Back in 2005, Todd Green of Todd The Vinyl Junkie (TTVJ) called to tell me of an idea he and John Grado had: A Grado commemorative headphone exclusively for Head-Fi.org and its community members--the Grado HF1 (Head-Fi 1)--with a portion of the proceeds going to support Head-Fi.org. "Are you open to the idea of this?" Todd asked me. The next part of the conversation went something like this:
"What? Seriously? A Grado Head-Fi headphone? Is this still sort of a pie-in-the-sky still-just-an-idea concept talk, or is it already designed?" I asked.
"Dead serious about it. John and I are really excited to do this, and the HF1 will be a go if you're on board with it," after which he proceeded to tell me the details of the headphone that would be the Grado HF1. "So is this something you'd be interested in doing?"
"I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that there might be a Grado Head-Fi headphone. But, yeah, of course I'd be interested--so will a bunch of other folks. I can't believe you're for real on this, but, if so, of course!" Even after this, I think I asked him at least five different ways if he was pulling my leg.
Long story short, the Grado HF1 was actually released, each headphone serial numbered, and each box serial numbered and signed by John Grado. The limited production of HF1's started with serial number 001 (which I have on my head, listening to Bucky Pizzarelli as I type this) and ended with 481. With its unique construction--the plastic outer shell of the Prestige Series Grado headphones, but with an interior made of mahogany--the HF1 was truly a model of its own, its sound signature unlike the other Prestige Series models. Many considered it more sonically in kinship with the Reference Series Grado headphones (myself included), and I personally feel it was (at its retail price of $200.00) the best bang-for-the-buck audiophile headphone that had ever been released. The Grado HF1 remains one of the most sought after Grado headphones to this day, years after the last one left Brooklyn and Three Forks.
The community has asked if there ever would be a Grado HF-2. And the answer is "yes." Let me rephrase that: YES! It took this many years because John Grado wanted to be able to offer a headphone with all of the things that made the HF1 special, but more. As one of the most evenly tempered Grado headphones, the HF1 set a very high bar, especially considering it didn't sell for more than it did (though it does sell at a premium on the used market now). I'll put it simply, and say that I can't see how anyone who loved the sound of the Grado HF1 won't love the sound of the Grado HF2. I've had the HF2 next to my HF1, and the best way I can describe the HF2 is a further refinement of the Grado Head-Fi Headphones concept.
If you loved the HF1's punchy bass response, you'll love the HF2's punchy bass response, only you'll find it more detailed. If you loved the HF1's midrange--which, to me, was the thing about it most Reference-Series-like--you'll love the HF2's midrange, because it's as rich, but, again, with a smidge more detail there, and enough so to make it timbrally more accurate in its reproduction of the so many voices and instruments that live there. If you loved the HF1's open yet smooth treble extension, the HF2 will thrill you with the same--it doesn't sound to me as though it reaches any higher, in terms of extension, but it certainly does so in terms of having the ability to be more delicate, more precise. Many described the HF1 as smooth for a Grado headphone, which I agree with, and the HF2 will be described similarly. There is doubtlessly a familial sonic tie, but the HF2 is simply a more well-heeled HF1.
Todd Green has described the HF-2 as a sort of "baby PS-1000." I haven't yet had the privilege of hearing the PS-1000, so I'll have to take him at his word. I have heard the HF2 now, though, and I can say I have no doubt it will be as revered as the still sought-after HF1, and almost certainly more so, given the higher level of performance it offers. And I think it inevitable that years from now, there will still be people looking for HF2's, long after the last one has left Brooklyn and Three Forks, and, as with the HF1 today, at substantial premiums.
The Grado Head-Fi 2 (HF2) is for real. I'm not pulling your leg.