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Grado RS2 vs. SR225/MS-Pro: A Comparative Review (with pics!)

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
INTRODUCTION:
With the resurging interest in the Grado RS2 and the fact that it is one of the few Grado's that I have yet to audition, I decided to get a pair and try it out in my system. I’ve been exhaustively comparing my new Grado RS2 with both my SR225 and Alessandro MS-Pro and would like to describe, as best as I can, my observations.

HEADPHONES:

The RS2's are the redesigned buttonless version. I burned them in for 50-60 hrs prior to critical listening. The SR225's were purchased a year ago and the MS-Pro's three years ago. Stock bowl pads were used in the comparison on all cans. I crushed all the bowl pads overnight under heavy books which to me improves the sound. The SR225's were modified by adding a blob of damping material to the back of the transducers as described here. The RS2 and MS-Pro both have this blob from the factory.

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT:

CD transport: Music Hall CD25.2 placed on Townsend Audio isolation platform
D/A converter: Ack! Industries dAck! v2.0 (with high output option)
Amp: HeadAmp GS-1 (with optional DACT stepped-attenuator)
Cables: Ack! Industries The Digital Connect digital cable; Kimber Silver Streak IC; power cords: VH Audio Flavor 1 (transport), Zu Birth (amp)

I'm hoping not too many people are going to dismiss my comparisons because they feel that my amp and source sucks.

TESTING METHODOLOGY:
Only well-recorded CDs were used for evaluation (no MP3 crap!). I would listen to a portion of a track several times in a row, concentrating on a certain aspect of the sound. After my brain "memorizes" the sonic signature, I would then quickly switch cans and note the differences I hear. I do this repeatedly until I'm confident with what I perceive. The dual output jacks of the GS-1 allows both cans to be plugged in simultaneously, greatly reducing the time between switching.

Here is the list and description of the music that I used in my evaluations...
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/3573179-post18.html

LISTENING IMPRESSIONS:

RS2 vs. SR225

Bass: The differences here were very small. The deep seismic bass line of Bela Fleck's Flight of the Cosmic Hippo is slightly deeper and more defined on the RS2 than the SR225. The kick drum on U2's Bullet the Blue Sky has a little more punch with the RS2.
Midrange: The differences here were most noticable of all the sonic characteristics. The RS-2 reproduces the decay of notes noticably better than the SR225. The RS2 also has a noticably more colored midrange than the SR225. On John Mellencamp's Hurt's So Good, the RS2's greater coloration gives electric guitars a more aggressive growl and twang. With the RS2, acoustic guitars and pianos have more body and reverberation and more defined decay of notes. On the Beatle's Yesterday, Paul's voice has a little more texture with the RS2. However, on Asia's Only Time Will Tell, the RS2's coloration added a slightly shouty and honky coloration to the vocals.
Treble: As with the bass, the differences here were unexpectedly very slight. On Steve Winwood's Higher Love, cymbals and percussions have a little more airiness, crispness, and decay with the RS2. The treble frequencies of the SR225 seem to have a little more extension than the RS2. I can hear this on Pink Floyd's Time where the ringing of the clocks sounded quite piercing and shrill on the SR225 when compared to the RS2.
Soundstage: The width of the soundstage is slightly wider with the RS2. RS2 sounds slightly less congested than the SR225 and has a slightly more open sound and better depth, mostly due to the decay of notes being better reproduced. The SR225 has a noticably drier (less airy) sound overall.

RS2 vs. MS-Pro

Bass: Wow! The MS-Pro has way more bass than the RS2, in terms of both extension and quantity. On Cosmic Hippo, the MS-Pro's bass almost rattles the brain; on the RS2 it sounds a little strained. On Bullet the Blue Sky, the tone of the kick drum is completely different...with the MS-Pro, it is a deep "boom" and with the RS2, it sounds like a "thump." RS2 seems to have a mid-bass hump.
Midrange: RS-2 has a fuller sound on vocals where the MS-Pro sounds relatively a little thinner, more distant, and more "echoey," peaky, and grainy. This difference is very apparent on some recordings, especially those with an inherently laid back midrange. It is very noticable on Diana Krall's Just the Way You Are, where her voice sounds very different between the two headphones. Electric guitars with the RS2 have a more upfront and more aggressive sound, while acoustic instruments have more body.
Treble: MS-Pro has more “air” and spaciousness with well-reproduced decay. High frequency extension seems to be about the same...the clocks on Time doesn't sound shrill with either can.
Soundstage: RS2 has a more forward and in your face quality. MS-Pro is relatively more laid back. RS2 is like being on the stage with the performers. The MS-Pro is more like being in the first row. MS-Pro has a significantly better sense of depth and space, very airy sound, especially with classical music. The RS2 sounds a little congested and closed in comparison.

DISCUSSION:
RS2 vs. SR225
I expected that the much larger cups of the RS2 would result in greater differences in the bass. Also, I've often read that the SR225 sounds very bright. However, in my comparison, the RS2 sounds surprisingly similar to the SR225. It often took many listenings before the differences became apparent. I'm keeping the RS2 for use in my "Desktop 1" system (see sig) where it improves on the biggest shortcoming that I've noticed in the SR225: dry and somewhat compressed sound. Mostly it is because with the SR225, I miss the coloration that wooden Grado's are known for, something I'm used to with the MS-Pro and that the RS2 also provides. Also, I wonder if the "blob mod" that I did on the SR225 affected the sound significantly, bringing it closer to the RS2 in sound. Testing this would require disassembling (again) the cups and peeling off the blobs, which I'm not going to do.

RS2 vs. MS-Pro
The sound between these two are much more different and are very evident. With the exception of the significantly weaker bass, the RS2 in alot of ways reminded me of the RS1 that I used to own and compared with the MS-Pro in this comparison...
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f4/rs-...review-153453/
It would be interesting to see how the RS2 and RS1 compare in my system. Overall, I personally prefer the bassier, more laid back and spacious sound of the MS-Pro over the more forward and aggressive sounding RS2. However, guitar-driven rock on the RS2 does have a more engaging and exciting sound than the MS-Pro, although I find that this can get a little tiring after a while. In my opinion, the MS-Pro with the GS-1 amp and dAck! DAC puts out a sound that is hard to beat. I've been using that setup for a few years now and haven't felt the desire to upgrade, despite auditioning alot of other gear at meets.

Anyways, I hope my comparisons are helpful to anyone trying to decide between these cans. Grado's rule!
post #2 of 17
very nice dude
post #3 of 17
nice comparison, definitely worth reading. thanks!
post #4 of 17
Nice wrie up, very informatief, thx.

When I had SR225 and upgraded to RS2 I didnt use it with Tube amp, but with Firestone Encore at the time, so a lot of things are very known when I read your impressions. And to me it was a quite shocking, in the good way, how better RS2 exctually were, compared to SR225. But after I have got my first tube amp, I understood the "magic" what people were talking about, like pretty decent but dry sound of Firestone and rich, full body tube amp sound. I am not in the possition to tell anything about GS1 you have, which I never tried in the first place, but the thouhts only, thoughts about that MS PRO, with their sound sig, may benefit from solid state amp more than RS2. Other than that I am pretty agree with you and think that both, MS PRO and RS2, are great headphones, only with different flavours.

ps Your system isnt good looking only, but your pics are very good quality, as always. Cant forget the MS PRO shots of yours. I believe that I kept them to, pretty cool.

Once again, THX for sharing.
post #5 of 17
Sorry guys, just couldn't resist to not post it, simply beautiful pic

post #6 of 17
nice comparisons. thanks for sharing. timely too since I'm considering an upgrade on the 225s
post #7 of 17
Hm, that was a delicious piece of reading.

I doubt that I would like the RS2 sound signature, the MS Pro / MS1 is the most aggressive I can stand in the long run. My MS2i got sold for that reason, and I also wasn't exactly overwhelmed by the SR225 and the SR325.
post #8 of 17
Thanks for this well-written, informative comparison
post #9 of 17
This is a great review. Thanks for writing up your impressions - let us know if things change as you continue to listen to the RS-2s. I think the MS-1s that I bought in 2004 are done changing, but that doesn't make them any less fun to listen to.
post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickchen View Post
Hm, that was a delicious piece of reading.

I doubt that I would like the RS2 sound signature, the MS Pro / MS1 is the most aggressive I can stand in the long run. My MS2i got sold for that reason, and I also wasn't exactly overwhelmed by the SR225 and the SR325.
Hmm, my MS2i's got sold due to overwhelming boredom of their presentation, especially when compared to the SR325i's.

After burn-in completes, the new RS2's aren't honky anymore and their midrange coloration remains nothing more but slight sweetness. However really loud, bass heavy music is necessary to shake the transducer for at least several hours.
post #11 of 17
very well organized and concise review. i was planning on comparing my 225 to the RS2's once i had gotten my hands on a pair, but having read your review it may just be redundant.

though your method of quickly switching back and forth is effective for hearing how specific traits differ between the headphones, i think the best way to hear the overall differences in character is to listen to one only for an extended time before switching to the other. when listening for a long while you familiarize yourself with the sound of the headphone in ways you can't while listening for just a few seconds, no matter how intently you listen. i'm sure you listened for long periods as well the short ones, but i just wanted to add my opinion...
post #12 of 17
Mirrored my thoughts on the 225 vs rs-2 on the dot. Glad to know the MS-Pro is a big jump up
post #13 of 17
nice read.

i need to do a comparison of my SR325, RS1, RS2 someday. i have compared them on occasion but only informally and haven't really written anything down. it would be nice to add an MS Pro to the mix as well.
post #14 of 17
please do. there's relatively information about the RS2, and most of what there is to read is contradictory and confusing.
post #15 of 17

Thanks Kontai69,

Because of this thread that I bought the MS Pro

Cheers!

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