some grill mesh to back into. I could make these on a lathe, but mine is busted so i've been coming up with ways to do it with other tools which have advanteges actually, speed and consistency being two. Now all you need to do is start using a tone'yer wood. Those exotics like purple haven't proven to be the best choice for me, create nasty dust for your lungs and are unecessarilly hard (dense) to work with. For goodness sake though, say no to mahogany, pick something else, and a little denser. I like tiger maple (not hard rock) and limba, zebrawood.
  14. PintoDave
    The wood supplier I get wood from has zebrawood in stock from time to time. Zapote and padauk are always available and cheap. They have walnut, maple, a few African woods, and a handful of others. Never seen mahogany there, yet. I have a friend at work who is going to cut some black walnut for me as well.
  15. thelostMIDrange
    walnut is real similar to mahog in terms of density. I've tried it. It's one of my favorite woods to work with generally speaking as a woodworker and has a  beautiful chocolate color. also, forgot to mention, if you decide to use any of the techniques I suggested, you should first plane your stock down to your desired final cup length. For me it's 1 1/8". If you don't have a planer maybe look up a local furniture maker or cabinet shop and go down and introduce yourself. Ask if they will run a board through their planer or even a band saw if your stock is too small for a planar. But it's very key to have your stock's sides (thickness) perfectly parallel and flat in order to get precise results.
    btw you can get all kinds of wood on ebay...limba included

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