Grado Reference RS2 Headphones

General Information

The newest edition to the Grado family, the RS2 is the little brother of the RS1. The characteristics of the RS2 remain the same as its distinguished big brother's, with the hand crafted mahogany, but there is a smaller wooden air chamber. Although a miniature version of the RS1, they still maintain an overall sound that is pure Grado, warm harmonic color, full bodied vocals, excellent dynamics and ultra smooth top end. These truly are audiophile?s dream.

Latest reviews

Pros: Intimacy, sharpness and clarity of sound - outstanding for acoustic and vocal music. Visually unique, an impactful pair of headphones.
Cons: Horribly uncomfortable ear pads. Sharpness of the sound is an acquired taste.
I recently bought a pair of RS2e headphones, stepping up in price from the SR325e model with its lower spec and heavier aluminium casing.  My reference point for comparison of the sound quality is against Sennheiser's HD650, which are a foundation of my headphone stable.  The comparisons were done in short order, although there was a bit delay as I had to switch the gain settings up for the Sennheisers given that they have much higher impedance than the Grados, which ran fine on low gain settings.
Unboxing and handling
The visual presentation, once you get past the pizza box packaging (which I don't really mind at all - it just gets discarded anyway), is immediately impactful.  These are well-made headphones, which feel great in the hand (if not on the ear, but more of that later), with the organic materials - wood, leather - carrying all the earthy textures and scent that you'd wish for.  The stitching, bonding, joins and hinged parts all feel solid.  This being my first pair of Grado Labs headphones, I was slightly concerned from pictures that the clamped pins for adjusting the earpieces would be flimsy but these fears proved unfounded and the joints feel grippy and solid.  The cable is thick and heavy, with very little kink - giving the impression of inherent insulation and protection.
Plugging in
The headphones come with a short cable, which wasn't a problem for me as I was plugging into a Marantz DAC/Amplifier unit only a foot away, but if you are planning on sitting more than a couple of metres away from the headphone jack then an extension would make sense.  The tip is a 3.5mm plug, with a removable gold 6.5mm adapter attached.  Both plugs are high quality and snapped snuggly into the jack without any wobble or movement.
The sound
As this is my first pair of Grado Labs headphones, I am describing the experience of hearing music through it for the first time and then subsequent changes through the period of burn-in.
I started with acoustic music, and was immediately astonished by the clarity and the breadth of the sound.  Guitars rang with precision, and the resonance was spot-on for my taste - you can feel the pull of the thumb on string, and even bass notes were true without being overpowering.  Grados are not known for bass, with middle and uppers being key to the sound signature, and this was true of the tracks I listened to - the bass was there to give voice to the drum and lower notes, but it didn't boom.  Some acoustic songs that really drew my breath through the Grados:
"Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky"  - Manic Street Preachers
"Shine" - Benjamin Francis Leftwich
"Pitseleh" - Elliott Smith
"Over and Out" - Foo Fighters
As compared to the Sennheiser HD650, the sound feels closer and more immediate - I noticed that even the clarity of the 650 felt remote after listening with the Grado headphones.
I switched to vocals - notably operatic recordings.
A high-precision operatic number such as the "Sull'Aria" duet from Le Nozze di Figaro really accentuated the shrill, soaring complementary voices, capturing the accuracy and technicality of the voices.  This was the same with Marietta's Lied from Die Tote Stadt, and "I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls" studio recording by Joan Sutherland.  When fuller orchestral music accompanied the vocals, and was less stripped down, the performance was perhaps not as clear - the sheer volume of concurrent voices and notes seemed to overwhelm, and whilst not unpleasant the sound fell short of the 650s, which excel when reproducing the vastness of the orchestra.  This was evident when listening to the Pearl Fishers duet, which had an intensity that was almost too harsh when played through the Grados, but felt more rounded and warm with the 650s.
I tried a bit of jazz - one of my favourites genres for extended listening.  "St Vincent" by Sonny Rollins was delivered superbly - the opening drums immediately enticing the ears, and then that wonderful Grado clarity allowing the saxophone riffs to punch through.  The closeness of the sound really works with music that makes you want to be present - you feel involved, the music can be pulled into your body rather than being held at a distance.  The listening experience with the 650s is different - it's smooth, beautifully precise and deep.  But arguably it's less involving.
Finally, I went to something with a more modern production sound - I say modern, but I mean 90s onwards!  I went back to one of my favourite musical memories - "Missing" (Todd Terry Remix) by Everything But The Girl.  This is a track that I have played on the 650s as a way of showing friends / visitors what the difference is between reference quality audio and what you get without having the equipment - and I love how it sounds through the 650s, so my expectations with the Grados were mixed (could they really be as good?).  This is where the Grados probably let themselves down - the lack of balance at the lower end means that the clarity of the vocals and synthesisers aren't balanced by the drive of the bassline.  To be clear, this doesn't mean that the sound was poor but it certainly didn't blow me away versus the first time I played the same song over the Sennheisers.
All in all, I loved the sound - it doesn't work for all music types and I can't see myself abandoning the 650s for certain type of (most grand orchestral and more modern beats-oriented) music - but for acoustic and stripped-back vocal music it was excellent.  I keep using the word "closeness" but that's the only way I can describe it - you feel like the sound is present and near your soul.
The reputation Grado headphones have for being uncomfortable was certainly backed up by my usage of the RS2e. It took about 40mins before I really felt the soreness in the ears, but it was undeniably a failing of the design.  The earpieces are surrounded by a narrow foam cup - and hard, rough foam at that.  As much as I love the sound, you have to suffer a bit for it.  This is in comparison to the Sennheisers, which have a very different design, one that allows for literally hours of continuous listening without any discomfort.  After doing a bit of research, I've ordered a pair of replacement pads (Zonk G cushions) which may help - I'll add an update once i've tried them.
I really like the Grado RS2e headphones for the intimacy and bright, clear sound signature.  I can imagine listening to classic acoustic stuff with them and enjoying them immensely.  But the comfort issue means it's not a model I'd recommend as a primary listening pair for long sessions.  If the new earpads make a difference, I may change that view...
UPDATE** 06/02/2016
I've changed the earpads to the Zonk G Cushions and it has made the world of positive difference.  The new earpads are soft, and much larger in surface so they sit nicely on the ears.  An hour of listening and no pain.  The impact on the sound is negligible - the cans still sound fantastic.  Highly recommend trying changing the pads.
The sharpness does ease up a bit over time.  For ear pad discomfort, they are little stiff and hard when new.  Washing them with mild dish/hand soap and rinsing completely then dry will soften them up.  I do this about every 3 months to keep the pads in top shape.  I still have my original pads on my RS2i, which is going on 5 years because of it.
hey i listened to "missing" (Todd Terry Remix) by Everything But The Girl through the Rs2e and I see what you mean. Its a Flac tidal stream and I was not blown  away initially on my 2010 vaio z laptop (incredible sounding sound card by the way). Then I downloaded equalizer fx from google play store on my LG v20 smartphone replayed the same song and wow, very impressed.
My EQ settings are:Equalizer
60hz @+11db, 230hz@+0db,910hz@+11db,3Khz@+3db,14Khz@+15db
Bass Boost all the way to the far left of the bar. everything else off.
try this song with the rs2e. Vision Original Mix- Ashley Wallbridge. this will demo the abiltiy of the rs2e's low end, imaging, soundstage, everything.
Pros: Gorgeous hand crafted design, transparent mids, intimate vocals, sparkly clear highs, deep detailed bass, very open sounding, easy to drive
Cons: Lacks bass impact, lacks subbass, grattles and looses control in higher volumes, uncomfortable
*note this is actually a rs2e review* Shame head fi doesn't have a product page for it*
Don't quote me, but I'm pretty sure this is the cheapest wood headphone you can buy (well maybe the OG rs2). And it's beautiful. But does it sound as good as it looks?  TLDR: Yes it does, but not for all genres and not at high volumes.
Pros: Simple packaging, easy to unbox
Cons: Pizza box!!!, not many accessories
Ah the classic grado pizza box. Maybe it’s ridiculous, but it’s easy to unbox and that’s pretty much what you should expect for all grados.
Burn in
Pros: 95% of the burned in sound
Cons: none
You pretty much get 95% potential of the sound out of the box, a 50 hour burn in only netted marginally deeper and tighter bass with maybe the sound being slightly more refined.
Pros: Thick strong cable, handcrafted design, charming imperfections, looks, feels and smells good
Cons: Non removable cable
Smell, take a sniff, the leather smells nice and the wood is a bit spicy. You can tell these were handcrafted, and even though it was a bit imperfect (asymmetrical, a bit of extra string in the leather stitching and a small cut in the wood), it just adds to the handmade charm that I just adore. While I’m a bit annoyed with the non removable cables, at least it looks like it won’t break down for a 100 years. Nice, thick and strong.
Pros: Strong build with nice materials
Cons: Some cheap plastic
While the plastic is annoying and not glued straight and disappointing for the price point, it’s far better than some all plastic cans at the price and it’s still a sturdy flexible phone full of premium materials
Pros: Small and light, relatively short cable
Cons: chucky cable
It’s not really meant to be portable, but it’s surprisingly small, and it might work as a portable. The cable while chunky is a relatively short. So if you want to use these on the go, despite such a thing not being recommended for open back cans, it’s actually not that bad. When I went out with the rs2e and many other open back headphones, managed to get a decent enough volume to negate outside noise without the leakage reaching other people’s ears.

It’s open, so don't expect isolation. It’s not really the point of these cans anyways. But for an open headphone it leaks less than I thought it would be.
Pros: Inoffensive for half an hour
Cons: Goes downhill after that.
It’s a grado, so you don’t really expect comfort when going for these. Still, it hurts a lot with prolong usage, and at best it’s inoffensive but not particularly comfortable.

Wired unamped sound quality
Pros: Transparent mids, intimate vocals, sparkly airy highs with detailed and deep bass, consistent sound across different sources, intimate soundstage, solid separation. Decent imaging and detail.
Cons: A bit flat sounding, no bass impact
Grados are pretty easy to drive, and sound consistently good between my android, ipod touch, windows phone and even laptop. There is a bit of noise via my laptop but it’s not a big deal. There are problems with the sound, but it’s more a problem with the source rather than the can. I don’t expect much without a good amp or dac, and you shouldn't either.
Wired amp and dac via e07k
Pros: Same pros as unamped, with a exciting, louder sound
Cons: Grattles and becomes more sibilant with wobbly vocals at loud volumes, bass impact only slightly improved
You’re not really going to get that classic grado sound straight from a phone, but even a modest amp/dac like the E07k will bring out the excitement. As far as the mids and highs are concerned, it’s pretty much glorious. The soundstage while not big, is made use of very well, with solid imaging and separation. The thing that stands out the most however is the intimate aggressive sound. For all the sounds you get from mids and highs, they feel realistic, transparent and hits you in the face. The tops hats and cymbals are sizzlely and forward yet not fatiguing or overbearing. The mids while not as sweet or smooth like a akg or a sennheiser, is intimate, aggressive and exciting. Anything acoustic and live sounds brilliant with the rs2es. However the bass impact is still a bit lacking even with bass boost. You can hear the clean detailed bass but is by and large unexciting. And because of the louder attainable volume and the bass boost, rattling becomes easy to acquire even at (while high) still normal volumes. And even at a volume level without grattling (unless it’s quite low) some recordings sounds a bit bright and some vocals sound a bit wobbly. The sad thing is that at said high volumes the bass does impact sufficiently. And while at a lower volume the grattle, sibilance and wobbly vocals disappear, but you’re left with recessed boring bass.  I tried a replacement and while the grattling is a bit lessened, it’s still there.  This leaves me to conclusion that the rs2e just can’t handle amplified bass. To be fair, for anything that doesn't need thumping bass, I haven't heard anything that sounds as engaging as the rs2e. Well maybe the lcd 2 but you can buy 2 rs2es for such a headphone.
If you looking for a general purpose headphones, and a comfortable one at that, look somewhere else. There are a very few types of cans that can match a grado on acoustic or rock, and they're pretty good at classical and jazz. but if you even briefly listen to EDM, modern pop and other types of electronica, the low end will leave a lot to be desired. However if you already have a reference and a bass head can, adding these to your collection for rock or acoustic is highly recommended.
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Nice review and matches my experience with the RS2i version. I can go longer than 30 minutes with mine, but YMMV. One point, IMO: for classical (at least strings or chamber), jazz and acoustic, I love these, but for rock (i.e. classic guitar rock, not metal) the Grado RS2 really falls down compared to a Sennheiser HD 650.
 I have the hd 650 now, and its polite nature makes it good for relaxing music. I do wish it was more aggressive sometimes but atleast unlike the grado, it's very good at everything I throw at it IMO.
Quote from your review:
Pros: Inoffensive for half an hour
Cons: Goes downhill after that.
It’s a grado, so you don’t really expect comfort when going for these. Still, it hurts a lot with prolong usage, and at best it’s inoffensive but not particularly comfortable.
Honestly, are you still saying Grado are uncomfortable. I bought the SR225i with e drivers. I put them on first time thinking keep the cups at the top of the legs and try it. I figured work it out from there where is comfortable. They were perfect. ....Later I slid them down the legs. They got uncomfy. I slid them down further, and still painful. I nearly stopped wearing them.......Luckily I remembered they were comfy at first. I slid the cups back up the legs and, 'hey presto', comfort again. I can literally wear them almost all day and not know they are there.
Plus - I am shocked by your complaint of low bass level. The RS2 have always been said to have good bass. There is a graphs of the RS2/maybe RS2i and they show more bass that 225/325 etc. Iterations since the earlier models have not taken out bass. They have just refined the sound.
Pros: Great sound, Detailed, Resolution, Warm,
Cons: Pads are stiff right now.
Wow...where to start, as I said this is MY Audio Nirvana.
I suppose I should start by saying that I love the Grado sound, or at least I thought I did as I had only tried the sr80i and bought them and the 225i and was underwhelmed by the price to performance. The signature of the sr80i was a fantastic fit for me but I HATED  the high end. The Grado RS-2 were some what of a shock to me thinking the Grado sound was very in your face and Bright, with NO bass and a sibilant high end. The RS-2 are not at all like that in fact I think the 325is start to capture the house sound rather well but are still fathoms below the Vintage RS-2's.
Build: Well the 325is I fell are built better as they are....ya know METAL, but eh RS-2s are no slouch and head and shoulder above the sr series below the 325is. The wood is so fantastically treated and dark it's more of a work of art then a headphone cup. The headband is nice and soft and real leather which is nice. Other than that they are the "classic" Grado build.
Comfort: Well In the store with the incredibly used pads I found they quite comfortable. With new pads they start to die into my ears but that will change with age and it's not really that bad. People seem to complain about the headband hurting their head but I have never experienced that with any headphone as of yet and this is no exception.
Sound: OH MY GOD!!!! I was flabbergasted, awe struck, dumbfounded and beside my self. The RS-2 still retain that very rich , detailed, in your face, and involving midrande. The bass is still a bit lacking but blows the k500 and k601's away in that department. Bass texture is just dripping from the wooden cups and has a resonation that is almost Cello like in nature giving string and classical instruments such depth and warmth it's hard to find a comparison. The High end is MUCH MUCH smoother than the sr60-225i and DAMN SURE more smooth AND detailed then the GS1000 from direct comparison. The overall tone is a very pleasing tone, Rich involving mids complemented but such a detailed and textures bass with pretty descent extension and these are all tied to gather with a very clear and resolute high end that I can find neither hide nor hair of sibilance. Very warm overall and very VERY pleasing for my musical choices.
Overall I'm head over heals in love with these headphones, the warmth and resolution, almost two polar opposites rolled into one headphone but it pulls it off so pleasantly it's hard to find a downside other than the price. I wish they had made less of an impact on my funds but for performance like this I'm not going to whine.
Me and the man working the shop where I bought them from had a lengthy decision and from what we came up with the best way to describe them is like a fine wine. A full bodied richness with a bright splash and a smokey sultriness with oakie Woodie undertones pulled into a package with a warm exaction.


Best middle and highs but for bass I cannot say the same... For some music genres are perfectly fitted but still I don't figure why are so unbalanced regarding low sounds... It is a pity, therefore I much enjoy Shure 840 beign much more balanced.