This week’s picture Sunday features Beautiful Audio’s Grado headband and earpad mods.This is a bit of a different Picture Sunday. It’s a praise column of sorts, with lots of photos. You can find all about Silvian’s Grado pad and headband mods here: Beautiful Audio. The pads go for 115$ USD, and the headbands go for 60$ USD. To check out all previous Picture Sunday Posts click HERE.
Beautiful Audio’s Grado pads are game changers. Not only can you match or contrast the colour of your ear pads and headband, it’s all reversible. The comfy headband pads attach via magnets, leaving no trace. Behind Beautiful Audio is a man called Silvian. Silvian is a man with quite a head on his shoulders. That head has come up with ways to make my head as comfy as possible when wearing headphones that are not at all comfy. Part of that uncomfiness is Grado’s fault. Part of it is biology — my biology.
Most of you already know the reasons behind the latter problem:
- my face is narrow
- my ears are placed high on my head
- my profile looks like a human sailboat
- hammer my crown
Silvian’s plush headband wrap-around fixes the last one, softening the headband’s landing pad enough that I feel comfortable wearing the PS1000 for three hours or more at a clip. It raises the headphone up by around 5mm from the skull, consequently positioning the drivers perfectly around my ears, and tangibly improves the sound.
Silvian’s pad mods go even further. Both pads and headband come in merino wool felt or real leather. Both feel great. You can place different dampening materials inside the ear pads. One is highly porous foam, and the other is a super soft, almost slimy non-porous synthesis of foam and jello. Inserted into the leather pads, the latter really warms up the signal and flattens out some of that high-range Grado harshness. Inserting the non-porous dampeners into the leather pads makes a GH-2 sounds a lot like a small-stage HD600.
Kept in the leather pads, the porous sponge changes the stock sound far less. Oh, you’ll hear it, all right. Both the low lows and mid-highs are more pronounced and there’s a more energetic upper-midrange sheen. It’s like modding your Grado GH-2 into a DT990, which isn’t nearly as far a trip as it sounds. If you prefer wider, deeper stages and don’t mind EQing the highs a bit, this is a smashing combo.
Then there’re the merino pads. Even with the porous pads inside, the sound warms, softens up. It’s not suddenly a HD650. It’s a midrange spot between the HD600-ification of the leather and non-porous pads, and stock. The upper midrange sheen softens up and vocals pushes stereo detail out wider. In fact, the entire headstage opens laterally a further ten or so centimetres from the ear. Wider and deeper, warmer and softer. My ears get on with merino better than leather, though there really is something special about the HD600-ification you get with the leather pads.
Removing the foams is easy. Installing them again is more difficult, requiring a deep and twisted understanding of origami. After folding everything perfectly, you’ll have to massage the pads until the foam settles. It takes me about five minutes to switch the foams out and then in again. Putting the pads onto the headphones is easy. That’s Grado’s gift to posterity. The headbands require only a cursory understanding of origami, and are totally worth it especially if you get on with the stock sound.
I’ve had the GH-2 for about three months, the PS1000 for about a year and a half, and the RS-1 for about the same amount of time. It’s been a love-hate relationship. Love because I’m a Grado head (now matter how newly converted). Even the harshest Grado upper mid sheen is fine with me- at least after a short warm up. But comfort really can be a thing. And my headphone fandom started with with two truly comfortable headphones: the HD600 and DT880. Both are more comfy than any Grado I’ve ever worn. Then there’s stereo width and z-axis depth, the confluence of which defines what I want in a headstage.
Silvian’s pads in place, both my RS-1 and my GH-2 are more comfortable than either the HD600 or the DT880. No mean feat. The PS1000 is as heavy as ever; no matter of modification will change that. But with Silvian’s headband in place, it fits way, way more sturdily, and positions the drivers closer to the ears.
Folks, this is a no-shit mod.
I’ve had Silvian’s pads for over two months. In that time, I’ve come to truly love the merino/porous pad combination. And I’ve come to love Silvian’s manufacturing skills. His seam work is as good as any I’ve seen, stock or not. And the ability to change the stuffing is both unique and effectively modifies stock sound.
If you’re a longtime Grado-head and you want more comfy in your headphone, look no further. Silvian’s mods are expertly engineered. Like all good engineering, they come at a price. Merino and leather feel great and should last forever and are more than worth the asking price.