Evaluation of Grado Stock and Modified Ear-Pads

Promises Kept
My first post was an exercise in getting all the bits-and-pieces together to create content. In many ways this is my first real post here ... and I want to keep a promise: For years I've said I would measure the effects of the various headphone pads on Grado headphones ... well, I am very glad to say finally, here it is.

To the best of my knowledge, there have been five basic types of stock Grado ear-pads over the years. From left to right in the photo above:

Small Flat Pad --- Originally the stock pad for the SR80; no longer available.
S-Cushion --- Commonly called the "Comfy Pad," this cushion comes stock on the Grado SR60i ($79), SR80i ($99), and SR125i ($150).
Flat Pad --- Now not manufactured by Grado; Flat Pads available at TTVJ ($35) are identical to the originals, and manufactured by the same source.
L-Cushion --- Commonly called "Bowls," this cushion is standard issue with the SR225i ($200), SR325i ($295), RS2i ($495), and RS1i ($695).
G-Cushion --- Commonly called "Bagel Pads" or "Salad Bowls," this cushion is standard issue with the GS1000i ($995) and PS1000 ($1695).

In addition to the above, numerous after market cushion and DIY modifications have been made for Grado headphones and a few have been included in this series of tests:

Reverse Bowls --- Normally mounted bowl on left; reversed bowl on right. Simply put the bowl pads reversed with the flat part towards your head.

Comfy Hole --- Cut a quarter-sized hole in the center of a comfy pad.

Taped Bowls --- Apply tape to the outer circumference of the bowl pads.

Goo Bowls --- Apply silicon sealer sparingly to the outer circumference of the bowl pads. (This is one I've been meaning to try.)

In this article, all the above pads were tested on a pair of Grado SR225i headphones. Listening tests and objective measurements were performed. Read on for the results...

Grado Labs
4614 Seventh Ave.

grawk's picture

I agree it's amazing the difference minor things can have on headphones. It's not just grados, either. Getting a good fit with the qualia 010s could make a difference between a lousy headphone and a great one. Swapping the pleather pads on the sony v6 for beyer velour pads made them sound better, and more comfortable.

I prefer flats on most grados, and deeper wood cups on the plastic grados. One pair of 225s, with flat pads and deep wood cups were among the best headphones I've ever heard. They were at the LA canjam 2 years ago, and just blew me away.

tomasio's picture

After about two years of heavy use the comfy pads of my Grado SR80i were completely worn out, so I replaced them with L-Cushions. I liked the wearing comfort, but disliked the crystal clear high frequency and thus felt that they lack in bass compared to the comfies. After I read your article I first tried the L-Cushions on the “wrong side” and was surprised with the effect on the low frequencies but did not like the reduced wearing comfort.

I tried your suggestion with 3M-Tape and was very satisfied but did not like the looks of it. To make sure that the tape would not stick to the Earpads and so probably damage them I used removable tape. This one is very easy to remove but I had to reposition it every now and then.

So for the looks and better stability I wound duct tape around teh removable 3M-tape and now have the best of both worlds: As the duct tape adheres only to the removable 3M-tape it will not damage the L-Cushions and fits nicely into their black color. Also it keeps the tape better in place. Sounds still great, too devil

Limp's picture

I do not listen much to my GS1000s any more, but one of the last things I tried them with were reversed quarter-modded HD414 pads.
Looking at the old GS1000 measurements at headroom, and assuming the 414s would work similarly to comfy pads or flats, I can kind of see why I preferred the GS1000s this way, as they kind of need a little boost in the 2kHz area. Ultimately, though, they need a bit more than just that to be satisfying to me.

Would/could GS1000 measurements, maybe with flats, be on your to-do schedule?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
... you wanna send me yours?

I'll send them back. :)

HeadRoom and TTVJ don't have a pair, so I'm always happy to get a pair in for measure as long as I can't get them around here or from the manufacturer. Lemme know.

Limp's picture

I wouldn't mind lending them away, I'll just see what it would cost to send them from norway.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Oh goodness, no. I'm sure we can find some closer. Thanks though, I will try to get them measured soon.

Any takers stateside?

Limp's picture


Tyll Hertsens's picture
Not that I wouldn't take you up on your kind offer, but I'm sure we can make it happen without all the expense and trouble of duties and such. If I have a hard time getting my hands on some, I'll get back in touch.
WhiteCrow's picture

Have you tried the Grado RS-2*button* Tyll? I love the sound of them but HATE the sound of any grado below the sr325(IS)<-- the regular I model was painful to listen too. The sr80i's are good sounding but the treble is just head splitting. The RS-2*button* model is actually fairly warm. Not incredibly warm but very forgiving yet maintains detail, So far I have only felt the old grado sting on songs that were so sibilant on the sr80i my reaction was that of your Dr.Dre beats solo review ha ha ha. I urge you to listen to some sr325is, RS-2/I*the i is a little sharper*, RS-1/i*same as the rs-2i just a bit sharper* or even the HF-2, if I had had the dosh to drop at 32ohm audio I would have been all over th em, sadly I have a $500 budget.

Sbykurt's picture

I am lucky enough to own a pair of Grado HP-1 headphones, purchased new for $600.00. Apparently these headphones are held in high regard by many audiophiles (recently I noticed a used pair for sale for $1,300.00). A few years ago, my HP-1's were repaired by Joseph Grado himself. However, he insisted that he would not repair these magnificent headphones unless I agreed to replace the "bowls" that I had placed on them (because I could not find the original pads for sale) with the original pads. Joseph Grado had found the originals for sale on the web, for a price of $75.00.

Joseph Grado apologized for the price, but told me that this is what he had to pay for them, as they were currently in short supply (and he had none of his own). He advised that, despite the high price, the return to the original pads would be worth the price. Also, he would not let the HP-1's leave his workshop with his name associated with them, without the original pads. He would let let the HP-1's leave his workshop with what he considered degraded sound quality.

Joseph Grado founded the company, and he designed the HP-1's. Therefore, I took his advice very seriously. Aside from this one repair, my Grados, both before and after the repair have performed flawlessly, and have always produced breathtaking sound.

I have two questions: (1) does anyone know about this issue (Grado HP-1's using the original pads, versus the same cans with the "bowls" described in this review ... or for that matter, these cans with any other pads)? and

(2) does anyone know where one may purchase a set of the pads originally designed for use with the HP-1's?

I am resigned to the fact that, without the original pads, my HP-1's will not sound as good. I noticed that the sound was better with the orginal pads until they disintigrated. And, after all, according to their designer, Joseph Grado himself, when one uses the "bowls" (the most popular substitute for the original pads), "it is not the same," and "without the original pads, these headphones provide nowhere near the performance that they are capable of." I note that they sound suburb, even with the bowls, but I would like to have the original pads, if possible.

Any advice, and answers to these two questions will be greatly appreciated.

Sbykurt's picture

Note that my HP-1's referenced above are 19 years old, and have been repaird only once. With the Grado HA-1 headphone amplifier, they still provide breathtaking sound. However, I am greedy for the best quality sound, so, if I can get the original pads, or pads that will provide the equivalent sound quality, I would like to buy them.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Contact Todd at ttvj.com, he has them.


donunus's picture

Just curious whether TTVJ flats are identical to the old flats that came with Grados. It was weird because i found my sr80s sparkly before compared to hd580s and these days, sr80is using TTVJ flats sound muffled vs hd580s hmm of course there have been changes with the senns over the years and the grados as well but I just felt that I just had to throw this question out there.

Sbykurt's picture

Tyll, thanks very much for the link,

After years of using the bowls, now I can finally follow Joseph Grado's advice and use the original flats. Does anyone have an opinion regarding this advice?

My feeling is that I should follow the advice of the designer of these headphones, and use the flats that were part of the original design. I will buy a pair in any case and compare them to the bowls. However, I would be interested in the opinions of those who know far more about this than me.

Sbykurt's picture

Tyll, I just ordered some flats. I will tell you what kind of results I get. Hopefully, they will make my HP-1's sound a bit better (or, in my dreams, a lot better). In any case, it will cost me only $42 to find out (cost plus shipping to Hawaii).

donunus's picture

What width scotch tape are you using Tyll? I cant seem to find an exact width here in the Philippines. I get either something too wide or too narrow. I just ended up using the narrower one and taping it around more than one turn. It looks a little dirtier but it works pretty well sonically.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Um ... just the stock width Scotch tape here in the US.
donunus's picture

After trying bowls vs taped bowls and comfies vs quarter modded comfies on my sr225is, I end up using the quarter modded comfies most of the time.

The bowls sound clear but a little artificially enhanced in its sound vs the balance of the comfies IMO. The tape mod smooths the bowl sound a little and adds a little volume to the bass but it never becomes as balanced overall as the comfies IMO.

As for the comfies, the quarter mod retains the exact same sound of the comfies but just adds frequencies above 10khz or so making the highs sound less plasticky and chopped off making them more extended and airy to my ears.

I also have old comfies with me with bigger holes in the middle and the sound becomes more forward in the upper mids (2kz region) and the bass becomes lessened. I don't like the sound of those too much. I initially though they would sound like flats with the big hole in the middle but realized that the flats get more bass and smoother highs due to the denser material keeping the bass in somehow.

donunus's picture

I also just tried using electrical tape with the bowls and the bass has more volume with it vs the regular scotch tape. I am liking this one best overall at the moment among all the pads I've tried.

By the way, I've also tried reversed bowls a couple of times but just didn't like the relative lack of detail vs the standard bowl configuration.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Thanks for your comments, mate.
donunus's picture

I am trying to find a way of turning the 225i into an easy to drive hd600like sounding headphone for my DAP LOL. It might be a futile attempt but its worth a try since pads on these are relatively easy to make. I'll look for some stiff materials and probably create some sort of bowl/comfy hybrid myself. Maybe a material that is stiff as bowls making the sound have tight bass then in a quarter modded comfy form factor.

Maybe Grado should also think about designing some acoustically matching pads for their cans one day also. That would definitely be very interesting and I would be one of the very first to buy one since I feel that the differences in sound between all the models from sr60 to rs1 are smaller so far as tonality is concerned vs the change that different pads can make.

Sbykurt's picture

Thanks for the advice as to where to buy the flats. I have had them for a while now, and I must say that my HP-1s now sound even better. I have learned to accept the lesser sound quality of the bowls over the years because I did not know where to get the flats. I tried the scotch tape modification, and it improved the sound of the bowls. But, the flats are the best sound of all for my HP-1s. Joe Grado was right. His HP-1s were designed for the flats, and to me, they sound best with the flats.

Magick Man's picture

Any way to keep the L cushions from feeling like torture devices? Ouch, these are killing me.

BTW, The type of tape you use on them makes a difference. Black electrical tape adds too much bass and makes everything muddy. Clear Scotch tape works fine, as in the tests you performed. Fiber tape... mmmm, that's the ticket. IMO, it's the best overall.

Seriously, though, about the torture. Grado fans must be masochists, this can't be normal.

Benignjamin's picture

Each model of Grado needs different foam tweeks. Only the old 225 were good with stock Lcush. although now I can think of minor fit issues ...
The 325is have given me the biggest challenge so far. 2k Hz kick in the head, and
air flow thermodynamics that included Acoustic mass transfer loss.
Using felt cloth outer circumference of bowl is shored up. This prevents the bowl from collapsing and placing the inner screen to close to the ear. The 325is need to be slightly furthure off the ear than 225/125/60. This is the 2k Hz kick in the head fix.
Just a pinch further off the ear. Special 33 HG Vinyl tape surrounds the felt, followed by
socks (good Ole) The felt/tape not only holds the inner screen in the optimal position but air flow is improved and bass impact and extension bring the 325is into balance.

ElectricDjango's picture

Sennheiser HD485 stock replacement pads fit over the Grado headphones nicely. Flip the stock grado pads over as you would with the reverse pad method, then slip the HD485 velour pads right over them.  It is immensely comfortable.  I would like to know how the 225i measures with the tape mod on the stock grado pads, and the HD485 velours slipped over it.  

PredatorZ's picture

I am trying a version of the goop mod, but using a Dip plastic / rubber intended for coating tool handles. I used a small crafts paint brush and applied a few coats to teh outside. They are still drying, ill report back once I have them on and a chance to listen a while.

PredatorZ's picture

To save time, ill post a link to my head-fi mod. Seems to have an unexpected happy result. (teaser)



Fleschler's picture

I own Grado HP1 signature and HP 1000 signature headphones from the 80s.  I don't find them bright at all.  They were the best sounding dynamic headphones I had heard at the time.  My Stax SR3s were definitely more transient rich but are not as enjoyable long term.  I guess all of the Head-Fi headphones mentioned except for the Ultrasone are superior now.  I have not heard any of the newer headphones so I can't comment. I wonder if you could tell me as to why my older Grados are soooo inferior.  Thanks


I posted this in the wrong section originally after a comment about not wanting to test Grados.  Sorry

smith44's picture

I am attempting a rendition of the goop mod, yet utilizing a Dip plastic/ elastic expected for covering instrument handles. I utilized a little artworks paint brush and connected a couple of covers to teh outside. They are even now drying, sick report back once I have them on and an opportunity to listen a while.

Cushion Pads Suppliers

donunus's picture

These are even better than my sr225 with the tape mod. I love these even with classical!

donunus's picture

By the way Tyll, Have you tried the reverse bowls with tape? I'll try that now

Msee's picture

I just stumbled across this article on Grado mods despite being a regular reader for a number of years - and boy am I glad that I did!

I always found my Grado SR80e too 'shouty' and fatiguing to listen to for long periods even after replacing the flat pads with the L cushion pads soon after buying them. They were ok for a short blast of loud music but I had to fire up my Little Dot amp and Sennheiser HD650 for serious listening.

Then I stumbled across this modding article. To cut a long story short, the tape around the edge of the L cushion pads absolutely 'fixed' the sound as Tyll claimed. The sound is now more 'solid' and the previous strident, forward sound is now more beautifully balanced. I listened to them with the mod for a couple of hours without the slightest bit of fatigue.

Thanks Tyll (if you still keep in touch with the comments on this site on your travels!)