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.