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.
- 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!