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Alessandro MS1i

95% Positive Reviews
Rated #31 in Over-Ear

Posted

Pros: Clarity, detail, beautiful mid-range, punchy bass, easy to mod, great value

Cons: Comfort (initially), can get expensive once you discover the joy of modding, no isolation

These were purchased on impulse - more to experience the Grado/Alessandro sound than anything - and quickly became one of my favourite headphones.  Incredible sound, incredible value, and the ability to modify them yourself so that they punch far above their original weight.

 

For this review - I'm using them at my desktop with FLAC recordings using Amarok player (Linux) via and Audio-gd NFB-12 (using the brighter 8 x upsampling minimum phase apodising filter) .

 

Product Description

The Alessandro MS1i is the entry level headphone from Alessandro (Grado) and is sold primarily outside the US (although they can be purchased within the US as well).  The MS1i has been described by some as the equivalent of the Grado SR125i.  It is a supra-aural headphone, which is very easy to modify due to it's very simple (but effective build).  They are very easy to drive - and I can comfortably pair them with my iPod/iPhone with no issues.

 

ms1-1.jpg

 

Technical Specs

From Alessandro's website - 


Transducer type: Dynamic
Operating principle: Open air
Frequency response: 20 - 22K Hz
SPL lmV: 100
Nominal impedance: 32 Ohms
Driver match db: 0.1
Features: - Vented diaphragm
- Non resonant air chamber
- UHPLC voice coil wire
- Standard copper connecting cord

 

Accessories

The famous Grado pizza-box + foam insert, and a 3.5-6.3mm adaptor.

 

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Design Build Quality and Comfort

The design is very simple but very effective.  2 gimbals attached to a thin headband.  The gimbals are attached to plastic cups.  The whole set-up looks very flimsy, but in reality can take some abuse.  The design is both it's strength and weakness.  Strength because it is very easy to modify and the parts are easy to replace.  A weakness because of the overall comfort - these were built for sound and little attention paid to long term comfort.  The supra-aural pads can become extremely irritating after an hour or so, the headband has no padding, and the cups can swivel and twist the cords.

 

Thankfully a lot of the faults can be addressed with some simple mods.

 

ms1-3.jpg

 

Sound Quality

 

Sound-stage - 

Very narrow and close.  I really feel as though I'm either in the front row, or actually on the stage - but this is actually a strength - as they are extremely involving and dynamic - especially for Rock or Blues.

 

Clarity/Detail - 

These are extremely clear - probably more so because of the emphasis on the highs - and appear quite detailed (to me at least).  But this may be due to the fact that I haven't heard a lot of other headphones to compare properly.  They don't have as much micro detail as the SRH940 I had - or my current DT880/HD600 - but there is plenty to keep me happy.

 

Highs

The famous Grado highs!  I was surprised when I first listened to these.  I was expecting something exceedingly bright - but instead I find them warm, exciting and easy to listen to.  This may be more because they are Alessandro rather than "US" Grado - and apparently have the highs dialed down a little.  After going from these to the DT880's or HD600's, I definitely find a drop in the brightness of the highs - but it's not a huge drop (to me).  I find these have just the right amount of extension without becoming painful.

 

Mids

Warm, exciting, dynamic, beautiful.  Call me crazy - but eventually I preferred the mids on the MS1i to the Shure SRH940.  I personally find them quite warm, excellent with both male and female vocals, and absolutely wonderful with guitar and piano.

 

Bass

Unmodified, I still found the bass punchy and nicely balanced.  It's not overly detailed (especially in the sub-bass) but is enjoyable - quite nicely countering the slightly brighter highs. The bass really punctuates rock and blues especially, and IMO reasonably accurately presents how I expect to hear the bass (it's really enjoyable to me anyway).  Modified (venting / cup change) adds another dynamic for me - making better impact & overall presentation.

 

Overall Presentation By Genre

  • Classic Rock - esp acoustic rock - absolute winner.  Guitar is heavenly - these were made for rock.  Clapton really shines - especially his unplugged album.
  • Blues - see above.  Joe Bonamassa (esp live) is dynamic, "alive" and thoroughly enjoyable
  • Female Vocals - really enjoy this with the MS1is - the warmth of the mids is fantastic.  Alanis Morissette is incredible with these (listening to her while I type this).
  • Jazz (modern) - Jazz piano especially is vibrant and dynamic.  Makes Krall very toe-tapping, but to be honest, the DT880 and HD600 are both better (sometimes the presentation can be a little too bright with the MS1i).
  • Prog Rock - the combination of warm mids and punchy bass are an absolute winner here.  Porcupine Tree really shines for me.
  • Classical - nice, but is really to warm and doesn't have the stage required to really present this as well as it should.

 

Isolation

Little to none.  You can pretty much hear everyone around you, and they will hear your music.

 

Modding

This is where the MS1i really shines IMO (as does most of the lower Grado line-up).  The easiest thing to mod is the pads - and they make a huge difference to sound and comfort.  With my limited experience (so far):

  • Senn HD414 pads reversed and quarter-mod - better clarity, good bass and slightly improved comfort
  • L-Cush (bowls) - my favourite - slightly more sound-stage, vastly improved comfort, no detrimental changes to sound (when combined with the other changes I'd made).
  • G-Cush (Jumbos) - these were an experiment.  Big change in sound-stage, bass diminished, highs very bright and sizzly, great comfort.  Really need to try these with wood.

 

ms1-4.jpg

 

Next comfort mod is the headband.  I simply bought a Beyer snap on pad.  Fits perfectly and totally solves comfort issues with the headband.

 

ms1-5.jpg


Internal mods - venting the drivers (I used 4 holes) definitely adds bass impact.  As more people try wood though, I think less people are actually venting the drivers.  I also used a little foam at the back of the driver - although I'm still not sure if it really did anything.  I also applied felt on the inside of the aluminium cups.  This did help both mids and bass (clarity) for me.

 

ms1-6.jpg

 

ms1-7.jpg

 

Cups - while most people have gone wood, thanks to Twinster I got a chance to try aluminium cups from an MS2i on my MS1is - and I really like them.  I removed the inner plastic lining, replaced it with felt - and I think the change is nice.  It feels warmer and 'sweeter' without darkening things too much.  With the bowls they sound quite balanced.

 

ms1-8.jpg

 

ms1-9.jpg

 

Overall / Summary

As far as value and versatility go, it would be very hard to beat the MS1i - especially as an entry point head-phone.  While the comfort leaves a lot to be desired, the ability to modify the sound to your own requirements is both fun and very rewarding (finding the right combination).  But even out of the box, these sound great to me with almost any genre.  One of those headphones you "have to try". Unfortunately it does have me wondering how good the Grado line really gets - and I know that could lead to more "wallet-pain" down the track.  The journey will be worth it though.

 

ms1-9a.jpg

 

Highly recommend these headphones.

 

UPDATE MARCH 2012

I still have these, and still regularly use them.  They've undergone a few more changes recently - most noticeable being a full woody jacket in Iroko.  Pics below biggrin.gif

 

woody1.jpg woody2.jpg

 

Next step (hopefully before end of the month) is a recable in Cardas starquad mini.

Posted

Pros: Styling (subjective), Price Point, Modifiability, Great Starter 'Phone

Cons: Styling (subjective), Plastic can be a mild turn off, Somewhat narrow musical bandwidth

Allow me to begin by stating, along with many others, that I am no Audiophile. Not yet any ways ;)

What I am is someone who listens to a whole lot of music for many many hours on end. I'm able to listen to music at work so I use the cans 8 hours straight every night and usually another 2-3 after I get home.

I was originally set on grabbing a pair of Sennheisers as per their legendary reputation. I then saw a few pictures floating around of these "grado" cans and noticed a lot of folks were singing their praises from rooftops as well. After learning that a company I was familiar with from my other musical hobbies were tweaking these said "awesome" cans, and on the much appreciated advice from other members here on the head-fi boards, I decided to go ahead and give these puppies a spin.

Now, I can sit here an regurgitate what many other reviewers have stated, and indeed there are some points I'd like to reinforce, however... I'll try and point out a few things I haven't seen or heard yet in regards to the phones.

First and foremost... regurgitation numero uno. Out of the box, these things were plenty good. The "famous" mids were on point from the moment I first plugged them in and they certainly beat the pants off the set of Sony XD200's I was using prior. But they really didn't come into their own for a good 15-20 hours of solid playback. Scientifically provable or not, I am now a firm believer in burn in. After said period of time I noticed the high end really opened up. They also gained a fair bit of punch in the bass department. 

Regurgitation numero deux. They really do require at least a decent source file to really show their potential. I'm currently not running an amp or a DAC outside of my ALC889 chipset or Sansa Fuse but in terms of file quality you have to watch out. I've heard decently ripped 128k Mp3s that sounded fairly good but if you've got a rip that is anything less than great these cans will let you know about it. Browsing youtube now is almost painful as it's blatantly obvious how few people care about audio quality when they upload. Cheaper cans can be made to mask such faults through equalization but once you hear these things with a decent source and a quality recording you'll never wanna see an EQ again.

On to actual sound quality. When people say Grado has got Mids on lock down they are not exaggerating. While they may not be perfectly flat per se, the tones they reproduce from Electric and Acoustic guitars is nothing short of miraculous to the ears. This paired with the upfront soundstaging is downright addictive when listening to blues/rock/metal/acoustic. Vocals are also tight and well articulated as well as the source was recorded well enough to make such detailing stand out. Solo jazz piano is almost as intoxicating as a blues guitar solo.

The bass out of the box was pretty good. I was expecting them to be light on lows, but they weren't really. There was certainly no mid bass boom going on and they heavily favored a more "punchy" low end. After 10 hours or so of burn in the punch turned into a smack in the ears with a decent amount of "woof" behind it.

As for the highs I'm of a split opinion. The Mid-Highs are great. I suppose this is where much of the "detailing" in music comes from and they do a fair job at that. I wouldn't call them super detailed. If the background in the track isn't that lively you can certainly pick up subtle nuances you may have missed out on before (David Gilmour's "lip smacking" before every line of vocals on the "Meddle" album almost becomes incessant). However if there's a lot going on in the track it's almost as if the phones don't have the "bandwidth" to keep up. A lot of effects/speech in the background may become lost in the surrounding music (ie: Paranoid Android).

Also, with all but the most pristine quality and well recorded music in my library, the upper echelons of the highs also feel "compressed". You don't really get that airy roll off or decay on a cymbal hit, you just get the crash... then it's on to the next accentuated snare hit thanks to those lovely mids. This may or may not be the fault of the drivers themselves... All I can say is the only time I've heard excellent extension and delay on the high end was with a few tracks in my "Lateralus" CD. That CD almost seems to be mixed to bring out those details though, so it may just be differences in recording procedures.

To end the Sound section I'll give you a track by track of songs that these phones have completely changed for me. Keep in mind I've spent countless hours in front of Denon driven Cerwin Vega D5's learning new guitar and drums tracks so I've heard "good sound" before:

SRV - Leave My Girl Alone (Live) -  Real Deal GH: Vol 2
These phones own this song. Hands down. It was the first song I played and it wowed me from the opening notes. The stereo separation is immaculate and really highlights the reverb used on the vocal track. The vocals are only a tenth of it. The clean verse guitar is so creamy it's almost unreal. Like you're standing right there. When he kicks it into overdrive for the solo, streams of melted brain tissue began running out of my nose. It's THAT good. I promise.

Porcupine Tree - Mesmer 1 - Metanoia
I drum, a lot. I love listening to good drumming. Listening to this is like sitting behind Gavin Harrison's kit and listening vicariously through his ears. The bell hits and splashes are so articulated it sucks you in. The phones are really able to capture the dynamics as well. Soft hits on toms are so subtle yet perfectly present in the groove. Just like it should be.

Peter Frampton - Do You Feel Like We Do - Frampton Comes Alive!
I've owned this CD since I was 12. My mom bought it for me lol. That was 16 years ago. I've listened to this on everything from the Vegas to countless countertops to my car system walkmans with cheap buds... everything. I felt like I was hearing it all over again. The Vegas did a good job at capturing the "live" feel (wide open). But the phones... man. The Cymbals. The Crowd Whistling. The solos. Wow. So in your face. You're not in the crowd. You're there, with Frampton... jamming it out. That talk box man... They were just made for this.

Machine Head - Bulldozer - Supercharger
This song randomly popped up in my playlist the other day. I went from sitting here processing an order to flat out headbanging in 15 seconds flat. It's just the same story. I've heard the song sooo many times. Theses cans just kinda take those guitar riffs, shove them not-so-politely up your arse and instruct you to listen up  while they blow you away.

Gotta move on though....


In comfort, I rank them Highly, despite looking far from it. Due to the hours on end I wear them at work, I was completely expecting to have to go out and track down a leather headband replacement or Snap on pad to compensate but I've been pleasantly surprised. If anything, the pads get a little warm on the ears long before the band or pressure becomes an issue.

Sound leakage hasn't been an issue with me. I notice a lot of folks stating that because they are open they are not suitable for portable usage. I don't find this to be the case at all. I've worn them many times walking to and from work and have never had an issue with traffic or other outside sources interfering with my listening pleasure. I've also received no complaints at work. To the contrary, I've received plenty of positive comments on the styling and have been asked numerous times to hand them around for communal listening. I've even had a fellow bring in his laptop from home so he could see how his new mixes in FL Studio sounded "on good cans". I haven't told him I paid less for mine than he did his... our little secret.

A few people hate on the design all day, but I'll be the first to say that was the initial reason I even began looking into Grads. I think they look downright awesome and I can't wait to grab a Ms2 or 325 just because the aluminum look is downright sexy. That's complete personal opinion though... I can't really say whether it's good or bad, take it as you will.

The phones, as has been stated are easy to mod. I've already started. I punched out 5 holes, dampened the backs with Dynamat, cut the comfies all the way around the driver opening (adds slight discomfort if not positioned properly, but sounds sooo good) and cut off the driver screening. These are reallly starting to feel as though I've ripped George and John off in some way. $100 can't sound this good. I paid that for One speaker in my car. One Speaker.

It's not all peaches and cream, bright sunny days and roses in full bloom though. There are drawbacks. Most of which have been stated. If you need a wide open soundstage for large, orchestrated pieces... you might wanna look elsewhere. It's not that these are particularly "bad" at it... it's just not where they excel. Far more enjoyment for such things would be found in other places.

If you want to get lost in the spacey layers that are Pink Floyd, or if you want to hear Drummers like Carey, Peart, Harrison and Portnoy really open up, or maybe just chill on some Herbie Hancock or Ziggy Marley these cans will get you there, no questions asked.
 
Better yet though, If you wanna rock... if you wanna jam with the jam masters... and most importantly if you want to have your face melted off by the most delicious sounding guitar riffs you have ever heard... look no further, you have found your can.

Update:

A new set of bowls arrived in the mail about 2 hours ago. 

The only gripe I had with these phones (that "compressed" feeling upper end) has now disappeared. The Bowls have really opened up the high end on these cans. I lost a tad bit of that punch they had before, but the now sizzling highs and broader sound stage more than make up for it.

The only downside I'm seeing so far is that at higher volumes these cans are now much brighter than they were. Personally, that's exactly what I wanted... for those that don't like bright sounding cans... well, I'm not sure why you were looking at anything Grado related to begin with... but you may wanna stick to comfies if you roll this way.






 

Posted

Pros: clear and powerful

Cons: too bright,no mentionworthy bass

- Uncomfortable due to high pressure on ears, huge earpads added = ok
- Sound : Very bright, no mention worthy low bass (even with amp), pretty annoying = sold wink.gif

Posted

Pros: Smooth Mids and Treble, Full Bodied Bass, Light Weight, Easy to Drive

Cons: Smoothed Over Sound, Laid Back Tone

Alessandro Music Series MS1i Black Walnut Cups $169

Big thanks to JoeDoe of Head-Fi as he performed the cup installation as well as the swapping out the headband.  I paid a little more for mine due to the lovely Walnut Cups, price for a Stock Alessandro MS1i is $109

 

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 Now the headphones themselves have been outfitted with an Auvio Headband. Which offers a slightly more durability than the stock Grado Headband.  

 

It has a nice construction, very light weight has a good feel in the hand. It also have a comfortable head band and a sturdy feel to it's hinges. 

 

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My only fault with the Auvio Headband is it doesn't feature to much left or right cup rotation, which with an open back headphone isn't a huge issue, though it does affect the sound stage a small bit.

 

 

The drive and housing assembly are unique to this headphone as well, the cups are made from American Black Walnut and the drivers are suspend within them. 

 

A unique feature of the drivers though is the small white pad that sits in front of them, while it certainly has some sonic benefits unknown to me, I can say it does improve the comfort of the headphone.  

 

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In addition to comfort, the headphones placement is pretty simple. Dead center on your ears for the best sound, slightly different from the Senn Grado I reviewed early this month!

 

Sound Impressions 

 

 

1 Michigan & Smiley- Sugar Daddy: Sugar Daddy

 

To be honest, I really dig this reggae tune a little smoothed over. Voices have a great tone, they are just a little recessed for my tastes. The bass has a nice body to it, a touch loose and forward but again it's a very smooth sound. Instrumental separation is good though, while it's a warm, smooth sound it's not congested in this simple Reggae tune. The treble is lacking a little extension as well, it's a little rough to my ears, though a touch forgiving. 

 

2 Skream - Pass the Red Stripe

The Bass has a nice tone to it, sufficient texture nothing amazing but not a complete disappointment. Bass is a touch loose in comparison to something like the HE 4, but all in all it's enjoyable. Nice sense of tautness, though you can hear the slight sub bass roll off.  An back to the treble, again the MS1i-W doesn't show much forgiveness, rendering the defects present in the terrible rip I got my hands on. 

 

3 DaiQing Tana & Haya Band - Migration : Gayatri

Presentation for this track is fairly balanced,  there's a nice sense of width to it as well and each instrument has a nice placement within the sound stage. It's not particularly deep and the extension on the top end isn't the best. This track is of much better quality than the two preceding it, and the MS1i-W does a nice job of presenting those extra note of decay. The Vocals have a good tone, but lack a little in the way of tactility. 

 

4 Animals As Leaders - The Joy Of Motion: The Woven Web
 

MS1i-W showing it self to have a nice sense of dynamics, the quiet build up of the song to the first initial electric DROP was very nice.  Bass has good presence in this tune, great sense of crunch in the guitars in addition to a nice snap in the high hats. I think Metal is really were the MS1i-W shines. It's got enough bite in it to bring some fun to the rougher genres of music. An the some what laid back sound isn't short in bite! Though the some what smooth sound of the MS1i-W really compliments this tune. It keeps a very good sense of atmosphere and presence overall and does well with the dynamic shifts. 

 

5 David Chesky - Transcendental Tripping 
 

Again the MS1i-W showing it self to have a nice sense of width, though some what lacking depth. Still the tone is pleasant, though I prefer a touch more energy in my music or rather... a touch more attack and less decay. Instrument separation is sufficient and placement is enjoyable.  Though as a whole this track is a touch bland for my tastes out of the MS1i-W.

 

Sound Summarized 

The MS1i-W has a smooth and mellow presentation, it brings the right amount of bit when needed for metal and other very metallic instruments, the bass has good body and the overall presentation is airy though a tad laid back. All in All if you enjoy a fairly smooth presentation or are new to the hobby. This would a can I could recommend! [Without the Walnut cups though, to save ya a few bucks] I'd say in the $100 range this can does well, it's got a nice presentation a good sense of separation and is just pleasant to listen to without being overly smoothed out or just plain boring. 

 

This is a headphone that works wonderfully in casual listening circumstances. From your buddys house, to the waiting room of your local Fire Stone Auto care or even out shopping the MS1i has the right mix for forward sound and decay to give a wonderful presentation despite sub optimal listening enviorments! 

Posted

Pros: good detail

Cons: Uncomfortable, Open=Leaks=Quiet and noisy depending on room noise.

They were ok at first, I enjoyed the added detail as they were my first good pair of phones. But they got VERY uncomfortable VERY quickly. Not just physically but audibly as well. very fatiguing. 

Just got Sony 7506's and they are better in every way, comfortable, easier to drive, quieter background noise, better detail. better dynamics, and I can listen for hours comfortably. 

I've been using a dac port pro for both sets. for 10-15 bucks more go sony. 

Posted

Pros: Sound quality (Subjective), design, ability to mod easily

Cons: Standard comfy pads causes ear fatigue within an hour, Not as portable, treble may be too sibilant for some people

These were my first ever "High end" headphones. I had to decide between these, the SR60, or the SR80. I decided to go with these as they were the same price of the SR80, but most people claimed for them to sound like the SR 125. 

First listen was slightly disappointing. I overestimated the sound quality, coming from Bose AE2's. However, given several, maybe 50 hours of burn in, these cans really opened up. The soundstage was bigger than I imagined, and it really helps if you picture yourself at a concert. Instrument separation was great on this too. I was pleased after the burn in and didn't regret buying them at all. After a few weeks, I decided to try the hole punch mod, and so I made four holes with a pencil and surely enough, the bass was more present. However, it eventually sounded a little muddy or leaked into the mids. To fix that, I bought some EarZonk Bowl pads fit for Grado, and everything was fixed. The Soundstge was yet even bigger and the bass was nice and tight and controlled. 

 

Overall, these headphones are a great value, for only $100. Yes, the sound leaks like crazy, so don't use them at a library or in a bus. I would easily recommend these to anyone interested in the Headphone world.

Posted

Pros: Lovely rich warm sound while retaining that bit of Gradoness

Cons: For the price, none. Well ok comfort is never going to be a Grado selling point.

One of my favorite headphones period.  This side of the 225i's, there really is no reason to buy any Grados, the MS1's sound better and costs much less.

Posted

Pros: Open design, overal pretty flat sound, lightweight, great sound, very moddable

Cons: Somewhat fragile, leaks sound (obviously), y-split cable isn't great, initially uncomfortable

I love my MS1i's, they sound amazin, after I got used to it are quite comfortable and just sound beautifully open. The sound is quite flat and in turn is quite good for an amateur music producer like me, my dad's an expert on mastering and such and he says my mixes sound quite good.

The cable has an y-split, which isn't too bad, but the cable itself after it splits is twisty and annoying and I had to replace it. But because the headphone is so moddable, it was really easy to do. For the price this headphone really is the bang for your buck, but be careful of import taxes. I had to pay about €25 extra (~$32) for importing it from America.

 

The headphone leaks sound, as you would expect. This is not a disadvantage for me as I only use it indoors in my room. But it's something to think about before buying it.

Posted

Pros: perfect for metalheads like me :p

Cons: too bright (sometimes)

metalheads ? this is what you're looking for :) need an amp to shine though.

Posted

Pros: AMAZING SOUND QUALITY (especially for rock)

I love these for when I want to enjoy my music, especially for rock.  Added the L-Cush pads on mine, which I find opens them up a bit more and improves comfort as well.  Best bang for buck cans, and a bargin at ~$100

Alessandro MS1i
Description:

Reintroduced in March 2009 with a tweaked and improved driver, the Alessandro MS1i is a high end headphone designed by Grado and Alessandro, and distributed by Alessandro. Designed to be more neutral in their presentation compared to their coloured Grado brethren, the MS series is created for music makers in mind. With the same plastic body as the presteige series (SR60i through 225i), the MS1i mixes technologies from the lower end SR60i/80i and the middle-of-the-line black sheep, the SR125i.

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