GS1000 Reviews

The Statement Series

GS1000e


Note: reviews may refer to previous models.

GS1000i Headphones

Review: Grado GS1000i Headphones
ISHOOTSHOWS.COM
Todd Owyoung

Grado Labs is a company that has a legendary status and a cult following in the audiophile world. To this end, the Grado GS1000i are what some believers might call the pinacle of the Grado tradition, keeping the core of their signature sound while evolving it with beautiful sophistication. Oh, and rich, rich mahogany.

In fact, the GS1000i's drivers have been described by some as “the finest electricity-to-sound transducer in the world.” We take these luxurious cans for a spin to see if they sound as gorgeous as their tropical hardwood enclosures look. Spoiler alert: They do.

Design

The design of the Grado GS1000i follows the signature Grado design aesthetic that's seen across their line. The headband of the GS1000i is a very lightly padded leather band – beautifully stitched and pleasingly polished. The adjustment of the earcups features the same sliding friction mechanism as other full-sized headphones in Grado's lineup, which features a metal rod and a plastic brace. Similarly, the tilt mechanisms of the earcups is made from a high density plastic.

Thanks to this tension-based adjustment system, the headband height is essentially infinitely variable, so it's possible to get exactly the right fit. The tension system is also strong enough that your adjustments stay put as well.

Despite lots of familiar design cues – and even identical parts to some other in the Grado line – one of the most striking departures in the GS1000i is the use of specially cured mahogany bowls for the earcups, which add a distinctive, retro look to the earphones. If you're looking for sci-fi stylings, the Grado aren't your cans, but these Grado do have a beautiful flare that will definitely garner some attention.

Build Quality

For me, the build quality of the Grado GS1000i is mixed. On the one hand, the use of premium materials like mahogany and a light but nicely crafted leather headband are a nice touch. The non-detachable cable for the headphones is a wholly sturdy thing that seems like it might feel quite at home connected to a leafblower or an industrial vacuum cleaner; it's thick, but also surprisingly supple. Despite the weight, it doesn't really affect the comfort of the headphones at all.

The elements that bring down the experience are the aforementioned uses of plastic in the headband adjustment anchors. In addition, the foam earcups, while extremely comfortable (to me), seem like they will inevitably need to be replaced and I can't help but wonder if a more durable and sleeker solution might have been able to render the same high level of comfort.

Personally, I'd prefer metal in these parts from a durability standpoint, but the use of plastic has an important consequence – lightness. Despite using solid wood for the driver housing, the Grado GS1000i are still extremely light on the head, which we'll discuss in the following exception.

Comfort

Despite a somewhat intimidating appearance, the GS1000i are deceptively easy wearing. With relatively huge, 1.5" thick foam pad, the Grado GS1000i are incredibly comfortable. As circumaural headphones, the pads completely encircle the ears, so there's zero pressure on your ears themselves. What minuscule pressure these headphones do exert (which is practically non-existant at that) is very evenly distributed to your head.

While the headband is not much more than a metal band enclosed in a leather band, nothing more substantial is really necessary due to the light weight of the headphones. Just as there's very little weight on the sides of the head, the GS1000i exert only a very minor pressure on the top of the head. There's no appreciable clamping pressure – these things just seem to float. So, despite any objections against the plastic used or the minimal headband, there can certainly be no arguing with the sublime comfort of these headphones.

Between the light weight, super comfortable pads balanced design, all this adds up to zero physical fatigue using the GS1000i.

Accessories

The GS1000i come with a Grado 1/4"-to-1/8" mini-plug adapter and an extra-long 15 foot extension cable. Both of these accessories feature the same very heavy-duty construction of the GS1000i's stock cable.

Amplification

The Grado GS1000i, despite somewhat massively large earcups, are not hard to drive headphones. At 32ohms impedance, they do perfectly well using the low gain on the Ray Samuels Audio Predator – comfortable listening volumes for this setting are around 9 o'clock and 11 o'clock on the volume pot for me, depending on the recording.

For portable use – if one was so inclined to use the GS1000i in some quiet (they're open backed, after all) locale on the move, or perhaps just untethered from a computer or dedicated sound system, these Grado are just as easily driven by an iPhone or any similarly powered DAP.

When the GS1000i are amped, however, there does seem to be a nice but subtle extension to the bass, which creates a more substantial presentation overall.

Initial Impression

I've taken hold of the Grado GS1000i and PS500. Naturally, I had to defer to the rich mahogany. My first impression? These cans are smooth. There's a truly organic richness to these headphones that I am loving. While it sounds counter-intuitive, the subtlety of these headphones is striking. There's a cohesiveness to the sound – from the lows to the midrange to the highs – that makes for beautiful, beautiful sound reproduction.

Burn-in, shmurn-in. The GS1000i sound fantastic out of the box.

Sound Quality

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the sound quality of the Grado GS1000i is lushness. There's a gorgeous, warm and relaxed signature to these headphones that's striking. From the initial listening, the quality of the GS1000i is apparent.

First, the soundstage of the Grado GS1000i is immense. But, more importantly, the soundstage of the GS1000i simply feels right. Moreover, as open-back headphones, there's a beautiful air and naturalness to the GS1000i's sound that's not easily achieved by closed ‘phones. There's a laid back and liquid quality to the sound of the GS1000i, but at the same time also full of detail. Again, the sound comes across as very naturalistic.

While the Grado GS1000i don't have a truly visceral bass slam, the low end feels solidly grounded nonetheless. For most genres, the low end comes across beautifully and naturally, and with a satisfying speed. All that said, if you listen exclusively to dubstep, I can't say the GS1000i will punch in your eardrums in like a pair of say, Beats by Dre. The bass reproduction comes across as an emphasis in the mid-bass, which is supported by the GS1000i's frequency response graphs.

After putting the GS1000i through a period of burn-in, the midrange seems to open up a little in terms of clarity, and seemed to come forward in the presentation just a little more. Still, the sound matured into one that was fluid throughout.

Overall, the sound of the GS1000i comes across as effortless. Thanks to the massive soundstage afforded by the headphone design, vocals and acoustic treatments have a particularly appealing airiness while still possessing precision and intimacy. String instruments in particular sound rich and supremely detailed with these Grado cans – and, of course, precisely imaged.

One thing to note about these Grado's is that the position of the drivers in relation to one's ear can greatly vary the sound of the headphones. Of course this is true of all headphones, but I found the difference more noticeable with the GS1000i than with most other cans, due to the very large bowls.

Conclusion

Think of the GS1000i like a fine scotch or bourbon – these are headphones to savor. They offer so much depth and detail to even familiar music that it's easy to get lost exploring and relishing in the GS100i's expansive, lush signature sound.

While I have a few quibbles about the plastic elements used in the construction, the phenomenal comfort and sound quality of these cans make them a pleasure to use. The Grado GS1000i are a pair of headphones that are supremely designed for enjoyment. From their extremely lightweight and comfortable design to the smooth, naturalistic sound quality, they seem intended for extended use for hours on end without the slightest fatigue.

Overall, the way I would describe the Grado GS1000i‘s sound is that it's incredibly cohesive. There's an internal consistency that these headphones delivery that allows for an incredibly immersive listening experience that is perfect for extended use. You can plug in these cans, queue up a few of your favorite albums, and float away into sonic bliss.

ISHOOTSHOWS.COM

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Grado's GS-1000 Statement Headphone

By Jude Mansilla
Founder of headfi.org

Until about midway through the day on Saturday, the most significant new product of the National Meet for me was the SHURE e500. While we see a lot of new headphone amps, portable sources, CD players, and accessories introduced in any given year, significant new high-end headphone introductions can have years between them. And yet at the National Meet we were fortunate enough to have two. On any other day, the e500's outlandishly excellent performance (in a universal-fit earphone no less) would have stolen the show. It would take a new flagship headphone from the likes of Sennheiser (think "HD700"), AKG or Grado to swipe some thunder from the e500, and that's exactly what happened.

It's a funny story. John Grado walked into the exhibition area. I'd never met him in person before, so when Todd Green (TTVJ) introduced me to him that day, it was the first we'd met. John was carrying around what looked like a typical leather soft-side briefcase, and, of course, I thought nothing of it. He was carrying it around for a while, before John and Todd clued me in to what was in there, which was a prototype of what was intended to be Grado's new top-of-the-line headphone. Shhhhhhh. It wasn't really ready for release yet. No copy had been written about it yet for things like press kits, dealer announcements, etc. Packaging for the headphone was (and is) still a ways away. With the exception of John's family and a few friends and associates, nobody knew what was in that bag, because, at the time of the National Meet, what was in that bag was supposed to stay, well, in the bag.

Those who know me know that the Sennheiser HD600 and HD650 have been my reference headphones for years. I love my Grado HF-1, and I use it for a regular change of pace, as well as one of my open cans of choice in my portable rigs. I have a Grado HP-1, and it's an occasional change-up, too -- a headphone deserving of its now legendary status, but, for me, still secondary to the HD600/650 as my primary headphone. I love the RS-1 (I actually prefer it to the HP-1), but, again, not enough to pry the HD600/650 away as my reference headphones. Having said all this, it should be no surprise that I was expecting something better than the RS-1 to come out of that leather bag, but something that I'd have to leave to more diehard Gradophiles to raise to the standard of their new reference. In other words, I was expecting to hear something I'd really like, and something I'd fully understand as a new reference choice for Gradophiles, but not a headphone that would become my new reference.

I looked at it and handled it. Yeah, it definitely looked like a design departure from the current Prestige and Reference Series headphones by Grado (as well as from the HP series from the Joseph Grado days). Larger in diameter, yet less heavy looking -- it felt lighter, too. Huge earpads -- next to the standard Grado bowl pads, the new headphone's pads look like a pair of woks.

I put it on my head. Hmmm.... very comfortable -- like they were barely there. What went through my mind was that I may have been wearing the most comfortable full-size headphones I'd yet worn. But the new appearance and comfort alone weren't enough to prepare me for what I was about to hear.

I turned the music on (Jazz at the Pawnshop on Todd's Panasonic portable CD player through a Ray Samuels Audio Hornet). "The soundstage is HUGE!" I shouted through the music. John just smiled. And I didn't mean huge soundstage for a Grado, I meant huge soundstage, period. I want to clarify something about the soundstage: I'm not talking about just making the headstage cavernous at the expense of coherence. I'm talking about a natural, open soundstage in which image density isn't compromised -- the GS-1000 just extends the sonic image objects out further in every direction, and makes them more alive and seemingly more tangible. This will almost certainly be the first thing about this headphone that most will notice.

But there's more to the GS-1000 than just soundstage. The overall sense of neutrality and transparency. The effortless and liquid midband. And the bass -- strong yet perfectly controlled and detailed. I'll say it now, as I've had a chance to listen to spend many hours with it since the Meet: The GS-1000 may be as close to a perfect headphone as I've so far heard.

But I've digressed somewhat from the story...

After giving the GS-1000 a listen, I looked at John and asked him if it was going downstairs to the exhibition area for others to hear. But he explained to me that he hadn't brought the prototype with any intent to show them publicly yet (for some of the reasons I mentioned a few paragraphs up, as well as other reasons specific to his business) -- he had only intended to give private sneak previews to a few people. I told him that I would, of course, not say a word to anyone if he wasn't ready to show it yet, but that I felt like I was now holding a secret that, at some level, I thought everyone downstairs would want to find out -- at the first National Meet no less. John did the arms-crossed, thinking-man's thing, and silently deliberated with himself over whether or not to bring the headphone downstairs to the exhibition hall, no doubt contemplating what the production and business implications would be. Somewhat uneasily at first, he said, "Should we do it?" Then he seemed more resolute, as he went from question to decision, saying, "It's the National Meet. Let's do it. Why not?"

And so I wore it downstairs in the exhibition hall (plugged into my iPod Shuffle). If I recall correctly, I think the first to notice was Trogdor. By the time the whole National Meet was over, many people had the chance to hear what would later be named the Grado GS-1000. The response was overwhelmingly positive. And it's not hype. It's not flavor of the month. It is, however, my new reference headphone. If the final product sounds like the prototype I've been listening to, the GS-1000 will -- I have no doubt whatsoever -- elevate itself into the pantheon of the highest-end headphones, and will, from this point forward, be discussed in the company of the likes of Sennheiser's Orpheus. It's that good.

Headfi.org

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Grado GS-1000 Dynamic Headphones

The new top-of-line phones prove well worth the years of work developing them
Max Dudious

To begin at the beginning, these headphones have the signature Grado sound, the clear hear-through-the-veils presence that makes them hightly valued by recording engineers, and the gorgeous mid-range that is so soprano-friendly. When I challenged them with the mst difficult to record and playvack opera stars, they sailed merrily along. Some folks say Grados are best for Rock and Pop, especially Heavy Metal with all their dazzling presence. Some detractors say they are "too brash." Others say Grados are uncomfortable to listen through. Well, I think this latest model, the GS-1000, will dispatch forever that stereotype of Grado Headphones. Physically, they are lightweight and their circumaural (or around the ear) opean-cell-foam ear-cups are as soft and comfy as I can remember. Musically, these new flagship 'phones can handle whatever the music demands of them. They can be delicate with a classical string quartet, able to retreive the precise movement of attack, the smallest nuance of performance; or they can bowl you over with The Great Wall of Grado sound from a great blues band, yet still capture the smallest details within the stonework of that wall. You pays your One Large, and you takes your pick.

The engineering team at Grado Labs has tweaked and experimented incrementally for years on this one. I think I remember John asking various folks what they thought of a prototype three or four years ago at a N.Y. Home Entertainment Show. It was cute, with the oversized foam ear-cups, wires adangle, resembling battery powered, electric earmuffs; but it didn't sound much different to me than the RS-1. Since then, Grado Labs has tweaked and modified its way (in an educated version of trial and error) until it has delivered their most excellent all-purpose headphone yet. Most excellent!! We're not talking Asti-Spumanti here: we're talking vintage Moët. Party hearty, dudes! More to the point, while I definitely get excited by technological breakthroughs (like fiber-optic interconnect cables) or material breakthroughs (like Palladium ribbon cables) — my wife, Grammy Dudious, accuses me of being an "audio revolutionary" — I most value incremental improvements on the tried and true ... over time. Grammy also accuses me of being an "audio conservative."

First, Grado Labs has taken their driver unit, proven over decades, and placed it in a more massive, but still lightweight wooden housing. Next, they designed a tea-cup shaped open-cell-foam ear-cup to distance the driver from the ear drum. This creates a larger load on the driver, one that cursorily measures to nearly four times the cubic volume of air between driver and eardrum, compared with his previous flagship model, the RS-1 (3.5" diameter by 1" deep, compared to 2.5" diameter by 0.5" deep. Do the math! pi, times the radius squared, times the depth.).

Imagination time. Imagine a good loudspeaker with a full-range driver in a sealed box. It has become a speaker designer's truism that in a smaller box such a speaker will not be able to deliver its deepest bass; the mid-bass will have more peaks, hence more impact, and it will be loud. In a larger sealed box it can have pretty deep bass (though not as deep as in a tuned and ported box), the mid bass won't have as much impact, and the overall amplitude will decrease (measured in standard ways, with 2.83v input and the microphone placed at one meter on axis) when compared with the same driver in the smaller box.

Now, let's play a somewhat more difficult imagination game for a moment. Imagine the chamber between the headphone's driver and the ear drum as a model for the speaker enclosure, with the speaker firing outward toward the room. I know it doesn't work that way in real life, but think of it in reverse. It might help. If the experience of loudspeaker designers holds up, just placing the headphone driver in a nearly four-times-larger enclosure ought to change the character of the sound, deepening the bass response, smoothing out mid-bass peaks. At the Head-Fi International Meet in Queens this spring, something like this experiment was tried, and most of the informal participants reported that no great change in the sound quality was observed with Grado's larger foam ear-cups when swapping them for the smaller foam pads of other headsets in the Grado line, those having the same sized center cutout. Some even said the larger ear-cups were detrimental to the sound. But John Grado wasn't fazed. He began doing a new series of tweaks on the driver, tweaks he won't even discuss because they're proprietary. What happens at Grado Labs stays at Grado Labs.

I'm not sure what he's done to his driver that makes it compatible with the larger volume of air, but Grado has accomplished wonders. The driver is the same old Grado driver that is in all his headphones: 32 ohm impedance, 98 dB per one millivolt, he claims. I found I couldn't play the new flagship models quite as loudly as the old flagships (the RS-1s, which could play painfully loud) straight out of my Sony portable CD player. The driver might lose two or three dB of loudness in an ear-cup that is nearly four times greater in volume than the old ear-cup.

We do know his drivers improve in performance as one listens to the headphones going up his price schedule. This, I think, parallels states of"tune" in automobile engines by one manufacturer that might have the same displacement but have increased performance due to auxiliary features; a 2- liter engine may be fitted out with different timing, compression ratio, transistorized hot spark ignition, carburetor air flow volume, exhaust volume (cu.ft./minute), amount of valve lift, over-head cams, transmission torque peak points, etc. etc. In other words, each group of drivers designated for higher price-points in the Grado line gets more tweaking, more fit and finish, more expensive labor-intensive hand operations performed on it, until designated for production. The best drivers, by test, are matched to close tolerances and mounted in Grado's best headphones. It is Grado's, and his Chief Engineer, John Chapin's experience and judgment in these things that finally bring forth an audio masterpiece.

You might ask, "How can anyone call an industrial product a masterpiece?". Well, the gull-wing Mercedes sports coupe has been considered such and has been on display in various museums since first produced in the '50s. Ever been to the Smithsonian Museum? Maybe I'll ask them what constitutes an industrial masterpiece. Or maybe I should ask the Supreme Court Justice who, when asked, "What constitutes pornography?" answered, "I know it when I see it." I knew the GS-1000 was a masterpiece from the first time I heard it last spring at the Head-Fi Meet. My critical listening button was pushed, and I was concentrating as hard as I could in a crowded, somewhat noisy room. First, the bass was prodigious. The midrange was smooth and clean with no typical anomalies I could discern, what I'd call "voice-friendly." The trebles were less peaky than the RS-1. This was obvious through very old ears. And the imaging and sound-stage depth were unusually spot-on. Relative to the RS-1, the GS-1000 was the solution to all its problems, and the RS-1 is a helluva headphone.

Months later, after I received the review samples, I decided to take a peak at the curves of the two Grados, and that of the Sennheiser 650 model as on display at the HeadRoom website. Any one with any interest in headphones owes a debt of gratitude to Tyll Hertsens for having the courage to publish these curves on his site. I overlaid the three frequency/amplitude curves upon each other. The midrange portion of the curves, from 200 Hz to 2,000 Hz, of all three were nearly identical. They each had very similar printouts. But the Senn 650 had a pronounced lack of punch from 200 Hz down, while the Grado RS-1 had a big plateau centered around 100 Hz, and a gentle rolloff below 50 Hz. Where the two of them rolled off, the GS-1000 had a significant rise, say from 150 Hz down.to around 30 Hz before it rolled off sharply. I don't know how the design exercise was executed, but if the goal was to give the GS-1000 prodigious bass, it succeeded. As I said, the three midranges were nearly identically flat, not more than a dB separating them from each other from 200 Hz to 2k Hz. Yet, the RS-1 has been viewed by its detractors as "brash," while the Senn 650 has been criticized for being too wanting of "sparkle and sheen," for being too restrained, too polite. Why this should be was answered in the treble performance of the three. Looking at the trebles, what was characteristic of the RS-1 were definite peaks of considerable height (five to ten dB) in the treble; while the characteristic of the Senn 650 were dips of about the same amplitude. The GS-1000, while it had a few serious peaks, was not as up and down as either of the others, so I thought of it as sounding "smoother." Having my subjective judgments backed up by the HeadRoom curves has given me a swelled head. I guess I've become a good listener. If you've a mind to, you could check me out by going through the archives and rereading my earlier reviews of the Grado and Sennheiser 'phones.

My GS-1000 review samples arrived from Grado a while back, and after putting them through all the tests I usually perform (How do they sound with the lights on or off? With wine or beer?), the result is the GS-1000 has two of the "house sound" Grado signature characteristics. It is rock solid in the bass, and it's very mellow (soprano-friendly, no ringing) in the midrange, with just enough high frequency peaks to give it "sparkle and sheen," yet not so much to warrant characterizing it as at all "brash." It is just about how I would design a set of headphones if that were my job, and if I had the talent to do it. I don't have any such talent, but lucky for all of us – Grado Labs has!

Listening late at night to some of my favorite CDs I found some talking points. For example, on a mono CD of Dizzy Gillespie, with one of his chamber jazz ensembles, titled Sonny Side Up: (Verve, 825 674-2, 1956); with Dizzy's trumpet-playing in its prime, Sonny Rollins (beginning to make a name for himself) along with Sonny Stitt on tenor saxes; plus a rhythm section of Ray Bryant, piano; his brother Tommy Bryant, bass; and Charlie Persip, drums; I could hear every damn thing, and everything was nearly as it sounds on my big rig, only better (clearer, cleaner, no listening room issues). This CD provides the novelty of listening in mono, and still getting depth, and non-overpowering bass, non-intrusive cymbals, not-too-percussive piano details along with the soloists.

Dizzy is most sly with Sonny Rollins soloing on "After Hours" and Dizzy chiming in from the rear with little affirming phrases, that sometimes sound like "Eeeyow," which he achieved by some control mechanism he got from his embouchure. He was in pitch, on the beat, and he got these ironic punctuating grace notes from his horn. Diz was not loud, matter of fact he was soft enough to seem he was vocalizing the point, the equivalent of, "Go man." (Sort of like dobro player Corey Harris's calling "Yeah," and "Uh-huh," and "Ow" to urge Junior Wells on during his vocal, "Ships on the Ocean,"on their Come On In This House album {Telarc, SACD 63395, 1996}.) I think I have assumed Dizzy was singing those chops for decades, scatting phrases, something I'd heard him do in performance. Through the GS-1000 I could clearly hear, for the first time, he was doing it through his trumpet. On the David Grisman/Jerry Garcia CD Not For Kids Only (Acoustic Disc, ACD- 8, 1993) there are many acoustic details that are surprising: A "horsefly" wandering around the soundstage during "There Ain't No Bugs On Me;" a surprising septet arrangement of "Teddy Bear's Picnic" adding a rhythm guitar, bass, trumpet, clarinet, and trombone to Garcia's acoustic guitar and Grisman's mandolin. But most surprising was Jerry Garcia's plaintive and haunting vocal on "When First Unto This Country," perhaps made more heartbreaking by our knowledge of his pre-mature death. In any event, his untrained, gravelly, somewhat nasal voice tells us of how the narrator was willing to die for the love of a maiden. I find Garcia's art particularly touching on this cut, his voice least affected, his phrasing nearly conversational as if he were talking directly to me. And I can't remember connecting with this song quite as unabashedly through any other reproduction system. I attribute it to the most life-like GS-1000 headphones.

Similarly, I found equally affecting Bryn Terfel's "Danny Boy" on his CD Bryn Terfel Sings Favorites (DG, 474 638-2, 2003). This is a full orchestral version of an Irish music-hall song, a father's love song to his son gone off to war. If you have any feeling for that situation, this one will get ya. The recording of this version of "Danny Boy" showed me something about dynamics. Through other headphones when the music called for loud, they seemed to go to as loud as they could go too quickly, and sounded strained. The GS-1000 could take demandingly loud passages in a more relaxed way, play them in stride without strain, as though they had something in reserve. Similarly, on that disc the duet between Andrea Bocelli and Bryn Terfel, from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, came through quite loud and clear without any suggestion of stress or strain. With these 'phones, Grado has a tiger in his tank.

Another "torture test" is a recording originally marketed by the Harmonia Mundi label, but which I received owing to my subscription to BBC Music (a free album with each issue, which I heartily recommend to classical heads as a way to expand your exposure to various periods and countries), on its own label. [And for surround-for-music fans, most of the CDs have lots of clean ambient information which decodes beautifully with ProLogic II or Circle Surround...Ed.] It is Bach, JS; Four Violin Sonatas and Toccata and Fugue, BWV 565 (BBC Music; Vol 8, No 5; 1999). I think it is still available through the magazine. If you're interested, do a Google. The most fascinating thing about this album is the Toccata and Fugue, written for organ, here transcribed for solo violin. In the 7 min. 28 sec. performance the violin is has to play from its highest register to its lowest, from ppp to fff. The piece demands all sorts of pyrotechnics that produce the inevitable sounds of fingering and bowing. Through the Grado GS-1000 'phones there were no unintended violin screeches, and while there were fingering and bowing sounds, they were appropriately down in the mix. So, again, the sound of solo violin seemed spot-on for me, as natural as sitting in a small performance hall at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory last week when some advanced students performed Messiaen's Quartet For The End Of Time, and I managed a seat in the fourth row.

Also, I'd like to tout you onto the Schubert's String Quintet D 956 (Praga Digitals; PRD/DSD 250 191; 2003), sometimes simply called Schubert's "Cello Quintet," also distributed by Harmonia Mundi. It is awesome! This is generally considered a masterwork and a pillar of the chamber music repertoire. I had little awareness of just how great it was before I heard it through the Grado GS-1000 'phones. There are things that (in the past) you wouldn't "get" if you were not at a live performance, watching and listening intently. For example, in the first movement there are passages where the two celli are playing in unison (to generate heft, and darkness of tone), other times when they were an octave, or a third, or a fifth, or some strange interval apart (accenting progressive harmonics). If you have two instruments playing the same note an octave apart, it is hard to discriminate that through recordings. It is considerably easier if it is a third or a fifth separating them because the overtones differ. They say you can hear things through 'phones you can't quite make out with a free-standing system, even in a dedicated room, because of standing waves, and echoes, and decay times that mask tones. So trust me when I say there are things going on in this music that are so subtle you have to have a primo reproduction chain to catch. The Grado GS-1000 is a good candidate for the transducer in a prime system. On John Pizzarelli's recent album, Dear Mr. Sinatra, (Telarc, SACD-63638, 2006), on the cut "Witchcraft," The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, a dynamite band just now gathering a following and being used on other recording dates, comes in with an earth-shattering blast. This is actually a chord, rising from near silence – held hardly a second – then allowed to decay to near silence, before resuming the song. Reminiscent of Haydn's "Surprise Symphony," where Papa used a bass drum shot to wake the dozing audience he had lulled to sleep, this nuclear blast gets our attention, no shit, and achieves arranger Don Sebesky's purpose. It is also a minor miracle of the advancing recording technique. Each and every instrument in the seventeen piece band is doing something, within this "Surprise," and we hear each separated out. Subsequently, we follow all the parts for the rest of the song as the orchestra rises and falls at strategic moments. Another, similar miracle is on the cut "If I Had You," where the ensemble consists of five clarinets, piano, and voice. The clarinets are thrown into some very interesting chords, and through the Grado GS-1000 we can here all the subtleties of a choir of nearly identical B-flat clarinets and one bass clarinet playing a rather ingenious accompaniment to Pizzarelli's thoughtful vocal. Not that other headphones can't recover the things I've listed in the previous paragraphs, but the Grados make it easier to sort things out. Definitely.

So, to sum up: the new Grado 'phones can capture micro-details down in the mix and retrieve them in proportion. They can portray human singing in a natural way that gets closer to the goal of capturing the musician "in the room" and helps solder the emotional connection between artist and audience that makes this enterprise so rewarding. They have very good dynamic range and an ability to handle very loud passages without sounding strained. They are voiced such that they are never brash nor harsh yet they retrieve fretting and bowing sounds without putting them up too far in the mix. They resolve so well they capture harmonically related sounds without blurring them together into a chord. And (succeeding at all of the above, it follows) they capture spatial relations as well as any 'phones I've heard.. These headphones are for the minority who want to hear everything that's on a CD, especially for recording engineers, musicians, reviewers, music students, and for those audiophiles who would own the very best.

One drawback these Grados might have is, they are so good they will reproduce whatever is on the software. If you want to hear delicacy, detail, low level performance subtleties, you will need a front end (a CD/SACD player and a 'phones amp) good enough to extract everything on the software and pass it on to the 'phones. I think people with less than first rate systems will feel let down. I don't often feel that way. For example, Lowthers (that lately I've been fooling around with) tend to make lesser amps (my $29 Sonic Impact 5w/ch amp) sound better than most other speakers do. Lowthers still play their best with the high-grade equipment (like the de Havilland Ios amp), but they won't embarrass anyone who wants to play them through a twenty-year-old receiver. Likely they will be better than what preceded them. The opposite is true of the Grado GS-1000s. They are a bit ruthless, reproducing whatever is on the software, so whatever level of excellence describes your front end, that's what you'll get out. They won't make chicken poop into chicken salad. They will expose it for what it is. But if you really want to hear, say, an opera late at night, in private, and you have a good CD/SACD player, like the Marantz SA 1151, you'll have to go to Salzburg or Vienna to top what you'll get (great sound, emotional connection) from your Grado GS-1000s. But a top-flight Walk-around CD player, through the Grado RA-1 battery powered 'phones amp, will give you a surprisingly good approximation through the GS-1000s.

As anyone who gets mail knows, we are approaching the Christmas season. The catalogues swell my mail box to bursting even as I click and clack away. Of course it would be foolish to suggest a $1000 item as a present, except for you deep pockets guys out there. But, how can the rest of us maneuver our way into it. I'd suggest, for those who can spend such sums without squirming, buy a pair for yourself and give your formerly held "flagship" headphones to your son, or son-in-law, or wife (heh-heh), all gift wrapped, with new foam pads. You'll score heavy "good guy" points. No one will mind if you snuggle into your favorite chair to listen to your new GS-1000s. Failing that, buy your wife one of those extravagant gifts she's been hinting about, and strongly suggest she buy you, in return, a set of Grado's latest masterworks. If she collects jewelry, kitchen gear, cashmere sweaters, anything, she'll understand. If you are like some of us, retirees living on a fixed income, you'll have to wait until Grado allows some of his latest production tricks to trickle down to his less expensive models. And if you must, as I must, control my lust for ownership, well our human wisdom is enriched by the understanding of Envy. I think each of us can be better people for having a touch of Envy now and then ... in small doses ... 'cuz it's still a deadly Sin. But we'll understand others a bit better for having experienced it ourselves. Been there, done that.

To recapitulate, the Grado GS-1000 headphones do everything good headphones do, and then some. They are so good they deserve some eponym, like "The Great" Grado 1K's. That is not to say they revolutionize the field: that wouldn't be John Grado's way. They incrementally raise the bar, solving some nasty problems that have deviled designers for some time now. Whereas the best of previous headphones were either too bold and brash, or too painfully polite, these 'phones can be both in turn if that's what the recording engineers deliver. The Great Grados do not make brash recordings sound polite, nor polite recordings sound brash. Have I mentioned that they are the first to give you what is on the software. And they are comfortable. They are a nominee for "Max Dudious's Product of the Year, 2006." Good job, everyone at Grado Labs. And when you rush out to buy a pair, grab your old lady and do a stately Pomp & Circumstance up to the counter, modestly slide him your Platinum Card, and remember to tell the guy, "Max Dudious sent me."

SRP: $1000 Grado's New Flagship Headphone

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GS1000i Headphones

The Grado GS-1000 headphones
Positive Feedback
By Max Dudious

These are a daring about-face example of what a small firm's engineers can do in this, the mature practice of their craft. The latest offering from Grado Labs represents decades of educated trial and error experimentation, the slow and painful development of mastery, and I feel the GS-1000s are a masterpiece of industrial design. They play naturally all the most complex music and no one part of the audio spectrum is emphasized, which some mistake for not being "hi-fi." In addition to being lightweight, comfortable, and attractive, the strength of the design is musical flexibility: the Grado GS-1000s can be sweet and delicate, or authoritative enough to bowl you over, depending on the music. The better the gear that drives them, the better they sound. I've yet to find their limits, even when playing SACDs through an excellent $3500 player (Marantz SA 11S1), and a roughly $3000 Single Ended Triode headphone amp (Single Power's Supra). At the Head-Fi International Meet in Queens, N.Y. this spring, none of the other headphones showed me such universal excellence. Good enough for Accessory Of The Year? Undoubtedly.

Positive Feedback WRITERS CHOICE AWARD

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THE GOLD STANDARD: Very likely the best sounding headphones ever made - and they're priced accordingly

PC Magazine: GS1000
By Tim Gideon

The first thing you need to know about the Grado GS1000 is that it's a $1,000 investment. Sure, that's pretty steep, but these headphones are perhaps the best ever made. A single driver per ear covers a frequency range of 8 Hz to 35 kHz and operates in what almost seems like its own room. In fact, each headphone sits just off the ear, pushed away from the skull by foam, and pumps excellent sound from within the wooden chamber it's mounted in. The GS1000s, like other Grado models, also project some sound outwards: These are not for the office, and your fellow riders certainly won't appreciate it if you wear them on the train or bus. Interestingly, it is this external projection and the drivers' distance from the ear that create a unique soundspace for the listener. In this manner, the Grados overcome the greatest shortcoming headphones have—a lack of psychoacoustic space. The cabling is thick, and there is a 3.5mm adapter so that you can listen to your iPod.

Here's how my listening went. Grado claims that the response of the headphones is flat, and I tend to believe that, but I think the distance from the ear, the foam enclosure, and the wooden housing do something to enhance the bass a bit. Not only were these the best-sounding headphones I've ever tested, they were also the best-sounding headphones at low volumes—where I still experienced a strong sense of bass. And the Grados can certainly hold their own at high volumes.

At the moment, if you have $1,000 to burn and want the best available set of headphones, you have two choices. First is the Ultimate Ear UE-10 Pros, which are custom-molded, completely flat-response, in-ear canal earphones. They cost $900 and are very portable as well. In your second option, the Grado GS1000, the perceived response is less flat, which makes them a bit better for rock, rap, and pop music; but of course, they're not very portable. Either way, you'll be walking away with an amazing pair of headphones—one of life's truly great treats. And hey, if you're like most people—who can't afford such an indulgence or refuse to pay the price—swing by your local high-end audio store and check them out for fun. It's an amazing experience... and may prompt you to upgrade your basic earbuds in a slightly more affordable manner.

PC Magazine: GS1000

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GRADO LABS Statement GS1000 Headphones

PRESTIGE AUDIO VIDEO MAGAZINE / France
By: Henri-Pierre Penel

The GS1000, the result of more than half a century of experience, is a demonstration of the exceptional know how of the New York based company Grado Labs.

The ambition of these headphones, fitted with unusual ''chambers'', made out of wood and equipped with black foam cushions, is to recreate, around the listener's ears the quasi perfect listening room. The quest for perfection is obvious in the drivers as well as in the ''chambers'' which are made out of a solid piece of precious wood, on a lathe. One side of the chamber receives the driver, the other one, (a large port), a mesh grill. The ear pads, made of dense foam (of supra oral type) insure a perfect acoustic coupling with the scull. The leather headband, holds together the chamber/driver assemblies, using articulated rods.

EXCEPTIONAL TRANSDUCERS.

Extreme care has been taken in manufacturing the drivers used in the GS1000. They use a very large and extremely light membrane of a diameter of 40mm. They cover a bandwidth from 8Hz to 35kHz, values which are rarely heard off. The wood chambers are not for the look, they serve as a damper for the vibrations generated by the drivers. Their role is prominent in producing a pure sound exempt of any coloration.

LET'S LISTEN!

Right off the bat, you enter a universe of subtlety and emotion: the bandwidth toward the bottom as well as toward the top seems unlimited. The best, however, is the fact that the GS1000 does it without ''bragging'' or exaggeration. The result is limpid and exceptionally natural. Each micro detail helps in the intelligibility and unbelievable finesse. On another side, the stereophonic effect is large but perfectly defined. We are miles away from having the feeling of something lifeless and ''cheap'' as so many less performing headphones only offer. The GS1000 headphone does not ''squeeze the ears'' and the large foams make them the most comfortable headphone for extended listening periods without any fatigue.

TO CONCLUDE...

The GS1000 is the kind of exceptional piece of equipment that does not only deliver a message but is capable of recreating a real emotion. These headphones are worthy of the best companions, their behavior is close to being analytic, they will suffer with a mediocre feed.

Highly Recommended!

PRESTIGE AUDIO VIDEO MAGAZINE / France

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