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Final Impressions - Grado HP1000/HP2

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
As I've just sold my Grado HP1000/HP2, I thought I'd offer some impressions that have accumulated from just over 3 months of ownership.

Equipment heard with Grado HP2 includes:
- Home setup: Plinius CD-101, dCS P8i, & bel canto CD-1 CDPs w/ DIY balanced Beta 22 (balanced & single-ended)
- Home setup: Plinius CD-101 w/ CIAudio VHP2 (single-ended)
- Remote setup: Original CD-2008-MKII (Moon Audio Level 2 modded) w/ Cary CAD-300 SEI (single-ended)

Balanced vs single-ended

The HP2 definitely benefitted from balanced operation, which I started out listening to. I never really paid too much attention to all the sonic differences but I can say that single-ended was a definite step down in bass power and spatial presentation.

Amp Differences

I heard my HP2 only with my balanced Beta 22, a Cary CAD-300 SEI, and a CIAudio VHP2. Between these three, the HP2 sounded the best with the Cary - a sweeping push on the mid-bass, a big spatial rush that made it sound very open, and overall like an awakening compared to the Beta 22. Really enjoyed the sound. (A note here that the Cary setup was at CanJam '08 where I took an admittedly very selfish 15-25 minute timeblock at Moon Audio's vendor table - but I was just taking advantage of the opportunity and no one else seemed to be listening there!)

I actually also heard the HP2 with the DarkVoice 336i at CanJam '08 which sounded pretty good too for the few minutes that I heard it - some really nice bass and very growling.

The VHP2 amped the HP2 pretty well, but really not all that great compared to the B22, CAD-300 SEI, or even the DV 336i. It did make the HP2 sound more laidback with a greater sense of space, along with slightly more treble tilt, but I didn't think it was really an optimal pairing after hearing the previous amps. The B22 sounded good with it of course, but IMO it's an overkill amp for even the HP2 - I think headphones more like the Qualia 010 or K1000 are more ideally used with something of the B22's scale (and I actually did end up hearing the Qualia 010 with my B22 too, the sound was exceptionally detailed but probably not optimal with my Plinius CD-101 CDP).

Headphone Relatives

It's always asked on Head-Fi what headphones sound like each other but the HP2 doesn't really sound like anything I've heard before (the full list of headphones that I've heard are listed in my profile). It does have some sonic "relatives" though - the Sennheiser HD600 and Audio-Technica L3000, at least as far as mid-range and bass. I can't be any more specific than that since I owned the HD600 too long ago and heard the L3000 too sporadically.


I completely jumped into the Grado HP2 basically on a whim. I barely knew anything about them until I saw an FS ad for them earlier this year and pretty much just spontaneously decided I had to try them, since I figured another probably wouldn't be available for a while. So it wasn't until after I paid for them that I started researching them on Head-Fi.

I've seen many posts that report the HP2's sound as "neutral." I'm not sure I totally agree with that, but it is neutral to an extent - the frequency balance was very even, no part of it really set against each other. In that way it made me think of the Senn HD600 which has a realistic tonality - the HP2 too had a realistic tonality. Except that I found the HP2 to have both a bass and treble roll-off that ultimately put me off it and sent me crawling back to my Audio-Technica AD2000. The bass didn't kick down low enough (or clean enough either) for me to enjoy electronica with too much muddied mid-bass, and the lack of upper treble ended up really annoying me - there was just too much of a soft edge to it for me. Not that either the low bass or high treble is that bad, but personally I couldn't deal with it.

The HP2 was overall pretty enjoyable though for non-electronic music. It sounded great with rock/prog rock, jazz, and even classical - I found piano to actually sound realistic on it, and violins didn't sound bad either (though not with enough sparkle). It had some soundstage too which was nice for a Grado (in this aspect, just a bit smaller than the Audio-Technica AD2000's), but it still sounded close-up and direct - not in-your-face, a step back from that.

APureSound V3 Note

I'm totally not familiar with the HP2's stock cable(s) because I ordered a re-cable on mine before it arrived with the APureSound V3 cable covered with the Super Nylon option. That said, I really like the Super Nylon option on the V3, which I could physically compare to the clear-sleeved cable on my Audio-Technica AD2000 and W5000. Microphonics is a complete non-issue with the Super Nylon and it's also very flexible.

In Retrospect

The HP2 hasn't actually physically left me yet but looking back, I'm glad to have had the chance to hear it. Having read much of the posts here about it, I can understand why it's liked as much as it is - it's a great headphone for conveying tone and soundstage realistically (most other headphones I've heard have an artificial soundstage) and there's just something pleasing about its sound.

It's a piece of history that I now completely respect, it just didn't end up appealing to my sonic preferences that much.

Post #5,999
post #2 of 2
Good stuff... one more!
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