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Grado PS-1000, Mapletree Audio EAR+HD, Centrance DACport, Xonar ST impressions.

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Over a decade ago I wanted to get a system setup in my listening room to enjoy music.  I’ve been lucky to work for a respected audio distributor that allowed me to interact with some excellent engineers and solid product range.  The system that I had setup provided me with a lot of satisfaction but since 5 years ago I moved and unfortunately found that the listening area wasn’t ideal.  I found it painful to try and setup the system to its optimal position and unfortunately I wasn’t successful without the speakers getting in the way.  The enjoyment of just listening to music was affected because of the less then standard speaker placement and ended up critiquing the sound rather than simply enjoy the music.  Sharing the space with my wife complicated things ;) 

 

Life for the last few years got really busy and had no time to sit and enjoy music and I started to miss that.  One day I started listening to my music from my 10 year old Grado SR-60’s hooked up to my Iphone and I realized what I’ve been missing.  There is no doubt that the Grado SR-60’s are one if not the best headphones for the price.  These headphones had a lot of use especially at the gym regardless how dorky I might have looked.  It was time to get a new pair for serious listening at home.  I wanted a pair of headphones to be efficient enough to be driven even by an Iphone.  Although most if not all Grado headphones are rated at 32 Ohms, they are very efficient.   I wanted to get a pair that had excellent soundstage, clarity but most importantly a joy to listen to for many years to come…  Lo and behold! The PS-1000 Grado headphones!

 

DSC_9667_WEB.jpg

 

Before anyone listens to these headphones seriously, they need to be broken-in for at least 100 hours.  John Grado states that they need to be broken-in with normal use and not with continuous 24/h a day signal.  This forced me to become more patient but made it an enjoyable one nevertheless.  The difference was noticeable as the drivers started to loosen up.  Bass became more defined and  the sound started to really open up.  As I am no real expert I will do my best to describe the sound.  I’ve listened to Sennheiser’s for a short time but my comparison is to SR-60’s as I’m only very familiar with them and I’m in no position to compare to other headphones.  This post is more for anyone who is interested with my experience was and perhaps help anyone make a decision.

 

Clarity
Probably one of the strongest points for these headphones.  The level of clarity compared to SR-60’s as expected is huge.  My music selection is very diverse, from electronic based such as Delerium, Massive Attack to Pink Floyd,  etc.  With the PS1000’s I naturally fell in love with acoustic based music.  The amount of detail from each instrument transported me into the musicians’ room.     

 

Soundstage/depth
The soundstage from these headphones is impressive.  Music extended all around me.  I am sure that other manufacturers in this price range have also nailed it.  It’s impressive that this level of soundstage was only accomplished by speakers years back.  Compared to the SR-60’s music is no longer in your head but all around you.

 

Bass
I’m having a little difficulty to rate the bass coming from these headphones.  The bass no doubt goes deep and is well controlled.  However at times I do feel that the bass is a little on the lean side when listening to some songs.  If anyone is looking for headphones that will make your brain shake from the level of bass, these headphones may not be your choice. 

 

Source (iPhone)
As mentioned earlier, listening through an iPhone, the tonal balance is surprisingly natural.  However as expected listening straight from the headphone jack does not bring the last detail from the music.  Instruments bland a little but nevertheless that didn’t stop me from enjoying the music.  Compared to the SR-60’s the sound difference is still big with an iPhone.   Sound level from both headphones when used with an iPhone is sufficient! 

 

Source: Centrance  DACport
I bought the DACport when I am travelling or when I want to take my laptop with me to bed and listen to some music before going to sleep.  The sound is smooth, detailed and plays loud.  Preferred volume setting is a little over half way.  It’s an impressive little DAC/headphone amp especially when you are on the go.

Source (Asus Xonar ST, Headphone Out) + AD8620BR + LME49720 Op-Amps
My main source is from the PC via Asus Xonar ST soundcard that was favourably reviewed by Stereophile as a good step forward to high-end audio.  I had replaced the op-amps with positive results when listening from my SR-60’s.  The AD8620BR op-amps are known for excellent detail and soundstage with a more forward high frequency sound which mated well with the SR-60’s.  However when listening to the PS-1000’s with these op-amps, made the sound somewhat harsh with a few recordings  and I preferred the sound from the Centrance DACport instead.

 

Source (Asus Xonar ST, Line Out with Mapletree Audio Design EAR+HD headphone amp)
EAR+HD Mapletree Headphone amp

MapleTree Audio EAR+ HD
Purchasing this amp was one of the best purchases I’ve made for a long time and made me fall in love with tube sound. 

As mentioned listening straight from the headphone out from the Asus Xonar ST soundcard  with the PS1000 sounded a little too forward for my liking.  Dr. Lloyd Peppard has truly designed an excellent headphone amp that makes a match made in heaven with my Grado’s.  The sound is detailed but very smooth and natural.  This is when my vocabulary comes short.  Soundstage is deeper then what I’ve heard before with no harshness found from previous setup.  The sound comes alive with better impact.  I’m planning to do anything possible to keep this amp going for 20+ years I’m that impressed with the sound quality from this amp.

 

Overall impressions (Grado PS-1000 + Mapletree Audio EAR+HD)

EAR+ HD & PS-1000

 

Grado PS-1000 headphones with the Mapletree Audio EAR+ HD headphone amp helped me fall in love with music again.  I was surprised to see the difference in sound from all the sources I previously mentioned.  Some very favourable and some not so much.  It just shows how important it is to have a properly matched source with these headphones. This setup is the best I’ve heard and matches if not surpasses a high-end rig that cots 10x the cost of this setup without worrying about speaker placement and room acoustics.  I am once again able to enjoy music and get excited with new material! 

 

What’s in the future?  I want to get a dedicated DAC connected to my computer.  The DAC that has grabbed my attention is the Ayre QB-9 but I’m more than happy with the current setup to enjoy my music and allow me to save.

Hope this post was useful to some of you searching for one of the best headphones and headphone amp

Happy listening!

-Tom-

post #2 of 14

Great review. I really enjoyed reading it...and your photos were really well done. Something to be said for that Grado / Mapletree synergy! The best I've heard to date.

 

I see you've got the Genalex Gold Lion 12AX7 in your amp. I would also suggest a Sylvania Black Plate Triple Mica tube (5751) or GE 5-Star (5751). I love the new issue Genalex tubes. Not only are they the best current production tubes I've heard, they compete very well with some of the NOS classics too.

 

Oh and welcome to Head-fi. smile.gif

post #3 of 14

Congratulations Tom on rediscovering your music again. That's a lovely set-up you've got there. The PS1000 doesn't receive much love at Head-Fi I'm afraid. Being a Grado fan myself, it's a headphone that's been on my radar for several months now and I'm hoping to be able to audition it.

 

One of the things I love about Grado's is that they're no-nonsense. They remind me of why I got into headphones in the first place. As you say, they sound great out of an iphone. You don't have to invest in an expensive amp and dac in order to hear your music reproduced with great clarity, detail and verve. Of course, you'll improve the performance of the headphone if you do as you have found but it's not essential.

 

I hope your PS1000 continues to bring you years of listening enjoyment.

post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thank you. 

 

As for the Genalex Gold Lion tube yes!  You got a good eye.  I recently got a pair and yes the tube sounds great!  I also got a JAN-Phillips 5751 tube to try out however I think I'll stick to the Genalex Gold Lion for now, I'm that happy with the setup.  I do notice that with the Grado's being so efficient, gain is high with the 12AX7 tubes.  I have the volume set at 9 o'clock for most of my listening.

 

post #5 of 14

Great pictures! The PS-1000 has such a great speaker-like quality. 

post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thank you. 

 

***Latest update***

 

My system has changed a bit since my review. I've replaced my cheap zip cord type RCA interconnects to Audioquest King Cobras, as I've mentioned in my original post I preferred the sound coming from the Centrance DACport however I have experimented with op-amps on my sound card and switched to OPA627's because AD8620's without a surprise sounded too aggressive, in your face type of sound that really didn't suit my style and not such a great match with Grado's in my opinion; now my sound card connected to the Mapletree Audio EAR+ HD amp is my primary source.

 

With all the changes the sound signature has changed slightly with good results.

My ears tell me that the overall sound now is very balanced.

 

Happy listening!

-Tom-

post #7 of 14

I've recently emailed Lloyd about ordering that beauty of an amp. 

 

Very helpful review, but how much did you pay?

I'm assuming that you bought an assembled one as well, correct?

 

Anyway, I'm very happy to give Lloyd the business as he's just a few hours away from me here. 

It just happens to be a bonus that this system sounds godly with Grados! 

post #8 of 14

It's great to hear that you're enjoying your system. Making the PS1000 my main cans really enhanced my listening enjoyment. I've been a fan of Grado for a long time and the PS1000 are really the very best of Grado.

 

I share your sentiments regarding the PS1000, though I've never considered them lean on bass. Compared to the Reference and Prestige models the PS1000 is by far the fullest on the bottom end. I will say this, however. The fit of the pads and headband are very important to the sound. I've listened to about four different pairs of G cushions on the PS1000 and noticed some consistency problems in them that can significantly affect the sound. One of the pairs were compressed, another was misshapen, and the other two were identically firm, well-formed, and symmetrical. As expected, the compressed pair closed in the soundstage, attenuated the high end extension, and brought the bass too far forward. The misshapen pair, due to a poor seal to the ears/head, made the bass too lean and the balance shift upward. Only the two firm and well formed pairs sounded full, extended, and well-balanced. I tend to keep my headband fairly tight with the PS1000 given that the pads are firm enough to place the drivers at an ideal distance. The compressed pads required a loose headband fit to bring it closer to a good balance. I wear my HF2 and HF-1 fairly loose to keep them from sounding too closed in and muddy with the smaller bowl pads. Interestingly, the bowl pads on the HF2 are shallower than the ones on the HF-1 and experimentation with switching the pads led me to conclude that the change to a shallower pad was appropriate for the HF2.

 

I'd recommend continued experimentation with sources. You have a world class pair of headphones and an excellent amplifier that really deserve a great source to perform their best.

post #9 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by FrostyMMB View Post

I'd recommend continued experimentation with sources. You have a world class pair of headphones and an excellent amplifier that really deserve a great source to perform their best.



I agree. Even the power cord replacements can make significant changes like in case of my friend's DAC.

post #10 of 14

Haven't been around in awhile, but stumbled across this nice review. I don't have the PS-1000, but the Ear+ HD is my main amp and I love it with all my headphones, Grado RS1i, Denon AH-D5000, Beyerdynamic DT 880, etc. There really isn't a headphone that sounds bad with this amp. I use mostly vintage 5751 tubes and am extremely happy to the point I don't even think about replacing it with anything else. And the customer service Lloyd gives is unparalleled.

post #11 of 14

Can someone comment on the base price of having one of these built and shipped to the US? Lloyd has the price at $700 but it also says there is a 10% price increase (additional $70?) + are there any import costs associated? I'm trying to budget for an Ear+ but need a more accurate number to work with.

 

Thanks.

post #12 of 14

Looks like the listed price + 10% + approximately $30 for shipping. Plan on spending about $800. You can always shoot him an email or call for the exact shipping cost as it depends on where it's being shipped to.

post #13 of 14

Great write up, I think the ps1000s sound great too, though I have never owned them due to distractions like the LCD 2s.

post #14 of 14

 

Quote:

Great write up, I think the ps1000s sound great too, though I have never owned them due to distractions like the LCD 2s.

 

^ x 2 , as well as the HD800, HE-6, etc..................... I own one...


Edited by wink - 10/10/11 at 6:31pm
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