Grado GR8 vs Ortofon EQ-5
GR8 - Specifications
- Driver: Moving armature
- Connector type: standard 3.5mm jack plug
- Frequency range: 20 -20,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 118db/1mw
- Impedance: 120 ohms
- Maximum input power: 20mW
- Cable length: 51"/130mm (oxygen-free copper wire)
- Weight: 9 grams including plug and cord
EQ-5 - Specifications
- Audio Engine: Moving Armature
- Frequency Response: 10-20kHz +/-3db
- Sensitivity at 1kHz: 118db SPL for 1.0mw input
- Impedance: 40 ohm
- Maximum Rated Input Power: 5.0mw
- Weight: 15.9g
- Cable: 1.2m
As you are likely aware there are a lot of different drivers out their now and different set-ups with them. You have your standard dynamic drivers now coming in all sorts of types now the will make you oooh just because of their unique name and then they are even doubling them up with dual dynamics IEMs. You then have the balanced armature driver (BAs) that come in your single driver ones all the way up to 4 driver and customs that have up to 8 BA drivers in them. Another type that comes into uses every now and again is a hybrid with a BA and a Dynamic Driver. Well both earphones about to be reviewed and compared are none of these and are a very unique take on a BA driver as these use is a moving armature driver. About the technology I d not know much about but what I do know is these are two of just four available (the other two are the big brothers of both these earphones, the Grado GR10 and Ortofon EQ-7).
So what I am quite excited about being able to bring you is an in depth comparison of these two very unique earphones so I hope you can enjoy.
The Ortafons are owned by me but the Grados have been on a long loan from a dear friend, so a huge thank you to him and also for using some photos he took of the earphones packaging and accessories as I do not have them on hand.
The set-up I have used is the normal, as I have started using a new portable rig, which is the Hippo CriCri amplifier connected through a LOD to an iPod Nano 3G with Apple Lossless and MP3 on it.
I also used my old set-ups of my iPhone 4, Cowon J3 (with FLAC) and my iMac with my Objective 2 amplifier.
I used medium stock tips for both IEMs as other tips I tried with them such as the Sony Hybrid ones did not offer sound improvement.
GR8: The design is simple and understated with their plain blue housing and there black cable. Nothing really stands out on them.
EQ-5: The housings are fairly big with quite a unique bullet shaped design and a mirror like silver housing. The cable is black but the jack and y-split are both bulky and big, which can stand out.
Comparison: If you want a bulkier more stylish design then the EQ-5 is probably the way to go with its shiny colours (comes in red, black or the silver that I have) and bullet like design. If you want something simpler or do not really care then the GR8 is just fine. They are both in ears at the end of the day so the housings are not too visible.
GR8 = EQ-5
GR8: The jack is quite bulky (it is a straight ‘I’ plug) in the housing of it and it has perhaps the most flexible strain relief that I have ever come across. The cable is actually very nice and although only average in thickness it does not feel to weak and has a wonderful ability to coil itself instead of tangle, which is so handy, it also never kinks. It has a very small, almost non-existent strain relief. It does have a cable cinch why I am happy about.
The housings are completely plastic and are made up of two parts. The two parts of the housing are not very plush together with a slightly unconvincing gap which does like to fill up a bit. The nozzle is very short and wide so no problems should occur there. The strain relief of them is okay and is not the most flexible but it well angled.
EQ-5: The EQ-5 has some parts that are just tank and some that are well, a bit un-satisfying. We start of with a really long, straight ‘I’ plug which has a very solid plastic housing and a long flexible strain relief. We then move on to the cable, which is the thickest I have ever come across on an IEM. Not only is it thick but also strong. The y-split is both big and bulky but there is not strain relief to it. The top cable is quite thin and there is an unfortunate absence of a cable cinch.
The housings are great and they are made of two parts of metal. The two parts are put together flawlessly and the nozzles are as sturdy as everything about the housing. The cable on these goes straight into the back of the housings and has no strain relief but the way it is done does actually not worry me.
Comparison: The thickness and strength on the bottom half of the cable as well as the jack and y-split is a whitewash to the EQ-5 as is the finish and build of the housing. However the GR8 does get some points back with a thicker and stronger top of the cable and a strain relief for the housing.
EQ-5 > GR8
GR8: The GR8’s accessories are a major upset at the price that these are retailing at. I do not ask for a lot of accessories but I really do expect a case and these fail to supply that. In the box you get three pairs of single flange silicone tips, which are thin and flimsy but not bad quality. You also get a set of spare filters, which replace the ones in the IEMs when they get a bit dirty or full of earwax, which is a nice touch.
The accessories we get here are okay as they cover the bases but do not give you close to what some companies will give for the price. They come in a tin, which is layered with foam inside for protection and this doubles up as a quite cool but on the larger side, carry case.
We then get three pairs of flimsy and thin silicone tips and one pair of Comply foam tips, which is always a nice touch.
They also come with some filters that you can use to replace the ones you already have in them if they become dirty. They have a tool to change them.
Comparison: The EQ-5 instantly edge ahead as they have a case included which is a must have in my opinion. Tips wise they both have silicone tips which are very similar in quality which is actually quite god but then the EQ-5 have the edge again with the included Comply tips. Lastly they have removable filters but the EQ-5 have the tool to help change the filters. Both do not have the most accessories but it is a landslide victory for the EQ-5 and a very disappointing package with the GR8.
EQ-5 > GR8
GR8: The GR8 is made to be worn cable down and fits cozily in your ears with its small housing. The strain relief of them is made so that it does not touch or annoy your ear so there are no problems there. They go fairly deep into your ears but I would not describe them as intrusive. The housing is small and light so not really fatiguing either. These are rather comfortable.
EQ-5: The EQ-5 do have a positive in that you can wear them either cable down or over the ear with ease. However they make you look a bit daft when cable down because of the way they stick out your ear. So I have been wearing them over the ear for mainly that reason. They are a rather large barrel design to the housing of them, which could be a tight squeeze for some people like the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 is, but for me it is fine. They are also all metal which adds some weight to them and can start to cause some weight due to fatigue after a while. Also when wearing them over the ear, you could find the cable sitting on your ear to be annoying.
Comparison: So while the EQ-5 does have an advantage with the wearing style options being more versatile, the GR8 is just a generally smaller and lighter IEM that is likely to be found more comfortable for the main bulk of people. So I am going to have to give this to the GR8!
GR8 > EQ-5
For this I have played pink noise very loud on my computer. In fact the loudest the computer can go which is loud.
GR8: Now these do have a fairly deep insertion like I have already mentioned and they are not ported. At a comfortable listening level then most background noise will disappear easily. It is only when you take it to the next level with the pink noise (only my Etymotic HF5s block this out) that some is let in and although you can still enjoy your music your aware that it is there. I think that these done a pretty good job.
EQ-5: Now these have a insertion depth that is average, maybe even border line shallow to some people because of its large size. This is not ported so that is a plus and when home, the family talking, watching TV or cooking will not get in but the pink noise does find its way in. These again are not bad; but not Etymotic HF5 standard.
Comparison: Now this is completely down to how they manage on the pink noise test. But surprisingly the EQ-5 had done a better job… just. I will say you will not have to worry about the isolation of both though.
EQ-5 > GR8
Microphonics (Cable Noise)
GR8: Although you can wear them over the ear, they are not designed to do this and I find it a lot easier and comfortable to wear them cable down. You do get the slightest thud when the cable is hit that way and of course nothing when over the ear.
EQ-5: The cable noise hear is completely non-existent when wearing them in my preferred method, the over the ear style, and you do get a slight thud when they are worn cable down but nothing extreme or worth worrying about.
Comparison: Obviously with any earphones you can wear them any way that you might want but the EQ-5’s take to other ear wearing the best. When wearing them both over the ear the EQ-5 still have the least although when the cable is down the GR8’s have the least by a tad. Neither is bad in this area but again it is the EQ-5 who is victorious.
EQ-5 > GR8
Ease of Driving
Now I do not usually do this as a section but I think it should be noted on this comparison.
GR8: These have a big impedance of 120 ohms yet are rather sensitive so I was hoping that these would be driven easily. Well I was wrong, not only are they power hungry, they also require a really good amp and they are picky on what they use. With an iPhone 4 it is a pointless operation and I still did not even get that good a sound with my iPod Nano 4G and hippo cricri amp which normally does wonders for most IEMs. I was left wondering are they really this bas or do they require something special. Well my desktop rig is my Audioengine D1 DAC to my Epiphany Objective 2 and this sounds awesome together. Well the sound I got was the best so far so I was happy and then the battery went on the Objective 2. So I was left with just the Audioengine so I plugged them into that and was treated to blissful synergy, so these are just rather picky but you will want a portable amp for using these.
EQ-5: A higher than average impedance of 40 ohms together with its high sensitivity leaves these being driven greatly by anything like my iPhone 4 and while I have found some amps to give a better experience they sound just great with my hippo cricri and iPod Nano set up.
Comparison: While you will probably have to upgrade your portable rig to cater for the GR8, the EQ-5 will do just great with everything and this is something you will have to account for when looking at purchasing either.
EQ-5 > GR8
Soundstage and instrument separation
GR8: The soundstage was rather small in my opinion with little width and height to it, in fact you can do a lot better for a lot cheaper and I can not say that in any of these dimensions that these get out of your head because quite sadly they do not. What they do have though is a full soundstage with a full depth to them so although small it is still rather three-dimensional. What really is great about the soundstage is the imaging and presentation as it is very accurate and true.
Instrument separation is slightly airy but very good as everything is apart from the next instrument. They never however fast things may get decide to blend with each other and everything always comes from its own correct position.
EQ-5: The soundstage is very impressively open and really gets you involved. It is really large getting vastly out of your head in width and height and that is backed up by great depth that makes it full three-dimensional in every meaning of the term. What is also does great is the position it puts you in, as with some IEMs with slightly bigger soundstages such as the Sennheiser IE8 are miles away and some a bit to close. These get the position your in just right and you’re their but not quite in amongst the act. Everything about it is just large and full. Nothing seems to be to out of place and the imagery is good as well as presentation although there is better such as the TDK BA200 and the Grado GR8.
These do instrument separation second to none and everything is airily apart from the rest of the instruments and this is all very satisfying. These are exceptionally fast and nothing and I mean nothing has managed to faze them.
Comparison: The EQ-5 has a soundstage that is just so much bigger and fully that it actually embarrasses the GR8. The GR8 can throw a little back with its superior imaging and presentation but that is only by the slightest and does not really have much of an impact.
Instrument separation on both is obviously good with them both being BA drivers and nothing really ever gets to them and they are both fantastic, however I just feel like everything is a little bit airier and easier with the EQ-5.
EQ-5 > GR8
GR8 > EQ-5
EQ-5 >= GR8
GR8: The mid-bass in my opinion is just not good enough and that is because of the quantity. Now do not jump to the conclusion now that I am a basshead because I am far from one. I do appreciate huge bass on IEMs like the Hippo VB or Final Audio Design Adagio III as well as how I appreciate the quantity and good quality bass like what you get with the Fischer Audio DBA-02 for example. The case here is just way too little mid-bass that it just feels like something is hugely missing. Imagine what it sounds like when you do not get a correct seal with an IEM yet here you are getting a correct fit. The quality of the tiny mid-bass that you have is not too bad and it is tight and fast but without any real impact mainly due to the lack of quantity and small body.
Sub-bass extension is even more tragic as the bass rolls of before it gets there.
EQ-5: The mid-bass is very pleasant. It has a great amount of quantity that is never too much or overwhelming a no one would probably see it has having to little unless they were the most serious of bassheads. It has just great quality and although there are tighter bass on other BA IEMs, I do not think you would want it any tighter as it works just right like it is, I mean it is still very tight, I mean not even close to boomy or loose. The detail is great as well is the texture and the impact is strong with a nice body. The bass on these is highly impressive and it just feels so right. Now do not read these and expect loads of bass as these are by no means bass heavy but they do it oh so very well.
The Sub-bass extension is also rather impressive as these dig very deep and although unlike dynamic IEMs these do not really rumble, you do notice the extension and are able to appreciate it.
Comparison: This is an easy comparison to make as one IEM does that bass really well, the EQ-5, and one well, does not really do it. The quantity is so much more on the EQ-5 while still being a pleasant amount and the quality is better as well as it makes more of impact even though the GR8 is tighter. The extension is also a lot better on the EQ-5.
All Components of bass (Sub-Bass, Mid-Bass Quantity and Mid-Bass Quality) are all the same result:
EQ-5 > GR8
GR8: The mids on the GR8 are very pleasant. They lack energy and are soft to the touch but are oh so smooth and just ooze transparency and details. Vocals sound natural and effortless which is very nice and timbre again is effortless and pleasant while drum impact is a bit too much on the soft side. The tone to these is fairly dry and that leaves them not being influenced and very natural. The mids though are so calm and this makes them enjoyable and I will say it again pleasant.
EQ-5: The mids are slightly forward. Not anything like you get with the Shure SE530, Aurisonics ASG-1 or Vsonic GR06 which are a fair bit more forward. The latter two that I have just mentioned are quite different in the midrange to the EQ-5 but the Shure SE530 has a very similar midrange, which is just more forward. They are both very airy sounding, the EQ-5 more so and both are neither warm nor cold or dark nor bright and relatively dry. The EQ-5 are also revealing great details and are pretty transparent although there are more details still in the likes of the DBA-02 or Rock-It R-50. I have found the vocals to sound great with a very natural decay, great energy and good dynamics keeping them involving your and sounding tonally right.
Comparison: They are both tonally very similar and are both dry. Were the real difference is, is how much energy they have and while the EQ-5 mids are a tad more forward, they have so much more energy and are therefore a bit more in your face. Because of this they are a lot more exciting and really get you toe tapping mean while the GR8 are just super chilled, and maybe just to chilled. They are both very transparent but the GR8 just have a tad more details. Mainly due to the GR8 being so soft and lacking energy the, EQ-5 take the mids.
EQ-5 > GR8
GR8: The GR8 treble is very good. It is super smooth, I mean buttery and the extension is just amazing with some beautiful sparkle. Like the mids the trebles are rather on the soft side with no sizzle or oomph to them, they really are effortless. They are also extremely detailed and so transparent.
EQ-5: The treble is very smooth here and there is one slight peak that leads to a rare and slight bit of harshness (this rarely happens) and one time in a million bits of sibilance. These are full on energy and are really lively with great extension and plenty of sparkle while remaining smooth. Detail is there and it is in plenty of quantity.
Comparison: The GR8s to have the slightest bit more extension, detail and are never sibilant or harsh but then the EQ-5 is more lively, sparkly and energetic so they both have some amazing qualities. The GR8 though is just so lush and smooth with some amazing detail and extension that it could be seen as slightly better, just depends on what you want.
GR8 >= EQ-5
So, from you have read you are not going to struggle to realize what was my favourite and that was of course the Ortofon EQ-5. I will heavily recommend it as it handles what ever you throw at it and is a great package, it should suit most music genres with ease with its neutral or slightly mid-centric signature.
The more expensive Grado were a bit of a let down from the off with me. They are very good sounding IEMs but you can get as good or better at much lower costs. They overall package is also not very good with lack of accessories and the need of a amp that synergizes well with them for a good sound.
What I will say is both these IEMs are rather different but both very unique and a technology worth trying out and for the better experience and a IEM that is great for its price, the EQ-5. To recommend the GR8 you will need a great amp and for the price to drop significantly.
Hope you enjoyed and another huge thank you to the loaner.
I also made a video version of this review:
Edited by Swimsonny - 7/27/12 at 2:28am