Pros: Accurate, balanced, comfortable, hip
Cons: lack of soundstage, sound bleed/lack of isolation
Hello everyone, I thought I would add my voice to the MS1i discussion because you can ever read enough reviews. All money referred to in this review is USD.
A primer: I own the M-audio AV40s (which are fantastic for their price, and perfect for a single listener), and have had experience with varying home theater systems. Though I have always been musically inclined, the AV40s opened me to the world of audiophilia and I have become quite obsessive over finding the highest quality recordings of my favorite albums. That said, I have been using primarily 320/Lossy rips with these headphones.
I became interested in headphones because....well, you all know how it goes. After extensive research and a limited budget, I chose between the ATH AD700 and the Alessandro MS1i. Though the AD700s seem by all reports to be a 'better' headphone, I went with the MS1is due to impulse, our Western drive to be an individual (who the heck knows what an Alessandro is?), and because of the funky purple grill the AD700s sport. In retrospect I could have painted them black or something, but I will just wait for some 650s someday
Another reason for the MS1i's is that I work part-time in a machine shop while going to school, so I have the ability to machine some aluminum (or titanium?) earcups and mod into MS1000i territory.
ANYWAY, time for the REVIEW. Most of what needs to be said has already been succinctly summarized by everyone else on the net, but there is nothing wrong with another perspective.
Headphones themselves: I didn't wait long to wash the pads with laundry soap (others say fabric softener, I might do that now) and warm water, and that seemed to soften them and make them less itchy (which no one else has ever complained about?). I hear you can also bend the headband, or buy a new one, and you can certainly buy different pads and mod them etc. BUT, the phones are comfortable to me, and I have had no reason to seek comfier options.
They leak sound, but it isn't going to kill anyone. It is not like having speakers facing the outside world, unless you are perpetually deafening yourself and increasing the volume. It isn't too loud to use on the bus or in a car unless you are really jamming.
There is no isolation. I thought there would be a little bit, but there is really none. So you won't be able to use your Alessandros on an airplane and expect to drown out the engine noise. I have done it and it is possible, but Bose are made for that kind of use. However, I love riding my bike around town with some tunes, and sound isolating earbuds made me feel very paranoid--I couldnt hear anything besides my music, which is definitely dangerous and kind of weird. So these phones are great for someone who wants to hear a car coming, or someone yelling your name. But if the music is loud enough, you won't hear anything anyway.
The build quality is inexpensive, but not "cheap". Yes, if you sit on them, they are probably going to break in a couple places. However, you can drop them on your bed or carpet (though not recommended), and it doesnt have to be the finest goose-down to ensure protection. The cord is pretty thick and long, but a shoddy cable would make your phones sound worse. You can also recable them if you want to, which will be a fun project for the future.
Bass: it's there. Not overwhelming, but clear, tight, and accurate. These phones can definitely handle hip-hop/electronica, though I hear that bass-heavier phones like the Beats by Dre are better suited for that type of ear. I enjoy listening to hip-hop and similar tunes with the MS1i's because I can hear the lyrics, and that (to me) is the true talent of rapping. Bass is noticeably increased with an amp.
Treble: Not piercing like their Grado counterparts are known to be. Again, clear, accurate.
Mids: Cleanly balanced between the higher and lower frequencies. You can clearly hear the lyrics.
Imaging on these phones is fantastic. Listening to the 'Virtual Barbershop' (youtube) is a great time.
The soundstage is lacking, but that is not a problem unless you want to listen to classical music or something. My favorite albums as of late have been Tame Impala's Innerspeaker and Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here EP. These albums, along with my all time faves Loveless by MBV, The Chronic by Dr. Dre, and Endtroducing by DJ Shadow all sound GREAT on the MS1i. There is nothing missing, nothing overdone.
Some of you may be curious about amplification. I was too, and ordered a cmoy with a JRC4556 chip (same as Grado RA-1 amp) off of ebay from member AmpedUp77. First off, let me say that the MS1i CAN certainly be driven by an ipod, iphone, or macbook pro. The phones will still be accurate (you can hear vinyl static, coughing, etc), and it will probably suffice if you haven't made any type of foray into high-fidelity.
But with the amp, it sounds super duper excellent. I read on some forum that an amp gives the MS1i more depth of sound. That it is richer, and fuller. From my most objective view, the amp makes the MS1i shine. You can hear the whammy bar of backup guitars, subtle bass changes; every sound has more to it. So for 44 bucks, what is essentially a 400 dollar amp is not a bad deal.
I burned in my phones with pink noise, I would leave them on low-ish volume for a few hours then unplug them for an hour or so. Someone said something about the drivers overheating, which seems unlikely but why take the chance, right? The pink noise has drastically affected the sound of the MS1i. Much fuller, bass is deeper, and highs seem to have more behind them.
Overall: for 110 dollars, or 150-60 bucks with the amp, this is an excellent set-up. It sounds great. I can see how they could become fatiguing because the sound is very 'near', but instrument separation keeps the phones from sounding muddied.
I have heard many times that Grados are for fun, and Alessandros are more for musicians (more accurate).
For me, music is enjoyable in its raw, tonal reality--it is simply fun to listen to music, even if the sound is out of your computer speakers or a tinny boombox. But I get more out of music when I can approach an album and hear the sound the artists WANTED me to hear. It is one thing to equalize the snot out of your music, and another to keep everything flat, undistorted, and listen to the pure sounds as they were mastered for the album.
Though I have never heard Grados, the advertised overly bright sound doesnt really appeal to me. I wanted an inexpensive, neat looking set of cans with a clean, accurate sound, and that is what Alessandro has produced.
Update: First off, burn in with pink noise greatly opened up the sound on these headphones. They sounded much, much better 200 hours after my first listen.
Secondly, I modded these into MS1000i's, and they really sound great. The soundstage is huge, bass is DEEP and full, but stays in its own frequencies. Rodrigo y Gabriela sounds incredible, as do post-rock, electronica, and hip hop artists. For under 200 dollars with the amp and mods, the Allesandro's should not be passed up. Very fun and incredible quality.