Audio Ideas: Customer Service Making the GRADO!

      Date posted: October 23, 2008

Grado SR-125 rebuiltMy decade-old Grado SR-125  headphones don’t owe me anything after all these years of monitoring recordings in progress, or offering wee-small-hours solace for insomnia. I had never liked the stock ear cushions, however, and had bought a pair of larger, deeper foam cushions from Strategic Audio Developments called upgradables that were much more comfortable (Attempts to Google this company were unsuccessful).
A couple of weeks ago, I dropped the SR-125s on the tile floor in my studio, in the process detaching and disconnecting one channel (ah, the fatal rattle of headphone driver death!). I soon found a pair for sale by a Chicago dealer that were almost new, and bought them, assured they would be sent via USPS Air Mail. When they arrived via UPS  courier instead, with an additional $57 or so added for handling and brokerage, I refused the shipment because I’d already paid close to $50 postage to the vendor (who will remain nameless, since I believe they have learned their lesson, and provided a full refund) for USPS shipping (already exorbitant, but I wanted the phones badly).

UPS  has to take the cake (and too much of your money) on shipments from the US and elsewhere outside Canada. They are, simply put, outrageous in this regard, much worse than FedEx. Not only do they charge the ridiculous fees for handling and brokerage, but they hand the package over to Revenue Canada/Customs for GST, PST and Duty; even if there is no duty (the usual case with used electronics) you get docked another set of handling fees and GST. I call it legal highway robbery!

I was in visiting my local audio dealer, Angie Lisi at American Sound in Richmond Hill ON, near where I live, and a Grado dealer, and told her the sad and frustrating tale. Her response was, send them back to Grado, in this case the Canadian distributor, Audio Group, in a suburb of Montreal. I sent them without the aftermarket thick foam ear cushions, which were starting to look a bit shredded around the edges, anyway (see below left).
I had also sent them in a nylon case, custom-designed for Grado phones (Google vilaibhan), the eBay listing from which I bought them attached to a separate note to Audio Group owner Michel Girard. Michel speaks the most elegant FrGrado Cushions, new one rightench-French (if you know what I mean) I have ever heard in Quebec, and even more elegant English. The case comes from Asia, and looked (and proved to be) very handy for someone like me, who takes his Grados out on location recording gigs regularly (see photo below). Now I don’t have to throw them in amongst a clutter of cables and other recording gear without individual protection.

But let’s get back to the SR-125  itself. In an email, Michel noted that he was aware of the Vilaibhan case, and he and John Grado did not choose to offer it as an accessory. But in a week or so, carefully tucked back into that case, and cradled in bubblewrap in a larger box, came my headphones, in fact, what looked like a totally new pair, with not only a new cord (more explanation below), but a whole new driver unit for the dead channel, and new ear cushions.
 Vilaibhan Grado aftermarket hardcase
Let me talk about these first. They are unlike any Grado has offered previously, and in thickness and shape much more like my disintegrating upgradables.  The photo, the cushions on top of the latter’s original box, show it at above left, and the new Grado-made ear cushion at right. Not only is the thickness similar, but the Grado has a nice little fitting groove around its inside circumference, so they don’t fall off like the old aftermarket cushions often did. The foam itself is a little less soft, but will, I think, be more durable.

I’m afraid I didn’t think of doing a before picture of the cord’s 1/4″ termination as I previously replaced it, a chromed plug soldered on by me, but the after full cable, 1/4″ plug nicely gold-plated and new, speaks for itself. It really is like truly getting a new pair of SR-125s with upgraded fittings. In a subsequent email, Michel noted that in all cases, full restoration to original performance is charged at a Flat Rate, in the case of the SR-125, $60.00, and an additional $20.00 (all CAD) for new ear cushions. I think this is very reasonable, and I should also note that the rate for more expensive headphones increases because of more expensive parts. That’s less than half the price of buying a brand new set of phones, so I’m a happy private listener once again.

Michel’s comment about the flate-rate service was, “we will not get rich with these rates. It is our way to say thank you to people who have purchased a Grado product.” Amen!

Andrew Marshall

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