Grado Hemp (2020) Measurements, Reviews, and Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by Vtory, Jul 22, 2020.

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Picture or didn't happen:

    [​IMG]

    This legal drug arrived at my place today. I could finally convince myself for the following reasons: (1) I need a summer pair of headphones; (2) My b-day is coming. Wanted a little special gift for myself; (3) F*** that's too beautiful to pass.. I'm not immune to "limited" marketing, either.... :(

    (But more fundamentally, HF3 and RS2 threads along with a profile post made it happen...)

    Associated posts in this thread
    I'm posting measurements first, as I immediately noticed I had to measure today -- otherwise I would not be able to do forever. Sounds holy-shit-oh-my-god-homerun-good to me.

    [​IMG]

    Subjective assessments to come later, but here are my quick thoughts regarding measurements.

    • Note that I'm using the first version of sbaf compensation curve and untweaked EARS. Moreover, they're originally developed for circumaural headphones. Applicability to supraaural structure is largely unknown although I'm assuming decent compatibility.
    • Small dip followed by small peak around 260 hz is caused by leaks. With real skin and skull curvature, I couldn't hear anything strange there.
    • Also with a better seal with real head, low ends extend much further. Perceived bass quantity (if not quality) around 30-40 hz is similar with what I remember from SR1a. Not bass heavy by any means though.
    • Gradual peak (by 4db) at 2.1 khz seems a mixture of supraaural measurement artifact AND grado coloration on lower highs. I don't hear peak that much, but presence of every instrument sounds a little exaggerated. Saxophone bites a little stronger than I used to hear.
    • Hemp is very, very sensitive to placements (particularly for 10khz and above). Not surprising at all for this transducer structure.
    • Is this really Grado? Even considering F-cushion effect (Grado seems to call TTVJ deluxe pads this way), I've never expected this level of polite and refined highs from Grado. Can't compare to HF3 or RS2 with TTVJ-DP (haven't heard) but everything I am hearing now is shocking enough to destroy my long built prejudice on Grados.
    Allow me a few more days to collect my thoughts on subjective listenings. Meanwhile, maybe @pure5152 can chime in.

    For FR comparison, I'm pasting my 650 and 600 stock measurements (same measurement rig, same compensation) below:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    FYR, currently hemp is driven by Schiit Magni 3+ (why did I sell asgard 3? damn..). Measurements taken with Topping DX3.

    PS. I don't smoke. Probably my EARS don't smoke, either.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2020
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  2. pure5152

    pure5152 Friend

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    Damn, when you said you were going to get one, I was not expecting you to get one this fast haha! Also, happy early b-day :)

    I'll post the impressions I've already written on my profile and in PMs with @Vtory for now, and maybe write more concise/refined impressions later.

    Here's the impressions I wrote in my profile:

    It reminds me of the HF-3 with more resolve, refinement, a smoother top-end, and more authoritative bass. It actually sounds pretty neutral/balanced tonality-wise, almost reminds me like a sharper, more lively auteur. I wonder how much of this is the 3F, I'll try it on my dad's jotunheim later. Impressively there's no harshness in the treble to my ears, and the subbass extension is impressive.

    ...

    The sr80e was my gateway drug, and I’ve owned/sold many grados since then (rs2e, gs1000i, hf3). I loved their lively, punchy sound, but I always found the highs a bit fatiguing. The hf3 fixed the tonal issues for me, but just didn’t resolve enough for me. When I heard the hemp had extension at both ends and better resolve I was interested, and honestly the $420 price is right. I'm not disappointed so far!​


    Here's the raw impressions I gave vtory in PMs

    It’s sounding good so far with the 3f which is pretty neutral, although it’s fed using the warmish bifrost 2. I’m on the road right now actually so won’t be able to listen to it on the jotunheim until tomorrow, but my impression is you don’t need warm amps to tame the hemp. It actually leans kinda warmish for grado’s, and I feel it’s pretty neutral overall actually. The highs are smooth and the lows are impressively extended.

    I’ll also have my gungnir a2 back tomorrow so can do impressions with that too.

    ...

    Augh, I couldn't pull myself away from my 3F headphone rig, so didn't listen with it to the jotunheim today.

    What I can say is that the hemp seems to have great system synergy with bifrost 2 (unison input, pi2aes) -> 3f, and sounds leaner/less engaging using gungnir a2 (pi2aes) -> 3f. The 3f is pretty neutral and the bifrost is slightly warm, so maybe it sounds best when paired with a warmer-leaning system? Unison's slight bloom helps too. My dad's modius -> jotunheim setup is pretty warm/powerful sounding, so I _should_ really listen to it, would probably sound amazing. Would also probably sound great with the asgard 3 actually.

    ...

    Great point about 3F, yeah I don't think any headphone I've tried with the 3F has sounded bad lol - everything sounds pretty dang great on it.

    Good catch about the XLR, yeah when I bought it from Moon Audio, I had them reterminate the stock cable to XLR so I can use it with my balanced amps for $35 extra (so it was $455 total). I was a little worried things would explode when I plugged it to the 3F at first, but turns out everything is fine. Looks like the grado is inherently balanced even through the cable. PLEASE NOTE YOU CANNOT ORDER THIS FROM THE STANDARD ORDER PAGE; YOU MUST EMAIL AND DO A CUSTOM ORDER. See this follow-up post.

    Listening balanced out through the jotunheim, there's less depth and resolution, slightly more grain, but still good layering (even despite the jotunheim's general lack of depth), good dynamics, good overall tonal balance. It sounds punchy in the bass and rich in the mids. It's hard to listen critically, as I keep getting drawn into the music... it sounds very lively and fun. Treble sounds pretty smooth/good when using the unison input, but when using the pi2aes the treble can get a little peaky/piercing (I use this song as my treble torture test).

    Compared to the auteur, I actually feel the hemp is more balanced than the auteur. With the j-rock I listen to (yorushika all the way), the drum hits sound harsher, and the bass guitar isn't as visceral, and drum kicks are slightly looser (although with more extension). Vocals sound more slightly more shouty on the auteur actually, which surprised me; I feel female vocals sound more filled in with more body on the hemp. Could also be brain burn-in, or maybe the auteur pads weren't fully warmed up? I wonder how much of this is maybe the pairing of the auteur with the jotunheim. At this point if jotunheim were my amp, I would definitely sell the auteur and just keep the hemp; but with the 3f, the synergy with auteur is too good to give up haha.

    Idk i'm rambling, but end is: the hemp sounds balanced, with amazing vocals, good punch, and smoothed highs. At least that's what I'm hearing. Will keep listening to make sure

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2020
  3. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    I want to make sure you guys weren't high when doing the impressions, right? Comfort still looks like trash for a Grado from the photos.
     
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  4. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    I'm not high enough to call it comfortable yet. Everything other than sound/wood sucks.
     
  5. pure5152

    pure5152 Friend

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    I have a pretty small and narrow head, and find the hemp pretty comfortable for decently long listening sessions (although after an hour my ears definitely feel the pain). I imagine for larger heads this will probably not be that comfortable without physically bending the headband. It's light enough and there's enough clamp that there's no hot spots on the top of my head and I get no neck pain (can't say that about the auteurs sadly). I find the flat pads definitely more comfortable than the stock L pads on many other grados, but compared to over-ear style pads, yeah they'll definitely be a comfort downgade.
     
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  6. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Comparing Hemp fr measurement (EARS) to HF3/RS2e (Marv's flat plate coupler; pasted below), I think there are several interesting points.
    • As expected, low end response is linearer with flat couplers.
    • Peaks at 4.1k hz didn't show in my measurement. I'm assuming it associated with concha resonance which EARS compensation curve incorporates into adjustments. My perception is more in line with EARS.
    • Sharp peak shown at 11khz in my measurement occurs earlier in flat coupler. I believe that has something to do with standing waves, likely associated with internal volume, eardrum dimension, etc etc). I hear actual peak a little beyond 11khz though.
    • 2-3khz peak is interesting. What I found in Hemp measurement resemble HF3 in Q but RS2e in center frequency. Hemp's peak is noticeably milder than both, but coupler difference will matter. Can't say much on my side.

    [​IMG]
    (Pasted from HF3 thread: Grey - RS2e, Red/Green - HF3, both TTVJ deluxe pads equipped)

    @purr1n (after your family stuff gets perfectly fine) Could you mind chiming in with describing your RS2e or HF3 EARS measurements a little bit? I'm wondering to what extent difference is attributable to coupler structure and to Grado's product voicing. Particularly for the three peaks in your measurements.


    PS. It's also possible Grado's own F-cushions aren't fully identical with TTVJ's deluxe pads. While they do look very similar in construction, Grado might cast one magic (or shit) or two on the pads.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2020
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    The EARS comp curve has a big ~4.5kHz dip which I think may be too aggressive for on-ear headphones. I felt the EARS ears were too stiff to have proper compliance and fit with the Grados, so felt FPC was better. Back to the 4-5kHz area, maybe reality is that it's somewhere in between. More FPC vs EARS data would be needed to get a better idea.

    Here is SR80 with custom cups and TTVJ pads
    GRN = EARS with SBAF comp
    ORG = FPC (also compensated)
    upload_2020-7-22_20-2-14.png
     
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  8. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    Totally called that the hemp composite would be good material, haha :p

    I can't remember if you've had a pair of modern stock HD600s @Vtory but while I fully understand people's sensitivities are different how does the 2kHz ridge compare to the Sennheiser's upper-mid (low treble to me is like 5-7kHz— difference in vocab) bump on things like the screaming guitar solos on Led Zep's Achilles Last Stand?

    Haven't had a Grado since 2017 but a silly part of me misses it, save for the weird headstage. Speaking of, safe to presume it's got that salad-between-your-ears kinda staging?
     
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  9. pure5152

    pure5152 Friend

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    kinda makes sense right: lots of compressed fibers means space between fibers can create more of a damping effect?

    I’d say intimate for sure, but it’s actually got some depth to it, more than the hf3 and rs2e from memory. The imaging is pretty precise to my ears, so instruments sound like they have more space and precise placement. I think a good way to describe it is it feels like you’re standing in the first row at a live concert - sure, it’s close, but the performance has energy and life and it feels plenty natural and full, not flat, and I feel it layers pretty well. I really like how it stages, personally, and prefer it to the auteur, which I feel can be a bit sleepy and too relaxed for the music I listen to (lots of j rock, electronic, alternative, foley)
     
  10. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Thanks! That's super helpful largely answering my questions. Now it seems clearer that Hemp got some treatments on highs (to get smooter trebles and less sibilant/strident presentation) over SR80, and that's also very consistent with what I remember with vintage Grados.


    I can hear mild bump around 2k. And like you said, that affects electro guitars. Mostly in positive ways (e.g., better envelops), but sometimes their strings sound like having troubles lol.

    Not sure what you mean by salad analogy (please bear with me -- I am really a Grado noob), but I might agree if you intended everything (particularly focused players) sound closer. Maybe in a quite "upfront" style compared to something like verite. Other than that, dimensionality and depth in general was more like hd650 than vintage grados (w/ L cushions) I remember.

    EDIT: @Lyander for your reference, I added the measurement of my own hd600 (pads new) to the first post. FR difference bw 600 and hemp somewhat matched my subjective perception.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2020
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  11. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    F cushions? Waaaaaat? When did this happen?
     
  12. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    upload_2020-7-22_23-30-6.png

    Not me, they call it that way. They did. lol
     
  13. Pogo

    Pogo Friend

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    I can't answer your measurement questions, but having gotten the RS2e/ttvj pad combo due to purr1n's review I can offer this subjective view: (strictly from my gear/ears point of view)
    Comfort: not gonna happen, on ear phones compress the ears unnaturally, how long you can stand wearing them is up to each individual. Me, I'm good for an hour or so.
    Bass, treble: very well defined,not overpowering, upper treble especially forgiving of the digititus common to 80/90s digital releases.
    Mids: wonderful, realistic, convey the emotions that should be felt with a good release. This is what I want from any listening session, the Grado delivers.
    Yeah, the 8 conductor cord sucks, the styling makes me feel like a uboat hunter, I have to wonder if the wood cups will attract termite's ( not my mahogany cups, but the pine and maple might?)

    TLDR: Im glad I got these, different presentation from my daily driver DT1990 and Amiron home. I'm especially enjoying these RS2e thru my Onix CD3 player using coax out into a BF1 MB A2 /MCTH/LPS. with old Redbook CDs. For hi rez releases, I prefer the Beyer's.
     
  14. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    Yup, or more like how solid wood panels are used in acoustic instruments for a reason, haha. I think I said something about this looking like a coarser version of the Nighthawk's liquid wood, which more or less fits in with the Grado aesthetic. Dammit now I have another headphone I want to listen to once quarantine ends.

    I think I said something to the effect of how it didn't seem like the RS1 I had around didn't have a "headstage" so much as all instruments were sort of superimposed over one another? Like the flautist was somehow playing inside a piano instead of next to it or something like that haha. Even Senn HD600 had more spatial separation! If this one is closer to HD650 then damn.

    It's definitely not a strength of the brand and even the G-cush lines don't really do very much here (only demo conditions, haven't gotten to take one home), but honestly there are some days when I care less about getting a cohesive sonic tapestry.

    Kalafina comes to mind :p
     
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  15. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    A little off-thread, but I wish you would hear verite someday. It may make you happy with every stuff you mentioned. lol

    I am a bit generous regarding headstage these days. (1) ALL headstages fucked more or less; (2) I tend to cluster anything sub-verite together. Nevertheless, I don't think hemp had superimposing problems as you described. I also think concurrent grados (ends with "e" or recent LTDs) with TTVJ/F-cushions would be decent at least. As I believe FR on highs plays quite an important role to convey right separation/placement to some extent. I honestly prefer hemp to 600 stock in many dimensionality criteria if not all.

    Also note that my rigs do a lot of benefits regarding that aspect -- let bifrost 2 alone, magni 3+ did a great job, too.
     
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  16. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Yesterday I might be too high to upload the rest of measurement set...

    Anyway, here are both channels' harmonics (H2-H4) and wavelet spectrogram (note: if not familiar, think it as a normalized waterfall plot in 2D as both are rather similar than different).

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Most of H3 and H4 masked during REW's computation (due to environmental noise in my place).
     
  17. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Roughly 48 hours have passed since I got my hemp pair. Thinking both my ears (or brain) and headphones are well broken in, so I share some subjective stream of consciousness collected so far.

    Here are critical complaints (major only) I want to raise at the moment:

    • Thick and ugly cable. Not being a cable guy I don't know sound benefits of 8 cores, but heavy cable and lightweight headphone body feel very weird. At least, I expected a little more luxurious feels.. It even feels cheaper than HF3 cable.
    • While I am now a huge fan of F-cushions' sounding, I am concerned that they will wear fast .. maybe faster than senn 600 oval pads that are already notorious. Hope they will last for at least a couple of years.
    • Long term wearing comfort depends on mood and body condition. I'm generally ok for up to one hour, but beyond that my experience has been rather mixed.

    Speaking of Hemps' sonical performance, I totally agree with the following phrase, quoted from another review (not very audiophile-focused though).
    Like I stated in the first post, I cannot assess the Hemps' sonic quality within the Grado continuum as I have nearly zero experience with i- and e- generations. My prejudice for Grado house sound was mostly built from SR80 (purchased in 2009 -- then sold one week later) and some traumatic auditions of vintage SR325, RS1, and PS1 (all with L and S cushions). Neither was my cup of tea. Too grainy, harsh, and torturing to my ears. RS1 preferred among the bunch.

    Alternatively I will make comparison with what are accustomed to me (ZMF, Sennheiser, and eq-ed Raal). And I believe that's surprisingly right way to evaluate hemps, because to me they stack up against anything I mentioned regarding tonal balance and timbre. Heck, am I really talking about Grado product?

    To begin with, I'd describe Hemp as "Poor man's SR1a".

    • No, Hemps don't sound that similar with SR1a. But they share a lot of strong suits.
    • I believe this is because both sidestep difficult parts of circumaural headphones -- controlling interactions with outer ears and reflections around ears -- in their own ways respectively. Interesting that one is putting transducers further from ears and the other putting closer.
    • Such benefits aren't very clear until tonally done right. I haven't appreciated this aspect when I got my hands on K1000 and vintage grados. Both too off to seriously consider.
    • Anyway, when done right, both free air hanging and supra aural structures obtain great clarity, transient (decay maybe too short to feel natural though), and articulation. Sound waves don't feel like being trapped in small space, either.
    • Note that by SR1a I mean they're driven by adapter+fake Accuphase AND equalized with Loki (the right two knobs rotated anti counterclockwise) -- and Hemps were just with Magni 3+ and F-cushions. No need to say which one is friendlier to el cheapo folks (myself included).
    On top of that, below are my general takes on Hemps:
    • Dark-ish tilting with a hint of warmth. More so than 600 stock or Verite with aggressive pads (e.g., verite lamb). Hemps are on the side of "harshness/stridency-free" group.
    • Very cohesive from bottom to top. Convincing timbre, too. I found myself keep returning to the favorite piano concertos and symphonies with busy passages.
    • Let alone great details, macrodynamics is impressive. Yeah I'm saying they slam doubtlessly. Squared edge and short decay seem to help, too. Microdynamics is rather interesting. While I don't think it resolve well at the VO level, I could recognize each fine step of volume gradation better than anything I own now -- as if I am using some kind of "cheat" or "aid" tools in the game. If I have to take any kind of listening tests for myself, I don't doubt Hemp would be my first choice.
    • Less amplification-demanding. Seems magni 3+ already pull quite a portion out of hemps. Compared to senn 650 or zmf verite open driven by 3+, I feel less compromised with hemps. As a total package, 3+/hemps rivals Erish/650 or VO well. And this is probably why I don't think the asking price seriously expensive (i.e., Hemp/magni costs 500-ish usd new while erish/6xx costs 400-ish -- and I can't live with magni/6xx). Also, due to their balanced highs, I don't think hemps' amp choice as much restricted as VO or 650.
    • I am calling these headphones "Hemp" as named by grado. However, it's quite misleading (borderline BS), as internal chamber was made of maple trees. I believe maple plays more important roles in acoustics than hemp (outer enclosure). Turns out not true. See this: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...views-and-impressions.9627/page-2#post-311263
    That's it for all I can say at this point. Will update as I go more deeply (or maybe more "highly" lol). Want to conduct some inter-Grado shootout if I have a chance.

    Refer to my signature for rigs associated with this evaluation.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
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  18. Grattle

    Grattle Friend

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    I hope Grado starts offering the F pads for replacement, and at a more reasonable price than Todd.
     
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  19. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Very rough thoughts on amp-pairing.
    • I don't think Hemps require warm amps any more. It can "accept" them but don't need them to tame trebles.
    • One thing Hemp inherently lacks (to me) is dimensional reproduction (it's not that bad as is though). Anything that can make spatial cues a little more evident will make a great synergy.
    • Also, I want to hook up as technically capable amp as possible to match up technicalities I perceive with the transducer (Aside: As a materialist audiophile, I found it surprising as Grado didn't use any exotic metal like beryllium for Hemps' diaphragm)
    • So all things considered, if I go really high with these headphones, I might be interested in good OPT tubes with modern sounding, or something like Ravenswood.
    This is why this week I repeatedly sigh while looking at FS boards (and checking my account balance). lol.
     
  20. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    You get it. When SR1a isn't the most convenient, the Grado works in a pinch with a strange familiarity. I've secretly been listening to Grados and the EC amp for a while now. Which reminds me, I may need to update my top 5 headphones list.
     

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