There's a lot of discussion about the RS1 and its variants lately. I thought it might be nice to have a new reference thread on this topic, with lots of pictures.

I don't know the exact year that the RS1 was created, but the first review I've found is the famous Wes Phillips article from 1996. This seems to point to a beginning for the phone in 1995, and the earliest sale date on record (as listed below) is 1995. 

Stereophile Review:
Stereophile: Grado Reference Series One Headphones

Now, the headphone in that review is definitely pretty old. The picture used in the review is the old Grado stock picture, which was used until just his past year.

So how did we get from this:


to this:


Here are the varieties of the RS1 as defined by the Mr Whiskers Investigates posts, added to by me for the later versions and pictures for detail. I've also shifted some names around, for ease of use by me. Particularly the usage of "Semi-Vintage" to "RS1 Classic" and I have been changing "Super Vintage" to "Vintage S" because it matches the "Vintage A and Vintage B" as defined by adanac061. 

Whether this will catch on, I don't know, but it's certainly going to be better defined than in the past.

Here are some of the basis of research posts by adanac061.

Vintage S (Super Vintage)

This is the first known iteration of the RS1, and most likely the most valuable. I don't know how many exist. This version may be signified by the darker wood box, but more importantly it has the square latch as shown in pictures. This box came inside a thin cardboard box that lasted until the beginning of the RS1 Classic era.

1. Drivers
This Grado has pink drivers (reported by recstar24, who owned the pair in these pictures before he sold it) and gold L & R markings on the plastic blocks. As we can see, the headband is a brown leather and the text around the cup is just over a semi-circle on the top of the cup. 

2. Cups:
The cups are well finished, and may be dark reddish to mid reddish in tone. The screens are black and the button is lighter but very nicely finished and shiny in pictures. The script on the buttons is as shown below, with thin letters that have curls on their ends. It appears that the earliest RS1s (from 1995) have a thicker button with a larger, bolder font. The text around the top of the cup extends just over 180 degrees. 

No serial number is present on a Vintage S.

3. The Headband / Gimbals:
The headband is brown and the L & R markings on the plastic blocks are gold. The metal rods are square, and have metal end caps. The gimbals have circle cut-outs for the cable. 

Additionally one odd variant seems to exist. NikonGod's brown leather band is incredibly light to the point of being tan... I don't know if others exist in this style but it's the only one on record. His is certainly Vintage S due to the nature of the buttons, as seen below.



Note the pink drivers and the white silk, rather than black. Not sure what that means.

4. The cable
This section needs more info. The cable on the pair in these photos has the big G little L coming out of the bottom at the splitter. Someone once implied to me that they'd seen a different kind of cable, but I haven't personally.

5. Pads
These came with the flats.

Here's the box:


Here are the phones themselves:



These pictures are from this sale:

Vintage A

These are more commonly found for sale, though still quite rare. The change in box signifies the first change in the supplier, as the original box company went out of business. This box may be lighter, but still has the green felt covered foam as seen in the Super Vintage. The wood box is contained in a thin cardboard box to the best of my knowledge. This box is shown below, in Vintage B. 

Here is a comparison from the Mr Whiskers thread of the boxes.


Note the difference in the latch on the left box. The square latch is older. Square latched boxes are still mixed in with Vintage A RS1s, it seems.

1. Drivers
This RS1 generally appears with pink drivers, often with black silk over them but not always. Pairs with white drivers have appeared, but this may be a sign of a repair at Grado Labs... the old driver is replaced with the new. By and large, this RS1 has pink drivers.

2. Cups:
Similar to the Super Vintage in most ways. At some point a change took place in production, and the 180 degree text was changed to this:


Otherwise, the nicely finished buttons and curly font on the button "RS1" remains the same. The wood seems quite identical as well.

No serial number is present on a Vintage A.

3. The Headband / Gimbals:
Brown band, though some have a black band. This could be a change in later production or just using what was on hand until black leather took over entirely. Older RS1 seem to be better padded. The rods are still square and the caps on them are still metal. The gimbal itself has a circular cutout for the cable as before.

Interestingly, some of these Vintage A RS1 have silver lettering instead of gold on the L&R plastic blocks. 

4. The cable:
Nothing seems to differentiate this from the previous example. Most I've seen have the big G little L on the cable splitter. This cable is very flexible. 

5. These initially came with flats, but later pairs seem to have been switched to bowls. 

Here are some lovely pictures I found on eBay for a vintage set. It should be noted that the seller tried to sell these for $1,299.99, but nobody bit at that price. If I was to give a reason, I'd suggest the suspect condition of the drivers, though this may be entirely due to the pads turning to dust. 





The latch looks a lot like the older latch, but the phones have the light colored box. I'm not sure if this qualifies them as Vintage S, you be the judge. 

This pair seems Vintage A though:


Check out that different latch, but note the bowls on these phones! Tsk.

Vintage B

Now, to the best of my knowledge, Vintage S and Vintage A phones were made until about 1998. I say this because my headphones are in most ways identical to the headphones in Vintage A. The person I purchased them from had this to say about them:


"I ordered these December 1998 and and received them February 1999 so they are 10 years old and still in pristine condition The headband is black (or very very very dark brown).

Not too long after I purchased them I suffered some severe hearing damage (not from using the headphones). So I stored them away in hopes that one day I would be able to enjoy them again, however as it now appears I am no longer able to endure the sound pressure levels created by headphones. Its a shame because these were a prized possession of mine, but sometimes you have to let some things go."


At this point, it seems the wood box was cut from the package and only the thin cardboard carton was left:


We now know that John Grado was forced to cease usage of this thin cardboard box due to the supplier going out of business after 9/11. Further in the thread, you'll find a letter that was included in an RS1 set in 2002 stating this. It seems that Vintage B RS1 existed from about 1999 to 2001. 

Note the inclusion of the cable and 1/8th inch adaptor, in the little bag with the gold lettering. According to John Grado, the second company that made the boxes went out of business, and he didn't want to lose sales and find a new producer. He kept the green foam and the formerly outer cardboard box design. He decided that the cable and adaptor were worth more than the box anyway, so nobody would complain. (How wrong he was).

Unfortunately I only know of two pairs directly (someone else here recently purchased one) so I will have to draw conclusions from what I've seen and experienced.

1. Drivers
Both pairs I know of have the pink drivers and the mellow sound associated with Vintage S and Vintage A. My pair also has the black silk rather than the white silk over the drivers, as seen here:


2. Cups
My cups are identical to the later Vintage A , as shown here:


These continue the trend of the text going nearly all the way around the outer rim. 

No serial is present on a Vintage B.

3. The Headband / Gimbals
My headband is black with very thick leather, and a notable grain. The other pair I know of has the same black leather. The rods on these are square, and the rod ends are black metal. Mine had the gold L&R, and the circle cutout for the cables. The other pair has silver L&Rs on the plastic. 

My pair unfortunately had a stripped screw on the right gimbal (possibly during production?) and the gimbals were replaced with the new RSi style gimbals. This of course proves that the gimbals are interchangeable, if nothing else. 

4. The Cables
Seems exactly the same as Vintage A cables I've seen.

5. Pads
These phones continued with the bowls that were changed in the Vintage A period. 

RS1 Classic 
(Previously called Semi-Vintage)

This, I think, signifies the swap over to the corrugated cardboard white box as seen here:


Again, I'd imagine this is for safety in shipping the phones. This swap happened sometime in late 2001 / early 2002, as the original supplier of the RS1 thin cardboard box (as seen above) went out of business after 9/11. Initially, a letter of apology for the change in box style was included with any RS1 set (a set being the phones and the cables). The box as well has a grey foam that is not coated with green felt but instead a black spandex like surface with a slight sparkle. More pictures of that below.

Some traits of Vintage A and B have been spotted in the beginning of the production and will be noted in their respective fields.

1. Drivers
These phones have been spotted with pink drivers occasionally, on sets with no serial number. Almost entirely, these phones have white drivers with white silk over them. 


2. Cups:
Things get pretty weird here, as two distinct kinds of cups exist. This is also in some way connected to the complaints about RS1 craftsmanship, as the second kind of cup (which is very similar to Vintage Grados in its 180 degree text) is generally not finished as well. These are known by some as the "Late Friday RS1."

Most RS1 Classic cups look just like Vintage B cups, in that they have very clear text that is around the entire cup, as seen here:


Then, we have the "Late Friday" Variety of cups. Some are finished nicely (though I'd argue not as nicely as the normal ones), as these are:


And some are finished quite poorly, as with the infamous pair:


What's really strange about these cups is that they look very much like Vintage S and earlier Vintage A in the way the text is arranged. 

Serial numbers are present on nearly all RS1 Classics. Only the early ones don't have it. 

It's also interesting to note that the buttons on newer RS1 Classics (the majority) have a different font, and are often unfinished. 

3. The Headband and Gimbal:
In the above driver photo, also take a look at the leather band. Not nearly as padded as Vintage S, A, or B, though I've seen older ones with thicker padding. The metal rods are square, but the end caps have been switched to rubber rather than metal for whatever reason. Older RS1 Classics have the circular cutout for the cable, and newer ones have the square cutout. John Grado attests this change to getting rid of micro-phonics in the cable, as the circular cutouts gave the cable more freedom to bump around. All RS1 Classic phones have silver L&R on their plastic blocks.

4. The Cables
Seems about the same as previous cables, but again I need more information on this.

5. Pads
Bowls here, but in older models they seem "glued on." I'm not sure if this is a result of the reaction over time from the foam pad on the wood finish, as can be seen on the Vintage models. *shrug*

Now, looking at the RS1 Classic you can kind of see three types. An RS1 Classic A which is very similar to Vintage B (and may even have the same drivers), RS1 Classic B which is the most common serial numbered kind with white drivers, and the Late Friday RS1 which has a very different cup style and finishing. Feel free to classify them as such when you see them, if we find out more about each kind I can split the RS1 classic section up further.

Buttonless RS1

This RS1 seems to be a transition to the RS1i, but lacks the new thick cable / wiring change. 

1. Drivers: 
White drivers, as seen on RS1 Classic.

2. Cups:
New cup design! Check these guys out: No button and a brand new font! 

3. The Headband and Gimbal:
Identical to the RS1 Classic B. Square rods with rubber tips and square cutouts for the cable. Silver letters, of course. Some of these have nicely padded leather as well, you can see that in the image above.

4. The Cables:
These cables are identical as well to the RS1 Classic B. Flexible, not too thick.

5. Pads:
Bowls, as with the RS1 Classic B.


This is the new kid on the block. 

1. Drivers:
Grado has reported that they've changed the drivers on the RS1i. I'm curious as to whether or not this driver exists in the Buttonless RS1. 

2. Cups
Same cups as you'd find on the Buttonless RS1.

3. The Headband and Gimbal:
This is when the RS1 shifted to round rods, rather than square. They're looser but have a slightly different fit on the head which I quite enjoy as it doesn't put as much pressure on your ears yet still keeps them well seated. 

4. The Cables:
This is another big change from the older models, as the cable is new and much thicker with different wiring inside. I'd really like more pictures of this.

5. Pads:
Bowls, as before.

So there you go, that's everything I've been able to uncover about the RS1. And, even in doing so I have realized that it's nearly impossible to truly categorize older RS1s due to the parts that bleed from one category into another. In many cases I've had to make a split judgement about where a particular phone falls, or devise a new way of labeling them. 

I don't pretend to know everything about this fabulous (and personal favorite) headphone, so if you have a change and a photo or an addition of an odd model, please let me know. I hope to let what is here grow over time and become something better. 

Anyway, happy listening, and hope you've enjoyed reading this!