Originally Posted by topperdoggle
I'm a bit late to the party - I bought my buttonless RS1s (not 'i') second-hand from a forum member last year, but only now am I getting a chance to really listen to them. My sources are mainly rock 60s - present, proggy stuff but anything with some excitement and dynamics. Not a posh source at the moment - Google Music's 320kbps (I uploaded FLAC to their service).
I am an SR60 veteran, having bought them back in the day when they were still barely known. I don't have the SR60s any more, but I have struggled a little to love the RS1s, which is strange as from *reading* about them they are right up my street.
You owned one of the best type of SR60s (older = more neutral, smoother and overall better and still well regarded today). You now have one of the fairly rare non-"i" buttonless (does it have the 4- or the 8-conductors, thicker cable?) this was a transitional period from the RS-1 to the RS-1i in 2009, but the "i" upgrade didn't change its sound as much as it changed it for the Prestige series. It should be generally very good sounding ("modern Grado sound", and it's been the same for a while now) and with more bass. The worst accepted RS-1s are the ones from 2000 to 2006, they had very little bass, even though I personally liked mine a lot with flat pads.
I was using flats for a while, but (don't kill me) I much prefer the bowls. The soundstage with flats is in my opinion embarrassing for a top headphone, and what I thought was more impact from the flats, was actually overblown mid-bass.
If you're speaking about their infamous 100 Hz "bass drum" frequency peak, for me it's even more peaky and annoying on the bowls. I think Grados are all about having the drivers as close to your ear as possible to maximize a bass that is otherwise lost laterally through the airy of the pads. My absolute favorite pad right now is the HD414 made by Sennheiser, the way I modded them with 3M Scotch tape; they do not even compare with the official Grado pads.
Yet, overall I have found the bass on the headphone to be weak, and the presentation to be uninspiring. I don't plan to flog a dead horse forever, but might have I missed something? In particular - 1) How sensitive are RS1s to correct fit? I hear things about bending the headband etc, but not sure. 2) Do they really *need* an amp to go from average (not good) to great? Part of my affinity with Grados apart from the easy to listen to rock presentation, is that they are supposed to be easy to drive from a laptop or whatever.
Not sensitive to correct fit at all. At least not in the way of certain closed headphones which depends on this seal to pass or fail. PS- and GS1000 are not as auto-centering on your ear as bowls, so the bagels are a bit more sensitive to placement on the ear, but then again it's still a relatively small issue for the user.
Bending the headband should be more of a comfort rectification I think. You can trade comfort points for bass points by bending inward to increase exerted pressure –again, minimizing the loss of bass by the sides of the pads by compressing them more for better seal and also by reducing ear-driver distance, this is giving strength to the drivers to "channel" more bass to your ear, but in the case of Grado with their foam earpads (so airy they're virtually anti-earpads) bass is more teleported to your ears (I have my idea on how they achieve such a feat, but it's definitely weird) than it is channeled– but for that you need to assess how much pressure you're willing to tolerate once you've set aside the scratchiness and ear-touching-baffle issues which are quite popular on Head-Fi.
If you have scratchiness issue you can either A, stop constantly re-positioning the pads and try to relax your face muscles (because those movements are what is causing all the friction of the pads against your skin) and get used to them, or B, wash your pads with water and/or shampoo which will make them a lot squishier but will also reduce their long term durability.
If you have ear-touching-baffle issues, buy a pair of Sennheiser PX100 replacement pads off eBay for 10 dollars and put one of between the two problematic elements, ear and baffle, the baffle being the punched holes wall/cover of the driver. If you don't want to use such a foam cover on your drivers, you'll probably want to stretch your headband outward because ear-touching-baffle kills the experience.
Only with these two issues taken case of you can feel pressure and fine-tune its equilibrium with the bass; there's a sweet spot of good comfort and bass, but they're usually antagonistic, you loose one as you gain the other. I personally like little to no pressure at all because I wear my headphones for long sessions without pauses; but I have very little bass this way. When I want to rock I have another dedicated pair that puts a hole lot more pressure. Soundstage is annihilated, ear-coupling is maximized and so is bass; it's time for rocking, I can headbang they won't fall off. But I have only about 4-5 hours until the point where it gets painful and I can't wear them anymore. Highs are overshadowed by so much bass, but my Scotch tape mod (currently under experimentation but I'm definitely going to make a tutorial thread soon) should help that.
I feel I have to turn the volume up louder than I'd like to get the dynamics and punch I'm looking for.
You're right, that is actually one big thing about Grados, and my usual complain with them, they lack bass but more importantly fullness (both issues are related, sure enough), you need to crank the volume to get what you said, dynamics and punch, but by the time you do so, the highs have already gotten *inserts a bunch of negative qualifiers here like harsh, strident, piercing, sibilant, ringing and what have you*. But there is another variable I identified only very lately. The way Grado make the back of their pads denser, with what look to be a slightly unevenly put coating/dipping/process, is their weird (*I'm explaining the "weird" of a few paragraph earlier) way of, inducing an odd reverberation in the pads, in order to give you their trademarked ("teleported") bass response... fake bass, it's a well defined peak at 100 Hz, short living in depth, and it only gets in the way of transparency as it bleeds into the recessed midrange. I've realized that this denser foam back was the main culprit for other issues –and I'm pretty sure it's what is causing your "overblown midbass" right here–, the flats having that weird echo to them, and so does the bowls, but it's only made more distant and blended in. Another issue I realized they had as of very lately (where the denser foam backing of the pads is to blame) is that the pads sound different at low, medium, and high volumes. Try some HD414 pads, if Grado's are "anti-pads", HD414 have got to be absolute "no-pads"; acoustically neutral, they have uniform density (no sordid back-thickening play) and sound the same on every volume levels. They don't confuse or change the sound of your headphone and they are the way to go if you want to see what your headphone is really all about.
Joseph Grado's upgraded flat pads (Click to show)
Joseph Grado's upgraded flat pads (he sells them to you for 60$ if you call him), which I was convinced were going to stay my favorites forever, do not have that higher-density back at all, instead they are processed with a special oil which "clogs them" (or something), resulting in a noticeably increased density over all their volume / evenly increased. They have insane clarity and bass (especially when you're coming from flats), and I loved them to death until the dreadful day I made the discovery (that is hopefully going to save me money in the future, because I'll be buying HD414 pads and modding them instead, which will cost next to nothing) that they, too, sounded different at low, medium, and high volumes (actually they're the actual pads I was using when I first noticed this deranging point).
Now, Joseph have re-designed his offerings, something I've learned about a week ago. While I paid 150$ for my pair, he found a new way and is now offering three versions at 25, 40 and 60 dollars the pair, in order of quality. I still need to try them out, but in the meanwhile and like I said, I started modding HD414 pads –which offer virtually the same clarity and neutrality as my upgraded flats– because I need to, in order to substantially improve their capability of bass (in which department they are even more lacking than the Grado pads).
While I clearly remember having the visceral experience of hearing highs that went from rolled-off (on the TTVJ flats) to skyrocketing in quality (after putting on the Joseph Grado upgraded flats for the first time) –supreme clarity and liquidity, open like only a Grado can make them but also incredibly focused; either they were the perfect highs, either they were the best Grado has to offer, in which case I really need to start trying headphone from other companies– I'm not sure if I'm ever going to get something similar by modding the HD414s.
Please keep in mind that I'm not talking about issues of their headphones; because alone they are fine, what is bad is everything else surrounding them, using plain foam as earpad material (which idea I initially bought into because it's breathy and won't make you sweat) (and though you're guaranteed not to have deep bass, in the case of the 1968 first open-air design, the Sennheiser HD414, it was justifiable, and also for the affordable Koss Porta Pro and KSC75 it's okay too; Grado are manufacturing a 1700$ headphone making use of 45 dollars worth of that same black, limitative foam material as earpads), making the pads bigger (because of the users who's only feedback are constant complaining about [easily dealt with] comfort and lacking soundstage [why did they buy a Grado in the first place, not to be in the band?]) which give you even less bass (basically "improving" their headphone designs by magnifying their weaknesses) and tweaking their drivers in consequence to give you even more of that undesireable 100 Hz hump, –accompanied by a brighter and distant sound– at the cost of increasing distortion everywhere else in the spectrum(!), and then finally dipping/forming the posterior of their pads to be denser which, like I said, confuse the sound. (I have never listened to the bagels and by extension GS- and PS-1000, but I can already tell they're not for me.)
Grado puts the driver at the forefront of their cups aligned with the beginning of their pads, which is okay too (for me Grados are all about having the driver as close to your ear as possible for efficiency, fullness/macrodetails, intimacy and having no soundstage basically, which I think is a moot point for Grados), but the other headphones in that category (the example out of my head here is with the HD580-600-650 family) which uses the similar scheme does it better by having a larger and carefully tuned baffle around their driver, followed immediately by actual "solid pads" (which Grado's pads are not) making contact with your skin to create an "enclosed" room between the drivers which provides a channel for bass, from the driver to your ear. Grado expects bass to be teleported into your ears (Open-backs are just that, they have an "open back"... but are also trying to have a "front as closed as possible, a closed-front"). They could do better by doing like a "MS-1000 Ultimate" mod on Head-Fi and pushing back their drivers to about one third of their cup's length, but if they had done that, I wouldn't have bought their headphone, I would have instead bought a HD800, on which Sennheiser masterfully found a solution to back off their driver to the very outer end of their cup by designing a ring radiator capable of producing monstrous amounts of bass.
Hope this makes sense - I could almost believe they are SR60s in RS1 housings - someone help me put my mind at rest please!
Measurements of Innerfidelity and Headroom show the SR60i as the best measuring Grado, but I think it's only because they measure many SR60s and left a single sheet only of the most recent SR60i to see, while all the other Grado models measurements are relatively dated. The PS500 is a recent model and is also better measuring (but not as good as the SR60i though). Grados are tuned by ears, so objectively we have no way of knowing if the higher-priced offering sound "better", ironically. Our taste need to match those of John Grado. For sure, we get to have cool wooden cups, leather and metal gimbals, but forget about built quality already, it's the same for all models, with the PS1000 having as many occurrence rates for a wide range of issues as all other Grados down to the SR60, but not the iGrado.
The RS-1 drivers are supposed to be cherry-picked and de-stressed (maybe they dope of the diaphragm with a secret substance, I know Rhydon does that to his Magnum products), they have a proprietary blob of metal/goo/blackTak added onto the back of their driver's magnet steel plate, and overall are supposed to be the best in class (or at least the closest to "Grado's ideals") of all the "on-ear" models.
Personally I fell in love with the RS-1 at first sight 4 years ago, and initially when I created an account on Head-Fi, it was only to buy a RS-1 used on the ForSale forum. But now I only listen to my HP 1000.