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Keep up the very thorough and excellent comparisons, John.
Is the PS1K in the mix next?
Here is my review of the GS2000e as part of the Todd The Vinyl Junkie Loaner Program, which provided the GS2000e. It consists of:
* Initial Impressions
* Comparison to Grado GS1000i and PS1000e
* Comparison of single-ended vs. balanced operation on CEntrance hiFiM8, Sennheiser HDVD800, and HiFiMAN EF-6
* Comparison to Grado GS1000e and GH1 with G Cush
* Comparison to Grado PS1000 and RS2e
* Comparison to Sennheiser HD800 and HiFiMAN HE1000
* Comparison of Schiit Bifrost MB/Lyr2, Lotoo PAW Gold, and Sonly PHA-1/Joseph Grado HPA1.
The biggest curiosity I had was about the balanced cable. It is shown in the first picture below, as well as the pigtail that they also include to convert to single-end use.
The second largest curiosity was the use of two cups, an inner and an outer, to reduce resonances, according to Grado. Grado began this technique with their HF-1 headphones (special for head-fi.org, with a $25 contribution from Grado to head-fi.org for each pair bought!). The HF-1 have a plastic outer layer and an inner wooden layer to their cup. Next the HF-2 (also done for head-fi.org with contribution of $25 per pair to this board!) used a wooden inner cup and a metal outer layer. This combination continued in their PS500 and PS1000, as well as the PS500e and PS1000e.
For the GS2000e, the two materials are both wood... maple and mahogany. The picture shows a closeup of the GS2000e two-wood cup. Here, I am not sure whether the dark wood (mahogany) that is further from the ear actually extends inside the lighter wood (maple), or simply abuts the further edge of the maple.
Grado GS2000e with balanced cable, a first for Grado headphones, as well as a pigtail for single-ended use.
Grado GS2000e two-wood construction of cup (mahogany to left, which is darker; maple to the right).
I performed a quick comparison of the GS2000e to my favorite Grados, the GS1000i. In brief listening, subject to change upon more listening, I found:
GS2000e had more defined kick drum impact, with not only the tonal twang of the drum (as did the GS1000i) but with the initial "smack" impact of the hitter upon the drum (not on the GS1000I)
GS1000i was more transparent (less veiled) than the GS2000e (which was not veiled in any sense of the word except when compared to the GS1000i);
GS2000e seems to have a bit more bass, with better (tighter) definition, than the GS1000i (more tone, less rumble of indeterminate pitch);
GS2000e MIGHT (not sure yet) have a bit better soundstage than the GS1000i.
I will of course perform full 10-feature comparisons of the GS2000e with several of my Grados as posted above, but these are some early, perhaps hasty, impressions.
Comparison to Grado GS1000i and PS1000e
I did the first of what will be several three-way comparisons of the GS2000e, this time to the GS1000i (my favorite) and the PS1000e (Grado's Top Of The Line).
Here are the results. I used this procedure, as I have on nearly all of my 28 Grado headphones. Each line is a "first place" (3 points, blue), "second place" (2 points, red), "third place" (1 point yellow) ranking of the three headphones on the particular feature given at the left of each row. Ties are allowed (orange for second place, with 1.5 points for each; purple for first, 2.5 points each).
The Grado GS2000e bested my best-scoring Grado of previous tests, the GS1000i, overall. It also significantly outscored the PS1000e.
As shown, the GS2000e brings superb soundstage, subbass (well, not really superb subbass, but superb for a Grado), and treble strength, though not quite the treble detail of the PS1000e. The GS1000i continues to have the greatest transparency and best rendition of the reedy, ripping quality of brass, as well as the best ability to discern a small change in a loud multi-instrument orchestral chord.. The PS1000e excels in treble detail (contrarily measured as "bass finger pluck," preserving the structure of the impact of finger on string) and on positional resolution.
Comparison of single-ended vs. balanced operation on CEntrance hiFiM8, Sennheiser HDVD800, and HiFiMAN EF-6
After casting about for some balanced amp in my collection whose output impedance is sufficiently low for Grados, I realized that I have a CEntrance HiFiM8, which is a DAC/amp with selectable output impedance (1, 2 and 10 ohms) and balanced, single-ended, and optical outputs. This source allows me to compare balanced and single-ended use of the GS2000e. I drove the CEntrance with digital input from the Lightening connector of the iPhone 5.
I tried the Grado GS2000e in both single-ended and balanced mode, comparing sounds on both the test music that I use to evaluate soundstage and positional resolution, on orchestral work where a wide angle and variety of instruments are present, and on some smaller-ensemble music where I heard some surprising depth of sources, e.g., drum set with sound having dimension toward/from the listener.
In all cases, I could not distinguish any difference between single ended and balanced. I could not form a preference because I could not hear any difference.
In the past, when I got a balanced cable for my Sennheiser HD800, I had heard a difference between single ended and balanced, both in tonal quality and in instrument position, on my Sennheiser HDVD 800 DAC/amp. So I sort of know what to listen for, but here, I heard no difference.
So I began to explore amps less suited for Grados as a way to assess the effect of balanced vs. single ended by including the Sennheiser HDVD800 DAC/amp, optimized for the Sennheiser HD 800 headphones, and the HiFiMAN EF-6 amp, optimized for the HFiMAN HE-6 headphones.
Unlike the CEntrance, where I heard NO difference between the single-ended and balanced outputs, I DID hear a difference between single-ended and balanced with both the HDVD800 and the EF-6.
The most immediate observation with either amp is that the balanced was louder. This is consistent with my understanding of a balanced amp, which includes two amp chains one for positive and one for equal and opposite negative excursions of the signal. -- twice as many amps, more sound. On the CEntrance, the loudness of the GS2000e was the same in single-ended or in balanced.
Listening more carefully, I found a slight improvement in soundstage with the balanced for both the HDVD800 and the EF-6. In a pleasant way, it was as if the room suddenly became just a bit larger, more spherical, and a bit more reverberant with balanced as compared with single mode. I also found that the treble detail was a bit better for the balanced, especially on the Sennheiser.
This suggests that:
There is a (small but noticable) advantage to the GS2000e running in balanced mode from a true balanced amp;
The CEntrance HiFiM8 provides a balanced impedance output, but seems not to provide two separate amp paths internally as do the Sennheiser HDVD800 and HiFiMAN EF-6.
Comparison to Grado GS1000e and GH1 with G Cush
Next phase in my progressing review of the GS2000e... comparing them to the other member of the Statement Series, which is the GS1000e, and comparing them to the other headphone that uses maple in its cups... the GH1, outfit with the over-ear G-Cush (as has been found to be preferable) rather than the on-ear L bowls originally provided.
Here are the results:
As shown above, the GS2000e provides wider soundstage and better high-frequency content to low-pitched, complex tones than the GH1 with G cush and its series mate, the GS1000e.
The GS1000e has never been one of my favorite Grados (though its predecessor, the GS1000i, IS my favorite over-ear Grado). Its bass has a tubbiness (tendency to sound like it is being convolved with the pitch of a resonant tube through which the bass comes). In comparing to the GS2000e, the GS1000e sounded remarkably distant and flat, with no depth, merely breadth, to the soundstage. Nevertheless, it was the most transparent of the three Grados tested here.
The GH1, first member of Grado's "Heritage Series," goes back to the 44 mm driver (the other two headphones used the 50 mm driver). It uses maple (from a tree that died in Sunset Park, near the Grado factory), which is one of the two woods used in the GS2000e. This headphone is about my third favorite of my Grados, after my GS1000i and RS2e and maybe RS1e. It is loved by many, and its score is not that far from the GS2000e score.
Comparison to Grado PS1000 and RS2e
I next compared the GS2000e to my PS1000 (which I preferred to my PS1000e) and to my RS2e (my highest-scoring on-ear headphones and the only on-ear to which I compared the over-ear GS2000e).
Surprisingly to me (or perhaps not, as they have long been the flagship of Grado), the PS1000 outscored the GS2000e, the first headphone in this comparison to do so. The GS2000e bested the PS1000 in positional resolution, but the PS1000 excelled in sound stage, subbass, and harmonics from a deep drum impact. The RS2e tied with the GS2000e in providing treble detail.
Comparison to Sennheiser HD800 and HiFiMAN HE1000
I next compare the GS2000e to two other flagship headphones, the Sennheiser HD800 and the HiFiMAN HE1000. I perform this comparison single-ended for all headphones, with each using a headphone amp from its own manufacturer -- the Joseph Grado HPA-1 for the GS2000e (and adding a Sony PHA-1 DAC since they HPA-1 has no DAC), the Sennheiser HDVD800 DAC/amp for the HD800, and the HiFiMAN EF-6 amp (adding the Schiit Bifrost Multibit Uber DAC,since the EF-6 has no DAC). I do not have a balanced amp that I think would do justice to the GS2000e - the HiFiM8 as mentioned above seems not to be truly balanced, the HDVD800 has a 43 ohm output impedance, too high for the 32 ohms of the GS2000e, and the EF-6 does not specify an output impedance and is designed to drive planar magnetic headphones (the HE-6), where a low output impedance of the amp as compared to the headphone is not important as it is with dynamic headphones. I use the FiiO X5ii coax output as the digital source for the Sennheiser and the HiFiMAN chain; I use the iPhone 5S digital output via the Lightening connector into the Sony PHA-1 for the Grado chain.
Here are the results:
The GS2000e sound much brighter and seems to have less frequency depth of tone (i.e., less fullness due to less inclusion of bass) on such instruments as drums when compared to the HD800, while the HD800 and the HE1000 have significant and large depth respectively. Hence, the GS2000e provides the greatest "you are there" transparency. The HE1000 provides the largest soundstage and strongest subbass.
Total scores indicate that overall, the three headphones compare similarly, as total point differences of three are significant and differences less than that are not. Depending on one' taste (soundstage vs, subbass, or transparency vs. treble detail, etc). the GS2000e appears to be overall comparable to the HD800 and HE1000 in these tests.
Comparison of Schiit Bifrost MB/Lyr2, Lotoo PAW Gold, and Sonly PHA-1/Joseph Grado HPA1
Finally, given the availability of the GS2000e, I decided to compare three amplifier options, all of which, in one way or another, have been recommended by Grado for their headphones. I compared the Joseph Grado HPA1 (driven by the Sony PHA-1 DAC), as used throughout all of these Grado comparisons, to the Schitt Lyr 2 drven by the Schiit Bifrost Multibit Uber and the Lotoo PAW Gold portable player. Grado recommended the Lyr 2 as an excellent amp for their headphones (along with their RA-1, which is a more recent version of the HPA1 that I used) and later recommended the Lotoo PAW Gold as the player they used for reference in their own factory.
Here are the results, all with the GS2000e:
As shown here, the Schiit Lyr 2 excelled over the other two, which were tied. The Schiit Lyr 2 is a non-portable desktop system, while the other two are portable (well, semi-portable for the HPA1 and PHA1, as both are battery powered but together occupy about 6" x 3" x 5" of volume). Indeed, there was an overall greater "pleasure factor" in listening via the Schiit Lyr 2/Bifrost combination than the others, particularly characterized by instruments being spread more around a three-dimensional space (e..g, a soundstage with breadth, height, and depth). This may be a result of the multibit upgrade I had gotten to the Bifrost DAC, as folks have indicated this sort of improvement as a result. Both the Grado HPA1 and Lotoo PAW Gold are truly excellent systems for listening to Grados, however -- many folks prefer the Lotoo PAW Gold to all of the AK DAPs except the AK380 and perhaps the RWAK240 (i.e., AK240 with Red Wine mods).
The GS2000e are excellent headphones, adding a bit of bass and soundstage to the GS1000i that had been my favorite. The PS1000 was the only Grado among the six that I compared that outscore the GS2000e, and did so on soundstage, preservation of harmonics of a drum impact, and subbass. There is an improvement to sound when balanced mode is used for the GS2000e. The hold their own with the established flagship headphones of the Sennheiser HD800 and HiFiMAN HE1000.
I will now box the GS2000e's up and send them to the next party on the tour, three days early!
I must say, I'm very surprised at how well the PS1K did against the GS2Ke from all of the impressions I've read.
Thanks for the extensive comparisons/impressions of the GS2Ke!
Since the scores are based on rank order, it doesn't make any difference whether one headphone is a LOT better or just a tiny bit better than another in each of the 10 areas... it still gets one (or two, if it bests both other headphones) points. Hence, this method of rank order scoring tends both to exaggerate small differences and suppress large differences. The up side is that it is perhaps a bit more reproducible than trying to gauge just how MUCH better one headphone is that another on, say, subbass... it seems more reliable to just say "it is better."
Hence, relatively large score differences can arise from relatively small differences in sound. When I relisten to the PS1000 and the GS2000e, I do hear a small preference for the PS1000, though.
Wow, such a detailed an interesting review and you are sending it to the next person early! Good job.
Do you not agree that the GS1000i is an excellent, lower-cost alternative
to the GS2000e? While the 2000e is of course somewhat better, it seems from your
description that the 1000i comes quite close, (and is sometimes available in good shape
on the used market and at a much lower price point!)
ABSOLUTELY! The GS1000i has been my favorite headphone, and the GS2000e only barely edges it out. Since as an old model the GS1000i is replaced by the current GS1000e (not as good to my ears), the GS1000i can be had new at dealers that still have it at 25% off, or $749, less than half the price of the balanced GS2000e.
GS2000e sent out from me to its next stop on the tour today.
Two weeks again since last post here...any new reviews or update on who has the GS2000e? Thanks!
Shipped to H. Manback yesterday. Impressions forthcoming. Thanks
I received these beautiful headphones on 12/24.
My listening tests are in progress.
Don't listen to these directly after a session with any headphone with proper bass. You will not find bass quantity here.
These are very clean and clear. They have the most treble resolution I have heard from a Grado.
I will be approaching some of the music from artists I have heard live. I feel like this gives some insight into reality vs reproduction.
Many thanks to Todd and the fantastic Grado community here for this loaner program. If you guys weren't such a great group, no one would feel comfortable loaning out such a pricey piece of kit.
Any further impressions after some additional time with these headphones?
Is that it ???? , where are the rest of the reviews.