H GRADO PS1000
"...these are the best sounding Grado 'phones, ever. They can do it all, often sensationally...The PS-1000 retrieves all the data sent it, with delicacy, or power (as the music demands), without smearing or masking, without the usual bugaboos or under or over damping, without deviation from their frequency response curve with volume, and without phase-errors that have a negative effect on voicing." - Max Dudious, Positive Feedback Online, Issue 47
Never one to stop innovating, Grado has set out to create a new flagship and it is these new headphones, the PS1000's, as I hear it, are the very best headphone Grado Labs has ever produced. What would so excite me as to claim such a thing? How about a hybrid metal/wooden headphone that incorporates the tone and timbre of the RS1's, maintaining the superior Grado mid-range, the hallmark of their sound and a resonance reduced decay which brings the sound closer to that of the PS1's and HP-1000's? How about all of that, dear listeners? Well here it is, the evolution of the metal series and the wooden series, the PS1000 is the answer to all those who have for years hoped for a broad release of the PS1's or for those who wanted something even better than the GS1000's. The PS1000's are the very best Grado headphone ever made.
Sticking with the new developments of the GS1000, the PS1000 uses the same large cushions providing a very comfortable fit on the head, excellent for very long listening sessions. These cushions also push the driver further from the ear providing a large sound and headstage. The same shaped enclosure as that of the GS1000's is used but instead of the wooden outer housing, the housing is a metal alloy like that of the PS1's headphones. What makes this particularly interesting however is the inner housing, which is made of the same wood used in the RS series and for the GS1000. The driver has been changed, has been improved, refining the sound even more than previous generation of headphones. The cable has also been changed and seems to be quite a bit thicker than the previous versions. All these changes and improvements make for a listening experience like none that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing.
Besides their appearance, which is that of a metal GS1000, one might well first recognize the weight of these headphones. Those who are familiar with my systems know that I own the PS1's and have owned over the years about a dozen HP-1000 series, the older Joseph Grado studio monitor headphones. These models are quite heavy, with the PS1's being heavier than the HP-1000's but the overall experience of that weight seemed to be reduced because of the thicker headband the PS1's used over the HP-1000's. Still, using the flat pads or the larger bowl pads, the headphones sat firmly on the head and were very noticeable. I don't know many that forgot they were wearing them, this as opposed to wearing the RS1's or even better, the GS1000's, which are so very light in comparison. The GS1000's in particular are such a pleasure to wear for long periods of time because they are made from a light wood and the large pads are at once comfortable on the ear (now being circumaural headphones as opposed to the supra-aural fit of the older pads) and also divert the downward force of the headphones outward reducing the apparent weight at the top of the head. Since the PS1000's are made to the same dimensions as the GS1000's, with their larger housings, would one expect them to feel even heavier than the PS1's or HP-1000's? While in the hand, yes. While on the head? A surprising no! I equate this phenomenon to the large pads used which again, divert the downward force perpendicularly outward, so that the overall experience is more pleasing than the older metal headphone models. No doubt they are much heavier than the GS1000's, but they are not unpleasant to use and I found myself listening for 8 hours straight with no complaints at all. I rather much liked the weight because although I was aware of their presence, it was a positive awareness, where I wouldn't be inclined to just swing my head aggressively and perhaps launch the headphones into orbit. Hey, when headphones sound this good, some head-banging is to be expected!
As with any transducer it is the sound that matters and as I've already stated, to my ears, these are not just the best Grado ever made, they are the best headphones I've ever heard.
On first listening one will probably note two things sonically: an incredibly dynamic sound and a very smooth sound. The sound seems to literally jump off the drivers with an astounding attack without overemphasizing or exaggerating any part of the spectrum as if the headphones are somehow working hard to reproduce this type of sound (or working harder than another set of headphones on the same system). There is no denying that the sound is more alive than anything I've ever listened to and yet the headphones are merely providing what is on the recording. A good analogy would be going from listening to the SR60's to the RS1's but think better, more dynamic and pure.
The attack is solid and fast and the transients are nimble with the transition to the decay sounding dead on, never lagging and the decay, oh that wonderful decay, notes trailing off into a black background, never sounding slow but never sounding overly quick either. The key I believe is in combining the wood and the metal. The wood provides a fine immediate resonance, getting a nice tone and timbre but as the sound leaves the inner chamber, the metal's rigidity forces the waves to stay tight, reducing reverberation and permitting a very accurate decay and highly coherent sound throughout the note. I suppose the really clever trait here is that despite a seductive velvety smooth sound, one isn't missing out on any details. Not at all. This is how the PS1's are consistently reviewed and here too we find the same thing. We get the glorious subtleties of the sound, all the inner nuances, micro and macro details while enjoying a smooth sound that is closest to a live open aired event. For those who have lusted for the liquid sound of the PS1's but want the better tone and timbre of the wooden Grados, the PS1000's deliver.
One other immediately noticeable aspect that I note in comparison to the GS1000's is that the mids sound more forward. If people felt that the mids were too far back in comparison with the RS1's or PS1's, then these headphones will fall closer in line with that sound vs. the GS1000's. There doesn't seem to be any disparity in any of the spectrums and this is not amp dependent, which I know first hand, many will praise.
The highs are never strident but smooth and extended, with wonderful sparkle and air. They are articulate without over emphasis. The bass is solid, palpable and authoritative without being overblown. The notes are deep and audible and work perfectly to provide the well-known Grado dynamics and that ever-elusive PRaT that Grados are naturally gifted at reproducing. I have always enjoyed the wonderful deep resonating bass of the PS1's but sometimes missed the extremely hard-hitting nature of the bass notes from the HP-1000's. No more! These phones do both better than their older siblings. I have never heard better bass than when listening to Grados. Yet, I've always had to choose aspects of the bottom end and then equate the best with this model or that model. Now I can just go for one phone and one phone only and maintain a perma-smile as I listen to some drum n' bass.
Over the years, I've bought and sold a number of headphones, not just Grados. The three headphones I have chosen to keep on hand have been the Grado GS1000's, PS1's and RS1's. As sad as I have been in letting the HP-1000's go time and time again, there has always been something about the above models that kept me listening more often for longer periods of time. Yet, if one were to ask me, Jason, which headphone would you keep if you could only have one? I could never answer perfectly. I enjoyed each model for specific reasons, feeling that each model had the edge in some dimension over the others. My default answer then would be: "I'd choose the RS1's because my wife bought them for me as a gift during our first year of marriage." Only sentimentality pushed one model over another. The PS1000's are the first set of headphones that I've heard that would actually have me choose a "best" headphone among the headphones I have on hand and have ever heard.
The PS1000's are finally, (and for those that upgrade often or think the grass is always greener, they know what I mean by finally), finally, the first set of headphones that would motivate me to sell all the rest, because these PS1000s do it all and do it as flawlessly as I've yet experienced. They give me everything that I've been searching for in headphones and do it in such a way that I can honestly say I'm not hoping for anything more. If more can ever be given, GREAT! But I've stopped looking. I've stopped thinking that a single phone can't do it all. Hyperbole be damned, this phone had me at hello.
~Jason Morin aka Zanth on head-fi.org