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The Grado Sound: or, how I finally decided the Grado guys are better at marketing than Bose! - Page 2

post #16 of 46

Well, i ask the question, if the higher end grado stuff didn't have the aluminium or metal cups and just used the sr60 or sr80 design, would people still buy them?

post #17 of 46
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your thoughtful replies.

 

I agree about the diminishing returns thing. Once you reach, say, an HD-580, there are few things that will blow you away. The only headphone I can think of that made me think "THIS is an improvement" was a set of old Stax I once heard at the Las Vegas CES. And I can't say it was "better", just "different", and I really loved them.

 

It's just that I never really cared for Grados. I always saw the company as these quirky guys from Brooklyn whose headphones all looked alike, and yet were priced at wildly different points. To this day, years after I started this hobby, I'm still not sure about the differences between the SR-80, 125 and 225. I still don't know what the MS-1 is - a modded 80? A lesser performing 125? Who knows!

 

I was just expecting a night and day difference between my MS-1s and the RS-2. For their price points, there deserves to be a huge change. It's not as if the MS-1 is really expensive to begin with, and the RS-2 is quite an expensive unit. For them to sound so similar is surprising, at least to me. For me to think of the RS-2 as dark, muddy and boring  when compared to the cheaper MS-1 is, quite frankly, shocking.

 

I'll probably end up selling the RS-2's and getting something else. Probably the Sennheiser HD-598s. To be honest, the MS-1s are terrific as an office headphone. Nobody pays them any attention, and they are fun to listen to. But after my experience, I'd never buy anything more expensive from Grado than the SR80 / MS-1 - they are probably all the same on the inside, anyway.


Edited by fjhuerta - 10/6/12 at 5:57am
post #18 of 46

I hit two birds with one stone and get my daily dosage of the Grado sound by standing next to my blender while making smoothies. Way cheaper and tastes better.

 

What's interesting to me is that even though all of the Grado models create similar frequency response charts, none of them sound remotely how those charts look.

post #19 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by fjhuerta View Post

It's just that I never really cared for Grados. I always saw the company as these quirky guys from Brooklyn whose headphones all looked alike, and yet were priced at wildly different points. To this day, years after I started this hobby, I'm still not sure about the differences between the SR-80, 125 and 225. I still don't know what the MS-1 is - a modded 80? A lesser performing 125? Who knows!

I've compared Grado to Harley-Davidson before for this reason. They seem to make many versions of the same thing with a mysterious pricing recipe, very little innovation and technically inferior performance to their competitors, yet there's something about them that just hooks people. I even know a fairly experienced mixing engineer who, yes, mixes on Grados. I have no idea how.

 

I couldn't stand listening to mine but some part of me still conceded that once you got used to that extremely bright grainy sound, everything else probably sounds too dark and fluffy. I guess its an acquired taste like certain wines which seem impulsively disgusting but leave you wanting more 2 days later.


Edited by machoboy - 10/6/12 at 6:00am
post #20 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by machoboy View Post

I've compared Grado to Harley-Davidson before for this reason. They seem to make many versions of the same thing with a mysterious pricing recipe, very little innovation and technically inferior performance to their competitors, yet there's something about them that just hooks people. I even know a fairly experienced mixing engineer who, yes, mixes on Grados. I have no idea how.

 

I couldn't stand listening to mine but some part of me still conceded that once you got used to that extremely bright grainy sound, everything else probably sounds too dark and fluffy. I guess its an acquired taste like certain wines which seem impulsively disgusting but leave you wanting more 2 days later.

 

It's more like a "loudness" switch. At first it's like "Hey, this sounds amazing!". 5 minutes later, it's more like "TURN IT DOWN!".

 

Grados are "exciting". True. But IMHO, there's no way to compare them to the Sennheisers, AKGs or Etymotics I've owned. Those are true high-end, hi-fi headphones (all IMHO).  As you well said, they are so different it's hard to believe they are all considered high end. Your Harley-Davidson analogy is completely spot on.

 

Just as a curiosity, I checked out the frequency response of the RS-2s vs. the SR-80 at headphone.com.

 

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised at my findings ("the RS-2 is darker, muddier, but they sound pretty much the same"). They measure pretty much the same, too.

 

 

The RS-2 has a darker tonal balance, and more extended bass, so yeah. There's that.

 

 

The drivers are the same. Unless they found two different motor designs that deliver exactly the same impedance plot over the entire audio spectrum, that is. The slight difference sub 100 Hz could be due to the bigger enclosure, or a slightly different damping. But if headphone driver design is similar to speaker driver design, then I'm willing to bet the driver is exactly the same one.

 

 

The square wave respone is the same, too.

 

I'm convinced at this point - same drivers, different enclosure / damping compound, or other minimal change,  wildly different price points.  I'm selling my RS-2s. Who wants them? ;) I just listed them on the Classified forums.


Edited by fjhuerta - 10/6/12 at 6:34am
post #21 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by yepimonfire View Post

I don't listen to grados

Then why are you talking about something which you are unqualified to talk about? Seriously - the preponderance of bandwagoning that happens these days is disgusting. "Oh hey, some guy just said XYZ sucks - YEAH MAN, XYZ SUCKS!!!!....what is XYZ?" rolleyes.gif


Quote:
Originally Posted by Focker View Post





So I guess there's no reason to buy the HD700s or HD800s if I own the 598s? 

LOL. Seriously +10.

To beat on this some more:

The HeadRoom graphs are heavily smoothed, and FR is not the only measure of how a headphone sounds. Any of you chart-warriors bothered to look up CSDs or SWRs or IRs or consider radiation, etc etc etc? C'mon...if you're gonna use "science" to make your argument, you can't just cherry-pick a nice little Consumer Reports 1-10 snippet and say that supports your point. At least put some more effort into it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by yepimonfire View Post

I wouldn't assert that. based on graphs alone, there is definitely a difference in treble response between the 500/600 series and the 700/800 series. The 650's have stronger mids than the 600's/5xx series. Also the variation in the angles of the drivers are going to change the soundstaging quite a bit. IIRC, the 700/800's have a unique angling on them. What i would say is there is no reason to buy the 600's to replace the 558's or 598's, seeing as the response of them is nearly identical.

This hobby has a lot of diminishing returns, unfortunately lol.

So now you're saying that there are things other than FR that impact sound? And those things matter when it's a brand you (ostensibly) like? Very interesting...

Quote:
Originally Posted by fjhuerta View Post

Thanks for your thoughtful replies.

I agree about the diminishing returns thing. Once you reach, say, an HD-580, there are few things that will blow you away. The only headphone I can think of that made me think "THIS is an improvement" was a set of old Stax I once heard at the Las Vegas CES. And I can't say it was "better", just "different", and I really loved them.

It's just that I never really cared for Grados. I always saw the company as these quirky guys from Brooklyn whose headphones all looked alike, and yet were priced at wildly different points. To this day, years after I started this hobby, I'm still not sure about the differences between the SR-80, 125 and 225. I still don't know what the MS-1 is - a modded 80? A lesser performing 125? Who knows!

I was just expecting a night and day difference between my MS-1s and the RS-2. For their price points, there deserves to be a huge change. It's not as if the MS-1 is really expensive to begin with, and the RS-2 is quite an expensive unit. For them to sound so similar is surprising, at least to me. For me to think of the RS-2 as dark, muddy and boring  when compared to the cheaper MS-1 is, quite frankly, shocking.

I'll probably end up selling the RS-2's and getting something else. Probably the Sennheiser HD-598s. To be honest, the MS-1s are terrific as an office headphone. Nobody pays them any attention, and they are fun to listen to. But after my experience, I'd never buy anything more expensive from Grado than the SR80 / MS-1 - they are probably all the same on the inside, anyway.

I think there are a few problems at work here:

- You've already set-up Sennheiser's flagship sound as your reference, which means everything else has to measure up against that quale - and of course nothing but an HD 580 or HD 600 or 650 will do so. Everything else will come up short.

- You're expecting this life-altering, universe-defining difference to just hit you like a wave, and unfortunately that isn't the case. It's more subtle and nuanced than that.

I think selling the RS-2 is the good choice; if they don't make you happy, get something that does. smily_headphones1.gif But insisting that the entire brand is basically "scam marketing" because you dislike them is a little far reaching. ph34r.gif

I also would not suggest the RS-2 (or any full woodie for that matter) for office/public use; they just attract too much attention. redface.gif
Edited by obobskivich - 10/6/12 at 6:23am
post #22 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:

I think there are a few problems at work here:
- You've already set-up Sennheiser's flagship sound as your reference, which means everything else has to measure up against that quale - and of course nothing but an HD 580 or HD 600 or 650 will do so. Everything else will come up short.
- You're expecting this life-altering, universe-defining difference to just hit you like a wave, and unfortunately that isn't the case. It's more subtle and nuanced than that.
I think selling the RS-2 is the good choice; if they don't make you happy, get something that does. smily_headphones1.gif But insisting that the entire brand is basically "scam marketing" because you dislike them is a little far reaching. ph34r.gif
I also would not suggest the RS-2 (or any full woodie for that matter) for office/public use; they just attract too much attention. redface.gif

 

Agree on several points.. disagree on others.

 

My reference isn't Sennheiser, actually. It's the Ety ER-4s. There's no other speaker or headphone that I enjoy more than them. 

 

Sennheisers do sound very different than the Etymotics, but it's obvious both headphones are terrific. Detailed, balanced, natural sounding, neutral. They just have different approaches to sound. Just like an open baffle speaker sounds very different to a sealed box - both can be high quality, and both have their own signature sound. I also loved my old AKG-K501s. I can listen to them and find a common sonic signature with high quality speakers - they do not alter the sound, for the lack of a better word, as Grados do.

 

I agree on subtle changes regarding higher priced components. If something is completely different, then something is completely wrong. But according to my experience, there's no benefit in going up the Grado line. There's only change. Sure, it's subtle. But it's not better. At least, not always. I'd have to say its personal preference. My "dark and muddy" comment could be interpreted by some as "rich and creamy". Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

I may have gone overboard in calling them scam marketing. They run a business the best way they can. But evidence suggests they are using the same drivers at wildly different price points. I'm sure leather on the headband and mahogany on the enclosure is more expensive than plastic or vinyl, but $400 more? That's up to the customer to decide. It's not for me.

 

And yeah, too much attention... but they sure look cool. The only reason I'd keep my RS-2s is because how nice they look.


Edited by fjhuerta - 10/6/12 at 6:42am
post #23 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:

To beat on this some more:
The HeadRoom graphs are heavily smoothed, and FR is not the only measure of how a headphone sounds. Any of you chart-warriors bothered to look up CSDs or SWRs or IRs or consider radiation, etc etc etc? C'mon...if you're gonna use "science" to make your argument, you can't just cherry-pick a nice little Consumer Reports 1-10 snippet and say that supports your point. At least put some more effort into it.
So now you're saying that there are things other than FR that impact sound? And those things matter when it's a brand you (ostensibly) like? Very interesting...
 

It's true, HR's graphs are heavily smoothed. Nevertheless (I think it was a Harman study by Floyd Toole, can't remember properly at the moment), a paper showed our ears resolution is close to what 1/6th octave smoothing does, so smoothing is not all that bad all the time. Besides, it's more important to consider trending over octaves instead of small peaks and valleys, so this all works out in favor of what HeadRoom offers us.

 

I agree - disortion plots and CSDs are equally important, too. It must be quite difficult to do them accurately when their accuracy depends so much on the headphone's position on top of the dummy head, though.

 

Nevertheless, the impedance plot is the key here. Different motor structures, voice coil windings, dome materials  and magnets produce wildly different plots - be it FS, Le or overall impedance. There's very little chance that two different motors can produe the same impedance plot. And much to my suprise, the RS2 and the SR80's impedance plot is identical. The difference in FS can be explained by the bigger enclosure. So, the only thing that can be deduced from certain from HRs graphs is that the drivers are pretty much the same.

 

That's very surprising, at least to me. I can't imagine why Grado would use the same driver on such different headphones. It doesn't make any sense.

post #24 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by fjhuerta View Post

 

Nevertheless, the impedance plot is the key here. Different motor structures, voice coil windings, dome materials  and magnets produce wildly different plots - be it FS, Le or overall impedance. There's very little chance that two different motors can produe the same impedance plot. And much to my suprise, the RS2 and the SR80's impedance plot is identical. The difference in FS can be explained by the bigger enclosure. So, the only thing that can be deduced from certain from HRs graphs is that the drivers are pretty much the same.

 

That's very surprising, at least to me. I can't imagine why Grado would use the same driver on such different headphones. It doesn't make any sense.

It's not an impedance plot. It's a straight line, LOL. It's extremely easy to pick a mean impedance for your driver.  The SR60 driver is definitely different and it perfectly matches that impedance plot as well. That their designs are inherently impedance linear is now portrayed as some derived negative shows more about bias than any fact regarding the headphones. This is perfect example of reading in to accommodate an opinion. They only seem to vary slightly at around 700hz which is probably related to mechanical damping from the enclosure but that in no way means that they are the same driver. Some models may share drivers but there will be other areas that are different. Perhaps not as much as some care for but so what. You either like what they do for what they cost or you don't. Speculating on a massive conspiracy to rip off their customers with some pseudo scientific rationalization is just silly.

post #25 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

So now you're saying that there are things other than FR that impact sound? And those things matter when it's a brand you (ostensibly) like? Very interesting...
 

i've never even owned a pair of senns bro.

post #26 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by fjhuerta View Post

Agree on several points.. disagree on others.

My reference isn't Sennheiser, actually. It's the Ety ER-4s. There's no other speaker or headphone that I enjoy more than them. 

Just as a random "out there" suggestion - try the Koss ESP/950 then. smily_headphones1.gif Very flat/balanced/extended/neutral/etc.
Quote:
Sennheisers do sound very different than the Etymotics, but it's obvious both headphones are terrific. Detailed, balanced, natural sounding, neutral. They just have different approaches to sound. Just like an open baffle speaker sounds very different to a sealed box - both can be high quality, and both have their own signature sound. I also loved my old AKG-K501s. I can listen to them and find a common sonic signature with high quality speakers - they do not alter the sound, for the lack of a better word, as Grados do.

I'd disagree that they don't alter the sound - they just alter it in a different way.
Quote:
I agree on subtle changes regarding higher priced components. If something is completely different, then something is completely wrong. But according to my experience, there's no benefit in going up the Grado line. There's only change. Sure, it's subtle. But it's not better. At least, not always. I'd have to say its personal preference. My "dark and muddy" comment could be interpreted by some as "rich and creamy". Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Never heard a Grado described as "creamy" before...
Quote:
I may have gone overboard in calling them scam marketing. They run a business the best way they can. But evidence suggests they are using the same drivers at wildly different price points. I'm sure leather on the headband and mahogany on the enclosure is more expensive than plastic or vinyl, but $400 more? That's up to the customer to decide. It's not for me.

The whole "origin of species" for Grado is a somewhat hotbutton topic (I don't know why it is, I just know it is), but I can tell you that it's theorized that Grado has at least one, if not two, driver models. And that as you move up the chain to the SR-225, they improve matching/doping. Beyond that, it's enclosure differences. The biggest difference between SR and RS is staging and tonality. It's still subtle though, and if the SR or MS-1 aren't your ideal ride, the RS are a waste of time.
Quote:
And yeah, too much attention... but they sure look cool. The only reason I'd keep my RS-2s is because how nice they look.

If you want a nice woodie, the ESW9 is one I can suggest. I doubt you'll care for the sound (if you think Grado are colored...), but they look nice. redface.gif


Quote:
Originally Posted by fjhuerta View Post

It's true, HR's graphs are heavily smoothed. Nevertheless (I think it was a Harman study by Floyd Toole, can't remember properly at the moment), a paper showed our ears resolution is close to what 1/6th octave smoothing does, so smoothing is not all that bad all the time. Besides, it's more important to consider trending over octaves instead of small peaks and valleys, so this all works out in favor of what HeadRoom offers us.

Actually not really. HeadRoom applies compensation and averaging, and headphone measurement isn't as straight forward as speaker measurement - because the acoustics you're dealing with are ear shape related (cf Ultarsone's Florian Koenig on this one). HeadRoom graphs are wildly inconsistent with most of the rest of the world having said that.
Quote:
I agree - disortion plots and CSDs are equally important, too. It must be quite difficult to do them accurately when their accuracy depends so much on the headphone's position on top of the dummy head, though.

Tyll, purrin, and GoldenEars all do them just fine. I just have a big issue when newbies go onto HeadRoom and hit "build a graph" and assume it's going to support their argument beyond reason of a doubt. It's not exactly a pure well, and it's only hitting the tip of the ice berg. Then there's also the question of interpretation - who is ordained to read the entrails and decide the course and fate of humanity? tongue.gif
Quote:
Nevertheless, the impedance plot is the key here. Different motor structures, voice coil windings, dome materials  and magnets produce wildly different plots - be it FS, Le or overall impedance. There's very little chance that two different motors can produe the same impedance plot. And much to my suprise, the RS2 and the SR80's impedance plot is identical. The difference in FS can be explained by the bigger enclosure. So, the only thing that can be deduced from certain from HRs graphs is that the drivers are pretty much the same.

This much is basically acknowledged by Grado as well. I don't see why it's "scandalous" to recycle drivers - Sennheiser, Koss, Ultrasone, and Audio-Technica do it regularly, but only Grado gets beat up over it (And you aren't the first or only person to beat them up for it, yet you don't see threads decrying Ultrasone as the son of the devil for putting the same drivers in most of the HFI headphones, or Koss for using the same driver in most every higher-end model they make (Koss is even up-front about it)).

As an aside, I think you mean "FR" (Frequency Response) not "FS" (Sampling rate). redface.gif

If you want to try some more complete measurements:
http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/GradoRS2.pdf
http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/GradoSR125i.pdf (MS series unavailable)
http://en.goldenears.net/9296 (cannot compare to InnerFidelity)
http://en.goldenears.net/GR_Headphones/9631 (point of reference to MS-1)
http://www.geocities.jp/ryumatsuba/rs-1.html (RS-2 unavialable; cannot compare to either of above)
http://www.geocities.jp/ryumatsuba/musicseriesone.html

Note the differences shown in CSD, IR, and SWR. Basically my point is - they don't fit the burden of being "all the same thing" - they measure differently, and accordingly sound differently. But that's where measurements stop being effective - the next question is user preference. And that's...more fickle (and believed to be physiologically variable).

Quote:
That's very surprising, at least to me. I can't imagine why Grado would use the same driver on such different headphones. It doesn't make any sense.

The basic "idea" behind Grado is they're all on the same "path to God" kind of walk, where the RS-1 is at the top, and everything else is a form of cost reduction. Sure there's probably some mark-up and inefficiency in their manufacturing (given that they're all hand-made, in the US, in small batches, and all that). The newer GS and PS series releases are attempts to improve the RS-1 (and they end up being so different in the process that it's hard to say which of the three is conclusively BEST). Enclosure design, however, is really a huge contributor to how a headphone sounds. And for whatever reason people are fine accepting this when we're talking about Koss re-packaging drivers in a half dozen models, or Ultrasone building it's entire product line from two or three distinct drivers, but when it comes to Grado people seem to absolutely have a fit.

They do sound different, and they do measure different (to go back to Toole and Olive, roughly 2 dB of variation in FR is considered perceptible - most of the chart differences from HeadRoom show 5-10 dB, which leads me to another question that was posed a while ago: why do people have a tantrum over .01 dB differences between DtoA converters, but will continuously INSIST that 5 dB between drivers "is the same thing"?). And I'm fine attributing that to nothing more than driver matching (consider that HeadRoom is averaging left/right for those graphs as another point of error!), enclosure design/voicing, and other tweaks as they move up the model line. At the end of the day I think charts and graphs are fun, but trying to predicate the entire argument on it is just...bad science.

I also have a real issue with the modern phenomenon of declaring everything a "scam" because manufacturers engage in binning or otherwise standardize their production. But that's neither here nor there.
Quote:
Originally Posted by goodvibes View Post

It's not an impedance plot. It's a straight line, LOL. It's extremely easy to pick a mean impedance for your driver.  The SR60 driver is definitely different and it perfectly matches that impedance plot as well. That their designs are inherently impedance linear is now portrayed as some derived negative shows more about bias than any fact regarding the headphones. This is perfect example of reading in to accommodate an opinion. They only seem to vary slightly at around 700hz which is probably related to mechanical damping from the enclosure but that in no way means that they are the same driver. Some models may share drivers but there will be other areas that are different. Perhaps not as much as some care for but so what. You either like what they do for what they cost or you don't. Speculating on a massive conspiracy to rip off their customers with some pseudo scientific rationalization is just silly.

This too. I don't get why being stable is a bad thing, but I've heard that argument repeated wrt Grado in the past. confused_face_2.gif

Regarding the same-ness of the drivers - my understanding is that Grado's current production models use for certain one common model, potentially two (or two variations of the same model) - they are all very similar to say the least. But Grado internally performs better channel matching and binning as you move up the line. This is very similar to their cartridge business.

Quote:
Originally Posted by yepimonfire View Post

i've never even owned a pair of senns bro.

So tell me, "bro" - why talk about them either? Really, I'm just not seeing the point in getting into an argument about something for which you have no frame of reference. blink.gif
Edited by obobskivich - 10/6/12 at 7:39am
post #27 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by machoboy View Post

 I guess its an acquired taste

 

 

Most people I know who love Grados loved them from the beginning, so not really.

 

I love how some head-fi'ers act so incredulous that people have preferences that differ from their own. And btw, Grado says right on their home page that they're not trying to be "technically superior". I know it's fun for the anti-Grado crowd to throw all their data around, but it's really not pertinent. If you're after headphones that look good on graphs and charts, you have plenty of options.

post #28 of 46
Quote:
I'm just not seeing the point in getting into an argument about something for which you have no frame of reference. blink.gif

 

No doubt...

post #29 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Focker View Post

Most people I know who love Grados loved them from the beginning, so not really.

I can agree with this. As Tyll said in a review a while ago - you either hate them or love them. There isn't really a middle ground IME. I don't understand why the crowd that hates them feels they have to prove something though; different strokes for different folks.
post #30 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

So tell me, "bro" - why talk about them either? Really, I'm just not seeing the point in getting into an argument about something for which you have no frame of reference. blink.gif

 

And what exactly would the importance of this  "frame of reference" be? Just curious. Hearing a headphone doesn't exactly entail the gain of an objective view of it. 

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