Cheap Tweaks: Rosson Audio Design RAD-0 Suspension Strap Mod

November 14, 2021

Casey Dodge is a mechanical engineer and machinist by trade—he’s also an audiophile. Put those traits together and it’s no surprise that he’s found a smart solution to a heavy problem. That heavy problem is the intolerable hot spot atop the heads of many Rosson Audio Design RAD-0 owners, me included.

Having enjoyed Alex Rosson’s headphone creations during his time with Audeze, much like Casey, I eyed his latest endeavor, the RAD-0, for quite a while before prying open the purse strings to pick up a pair. We’d both taken breaks from headphones until pandemic protocols restored our interest in them, and stepping back into the head-fi space coincidentally led us both to the RAD-0—and ultimately me to him.

“Like a lot of people, I started getting very heavily into headphones again during the pandemic while working from home. I had read a lot about the RAD-0 and how great it sounds but also how uncomfortable it is. I finally decided that I had to try it for myself, thinking that maybe I could do something to make it more comfortable if it really was as uncomfortable as I had read,” Casey shares.

Here’s where our experiences differ. “Once I got the RAD-0, I found that it wasn’t as bad as some people were saying—but it also wasn’t something I could wear for more than an hour or two without getting a hot spot,” Casey says. For me, the hot spot was literally intolerable within 30 minutes—a damn shame given the fact that the RAD-0 is a truly beautiful sounding and looking headphone. Under the weight of the planar magnetic transducers and housings, the modest, easily compressed pad centered on the RAD-0’s headband creates a terrible pressure point for me. I have a smallish head, and while I can’t speak to the size of Casey’s or that of the other RAD-0 users who’ve suffered under its weight, I suspect it doesn’t really matter what size your head is … the RAD-0 is bound to create at least some discomfort at some point.

In response, my mind immediately thought to deploy the cheap tweak used to modify my Audeze LCD-X and HIFIMAN HE-6 and HE-500, which consisted of using a Sennheiser HD600/HD650 headband pad held in place with either a wool wrap or some double-sided tape. But the RAD-0’s bulbous pad prevents this approach from being as seamless or streamlined as it was with those other models.

Casey’s mind went somewhere else: “From previous headphones that I had, I knew that adding a suspension strap would likely solve the hot spot problem,” he says. “But the other headphones that I had added straps to had usable screws to mount the straps with—the RAD-0 doesn’t.”

As any good engineer would do, Casey began experimenting. He tells me that he started out with a strap that was just tied to the RAD-0’s sliders. While he says that fixed his hot spot, it was “ugly and annoying to use because it would flop around.” This led Casey to work on a design that would make the strap both more stable and OEM-like in appearance, while also eliminating the need for any permanent modifications to a $2,600-plus headphone.

One genuine leather strap, two T-brackets, two screws, and one Allen wrench later, Casey has created a suspension strap that takes the RAD-0’s headband out of play. It’s simple. It’s reversible. It’s affordable. It’s a smart solution to a heavy problem.

Casey ended up with a design that uses the slot in the RAD-0’s sliders to pass his T-brackets through that secure the suspension strap in place. These brackets are made from Delrin, a type of plastic often used to replace metals because of its low friction, resistance to wear, and machinability. “Delrin has good properties for these kinds of parts and machines nicely using a CNC mill,” he explains. The leather straps are also cut from a pattern that Casey made, which allows him to keep them more uniform and repeatable despite being cut by hand. In the end, his suspension strap looks strikingly OEM-like and should hold up well under typical use.

Admittedly, when I stumbled across some forum posts mentioning Casey’s strap, I was a bit skeptical of the quality and end result. In reaching out to Casey, my skepticism was unwarranted. Our conversations have been pleasant, and my experience with purchasing and using his original creation has been nothing but positive. The few minutes of trial and error to get the strap positioned on my RAD-0’s sliders where it fits comfortably were long forgotten by the time my first pain-free listening session ended. In fact, my prior 30-minute tolerance for the RAD-0 has stretched to more than three hours during some recent listening sessions. The simple beauty of the leather suspension strap is that it conforms to your head, creating a wide and long contact patch that distributes the RAD-0’s weight and thoroughly eliminates hot spots.

While I’m somewhat surprised and disappointed that Alex Rosson didn’t incorporate into his RAD-0 some of the headband refinements implemented in the LCD line during his time with Audeze, I’m grateful that crafty head-fi enthusiasts like Casey exist to right the wrongs audio engineers sometimes gloss over. The RAD-0 is a lovely looking and seductive sounding headphone. It’s a headphone that deserves to be heard, not felt.

If you’re like me and can’t enjoy the RAD-0 in stock form for as long as you’d like because of hot spots, or even if you experience just the slightest amount of headband discomfort from it, Casey’s suspension strap could be the difference between seeking a new headphone or settling in to experience #AudioNirvana with your one-of-a-kind RAD-0.

Casey is currently making his RAD-0 suspension strap in small batches. If you’d like to give one a try, you can message him through The Headphone Community where he goes by “rustyrat” or through the Head-Fi forum where he’s known as “puck.” His suspension strap costs $50 shipped in the in the US, and international shipping is available for an additional charge.

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