Grado PS1000 Headphones (Playback 25)

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Headphones
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Grado Laboratories PS1000
Grado PS1000 Headphones (Playback 25)

                                                                                                                                                         

Overview

Consider this headset if: you want headphones with excellent transparency and tonal balance and you want to avoid the occasionally edgy or harsh sound that often comes along as part of the package with other headphones that promise very high levels of transparency.

Look elsewhere if: macro-dynamic slam is at the top of your list of sonic desires, or if you need closed-back phones due to your environment.

Ratings (compared to similarly-priced headphones)

  • Tonal Balance:  9.0
  • Clarity: 9.5
  • Dynamics: 9.0
  • Comfort/Fit: 9.0
  • Sensitivity: 9
  • Value: 9.0

Sonic Character

Let’s start with the elements of the PS1000 that make it the real deal and a contender among the very best, because this is a very fine headphone to be sure. It isn’t perfect (no headphone is), and I’m going to eventually offer some criticisms. So, I want to be sure readers understand Grado’s achievement here, which is impressive indeed.

The bugaboo of most headphones lies in the treble region. If you look at the target frequency response curve (the one that psychometricists say sounds flat or balanced or accurate to the human ear), you’ll see that it isn’t flat. And you’ll see specifically that the target curve calls for a pretty big response rise in the treble region. I’m not a headphone designer, but I’m guessing that this target curve isn’t that easy to hit. I also suspect the curve is old and not exactly right. Moving beyond speculation, I am an audio equipment reviewer, and I can say from experience that almost no headphones seem to hit the curve. The Grado PS1000 comes as close as anything I’ve heard to getting the treble region right.

This means, first, that the treble region sounds balanced. The PS1000s have a treble region that seems appropriate (measured against the sound of live music) in relation to the midrange. That’s good, though I think this is the easiest item on the treble checklist.

To have great treble, though, one also has to make headphones whose treble is balanced within the treble region. This is where most headphones fall apart, to a greater or lesser degree. They have a dip somewhere or a peak or both. It can take a while to hear this, because some driver resonances are in a very small region and thus aren’t triggered by most music (or you miss it in the mix). Well, folks, I’m here to say that the Grado PS1000s have fewer of these treble problems than the other headphones I’ve heard. On disc after disc the treble simply sounds clear, and the tonality of each instrument comes through. That is, each treble-heavy instrument sounds like itself. ‘Sounds easy, but it isn’t.

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