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Grado Fan Club!

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by vikingatheart, Dec 29, 2010.
  1. Bob Ley
    Thanks for your support. I wish there were more shops that had Grado's so I could compare before buying. What do most of you do? You sound like you know a lot about many Grado's. I am extremely happy with my RS2e's but what would you consider an upgrade?
  2. TooFrank
    ="Cruelhand Luke, post: 14917753, member: 454173"]of all my headphones, in all the various combos...such as Argons+hip hop?
    Grados+Tiny Desk is one of my favorite things...the 325e was MADE to be hooked up to a laptop+Magni 3 and just sit back and watch Tiny Desk for hours....
    that's what it's about[/QUOTE]
    FWIW: This combo (iPad Air + Grado RA1 + GS2ke) isn´t bad either:beyersmile: Cheers!
  3. ruthieandjohn
    I, too, have been advised by Grado as Schiit being the most favored desk top amps for their headphones, as well as their own amp, the RA1. When asked about portables, they suggested high-end Sonys (I presume the 1Z or 1A), the Astell-Kern's, and, with special emphasis, the Lotoo, either PAW Gold or for more portability, the PAW 5000.

    Taking them at their word, I now have the Schiit Mjolnir (driven by the Schiit Gungir Multibit, or Gumbi), the Grado RA1 (as well as its more elaborate predecessor, the Joseph Grado HPA-1), the Sony NW-WM1A, the Lotoo PAW Gold (my favorite DAP), and its junior brother, the Lotoo PAW 5000 (which at 1/10 the price of the Lotoo PAW Gold, has features not found on the PAW Gold, including balanced out, +/- 25% music speedup to match beat rate with running pace, USB charging, and lighter weight... nearly indistinguishable sound, too! However, the 5000 is MUCH less capable of high power output).

    These are all great, but there was a brief moment of breath-taking magic given me by the Joseph Grado HPA-1, while listening to the PS2000e (in single-ended use, not balanced) that I have not experienced on any of the others. Probably the Lotoo PAW Gold would rate second in my mind for driving my Grados.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
    trellus, gregorya and HungryPanda like this.
  4. elmoe
    I can't speak for others, this is what I do, and likely what quite a few people here do also:

    Buy used. Find good deals. Buying used affords you the luxury of demo'ing cans for as long as you need to, then resell with minimal loss. Especially when it comes to the higher-tier priced headphones, losing 30-50 bucks is well worth being able to demo a pair for a month or two, should you not be able to do so at a local shop.

    The other advantage to this is that you get to demo using your own gear, at your own pace, in the quietness of your own home.

    Browse Canuckaudiomart, Head-Fi, Audiogon, HifiShark, even eBay can have a great deal once in awhile. Always pay with PayPal so you're protected (I've been doing this for almost 15 years and never had a single bad experience).
    gregorya and wormsdriver like this.
  5. ruthieandjohn

    About three years ago, I compared all the then-extant Grados I could get my hands upon (which was nearly all, and I owned them, not borrowed them, per the picture below). Since then, I added comparisions of the PS2000e, though I did not feather either the GS12000e or the PS2000e in to the overall ranking (they would have been near, if not at, the very top, with the PS2000e ahead of the GS2000e!). This comparison also predates the GH2, GH3, GH4, and GS3000e, so does not include them.

    This thread collects comparisons of one model of Grado headphone to another, beginning with comparisons of my 26-Grado collection. It differs from other Grado threads by comparing multiple Grado models to each other.

    As far as I know, I have the largest collection of Grado headphones in private captivity. In addition to the joy that it gives me, it also gives me both an opportunity and, perchance, a responsibility to compare these models systematically.

    My Grado Family Portrait - 25 headphones, 1 IEM, 2 amplifiers, and 2 wooden boxes.
    (From L to R):
    Row 1: Joseph Grado HPA-1, HP1000, Grado GR10e, RA1
    Row 2: PS1000, PS1000e
    Row 3: GS1000i, GS1000e
    Row 4: Bushmills X, HF1, PS500, GH1
    Row 5: RS2e, RS2i, RS2, RS1
    Row 6: RS1i, SR325e, SR325is, SR325i
    Row 7: SR125, SR125e, SR225i, SR325
    Row 8: SR80, SR80e, SR60i, iGrado
    Row 9: Grado Wooden Box (Over Ears); Grado Wooden Box (On Ears).

    Perhaps one of the best ways to assess a headphone is through comparison with other headphones. This is because:
    1. A person seeking to understand an unknown headphone may have another headphone that is familiar and can appreciate a contrast or comparison;
    2. Comparisons are relative rather than absolute: "Headphone A has more bass than Headphone B" helps more than "Headphone A is a basshead headphone."
    3. Comparisons can be multifaceted, looking at a variety of the features that make up the characteristic of a headphone's sound.

    I have used this test method many, many times on many headphones. I used four songs, all encoded in Apple Lossless Format at CD quality (I actually bought the CDs and ripped them... no internet download involved) and played by my Apple iPod Touch 5th Gen. Because each of the 10 acoustic tests used a limited segment of music (2 - 10 sec), an infinite loop was used to repeat the appropriate segment of each song while headphones were switched in and out.
    • "You're Going To Miss Me When I'm Gone," by Band of Heathens, from their album One Foot In The Ether (used for fidelity of drum sound, positional resolution of two vocalists, and ability to discern pitch of string bass passages);
    • "Spanish Harlem," by Rebecca Pidgeon, on The Ultimate Demonstration Disc of Chesky records (used to assess female vocals, transparency, the attack of finger on bass string, and high resolution discrimination of differences in shaker shakes);
    • "Symphony No. 3 in C Minor Op. 78 (Organ Symphony) - IV" by Camille Saint Saens played by Lorin Maazel and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (used to assess the "ripping" sound of well-rendered lower brass and organ reed pipes, and the ability to hear a very small entrance amidst a bombastic chord of orchestra and organ at full tilt);
    • "Throwback" by B.o.B. on Underground Luxury (used to assess ability of a bass tone, specifically lowest C on piano at about 32 Hz, to pick me up by the throat and shake me!)
    The 10 tests were as follows:
    • Transparency: What is between me and the music? A felt cloth? A "Sennheiser veil?" A frosted window? Dirty window? Clear Saran wrap? or nothing? At its best, makes me forget I am listening on headphones and am in room with musicians. [I use the 12-second segment 0:00 - 0:12 of "You're Going To Miss Me," which is kick drum, guitar, piano, and cymbal for this test]
    • Width of sound stage: How far to the left and to the right, (yes, AND up and down in best cases) does it seem the musical sources are arranged? [I use the same 0:00 - 0:12 segment of "You're Going To Miss Me," which starts with kick drum center, guitar #1 right of center piano far right, guitar #2 far left, to see 1) to what extent am I among rather than in front of the musicians, and 2) how wide an angle do those positional extremes of instruments form?]
    • Positional resolution: Can I distinguish a difference in position of two singers in Song 1? [I use 0:30 to 0:38 of "You're Going To Miss Me," where one vocalist ends a verse and a second vocalist, standing next to him, takes up the next.]
    • Bass visceral: Does the bass in third verse of Song 4 actually shake me? Or do I just hear it? [This test uses 0:31 through 0:33 of "Throwback, " where the bass drops to the lowest C on the piano.]
    • Drum "twang": At start of Song 1, do the bass and tom tom drumhead have a tone and a pitch, rather than just a thump? ["You're Going to Miss Me" 0:00 - 0:12]
    • Bass pitch perception: For the complicated bass runs in Song 1, do I hear a pitch with sufficient accuracy to sing or transcribe the part? ["You're Going to Miss Me," 1:02 - 1:23 to see if I can hear the pitch of not only the bass glides and accented notes, but also the grace notes]
    • Bass finger pluck: Do I hear the actual impact of fingers on the bass string just before hearing its sound on Song 2? ["Spanish Harlem," 0:00 - 0:04, listening most carefully to the repeated 3-note pattern to see if I not only hear an initial attack but some structure immediately following, before the finger leaves the string and the sound just rings)
    • Shaker variation: In Song 2, verse 3, do the various shaker shakes sound a bit different from each other, as they should? ["Spanish Harlem," 1:40 - 1:47: there are clearly loud and soft shakes, but how many more volume levels of shakes can I distinguish, and can I hear structure within each shake as the seeds hit the shaker wall?]
    • "Ripping" of organ / brass: In Song 3, is there the sensation of hearing each vibration of the French horn and low organ reed tones (sort of the tonal counterpart to hearing a "pitch" from a drumhead in Test 5); ["Organ Symphony," initial chord from 0:00 - 0:04 and French horn passage 0:06 - 0:12]
    • Discern added chord: About 1:38 into Song 3, after the full orchestra and organ hold a chord at the top of a passage, can I hear a small number of orchestra instruments join in, as sort of an echo, in the second measure of that chord? ["Organ Symphony," in the passage starting at 1:08, how well can I hear the small additional chord added at 1:16 on top of the full strength organ/orchestra chord in progress? Clearly enough to have noticed it if I weren't already listening for it?]

    These tests generally emphasize what I find most pleasing in a headphone, namely high-frequency-related features including transparency, upper harmonics of sounds from drum-head, brass, organ pipe, and string bass, and high-resolution effects such as fine detail of each shaker sound and the finger on the bass string.


    I have run 52 comparisons of Grados over the years using the methods above. Here are links to those tests. The link names themselves indicate which three headphones are being compared at a time:

    Grado PS1000 / Grado HP1000 / Grado GS1000e
    Grado PS1000 / Grado PS500 with G CUSH / Grado PS500 with stock L bowl
    Grado PS500 / Grado SR325e / Grado SR225i
    Grado SR225i / Grado SR125 / Grado SR80i
    Grado SR80i / Grado SR60 / Grado iGrado
    Grado RS1 / Grado RS1i / Grado RS2i
    Grado SR325i / Grado SR325is / Grado SR325e
    Grado SR325i / Alessandro MS-2 / Grado PS500
    Grado GH1 / Grado Bushmills X / Grado RS1i
    Grado GH1 / Grado GH1 with G Cush / Grado RS2e
    Grado SR80e / Grado SR125e / Grado SR125
    Grado HF-1 / Grado SR125 / Grado PS500
    Grado PS1000 / GradoPS1000e / Grado GH-1
    Grado RS2 vs. Grado RS2i vs Grado RS2e
    Grado RS1 (buttoned) vs. Grado RS 2 (buttoned)
    Grado GH1 w G Cush / Grado GS1000e (w > 250 hrs use) / Joseph Grado HP1000
    Grado GS1000i / Grado RS2e / Grado GS1000e
    Grado GS1000e / SR 325 / SR325i
    HiFIMAN HE-6 / HiFiMAN HE1000 / Grado GS1000i (added May 26, 2016)
    Grado PS1000 / Grado GS1000i / Grado GH1/G (added May 29, 2016)
    Grado RS1e / Grado Rs2e / Grado GS1000i (added Dec. 8, 2016)
    Grado RS1e / Grado RS1i / Grado GS1000i (added Dec. 8, 2016)
    Grado RS1e / Grado HP1000 / Grado SR325i (added Dec. 8, 2016)
    Grado GS2000e / Grado GS1000i / Grado PS1000e (added Dec. 8, 2016)
    Grado GS2000e / Grado GS1000e / Grado GH1/G (added Dec. 8, 2016
    Grado GS2000e / Grado PS1000 / Grado RS2e (added Dec. 8, 2016)
    Grado GS2000e / Sennheiser HD800 / HiFiMAN HE1000 (added Dec. 8, 2016)
    Schiit Lyr 2 / Lotoo PAW Gold / Joseph Grado HPA1 all with Grado GS2000e (added Dec. 8, 2016)

    Here are the results, as a tile of tables, of most of the above comparisons (but without the GS2000e, PS2000e, RS1e, GH2, GH3, and GH4, as discussed above). An individual tile appears in the respective thread linked above, with further discussion and often photographs of the headphones.

    Data from about 60 comparisons of various Grado headphone models to each other used in this master comparison.


    Here, I choose four major features from those 10 and rank all 26 headphones for each of the features. I then rank the headphones overall based on their ranking for each feature. This work involved the merging of multiple 3-way rankings for each of four features into one 13-way ranking. Some ties remain when I could not hear a clear difference, and there were many additional tests I had to perform to merge two disjoint lists of three into an integrated longer rank order list.

    The features I chose were most important to my listening and were fairly independent of each other:
    • Transparency: What is between me and the music? A felt cloth? A hallway corner? At its best, makes me forget I am listening on headphones and am in room with musicians.
    • Width of sound stage: How far to the left and to the right, (yes, AND up and down in best cases) does it seem the musical sources are arranged?
    • Bass visceral: Does the bass in a song that goes down to C0 on the piano actually shake me? Or do I just hear it?
    • Bass finger pluck (Treble): The attack of a rough finger on a rough string provides insight into the treble detail capabilities of a headphone. Do I hear the actual impact of fingers on the bass string just before hearing its sound? Can I hear any internal structure of that attack?
    Here are the 27 headphones, ranked from top to bottom on each of these four attributes. Each headphone model number is followed by a normalized number, where 100% means top ranking and 0% means bottom ranking, for each of the four features. For each feature, the headphones are ranked from top to bottom.


    Ranking of Grado headphone models on transparency, bass, soundstage, and treble.

    We can "average" each headphones score to come up with an overall four-feature ranking of the headphones, from top to bottom. Here a perfect score, if a headphone achieved 100% in each of the four attributes (Transparency, Bass, Treble, Soundstage, and Treble), the total score below would be 100%. However, the same headphone does not lead each of the lists, so even the best will not score 100%:

    Approximate overall ranking of Grado headphones based on comparison scores on 10 acoustic tests.


    Due to the nature of a three-way comparison, the difference between two headphones, as represented by numerical score, can depend upon the identity of an unrelated third headphone in the comparison. The approach below avoids that problem.

    Here, we compare all pairs of headphones that can be taken from the three way compares. Every three-way compare (A, B, and C) yield three two-way comparisons (A to B, B to C, and A to C). Pairwise comparisons are made by simply scoring for how many of the 10 features each headphone beats the other. If each headphone wins on 5 of the features, the score is 0; if one headphone wins on 2 and the other wins on 7 and there is one tie, the second headphone scores a 5, as winning on 5 more features than the other headphone.

    We then set three levels of "similarity"
    • Scores of -1, 0, or 1 - we represent these as "0;" allowing that winning only one feature out of 10 is not a very reliable basis for difference;
    • Scores of -3, -2, 2, or 3 - we represent these as a colored dot in the matrix below, with the color of the dot indicating which of the two headphones, row or column, was ahead of the other (if the headphone on the row title wins on three features more than the headphone on the column title, a blue dot is placed at the cell of intersection of the column and row);
    • Scores of absolute value greater than +/- 3 (e.e.g, +/- 4, +/- 5,...) are given a whole cell in the winning headphone's color (rather than just a dot).
    Here is the resulting matrix:

    Model vs. model comparison matrix of Grado headphones. Largest differences are solid boxes in the color of the winning column or row.

    For example, we can see that the PS1000 (row 10, blue, or here, actually gray for alignment, but in a blue header) is approximately equal (within winning one feature of 10) to the GH1 (the "0") and significantly better (i.e., winning out on more than 3 of 10 features) than the GS1000e, as indicated by the blue square in the GS1000e column.

    We can trace back these two way comparisons and come up with a grouped list of headphones, from winning most feature contests to winning the least. When there is a not a clear difference in score, headphones are grouped at the same level of the descending 10-step ranking here:

    Grouped rank ordering of Grado headphone models based on number of two-way feature comparisons each model won.


    I have here compared and contrasted 27 Grado headphones, using comparisons of two or three headphones at a time on each of 10 acoustic features, using a standard set of musical passages. The results indicate which Grados have the most transparency, most subbass response, largest soundstage, and best treble detail.

    This is merely my assessment. There are MANY other excellent assessments published here that compare Grados.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
    trellus, protoss and gregorya like this.
  6. Bob Ley
    Thanks. I did see that and went through it. I have the RS2e's and really love them and they rate high on your lists. I thought the GS100e's would be an upgrade but they don't have the same transparency that I like about the RS2e's.
  7. Geezer Rock 001

    I became a Grado convert about a year ago. I have been very satisfied with the performance that I was getting with an any Ember II hybrid amp with a dark tube. A few weeks ago I added an old Graham Slee Solo solid state amp to the chain. ( Thanks Wormsdriver!)

    Getting to your point about the GS1000e. They sound much better on the Slee than on the Ember. The exact opposite with my RS2e. The GS is a detail monster at low to mid volume. The RS2e s like plenty of volume and they rock hard.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2019
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  8. SilverEars
    I had a chance to hear a few Grado headphones today, and I got to say I'm quite impressed with Prestige series 325e! I also tried the wooden ones, and didn't like the sound of those.

    325e sounds quite resolving (you can hear details in the recording very good, quite transparent!), and interestingly, there are some subs heard from them (which wasn't expected). 225e was quite close in sound as well. I'm wondering what is the best of the prestige series? I'm most interested in the sound of that line. Is professional series an extension of the prestige series?

    325e was a pleasant surprise that it's drawn big interest in looking into Grados!
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2019
    trellus likes this.
  9. elmoe
    325 is the best bang for your buck Grado. Ive been preaching the good word about these but nobody listens :wink:
  10. SilverEars
    You need to be heard then. 325e are indeed a great bang for the buck!

    I tried with a portable player, and then a high quality amp. There was a difference in refinement, you can hear it scale in timbre and imaging!

    It was such an interesting experience, I was hearing lots of low level details with it.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2019
    elmoe likes this.
  11. Cruelhand Luke
    I have been saying the same thing...to me the 325e is the sweet spot in the Grado lineup. It sounds fantastic, you get every last bit of the "Grado sound" and it doesn't break the bank....beyond that point, you are over-spending.
  12. elmoe
    Yes they scale extremely well and are great with rock/small jazz ensembles. I've owned something like 7-8 pairs of 325 variants throughout the years.

    The 325e, in my opinion, is the worst iteration of the 325. Even the original 325 sounds better, 325i being the best, 325is second best in my book. They are an incredible value.

    That said, they are still a far cry from the detail/resolution of the GS and PS lines (the GH models seem to come closer to those in terms of sheer sound quality, while still keeping the Grado fun factor).

    Youre not overspending regardless of which Grado model you go for. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. Personally, the GH2 is currently my favorite Grado. Its got the fun factor, the grit of the 325, and comes close to the level of detail of the PS line without losing that fun factor and ruining the "in your face" soundstage that GS/PS lines wider cups/drivers do not have, and is an absolute must for me.

    I have not heard the PS1 (probably will be my favorite Grado, but they are rare and super expensive now) or the HP2. Those 2 might change my mind once I hear them.

    The 325 is a great set of cans, still best bang for your buck, but theres a reason I sold my 7th (or is it 8th?) pair after I got the GH2. If you go back a few pages in this thread youll see that I was extremely wary of some opinions praising the GH2 so highly before i gave them a listen (mostly because I fell for the HF2 hype and was extremely disappointed), but now I will probably never go back.

    I also think the RS2e and RS1 (pink drivers) are amazing and while theyre a different flavor from the 325, there are drastic improvements. They are totally worth the money.

    The PS/GS lines are pricey, and overall I haven't heard an "e" model i preferred over non "e" models, but that is still a matter of preference. There is no doubt that GS/PS Grados perform better than the rest in terms of detail and resolution. The loss of the "fun factor" and/or "in your face" soundstage is what killed the deal for me, but there are plenty of people who are satisfied with their GS or PS models, for good reason.
  13. mortcola
    Hi Bob - I don't want to "infect" you with the idea that you need something better....unless you already have that bug. I loved my RS2e's. When I got flagship-crazy, I gave them to a music-loving non-audiophile friend who's been grooving on them for a few years. Many people will tell you, truthfully, that the most important pleasures of music can come from (relatively) modest items.....c'mon, modest? Those cost several c-notes, they're punchy, and harmonically rich, and detailed, etc. If you're upgrading among the Grado's, its easy to just go for more expensive - but, while in absolute terms, the GS1000e, at a grand, is "better" - it may not be as gripping or immediate for some tastes, although it does audiophile things better -soundstage, extension, a degree of harmonic accuracy. But, again, people have been moved to tears and love and joy from music on modest equipment forever, and the RS2e ain't modest.For most music lovers, it would seem a pure extravagance For my tastes, the PS2000e and GS3000e are, with different strengths, as close to perfect as I could want. The heritage models have something special - if you can get your hands on them, the pine and cocobolo models are different, and have a certain magic. But, though I've spent way too much on audio gear, I've often bought LESS expensive components simply because they moved me in a way. I've been favoring my GS3000e over my previously-holy-grail PS2000e probably five hours to one, despite $1000 difference, and likely a greater degree of some abstract sort of accuracy and control in the PS model. I FEEL the feelings of the music and musician more purely through the lighter weight, less expensive wooden statements, while I always preferred he PS models over the GS before. Personal taste - but one example of how the money doesn't translate into greater satisfaction maybe yes, maybe no, but with many things in life, more elaborate or expensive doesn't have to mean greater pleasure or effectiveness....not even counting objective standards. I've driven Mini Coopers for several years. I could have gone up to small BMW's, same dealer, and the BMW has more refined design and "stuff" - but whenever I test drive, I both have more fun with the mini's, and REALLY feel better because I also spend less money. You asked what would be an upgrade. If you have the bucks, listen to the most expensive model you can afford. REALLY listen, not for "wow" qualities, but for how the music FEELS. And then listen to different mirage models - see if the RS 1 makes a difference. See if you can get a hold of some of the limited edition models of which some are still around - the GH are special, as I said. Try the PS500 - smaller, different kind of focus. Listen for musical pleasure, not for reasons to justify spending more money. Try upgrading electronics.....for the money, Schiit are the best in the world. Dome would say not the best period - but for a great many people, the best value for dollar possible, and possibly as good, and as good a match, as anything at all, connoisseur cred set aside for the purpose of simply listening to, and feeling, the music. I hope this lecture is helpful. Because though I've neurotically had to keep listening for what the end-game sounds like, and have found audio bliss in the two top models with next-to-top Schiit electronics, if I were a little less wonky, I'd probably had just kept the RS2e until they wore out, with the less expensive Schiit electronics. Its all about the music - not the prestige (not the headphone model, the social status). And how the music makes you feel. Ownership of shiny objects is a different thing. Only your ears and hear will tell you truthfully, if you ignore equipment-envy.
  14. mortcola
  15. mortcola
    What do I do? I buy them, and I keep the one I like better and sell the other if I go broke. Dumb, but works for me. I've always done that with audio gear.

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