My amplifier is connected to a custom Nordost Heimdall 2 power cable with a IEGO pure silver IEC & a Furutech rhodium FI-UK plug with a AMR gold plated fuse inside.
I’ve owned a couple of Grado headphones in the past, the SR 80i and the SR 225i. I hated their build quality and looks. I also don’t like on ear headphones but I gave them a chance because they got really good reviews. I did like their sound quality but ultimately they made my ears hot and were uncomfortable over long periods of use.
I know looks are subjective but build quality is not. I don’t think the GS1000 look great, especially compared to my other headphones. My Oppo PM-2 and Philips Fidelio X1 look like they cost at least twice as much. The ear pads are huge, the wooden cups with the bowls make them stick out quite a lot when wearing. The build quality is poor, especially for the price! The Y splitter cable quality is poor, seriously! Have a look at the way it joins if you don’t believe me. There is a lot of air in the cables from the drivers to the splitter, squeeze them. If any headphone could do with a replaceable cable option, it is this one. When you take the ear pads off, the way the mesh filter has been put on the wooden housing is again of poor quality. I don’t like the cheap plastic used on the left and right headband adjuster and the packaging it came in was the same as their entry level headphones (very poor, cheap and basic).
But, none of their negatives really matter because of their unbelievable sound quality!
Oh my Lord, I cannot believe sound quality went up another level!
I was in disbelief for a little while, constantly comparing them to my beloved Beyerdynamic T1 (semi-open, dynamic) and my PM-2 (open, planar) on the same songs. And there were obvious and blatant differences!
Even my Mrs (who is not into headphone listening) could hear them straight away and I even convinced her to compare them to my other high end headphones, again playing the same tracks.
They are very open sounding, ridiculously detailed and are crystal clear. They are very airy, you can make out words when singers aren’t enunciating on purpose. Sound has that essential factor of being able to breathe, to express itself freely and to live. Nothing I have owned compares to them, nothing. They have wonderful separation, be that vocals or instruments. I know this is a cliche but I am definitely still hearing sounds and noises I have never heard before on songs I have heard 100 times, which is very surprising considering my decent collection of headphones. They have a spacious sound stage and have shockingly great bass response for an open back headphone, unlike anything I posses! Brilliant and accurate bass extension and sub bass definition. The mids may seem a bit “distant” but the music is so involving and engaging, the lows are coming at you instead of around you. There is no sibilance, resonance, distortion, reverberation whatsoever. Funnily enough, they are so good at sound and noise separation that sometimes I turn my head thinking it came from within my room. They have become my reference now, I also use them to test my equipment and find out where my weakest link is.
ALL my other headphones in comparison either sound veiled, muffled, congested, almost distorted, lack life and energy, have obvious sibilance, lack clarity and detail, have flabby and inaccurate bass, feel closed in, posses no sub bass etc…
I could go on, even though it hurts me. I do not want to offend anyone who owns any pair of cans that I do, this is just my opinion. By the way, this can and my T1 and PM-2 have been burned in for at least 150 hours each.
I never would have thought there would be such a difference compared to my T1 and PM-2, I never imagined I would enjoy them this much. I don’t care how Grado did this, I don’t care what materials were used, I don’t care what reviews they got, I don’t even care about the build quality because they sound astonishing and are supremely comfortable! The ear pads are comfortable, the leather headband is too and can be bent if needs be. They are also unerringly light! I sometimes forget I’m still wearing them, brilliant for long listening. All my other cans either seem heavy or feel clamping in comparison.
It seems to me their purpose was to sound amazing and to be very comfortable, so mission definitely accomplished.
Pyramid song by Radiohead, hand gestures by Noisia and Joe Seven, low by Coldplay, dead editors by Massive Attack, Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, cloud nine by Evanescence, turn it again by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Maggie’s farm by Rage Against The Machine have proven to me to be great and enjoyable test tracks.
These headphones are so good that I may get rid of all my others (because to me they all sound inferior in 1 way or several after testing and comparing them over an entire day, only the Philips offer an alternative sound) and look to get the GS1000e/GS2000e/PS1000e to hear if they really are an improvement on these magnificent cans.
Just to be clear again, these are not portable headphones (open back design, fixed 6.3mm connector). Nor are they closed-back headphones, they leak a lot of sound and are intended for private listening with a decent amplifier.
Yes, they are expensive (I am pleased I got them for a good price). Yes, they don’t look good (retro and very large). Yes, the build quality for such a pricey headphone is not great.
But wear them and listen to them if you can and by all means test them against rival cans, I’m sure you will hear what I do and enjoy them immensely : )
Beyerdynamic DTX 101 in-ear, DT 990 Premium 600Ohm, T1 first generation, DT 1770 Pro, T70P and T90,
Philips Fidelio X1 and X2,
Oppo PM-2 custom and PM-3,
Astell and Kern AK T5P,
Fostex T50RP mark 3 modded,
Audio Technica ATH-AD900X open-back,
Bang and Olufsen H3 in-ear,
The GS1000 have brilliant attack, offer great layering and almost complete sound cohesion. Precise imaging and very balanced audio. In the low frequencies it is fast, responsive, dynamic and very refined. I'm just gobsmacked that these cans are this good to be honest.
I know I don't have a world class DAC or amplifier nor do I posses a high end pair of Audeze, Ultrasone, Stax, Focal, AKG, Hifiman cans but these cans really do sound sublime.
The bass is not fatiguing because it is channelled to your ears and not around you, a lot less vibrations and thumps felt on your head (not as engulfing).
There is a richness to the sound, it doesn’t sound convoluted or overbearing.
It resolves micro details without being flat, boring and analytical.
Vocals may not be as “intimate” but they sure are clear and detailed.
These cans have presence and are impactful with decent volume, it grabs you in and are very musical.
The mids are not overpowered by the highs or lows, they sound true and accurate.
After reading some fellow audiophiles saying they prefer these cans with the L cushions, my curiosity got the better of me so I had to try them. These are my findings:
With the L cushions they are more direct, mids more forward, more intimate, more alive, more engaging, more musical, more louder, nicer vocals, more impactful bass.
But with the stock G cushions they have more soundstage, spaciousness, separation, detail, clarity, airiness, definition, better channelling of bass.
They are really different headphones with the L cushions though, which may surprise a few people... I would encourage any GS1000 owner to try them for themselves.
But the G cushions are more comfortable, I wear glasses & the L cushions press my ears against the glasses frame. The L pads also heat up my ears with extended use.
I think I'll stick with stock but I'm sure some of you may prefer the L.
I just wish Grado created a cushion in between them dimensionally speaking, that would be the perfect balance between comfort & an even more balanced sound signature.
I hope this helps.
Even with my recently acquired Beyerdynamic Amiron Home & Sennheiser HD 800, the GS1000 are still my favourite cans as the other 2 are not as impressive due to their negative resonance (Pyramid is my test) & inferior performance in the lows (Hand gestures is my test).
But unfortunately I found a song where my other cans (T1, HD 800 & PM-2) were better balanced performance wise, a song where the mids are at the forefront but it's just a bit too distant & too much in the background with the GS1000.
That song is the beautiful & moving Divenire by Ludovico Einaudi, what wonderful & stunning music.
Having said that, the GS1000 are more revealing & have nicer imaging than any other when listening to Night by the same artist.
Cons - Price, Soundstage is a bit flat, the headband is still underwhelming
First, some boilerplate stuff -
Audio setup -
FLAC files in MEdia Monkey -> Amazon Basics TOSLINK cable -> Schiit Bifrost w/Uber upgrade -> Knukoncept Shielded RCAS -> Project Ember with 80's Amprex 7062 tube
Music - Nabucco, Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera Chorus conducted by Lamberto Gardelli, 1965 Why So Serious, Hans Zimmer, the Dark Knight OST
Grados are considered to be the best for Jazz music, but this Nabucco recording is one of my favorites in my collection, and thus the recording I'm most familiar with. It also helps that it is superbly recorded and mastered. Why So Serious was selected because 3:25 you have the best test track for bass I've ever stumbled across. Pure bass, no distractions.
I bought these headphones used on the "For Sale" forum here, and I was warned in advance that they actually have a bit of a "warm-up" time. I didn't believe that, so I plugged them in and started asap. Turns out, the original owner was right, they really suffer from an extremely flat and narrow soundstage when they were first plugged in, and the base was a bit lacking. I wasn't surprised about the bass, the ps-500 were even a bit on the low end of bass, but after they ran for a bit the music opened up, and the bass got into pretty good territory. Instrument separation was good, but not great, I could tell where a section was, but could not pick out exactly where the section was, much less the individual instruments (which can be done with french horns, try it sometime). The width of the soundstage was easily apparent during the funeral march, where the music gives the sense of a procession, starting far to the left, moving about 30 yards in front of you, then fading into the distance off to your left, but the transition is seamless, with no distortions of the soundstage. That being said, even in works where the whole orchestra is playing at once, with the soloists singing as well, you never really get much depth to the soundstage, which left me a bit disappointed. It's the musical equivalent of watching a movie, the details have all been compressed into two dimensions. That's really a good description of how they feel, like you're in the 20th row of a theater, watching a figurative movie. The sound isn't intimate, isn't holographic, and isn't super-detailed, but it's very, very good regardless. These aren't flagship level, but they never really claimed to be, so I thin all of us would be willing to let that slide.
Now, to cover tonal balance, I was very pleased with the phones. They're very lively, not analytical at all, but one look at the frequency response graph from Headroom would make that obvious.
Music is very lively, vocal and orchestral pieces are very engaging, and the bass is very good. I was actually also listening to some Beyer T1's this weekend, which were far more analytical. The bump in the upper bass around 100 Hz was very nice, and really allowed me to feel the bass test from Why So Serious. Nothing like my old DT990's but nothing I've tried was ever quite like those. The sound also doesn't fall into the "bright" category, and isn't fatiguing for me to listen to, and I'm personally sensitive to overly-bright music, so that was a pleasant surprise.
Now, onto the design and comfort - I have some major beef with Grado's design and comfort, and have for some time. The headband on grados is my second least favorite, and the only real reason it loses out to the old HifiMan is because the HifiMan's are heavier, so they hurt more. Also, some of the plastic parts on the gimbals have been replaced with what appears to be aluminum, but why didn't they replace everything? Please? Also, the fact that the cups are foam is just a bit disappointing. They sound great, and I've personally experienced how the G-cush cups improve sound on other grado headphones, but they're still foam, and they're still not the most pleasing. Having gotten that out of the way, the mahogany body is beautiful, and that makes up for some of the points lost by my other comments. Also, these are my 4th set of cans from Grado, so obviously they're doing something right
Overall, these are some great cans, and I really love them after just 10 hours with them. That being said, They are a bit pricy, so I knocked down the value rating because of that. That being said, to get close to them I used a highly modded HE-500, a special tube in my amp to tamp down on the runaway highs, and a special cable, all for a total cost of just below the price of these cans new, so they're still a very food set of headphones.