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Grado RS1i Reference Series Headphones

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #70 in Over-Ear

Posted

Pros: - easily driven out of any type of source from iPhone 5 to a dedicated DAC/HP amplifier system

Cons: - can be a little shouty/shrilly at times

Grado RS1i versus the Sennheiser HD800

 

I rarely decide how I feel about a headphone without owning them for a month or two but in the case of the RS1i, it was pretty much love at first listen.  Some have taken month to grow into and some have impressed me in the first week and dropped off pretty quickly.  I've gone through way too many HPs in the last two years and finally I think I've settled on the HD800 and RS1i with the possibility of adding a Audeze or HiFiMAN orthos in the future but I digress.  Now that I have about 100+ hours on the RS1i, I'm ready to share some of my initial impressions.

 

Setup:

  • Dragonfly ⇒ Schiit Vali ⇒ Grado RS1i
  • Naim DAC-V1 ⇒ Sennheiser HD800

 

 

 

It’s difficult  owning multiple headphones.  Usually, when listening it’s either one or another and I have to get used to the change in the sound signature.  I’ve been looking for a combination that I can flip between in the middle of a session or song and really, really enjoy the merits of both without trying to get used to/reacquainted with the sound signature.  I have found this combination with the HD800 and RS1i.

 

There’s something primal about the RS1i. It’s gritty, full ranged, has great and balanced bass, highs are extended with a bit of a soundstage and in addition, they’re just fun.  The same songs on the HD800 are extremely clean but the RS1i has that dirty/gritty fun factor that is completely compelling. It’s really hard to explain.. the RS1i are retro and hand built and have a sound signature that match it.  The HD800 are ultra modern and have a space age perfect build and also have sound signature to match it. 

 

The HD800 is super clean and refined and really works well with excellent recordings. It's like being in the studio with the artist.. the RS1i is like the gritty younger brother, less refined, a little more fun. It's like the difference between being there and watching/listening and enjoying a great recorded performance. One major note is that the RS1i can get a little shouty at times where the HD800 does not exaggerate any sharpness.

HD800 = James Bond, RS1i = Jason Bourne. Both great depending on my mood and the content.  Love the combo.

 

Some Random thoughts:

 

  • The RS1i is relatively easy to drive and I can enjoy it from my iDevices knowing that I’m getting about 80-90% of what I’ll experience with a decent DAC and HP amplifier. I really enjoy my iPod Classic with the RS1i just kicking back in a recliner and don’t even miss the ‘big rig’.
  • No need for an expensive DAC/AMP setup.  My standard setup is the Audioquest Dragonfly driving the Schiit Vali and the RS1i sound amazing through the combo. OTOH a Woo WA6 is in the cards.
  • The RS1i are genre agnostic.  I can listen to everything from Sinatra, to Joe Bonamaasa, Patricia Barber, Dire Straits to Enigma and Deadmou5.
  • Nine ounces of New York technology delivering gorilla sound.  They’re light, powerful, on the aggressive/forward side of neutral and a ton fun!
  • There is some sharpness/shoutyness to them but in the big picture, it’s not too bad.
  • They bring some life back to not so good quality recordings.  I have a lot of 80’s music that I love but is poorly recorded.  The RS1i bring back that fun/life in the music I really enjoy. If it sounds cr@ppy on the HD800, there’s a good chance that I will like it a lot more on the RS1i. Awesome when surfing YouTube music!
  • Not really RS1i specific but I love the aftermarket support for Grado’s.  Really didn’t know it was there until I started looking.  Custom headbands, gimbals, housings, cables and even drivers.  
  • Most of all, I love the ability to switch between the HD800 and RS1i in the middle of a session or repeat songs listening to both and truly enjoying the qualities of each. The RS1i, at less than 1/2 the price of the HD800, delivers 3/4 or more of the sound of the HD800 and adds a little more fun.

 

In the end, it’s good to have a Grado in the stable! Definitely worth an audition!

 

 

 

Posted

Pros: The prototypical Grado matter-of-factness with none of the harsh qualities found in other models

Cons: Some folks just don't like Grados

(Note: this review is for the generation of headphones immediately preceding the current RS1i.)

 

Grados are the headphone equivalent of old British sitcoms – you either get them, or you don’t. Fortunately, I get them… and my favorites so far are the Grado RS1.

 

I own what are known in these parts as “Buttonless RS1s.” These headphones are sort of an intermediate step between the classic RS1s with buttons on the grills and today’s RS1i model. They have beautiful dark wood cups and appear to suffer from none of the casualness of build that some Grado products exhibit. These are distinctive, attention-getting headphones – nearly every visitor to my headphone room comments on their unique appearance.

 

But headphones are, of course, for listening, not just ogling. In this area, the RS1 delivers everything you’d want from a Grado product. That trademark immediacy – the kind of vibrant “slam” Grado owners covet – is in ample supply, but without the harshness and occasional sibilance that sometimes taint the sonic signature of less expensive Grados. The midrange is simply beautiful – this is truly where these cans excel. And while the RS1 will never be called bass-heavy in the fashion of some headphones, they nevertheless provide clear and abundant bass that reaches quite deep and remains under tight control.

 

If I weren’t a compulsive experimenter and upgrader, I could very easily get by with just my RS1s and a nice tube amp (I like Mapletrees) on my headphone desk. Though more expensive cans may come and go, I honestly can’t foresee a day when I don’t own a pair of Grado RS1s to quench my thirst for that unmistakably Grado sound.

Posted

Pros: Sound quality, Aesthetics, Craftsmanship, Low Impedance

Cons: Not super-comfortable, Pricey

A few days ago, I posted in the Grado Fan Club an idea that sums up these cans as succinctly as possible:


"Grados are the only cans I've ever heard that seem like they are designed to make you forget you're wearing headphones. Everything else I've ever listened to has some sort of coloration in a way that sounds unnatural or reminds me that it's been digitally enhanced through bass boost or treble peak. My RS1s are a perfect example. First cans out of 50 or 60 that to me sound exactly like sitting in a jazz club. Positioning, timbre, separation, balance. It's all there.

Are Grados the most comfortable? No. Most aesthetically pleasing? No. Although the RS1s are damn sexy. But they do one thing really well which is to me, exactly what all headphone manufacturers should strive for: Reproducing real musical experience."
 
The RS1is present recordings in a way that doesn't sound like someone else's interpretation of what a given recording sounds like. They reproduce instruments in a way that makes me feel like that instrument is in the same room as I: no special effects or EQ. Just bass. And just guitar. And just drums. And just Norah Jones (for example). 
If you need more information regarding the specifics of the bass, mids, and treble, read up on the other reviews. I listen to a lot of music, both in quantity and variety. I'm a classically trained multi-instrumental musician and I have played in several collegiate and professional groups ranging from jazz combos to string orchestras. I consider myself qualified to say that I know what musical instruments are supposed to sound like. The RS1is from Grado capture instruments just like the are - no extra fluff, padding, or color. Many thanks to Grado Labs for putting in the time and research to bring us these cans. 
 

Posted

Pros: Good sound quality: a combination of warmth and resolution

Cons: Crappy build quality; not the perfect cans in terms of tonal balance.

Back in year 2008, when I saw the picture of rs1(buttoned) on a website for the first time, I said to myself “darn these cans are expensive, I wish I could have mine one day". A few years later, I finally hold these baby in my hands. The build quality of these cans are as bad as I expected since I have already owned several grados. But what I care about is the sound quality, and its just BEAUTIFUL!

 

I love the treble sparkle and intimate sound of my sr325is, but they are too bright for some genres and could be hurtful to my ears in long term listening. I also love the bass texture of  my mspro, but they are a bit too tame in high frequency so that they don't have the "sparkle" for rock and metal misic. The RS1is have all the advantages that 325s & pros have: treble sparkle, mid and low frequency texture, punchy bass and intimate grado sound.

 

Although they are not cheap, and the build quality couldn't be any worse for the price, but for the musical delight they bring, those shortcomings don't seem that obvious. They are trully a classic.

 

 

Edit:

 

The tonal balance of the RS1i is not the best I've heard, I wish they could have a bit more treble  sparkle and less bass.

Posted

Pros: Wonderful musical sound, lovely detail and involvement, nice sturdy cable, mahogany cups are beautiful

Cons: Build quality, sound can be fatiguing, foam pads not overly comfortable

A lovely refined headphone in the shape of the Grado house sound. Lovely mahogany earcups add fantastic warmth and detail to stringed instruments. The RS1i give you a lot of insight into hidden details into your music and will get you toe tapping. The RS1is have really opened my world into headphone listening like no other headphone.

 

For the price of these I would expect the build quality to be higher. You have to handle these with care. The metallic gimbal is nice and sturdy compared to Grado headphones lower in the range. Whilst the RS1is do sound fantastic and are hand built, I think these would be more popular at a lower price point. I suspect that I'm quite lucky with my ears as these fit me quite comfortably and they are also very light which helps but I do hear a lot of negative comments out there wrt comfort.

Posted

Pros: Looks great, good PRaT and somewhat engaging sound

Cons: Not the grado house sound, side step

I have owned 3 RS1i, yes 3 because they sounded so different from a SR60i that I had to be sure I didn't get odd balls. I've come to the conclusion it's just the way it is. It has a serious level of warmth that prevents any harshness, only smoothness. Poor recordings won't sound so bad on the RS1i unlike all the other grados.

 

My first listening impression was,

 

"...err what the heck is this??"

 

I'm a huge fan of the bright grado house sound and I cannot deny that I was disappointed in hearing the RS1i. Any non ""i models possess that bright grado house sound if you want to know what I mean.

 

The RS1i strays away from the house sound found on the SR60i. If you are expecting a bright live performance like the SR60i then do not get the RS1i, but get the buttoned RS1. The RS1i instead makes everything sound very smooth, too smooth. To say the RS1i sounds bright is laughable (with comfies,bowls and flat pads), it's a big downgrade in treble hotness from the SR60i. RS1i leans more towards the bass and midrange rather than the usual treble and midrange.

 

Do not buy the RS1i as your first grado, you will be missing out. Buy the SR60i first and if you find that it is too hot sounding then you can try the RS1i.

 

The highs are very smooth and delicate. I never get irritated by this presentation but it sounds too safe. Zero shrillness, if you dislike how all the other grado's treble sound then there is a good chance the RS1i will be for you

 

The midrange is very warm and lush. It does not possess the high mid spike found on the SR60i that makes rock music shine but instead, Grado has changed the RS1i to be more of a all arounder. SR60i excels at rock over a RS1i because of its frequency response even though the RS1i is more about the quality. The RS1i frequency response is different from the graph shown at Headroom, imagine all the peaks just tamed down by 10db or more. Any song I listen to, I always hear the midrange warmth. Some people will not like this thick sound as it takes away transparency. I would not dare us a tube amp with the RS1i, the midrange does not need to be any thicker because it's already too much. The RS1i will never ever sound thin no matter what I threw at it compared to the SR60i, that's how dense the midrange is. The RS1i is not the headphone for rock sadly, no high mid spike energy for guitars and drums. I would say Grados are the rock headphones, however for the RS1i I felt rock is the genre it seemed the least impressive at which is quite shocking. I would say the RS1i was better for pop than rock. The RS1 buttoned is simply better in that genre.

 

The soundstage depth is considerably better than a SR60i. The width is largely unchanged. A lot of layering can be heard.

 

The bass is noticeable more and better. The bass has body but there is a lot of midbass presence in a lot of songs that may make the song sound a little odd and congested. These can go low. In a lot of ways the bass is better but some may not like it.

 

To some it may seem like the sound is refined  but to me , it is too tame. I don't think this is the right step as an improvement over the RS1 because clearly, the sound has taken a big change. I hesitate to recommend the RS1i as an upgrade. However, the RS1i is amazing in its own way even though it wasn't the exact sound I was looking for. For some songs, I do enjoy its fullness and warmth as well as its strong bass slam. It still has the speed of a grado and the pacing. The RS1i is by no means a bad headphone, there are many others who enjoy the RS1i. The sound signature I am chasing needs to remain the same as the SR60i without a large change.

 

On the other hand, if you're in pursuit of the smoothest sounding grado headphone then the RS1i is the jackpot. It is just not capable of sounding harsh, no exaggeration.

 

Extra notes:

 

Now trying jumbos on...

 

Pads make a big difference on the RS1i. If you put on the jumbo pads found on the GS1000i and PS1000i, the RS1i sounds ridiculously close to a PS1000i except for the amount of bass which the PS1000i is dominant in. The treble stands out so very clearly, pushing the mids back so it does not sound so thick. The whole sound in general becomes very transparent sounding. I was very impressed with Jumbos on the RS1i much more than bowls. I did not try a PS1000i with bowl pads so I can't say how closely related the drivers may be.

 

Interestingly using bowls,if remove the bowls and place them on top of the drivers the bright sound is there but the upper mid spike is not.

Grado RS1i Reference Series Headphones
Description:

Featuring handcrafted Mahongany earpieces made using an intricate curing process, Grado has been able to optimize the tonal quality. The RS1 uses dynamic transducers in an open-air configuration, the cups being open-backed. The result is a smooth, coherent sound with detailed dynamics. Frequency response ranges from 12-30 kHz and the drivers are matched to 0.05dB. Weighing 9oz, the headphones are an example of the wonder of mother nature with a gorgeous, honey-colored look.

Details:
DetailValue
BindingElectronics
BrandGrado
EAN0182092000073
FeatureOpen Air / Frequency response - 12-30 kJZ / SPL 1mV - 98 / Normal impedance - 32ohms / Driver matched db -. 05
Weight6 pounds
LabelGrado Labs
List Price$695.00
ManufacturerGrado Labs
Model1
MPNRS-1
Package Quantity1
Product GroupCE
Product Type NameMICROPHONE
PublisherGrado Labs
StudioGrado Labs
TitleGrado RS1i Reference Series Headphones
UPC182092000073
Special FeaturesWhat does the i stand for in the new RS1i from Grado? Improved, thats what! Featuring a new species of handcrafted Mahogany earpieces made using an intricate curing process; Grado has been able to optimize the tonal quality. The RS1i uses new upgraded dynamic transducers and the new 8 conductor cable design all in an open-air configuration, the cups being open-backed. The result is a smooth, controlled and coherent sound with detailed dynamics. Frequency response ranges from 12-30 kHz and the d
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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