Since my review of the Grado SR60, I have been a fan of them. In fact they have followed me on more than one holiday. Even when I'm not travelling I listen to them often. It is almost like I need a weekly fix. But I have not plugged them in for a rather long time. You see there is something better-so much better that I am at a loss to express how remarkable a musical transducer they are.
I am referring to the Grado RS-1, Reference Headphones.
Grado usually do not offer lavish packaging-the exception being the RS-1, which accompanied by a wooden box which immediately alerts the senses that something special lies inside.
And inside the RS-1s which would look like the top of the Prestige series range, the SR325's, if not for the wooden enclosure that is substituted for the metal frame which encases the 325. Sonic improvement requires these changes.
Wood enclosures are a rare sight on headphones, although they have been used previously by other manufacturers-also on their reference headphones. The RS-1 follows the same retro styling as the Prestige series, including utilizing the same design for the headband. Finished in suede, rather than the usual leather, you either will enjoy the way it sits on your head or you won't.
Grado are not too enthusiastic about discussing the secrets that lie within the RS-1, although Audio Imports, the local distributor, informs me that Grado advise that the RS-1 utilizes the SR325 as its floorplan, but has improved upon it.
I'll say it's been improved, In fact the RS-1 puts headphone performance into a new perspective-it highlights the brilliance of music, while retaining a musical naturalness that only a handful of truly reference loudspeakers could ever hope to get a handle on.
Seeing that little technical data is available on the RS-1, let me highlight some of the data I do have available. The RS-1 is an open air dynamic transducer, with a frequency response rated as low as 18Hz. It utilizes a copper voice coil, as well as a copper cord which are comprised of ultra high purity long crystal oxygen-free copper.
This is said to offer the clearest transmission and lowest coloration possible. Smoother, cleaner and more dynamic sound is also suppose to be a direct benefit. Each headphone driver is pair matched for exact imaging.
Using the RS-1s comes with only two provisos. One is that they require a good headphone amplifier to drive them to peak performance. The other is that you enjoy your music. Listening sessions included trying every headphone jack around. Not surprisingly the only real solution was the Audio Alchemy HPA 1 headphone amplifier.
The RS-1s allow the listener to enjoy a truly spectacular musical experience.
There are no buts, or ifs or maybes. The RS-1s are true reference stuff. The only other headphones that I have heard that offer this kind of performance cost several thousand dollars and are electrostatic in design.
Open air performance sets the groundwork for the Grado's. Soundstage imaging is huge, well out of ear, and very dimensional. Layers of detail and perspective combine to allow a comprehensive see-through image that takes on a very real and invigorating appeal. Imagery moves well into the realm of "reach out and touch it". Listening to sade's Stronger Than Pride, I was immediately reminded of the Sonus Faber Guarneris, imagery was that good.
Lots of body and presence are integrated throughout the frequency range, with rhythmically defined and powerful bass lines providing performance well below 20Hz. Midrange liquidity is very good, with a learner neutral overall balance . One is immediately aware that the Grado's have very little sonic signature, rather being capable of reproducing each piece of music as honest as possible.
The RS-1s are special.
They join their sibling SR60s in being able to offer something so stunning that the price becomes irrelevant. These are not headphones for first time buyers, but if you want the best dynamic headphone I have yet to hear, the Grado Reference RS-1's are right up there.