Separate names with a comma.
I don't know if I've said it before, but thanks for this guide, it's an incredible resource!
It is indeed, I read it a while ago and enjoyed it a lot.
I'm glad it's helped out people in some way or another.
I know I can be a bit of an arsehat at times, but I really don't mean to be.
@Mad Lust Envy Yes, I installed the latest firmware and driver. When I select SBX in Sound Blaster Connect software, the appropriate button on the device lights up, but when I open player or start testing surround sound in software it switches to direct mode - the scout button starts blinking though in the Connect app says that the SBX is on. This is fixed only by restarting PC, no other solution works.
I used around 70% surround, but I had difficulty differentiating rear channels, it seemed like the sound was coming directly from behind me. Setting the surround to 100% helped, it's a bit better now. Should I also set 7.1 in both Windows sound settings and Connect app? And do you use any other setting beside Surround, like Cristalizer, Dialog+?
I dunno how to fix your resetting problem. As for the other stuff, I ONLY use SBX on, surround 100%, all other options disabled. Iset the G6 to 7.1. If using the G6 headphone out, under Setup Output Mode, set that to Audio Effects. If using an external dac, set Speaker Output Mode to Audio Effects as well, with apply headphone virtualization box checked. Don't set anything under setup as Direct. I would just uncheck headphone virtualization when not using Surround, instead.
Grado WH1 'The White Headphone'
$795 as of September 2019 (limited until end of 2019)
Where to buy: TTVJ Audio
Review First Posted HERE.
Disclaimer: A special thanks to Todd at TTVJ Audio for sending these out for quick impressions and review as part of a loaner tour. As always, whether products are sent to me or not, I do my best in being 100% honest with my views and opinions. If I don't like a product, I will refuse to write a review of it or at least mention what I don't like about them, though I like to focus on products that people would like or at the very least are interested in. The only bias I have is to my readers and making sure they know about good products.
As mentioned in the above disclaimer, Grado's WH1 'The White Headphone' sent to me was part of a loaner tour by TTVJ Audio. I reached out directly to TTVJ Audio as I was very interested in hearing what Grado had to offer in the higher end market. I'll be brutally honest in saying my reasons for wanting to try the Grado White was mainly due to it being the cheapest Grado headphone built with the big ear pads by default. Somewhat of a shallow reason, but after having briefly owned the wireless Grado GW100, I also wanted to see what a full fledged Grado with comfortable pads had to offer. I really enjoyed my short time with the GW100, but the comfort level wasn't where I needed it to be. I had also purchased aftermarket big bowl pads for it, but unfortunately, it negatively impacted the GW100's enjoyable sound. It simply wasn't made for those pads.
I'm not quite sure what Grado wants this headphone to be called, as I see WH1 in some places, 'The White Headphone' in others, and a combination of both randomly sprinkled throughout the internet. For sanity's sake, I'll make my own moniker and simply just call it the Grado White. At the very least, a search of Grado White online will help you find it anywhere it's mentioned. You're welcome.
The Grado White is a headphone available for an extremely limited amount of time (up to the end of 2019), and thus falls out of what I'd normally consider for review, as I doubt most of the gaming community I'm part of is likely to get a pair within the short period of availability. In any case, a stipulation of the loaner tour is to put out some impressions, and asides from that, I feel it's worth discussing at least what to expect from a big boy Grado.
Before I start, keep in mind that I didn't have my usual length of period when it comes to my review process, so I can't claim the same level of 'quality' as my other, full fledged reviews. I tried my best with the limited amount of time I had on hand to make something presentable, accurate, and reflective of my own thoughts and impressions, so please be aware of this as you read on. Let's start with the build.
Grado tends to keep it simple with their designs, aesthetics, build, and parts used. The White is no exception. You won't mistake the White for any other headphones from other manufacturers. It is 100% Grado. It is what I'd consider classically retro. One could argue that there is room for improvement in some aspects, but you have to commend Grado for sticking with their very distinct, personal style.
The headband is incredibly minimalistic, which I honestly really like. No excess fluff or material used. A piece of flat metal, wrapped in black leather with white stitching. Classically dressed, with a sense of simple beauty. There is little in the way of padding underneath. I have always said you don't need much padding if the headband wraps around the head properly without having a hot spot on top of the head. The White's headband does just that, without any real point comfort issues. Could it use some extra padding where the headband rest on the head? Sure, but it's really no big deal to me, personally.
The headband is attach to a very basic, black, plastic pieces with L and R indicators. If there was one area that I feel could use better materials, it's these pieces. They just look cheap and betrays what one typically expects from a headphone at this price range.
These two pieces hold the classic Grado metal rods with plastic caps. I like how minimalistic and seemingly weightless the rods appear, though they allow the cups to rotate freely, which can be problematic for the cables. If you know Grado headphones, you know what to expect here. In any case, the rods allow for just enough size extension to fit my large head. There is no size indicator, and the cups slide up and down with minimal force. They retain their position with enough grip, though I don't quite know if they would remain this way after a long period of wear and tear. The metal gimbals don't allow the cups too much adjustment, but should be enough to allow the pads to rest properly on most head shapes.
The cups are maple wood painted in white, and are extremely lightweight, despite being comically large compared to the GW100 I experienced. The outer "platter" is visually pleasing, though be wary of nicks and scuffs. The demo unit on hand already shows some slight wood pitting, scuffs and nicks. The surface of the platter has the very simple Grado labelling, and in the center of each cup is a quarter sized ventilation opening with mesh cover. You can see through the hollow chamber to the other side, showcasing the openness of the White headphone.
The White is one of the very few Grado headphones that comes with the G cushion big bowl ear pads. Arguably known as the most comfortable of all Grado pads, with good reason. The pads are quite large and envelop the sides of your head, though your ears will still touch the inner surface of the pads, so they aren't quite over ear. Mostly, but not completely. The pads are also quite easy to install or remove. The material used is a somewhat firm foam, which may be itchy at first, though with some use will more or less disappear on the head.
On the bottom of each cup is where the attached cables are located. Unfortunately, there is no visible strain relief. The cables just disappear into each cup. I hope Grado gets with the times and brings out headphones with detachable cables in the near future. There is little excuse to not do this nowadays, especially with how incredibly easy it is for Grado headphone cables to kink and twist due to the unrestricted rotation of the cups.
The black cable is quite thick, particularly where the two sides join. The cable terminates into a 3.5mm plug with snap on 1/4" adapter. The barrel is quite chunky and will more than likely keep the White from being used used with phones that have covers.
I didn't measure the length of the cable, but my money would put it between 1.5m-2m. Not very long.
Final Build Impressions:
Visually speaking, I really like the Grado White. Just simple, retro-classical design, with a very little in the way of materials used.
Physically speaking, there is room for improvement, as it could've used a little more padding underneath the headband, as well as moved towards detachable cables. The plug could also stand to be shaved down a bit to allow more versatility in what devices you can connect it too, though I doubt many people are gonna walk around with such a large headphone attached to their portable devices.
I'm also not a fan of the unrestricted cup rotation which will undoubtedly cause problems for the cable down the line (it already has some permanent kinks). Though this is a problem with Grado headphones in general. All in all, I believe if you have ever experienced a Grado headphone, you know all the classic quirks associated with their design, for better or worse.
Grado headphones aren't typically what I'd associate with 'comfort'. After having briefly owned the GW100, and tested various Grado pads with it, I understood why. It all comes down to the pads and clamping force. That being said, it really depends on the model, as the higher end models with G cushion pads circumvent the lower end Grado weaknesses in terms of comfort. Let's start with weight.
I don't see any published numbers in terms of weight for the Grado White, but I certainly don't feel it's necessary. The Grado White is incredibly light. I believe Grado headphones are known to be light, with the exception of their Prestige line which uses some pretty heavy metallic materials on their cups. The Grado White is so light, I doubt anyone will find any issue with wearing them all day in this regard. Fantastic indeed.
As I mentioned earlier, the Grado White doesn't have much in the way of headband padding. Thankfully, the headband wraps around the head properly, keeping it from causing uncomfortable hotspots on top of the head. This, paired with the light weight of the headband, make headband comfort mostly a non-issue. It can be improved with some extra padding underneath, but it's far from necessary.
Let me start off with my experiences with the GW100. Despite the pads on the GW100 being nice and soft, there's only so much on-ear headphones can do in terms of comfort. They will press down on the ears causing a pinching sensation which will almost always be a problem for most people. The only Grado pads that I feel can pass a long term comfort test would be their G cushions, which the White thankfully uses. While the G cushions are on the firm side, they remain incredibly comfortable where they rest on the head. The only points of discomfort may an itchy feeling due to the exposed foam, as well as the pads not fully enveloping the ears, causing the tips to rest on the inner pad surface. It's much better than a true on-ear pad, but not as ideal as pads that wouldn't press on the ear tips. That being said, it only lightly touches the ear tips as opposed to pressing in towards the ears uncomfortably. After having used the White for a bit, I was fully accustomed to the ear pads, and could wear the White all day with very few breaks of adjustment.
Due to the White used being a demo unit, I can't say for certain if the clamp level is what is expected out of the box, or if there was some adjustment and break in prior to receiving the demo pair. I've heard that there may be a need to stretch the headband out to relieve some clamping force. From my experience with the demo unit, I found clamp force to be moderate to light, and overall near perfect to my head. Clamp isn't an area of discomfort for me with the White. If it had been, I would've definitely suggested stretching them out as the headband seems easy to adjust clamping force to your personal preference.
Final Comfort Impressions:
Overall, if I could simply sum up the Grado White's comfort with one word, it'd be 'great'. Its incredibly light heft, moderately light clamping force, big ear pads, and good weight distributing headband, all add up to a headphone I could wear all day without much complaint. If the headband was slightly more padded, and the ear pads could've fully enveloped the ears without touching the tips, the Grado White would've likely been among my absolute favorite headphones in terms of comfort.
It should come as no surprise that the Grado White is a far from ideal in terms of noise control. Fully open-backed drivers will never be good at sound isolation, the White being no exception. If you're getting a headphone this open, then you shouldn't be surprised at the lack of sound isolation. You'll want to keep your listening area separate from others you don't wish to disturb, with a door or more in the way to keep the sound leak from reaching their ears. In terms of external noises, that too will easily leak into the headphone. A noise controlled environment is recommended here.
Despite my main reason for wanting to try the Grado White being comfort related, if it sounded bad, there would be no point. Grado has a long history of being a brand with an interesting take on sound reproduction, which many would say falls under either love it or hate it categories. This I can understand, as from the short time I've spent with two Grado headphones have shown me that the Grado house sound, is quite different from what one expects with headphones in general. There is bound to be polarizing views.
Grados fall very much in the subjective preference camps rather than objective. Depending on who you ask, this can be good or bad, though I personally have a very open mindset on what sounds good and what doesn't. I believe that given enough time, most ears can adapt to drastic sonic differences. What can at first sound egregious and offensive with a quick listening test, can later sound subjectively perfect. Given enough time, I feel most ears acclimate to any specific type of sound. The mistake people make in terms of audio is they sit down, listen to something for a few minutes, and immediately come up with a conclusion based on that short impression. I don't place much, if any importance with these types of impressions. Perhaps they're used to a warm tilted headphone, and went to demo a bright leaning headphone? Or vice versa? That would surely skew their listening impressions to be more negative than one where the ear has acclimated to a specific balance.
In the same way our ears and eyes are hyper sensitive when we wake up, and later on adapt to the everyday bustle and hustle of life, a headphone's sound can drastically change for the better with prolonged exposure. I don't believe so much in mechanical burn in (I believe headphone burn in is constant and variable in very, very subtle ways, and not something one can put some arbitrary hours in, personally). Rather, I believe in physiological and psychological burn in being the biggest contributors to a headphone's sonic improvement.
The reason I mention this is because Grados are so specialized in their own sound that differs greatly from normal audio reproduction. So at first, one may say that the Grado house sound is terrible or way too different from what they consider normal. The Grado White does not wander off from this philosophy. Upon first listen, I found them a tad bright, harsh, and peaky. Not something I'd consider enjoyable. However, the more time I spent with them, the more my ears got accustomed to their sonic intricacies which led to a more agreeable conclusion. Let me be more specific.
The Grado White's bass is a range that varies depending in which region you target. So much that the White has actually managed to make a lot of my music sound drastically different than expected. This all comes down to the sub bass being undeniably thinner and less weighty than the planars I come from. There's no denying that the Grado White isn't exactly super extended down low. It's not tin can levels of dry and empty, but more like there was focus aimed towards the mid and upper bass regions, which are fuller, punchier, and more engaging.
The White does not exactly lend itself well to atmospheric, ambient sub bass that envelopes a scene. Rather, it is reliant on the immediacy of impact, punch, and attack a bit higher up in the bass regions. As such, the White isn't a headphone I'd use for my mostly bass reliant library, where deep, atmospheric rumble and omnipotence is expected. One example of the type of bass reliant music I listen to is Mimi Page - Lullaby For The Lonely (Yinyues Remix). The Grado White simply can't reproduce the depth needed in the bass to play this track correctly. It is more oriented on drawing out the detail and textures of things like bass guitars than electronic subterranea (yes, subterranea). As in all things deep, cavernous, etc. The White doesn't concern itself much with that.
So does this mean the White is bass light? Honestly? It depends. Due to the focus more towards mid and upper bass regions, depending on genre and music selection, there some thump and energy. The region that merges with the lower midrange, like male vocals can sound full and warm, even thick at times. If frequency testing comes to mind, I'd say it starts being reasonably audible and 'included' with the rest of the sound at 80hz+. You can hear it below 80hz, sure, but there just isn't all too much in terms of bass volume and impact below. Don't expect much there. This isn't a headphone to expect a lot of audible and physical bass extension.
So with that said, you can conclude that the White isn't a headphone for bassheads, or those who want deep bass in particular. It is more articulate, and discreet down low. Even the lower regions of bass have a great sense of texture and speedy decay that more so aids detail retrieval than mere excitement. I feel there is enough there in the mid and upper bass that can satisfy those with a more reserved palate. Though depending on who you ask, I'm sure there will be people who absolutely feel the bass is light and lacking. I'd put it between bass light and bass neutral overall. It fights between being one or the other for me.
Like I said, it isn't utterly devoid of bass. Some examples:
Royksopp - What Else Is There (Trentemoller remix) - A track with much importance placed in the bass. The Grado White thumps exceedingly well here. Highly enjoyable.
Portishead - Biscuit - A lot of lo-fi and trip hop tends to have questionable quality, so advanced warning here. However, the White plays this absolutely beautifully. The bass hits juuuuust right. Highly recommended with the White.
Above and Beyond - Anjuna Beach - has a vibrant bass line throughout. Very enjoyable on the White.
The White's bass really, REALLY varies depending on what you're throwing at it. For things outside of music, like action movies, or video games requiring immersion-inducing bass, I'd say the White isn't an ideal choice, but it isn't useless in these regards. It's passable, though if these are your main goals, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.
Midrange to Treble:
This is one area of sound I think many will agree one. The White has an excellent midrange. It's not exactly an HD650 or an Audeze headphone which romanticizes and sweetens the midrange with a juicy, syrupy, dulcet tone. Rather, it is vibrant, energetic, sharp, and focused, with great clarity and detail. Midrange body is what I'd consider tight. No silky smoothness or brittle dryness. It's neutrally toned with a great balance. More articulate and attentive. Forwardness is spot on. With the aid of the White's openness, the midrange is center stage, without disappearing as if listening in the back row, nor are you in the immediate vicinity of the performance. Very even presence.
In terms of frequencies, my ears pick up plenty of presence down in the lower midrange up to a good build up at 1.5khz, slight dip just past 4khz or so, to sharp peaks at 5khz and 7khz (can be problem areas if you're sensitive to prominence in these ranges). 8khz to 9khz is nice and detailed without harshness. 10khz is quite prominent to my ears, leading to a lot of detail up top, but also won't help the treble adverse. Past 10khz has plenty of extension without overwhelming the ears.
All in all, smooth isn't what I'd call the midrange and treble ranges. The White is definitely leaning on detail retrieval in these ranges, with razor sharp focus and definition. Is it bright? In comparison to what I'm used to, yes, it's a bright leaning headphone. But not overly so. Rather, it's more neutral bright than being clearly steered north to the bright categorization. The White's midrange is one of its strongest, if not its strongest characteristic, and one you should be very pleased with if details and clarity are important to you. That's not to say that the White isn't musical. It is. Very much so, but is clearly not aimed at seducing you with a chocolatey smoothness. It is controlled and disciplined. Like an aged professional.
Soundstage and Imaging:
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever owned a Grado with the big G cushion pads: The Grado White has fantastic soundstage properties. It is spacious, open, and particularly wide. It doesn't quite have the height and depth as some of the more recent planars I have experienced, but for most people, they should be more than elated by the soundstage performance. It is simply excellent.
Imaging is also a strength of the White. The White has highly defined details, and places sounds in different directions with great focus and outlines. It is easily one of the best headphones I've heard at placing objects cleanly and clearly in the virtual space. No haziness, no blurring of definition. Just immediate, tactile focus. Very, very good, Grado.
It also should come as no surprise considering what I've just said, but if you're someone who uses surround processing, for things like video games (think Dolby Atmos, GSX, SBX for headphones), the Grado White is an absolute stellar performer in terms of virtual surround soundstaging and imaging. I'd place it among my top tier headphones for this purpose. The expansion and emulation of a large virtual space of 'speakers' is expertly rendered by the Grado White. When Creative comes around with an SXFI device on the level that'd I'd personally like, I'd gather that the Grado White would easily hit incredibly high level of surround soundstage performance.
As you have no doubt gathered by now, the Grado White is what I'd consider neutral to bright leaning tonally, with open soundstage, detail orientation, and excellent clarity in general. Bass is taut and highly controlled (if a bit reserved down low), midrange is sharp, balanced, and focused, and treble region is highly present, zesty, and well extended. It isn't overly dry or sterile sounding, nor is it dark, thick, or muted. Think of it as a vibrant, detailed headphone with punch and energy (I say this a lot, and I mean it).
The Grado White follows the tradition of 'easy to drive' Grado headphones. It simply requires very little to get it going and extracting its optimal performance. I'd worry less about how much power the White is receiving, and focus more on offsetting its inherent signature with a warmer leaning source and/or amplifier if you want a little more musicality out of it. Not required, but beneficial.
The White makes for a much better detail oriented headphone aimed towards being more competitive and professionally capable rather than casual and immersive. It can do that well enough, but I'd steered it more towards picking up minute details, and positional accuracy. There is fun to be had here, as the mid bass is punchy and does have some body. However, immersion is clearly not on the level of deeper bass inclined headphones. For instance, something like an AKG K612 Pro is both neutrally toned, without strong emphasis in bass, but extends down low very well, which allows for better immersive traits than the White.
The White is highly competitive in terms of what I'd consider high level, hardcore competitive gaming, without giving up all sense of musicality, and fun factor. If you have the White, rest assured, it's a great headphone for all forms of gaming. It just happens to be better for one aspect than the other.
In terms of music, I absolutely recommend the White for acoustic, rock, and jazzy genres of music. Not so much for electronic, hip hop, or other genres reliant on bass.
In terms of other media, I think it makes an excellent headphone for vocal duties like podcasts, general TV viewing like sports, news, comedies, and other non-action oriented TV and movie genres.
For gaming, I definitely would steer it towards online, competitive, detail focused gaming. Not so much casual or atmospheric games, though it can do these well enough. They just wouldn't be my first choice here.
Real world practicality:
The White is 100% a keep at home headphone. It's quite large, very open sounding with poor noise isolation, and lastly, it isn't a headphone that inspires confidence in terms of durability. Constantly moving it around will likely lead to imperfections on the white finish, and extra cable twisting due to the freedom in cup movement. Keep them at home, protected at all costs.
Main or Complimentary:
Due to the highly specialized tuning that Grados tend to have, I personally think that the Grado White makes for a better set of complimentary headphones to other headphones. Due to the White's signature excelling in vibrant energy, detail, and spaciousness, I'd recommend it be paired with a pair of darker, more fluid, if intimate set of headphones. Perhaps a warm planarmagnetic, or darker, closed back headphones.
Likes and Dislikes
Clarity, detail, and definition
Reserved lower bass
Some sharp treble peakiness
Build quality concerns
Something Worth Noting About The Pads
Those who have experience with Grados know that they can vary wildly in sound depending on which pads are used. I have a suspicion that the White can drastically improve in certain areas (like bass, warmth, and musicality) by replacing the pads with one of the other Grado types, like the soft on ear pads that come with the SR60, SR80, and GW100. Or the on ear L cushion pads that come with the SR225 and above. I expect this, because the distance between the ear and the driver plays a drastic part in tonal balance with these drivers. By merely pressing the White towards my ear, the tonality changed and became warmer, and fuller. Considering the G cushions the White comes with separates the driver from the ear a bit, I think it's worthwhile experimenting with different Grado pads. You may come up with some great results, though comfort levels will definitely vary. If I owned the White, I'd definitely invest in other pads for experimentation.
My short time with the Grado White was an enjoyable one. The White falls somewhere along the lines of being revealing and detailed, yet it doesn't forego its musicality to achieve it. I'll repeat myself here in saying it's a vibrant, punchy, energetic headphone that engages where its strengths lie. It's lacking a bit down low for my own specific preferences and tastes in mostly deep, electronic music and casual, laid back gaming purposes, but for all other things, I find the White to be quite exceptional. There are a few things I'd want improved like the peakiness in some treble ranges, though they really only became noticeable in frequency testing, and not so much with normal usage.
If you're not someone who relies on deep sub bass, or general bass emphasis, I think the White Headphone is magnificent in most other regards. The comfort is top notch thanks to the G cushions and the light weight. It is also easy to drive, the sound is clean, energetic, and spacious, and showcases what Grado is all about. It's not perfect, and there are things that keep it from being a must have for my own personal use cases, but its clearly a superb sounding headphone, and what I consider an absolute win for Grado. Grado made me a fan with their GW100. The White builds upon what I enjoyed about the GW100 and then some.
I know I'm gonna stir the pot here by making an exception and adding a few numbered scores when I haven't really done so in years, but if I could give the Grado White some scores:
Bass: 6 (decent) quantity, 8.5 (great) quality - bass could use better extension and energy. Great speed and texture
Midrange: 9 quantity (fantastic), 9 quality (fantastic) - excellent balance, definition, clarity
Treble: 8 quantity (great), 7.5 quality (very good) - Great presence and extension. Peaks could stand to be improved
Soundstage: 8.5 (great) - large and spacious with great imaging
Comfort: 8 (great) - Very comfortable and lightweight, slightly itchy, and ears touch inner foam
Final/Overall: 8 (great) - Even for someone like me who typically leans towards the warmer, smoother side of sound, there's a lot of to love here. The sub bass could stand to be fuller and more balanced with the rest of the sound, but then would it still be the Grado house sound?
If you come from other Grado headphones, I think you'll feel right at home here. Grado's 'The White Headphone' is a shining example of their dynamic, specialized, house sound.
@Mad Lust Envy I'll try your settings. Thank you for your help, I really appreciate it.
Very nice review! I've really been enjoying the White myself; I havent seen much online about it, so I'm glad to see someone giving it some love!
Lifesavers and Oreos. What a combo.
Thanks for the review. I've always thought the Grado drivers were capable of so much more than is represented I their headphones. I wish Grado would innovate a new design instead of changing the color of the cups. Give us something new with better 30Hz and 300Hz square wave response, low distortion, and deeper bass extension. I would look into that for sure!
It boggles my mind why they don't try something new.
Thank you for your time and effort. It seem Grado is going in the wrong direction. Sad, since I count some of the older Grado models among my favourites. I really wish they would reinvent themselves and come up with something new and improved. It's been 'variations on a theme' for 20 years now. Mind you, I haven't heard the GS3000e or the PS2000e but apparently they use the same driver with tweaked tuning. Why not find some other dynamic drivers from China and try them in the wooden structures and see what happens? On the other hand, if their products are steady sellers, if it ain't broke don't fix it i guess.
Another bright sounding headphone with thin bass and bad build quality from Grado.
I think we have a pattern here...
Man, I couldn't agree more! I like Grado as a company, but they desperately need to innovate. Design, comfort, sound, it's always the same rodeo with these guys...put out something new and fun guys.