Our rodblocks and gimbals explained
Aluminum sets are our most popular product for nearly 2 years now, but we never really took time to fully explain how to install them (especially the rodblocks alone) and what makes them superior to any other ones. This post will expand a bit on the product and materials description, explain the installation, contents of the package, possible adjustments, principles of operation, and proper conservation.
Extended materials description
So, we say that we machine and craft our sets from high quality aluminum, but what does that really mean? We chose PA6 aluminum alloy as the material for our parts for several reasons. First of all it has exceptional mechanical properties making it a great choice for moving parts, it is also very durable and fairly hard, meaning that your parts will last you for very long time and won’t scratch easily. On top of that it has a good workability, which is convenient for us when crafting the parts. Like everything it has some downsides – it doesn’t weld well (but we don’t care) and it isn’t very
corrosion resistant. The latter shouldn’t be too much of an issue since Grado headphones are mostly used at home and most people keep their headphones away from liquids, but we’ve still taken extra steps to amend for that by anodizing.
After each rodblock (or rod block, still unsure which spelling is correct) and gimbal are CNC machined they are being sanded first, then beadblasted to get rid of all the scratches and to even out the surface. After that, each part is anodized in microarc oxidation treatment process that creates a ceramic coating on the parts. Black parts have a thicker, matte coating, while silver ones have a thinner, semi-transparent one. Such coatings are generally recognized for high hardness, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance. Each part is also finished off by hand rubbing a layer of synthetic
oil on it to give it a bit of shine and extra protection from scratches, corrosion and other hardships of headphones’ life.
Contents of the package
Inside the parcel you’ll find 2 gimbals and 2 rodblocks (left and right) (or just rodblocks or gimbals, depending on what you’ve ordered) and some spare screws, silicone slider and an allen key for installation and adjustments.
Sometimes people ask why did they get some extra screws and what are those small semi-transparent pills. We include the spare screws, because we understand that most of our customers are passionate DIYers and tinkerers who’ll modify their Grado headphones more than once. Spare screws are there in case you lose any while working on your build, they’re small, black and really love to play hide and seek if you’re not careful with where you put them! I know I lost countless small screws in my life. What about those tiny pills? These are actually one of the most important parts of our aluminum sets, and a secret to why our rodblocks move so smoothly on the rods. We include four spares, because there are two inside each rodblock, behind the pressure screws. They will wear over time, but very, very slowly (you won’t need to replace them for at least 6-8 years). More onthem below.
So how do you replace your stock plastic gimbals and rodblocks with our aluminum set?
It is fairly straightforward, but has one or two tricky moments. Following instructions should show you how to do it effectively and risk-free.
First you need to disassemble your headphones a bit. Start by removing your earpads. After this is done, remove the rubber caps on the tips of the rods of stock gimbals and slide the stock rodblocks off them and put the caps back on.
Next you’ll need to remove stock gimbals from the cups, to do that, grab them by the pins that go inside the cups and bend outwards slightly, since they are plastic, they should come out of the holes and come off easily.
Now it’s time to separate the rodblocks from the headband, and this is probably the hardest part in the entire process as it requires quite a lot of force and persistence. You’ll need to grab the headband next to the rodblock firmly with one hand and the rodblock itself with the other hand and then move it left and right, back and forth, until it loosens up a bit, keep doing it while pulling the headband and rodblock in separate directions until the headband comes out completely.
After these three steps your headphones are fully separated and ready for the new aluminum set. To install it begin with unscrewing the screw that goes through the slit in front of the rodblock, then insert the metal headband into the slit and make sure that the holes in the rodblock and in the headband are aligned and screw the screw back in to lock the headband in the rodblock. It can be a bit tricky, so the easiest way to do this is to place the rodblock on the table, then slide the metal bit of headband inside it, press the headband and the rodblock against the table with one hand and screw with the other.
When both rodblocks and gimbals are connected together via headband, you can finally attach them to your cups to complete the build. To this, simply unscrew the tipped screws in the gimbals a bit (not completely, there’s no need), until you’re able to slide the gimbals onto the cups without scratching them (especially important with beautiful wooden cups), insert one of the tipped screws in the cup hole and screw it back to the point where it doesn’t stick out on the inside of the gimbal, then do the same with the other screw. If the cups feel a bit loose on the gimbals after you do that,
you can tighten them a bit, but don’t overdo it – if the treaded part of the screw gets in to the cup, they might unscrew themselves on their own slightly over time and this will annoy the hell out of you.
IMPORTANT – if you ordered rodblocks only, you’ll also need to insert silicone sliders inside the pressure screw holes on your own (when ordering a rodblock/gimbal set we already do it for you). Remember to do it before you put the pressure screws, otherwise you’ll scratch your gimbal rod.
Principles of operation and possible adjustments
There’s no rocket science involved in how these rodblocks and gimbals work. Grado’s idea is probably one of the simplest in the industry. And while being so, it does pretty good job, allowing the cups to move in all directions. Unfortunately it has some flaws, like free 360 degree rotation of the cups that causes the cables to twist and headphone users to rage, or stock plastic rodblocks to wear out rather quickly and loosen up causing the cups to slide of your ear (and rage obviously – or is it just me and my short temper?). And that’s where we come in. It was very important for us that our
aluminum sets not only are more durable than stock ones, but also improve on the comfort of use. That’s why we introduced silicone sliders and pressure screws in them. Combined they allow to tighten the rodblock around the rod while maintaining the smooth movement of the latter. Depending on how tightly they are adjusted, rod can move completely freely like in stock parts or can be even locked completely in the position without risking any damage to the rod. For the most comfortable use of headphones I suggest adjusting the headphones vertically on your head to its size, and then tightening the pressure screws to the point where rod won’t move vertically, but will be able to twist horizontally. This way the rod will only move horizontally when you want it to, and you’ll say goodbye to twisting cables and earpads that fall off each time you take your headphones off. Unfortunately this is not ideal when you want to share your headphones with someone who’s head is different size than yours, as the vertical adjustment will likely require the allen key we include in the package.
Finally we’re moving on to the last paragraph. Our aluminum parts don’t require much conservation, as they are pretty durable and we already take a lot of precautions to make sure they’ll last you a lifetime, but here are some tips that will make sure they’ll look good even after few years of intensive use. First of all, once you’ll feel that the rods aren’t sliding as smoothly as they used to when your aluminum set was new you should replace the silicone sliders that sit between the pressure screws and rods.
As mentioned above, it will take quite some time before it happens, but you’ll need to do it eventually. Secondly it’d be ideal to rub the parts with synthetic oil (i.e. silicone oil) every couple of years as well to make sure the surface stays scratch free and the coating won’t chip off, but it’s not necessary. Lastly, what rarely happens with gimbals is that one of that one of the screws loosens up constantly even though you keep tightening it. What helps here is to replace the screw with one of spares. If that doesn’t help, please send us a message and we’ll come up with a satisfying solution for you!
That’s about it! Didn’t expect this post to get so long, but I hope that it exhausts the topic completely.
Lastly, I’d like to let you know that we’re currently developing several new types of
rodblocks and gimbals to allow you to customize your headphones even more. Some of them will improve on the comfort of use even more, others will focus on mainly on new looks. Hopefully you’ll like them all as much as you like the ones we currently offer. Until the next time!