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Deluxe Flat Pads for Grado Headphones

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Yes, but I've never been a fan of those Senn pads. I'll get the regular flat pads from TTVJ if the new ones aren't an improvement.

Edited by HiWire
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Damn, that's too bad.  I lost my Grado pads for my PS-1.  I wonder if I can get replacements?

That said, they're entirely different, I remember now why I replaced them.  But I will obtain so that I can sell the PS-1 stock.

4E-GCUSH-2T.jpg?1464156473

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8 hours ago, EdipisReks1 said:

You have to mod the 414 pads, and I've double blinded it: they don't sound as good as the flats. 30 percent of listeners declare them as sounding worse than flats, as opposed to 10 percent the other way. With 10 people, the p-value is okie dokie. This was done with HP-2 headphones, but I think it's valid for other Grado phone. 

I guess I am not understanding what was said above. My interpretation is that the data for 10 subjects would look like:

Flat pads better - 3

414 pads better - 1

no difference - 6

is that the correct interpretation or am not understanding what you wrote. Not trying to be an asshole as I don't want to take Zach's job, just trying to understand since I still have a few Grado phones.

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4 hours ago, morphsci said:

I guess I am not understanding what was said above. My interpretation is that the data for 10 subjects would look like:

Flat pads better - 3

414 pads better - 1

no difference - 6

is that the correct interpretation or am not understanding what you wrote. Not trying to be an asshole as I don't want to take Zach's job, just trying to understand since I still have a few Grado phones.

I was making a self-deprecating joke about myself (hence the "p-value is okie dokie" and "what works for the Grado HP-2 is valid for other phones"), that I guess didn't come out very well.  I used to run double-blind tests on cables and shit, that you probably don't remember, and blabbered about them constantly, thinking I was hot shit.  I never ran a test between modded 414s and flats.  I don't think modded 414s ever sounded all that great, though.

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Yeah, at first I thought you were joking but then I remembered you had done some double-blind tests back in the day. I wasn't sure about the details of the tests so a Grado pad test seemed plausible. Anyway no harm, no foul.

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Grado flat pads aren't the only ones that crumble. I found a trail of telltale black bits coming from the Radio Shack foam pads on my old Koss Sportapros this morning. Time for a replacement.

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27 minutes ago, HiWire said:

Grado flat pads aren't the only ones that crumble. I found a trail of telltale black bits coming from the Radio Shack foam pads on my old Koss Sportapros this morning. Time for a replacement.

except grado pads cost more than sportapros.

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Yup... ordered a set of replacement pads directly from Koss and it was 5 bucks... free ground shipping, too.

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I received a set of the Deluxe Flat Pads yesterday (as well as a set of regular Flat Pads – hedging my bets).

They look identical to the regular flat pads, except they have a small silver marking on the inside edge to distinguish them.

I only had time to listen to one track this morning (from The Cars, naturally) – it did sound really good. I'm looking forward to a lot of re-listening in the next couple of days. I was a bit dissatisfied with the sound from my Grado HP-2 recently, and I wonder if it was because the pads weren't "sealing" anymore.

 

Deluxe Flat Pads Front.jpg

Deluxe Flat Pads Back.jpg

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The other effect of getting new pads is that I can safely turn the volume up a little higher. The old pads had lost so much material and volume that I think I was squashing them closer to my ears to get a good fit. The new pads definitely feel thicker and softer and there is a little more space between the drivers and my ears now. The HP-2 also stay more firmly on my head, requiring much less fiddling to get perfectly comfortable.

So I listened to The Cars (1978) HDCD tonight. It's an album I know really well, and the effect is more than placebo. I did turn the volume up a little bit, but there were things I hadn't noticed before and overall I was enjoying the album more than I expected, thinking I'd been overplaying it. The first thing I noticed was that Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr's voices were a lot clearer and more upfront – I had always found them too distant and indistinct before.

The other obvious improvement is the soundstage. It doesn't get any bigger but stereo pans and reverb are well integrated, and the arrangement of the physical instruments (or the engineer's arrangement) is precise and realistic where it was hazy before. The crescendo on the last track, All Mixed Up, gets loud, but the instruments stay separated instead of colliding in a noisy muddle like they did before.

Drums and basslines are more urgent, timing seems tighter, and rhythm is more prominent. The HP-2 are fun again. I really enjoyed the guitar solo bit at the end of Bye Bye Love, which I had never noticed before. It was clear as day with the new pads. Treble rolloff is gone and voices and tones sound richer and more natural.
I'm a happy camper. I'd been slowly becoming more and more dissatisfied with the sound of my system, and I guess part of the problem was the steady deterioration of the pads.

A few months ago, I noticed that holes had opened up on the rim where my ears were touching the inside of the metal cups. Turning up the volume didn't help much, either – it was the same flat, lifeless sound, but amplified. I think the new pads are focusing the sound of the drivers where the old pads were "leaking" the sound. Do not underestimate the effect of the right pads on HP-2s.

More to come.

Old pads:

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IMG_0727.JPG

Edited by HiWire
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I listened to the Raveonettes' 2016 Atomized tonight. It arrived about 3 weeks ago and I've listened to it a few times at work.

The first thing I should mention is that song lyrics are much clearer with the new pads – that's a dead giveaway. Songs where I previously struggled to make out the lyrics are suddenly obvious. 2016 Atomized is probably not the best album to test Grados – like other Raveonettes albums, it's awash in noise, distortion, and reverb.

However, these effects provide an excellent contrast against Sune Rose Wagner's work on synths. They are carefully layered, tuneful, and emotionally resonant in a way that other songwriters should envy.

Most of the songs on 2016 Atomized are short, typically running about 2-3 minutes, except for the last track, Pendejo, which is mostly instrumental and more subtle and atmospheric than the rest of the album.

The Deluxe Flat Pads are an unqualified success on the Grado HP 2. They fix the slight treble roll-off, enhance midrange definition and fluidity, and add control to the bass frequencies as promised. They are expensive, but audiophiles have spent a lot more to get these kind of improvements from their systems.

Grado HP 2 are analytical by nature and they are ruthlessly revealing on bad recordings. The new pads don't change that, but they enhance every good quality in the HP 2 headphones. I'm not sure how the Deluxe Flat Pads would sound on the John Grado headphones, but I think they would work well on the Alessandro Music Series headphones and probably the PS series of Grado headphones at least.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/grado-hp-1-headphones

If you look at the design of the Grado headphones, you'll note that the drivers are very directly coupled over your ears. Compare the simple Grado pad designs to a more modern headphone like the Sennheiser HD 800 S and you'll see that the Sennheisers have a different approach to cavity design and resonance control (absorber technology, angled drivers, different materials). You can make a similar comparison with the Focal Utopia headphones.

Upgrading to the Deluxe Flat Pads modernizes the Grado sound with a simple pad change.

Edited by HiWire
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I haven't pulled the new regular flat pads out of their ziplock bag yet. I suspect that exposure to oxygen will start the crumbling clock. I'll swap the pads this weekend to test for differences.

I listened to Anemone's Beat My Distance this morning. The HP 2 did their groovinator thing – I wanted to listen to all the albums, whereas I had started to look for shorter albums to play in the last few months. Beat My Distance can be described as dream pop – it was a relief to listen to cleanly-recorded vocals and instruments without a massive push to distortion.

The slightly-recessed synths and drumbeats are gauzy and propulsive, but definitely not ambient. Chloé Soldevila's ethereal voice is the main attraction, weaving in and out of shimmering waves of synths and soft guitar.

My next album will definitely be an acoustic recording – then I'll be able to get a better read on resolution and ambiance.

Edited by HiWire

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I decided on Alison Krauss + Union Station: Live (SACD) as my test album. It has impeccable recording quality, masterful performances, and it's an incredibly life-affirming barnstorming hootenanny in your head. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who enjoys music (even those of you who normally hate country and bluegrass). It's one of my desert-island discs and there is a fantastic interplay between Alison Krauss and the guitars, fiddle, dobro, mandolin, bass, and drums. You can also get this performance on DVD, but we're concerned about the stereo recording in this case. I listened to this album a few months ago, but it gave me the meh like a lot of my beloved albums on the HP 2's dying pads.

On the regular flat pads, the bass was the first thing to catch my attention. I did a bit of fiddling to get a perfect fit (these are brand new pads, which are the best pads, if you haven't examined my disintegrating flat pads above already) and turned up the volume a smidge. Bass is a bit wooly and Alison Krauss' voice has a keening quality that can sound edgy in a bad way on the wrong gear. The virtuoso playing on the stringed instruments is very clear and direct (reverb dies fairly quickly), and you can hear the louder responses from the audience. When Alison sings in harmony with the various band members, the effect is slightly recessed. Running out of things to say about a sound I know and love, I take a break for dinner. This is good.

Switching back to the deluxe pads, I first notice that things sound quieter. Next, I notice that the pads seem thicker... no, their dimensions are the same as the regular pads, but the material seems to be denser. Then as more of the music comes in off the leading notes I have... soundstage. Yes, the depth I noticed before with 2016 Atomized is even more obvious on this acoustic recording. Everything is slightly less forward than on the regular flat pads and there is a lot more information coming from the headphones. The difference is not subtle at all.

Knowing how short auditory memory is (extremely short), I was expecting to have difficulty finding differences between the pads, especially after a long break. Maybe it was the placebo effect. Maybe I'm just a sucker. A fool and his money are soon parted and all that. Or maybe there is a huge difference between new pads and dead pads.

But no, I keep listening and there is more to describe. Alison's voice is more emotional (you can hear more of her breathing and phrasing) and the male performers in Union Station sound much richer and more real. The drums have more dynamic energy and the bass doesn't overwhelm the lower midrange like it does with the regular pads. And the detail just keeps coming. I can hear how far back the audience members are in Louisville Palace where audience noise was more flat and simply less loud for farther members before. This is better.

I was fine stopping with the regular flat pads, but with the deluxe pads, I want to listen to all my albums again. The only thing stopping me is fatigue (I spent the whole day driving fast on new (to me) winding country roads with my car club) and the fact that I have to go to work tomorrow. The deluxe flat pads unambiguously improve the voicing of the Grado HP 2 (removing some of the midrange-low-treble glare) and add soundstage and detail to headphones I've owned and loved for 14 years. The HP 2 are sometimes described as flat or clinical, but now they are more involving, musical, and, to use one of Joe Grado's words, holographic.

TTVJ were understated in describing the audio improvements of their new pads, but I am not. Audiophiles spend hundreds to thousands of dollars to get these kind of improvements. I think what I spent was fair, I'm sorry I took so long to try them, and I'll have to buy them again if they crumble.

I'm not taking the deluxe pads off again. The regular flat pads will have to go on my Alessandro MS-1.

Edited by HiWire
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My ears are silky soft and I don't drag my headphones in the dirt, so I really hope these new pads last. On the plus side, they were the only new flat pads I ever bought (from TTVJ, of course)... the seller sold my HP 2 to me with bowl pads. 14 years of musical enjoyment is not so bad.

I still need to vacuum some of the dead flat pads' black bits out of the carpet. They've been leaving bits on my ears for months. Ugh.  😣

Lesson learned: don't try to keep using the pads when they begin to self-destruct. According to this thread, my pads have been crumbling since 2016. 🙄

Edited by HiWire
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I went through the crumbling period for awhile too. It's a mess. I bought TTVJ flat pads a couple of years ago. The are still holding up strong. I'm looking forward to trying the Deluxe pads. 

If I go a long period without listening, I do put them in a ziplock bag.

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Swapped the flat pads to the Alessandro MS-1 and surprise, surprise, they sound better than the comfy pads. I do have to turn the volume down a bit with the drivers firing directly into my ears. I may have been wrong about the deluxe flat pads feeling denser – that might have been normal manufacturing variance. The regular flat pads on the MS-1 hurt my ears after about 2 hours, since they have the stock Grado ear-crushing clamp. The pain I endure for dat bass.

I tried the flats on the MS-1 when I first got the flats, but they never got a fair chance because the flats were going on the HP 2. The comfy pads tend to cut a bit of the treble and transparency (transients, attack speed, decay, etc.), but I guess I was in denial, not wanting to buy another pair of flats back then. Win-win today.

There is a spare pair of bowl pads sitting around my place somewhere (not crumbling). I'm not sure what John Grado does to the drivers, etc. to voice them for bowl and bagel pads, but you'd think there would be some major changes to sculpt the bass and to avoid a midrange-treble suckout with the additional volume around your ears. I wasn't a fan of the bowls as the treble reverberations sounded fake with my HP 2 and MS-1 and bass quality and quantity were dramatically reduced.

Edited by HiWire
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