Flagship headphones don’t interest me. I’ve gotten on fine, and for the foreseeable future will get on fine with Beyerdynamic’s DT880/600. But, slowly, I’m becoming a Grado head. I love the RS series and the SR60. The GR10 is my favourite small-fit earphone and the GR8e is a brilliant follow up to the earphone that changed my mind about the company. Yes, the original GR8.
Subject: Grado PS1000 (supplanted by the PS1000e)
As you know, another guilty pleasure of mine is Ultrasone’s IQ, an earphone whose atypical mid-high transition drew me to where I am now: to this hard stool, tapping away under the influence of virgin hot chocolate banging my head to Paul van Dyk’s Politics of Dancing 3 beneath the leather and steel dome of Grado’s earstwhile flagship, the PS1000.
It turns out that Fujiya Avic had the best deal on a used pair, but Yahoo Auction snagged my attention and I am now quite a bit poorer - not that I mind. The only thing about which I am bugged is that even at its smallest fit setting, the PS1000 is a bit too large for my main sail of a head. And, as a heavy headphone, the PS1000 takes an inch and droops a mile.
I should mention that while the metal work is nice, smoothly polished, and beautiful, the PS1000 doesn’t, from a spec-sheet-tabulating perspective, necessarily feel like 1700$. Not against the market. Grado make their stuff by hand. They’re not a huge marketing company. (As far as I know, they even shoot their own advertising photography.)
I’m a Leica guy, in it for the simplicity and for the icon. I don’t mind paying for what I like; and Leica’s cameras are made, finished, and designed to standards that their rivals simply won’t - or can’t - imitate. Why? They are beholden to the bad taste of the mass market. Leica are not. Grado are not. Still, the PS1000 is less easy to justify by any objective standard. So, I’ll say this: I like it and that is what matters. In the end, Grado doing their headphones the way they want and the way their market expects is what matters. That, and Grado’s heritage. Grado are not an Audio Technica with a hundred throw-away headphones on market, or a Toyota with 65 domestic car models introduced on the annum. They are not a Sennheiser whose flagship raison d'être is pure performance. I certainly don’t begrudge Sennheiser’s performance aims. I’m all there when it comes to amplification and outputs. But when it comes to headphones, I’m looking for a sound, for my sound.
The PS1000’s sound is somewhat atypical for Grado. It is anchored by a powerful but speedy, cycloidal low end and electric energy up top. The high mids are less pronounced than typical for Grado, and a centripetal tendency in the transition from mids to highs compresses trancey elements which may be just too much for my tastes. May.
Of course, I love Ultrasone’s IQ, which, apart from a sometimes-sloppy bass, is a comfortable (though certainly not identical) stable mate to the Grado. The PS1000’s tipped-up highs and wiry, powerful bass are nimble, detailed, and fun. I appreciate reference just as much as the next guy. It is why for many years I’ve owned and thrashed one of the reference steals of the century: the Beyerdynamic DT880/600. Of course, that headphone isn’t perfect. But it is one of the best-buys currently available among reference-oriented headphones. It isn’t fun, per se, though it jives with female vocals and uplifting trance like no other headphone I’ve heard. But graded along a curve, the PS1000 is funner, and mixes better to my tastes (Chase Emory might take issue with that word) in music (and that word). And it has very little in common with the silky, warm Philips X2. And while I am under no illusions that the PS1000 rings less than typical mid-range Grados, or is better for monitoring or mixing (honestly, what does the ‘Professional’ in the ‘Professional Series’ mean anyway), it are gloriously fun for people like me: for bassheads that hate flubby, big bass, that love tight, sinewy lows; for treble heads snap to it for speed and stereo detail rather than pure extension.
It is the Grado for the non-rocker. It is almost a perfect Grado for the trance-head, and is more than capable for continental and cross-genre hip hop.