Grado Love or the RS2 (TTVJ Deluxe Pad) Appreciation Thread

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Feb 13, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Other than the Joe Grado HP1, Grado is rarely mentioned these days. Tyll didn't really seem to like Grados. And the last time I remember Grados at a meet was in 2010 up in the Bay Area. That was a time when several SBAF (Changstar) founders were still alive or not ravaged by disease (RIP @Rex Aeterna and we miss you Rhythmdevils, if you are still around). Since then, Grado has been the butt of jokes, with users posting photos of ragged and jagged mountain ranges to show their headphones' frequency response.

    Before 2010, there was much less choice with headphones. Other than STAX and Ultrasone (the mostly bad sounding audio jewerly of the day) for the high rollers, there was Grado vs. Sennheiser for the plebs. Grado was fast, articulate, crunchy, punchy, but bright, maybe overbearingly so; Sennheiser was smooth, more tonally correct, but inescapably veiled. So veiled in fact, that just a few years ago, the Sennheiser 6** series was rumored to be canceled because of poor sales, that is until the HD650 Love (and mod) Thread and Drop's HD6XX release gave it new life.

    Grado is in no danger of disappearing, but it's about time we revisit a classic, learn why it was so special in the first place, and tweak it to get the best out of it. I present the Grado RS2. (Shameless plug to @netforce and sponsor The Source AV for making this possible as a Grado dealer).

    IMG_20200213_164139.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    There's a thought among many Gradoheads that the RS2 is the model to get for something close to normal frequency response (that is not so bright as to make your eardrums explode, that would be the SR325). I don't have enough objective measurement to support any of these assertions. However, I will say that I once owned a Grado RS2. That is until I too a leap of faith and sent them into be converted into Grado Vixens. I waited a while for the Vixens to arrive, ripping the box open in anticipation when they did arrive, for for my heart to drop. I was crushed. The Vixens with the RS2 drivers sounded like ass, nothing at what I was expecting: basically a Grado with the articulation, but deeper bass. We've all made dumb mistakes like that. This was most certainly one of the reasons why I started Changstar.

    This time around, I had a choice of the RS1e and RS2e. I decided again to go with the RS2e. The RS1e uses a slightly larger driver with a frequency response not quite like the other Grados, so I avoided it because the tweaks or mods I had in mind were based on the "legacy" Grado models. I figured the RS2e, despite the "e" would be close enough.

    As for tweaks, this time around, unlike the various HD650M or HD650K KISS mods, it's very simple. The use of TTVJ Deluxe Flat Pads for Grado. No tape bowls, No toilet paper. No disassembly. Just different pads. The downside to these pads is that they are kind of pricey at $50. If any member out there can figure out a source for the pads, I wouldn't rule out SBAF making a volume purchase and offering them for a fairer price. The original TTVJ flat (non-deluxe) pads are OK, but too dense. The Deluxe pads are closest to the original pads for the Joe Grado HP-1. So yep, that's it for the mods.

    Grado RS2e TTVJ Deluxe Flat Pads
    Frequency Response L and R
    Supraaural compensation (comparable to EARS SBAF compensation where flat line across is perceptual neutral).
    upload_2020-2-13_17-38-55.png

    OK, we see a couple peaks, but really not too shabby. The upper midrange peaks that bring that crunchy sound are expected. There's a broad mid-treble peak past 10kHz. The most important feature is lack of any peaks in the lower treble. It's not perfect, but it's listenable I would think for most. Certainly listenable to me, definitely moreso than the HD800 and on par (give and take here and there) with the Elex.

    TTVJ Deluxe Flat Pads vs Stock Bowl Pads (right, placed on top)
    IMG_20200213_164356.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Here's a measurement comparing the stock pads. Yikes! Yeah, that looks more like the regular Grado sound. If folks like it, then great. However, I get a feeling that most folks here will much prefer the RS2 with the TTVJ Deluxe Pads.

    Grado RS2e TTVJ Deluxe Flat Pads (red) vs Stock Pads (blue)
    Frequency Response
    upload_2020-2-13_17-48-40.png
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
  4. YMO

    YMO Friend

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    The Grado SR225i was my first headphone that started my path into audio. For the longest time I was a big Grado fan (even at one point I was dissing the HD600 for being boring and lame, how the time has changed). However, once I heard a LCD2 I was like Grados are overpriced not comfortable headphones.

    The RS2s I always had a thing for. Make sure you are running tubes and you are golden. I think the $200 upcharge for the RS1s was not worth it. Also, hardwired cables blows.

    This is taking me back ten years. For those who love rock Grados are good. However, I had shit luck shipping Grados and when it arrived one of the drivers craped out.

    The limited editions aren't bad, but the treble with the ringing that I was dealing with for years sucks.

    I never tried the TTVJ pads. I dunno if I have the guts to do it again.
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Let's compare the RS2 with the Deluxe Flat Pads to other headphones, so we really get an idea how far off the typical Grado or how close to neutral it really is.

    Compared to Elex: Elex has flatter bass, more air (too much so IMO), and a mid-treble peak just past 8kHz (which is more annoying, strident, sharp) than the 11kHz peak of the RS2 (more like hiss). The upper mid peak around 2kHz on the RS2 is similar to how many IEMs are tuned. With the RS2 on a flat pad resting against the pinna thus bypassing it, I'd argue that a bump here may even be necessary to some extent.

    Grado RS2e TTVJ Deluxe Flat Pads (red) vs Elex (blue)
    Frequency Response
    upload_2020-2-13_18-2-53.png

    Compared to HD650: As expected, RS2 is a bit wonkier in the highs. The HD650 isn't quite a midbassy, but extends lower. HD650 has smoother upper mids and highs - it's best trait. No surprises here, other than the RS2 with the Deluxe pads isn't totally messed up and bright like with the stock bowl pads!

    Grado RS2e TTVJ Deluxe Flat Pads (red) vs HD650 (blue)
    Frequency Response
    upload_2020-2-13_18-5-52.png
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
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  6. YMO

    YMO Friend

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    You should let us know if you like it for rock and nothing else @purr1n.

    I only really like it for rock and certain vocal stuff. Keep in mind I was only using Grados for seven years.
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I've been secretly listening to Grados for a while ever since I blew up my HD650 drivers in an experiment. I sold the HD58x because while I liked the darker tone and transient response of the HD58X, that 150-ohm driver sucked balls in terms of resolution and to a smaller extent in distortion. Yes, the Grados are more colored. There was a period of acclimating to the 11kHz peak. The 2kHz peak wasn't an issue because again, it like how most IEMs are tuned, and the other small bumps add to the crunch if you like guitars.

    The best parts? No Sennheiser veil and great Grado articulation. Even the HD600 has a bit of that Sennheiser veil, famous with the HD650. With the pads, I honestly cannot say that one (Sennheiser) is better than the other (Grado) or vice versa. They are just different with what they do well. I just happen to be in a Grado mood lately.

    The really awesome part is that while the pads are expensive, similar results can be obtained with the SR80 (I have measurements of this coming up, and with SR225 as well). I know that people say that the more expensive Grados are not worth it. I prefer to think that instead, the cheaper models like the SR80, perform close to their higher end models. I don't think the SR225 is far behind (a unit I got from Amazon was defective in one channel, so I returned it and need to revisit). I got the RS2 because I felt the woodie thing was a legit part of the Grado thing, and also because I liked the look better than plastic.

    The RS2e driver is different from the SR80 though. It's more efficient and the impedance curve is different. Will show all this as we go. Although it's important to note that the SR80 I have is one that I purchased in 2002, when I was on my way from Ann Arbor, MI to California. Grado has since come up with "i" and now "e" versions. This was when Grado used the thinner more flexible cables, which I prefer over the thicker ones used this day. I blame Head-Fi cable losers for this trend toward pain-in-the-ass headphone cables.
     
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  8. YMO

    YMO Friend

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    Yes @purr1n, the wood IMO is a very important part of their in-house sound. The SR80 is still one of the best values of audio IMO.

    It's sucks, because I'm from Brooklyn (and I believe they own the building in an area that's a Chinese neighborhood now), and I'm a sucker for family owed businesses. I can't deal with an headphone that cost $1000 and can't even swap out the cables without modding. I do think that the RS2e is overpriced by I think $200. Grado also never allow their dealers to sell below MSRP, which is a good/bad depending on what side you are in that argument.

    Run them on tubes. I think IMO it makes the Grado sound even nicer without the crazyass Treble. Once Jonathan takes the company over from John we can see even more interesting stuff from them. Then again, with any family company change is slow. And there has been changes with Grado with Jonathan getting involved.

    Disclosure: I never owned the flats from TTVJ.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    ... advertise below MSRP. It's not any different from anything else in high-end audio. It never hurts to ask a retailer for a lower price, add-ons, package deals, all cash deals.
     
  10. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

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    My first real headphone rig, purchased in 1994 at Tyll's recommendation, was a Headroom Little with some Grado SR80's. I loved it, upgraded to RS1's, and listened to Grados pretty exclusively for many years.

    I did a lot of experimentation on different ways to drive them (impedance is your friend) and to my ear, the HF2's are my favorite, and driven with an original DSHA remains the sound I associate with headphone listening. Interestingly, after really disliking the Sennheiser veil, my absolute favorite setup is HD650's driven via pentodes, basically because it sounds like what Grados would sound like if they sounded good :) Not necessarily accurate, but punchy and warm and full in all the right ways.

    I never did like the flat pads (or the Joe Grado models for that matter), possibly because I had made similar sonic compensations via amplifier tweaking.
     
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  11. YMO

    YMO Friend

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    Downside is a lot of Grado dealers will not do that. I was friends with a Grado dealer locally and he allow me to read up his Grado dealers agreement. There is a clause in their dealer agreement that states dealers can't sell below MSRP, not even for a dollar. The only exception is when a model is discontinued. Getting caught selling something below MSRP is grounds for Grado to terminate their agreement with a dealer. This was a dealer who been with Grado for decades (even back in their phono only days). Buying Grado internationally is a terrible value, yet Grado pretty much tells their international dealers you must set it in this price, even if it is a terrible value in their country.

    Grado has always been anal about this, they want their dealers to get a cut in the action. I think dealer cost of the RS2 was about $300ish and dealer cost of the RS1 was about $500ish. Prices could had changed since I looked at the agreement years ago.

    Shit, I attempted to do a cash deal and try to get package deals from different dealers many years back . Normally they will offer the discount on the items that is included with the headphone, but the headphone was full price. Now, I did get a newer Grado below MSRP years ago, but the dealer had to make two sales receipts for me. One for the actual price that I paid, and the other was for the full MSRP just in case I need to send it to Grado for warranty purposes. The dealer warned me to now blab about it. Now that person is no longer in the audio business and the dealer I believe just a year ago is no longer a Grado dealer (after speaking with the new owner, he believes their products suck). So for the small headphone area he is putting in Focals. Can't blame him on that part.

    For the higher end Grados, the real prices are in the used market. Then again, you want to support a dealer so they can be in business. Or all of this wall of text was just one former Grado user bitching (which seems like it).

    It's funny that we are talking about Grado again. I kind of wanted to get their limited edition GH3 many months back since you can still get it new for $325 and from reviews it doesn't sound too bad. However, the infamous Grado treble gives me terrible nightmares + I'm kind of sick of paying this much for hardwired cables. Then again, Grados are some of the most lightest weight headphones that I ever used. As someone who is weight sensitive, they are a blessing. 32 ohms also means plug them in a DAP and they should sound fine for the most part.

    Maybe after I get a tube amp again I might reconsider getting a pair again as an "old friend." RS2 as I stated before is still a good pair, however, they can be considered to be underrated since people want to blow their load on the RS1 because they think 1 is better than 2. Then again, the way they do their L-Pads (Bowls), it put terrible pressure on your ears since your ears are touching the driver skin on. After a while it was giving me nasty headaches.

    Which leads me to this question: @purr1n do you think with the Flats they are comfy without any pressure on your head? Does it makes your ears hot? Normally anything with pads it can make my ears really hot, but I think it is due to I'm in Florida and it is humid as my ballsack.
     
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  12. CEE TEE

    CEE TEE Free Agent

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    I'll have to dig up my pics. Started with Alessandro MS-1i and that's because I found Head-Fi. Loved them and that started the journey. Modded them with wood cups. Not as good, gave to cousin.
    Then had SR-325, not my favorite. Sold pretty quickly.
    Then HF-2 and liked those a lot. Sold to a friend who still has them. Moar bass for a Grado, warmer tone.
    Then RS-2 and liked them until I listened to more stuff with bass again. Used bowls and Jumbos on them, LOL.
    I can send you any spare Grado pads I have lying around for experimenting...
     
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  13. YMO

    YMO Friend

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    The joke in my neck of the woods was how to make your Grado have a wider soundstage? Put on some Jumbo's/Bagels G-Pads. Since the drivers are further away from your ears, it gives the illusion that the soundstage has increased. It also helped with the crazyass treble at the cost of mids on certain models.
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Hard to say. I've never had a problem with either flat or bowl pads, but do have to admit the jumbo bowls were the most comfortable. I can see the pads being a issue if you have ears that pop out and the on-ear arrangement pressing down on the ears too much.
     
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  15. elmoe

    elmoe Friend

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    Flat pads are definitely the way to go. They're not the most comfortable for long listening sessions but they sound the best for sure. Glad to see some love for RS-2 + flats.
     
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  16. Schopenhauer

    Schopenhauer Big Boobs, Big Grin

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    When I first got into the hobby, one of the first headphones I picked up was the PS500. I bought it because it was supposed to be a "warmer", "bassier" Grado. Or that's how I remember it being marketed. I had a brief honeymoon period during which I was convinced that it was the best headphone I owned; I think I had the Mad Dog and the HE-500 at the time. It struck me then as being remarkably "articulate", to use @purr1n's term. The other headphones sounded less incisive, more dull in comparison.

    Then, for whatever reason, I fell out of love and ended up selling it to some boomer lounge musician. I seem to recall him waxing poetically about listening to Grados with his morning coffee. Or perhaps I'm misremembering some random stretch of microblogging on one of the appreciation threads at Head-Fi. What likely occurred was that I became enamored with some other aspect of sound in which the PS500s seemed deficient.

    But I had no idea what I was doing then, no real sense of what I wanted in a headphone. For example, it was shortly after I sold the PS500 that I became convinced that planars had my ideal sound. Fast forward to today and I can barely listen to my LCD-2 for the treble fuckery. Now, I'm fully convinced that the HD600 is pound for pound perhaps* the best headphone I've ever heard. I've been curious to revisit Grados since I awoke from my planar-magnetic slumber.

    * - "Fully convinced" and yet I feel the need to add the "perhaps".
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    So this is interesting. Here is the impedance of the RS2e vs SR80 (yr 2002). Now that I think about it, I may need to redo the RS2 impedance measurement or verify through other means. This means that the RS2 will get much more of bass boost from higher impedance amps (usually tube) compared to the vintage SR80.

    Impedance curves RS2e (yellow) vs SR80 (yr 2002) open air.
    upload_2020-2-13_20-4-23.png

    Here is a photo of the SR80 drivers transplanted into wood cups and with the TTVJ Deluxe pads. Yes, wood cups are part of the sound, and different wood = slightly different sound.

    IMG_20200213_185737.jpg

    A new SR80e costs $99. Pay a premium $50 for the pads. Add wood cups and maybe even metal gimbals for anywhere from $50-$100. For $200 and some elbow grease, newbies can have something that has quite an energetic sound. Go up a bit higher to SR225, and the entire package and some elbow grease is $300. Not a bad deal for a highly resolving energetic headphone.

    Pro tip: be very careful with soldering / desoldering Grado drivers. They are very sensitive to heat. One method around this is to cut and leave 1" of the original cable wire to the driver, and just solder to the wire instead of directly on the driver pads. Under no circumstances try to remove the solder from the pads with solder wick. I wouldn't even heat it up long enough for a solder sucker.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
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  18. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Here are harmonic distortion results from SR80 to SR225 to RS2. These kinds of measurements with drivers are always fuzzy and difficult to repeat with each sample. However, as we move up the line, bass distortion gets progressive better (it can be argued that RS2 vs SR225 bass is different). Tests below are with TTVJ pads.

    SR80 (yr 2002) Harmonic Distortions
    upload_2020-2-13_20-23-31.png

    SR225e Harmonic Distortions
    upload_2020-2-13_20-22-43.png

    RS2 Harmonic Distortions
    upload_2020-2-13_20-28-1.png
     
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  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    FWIW subjectively speaking, among the RS2, SR225e, and SR80, the RS2 had the sharpest treble, cleanest lows, (and also most effect upon bass volume from amplifier output Z). The SR225e had the most mellow highs. The SR80 (modded) highs were in between. It was also the most inherently mid-bassy (but also with with least extension) assuming near zero output impedance amp.

    Will post FR and CSDs for RS2e, SR225e, and SR80 tomorrow.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
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  20. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    I think the reasons for the Grado mod market being so successful is outlined in this thread: if you can get around the claustrophobic presentation or just value an aggro sound over all else then you can get a lot out of the lower-end SR lines (with the disdain held towards the excessively pricey PS/GS flagships being well-justified in this context IMO).

    Don't think I've tried the new RS2e but I did love the vintage RS1 for how well it presented classic rock and acoustic, the only problem being how it was pretty shit for basically everything else. The RS1 went to someone in Canada and there are some days when I kinda regret not holding onto it. Maybe if I ever have $300 to burn on the used market, haha.

    @purr1n not sure how they measure in comparison but some people just take those Grado comfy pads and cut out holes in the middle to try and emulate the flats. I got to try the Audio-Technica ADX5000 recently and while I was there someone else at the store let me try his PS500s with those pads for a spell; it was more or less what I expected, which means it was very genre-specific and painfully in my face, but less bad than most other Grados from memory. Actually surprisingly thick-sounding through the lower mids.

    Didn't have the new RS2es to compare. Proof with my worn-out HP-3s in the background (and staff faces censored for privacy reasons). Personal guess is I'd prefer a modded RS2e but that's pending actually getting ears on the thing:

    [​IMG]

    Yes that is the absolutely ludicrous Sony DMP-Z1 in the background. No I didn't get to try it, it was discharged :(
     
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