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Opposites attract - Comparison between the RS2 and PS500e

A Review On: Grado Labs PS500e

Grado Labs PS500e

Rated # 302 in Headphones
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
alpha421
Posted · Updated · 686 Views · 0 Comments

Pros: Bass, details, stage depth

Cons: Thick and short cable, 3.5mm connector, heavy, smaller soundstage, bass

Introduction

 

First and foremost, I would like to thank Todd of TTVJ for his "e" series loaner program.  His contribution towards the head-fi/hi-fi community is outstanding to say the least as well as his products and service.

 

Second, this review compares the PS500e with my RS2.  Todd didn't have the RS2e as part of the loaner/review program, so I'm grateful to have the opportunity to audition the PS500e on my time and equipment.

 

From here on out, it is assumed that everything written is based upon my experience and opinion (IMO).  The format of this review will describe the PS500e physical aesthetics, specs, general characteristics, and its comparison to that of my RS2 that I've owned for six years.

 

Grado - this namesake it what started my headphone journey on head-fi with the SR60, which I rapidly worked my way up the Grado ladder to the RS1 with a few exclusive head-fi models such as the HF-1/HF-2, but finally settled on the RS2.  I still would like to audition the flagship, PS1000; perhaps some other day.  From audible memory, each step provides a closer experience towards refinement, but not limited to just more details, tighter bass impact/slam, lower/upper extension, and better representation of soundstage(s).

 

When I received the PS500e, I was surprised with the size of the box, which is about a third less in width to that of my RS2 box.  Still, in Grado-like fashion, it was minimal - thick, paper box, foam insert, and a paper or two.  From my RS2 box, the "Truly the World's Finest" has been tamed down to a more modest, "A Higher Level of Listening."  I personally prefer the former.

 

I skipped the whole Grado "i" update and the biggest physical, visual differences with the PS500e are the following:

  • Cable thickness
  • Cable length
  • From 1/4 to 1/8 connector (bad decision, more on that later...)
  • Wider headband and more padding
  • Red color coating on the drivers

 

Below are the approximated physical measurements and differences between my RS2, the PS500e, along with a few thoughts:

  • PS500e weight of just the band and metal/mahogany housing is at 8 ounces where as the RS2 is at 5 ounces.  Total weight that includes the cable is 12 ounces for the PS500e and 8 ounces for the RS2.  I personally think the PS500e cable thickness is too thick and overkill and makes it a little cumbersome to tote around.  It reminds me of the Cardas EM5813 in that regard.
  • PS500e cable length from the Y point on down is 54 inches compared to 69 inches on the RS2.  I personally think the length is too short, but I does have a less inclination to tangle. 
  • PS500e terminates with 1/8 (3.5mm) compared to the 1/4 on the RS2.  Here's where I shake my head, and wonder "why?"  The cable thickness and weight on the PS500e is bad news for long term durability on that 1/8 connector.  Even used with the 1/4 adapter, that 1/8 connector is a weak point.  I know connector size doesn't determine the level of application (professional use), but it undermines the "Professional" notion that's engraved on the metal housing.

 

Images of the PS500e and RS2

 

          

 

     

 

 

Comfort

 

I never found Grados to be uncomfortable.  The metal band is robust and bends easily to help distribute the weight on across the entire head.  Itchy pads can be remedied by a simple wash of liquid dish/hand soap and should be done every now and then to wash away the oils that will deteriorate the foam over time if not done.  As stated, my RS2 is six years old and still has the same stock cushions.  

 

On the PS500e, I like the wider headband and extra padding.  In terms to comfort, the only negative contribution towards its comfort is the weight. I was wearing it for over an hour straight over multiple sessions and didn't find them to heavy. I noticed a big difference between it and my RS2 when I was A/B sound comparison, and I can see the PS500e being a comfort issue due to its additional weight. However, folks who can wear the Audeze headphones for long sessions shouldn't have comfort issues. 

 

Sound

 

My sound chain has dwindled immensely.  I wished I still had the Melos Sha-1 amp, TTVJ Portable Hybrid, or the GoVibe Portatube+ when I auditioned the PS500e.  My review is done with the following setup: Thinkpad X220 with FLAC/Hi-Rez (24/96) --> Miniwatt N4 DAC/AMP via Audioquest Carbon USB cable.  It makes a modest and simple setup, but produces pretty good sound.

 

Before I describe my impressions, I must call out the PS500e higher sensitivity rating.  It's rated at 99.8db.  My RS2 is rated at 98db.  The listening level with my RS2 was at 15/50, while I had lower the volume to 12/50  with the PS500e.  

 

Comparison Tracks:

  • Yo-Yo Ma - Bach: Cello Suit #1 In G (24/96)
  • Eagles - Hotel California (Live) (14/44)
  • Foo Fighters - These Days (14/44)
  • Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions - Suzanne (14/44)

 

Quick and general comparison:

  • PS500e: more bass and impact, thicker tones and more details, forward, smaller soundstage, better stage depth
  • RS2: airy, wider soundstage with better height, detail, sounds more natural

 

 

Detailed track comparison:

 

PS500e - 

Yo-Yo Ma - Bach: Cello Suit #1 In G

  • The lowest notes has more weight.
  • The stage sounds much closer like being on-stage with a darker sound
  • Notes are clear and detailed, even edges out the RS2 on a few note passages, but due to the smaller stage and darker sound, the notes sounds a bit crowded.

 

Eagles - Hotel California (Live)

  • Kick drum bass much more prominent at opening (reminisce of the HF2) a lot of weight with good texture to it.
  • Slightly more details are more upfront, feels more on stage
  • Better stage depth

 

Foo Fighters - These Days

  • More micro details
  • Forward mids/vocals.  Grohls voice is more "in-your-face"
  • Thicker notes
  • A little aggressive and slight metallic sheen

 

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions - Suzanne

  • Forward vocals, darker and warmer.  At certain passages, her voice sounds a bit shouty.
  • Smaller stage with onstage sensation
  • Low notes have longer decay

 

RS2 -
Yo-Yo Ma - Bach: Cello Suit #1 In G

  • Cello has slightly more texture.  The vibration of the rod is more prominent.
  • More airy soundstage and feels like being somewhere in the first 10 rows
  • The closing note has a longer decay

 

Eagles - Hotel California (Live)

  • Wider sound stage
  • Details are there, feels in the audience
  • Better stage width and height

 

Foo Fighters - These Days

  • Sounds very natural and more balanced
  • More laid back presentation

 

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions - Suzanne

  • Hope's voice is presented with good distance and off-stage
  • Higher notes have longer decay
  • Acoustic guitar has a more natural tone

 

 

Conclusion

 

The PS500e are for those desiring a forward sound with a lot of details and tight bass presence. Just for giggles, I had to nearly double the volume level with my RS2 to get close to the forwardness and dynamics of the PS500e.  I think a better comparison would have been with the RS1x as I recall it had more bass over my RS2. However, taking all models for consideration, I believe the HF-2 is the PS500e long, lost twin, in particular with the bass presentation and forward mids.  The overly thick cable and 1/8 adapter may bother some as well as the added weight.  Of course, I'm a biased with my RS2 and prefer its tonality and sound-stage presentation over this PS500e and other models that I've owned.

 

In closing, I feel the PS500e is a great sounding headphone.  It's great for critical listening, but a little too forward with a smaller stage for a headphone designated for listening pleasure - according to my ears. And like all Grados, it carries the traditional minimalistic approach with packaging and the lack of other accessories that are often included with other brands and models within the PS500e price range. 

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