Separate names with a comma.
Headphones item created by HK_sends, Aug 10, 2014
Pros - Effortless hi end sound, stunning wooden cups
Cons - Maybe look and feel of foam cups, but these are not for outdoors
The GS1000e's are over ear, open back headphones. They are part of the Grado Statement range.
I had the wonderful opportunity to try these out before xmas, so thought I'd share my thoughts, the review has taken ages to write, making a final decision on these headphones has been very difficult for a number of reasons, that I will explain.
Well the cardboard box didn't give any hint of the wonders inside, the packaging could be for a SR60, if the GS1000e was written on the box you wouldn't know.
Maybe the retail version will have a nicer box? Should we be bothered? Do we want to pay extra for a nice box?
This is where companies like Hifiman and Hisoundaudio excel, or used to, the opening of the package and box was quite special.
So not the best of starts. If that type of thing concerns you, Appleboys won't be initially impressed!
Me?, I'd rather not pay extra for a fancy box. Maybe it could be an add on extra?
The wood is simply stunning, now you see where the money goes, the cups produce an automatic “woooh” when someone sees them.
The thick cables ooze quality.
Compared to my SR60, when held in the hand they feel like an “S Class (Merc) compared to the 190e (Merc) of the SR60.
Then the foam cup/cushion.......it feels like it's on the wrong product, like an afterthought, a last minute addition to the design, it's soft, slightly flappy
and reminds me of the collars you put on cats to stop them from biting themselves, it's like hard foam, don't think it's rubber.
The headband and sliders are typical Grado but definitely several notches up in quality compared to the SR range.
Look at the marketing shots of these cans, find me one that shows someone actually wearing them!
You won't, or I can't anyway.
Because they look crazy on the head, however if that bothers you then you are completely missing the point.
Here my 9 year old son loving the Grados
I think Grado have made a no compromise, audio quality first product, it doesn't matter what they look like, if they make you look like a sick cat.
It doesn't matter that the foam cups seem like something you'd find on the floor of a plumbers van. The design produces world class sonics.
In a world defined by looks over performance (Apple, Beats, A&K etc) I find this enormously refreshing.
You won't wear these out of the home, you may even feel guilty about wearing in front of a loved one, or anyone, but put them on and nothing else matters,
If you look in the mirror you will laugh, or I did, maybe the free laughs are a hidden extra.
The world of psycho-acoustics tells us that being happier makes music sound better, so maybe Grado are on to something.
Could future headphones come with a joke book?
This is it. For me anyway, nothing else matters, portable hifi doesn't require the “Wife Approval Factor” unlike the world of home hifi.
A few years ago I sold HiFi for a brief while in a Hi End shop in London. This particular place did have a particularly “well to do” clientel,
even so it was abundantly clear that the way boxes looked in peoples homes was incredibly important.
All HiFi manufacturers have this compromise they must meet, those who want to sell do anyway. This has resulted in products like tall slim floorstanding speakers,
that frankly sound awful, but they tick a lot of WAF boxes.
Luckily in the wonderful world of Head-Fi, we don't have this hurdle to jump over.
Of course some here value design and form very highly indeed, but for me and I guess loads of others, especially people with good 2 channel systems at home,
it's the audio quality that matters.
These Grado's are for home use only, the customer buying these won't be upgrading from Apple buds. They will probably already have a decent HiFi at home.
The source to be used with these is an interesting subject in itself.
The default answer is a high end amp/dac, probably valves included somewhere, but with DAPs getting better and better, there is no reason why you can't sit at home
in any room you like if you have a DAP worthy.
If my 30 odd years being an audiophile has taught me anything, it's that Source First really is correct. Garbage in, Garbage out, etc – this is especially true for home HiFi and after a few years on Head Fi, I have still seen nothing to change my mind. So I believe this is true for Head-Fi also.
So plugging a £300 DAP or phone into these is going to get you nowhere, it's just going to show up the limitations of the source, for a start most won't drive them.
They certainly need a good amp to get them going,
I did have a lot of success driving these with my 901 and mini box, and most others I got to listen to also used this. I did have to turn up the HiFiMan more than ever before,
but this wasn't just to be louder.......oh no.
The GS1000e had a beautiful delicate presentation of the music, reminding me a lot of Quad electrostatics.
The are in charge of the music, and stamp their authority onthe sound. The sound is so inviting you want to turn it up more, another good sign from my Hi-Fi retail days.
These need, warrant and deserve better than any DAP can throw at them.
So the main source I used was my Audiolab M-DAC, (full system at bottom), it's seems like
a bargain these days but the superb implementation of the ESS9018 DACs and flat headphone amp that I find a great test for any headphones.
My main open cans at home are HD600s, I have had them for 15 years and still love them, either with my M-Dac or my X-Cans (both stock btw),
and I've never really felt the urge to upgrade.
Unfortunately this has now changed, I am not getting paid for this review, I have not been offered these at a discount or free (bugger), and in a way I wish I'd never heard them, but I am delighted I did.
I don't buy audio because of measurements, I look at the Headroom graph and I see a bumped bass around 100hz and a treble peak at about 8000hz.
I did not hear this at all.
The best word I can find to describe the sound is natural. The sound is effortless, it urges you to turn up to hear more, however even at low volumes the music is all there.
They definitely made my Sennheisers sound coloured in a way I had never noticed before.
Starting with something acoustic, (16/44 flac copy of my CD), Neil Youngs Unplugged was just lush beyond words, I was swimming in the music, the guitars sounded beautiful,
and the brushes on the snare had depth and texture. Neil's voice was presented perfectly. I can't fault this.
Next something not audiophile, Jason Falkner's sublime Author Unknown CD, early 90s, quite harsh, probably digital recording.
Whilst the Grados are very revealing, they are not overly harsh with this guitar based recording, on the wrong system this can give you a headache after a while,
but on these Grados I could listen forever, to what is probably my favourite album ever.
The sound is flat, but never brittle almost like listening through a very good valve amp, just a hint of lushness.
Next was a staple Hi-Fi dem disc of mine, Love in Vain from the SACD/DSD remaster of the Rolling Stones Let it Bleed.
This starts with some great sounding acoustic guitar, Mick’s voice sounds as rough as it should, then Charlie's snare kicks in, and it gets you.
In the heart though, not in the gut like a floorstanding speaker would, or indeed the HD600s.
super talented band member Kev, loved them,
Something in the bass was lacking, or was it? Was I just used to the colouration of my HD600s?
As ever I turn to other ears, ears I trust.
So I take along my 901 with Grados to a band rehearsal (I have a Northern Soul Covers band) – I get some great ears and and some younger ears to have a listen.
First up – Billy Jean DFF/DSD from Thriller SACD.
The intro alone is enough to tell me almost everything I need to know about any system.
It is inherently a great recording , but has a nasty digital haze across it, the thinness of the sound was fashionable in the early 80s.
Being a band we are of course music snobs, so the look on their faces when I suggested Billy Jean as a first listen to a £2k (ish) portable system, surprised them to say the least.
About 13 seconds is all it takes – on a good system, it works every time.
Have a listen, even the old CD sounds great. It's a great track for comparison because everyone knows it, but few people have heard it properly! No-one thought the bass
was light, just correct.
They all loved the sound, and they remarked less about the looks than I expected, they drooled over the dreamy wooden cups, but the price did raise an eye brow or two.
Back home – I thought I'd try it with my X-Cans, so played some records on the old fruit box.
The MFSL pressing of Exodus really showed of the bass capabilities of the GS1000e, deep, fruity but not over powering.
Another MFSL pressing, this time Muddy Waters Folk Singer, one the finest sounding records ever made, and it sounded incredible, the details
all over the recording were vivid, The foot stomping, the coughs, it's all there.
Muddy's voice was captured in a way I don't think I have ever heard, on any system.
The Grados seemed delighted to be matched with the X-Cans. The little amp that keeps on giving.
Back to digital, and 24/44 of The Beatles shone on these headphones.
Here and at other times, I simply forgot I was wearing headphones, the music was all there and correct the details at times wondrous,
Bits of Sgt Pepper I had never heard before, I love hearing new things in music that I love.
The Grados gave me that.
If I could I would buy them. I can't say more than that. The only downside is having the time at home to listen to them.
HD600s were glad to see the back them. I had a quick listen, and damn the colourations were still there!
The quirky looks don't bother me, they are super comfy, (I have big head and glasses)
They are the best headphones I have had at home by far.
HiFiMan HM-901 with minibox
Dell XPS I7 desktop, Win 10, wasapi Foobar , Audiolab M-DAC
Linn LP12/Lingo/Ekos/Lyra Clavis DC/Linto
Prima Luna Prologue 2 integrated amp
Since I had these I caught a cold, that turned into an ear infection,that resulted in a constant buzzing
sound on my left ear drum, the infection has gone, the buzzing hasn't, been about three weeks now, I already had high pitched tinnitus,that was only occasional, but this is constant, never stops.
GP has no solutions, it is HORRIFIC. I mean last year I survived cancer and now this, this year, I am quite angry about it, music truly is my life. So listening to music is something I can't do, pretty devastating, I was hoping it would clear up by now, but it hasn't – the GS1000e may be the last headphone I ever listened to ! - but not a bad way to go out.
I have a couple more reviews to write then that's it, unless a miracle happens.
Pros - Sonic Revelations
Cons - Acquired Sound, Cable Tangles, Love it or Hate it Looks and Sound
Hypertonic Osmosis Acoustic Filters or (HOAF)..the Lulz, but seriously I thinks of the GS1000e like a filter for acoustics. What goes into the Grado transducers gets filtered. The filtered sound is separated into detailed layer cake for the ears. The GS1000e.. it sounds the way cupcakes taste to me and that's delectable. The sonic house recipe of the Grado statement is like coconut cream cake. If your favorite flavor is dark chocolate black forest cake or something, the GS1000e statement might not do it for you. What I mean is that the filtered sound is mid centric. The low notes lack presence, weight, depth, slam and so on. The vocals are more forward sounding than I remember on the GS1000i. I can't compare the two models directly however I did own a thoroughly used GS1000i for over a year before I made the switch to the GS1000e. The two models sound different and look the same. Headphone reviews are completely subjective, my words come up short, you have to hear the GS1000e firsthand to understand. It comes down to style and tune selection with this Grado, it does Bassnectar it does Bill Withers better ♫ Just one look at you ♪ And I know it's gonna be.. Thank you Grado
Pros - Natural tonality, smooth extended highs, fast, dynamic, ripe extended bass. Reference soundstage with pinpoint imaging depth & width. Comfortable too!
Cons - Looks retro, thick cable, came without case.
For this review the GS1000e was paired with my RWAK120-S & VortzPure II portable "dynamic duo". Having never heard a Grado headphone before I was hoping that the GS1000e would be the end of my long exhaustive search for the holly grail of auroral bliss. In the past 6 months I’ve owned or returned these headphones...
You may think I’m crazy for even considering these headphones for portable use but my version of “use” is different than most. I listen to music around the house & walks in my neighborhood. I don’t care what my headphones look like (the GS1000e’s will get some funny looks or if they are sound isolating or not.
The sound of the GS1000e’s strikes the right balance for me. GS1000e is a musical headphone first & foremost. This musicality gives them character and a natural tonality. They have the fun factor of the HD650’s but with smoother, more extended highs and tighter (although less extended) bass. This was just what I was hoping for.
Smooth detailed highs, smooth as butta.
Mids are present-right in the middle where they should be
Bass tight & clean. Notes are clear, easy to follow, a tight, ripeness to the sound. The sass rips nicely. More punch than the HD800’s with just as much sub-bass (that I can hear at least Compared with the HD700’s the bass notes are clearer & cleaner, individual notes are easier to follow (more black space around the notes).
The highs are just right, not too lean or not so bright with hyper detail that it gives me an aural brain freeze (HD800) or ringing. Much more extended high’s than the HD650 that giving a clearer & more focused picture of the music. Electric guitar sounds right to me on the GS1000e. The distorted fuzzy sound of the guitar on the Doors “Hello I Love You” or Keith’s delicate strumming on “Rocks Off” or the top of the mountain solo on “Comfortably Numb” all sound more tonally true & authentic. Snare drum rocks too (I should know, I’m a drummer).
Sound stage is truly amazing. Not as wide as the HD800’s (too wide too, lost), but just the right width & depth that you can pinpoint locations and notes easily. Seems like the GS1000e has more sound stage depth than anything I’ve heard. I really enjoy the sound stage. Listening to the Doors “Riders on the Storm”, Pink Floyd's “Money”, Talking Heads “Born Under Punches” I was yes, BLOWNAWAY!
The other thing I noticed is I don’t hear any “hollowness” (artificial thinness, air) that I experienced with the HD800 & HD700. The GS1000’s are to my ears more engaging, they make me air drum, air guitar, windmill ect.
The GS1000e’s are comfortable, light and work well from a mobility standpoint (although an eye-full on walks & wife
Compared to the PS1000e….
GS1000e sound & feels…
Dryer sounding bass, more “pluck” less boom
Has airiness to the sound
Greater micro detail
Instruments are in better focus, isolated within the sound stage-you can hear & pin point the individual instruments easier
The sound stage sounds more realistic to me (wide & deep & directly in front of you)
Easier to listen to over a long period of time
Smoother highs, yet extended
Faster sounder (with most music/rock)
Very sweet sounding
More comfortable for walking, you can bend your head up & down, and side to side easily
Ear touches driver but due to lightweight it’s hardly noticeable
More “fun” sounding
Slightly more dynamic depending on the music
Electric guitar had more edge
Vocals have more "breath" & realism
With my little portable rig and my ears, the GS1000e sounded better than the PS1000e (highly subjective) and significantly more comfortable. I have no doubt that will different amplification the PS1Ke would rule the day.
Until my next phone shows up to try to take the crown, the Grado GS1000e is a keeper.
Pros - Light-Weight; Excellent Build; Balanced Sound (see text); Evolving Sound (see text)
Cons - Needs hours of Burn/Break-in; Heavy Cable; Balanced Sound (see text); Evolving Sound (see text)
Disclaimer: I would like to thank Todd at TTVJ for giving me the opportunity to participate in the Grado “e”-series tour. I have owned many sets of Grado cans including the SR-80, 225, 325i (Gold Edition), RS-1i, and a couple of the Head-Fi Edition HF-2s. I have also had experience with a pair of broken-in original edition GS1000s.
Product review tours can be a bitter-sweet experience…especially with headphones. There is the desire to be nearest the beginning of the tour and get them soonest (I was number two for these), and the realization that you may not be getting them when they sound their best. I have had experience buying headphones, listening to them for a short time and then returning them because I thought they sounded awful only later to listen to a well broken-in pair that frankly, would blow me away (the Audeze LCD-XC springs to mind). So I must say up front that I am a firm believer in sound quality improvement with headphone burn/ break-in based on my own experience (of course YMMV so feel free to disagree but you cannot convince me otherwise in this matter). Understand that my review will be based on that bias.
In and out of the box…
The GS1000e’s arrived in a thicker version of the standard Grado pizza box with a colored decal on the front; almost ostentatious compared to the plain black and white of their previous packaging.
Inside is the familiar foam packing with custom cutouts for the headphones and the cable and accessories. The accessories include a Warranty sheet, a paper describing the Grado Story, 15ft extension cable and 1/4”-to-1/8” adapter plug.
A word about the build quality of Grado cans I have had and handled; Grado proudly advertises their headphones as hand-assembled and I have no reason to doubt them. However, the overall quality of the construction that I have seen has ranged anywhere from very good to mediocre; especially cans requiring wood and metal or plastic parts needing to be glued together with excess glue squeezed out and not cleaned off. Even some of the wooden parts on the HF-2’s didn’t look as well finished as I had expected. I hope the folks at Grado will please forgive my being OCD about this…all the cans I mentioned above were fully functional, but these details just brought the overall impression of quality down a notch or two.
All that to say that the overall build quality of the GS1000e’s is excellent! It has been mentioned that Grado has instituted some new finishing processes for the wood and new materials for the plastic and even the glue and these cans show it!
All of the materials showed top-notch finishing, even the mahogany inside the ear pads was finished as well as the outside. There wasn’t a trace of glue to be seen! This was the most finely finished Grado can I have seen to date. I hope the manufacturing and assembly process extends to all the cans in the Grado line and they will have at last overcome what I perceive as the only real shortcoming with their cans.
Two other things about the build; looking down inside the earpiece at the driver shows just how absolutely beautiful and clean the design is! There is no clutter to disrupt the airflow whatsoever. I just hope these sound as good as they look! Then there is the cable…these headphones are incredibly light! The 12-conductor cable is incredibly heavy! If you aren’t careful, the weight of the cable can rip the cans from your head! I know that Grado wants the best sound as possible from these but would there have been that much sacrificed from an 8-conductor cable…while saving 1/3 the weight? I can easily see a 12-conductor cable on the PS1000e with the extra weight of the metal, but not with the light wood of the GS1000e. It just makes moving about very awkward (I know, if I am sitting and listening, I am not moving…much).
These are Grados…right?
I had a variety of sources and amps to try these out with to include:
FiiO X5 Headphone out
iBasso DX90 Headphone Out
FiiO X5/FiiO E12 DIY (AD8620/BUF634)
FiiO X5/FiiO E12 DIY (MUSES02/LME49600)
FiiO X5/Schiit Lyr-2 (Low Gain)
When I first got the GS1000e’s, of course I had to try them. I had assumed that from reading the first review they were not going to be quite what I expected but I was not prepared for what I heard; they sounded terrible with absolutely no bass whatsoever, a super narrow sound stage, and no warmth. If I had gone on first impressions (like I had done with the LCD-XC’s), I would have packed them back up, shipped them out, and written them off as a bad experience. Fortunately, I remembered my previous experiences with Grado cans; they really do require breaking-in to sound their fullest. The lower end models might require only a few dozen hours but drivers in cans like the HF-2 and RS-1 can still be evolving after 100 hours or more of use. So I plugged the GS1000e’s into one of my DAP/Amp combos and let them break-in for 30 hours before trying them out again. The difference was, shall we say, night and day…
Oh yes, they’re Grados!
Overall: In just 30 hours of break in, the sound stage had opened up considerably! The placement of the instruments was fairly easy to pick out from side to side however, from front to back the layers of the sound stage had not fully opened up yet so things sounded a bit congested in areas where there were a lot of instruments in one section (in an orchestra for example). I think that the sound stage depth will increase in time as it already seemed to be improving during the short time I was listening to it.
I found the overall sound to be balanced at low volumes. This has been addressed in past reviews of the GS1000 series as being a combination of the big bowl ear pads and the slight “v” frequency response in the headphones. It does sound quite nice and smooth overall but I was afraid that low volumes would be all these cans would be good for. Fortunately, the last day I was able to listen to them, I found out that isn’t the case (more later…).
Bass: The bass underwent the biggest change with the break-in period and from all indications was still developing as of my last listening session. Even when I first put on the cans there were hints of the potential. After the initial break-in period, I found the bass had presence but no real impact or extension, so when played at low volumes the presence did contribute to a good balanced sound that unfortunately petered out at higher volume levels. However, with additional listening time and some additional break-in, the impact was staring to show itself. It finally bloomed to an enjoyable level the last day I had to listen when I was able to plug the GS1000e’s into a newly purchased Schiit Lyr-2 Amp running on low gain. I finally was able to crank the cans and get some bass impact that gave me a warm fuzzy feeling for whoever got to listen to them in the future. It also made me a little envious of the folks that will own them. I may just have to get a set for myself and see how much farther the drivers develop!
Mids/Treble: The initial listen showed the mids and treble did not appear to stray much from the classic Grado signature sound. Break-in allowed the sound to smooth itself out, eliminating some of the initial grain and open up the sound stage to allow more immersive listening. The mids displayed a slight recessed quality that may be attributed to the “v” shaped sound signature (which might be due to the drivers or the pads). I found the mids to be smooth with little or no grain but it would have been nice if they were slightly more forward. I know that would ruin the benefit of listening to these at lower volumes, but that’s just my preference. I will say that throughout my listening, the treble never showed any sibilance, even though there was really good extension in the upper range. I do think the bowl pads contributed to the lack of teeth gritting treble and it really was appreciated!
Please Sir, can I have some more…?
This review was frustrating. Not because the Grado GS1000e’s are bad cans, because they aren’t! The frustration lies in the fact that I got them at a time where they are just starting to open up and develop into their real potential. I really envy the fifth or sixth guy down the line who gets to listen to these after they have more than 100 hours or so and can listen to them the way they are meant to be heard! Or…I can just go out and get a set of my own, and I haven’t discounted that option yet…