Pros: Imaging, clarity, mids
Cons: Price, Soundstage is a bit flat, the headband is still underwhelming
First, some boilerplate stuff -
Audio setup -
FLAC files in MEdia Monkey -> Amazon Basics TOSLINK cable -> Schiit Bifrost w/Uber upgrade -> Knukoncept Shielded RCAS -> Project Ember with 80's Amprex 7062 tube
Nabucco, Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera Chorus conducted by Lamberto Gardelli, 1965
Why So Serious, Hans Zimmer, the Dark Knight OST
Grados are considered to be the best for Jazz music, but this Nabucco recording is one of my favorites in my collection, and thus the recording I'm most familiar with. It also helps that it is superbly recorded and mastered. Why So Serious was selected because 3:25 you have the best test track for bass I've ever stumbled across. Pure bass, no distractions.
I bought these headphones used on the "For Sale" forum here, and I was warned in advance that they actually have a bit of a "warm-up" time. I didn't believe that, so I plugged them in and started asap. Turns out, the original owner was right, they really suffer from an extremely flat and narrow soundstage when they were first plugged in, and the base was a bit lacking. I wasn't surprised about the bass, the ps-500 were even a bit on the low end of bass, but after they ran for a bit the music opened up, and the bass got into pretty good territory. Instrument separation was good, but not great, I could tell where a section was, but could not pick out exactly where the section was, much less the individual instruments (which can be done with french horns, try it sometime). The width of the soundstage was easily apparent during the funeral march, where the music gives the sense of a procession, starting far to the left, moving about 30 yards in front of you, then fading into the distance off to your left, but the transition is seamless, with no distortions of the soundstage. That being said, even in works where the whole orchestra is playing at once, with the soloists singing as well, you never really get much depth to the soundstage, which left me a bit disappointed. It's the musical equivalent of watching a movie, the details have all been compressed into two dimensions. That's really a good description of how they feel, like you're in the 20th row of a theater, watching a figurative movie. The sound isn't intimate, isn't holographic, and isn't super-detailed, but it's very, very good regardless. These aren't flagship level, but they never really claimed to be, so I thin all of us would be willing to let that slide.
Music is very lively, vocal and orchestral pieces are very engaging, and the bass is very good. I was actually also listening to some Beyer T1's this weekend, which were far more analytical. The bump in the upper bass around 100 Hz was very nice, and really allowed me to feel the bass test from Why So Serious. Nothing like my old DT990's but nothing I've tried was ever quite like those. The sound also doesn't fall into the "bright" category, and isn't fatiguing for me to listen to, and I'm personally sensitive to overly-bright music, so that was a pleasant surprise.
Now, onto the design and comfort - I have some major beef with Grado's design and comfort, and have for some time. The headband on grados is my second least favorite, and the only real reason it loses out to the old HifiMan is because the HifiMan's are heavier, so they hurt more. Also, some of the plastic parts on the gimbals have been replaced with what appears to be aluminum, but why didn't they replace everything? Please? Also, the fact that the cups are foam is just a bit disappointing. They sound great, and I've personally experienced how the G-cush cups improve sound on other grado headphones, but they're still foam, and they're still not the most pleasing. Having gotten that out of the way, the mahogany body is beautiful, and that makes up for some of the points lost by my other comments. Also, these are my 4th set of cans from Grado, so obviously they're doing something right
Overall, these are some great cans, and I really love them after just 10 hours with them. That being said, They are a bit pricy, so I knocked down the value rating because of that. That being said, to get close to them I used a highly modded HE-500, a special tube in my amp to tamp down on the runaway highs, and a special cable, all for a total cost of just below the price of these cans new, so they're still a very food set of headphones.