Hi and welcome to another installment of the Bus Ride Impression! Today we will try another different thing as I try to dissect the dynamics of a mod for a Grado SR225i.
Wait, what? It is not even available from Grado anymore, isn’t it? Yes my friends and beloved readers, I know for a fact that Grado has long demised the SR225i as they have opted to keep the SR225e in their current inventory. But, given the fact that I heard of a lot of great things about the “i” version and how well it adapts to mods gave me the thought of grabbing one off the second-hand market and have it modified into a Frankenstein (insert evil genius laugh here).
So, after all the mods (took me about half a year to finally complete it, slow am I not?) are done, let us now see how it looked like and what are the changes that I noticed after the mods. Let’s get started.
Stock? What Stock?
Photo grabbed from Amazon.com.
When I acquired the 225i, it was rather dusty and has its L-cush crumbling, but after a few wipes and a replacement for the L-Cush, I was quite thrilled that it did match my preference. It was tad a bit bright, not necessarily sibilant but has enough sparkle to sate my appetite. However, at around that point I thought that the highs can still be improved if I can have it toned down a bit just so it won’t be too tiring to listen to and to also accommodate others to give it a try. I also noticed back then that there seems to be a bit of shortness when it comes to bass. Yes it was tight, but I felt the decay rather too quick for me so I think this can be augmented by a mod. For the mids, I can live with what I heard out of the stock 225i, but if I can pull it in closer then I guess it will be better.
Apart from this, I was not too confident with the design of the headband and the rod black. Headband is fine, but could have been better if it was a bit wider. For the rod block, as it is made of plastic I am definitely not confident as to how well it can hold the headband, so I think there are some improvements that can be done here.
Gimbals should be fine as they seem to be well made, however, if I can get myself a metal gimbals it should be superb. I know that the stock gimbals can hold the cups well, but as I have a plan with the cups I think I will be better off using a more solid pair of gimbals.
Finally, the cups which seems quite well done will have to be replaced by a pair of wood ones. Why would I want to have the cups swapped anyway if it is good enough? I think that by replacing the plastic cups with wooden ones, I can somehow tone the treble spikes down while improving the bass a little bit. This is for science, ladies and gentlemen, and I am hoping that I got the equation right.
Bring In The Contraband
I took to the market and tried to find what could be the parts I can bring in for the planned mod. Mind you, back when I was scouting for the parts, they have to be sourced abroad as we didn’t have any known modder around the metro, more so within the country (there was one but apparently was no longer active around that time) so I will have to source from somewhere else.
One option I had was with Martin Custom Audio (www.martincustomaudio.com) which seems to have really nifty wood cups available. Their cups are designed to have detachable cables in mind, and they even have optional cups with female mini-XLR installed. That really looked fancy as that gives me an option to go balanced. However, the price of each pair of cups didn’t seem to be too interesting for me ($135 to $325 exclusive of taxes and shipping) so I passed on these beautiful gems.
Photo grabbed from Amazon.com.
Another option that I found was from Gamja Labs, of which is operating through Facebook. They also have lovely cups and even has some aluminum cups available, however it is not really part of my plan:
Photos grabbed from https://www.facebook.com/Gamja.Labs/
I opted to for Gamja Labs as their works are also superb for just a fraction of the price of the cups from Martin Custom Audio; I got the entire set for only around $130 (wood cups, gimbals, rod block and leather headband). I opted for the rosewood cups while the rest is black as I thought it to be more discreet.
A friend offered to bring the parts home in one of his vacations here in Manila so that was a plus as it will avoid some shipping and tax premiums off my cost, however, I will have to wait for a few more weeks as he was not due to be back right away. I didn’t have to wait too long though as I was occupied with a few more things so when it arrived, I immediately had it assembled by my good buddy, wire bender John Tepaurel. It didn’t take that long though. In a matter of couple of days, my Frankenstein was alive.
And here it is!
Boy, was it lovely! I was simply amazed by how it turned out! It was exactly how I planned, and boy I was like a kid unwrapping his Christmas gift.
Of course it was lovely, fine and dandy, but the true test of the can should only be as to how it does with a sound test. For the test, I used my Onkyo DP-X1 paired with the Xduoo XD-05 plugged with a Burr Brown OP2134. I also had a hybrid SPC-copper braided cable fabricated for this purpose and used G-cushes instead of the standard L-cushes that comes with the original packaging.
Now let us go through some of my choice tracks:
Why (Annie Lenox, Diva)
The lovely hum of the synthesizer at the intro is calming but what made it more fun listening to this part of the track was the gentle but sparkling piano keys. Annie Lennox’s vocals is haunting, a little bit forward which is otherwise a bit recessed with the stock SR225i. However, the most amusing part is how well the low ends extended a bit. Decay felt the same, but the extension was definitely drawn by the mod.
Rosanna (Toto, Toto IV)
Seems the rosewood mod did a lot of trick with the SR225i, as the low ends are indeed a lot more emphasized compared to how it was using stock. Joseph Williams’ voice also surfaced a little bit, but the most entertaining part is how smooth Steve Lukather’s solo was compared to the stock. Imaging improved a bit, but soundstage seems even better than the already excellent one from the stock.
The Man Who Can’t Be Moved (The Script, The Script)
Guitars from the intro up to the point where drums enter sounds well imaged. Drums as mentioned in the previous tracks has a better draw. Danny O’Donoghue’s vocals felt a bit more forward. Separation sounded excellent as well and even the deep notes of the bass guitar sounded a lot more audible.
So, the experiment seems to be a success, as it drew the sound I hoped it could. It was a lot cleaner and significantly better in the low end department. Highs were trimmed a bit but was not compromised; I still hear that crystalline sparkle that I always want in my cans.
I had a few friends give the modded SR225i a go and some who have quite low tolerance from bright highs admitted how far it improved from how it was. Some claimed it to be a lot more tolerable and even enjoyable given the enhanced low ends.
Of course, this still isn’t something you will take in a bus ride, I am pretty sure you will be the center of attention if you do so unless you don’t feel bothered by the attention.
Wrapping it up, seems sometimes doing mods can yield fruits, however, I strictly advise against it if you are uncertain of what you are planning lest you end up wasting an otherwise good gear.
In case you want to give it a try, let me know. I normally am out on weekends so you can meet me up if you feel like doing so.