Today, Uncle Erik wrote the following in a High-End Forum thread: “The GS-1000 was a big FOTM, then completely disappeared. I haven't seen a thread on it or a recommendation for a long time.” Erik’s remark reminded me of the fact that I once wrote a mini-review of the GS1000i but never posted it. The mini-review was written on November 20, 2009, when I had had the GS1000i for about three months. I still have the GS1000i, and the feelings recorded in that mini-review are still with me. I think I didn’t post it at the time because I didn’t find the time to polish that first draft. I’d also have been more detailed, if the time were there. Today, I revisited that draft, prompted by Erik’s remark, and thought it might be useful to some of you here. So, warts and all, here’s that unrevised (first draft of a) mini-review, followed by a quick PS written today.
GS1000i, a mini-review
First of all, I’d like to apologize for the brevity of this posting. But the alternative for me right now would be not posting at all. And I thought this brief post might still be of some help to those who are interested in the GS1000i. I searched high and low for info on these phones before buying them a few months ago, but there was close to nothing about them out there. I was unable to audition before buying. So, I ended up relying on risky inferences about what I had read on the GS1000, the old version. I read a lot about that controversial old model. Ultimately, the voices of those who raved about the old model prevailed with me. (Feifan, thanks again for your persuasive comments on the GS1k!) This, coupled with the assumption that the new model was, in all likelihood, better than the old one finally pushed me over the brink.
Since this will have to be quick, there are some things you should know about me and my rig. To begin with, I’m the very opposite of a Grado fanboy. As I’ve noted in a number of posts at Head-Fi, I’ve long despised Grado for the poor build quality of its headphones. The mere thought of paying a grand for sponges gave me the creeps. That’s where I used to draw the line: I’ll swallow plastic and velour every now and then (from the likes of Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic or AKG), but sponges?… Some things are just not worth the trouble, I used to think.
I’ve been an audiophile for a long time. In the last ten years, I’ve finally managed to acquire what I should refer to as “Stereophile class A electronics and class B speakers”. This is partly literal, partly metaphorical. Some of my equipment has been recommended by Stereophile; some of it, by The Absolute Sound and other highly regarded sources in the hi-fi world. In the course of buying the stuff I now own, I’ve listened to cost-no-object stuff in acoustically treated rooms. I do believe that I can very easily tell the difference between entry-level hi-end pieces and cost-no-object ones. And my audiologist assures me that I’m in perfect auditory health.
Well, I suppose that’s all very relevant to the credibility of this mini-review.
I should also draw your attention to my amp, the Rudistor RPX33, my source, the DAC in the Grace m902, and the bullet-proof power-conditioning anchoring my headphone rig. That’s all in my sig below.
SQ-wise, the GS1000i is simply phenomenal. The anomalies are minimal. Their low mids are slightly “fatter” than life. And there’s a little, mostly benign, mid-bass hump. The low highs are also a tad forward. And that’s as bad as it gets – which is truly negligible when compared to its strengths. Actually, I find it very hard to describe these sonic traits as “defects”. These are, in fact, some of the ingredients of its very charming sound.
And this charming sound I’m referring to has all the virtues of the cost-no-object hi-end (if we allow for differences in taste at the top). It’s a very detailed, very naturally airy sound, with sweet, extended highs and lows that, subjectively, go cleanly down to about 50Hz. There isn’t a trace of harshness in the highs. Imaging seems trouble-free. And the soundstaging is tremendous – very wide and reasonably deep.
SQ-wise, is it better than the Denon D7000? Overall, yes, amazingly, yes! This was totally unexpected. I’m a longtime D7000 fan. But I must say that I clearly prefer the GS1000i. To be sure, the D7000 is more tonally accurate – more “neutral”, if you will, and more extended too in both highs and lows. Unlike the D7000, the GS1000i won’t give you the visceral experience of a “flat-sounding” 30Hz. (Yes, Skylab measured the D5000 and found that clean 30Hz response, and, subjectively, the D7000 is not bested by the D5000.) But the GS1000i is not far behind either. Unlike many here at Head-Fi, I wouldn’t call it a “bass monster”. The D7000 and the DX1000 are bass monsters. But the GS1000i eats the D7000 for breakfast as far as soundstaging. They throw a much wider, more three-dimensional, more immersive soundstage. (It’s not a noticeably deeper soundstage, however.) So, to my utter amazement, I’ve developed a clear preference for the GS1000i over the otherwise excellent D7000.
Is the GS1000i overall better than the JVC DX1000? No, it isn’t. I wish I had found a new number one favorite, but I haven’t. In spite of its seductive airiness and lovely midrange, the DX1000 bests them in just about every regard. To be sure, the DX1000 is less extended in the highs. The JVC isn’t sparkle-shy at all, but it isn’t as airy as the Grado. (On the flip-side, the DX1000 will tame overly bright material, whereas the Grado won’t.) Still, their superior extension in the bass, deeper soundstage and unique, very slightly reverberant midrange (an acquired taste, all right, but one that’s very acquired with me) keep the JVC at the top as far as I’m concerned. The JVC is also a little more tonally accurate than the Grado. But nothing in the Grado sound is obviously off.
Build quality? I expected worse. It actually feels much more rugged than I expected. And comfortable, very comfortable, in fact, the most comfortable I’ve had. So, I’m learning to live with the sponges after all. I paid $800 at J&R, in Manhattan. Would I have paid several hundred more if I knew what I know now? Yes. And I’ll leave you with my pet theory (pure speculation on my part): I very much doubt that the heavy and shockingly expensive PS1000 sounds any better than the GS1000i. Maybe we’ll get discussion of this hypothesis by some of the trustworthy ones among the very few who’ve listened to both on hi-end equipment.
Not much has changed in my feelings about the GS1000i since I wrote the above mini-review. My rig changed somewhat. About a year and a half ago, I bought my current number one amp, the spectacular, “quad-mono”, dual-potted Rudistor RPX-300 (now surprisingly discontinued by Rudi Stor). I’ve also bought the Sennheiser HD800 and the AKG Q701. I still rank the GS1000i in a four-way tie with the HD800, the D7000 and the DX1000. That’s how I feel about them most of the time. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. If forced to keep only two of them, I’d keep the least well-behaved, the most “fun”, most exciting of the four: the DX1000 and the GS1000i. These two are never boring. And the DX1000 remains my number one favorite overall. (The JVC never fails to put a smile on my face!) But, yes, Uncle Erik, the Grado is a serious audiophile option – mostly for its deadly charming midrange and 3D airiness, its most distinctive sonic traits. Don’t be misled by those who can’t amp them properly!