Grado GR8 First Impressions
Sep 11, 2009 at 2:54 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 100

vinnievidi

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I just received the GR8s yesterday and, noting the lack of reviews online, decided to offer my first impression of these IEMs after a couple hours of use.

(Please don't attack me for not liking your favorite IEMs... this quick impression is based on my personal preferences and experiences--yours may be different).

I should start by saying that I am a fan of the Etymotic ER4p's but have been looking for a set of IEMs with a bit more warmth. I've owned the Shure SE530s, SE420s, and Westone 3s but found them to be boxy (Shure) and muddy (W3s) for my tastes. I haven't tried the UE TripleFis, so I can't compare them to the Grados.

I don't know how accurate the Grados are, but they compare closest to the Ety's than any other IEM that I've tried. Actually, I think that its appropriate to say that they sound like a mix between the ER4p's and the larger Grado RS-1i.

They have a very forward sound and don't have an expansive soundstage (the Westones had the largest in my opinion), but their sound quality is the best blend of highs/mids/lows that I've heard for IEMs.

After about 5 hours of use, I find that the GR8's are really nice if you appreciate the clarity of the Etymotic sound but have always wanted the Etys to have a bit more warmth and heft in the lower registers. They have the clarity of the Etymotic ER4p's in the highs and mids, but are not as shrill. The GR8s offer more air around the instruments than any of the above mentioned IEMs and make the overall sound lifelike and organic. I go to the symphony and opera several times a year (probably 10-12 performances a season) and believe that these IEMs sound more like sitting at the Met than any of the IEMs that I've tried.

Musically, they are well balanced for rock listening.
> The kick and toms are solid and weighty (depending on the recording). The quick attack of the entire kit on Tool's Undertow album is pretty impressive.
> The guitar distortion retains its detail but doesn't sound artificial
> Vocals are upfront, but not artificially. In Pearl Jam's Vs. album, they intentionally mixed EV's vocals low in the mix. These IEMs don't bring them up where they shouldn't be, nor do they push them farther down.
> The bass didn't get confused during intricate fills, but remained tight and tuneful.

For classical music they have the transparency and shimmer of the ER4's but add more weight to the lower registers of the cello, piano and bass (even at low volumes). Symphonic music sounds more holistic and less processed or muddy than with other IEMs. I attribute this to the air that the Grados let expand around acoustic instruments--making them sound more natural.

They trump the Shure and Westone in low end clarity (for my ears) but not in slam. I found that those earphones-- the Westones in particular-- were heavier sounding (better for electronic music). Where this is obvious is in the sound crated when a kick drum is hit with its mallet in rock tracks or a timpani is hits in symphonic music. This airiness is muted in the Shure SE series phones and lacking completely with the Westones, but can really make all the difference.

For movie watching they are very good, but not the greatest. I tested them with an episode of Band of Brothers and parts of Master & Commander and Saving Private Ryan. The dialogue is natural sounding (not boxy like other IEMs) but there is a weightiness that is missing during explosions and ambient background music and effects.

Physically, they are extremely light and comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Their silicone tips are soft but don't offer the level of isolation that any of the above IEMs do by any stretch of the imagination. I would like to try them with a set of Comply tips to see if the added isolation adversely changes the sound.


So far the only downsides are as follows:
• They would be a phenomenal value at $200 not $300
• They don't come with a carrying case
• They are not as isolating as any of the above mentioned earphones.
• May be too forward sounding for some people
•*May be not the best choice for people who mainly listen to electronic or rap music. Though they are not bad--as mentioned above, they don't have the low end slam of the Westones.


In conclusion, they may not be the Holy Grail of IEMs but they are a welcome addition to an increasingly crowded market. For Rock and Classical, they are the best for my ears. For Electronic and Rap I'd have to do more listening. I think they holdup well against the competition, but the Westones or Shures may have an advantage in those genres.

More listening may tell a different story. If only they were cheaper....
 
Sep 11, 2009 at 3:39 PM Post #2 of 100

kmhaynes

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Thanks for the reveiw. It makes sense that Grado would find a way to keep their sound sig with an IEM -- forward, smaller soundstage, natural and clear detailed bass, etc. I'm with you about the price -- $200 might have made them a temptation for me in the next 6 months -- $300 sort of puts them out of consideration for me.
 
Sep 11, 2009 at 3:42 PM Post #3 of 100

MD1032

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We appreciate the review very much! I'm looking forward to hearing these in the future and comparing them to my RE0's, which I consider to be a function equivalent of Ety's but with a fuller sound.
 
Sep 11, 2009 at 6:12 PM Post #5 of 100

vinnievidi

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I have read good things about the RE0's. Maybe I'll breakdown and check them out later in the year.

For my source, I used a Headroom Total AirHead with a USB Pro-Ject DAC plugged into an iMac. I also tried them plugged directly into my iPhone. They performed well, the volume and detail were perfectly acceptable, but they sound more open with an amp. I have a Headroom Desktop amp but it's currently packed away (I'm preparing to move). Once I get settled in the new place I will try the Grados with it and let you know if there's an improvement.
 
Sep 12, 2009 at 3:23 AM Post #6 of 100

iponderous

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I'm interested in how they perform unamped actually. I don't amp my IEMs, I just use them directly from my ipod touch. If I'm not mistaken, I think the GR8 has the highest impedance of any IEM currently available.

Just a suggestion but I think your thread should be moved to the Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors section of this forum. There's sure to be a lot of interest in it over there.
 
Sep 12, 2009 at 5:19 AM Post #7 of 100

big_sound

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Quote:

Originally Posted by kmhaynes /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Thanks for the reveiw. It makes sense that Grado would find a way to keep their sound sig with an IEM -- forward, smaller soundstage, natural and clear detailed bass, etc. I'm with you about the price -- $200 might have made them a temptation for me in the next 6 months -- $300 sort of puts them out of consideration for me.


$300 is not a good price when you can pick up se530's for under $280. And it doesn't help either that the westone 3's can be found for just a little more.
 
Sep 12, 2009 at 8:23 AM Post #8 of 100
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i cant help but look forward to the impending knife fight between the grado and westone fanboi's

popcorn.gif
 
Sep 13, 2009 at 1:55 AM Post #11 of 100

vinnievidi

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Quote:

Originally Posted by iponderous /img/forum/go_quote.gif

Just a suggestion but I think your thread should be moved to the Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors section of this forum. There's sure to be a lot of interest in it over there.



Sorry about that; this was my first post. Is there a way to move the thread and if so, can you let me know?

thanks a million!
 
Sep 13, 2009 at 2:40 AM Post #13 of 100

Zanth

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Thanks for the review! After starting with the Etys many moons ago and eventually heading into the Westone camp it will be a whole lot of fun trying the GR8's against the UM2's. I doubt the GR8's will compete with the ES3X's which are the best IEM's I have ever heard (though I look forward to comparing those against the JH13 Pros).
 
Oct 9, 2009 at 10:50 PM Post #14 of 100

fzman

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The GR8s, to my ears, have a coherence that is lacking in most audio gear, whether it be portable or home, speaker, electronics or headphones/iems.

they may not be everyone's cup of tea with highly electronically manipulated music, but for music with acoustic instruments, they are more honest and real sounding than most.

for me that makes them worth quite a lot!
 
Oct 10, 2009 at 12:22 AM Post #15 of 100

The_Blood_Raven

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Quote:

Originally Posted by vinnievidi /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I should start by saying that I am a fan of the Etymotic ER4p's but have been looking for a set of IEMs with a bit more warmth. I've owned the Shure SE530s, SE420s, and Westone 3s but found them to be boxy (Shure) and muddy (W3s) for my tastes. I haven't tried the UE TripleFis, so I can't compare them to the Grados.


I totally agree! I found the Ultimate Ears to be the closest thing to an Ety with added warmth. Nice to see the GR8s are actually good and have the Grado sound signature, I was wondering if they were an overpriced rebadged chinese phone.
 

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