The $695 Grado RS1s have been around for about two years. The $495 Grado RS2s are brand new. They were quietly introduced right before Christmas.
I call the RS1s the Grado 'woodies' with deference to the late Beavis and Butthead. The sound is typically Grado - warm, full bodied, rich, non fatiguing in the treble. (This applies to all Grado phones, including the lightweight SR 40's for 39.95 - an ideal choice for joggers.!)
The RS1s have even greater warmth and richness than other Grado 'phones, perhaps because of the mahogany earphone chambers. By the way, the "specially cured" mahogany (from mahogany trees specially grown in Brooklyn, New York - yes, a tree grows in Brooklyn) is surprisingly light.
Is it the mahogany that gives the RS1s their special richness and resonance? No question - the RS1s and RS2s sound like no other phones. With bodies tuned like musical instruments, these phones are especially kind to Classical music. They impart richness, body, and sweetness, particularly to strings. For this reason, the Grado RS1s remain some of my favorite phones.
However, the Grados can sound sluggish and bass-heavy, even lacking in resolution especially for the first 50 hours or so. So you need to run them in! They can also sound sluggish and lacking in detail when driven directly off the likes of Radio Shack Optimus CD-3400 portable CD player. Not only do they need run in, they need power .
For me, the Grado RS1s come into their own with the Cary CAD-300SEI, the McCormmack Micro Integrated Drive, or the Creek OBH-11 (provided you use the optional OBH-2 power supply upgrade). I'm somewhat less than keen on the Grado RS1s with the Musical Fidelity X-Cans, even with the X-PSU power supply, because the bass is not as tight and taut as I like. The midrange and treble are magnificent with this combination, however.
The Creek OBH-11 headphone amp is something else-especially with the OBH-2 power supply upgrade. With this combo, the Grado RS1s not only sing -- they fly. There's no sluggishness. Bass is tight, taut, yet lusciously full - this fullness and richness of bass is something you don't quite get with the Sennheiser HD 600s. The treble is sweet and extended, yet not over the top.
Fortunately, now there are the Grado RS2s for $495. That's $200 less than the RS1s, for 'phones that look and sound almost identical. Good news for those who find the price of the RS1s out of reach!
The RS2s are made from the same Brooklyn mahogany, but the gimbal assembly is plastic, not metal. The phones are probably rugged enough, though - if my five year abuse of the SR60s is any indication. As with the RS1s, the voice coils are wound from ultra-high-purity long crystal, oxygen-free copper. And the diaphragm of each driver is "de-stressed" to "enhance inner detail."
You don't get a wooden presentation chest with the RS2s, though-just a plain cardboard box with foam packing. As I said, Grado headphones take a while to break in, and I've had the RS2s for only a few days. Still I can remember what the RS1s sounded like before they broke in: the RS2s are very close in sound quality. Again, it's the full-bodied sound-especially the luscious, rich, resonant bass - that makes the Grado 'phones special. Be sure to give them good amplification, though.