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Grado GS1000 Comparison

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
Introduction & Background

I was given the opportunity to test out the Grado GS1000 headphones by Head-Fi member Zanth. He is currently running the Headphone Loan Programme [LINK], which includes a several pairs of Grado headphones: SR-60, GS1000, and an RS-1/RS-2 combo pack. If you meet the requirements for the Programme, I definitely recommend it, as I would not have had the chance to have such an extensive demo of the GS1000 without Zanth's generosity.



Test Methodology

To test the Grado GS1000, I used a fairly extensive test regimen. First, I picked out a number of songs that I was already quite familiar with, and that spanned my musical interests. I ended up with 27 songs that I used to compare the GS1000 to my standard, the Sennheiser HD580.

My gear lineup was as follows:
Source: AudioDIYLab DAC-301
Amplifier: Millett Hybrid MAX MOSFET Edition
Interconnects: Kimber Kable Timbre Interconnects
Baseline Headphones: Sennheiser HD580 with HD650 cable and HD600 grills

The only real way I could come up with to accurately describe the GS1000's sound was to compare the HD580s and the GS1000. My procedure for this comparison was to listen to a song on my test lineup first with the HD580, write down notes describing the details of what I was hearing, and then repeat the procedure with the GS1000, making sure to note any specific differences between the two headphones. I took about two weeks to go through the entire lineup, after which, I felt like I had a good idea of how the GS1000 sounded to my ears.

Test Lineup (Title - Artist - Genre)
1. What a Difference a Day Makes - Joe McQueen - Jazz
2. Take Five - Dave Brubeck Quartet - Jazz
3. Photograph - Jamie Cullum - Pop / Jazz
4. Move Along - The All-American Rejects - Alternative / Punk
5. Amsterdam - Coldplay - Alternative
6. Viva La Vida - Coldplay - Alternative
7. July, July! - The Decemberists - Alternative
8. Shankill Butchers - The Decemberists - Alternative
9. Hey Hey - Eric Clapton - Blues
10. Old Love - Eric Clapton - Blues
11. Concerto in E major, BWV 1042: 1. Allegro (J.S. Bach) - Hilary Hahn - Concert (Baroque)
12. Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043: 1. Vivace (J.S. Bach) - Hilary Hahn - Concert (Baroque)
13. Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 847 (J.S. Bach) - Sviatoslav Richter - Concert (Baroque)
14. Quando, Quando, Quando - Michael Bublé - Easy Listening
15. Don't Wait For Me - Josh Garrels - Folk
16. Cape Classico - Natalie MacMaster - Folk
17. Julia's Waltz - Natalie MacMaster - Folk
18. Volcanic Jig - Natalie MacMaster - Folk
19. Bell Bottom Blues - Derek and the Dominoes - Rock
20. Hotel California - The Eagles - Rock
21. Taylor - Jack Johnson - Rock / Pop
22. The Battle of Evermore - Led Zeppelin - Rock
23. Up Is Down - Hans Zimmer - Soundtrack
24. Kyrie for the Magdalene - Hans Zimmer - Soundtrack
25. The Road Goes Ever On... Pt. 2 - Howard Shore - Soundtrack
26. Concerto Grosso Op. 6: Adagio - Corelli (Master and Commander) - Soundtrack
27. Rocket Boys - Mark Isham - Soundtrack

As you can see, my playlist covered an extensive variety of music. I did focus in on instrumental works quite a bit, but I do think I hit a broad range of musical tastes.

Specific Song Comments

I made notes for every single song in my playlist, but I won't type all those out; they begin to be a little repetitive, so I've picked a few key songs that really show the differences between the HD580 and the GS1000.

2. Take Five - Dave Brubeck Quartet - Jazz
From the HD580, I felt that this song was portrayed in a warm tone, while maintaining powerful bass hits. The timbre seemed to me to have a rounded feeling. With the GS1000, I noticed a greater separation between instruments, and I noted that it "seems more like listening in a concert hall as opposed to a small room." The overall tone seemed crisper than the HD580, but the highs started to feel fatiguing to my ears.

4. Move Along - The All-American Rejects - Alternative / Punk
The HD580 gave this song a nice emphasis on percussion and vocals, but the guitar seem a bit muted. I felt as if I was immersed in the music; while it sounded slightly muddy, that feeling of being enveloped in the music works. The GS1000 gave a slightly different version of the song; the cymbals seemed to be emphasized more than than the guitar. This is due to the GS1000's greater emphasis on the high register. Also, I noticed that vocal harmonies came through quite a bit clearer than with the HD580.

6. Viva La Vida - Coldplay - Alternative
When listening with the HD580, the introductory strings were connected and not particularly crisp. The vocals sound very upfront and close, and the song has a smooth, yet still pulsing rhythm. Using the GS1000, the vocals seem echoey and thin. There is a definite sibilance to the vocals, the soundstage isn't very close, and there is much more separation between instrumentation and vocals.

9. Hey Hey - Eric Clapton - Blues
I absolutely love this song on the HD580; the beat is strong and rhythmic, and Clapton's guitar has a really nice tang to the sound. The vocals sound close and husky, and I can just envision Eric Clapton sitting right in front of me. With the GS1000, I was disappointed, as the guitar tone was shifted too much towards the treble end of things. There was no impact with the beat, and turning up the volume only led to fatigue. The detail exists in the song, but it's not quite as fun to listen to, although it is possible to hear more detail in some of the guitar runs.

12. Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 - 1. Vivace (J.S. Bach) - Concert (Baroque)
With the HD580, the 1st Violin is to my immediate right, and the 2nd Violin is to my immediate left. The notes aren't terribly crisp or defined, and the tone is very warm. The Continuo part is hidden at times behind the soloists. With the GS1000, each part is positioned similarly, but as if I had taken 10 paces backwards. The treble emphasis of the GS1000 works well for this piece, as it helps the violin tone shine more. There is quite a bit more definition to the violinists' notes, and the exactness of the Baroque composition demands that level of detail.


Conclusions

Having briefly sampled the other members of the Grado line at CanJam '08, I can tell you that the GS1000 is a definite departure from Grado's usual presentation. My comparison between the HD580 and GS1000 has led me to several conclusions regarding soundstage, tonal presentation, and musical detail. As for the tonal presentation, the GS1000 have a definite emphasis towards the upper end of the register; they do have much more present treble. Some people call this sparkle and detail, but my experience with the HD580 has led me to call it sibilance. Several of my test songs were rendered quite harsh, and made for an unpleasant listening experience.

However, this is not to say that there was no categories in which the GS1000 trumped my HD580; I should hope this would be the case, as the GS1000 cost about four times what I paid for the HD580. The Grado GS1000 had a broader soundstage than the HD580 to my ears; almost as if I was sitting 5th row in an auditorium with the HD580 and then stepping back to the 10th row to experience what the GS1000 sounded like. I found, particularly during instrumental works, that the GS1000 had more instrumental details than I could pick out while using the HD580. I'm not sure if this is due to the different driver technology of the GS1000, or the soundstage presentation. The drivers of the GS1000 do sit further away from the ear than the HD580, so that may also play a part in the differences.

The real question is whether I would purchase the Grado GS1000 if I had the chance (read: means). Being a poor college student, I can't come close to justifying such an expenditure, but even if I could, I don't think I would choose to own the GS1000. The sibilance that I experienced during some songs is enough of a distraction that I didn't find the listening experience very pleasant. I have since purchased a pair of AKG K702, and I feel like that pair of headphones gives me the additional detail of the GS1000, but without the treble sibilance.
post #2 of 35
Good job - very thorough.
post #3 of 35
wow thanks a lot for all the comments!
post #4 of 35
Thanks for the review! and thanks for participating in the program!
post #5 of 35
Nice review
post #6 of 35
Were those Kimbers silver?
I ask because, i never heard any fatiquing highs when i used them on a WooAudio2 on a Denon CD player. It was Jack Woo's system at the November 2007 meet in Bayside ,NY.
Unless your amp doesnt like low impedence Grados?

I heard it again at the next NY meet.

Ok, granted it was a meet, but at the volume i had to turn it up to, the highs shoulda killed me, but i feel it was warmer than my SR80 for sure.

Good review though, and nice varied song choices.
post #7 of 35
Great, thanks for the nice review! I start missing the GS1000 less and less
post #8 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post
Good job - very thorough.
Quote:
Originally Posted by rjsbass View Post
wow thanks a lot for all the comments!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zanth View Post
Thanks for the review! and thanks for participating in the program!
Quote:
Originally Posted by insyte View Post
Nice review
My pleasure everyone; I just wanted to let everyone know my conclusions that I drew about the GS1000, though again, I highly encourage everyone to try out the headphones for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drag0n View Post
Were those Kimbers silver?

Good review though, and nice varied song choices.
The Kimbers are made of copper. I received them at CanJam '08. As for the song choice, I did find some songs that I felt did better with the GS1000 and some that the HD580 performed better on, but overall, I wasn't quite ready to accept the GS1000.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vvanrij View Post
Great, thanks for the nice review! I start missing the GS1000 less and less
That's always reassuring, especially since those headphones are such a large investment. I've since purchased a pair of AKG K702, and I think it adds most of the detail that the GS1000 could convey, without all the sibilance in the top-end. I'm hoping to do a similar comparison relatively soon.
post #9 of 35
Not to say Gs1000 is not a great can but it' doesn't suit my preference in terms of the way it sounds. I also feel that its abit overpriced for its performance, likewise for rs1.
post #10 of 35
Mine would be the stax without the 600 .
post #11 of 35
Zanth should offer his source and amp in this loan program...

And HD580 aren't even 100 mile close to what GS1000 can do. Some folks just don't realize, or maybe wouldn't accept the fact, that a lot of CD's are bad reordered and that's where headphone companies are aware of, so they create their own imagine of how the music have to sounds like, acceptable, nothing more. To me, it have to be NATURAL The transparency of GS1000 is unbeatable, not a lot of such beasts up there to make an competition. They let you hear how its been recorded and not trying to cover it and when you truly experience that, there is no way back...
post #12 of 35
Agreed to Blackmore. I owned the HD600's in the last time, and compared to the GS1000's they simplify music, polish out the details, lose some immediacy and speed and remove some harmonic content from the midrange. In other words, they sing their own plain melody which is obvious at some level of accompanying electronics. I will add my remark that you need a pure class A output to enjoy the Grado headphones in full, especially the GS1000's. Push-pull is not optimal.
post #13 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackmore View Post
And HD580 aren't even 100 mile close to what GS1000 can do.
I do agree that the GS1000 does have quite a bit more detail than the HD580, but I don't really like the GS1000 due to the sibilant nature of the top-end. Some may disagree with me, and I'm fine with that; after all, this hobby is, or at least should be about listening to different pieces of equipment and making independent choices about what sounds good.

Also, my impression of the GS1000 is probably affected by the fact that I've used the HD580 as my main pair of headphones for 2+ years, and I'm used to its sound, but in any case, extended listening periods on the GS1000 tended to give me a slight headache, and simply was not sonically comfortable for me to listen to on most tracks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by majkel View Post
I owned the HD600's in the last time, and compared to the GS1000's they simplify music, polish out the details, lose some immediacy and speed and remove some harmonic content from the midrange. In other words, they sing their own plain melody which is obvious at some level of accompanying electronics.
Again, I'd pretty much agree with this statement; I would probably modify it to say that while the detail exists through the GS1000, it does so with an emphasis on the high-end, which I don't particularly like. Anyone else can choose to like it; it just happens to not be my thing.

Quote:
I will add my remark that you need a pure class A output to enjoy the Grado headphones in full, especially the GS1000's. Push-pull is not optimal.
The amplifier I was using to compare the two headphones, the Millett Hybrid Max MOSFET Edition, is indeed a Class-A amplifier. I believe I had the output buffers biased at ~250 mV, which gives an output current of ~113 mA. Don't doubt that the MHM has the power to drive both pairs of headphones. Now, whether or not that the MHM's tube topology is optimal for the GS1000, that's an entirely other question, and not one that I can answer. The only other amplifier that I have right now, indeed, the only amplifier I currently own is the Millett Hybrid MiniMAX, which is not all that much different from the regular MHM.
post #14 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by bperboy View Post
The amplifier I was using to compare the two headphones, the Millett Hybrid Max MOSFET Edition, is indeed a Class-A amplifier. I believe I had the output buffers biased at ~250 mV, which gives an output current of ~113 mA. Don't doubt that the MHM has the power to drive both pairs of headphones. Now, whether or not that the MHM's tube topology is optimal for the GS1000, that's an entirely other question, and not one that I can answer. The only other amplifier that I have right now, indeed, the only amplifier I currently own is the Millett Hybrid MiniMAX, which is not all that much different from the regular MHM.
Hey, that's OK, you have no problems with power delivery but the MiniMax is obviously push-pull. I haven't gone into details what kind of biasing is made to the output stage but what normally sounds bad on Grado's is the cross-zero distortion in class AB push-pull stages.
post #15 of 35
Honestly, I'm really not sure how much of the sibilance in the GS1000 can be blamed on "bad recording" or "bad system matching."

I owned one of the initial pairs for quite some time, and in retrospect I really don't feel that I should have had ANY sibilance on my tweaked Melos SHA-1 rig and my custom Lan modded DAC. Both performed fantastically with any other Grado with no trace of sibilance; two different RS-1, an HP2 and HP1, etc.

Also, I don't believe Headroom's charts lie... in a game of Half Life 2 Episode 1 I actually encountered a "glass breaking" effect that existed directly on the treble spike. On the GS1000 it's piercing. On any other headphone, it's an entirely different noise.

At this point, I'm pretty sure it's a personal thing... you either have a sensitivity to it or you don't. If you don't, they're great headphones. If you do, be prepared for an uphill climb.
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