Huge Comparison of [Almost] All Grado Headphones -- Post Your Own Comparisons Here (thanks, @giogio!)
May 15, 2016 at 8:51 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 91


Stumbling towards enlightenment
(Formerly known as kayandjohn.)
Feb 2, 2014
Poulsbo, WA, USA
This thread collects comparisons of one model of Grado headphone to another, beginning with comparisons of my 26-Grado collection and inviting others to contribute their comparisons.  It differs from other Grado threads by comparing multiple Grado models to each other.
This thread is inspired by this thread from head-fier @giogio, who has started a thread of a similar title for comparing (nearly) all Bluetooth headphones.  That thread has become one of the handful of select resources that folks trying to determine which pair of BT headphones to buy.  This thread strives to provide a similar service for persons standing agape at the foot of the mountain of models of Grado headphones, wondering which to buy.  
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 the above comparisons.  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.  I will reserve the next post in this thread for me to start compiling links to some of those, sorted in a way to guide readers to particular headphone models, and doing this as my time permits.
Meantime, please post your own comparisons of different models of Grado headphones here.  Thanks!
May 15, 2016 at 8:52 PM Post #2 of 91
(Reserved for later summary of pre-existing comparisons of Grado models)
May 16, 2016 at 1:38 AM Post #7 of 91
  So the RS2e is the best overall Grado headphone? (according to the reviewer)

According to the scores on the first list, where they are combined...yes.
However, in a one-on-one comparison to the GS1000i, the GS1000i actually came out winning more of the features in the three-way compare of the GS1000i, GS1000e, and RS2e (see here, which is the next to last of the list of links to specific comparisons.)  Also in the second section, where I used binary comparisons, the GS1000i actually came out ahead.
It is interesting but not exactly in line with preference to rank headphones based on scores, as I did.  This is because each of the 10 acoustic features is treated equally, while in our minds, we may care more about one feature than another, or even care a lot about a feature that is non-acoustic (e.g., comfort!).  I value high transparency more than bass, and I do value comfort, so I would personally prefer an over-ear Grado that is transparent (GS1000i) to another Grado scoring higher in other areas.
So despite lists computed from scores such as mine, your preferences may vary!
May 16, 2016 at 7:35 AM Post #8 of 91
I am in shock.
Just so comprehensive and complete.
We are all forever in debt to the efforts of ruthieandjohn.

Thnx U.:)
May 16, 2016 at 8:57 AM Post #9 of 91
Thanks...very nice.
May 16, 2016 at 9:19 AM Post #10 of 91

May 17, 2016 at 11:14 AM Post #12 of 91
today john broke the headfi internet
May 18, 2016 at 5:08 PM Post #15 of 91
I just noticed that according to your final analysis, there is a 26% difference between the GH-1 and GH-1/G.
So the logical conclusion is that the G cushions make the headphone sound 50% better than in its stock form. Really? While i'm sure there is *some* improvement, i'm rather skeptical it would be that a big jump.

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