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Do you consider any Grado headphone as High-end? - Page 2

post #16 of 60
the HP-2 and RS-1 (vintage) are definitely high end. With real high end gear they are competitive with the R10s, HE60s and qualias. Even if they dont do everything correct in the audiophile sense, they present the music in such a "correct" way (for me) that I would consider them high end.
post #17 of 60
The key will be concensus, of which there won't be any in terms of what really does constitute high end. Those that despise Grados won't think of them as high end, likewise for those that despise the R10s, or HD650s, or Qualias etc won't consider those phones high end.

A good measure would be overall appreciation by a large enough population of those phones that scale very well with better and better upstream gear.

Sound is thus very important as is build quality and longevity of the product in comparison with the latest and greatest. Rereading reviews from the past, the "pro" review community rated the HP-1000's as good as or better than older Stax (not sure if the Omega II's were out by then) like the Lambda Pros. Certainly no one would deny the HP-1000's are the best built headphone of all-time. In fact, save for perhaps a few Krell amps, some Brystons and that Sony SCD-1 chassis, the HP-1000's are perhaps the most solidly built piece of audio ware ever.

The RS-1's when they hit the market were put head to head against the Orpheus and many people preferred their sound with the RA-1 no less, than the Big O! These are folks whose livelihood consists of listening to gear of all shapes and sizes and price ranges and evaluating them. They were, two years in a row, nominated for the best product of the year by Stereophile - the only product ever to have this distinction. Cory Greenburg, a known headphone aficionado remarked how he not only enjoyed the RS-1's more than the Big O, but also the Omega II's. This is a testament that they are considered to be high end by the high end press.

The GS-1000's have been claimed to be the most natural sounding headphones by some leading reviewers, again, folks exposed to the best of the best in headphones and speakers. Can't just be something in the drinking water...

The PS-1's, well, they were a limited run, mostly targeted to the pro market in Germany and some really fortunate Head-fiers. Those that have heard them generally feel they are in line with the best of the best, in fact some, including myself, opted to sell off their HP-1000's while keeping the PS-1's because well, the PS-1's were considered better and not by a small margin. I believe, rereading some of the original impressions, folks like Hirsch even mentioned how they had the same resolution as the Omega II's (something I agree with and was able to verify later on when I had the Omega II's) but the presentation was obviously quite different.

Anyhow, the point is that some here will think...no...Grados don't do it for them and thus, they aren't high end. Others will claim differently and say of course they are. The fact that enough people do think they are means they ought to be considered up there.

If the very top tier is HE90, R10, Qualia, K1000, Omega II and perhaps the L3000's, given many impressions the PS-1's, HP-1's and GS-1000's are in line with them with perhaps the RS-1's in tier 2 along with balanced HD650s, Ultrazone 9's, Etys, UE11's etc. Of course, many will claim even these are in the top tier so I prefer to just lump the best of the best in a general - high end - category. More than anything system matching will be paramount to sucking out the last bit of greatness from any headphone and again, those that continue to scale are the great ones.

An example: chat with someone like Tyll and pair up the HD650's with their top amp and one might be singing an entirely different tune regarding what is or isn't top tier. Quite a few folks prefer this setup to the Big O at quite a step down in price. Same with RS-1's and the old Holmes-Powell DCT-1,Cary SEI, or EAR HP4. Since the Big O was around back then for those direct comparisons with better and better dynamic amps on the market today it means that these headphones are capable of even more goodness. Though I've never heard the Big O, I have had its little brother on hand for a very long time as well as the Omega II's. For these ears, electrostats don't do it for me, not yet anyway... so although I can acknowledge they offer up some excellent sound they fall short in some key areas. Throw those phones up against the R10's, L3000's, RS-1's, HP-1's, PS-1's, GS-1000's, HD650's or any number of dynamic headphones and I'll opt for them if paired with the right amp. Does that mean electrostats aren't high end? Of course not.
post #18 of 60
i don't consider any fone to be truely high end, but rs-1 and hp-2 definately are in the top tier of headphones in my book. rs-1 for its grooviness and hp-2 for its ballziness...
post #19 of 60
Excellent post Zanth, well said.
post #20 of 60
Thread Starter 
Zanth thanks a lot for your thoughtful and elaborated reply. It reflects many of my own beliefs about what can or cannot be considered High-end, if that's important at all. I mean that something you enjoy is or isn't considered by some people as HE.

Like most labels we apply to things, people and events in our lives , HE is just another one whose applicability probably is more in the mind of the speaker than based on facts. However I'm interested in knowing your opinions -Zanth's and everyone else's,- if possible based more on facts or objective evaluations than feelings, about why the PS-1 and HP-1000 are clearly to be considered as HE while other Grado models aren't so definitely HE.

BTW if I had to choose one among PS-1 or HP-2 to keep, I wouldn't know what to do. Both have interesting features which work better depending on the music and the recording, and both have their own limitations and colorations. I couldn't say one is "better" than the other, not just from a factual point of view, but also from my own subjective preferences.

post #21 of 60
For me, high end represents those products that offer a clear portal into the music. They don't obscure much if anything and they keep my foot tapping. They ought to scale well and keep me within a level of blissful deception consistently so that I won't worry that I'm not listening to live music. If I can be hoodwinked, forget about all that stuff, then I know I'm listening to high end gear. This also means that price doesn't necessarily equate to my definition of high end. Someone could gold plate a pair of iBuds and outfit them with some flawless and perfectly cut gems. These bitties would cost more than HE90's and I wouldn't consider them high end just because they have a "high end" price.

There are some wonderful giant killers out there (like the Koss KSC35's or Grado SR60's) but that max out quite early on (both of these phones don't necessarily give all that much more when provided with better power or better front ends). So, although they are incredible for the price and worthy of consideration...when looking for high end, I'd pass them on by because they don't do a lot of what other more expensive phones do.

What I want out of high end headphones:

1) detail, micro and macro resolution.

2) information presented naturally (what good is gobs of detail when it sounds like a computer generated project rather than waves flowing together to create art)

3) tonal and timbral accuracy (continuing from above, what good is wonderful flowing music if it sounds incredibly off (tinny, metallic etc. when unintended)

4) extension at both extremes

5) control at those extremes (solid impacting palpable bass, tight though decaying properly, not cutting out too short but not being overly plump either; the highs must be airy, airier the better, and they must not have sizzle or sheen

6) PRaT. I need to have the dynamics right and when that comes together we get this wonderful foot tapping experience where the groove of the music affects me emotionally. I can't stop moving, or smiling or crying etc.

If I were to think more on this I'm sure I can outline other aspects I hope the better headphones have. For now I think that is enough.

Now, are the top Grados high end? Well, let's compare with the headphones that exist in the world:

Basement: No namer brands from el cheapo to moderatley priced (50-100)

Level 2: Koss, JVC, Denon, Kenwood, Panasonic, Sanyo, Sony, some Sennheisers

Level 3: Some Sonys, some Denons, some Beyerdynamics, some AKGs, some Grados, some Senns, some Audio Technicas

Level 4: As above

Level 5 (High End): As above

This is how I generally look at the headphones market. What we regard here as quality headphones (not necessarily high end) most of the entire world would actually consider high end. That is, what is bought and sold on these boards is likely 10% of the headphones sold on the planet, maybe as much as 25% because of Sony and Sennheiser but I doubt much more. The vast majority of headphones sold are in the "no name" category or are the low end JVC, Panasonic, Sony, Sanyo types. Even the meager Koss KSC 35's offer buckets of quality compared to these offerings.

Thus, in a sense, KSC 35's at a tiny $20 or price are actually high end or...in the top 10-20% of all headphones in the world. Quite a statement!

Moving quickly up the scale regarding phones we all love and admire here, we move into the entry level scale: Koss KSC 35, Grado SR60-125's, a good number of Senns, a good number of Sonys, Beyers, AKGs, AT's etc.

The middle of the road from these phones (so now we have entered the top 10% of the world's headphones if not the top 5%) are the Grado 225-325, Senn 580, 600, Sony CD3000, Ultrazones upper phones, AKG 501 and maybe the 701, ATs...etc.

This only leaves out the very best of the best from each company, the upper percentages of the entire headphone population...RS series from Grado, GS series, Pro series, HP series, Senn 650, HE60, 90, Sony Qualia, R10, Denon 500 modified, Stax, AT 2002, WJP11, L3000, etc.

When one comments on high end...truly high end, we reached that way down on the list but when the nut cases (namely all of us) start chiming in, we narrow it down quickly to a very small subsection of the greatest phones on the planet...the top .5-1% if not less.

Of my personal criteria from above...the RS-2's, RS-1's, PS-1's, GS-1000's and HP-1000's hit on or exceed my expectations of nearly all of the 6 points if not all of them. Does that mean that a given Grado is the most resolving headphone ever for instance? No, but it doesn't have to be for me, to be considered high end. For now, perhaps only the Qualia, Etys, UE11's and maybe the K1000's could be considered as most resolving with the winner from that short list being quite subjective. Yet, what these phones do is to pull apart the notes to an extent that seems unnatural if one were to listen to a live performance. Does that mean that although they are incredibly resolving that they actually do the music justice? Perhaps...perhaps not, but it is interesting that over time, many folks prefer a more natural presentation to their music...so the resolution of the top Grados, the R10's, balanced HD650's etc...seem to fall into place. Nothing is really obscured, but rather homogenizes into a wall of music rather than quanti of sound. Could an instrument be followed if desired? Yes, but it might not jump out at a person as on something far more detailed (at first listen).

This is just a single example. A headphone doesn't have to be the best at anything or everything to be considered high end, but it ought to do a bunch of things right, among them scaling up, for me to consider them high end. So far, the top Grados provide that for me as do a myriad of other headphones of which I could be quite happy owning for life, but thus far have chosen to go with Grados as my ultimate preference.
post #22 of 60
The John line in the majorty of the cases are colored in the midhighs, too much coloration, the old school from Joe is IMO far better, but also extremelly bored to me...but I have to confess that I'm not a Grado admirer by any means...I have not heard a single porduct from them that that I have really liked till now...I have another very different idea of what hi-end means...
post #23 of 60
Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
I consider the RS-1, PS-1, HP-1,2 and even the modded HF-1 to be high end. All of them scale up to the higher end amps. I don't particularly care for the 325i but I don't see anyone using them with higher end amps (in my experience at least).
I agree, with the exception of the modded HF-1's, as I have not heard them. I have owned the RS-1 various iterations and Hp-2 various iterations and have listened to the PS-1 and loaned numerous times, each has shown to me that they are capable of "high end" performance when mated with a quality source and amp.
post #24 of 60
Thread Starter 
Zanth, that's what I call an elaborated reply. Thanks a lot. We seem to agree in many points, one of them including the concept of coherence, naturality, or just "believable music flow" into what makes a true HE product. I must agree that the HP-2 and PS-1 have that plus the other usual audiophile features.

post #25 of 60
I would definitely call the HP-2 and RS-1 (regardless of manufacturing date, I'm not a vintage believer) high end. I can greatly assume the PS-1 is based on my brief meet listening impressions and its excellent reputation. The GS1000 is one of the most mind boggling cans I've ever owned, and I've owned and sold them twice! I can't decide if it really sounds natural or if its needlessly bright with a sucked out midrange. These days I find myself wishing I had not sold my 2nd pair so I could hear them balanced on my beta. So really with it I can't say.

I think the HF-1 is fantastic. Since I have not yet owned and spent serious time with a modded pair, I'm not prepared to call them high end yet.

I've also never heard an RS-2, so I can't say with that either.

SR60, SR225, SR325i = not high end, to these ears, YMMV, OOTY, XIS, TTN, P, etc.
post #26 of 60
The old school RS1 is without a doubt high end as is the HP 1000 series and the PS1. Personally I think the GS1 is a swing and a miss but some feel different so it should be considered as well. The modded HF1 is a great can and better than the new and mid series RS1s but not the old series (imho).

Much like top end speakers different manufactures will appeal to different audiences. Some people like snell and thiel, I can't stand them but I understand they are valid choices in the high end arena based on their sonic priorities. Grado as well appeals to different audiences, I love them and think they scale well and do much right with some trade offs as well. They have wonderful natural tone and impact but are weak in soundstage. They will always have a place in my collection.
post #27 of 60
Originally Posted by mrarroyo View Post
I consider the RS-2 and higher to be high end. For certain music and gear I find the RS-2 sounds better than the RS-1.
Agreed, and I find the RS2 better overall, more natural.
Both the RS-1 and RS-2 are IMO much better sounding than the GS1000 which I have never cared for.
This must be a joke. The GS1000's are even better than the E9's, at least in some respects, but they need very careful source, amp and interconnect choice. The one optimal for the RS1/2's won't be good for the GS1k's as they have neutral midrange, not that thick and emphasized like the RS series. There is different soundstage shape, size and imaging as well. Actually, you can even find a DAP that will let you know what the GS1k's are capable of. On the other hand, careful component selection for the GS1000's rig should give better results than with the RS series. I know a track that I like more with my RS2's but in most cases the GS1000's are more impressive, expansive and neutural sounding. They are more comfy, too.

Zanth, pretty well stated.
post #28 of 60
Thread Starter 
Any of you has some frequency response graphs of the HP-1/2 and or PS-1? I've been looking for them but had no success. The same goes for the R10, not the bass-light nor the bass-heavy models.

It'd be interesting being able to compare the response graphs of those few dynamic cans qualifying as HE. Looking at the response graphs of the GS-1000 I can understand there's not much agreement for their being high-end. However having measurements other than Headroom's would be intersting nontheless.

post #29 of 60
Originally Posted by gautam View Post
well, a balanced HD650 with a good amp/source is considered high end, so why not a pair of headphones that cost more than that?
Because the don't sound better than that.
post #30 of 60
Originally Posted by Cool_Torpedo View Post
Any of you has some frequency response graphs of the HP-1/2 and or PS-1? I've been looking for them but had no success. The same goes for the R10, not the bass-light nor the bass-heavy models.

I cannot find the link or source but I do remember seeing a graph of the HP1000. Basically it looks like the senn 650 without that mild mid bass hump, very clean and smooth spectrum. Tyll is the man when it comes to that stuff, you may send him an email, I am sure he can comment, even if it is not online on the website.
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