Pros: Refinement, MIDS!, treble extension, detail, emotion,
Cons: Not ultimately transparent, can be uncomfortabe for some
Updated with a comparison to the RS1i... see below.
I have about 100 hours on my pair... when I first got them they were very congested and odd sounding... I ran pink noise through them in for a few days, alternation between 10 minutes of noise and then 5 minutes of silence. I'm not a believer in burn-in BUT these seemed to change for the better with time. I avoided listening to them after the initial OMG it's new period to avoid adjusting to them much... I listened to them for a few hours here and there but really utilized my holy trifecta of PS500, HD800 and AD2000x for most of my listening pleasure.
Aggressive, but smooth. Very textured, detailed, very extended but not harsh, clean and nearly free of grain.
Forward, incredibly textured, live feeling. Thick, seductive.
Punchy, extension is weak under 50hz... there is enough however to feel neutral in the bass presentation VS sounding bass lite. Bass is similar to my AD2000x in terms of impact.
Lastly there is 0 bleed between frequencies... the little awkwardness in the mid bass and mids transition that would show up in a lot of Grado's products is gone.
They have a smallish sound stage... its feels very round, well defined with a lot of depth, very good separation and manages to never sound too congested. Initially they sounded congested but they ended up being fairly open sounding, close to besting the PS500. These seem to have a very magical way of layering instruments in the mix... you can pick out an instrument, follow a bassline, pick out a poorly mixed solo and dissect it... only the AD2000x and HD800 are better then it to my ears in this regard. The overall sound replicates the aural sensation of a live performance. Electric guitars don't sound like a single sound, you can almost perceive all the parts of the event, be it a palm muted note or open chord has distinct parts. The initial attack, you can hear the pluck of the strings, the crunch of the resulting sound and natural decay of sound... all clearly and perfectly.
Vocals seem very much live, center stage and just a few yards away. The occasional honkyness is still there on some poorly recorded performances and is the only real knock I have against these cans... similar to most Grado cans... however it is not as bad as my 225i or even my old RS1 (This I clearly remember because of how annoying it could be)
I never found these bright, unless a recording had hot treble.
Dynamics are very good... better the any Grado I've heard save the GS/PS1000
To sum the overall presentation up I would describe the overall presentation as warm, sparkly, and on the edge of bright without ever being painful....Euphoric, but detailed. Fast but with natural decay.
These are keepers in my book... I will update my impressions this weekend when I have some time with a well used RS1i
So the time has come to compare the old to the new… RS1i VS RS1e!
I’ve owned the RS1 classic in the past, I loved it really, but financial obligations and student loans overrode my love of these amazing headphones. Fast forward to today and I have not one but two pairs of these amazing Grado’s in my possession! The RS1i RedEye (early production RS1e with red drivers and RS1i markings) and the now discontinued RS1i, I would have never thought I could be fortunate! The last few days I’ve used the RS1i exclusively, because I feared my ears had grown accustomed to the melodious tone of my new RS1e. My equipment I used in my test is as follows…
Modded Little Dot MK1+
All of it run through my PC using mostly FLAC.
Music wise I tend to love anything and everything, though I predominantly listen to rock/metal. I appreciate the subtleties that any pair of Grado’s imparts on the sound of a guitar. The RS1 though represents the pinnacle of the “Grado” sound... the question though is… have they made it better? Or better yet, how could they make it better?
The fit and feel of any Grado headphone is polarizing, some hate it… others, like myself have either “Grado ears” or lobes made of steel. The new RS1 does deviate from the standard Grado comfort. With its protruding drivers and out of the box death-grip clamp the RS1e was bearable but far from ideal. A simple bend of the headband, a few hair ties (around the protruding driver, and in the channel the pad mounts to) help keep the pad from overly compressing and shoving the driver into your ear. A simple mod, but necessary to fully appreciate the sonic bliss that awaits.
Bone stock the old RS1’s are more comfortable… with my above mod and a quick wash of the pads and they are very similar in overall fit and comfort.
The RS1 regardless of vintage sounds like an RS1, this includes the new RS1e. Tasty forward mids, sweet treble, and a nice mid bass bump… all key identifiers of any Grado headphone are all here. Just more! The RS1e makes the old RS1i sound a bit nasally and thin. The new 50mm driver is definitely responsible for the added body to the overall sound. On the Plus side the new RS1e is more forgiving of poorly recorded audio, less fatiguing, more transparent, is more detailed and has a slightly wider and deeper soundstage. It’s also more refined and much less shouty… Cymbals are not splashy at all anymore.
The mids are still typical Grado... but fuller, smoother and more detailed. They somehow retained all of the good and fixed most of the bad
Bass response is improved, hitting a little harder and reaching a little deeper.
Now this isn’t all doom and gloom for the old RS1 owners out there, your old can has one little trick it does better than the new kid… Texture, the old can has a better sense of texture on a few tracks, mostly older recordings, this shows up predominantly in electric guitars. BUT again it’s one trick and honestly only happens on occasion when the stars are aligned just right.
In a nutshell, the new RS1e does a lot of what the old RS1 did, just more of it all.
If you’re on the fence about the new RS1e I would say go for it, but with one caveat; make your purchase from an authorized retailer with a good return policy, or better yet get an in home demo! If you’re a current owner of a previous generation RS1 I urge you to check these out, they are simply great headphones that keep most of what you love about the outgoing version, and add a lot to fix the issues that Grado has had since the dawn of time.