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Custom Grado Clone With Elleven Acoustica R1 Driver Review

frogmeat69

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My opinion, but I think Grados are garbage, crap build quality, and even worse sound. Have tried about 5 pair and hated all of them.
Looks to me that completely gutting a pair and replacing with modded parts can't even help, lol.
 

Robbo99999

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My opinion, but I think Grados are garbage, crap build quality, and even worse sound. Have tried about 5 pair and hated all of them.
Looks to me that completely gutting a pair and replacing with modded parts can't even help, lol.
Headphones are the true Wild West, even more so than speakers! On the plus side it's probably on average more easy to sucessfully EQ a headphone than it is a speaker, but in terms of starting stock frequency response.....boy it's wild out there with headphones! I'm quite a firm believer in sub $200 headphones as being the end game if you choose the right one, so I think there are some big wins in headphones if you choose wisely & use EQ. Headphones are exciting because of the price accessibility combined with the huge resolution you can get through the whole "significant" frequency range when you get it right...... and it's an exciting & interesting mix when you also combine it with the somewhat difficult (controversial?) science and some elements of the "unknown" that is not fully explained by the science, bringing some art to the headphone realm at the same time....it's not fully explained & understood, but there is some magic to be had along with the proven measurements!
 

2M2B

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Headphones are the true Wild West, even more so than speakers! On the plus side it's probably on average more easy to sucessfully EQ a headphone than it is a speaker, but in terms of starting stock frequency response.....boy it's wild out there with headphones! I'm quite a firm believer in sub $200 headphones as being the end game if you choose the right one, so I think there are some big wins in headphones if you choose wisely & use EQ. Headphones are exciting because of the price accessibility combined with the huge resolution you can get through the whole "significant" frequency range when you get it right.

This is why I stopped at the ER4SR when It comes to IEM's. It quite sad that many over head HP brands can't even reach their own targets but many IEM's can?. But with headphones/IEM's under $350 seems to be the sweet spot if you use EQ.

It almost like Grado have ignored driver limits when tuning them since they openly admit they don't use any charts or data when making them.
 

Robbo99999

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This is why I stopped at the ER4SR when It comes to IEM's. It quite sad that many over head HP brands can't even reach their own targets but many IEM's can?. But with headphones/IEM's under $350 seems to be the sweet spot if you use EQ.

It almost like Grado have ignored driver limits when tuning them since they openly admit they don't use any charts or data when making them.
Damn, I don't know how you can be a headphone designer and not use measurements when designing them, but I'll certainly take your word on it based on what I see in this review! To me, anything with audio and striving for iterative improvements from one design to the next I can't imagine them not at least internally measuring the headphones even on a simple flat plate.....if nothing else to make sure that they're not accidentally producing the same headphone when they develop a new model, lol! How they would not even do any internal measurements to validate their small changes they would make in the development process.....I find that hard to accept, but I can kind of understand it from the end result to be fair!

You mention IEM's, but I have to admit I have almost zero knowledge of IEM's beyond an understanding that they have a slightly different Target Curve when it comes to Harman. I don't want to shove stuff in my ears, so I've not entertained IEM's.
 

2M2B

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Damn, I don't know how you can be a headphone designer and not use measurements when designing them, but I'll certainly take your word on it based on what I see in this review! To me, anything with audio and striving for iterative improvements from one design to the next I can't imagine them not at least internally measuring the headphones even on a simple flat plate.....if nothing else to make sure that they're not accidentally producing the same headphone when they develop a new model, lol! How they would not even do any internal measurements to validate their small changes they would make in the development process.....I find that hard to accept, but I can kind of understand it from the end result to be fair!

You mention IEM's, but I have to admit I have almost zero knowledge of IEM's beyond an understanding that they have a slightly different Target Curve when it comes to Harman. I don't want to shove stuff in my ears, so I've not entertained IEM's.

To be fair at least Grado are honest while other brands pretend to care about there tuning targets. I like IEM's because they avoid the issues of our bumpy part of our ear & have much lower THD than many over head headphones. I know that the fit/comfort with IEM's is depends on person but foam tips can be very comfortable if that a issue.
 

Robbo99999

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To be fair at least Grado are honest while other brands pretend to care about there tuning targets. I like IEM's because they avoid the issues of our bumpy part of our ear & have much lower THD than many over head headphones. I know that the fit/comfort with IEM's is depends on person but foam tips can be very comfortable if that a issue.
Fair enough re IEM's. (THD already very low in over ear headphones vs speakers, not sure on additional lowness of THD being significant for IEM's, but why not go for that aspect.)
 

ezra_s

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... Wearing it, my left hear was touching the driver and this became uncomfortable after about 15 minutes. Otherwise, they are quite light and easy to wear.

This is "Grado" signature, cloning that is never a good idea. I really like my 125e but they are so effing unconfortable for this I tend to not use them very much. Tried different pads to no avail. I can't manage to find one that my ear wont touch the driver and hurt after a while of use.
 
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2M2B

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Fair enough re IEM's. (THD already very low in over ear headphones vs speakers, not sure on additional lowness of THD being significant for IEM's, but why not go for that aspect.)

IEM's THD doesn't seem to get higher when EQ is used, And there cheaper than any planar headphone. Like that $9 Panasonic IEM amir did while back that was still <0.5% with a +8db boost under 160Hz.
 

batfunk

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Added the word clone to the title.
Thanks. Conversation goes from"wow, those Headphones suck" to"Grado Headphones suck"..., it cringes me:rolleyes:
And yeah, i love Grado sound and recognize nearly all of their Headphones lack bass:p
One exception for me:Grado Gw100.
So, please, send to Amir a REAL Grado set ! :D
 

m8o

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...Wearing it, my left hear was touching the driver and this became uncomfortable after about 15 minutes...
Ha! So then, nailed that design target on the head. ;)

By that I mean it's rare for me to find a Grado that doesn't press against my ear. So, not a rare condition in my experience. Probably the single most objectionable thing about them that's kept me from adding any to my collection. Kinda gives me a laugh a clone maintains that 'objectionable' aspect of them.
 

2M2B

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Thanks. Conversation goes from"wow, those Headphones suck" to"Grado Headphones suck"..., it cringes me:rolleyes:
And yeah, i love Grado sound and recognize nearly all of their Headphones lack bass:p
One exception for me:Grado Gw100.
So, please, send to Amir a REAL Grado set ! :D

At this site has open Grado fans I'm still thinking on getting a SR80x, Reddit/SBAF are given the X line up & the Grado hemps 4.8/5.
 

batfunk

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If you don't care about sub bass(no hip hop, no EDM), grado sr80 is classic(great for rock or folk).Sr60 is the same so Take Sr60, it's cheaper. Beware, finish is poor and they are not sturdy.

If you want more sub bass, Gw100 is the best(slightly better finish, Bluetooth 5.0,aptx hd and removable câble).
If you listen at very high volume(96 db) , go to RS2, they don't distort. Cheaper models are unlistenable at high volume.

But yeah, there are better options at these prices.
 
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musicforcities

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Looks like a 'standard' Grado (125 or 225) where the plastic parts have been replaced by the wood.
Also the plastic driver protection part seems to have been replaced by an aluminium one.
Normally the wood is only seen in the more expensive Grado offerings. These expensive ones, however, have bigger 'bowl' pads as well which make them sound better, less 2kHz peak and a lift in the 100Hz area.
I would guess the mod consists of wood cups and a much comfier headband with stock drivers.

One can even buy wood replacement cups.
I swapped out the pads on my grado 80e for the giant bowl pads. Mainly for comfort. But indeed the peaky treble was tamed. At the cost of some low end fullness I think as the driver sits farther away. Anyway, I find it easier to eq up the bass than tame the mid range and upper peaks with eq.

The grado sr80s are very lively with acoustic folk stuff and classic rock line genres. Think acoustic guitars, Steely Dan, the police, Fleetwood Mac, etc They actually do SOME orchestral quite well: eg, chamber music, Mozart. Jazz quartets. That is to say: They do best with music with moderate dynamic range and which is not too bass heavy. The soundstage can be very wide; very spatial, with lots of directional cues and not “in your head sounding”. Hence they work nicely with orchestral and other music that has lots of “space” between instruments and notes. Again, think the police, not Metallica. Cellos and violas, not pipe organs. To me at least. If a recording is mastered too “loud”/hot with lots of compression or saturation or levels clip it’s a disaster on grados due to 2khz and up response and bass limits. The upper mids get harsh fast and the low end is a mess.

They sort of have an old school loudness button quality. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I always used the loudness button in those old receivers. So fun but not neutral or very “serious”.

I enjoy the grados for what they are, so long as I put the big bowl pads on them to make them circumaural as those help the sound and smaller sizes put to much pressure on my ears after 15 min. When the grado gimbals and band crumble One can replace it with a band and hook design for the Sony mdr v6 or audio technica ath50 (15-20 for aftermarket parts on eBay). The cups snap right on.

I can’t see paying for the higher sr series models as there are so many other better all rounders and more precise and controlled, better built and more comfortable options above $100.

Grado (stil in Brooklyn nyc I think) is far closer to of a diy sort of outfit than a corporation like Senn or even hifi man.

Fwiw: I find grado’s “moving iron” phono cartridges have similar sonic characteristics. Lively and fun but not refined. And fugly. They can also pick up motor ac noise and hum on certain tables.
 
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Jabinho

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This is a review and detailed measurements of a custom Grado headphone with Elleven Acoustica R1 driver. It was kindly sent to me by a member. I don't know how much it costs. The R1 driver is 119 GBP/pair (about US $164). The gorgeous cups were made by Bruce at Wabi Sabi headphones out of cherry and mahogany.

As a woodworker, I find the overall execution simply gorgeous:

View attachment 141928

I am not going to give you the usual physical stats because this is a custom product. Wearing it, my left hear was touching the driver and this became uncomfortable after about 15 minutes. Otherwise, they are quite light and easy to wear.

Note: The measurements you are about to see are made using a standardized Gras 45C. Headphone measurements by definition are approximate and variable so don't be surprised if other measurements even if performed with the same fixtures as mine, differ in end results. Protocols vary such as headband pressure and averaging (which I don't do). As you will see, I confirm the approximate accuracy of the measurements using Equalization and listening tests. Ultimately headphone measurements are less exact than speakers mostly in bass and above a few kilohertz so keep that in mind as you read these tests. If you think you have an exact idea of a headphone performance, you are likely wrong!

Fitment on the fixture was a bit tricky given the on-ear configuration and lack of measurements elsewhere to confirm fit. But consistency between channels was surprisingly good so I ran with them.

Grado With Elleven Acoustica R1 Driver Measurements
As usual, let's start with headphone frequency response measurements:

View attachment 141930

Can you spot the problem? :) Sometimes it is this easy. We clearly have a massive peak around 2 kHz that doesn't belong there. That is followed by a dip. In addition, we have the bass droop which is common in many headphones. Here is the relative response for equalization purposes:

View attachment 141931

Distortion is focused in bass as it usually is but also an unfortunately one around 4 kHz:
View attachment 141932

Sadly we need to boost both of those areas so you are dealing with distortion graphs in red or possibly in green depending on how loud you listen. If you don't EQ and play at low levels, then response is in blue and good.

Group delay shows the common messiness which is likely due to reflections back and forth between the driver and the artificial ear in my measurement fixture:
View attachment 141934

Impedance is low and variable:

View attachment 141935

I was surprised how good the efficiency was:

View attachment 141936

It is in IEM class! Large driver at very close distance to the ear is responsible for that. Indeed I was able to drive these to reasonable level using the IEM output of my RME ADI-2 Pro DAC and headphone amplifier.

Headphone Listening Tests and Equalization
Instant reaction to the sound was that it was all wrong. So I brought out the EQ tool almost immediately:

View attachment 141939

The first three filters had a dramatic effect, completely transforming the sound of this headphone. Now we had balanced bass, decent spatial qualities and none of that overboosted mid-range. The highs were a bit distorted -- the same way I have found with other headphones with the same distortion profile in lower treble. So I added the last filter there in yellow but it didn't seem to make a lot of improvements.

Conclusions
Not sure who all has use for all of this data. I guess you have a sample data point for Eleven Acoustica's R1 driver. I guess the lesson is that if you are going to build a custom headphone, measurements are essential. Trying to guess that peak around 2 kHz by ear is darn near impossible. With measurements and equalization however, you can build a performant headphone and have pride of ownership knowing you built it.

P.S. Sorry about misspelling of "Acoustica." I cut and paste the string as the owner had written and didn't catch it until now.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
All Grados have this massive 2k peak.
It's called Grado signature sound.
 

milosz

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>>All Grados have this massive 2k peak. It's called Grado signature sound.<<

Adding some additional level around 2 kHz is said to give reproduced sound "more presence"

But adding that emphasis seems like it would only make sense if the recording was lacking at the frequency range... why add it PERMANENTLY to everything you listen to?
 

Bernard23

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I've just acquired some Yamaha RH5MA after reading Amir's review, as the closest Harman benchmark, as I've got no way of measuring the actual FR of any of my phones. I managed to EQ them to sound close to my Hemps (disclosure, I am a Grado fan for many years now, I even find them comfy) which was interesting. I never use EQ with most of my listening, as it's streamed Qobuz etc, so I'm stuck with the OEM profile. On the rare occasions I play from my FLAC library, I don't add much bass lift, no more than 1 / 1.5dB from sub 200Hz, and drop the mid by similar amount. Changing the pads on any Grado has a massive effect on the tonal profile, the flat pads seems to address the lack of bass and wild lower treble that Grados are renowned for.
I had to apply some pretty big EQ to get the Yamaha to mimic the Grados, so that indicates the out of the box profile is significantly difference, as we'd expect; but in all cases I still prefer listening to the Hemps. I prefer them in factory condition too, so maybe my HRTF is also a long way from the average Joe :)
 

Aperiodic

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You can improve comfort and sound quality by replacing the pads on Grados with the ones from more expensive models.
Or by buying something else.... Even if you can partially mitigate some of the flaws with EQ, Grados are the most uncomfortable headphones out there and it baffles me that anybody would want to copy- excuse me, clone- them.
 

Bernard23

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Just my opinion, no, wait. Like who gives a toss...I think white wine is over rated, Pepsi over coke, and Gibson all day long! :)
 

musicforcities

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Looks like a 'standard' Grado (125 or 225) where the plastic parts have been replaced by the wood.
Also the plastic driver protection part seems to have been replaced by an aluminium one.
Normally the wood is only seen in the more expensive Grado offerings. These expensive ones, however, have bigger 'bowl' pads as well which make them sound better, less 2kHz peak and a lift in the 100Hz area.
I would guess the mod consists of wood cups and a much comfier headband with stock drivers.

One can even buy wood replacement cups.
Just slapping big bowl pads from a 3D party vendor is the best and most mod the lower end grados can have and water t at the price/performance point
 
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