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Grado PS1000 + Cary Xciter Integrated Amp Impression!

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 

I haven’t seen many people share their experiences about PS1000 + Cary Xciter amp combo on headfi. Since I find this combination to be extraordinary and worth recommending therefore I decided to write a little bit about my first impression with them as well as the breaking-in roller coaster that I had to go through.

I have always been a fan of Grado PS-1. Even though I never own one, however ever since I listened to it from a friend, I have always wanted to own one. Good thing that PS1000 actually provides me with a sound closer to PS1 plus the bigger soundstage as a bonus. I’m actually very impressed with PS1000 and I would vote it as the best all rounder and most versatile open headphone.

What so versatile about PS1000, is because you could actually enjoy PS1000 straight from an iPOD and they do sound really good. Adding a predator amp, and you get the expansiveness, extra detailed texture such as Reverberation of Piano and Twangy of String Guitar details which Grado is really specialized in. Most importantly, the bass is so tuneful and goes lower with the predator. You could actually dance your head to the music. Right then, I was already addicted to PS1000 predator combination.

I had a chance to try Corda Move3, TTVJ Millett, Lisa, AE2, with PS1000 and they all sound good however, they don’t have the same synergy as with the predator which was making the PS1000 really rock, and engaging. For vocal lovers, you might also consider LISA III with PS1000, the midrange is simply beautiful, giving PS1000an organic tubey sounding.

Another great thing is I find PS1000 sounds really good straight out of the box without break in.

Now, only if I can find a nice simple travel casing for PS1000?

Ah very excited to welcome this new amp to the family, read the manual and surprisingly mentioned in there that Dennies actually designed Cary Xciter specifically for GS1000. Too bad I sold my GS1000 already. Nevertheless, I was still excited to try PS1000 anyway, here it goes.

The Bass Whoaahh!!! Was sooo much, it hit so hard, and it hit so low until the back of your spine. That was impressive. And the sound was without a doubt very refined and big not those tiny sounds coming from a portable amp. It was very smooth and liquid yet possess a very good control and definitely the best headphone amp I have owned. However, after listening to it for ½ hour the bass had become overwhelming and gave me a feeling of nausea, stuffy, out of breath, out space. I stopped listening and let the break in continued for another 2 hours before listening to it again. The bass was less stronger than before. That’s good news.

The bass quantity remained the same, but the vocal felt very hard, loud and upfront. The sound seemed richer but in a hard way, making your ears fatigue easily. I would say Xciter lost its excitement. That painful 2 hrs listening session got me impatient, and enforced me to do tube rolling earlier than I should. The first tube I tried was the 12AX7 Telefunken smooth plate, diamond mark Matched pair. The musicality was back, the midrange was softening, but I lost the tightness in the bass area. Well at least it has improved somehow in terms of musicality and enjoyment.
Then I swapped to Mazda Silver Anode FRENCH MILITARY 1958 vintage 12AX7, OMG this one sounded much better, it added air and sparkle, good tight bass, nice midrange, pretty much I was hooked for many hours with this combination.

Itching for a better sound, I decided to play further and this time with the output tubes instead of the input. The first output that I tried was the Siemens EL34 Vintage,while leaving the input with stock tubes, and surprisingly the effect was even better than changing the input tubes. The midrange was superbly organic and sweet. It added layers and depth to the sound, very delicate. You could literally pin point the depth position of the instrument. The sound was also more controlled, and microdetails were astounding. But again, unable to stop where I was, I moved on to replaced the Output tubes with Mullard EL34 Vintage(Maguire and 563 head-fi member also swears by this tube with Xciter) and I was glad I did. At first, I thought this was it, Everything from the Siemens plus the soundstage and the super ambience details. However, the enjoyment only lasted until 48hrs break-in hit and the despair rekindled again.

I found that I was losing midrange and bass. It sounded very thin, the tonal balance didn’t seem to sound right. So I decided to put back in the stock tubes and Wow! the sound of PS1000 and Xciter became REALLY EXCITING and ENGAGING!! It’s that good!!! At the time, you were guaranteed tapping your feet and shaking your head and dancing off your chair!! Who says PS1000 is only good for low volume? Try listening to it through Xciter, you would be surprised how much volume you might be hypnotized to crank up. I usually listen to low volume, but somehow I just couldn't help cranking the Xciter with PS1000. It was so engaging and involving. Truly Grado House sound "Live Performance" is back with PS1000+Xciter! To my disbelief I have never listened to so much, Rock music, R&B, Rap, Trance, and House Music in my life. PS1000+Xciter seems to let me explore all those music collections.

The sound seemed to have balanced out from top to bottom, with better layers, depth, and decay resulting in a smoother sound compared to @48hrs. The High has opened up further and the bass has gone lower and tighter, offering a very gorgeous midrange clarity(Rock electric guitar has never sound so good since RS-1). The experience has transformed from only purely head-banging dancing off the chair to jaw dropping richly detailed holographic sounding. The character has changed from, “Hey stand up and move your body.” To “ Hey Sit down and listen to me performing”. Xciter gives every sound a life that brings out emotion worth serious listening. I usually listen to random music collection most of the time, old and new. More often I skip many old songs but surprisingly PS1000+Xciter combination made me to stop skipping and focus more on listening instead. It seems to make me want to listen my entire collection all over again.

Conclusion 100hrs:
Grado PS1000 and Xciter are very special. Grado PS1000 sounds good with many other amps as well, but more often they also change the sound signature to become less grado. I have seen people trying to make Sennheiser to sound like Grado, and trying to make Grado to sound like Sennheiser. I believe in Grado is grado, it’s all about excitement and live performances. Apparently Xciter is capable of bringing out this experience. It makes Grado PS1000 to unleash what’s best about them, The Grado House Sound. I would recommend Xciter wholeheartedly to those who are looking to buy an excellent amp to drive PS1000.

Continued…Songs Description will be updated!

One Complaint for Grado: The extension cable that came with PS1000, was the exact same as from the GS1000 cable and it changed the signature of PS1000 to be more metallic, digital, and dryer sounding. I couldn't stand using the extension cable.
post #2 of 55
nice speakers. I hope you are driving them with a better amp than the Xciter.
post #3 of 55
Thread Starter 
Hi Chesebert,
I'm not sure whether I drive my speakers with better amp than the Xciter in terms of SQ wise, but definitely with more Omphs and current like Parasound Halo A21.

You've got a sweet speakers yourself
post #4 of 55
God I love the look of Cary gear. That's one sweet amplifier. Thanks for the impressions.
post #5 of 55
Thanks for your impressions.
Yeah, that combo looks very solid indeed. Have an Aussie friend who using Xciter with GS1k and very happy with it, however he upgraded EL34 with Mullards, but you can use KT88, 5881 and 6L6 as well plus auto-bias just like in my PrimaLuna, great options.

ps You may want to resize your pics pls, thx
post #6 of 55
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Blackmore,

Images Resized. What do you think now?
post #7 of 55
Great, thank you. If you can get Brimars/Mullards ( 1960's only ) 12AX7 or 4004, equivalent of it, you may get some interesting results. Also NOS GEC KT88 would make a huge difference in tonality, have them in my PrimaLuna now and its like day&night, comparing to stock KT88. This is fun, cos you have endless tube rolling options up here, however your wallet may not be that happy after all

Would be interesting to read your opinion about K1000 and Xciter, any chance?
post #8 of 55
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice Blackmore. will start tube rolling again once 100hrs burn-in mark passed.
Regarding to the K1000 and Xciter, I wish I still had them here with me now for comparison.
post #9 of 55
Beautiful headphones and amp!congrats!
post #10 of 55
I just see you mentioned Maguire, thats my Aussie friend

Originally Posted by jlingo View Post
Thanks for the advice Blackmore. will start tube rolling again once 100hrs burn-in mark passed.
Regarding to the K1000 and Xciter, I wish I still had them here with me now for comparison.
post #11 of 55
Hey great set up jlingo, Its way too early to get the best out of this combo.
Be patient and Just keep playing them and let both the amp and the cans burn in and then you will hear that great synergy they enjoy.
I also agree with Blackmore and suggest you try Mullard 4004's.
It is great to see someone else who has turned on to this great amp, cheers mate.
Keep the impressions coming.
post #12 of 55
I'll have my demo PS1000s today, the courier has been called, they are on the way. Your thread has made me impatient. I won't be able to listen tonight until at least 7pm, the wait's going to kill me.
post #13 of 55
Selamat malam, Jlingo! Of course, I have to weigh in very, very quickly as well - I love my Cary Xciter amp/DAC combination, not only with the PS1000, but the GS1000 as well - great set up and congratulations on discovering this too little known amp! Hey, what's the serial number on your PS1000s?

PS -I am happy even with the stock tubes!
post #14 of 55
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys!
@Maguire: I just ordered:
12AX7 Mullard LONGPLATE, Square getter, 1950s date codes - 1 matched pair.(Updated! OMG This is ULTIMATE!)
12AX7A / CV4004 Brimar boxplate military type 1962 - 1 matched pair(Updated Didn't like this one!)

@563: I am on number #368

@Pincher: what are you planning to drive your PS1000 with?
post #15 of 55
Very nice find they are great tubes to have, jlingo save these and your other goodies for when the Xciter has fully burned in. It will need longer than 100 hours the more you play it the better everything will sound. For now while in this process just use your stock tubes, by the way they sound pretty good also, then when you hear her open up tube roll to your hearts delight. I promise you are not going to be dissapointed with this awesome combo
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