Reference1 & Master1

Reference1 & Master1
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Reference1 & Master1 REVIEW

Grado Statement Reference
Audio Reviewer
By: Lang Phipps

One of the delights of the audio game is when a small change transforms the entire sound of your system. I made one of those "God is in the details" tweaks not long ago, and fell again for both my audio array and my record collection. I switched out a very good and pleasing phono cartridge with an even better one and found the upgrade in sound immediate and overwhelming: I could scarcely believe that a 7-gram gizmo smaller than a walnut could affect the whole character of my playback system.

Another delight of the audio game is the learning process, how the rare, truly musical electronic device can train and re-train your ear. Phone cartridges have always been part of my education as a listener. It started long ago with an Audio Technica that made my Marantz Imperial 5 speakers sing. I thought the AT was pretty ace until I heard a Rega Elyse that was recommended for my proud new possession, a Rega P3 turntable. Many hours of happy listening ensued as I felt my ears opening up in sensitivity and sophistication.

In time I came to acquire the much-heralded Rega P25 'table and I knew a step up in the cartridge department was in order, which led to my next educational leap—a big one, the Grado Reference Reference high-output moving magnet. The Nobel-prize winning novelist Saul Bellow coined the phrase "contrast gaining," which describes the ameliorating effect of placing two qualitatively different things or people side by side. The contrast gain effect happened after I called John Grado to rave about the Reference and he said, "If you like that sound, you've got to hear the low-output version."

The arrival of a cured mahogany cartridge identical to the one I already owned found me unprepared for the next vaulting leap in my listening education. Within a week of auditioning the 0.5 mv Statement Reference, I began to believe that both my new and vintage vinyl had received a rite of purification, cleansed and made better than new. It was also as though the tiny hairs in my inner ear had been degunked, and in a stroke my hearing was perfectly clear.

The sound pouring from my wonderful Joseph RM7si Signature Mk.2 speakers was wide open and transparent across the frequency range. My most-valued tonal areas, mid-range and bass—I'm a drummer and background singer—were reproduced in a way that still induces a giddy smile in me. I would go so far as to say the cartridge helped me as a semi-professional musician, since I could "read" bass lines and drum parts, especially the kick drum, so accurately now. The soundstage seemed to knock the walls and ceiling out in my modest, Japanese-scaled listening room, as though the music was enlarging the space to make room for itself.

As in all great educational experiences, the Statement Reference was and is a revelation: it reveals all manner of musical detail, nuance, energy, and excitement. The most rewarding and unexpected bounty was being able to hear the true musicality of records made in the heyday of pure analog. Example: Simon and Garfunkel's "Bookends," track two, side two—" Punky's Dilemma." The vocals are a wide lenticular cloud of notes, lambent and airy. At the other end of the bandwidth, the electric bass enters with the distinct round tone of a Fender Precision. That's the magic of the Grado cartridge—I bet I could guess the make and model of many instruments and be right a high percentage of the time.

Another example: A first pressing, possibly a stamper, of James Taylor's eponymous Apple recording. Throughout, the instruments, from hand percussion to string section, stand clear in timbral integrity, emerging from the black silence of a deep noise floor. Even in this excellent recording, full of moments of head's up recognition, the harpsichord solo on track five, side one, "Taking It In" jumps out in its sheer undeniable harpsichord-ness. Finally, the typical high-end audio over-promise—"Shut your eyes and a large Baroque instrument is in your room"—comes true.

But the recording that John Grado should use as a demo for the Statement Reference is the 2005 Track Record re-master of "The Who Sell Out." Gorgeous and scintillate with a huge immediate presence, everything from the high-energy acoustic guitar to the soaring vocals simply knocks the breath out of you.

There's one last point of appreciation for this "small" tweak that re-made my system and my listening apparatus. Records I knew inside and out after hundreds of spins were sounding fresh and deliciously undiscovered. As one of my favorite songs of all time, I have heard "Penny Lane" over a thousand times since 1967. In my first listening with the new cartridge I noticed a cello being bowed somewhere in the last quarter of the song. I had never heard it before.

The big smile of the student delighted by learning once again returns to my face.

Reference1 & Master1


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Frequency Response
Channel Separation at 1KHz
Imput Load
Output at 1KHz 5CM/sec.
Recommended Tracking Force
Stylus Type
Compliance CUs
Stylus Replacement F=Factory

The newly redesigned Master1 and Reference1 cartridges have had their coil design reconfigured, and the effective moving mass of their generating system has been reduced by 17%. All this is hand-assembled within a machined, new processed, Australian Jarrah wood housing. The Master1 and Reference1 models use a five piece OTL cantilever technology achieving an additional 5% tip mass reduction over the Platinum1 and Sonata1 models. The coils are wound with ultra-high purity long crystal (UHPLC) oxygen free copper wire. The Master1 model is mounted with Grado's specially designed nude elliptical diamond, and the Reference1 model uses Grado's true ellipsoid design diamond.

What people are saying about the Reference...

"The cartridges arrived today. Thank you very much!! Listening to the Statement Reference nowyowzers!! Sweet, this is what vinyl is all about. All the boys here are very impressed!"
— John Wood - Executive VP - Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
"The Statement Reference is used by Musical Fidelity Sound Lab in their cutting room and in their mastering suite."
— John Wood - Executive VP - Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
"As a long time Grado user, I was quite shocked at what I heard; all of the Grado virtues, but with a lot more warmth and silkiness and much better dynamic contrast -- including a lower noise floor."
— Hi Fi News / Ken Kessler
"But, as the Grado blurb says if your system can be driven with a 0.5mV output phono cartridge, then you deserve to be listening to the new Grado Statement Series. I second that emotion: It is an absolute killer."
— Hi Fi News / Ken Kessler