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RS-1 vs MS-Pro: a comparative review

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by kontai69, Jan 4, 2006.
  1. kontai69
    I’ve been comparing the Grado RS-1 (#26xx) and the Alessandro MS-Pro (no SN) for several weeks now and would like to describe, as best as I can, some of my observations. I initially bought the MS-Pro and really liked it. However, I was very curious to hear the infamous RS-1 in my current system and decided to get one to do a head-to-head comparison.

    Both are “fully” burned in (at least 120hrs on the RS-1; much more on the MS-Pro). For those who don’t know, the MS-Pro is a rebadged “variant” of the RS-1 made by Grado. The MS-Pro lacks the wooden buttons on the metal grills. The MS-Pro has a walnut (brown) colored finish while the RS-1 has a more “honey” color. It is not known exactly how their transducers differ. Only stock bowl pads were used in the comparison on both cans. See below for further discussion.


    Associated equipment
    CD transport: Music Hall CD25.2 (internally dampened with Dynamat Xtreme, Sorbothane, and Blu-Tac); placed on Townsend Audio isolation platform
    D/A converter: Ack! dAck! v2.0 (with high output option)
    Amp: Headamp GS-1
    Cables: Ack! Industries The Digital Connect digital cable; Kimber Silver Streak IC; power cords: VH Audio Flavor 1 (transport) and Volex 17604 with P&S plug (amp)

    I'm not expecting to get too many comments from the wiseguys out there who like to dismiss headphone opinions because they think the user's amp and/or source is inferior. [​IMG]


    Only well recorded store bought CDs (mainly classic rock and some jazz) were used for evaluation (no MP3!). I would listen to a portion of a track several times in a row and then quickly switch cans and note the differences I hear. The dual output jacks of the GS-1 allows both cans to be plugged in simultaneously, greatly reducing the time between switching.

    Note: All comments are only in relation to the other headphone.

    Soundstage: This is the most notable difference between them. RS-1 is much more forward and has that in your face quality. MS-Pro is quite laid back. I found the RS-1 soundstage to be relatively flat and two dimensional. MS-Pro has a much better sense of depth and separation between instruments in the depth plane. Width appears to be similar.
    Bass: The RS-1 definitely has much more bass that tends to exhibit a “boomy” quality. I actually found the bass to be too much at times and had to adjust the tension on the headband so that the bowls are as loose on my head as possible. The MS-Pro bass is less abundant but much more tight and accurate. During the beginning of U2’s Bullet the Blue Sky, the kick drum sounds more tight and “real.”
    Vocals: RS-1 has a fully “body” on the vocals. The MS-Pro tends too sound a little thinner, more distant, and more "echoey" on some recordings, especially those with an inherently laid back midrange. On Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon, this is quite noticeable. You can hear this trait on the RS-1, but it is not nearly as noticable.
    Guitars: MS-Pro reproduces the “twang” of the guitar sound more accurately. RS-1 sounds a little “rounded.” On the Beatle’s Yesterday, the acoustic guitar sounds more real to me. The “body” of the guitar is reproduced better on MS-Pro.
    Cymbals and snare drums: On Steve Winwood’s Higher Love, MS-Pro has much more “air” and spaciousness with well-reproduced decay. RS-1 sounds noticeably duller and closed in.

    With the above noted differences, I actually had the hardest time deciding which of the two I liked better. The MS-Pro has a more "live" sound to it than the RS-1 due to its more spacious sound and decay. Diana Krall's Live in Paris sounds, well, more "live" with the MS-Pro. The main liability with MS-Pro is the somewhat thin and distant vocals on some music and the less than impactful bass. Overall, I think that the RS-1 has a more forward, aggressive, fuller bodied sound compared to the more “accurate” and “realistic” sound of the MS-Pro.
    However, as stated in my “A Late Friday RS-1” thread, fate ultimately decided which headphone to keep. I unexpectedly got laid off from my job (AFTER purchasing the RS-1) so I will be returning the RS-1 within the 30 day trial period. I need to pay for my own health care now! The MS-Pro, as well as all the gear, were bought a while ago and already are paid for, so they are mine to keep.

    Also, if you followed my other thread, you would want to know that the RS-1 reviewed here is the cosmetically better of the two RS-1s I have on hand. It has only a few minor cosmetic defects as noted in that thread. I did not use the significantly defective “late Friday” sample which I got later.

    I tried reversed bowls on both cans. I even forked over $35 for the highly regarded TTVJ flat pads, since it seems like you can't mention anything about the sound of Grados without someone shouting "TRY FLATS." With both rev bowls and flats, I found the sound to be too muffled. The bass became too punchy and prominent, kind of like turning the subwoofer volume way up in a HT system. Not only that, they were really uncomfortable, especially the flats! I could not wear them for more than a minute. The stock bowls feel and sound much better to me. It is important to note that I have really small and flat outer ears. The bowls completely envelope them to form a near airtight seal. This likely is why the bowls work the best for me. Also, even brand new, I have no issues with the bowls being itchy and I happen to have really sensitive skin.

    It is worth mentioning that ever since I wrote the comparative review, I crushed the bowl pads on the MS-Pro under some heavy books overnight. This has the perceived effect of bringing out the bass and midrange to levels similar to the RS-1, likely because the drivers are closer to the ears. Unfortunately, I did not do a crushed bowl-MS-Pro to RS-1 comparison because I already returned the RS-1 for reasons described above.
  2. mrarroyo Contributor
    I wonder if all the diferences you heard are caused by the wood buttons. I would have been interesting to note if they sounded the same with the buttons removed from the RS-1. [​IMG]
  3. Dhw
    Great review! Sorry to hear about your layoff though... [​IMG]
  4. Rhydon Contributor
    Thanks for the wonderful review. Sorry to hear about the job....
  5. dhp

    Originally Posted by mrarroyo
    I wonder if all the diferences you heard are caused by the wood buttons. I would have been interesting to note if they sounded the same with the buttons removed from the RS-1. [​IMG]

    lol... that would be hilarious...

    Great review, I've haven't heard many reviews on the MS-Pros, so this is probably one of the few I've seen... Pros seem to be quite rare around here, most opt for the RS-1s. Sorry about your job. Although I'm wondering why you have 2 RS-1s? [​IMG]
  6. Squeek
    Thanks for the review/comparison.

    I am in agreement with all of your statements, however the MSPro is from memory and the RS1 is from current usage.

    I find the RS1 to be way more "in your face" than the MSPro, and echo your sentiments on the bass.

    I too prefer bowls over flats, probable because I also have small ears.

    It's too bad about the loss of job and that you have to send your RS1's back, but keeping the MSPro is not exactly "settling"!
  7. LFF
    Great comparative review. I was thinking of order some MS-Pro's but I think I will hold off on them for a little while longer. [​IMG]
  8. HiWire
    Great review. I really wanted the MS-Pro's last year, but I've heard the HP-2's exceed them in almost every way. I'm not at all surprised about the preference for bowls, since John and George have tuned the drivers to "throw" the bass and treble at that specified distance, and not with the flats.
  9. cheechoz
    Thanks for the review. I always wondered about that other Grado woodie out there! Sure wish many more people owned them, as there would be many more threads to read up on. In the end though, I am still going to get the trusted RS-1, as I have owned it before, so I am used to the sound, and may I say, "It's glorious" ! [​IMG]
  10. kontai69

    Originally Posted by mrarroyo
    I wonder if all the diferences you heard are caused by the wood buttons. I would have been interesting to note if they sounded the same with the buttons removed from the RS-1. [​IMG]

    Either that or make and glue wooden button onto the MS-Pro.[​IMG]
    I thought sticking some coins to the metal grill to simulate this. However, the paint on the grills appear to be "fragile" since they chip easy. I'm concerned that the tape will pull off the paint.
  11. kontai69

    Originally Posted by DieInAFire
    Sorry about your job.

    I thank you all for the kind works of support as well as the input on the review. [​IMG]

    For those who are curious...
    The small biotech company I worked for ran out of money and could no longer continue operations. Everyone got laid off (3 days before X-mas!). Not only did we not get a severence package, we even did not get paid for our time worked in December! That sure sucked. Also, the shares of company stock that I owned are now worthless. I actually have the money to pay for the RS-1, but I don't think it is a "responsible" thing to do right now under the circumstances.


    Originally Posted by DieInAFire
    I'm wondering why you have 2 RS-1s? [​IMG]

    This was explained in the first post of my "A Late Friday RS-1" thread.[​IMG]
  12. augustwest
    Thanks for the insightful write-up of these two closely related headphones! Sorry to hear about your job going away. . . . . On the bright side at least you are in California where there are many employment opportunities.

    - augustwest
  13. leofahrer
    And another thank you for this great review! And good luck for finding a good job soon...

    Now I know for sure that the only proper replacement for my MS-2 would be the MS-Pro [​IMG]

    By the way, I was wondering: did anyone get that nice new-years mail from George Alessandro as well? I felt really happy about it and it still puts an even bigger smile on my face when I see my MS-2s...

  14. rincewind

    Originally Posted by kontai69
    Everyone got laid off (3 days before X-mas!). Not only did we not get a severence package, we even did not get paid for our time worked in December!

    Surely there's someone u can take to court for time you worked that went unpaid!? At the very least that, and should be onto them about not getting a severence package too. I suppose it depends if u were full time or casual etc though.
  15. cheechoz
    Nice little review you put together here! Now I can't wait until my MS-Pro gets here, but I beleive it will still be a couple more weeks though! [​IMG] Oh the agony!! [​IMG]

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