Martin Custom Audio - Custom Grado SR-325i Headphones

Presentation: Upon initial receipt of these headphones, you immediately feel as though Marty has made them especially for you – because he did.  Marty of Martin Custom Audio does do lines of headphone modifications, but in small quantities and your item, such as this pair of SR-325i Grados is just that – custom and features a serial number.  In the case of this particular pair, it is # 0002.  When you open the shipping box, you are presented with a black rectangular box that has been fitted to hold the Grado foam.  Marty has provided additional modifications even to this boxing process.  He’s provided additional padding below the standard Grado foam and also on the inside of the box lid to ensure your Grados are safely secured for shipping or storage.  The foam isn’t just tossed into the box either.  It is aligned and adhered to the surfaces with an adhesive, so it’s there for a long time.

When you open the box, you’ll see a personal note from Marty.  The note contains all the details regarding the pair of headphones that you have purchased from him.  He notes specific items that he has applied his personal touches to, so if you have questions, most of the answers will be there for you.  However, also knowing Marty’s personality, he’ll be there for you long after the sale, too.  Additionally, Marty points out what has not been done, and why.  In the case of this particular pair of Grado SR-325i headphones, he briefly explains that the drivers have not been touched in any way – no  Dynamat, no rear holes opened on the drivers, etc.  The drivers are stock and the new owner will have easy access to gently remove the drivers from the housing to perform any modifications they desire.

Quality of Product:  At first, one might be tempted to quickly insert the audio plug into their gear, slap the headphones on and start jamming.  However, with these headphones, I think one should take a few moments – in a nicely lit area to just hold them in their hands and observe their purchase from all angles.  Carefully, one will notice the precision that the woods were turned, the carefulness that was applied when the finish met the wood of the headphones.  There are no drips, drops or globs.  Also, when round gimbals are involved, I always question how an individual has implemented such a gimbal and how it relates to the rest of the headphone.  In the case of these Grados, the gimbals have careful, and precise notches at the bottom inside of the gimbals to provide a channel for the cable to thread into the cup, yet, the gimbal won’t interfere with the cable or really move it in a manner that could shorten the life of the cable in that area.

Fit:  Additionally, when I have a chance to try out or try on headphones, I immediately am concerned how they’ll fit on me and how well they’ll mate with my ears to ensure the music is properly delivered.  In the case of these headphones, Marty has delivered 4 aces.  The headphones fit just as well, if not better than Grado intended them to fit.  Since Grado has made millions of headphones, they should know a thing or two about fit, and Marty ensured that his modifications were right in line with the standard issue.  However, if someone has a wider head and doesn’t like the way that the Grados might press on their ears, some slight adjustments can be applied in small increments to carefully open the band slightly so that a custom fit for the user can be easily achieved.

Sound:  This is where it’s hard to write a first sentence.  As we all know, we all interpret sound differently.  Over the past year or so, I’ve had a half dozen or so Grado headphones and a few pair of Alessandro headphones as well as the option to test out a pair of Alessandro MS-Pro headphones in my home.  The sound of these headphones is really no exception from the Grado signature sound.  The highs are there – making percussion instruments really stand out so one can appreciate the music.  The wooden cups ensure the bass hits nicely – especially kick drums are easy to pick out as well as the upright bass without any flabbiness.  At first, I thought the headphones were a bit “upped” when it came to treble.  However, with use and a few listening sessions, I became to like the sound I was hearing.  These headphones are supplied with silver braided cables and a Neutrik connector.  It is my belief from listening to silver versus copper cable, that the silver cable can lend itself a bit more towards the detail end of the sound.

As far as the bass goes, this pair of SR-325i does deliver, but I’ll admit, I did grow fond of the bass from the pair of Alessandro MS-Pro headphones that I had a chance to utilize for a full demonstration.  The MS-Pros had highs that were slightly tamed, but still there.  I suspect in the case of this pair of SR-325i Grados, the bass might be getting slightly masked from the detail in the upper frequencies.  However, this all depends on how one hears and the music they listen to.  I play a lot of blues, folk, and jazz music that tends to work quite well with the Grado signature sound.  The Grado SR-325i from Marty has the bass, it’s just presented differently than Alessandro does it with their MS-Pro series.

The Bad:  Well, I really couldn’t write an objective review without listing something bad, correct?  I can’t pick on the presentation, the quality or the sound, so what would it be if I had to list something bad about these headphones?  The issue that I’d note with these headphones is that you’ve just purchased the Rolls Royce of Grados when it comes to the custom modifications Marty has provided.  The brass gimbal rods, the special round gimbals, the brass adjustment knobs, etc.  To me, having such a fine pair of headphones would mean that this would be a pair that would not travel.  They would be used exclusively in my home as opposed to being transferred between home and work each day of the week.  Is that such a bad thing?  Maybe not.  I’ll leave that up to the buyer or owner to decide.

In closing, I’m going to dearly miss these headphones.  The quality is beyond belief and the sound is much unlike my pair of standard Grado SR-325i Goldies that I had.  These Grados had a sound that was very much “alive” and was something that couldn’t be achieved with my stock pair of Grado SR-325i headphones.

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