Grado RS1e Review - All Grado Gloriousness

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Feb 22, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Last week I started a thread on the Grado RS2e (also covered the SR225e and vintage SR80), and how we may want to swap the pads for the the TTVJ Deluxe flat pads in an effort to make the Grado more neutral, that is having a slightly downward tiled FR slope (instead of upward) along with the upper mid and mid-treble bumps, but attenuated. The idea was to reduce the Grado effect by about 60% so that they would be better for genres other than guitar rock. Or perhaps even get people who hated Grado to reconsider them with the TTVJ Deluxe flat pads. I never felt Grados were all bad since they had better clarity and transient response than the Sennheisers.

    IMG_20200222_165529.jpg

    Today, we're going all in on the Grado sound. Or at least the Grado's own updated interpretation of the Grado sound with the RS1e. It's important to note that the RS1e has a frequency response which is different from that of the RS2e, SR325e, SR225e, SR125e, SR80e, etc. The RS1e has been out for a while now and appears to have gone through some very early tweaks, which is the reason why I wanted to wait until things stabilized. The RS1e uses a slightly larger driver than the RS2e rom the rest of the line, hence why it's different sounding. In the past, the RS1 or RS1i, non-"e", in the past had always been knocked for it being too similar to the rest except for wider wood cups, but at a much higher cost, $200 over the RS2. Now at least there is a more tangible differentiator. FWIW, the TTVJ Deluxe flat pads do not sound good with the RS1e. The RS1e, appear to have been designed the Grado bowl pads in mind, at least in my opinion.

    Here is a photo of the RS1e driver. The driver is wider, so the wood cups appear to be bored out a bit. The driver may also be deeper. It doesn't sit totally flush and sticks out a tiny bit from the cup. One doesn't notice because the bowl pads cover it up.
    IMG_20200222_165555.jpg

    I will get the the sound in a bit. Yes, the sound is a bit different from the RS2e, SR225e, etc. Still, people who hate Grados should feel completely free to crap all over them. This isn't for them. I actually love them though.

    to be continued...
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2020
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  2. YMO

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

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    I had the RS1e when I pre-ordered it. The first run RS1es had the driver not fleshed to the wood cups. So what would happen is the driver is slightly closer to your ear, and it hurts like a bitch because it is putting additional pressure to your ears. So normally the driver is a flat surface when you put on the L-Pads. The early run that was not the case, it was mostly flat until the edge then it slightly goes down a bit, then you will get to the L-Pads.

    That and the treble hell was like nope, nope Grados.
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    The secret to loving the Grado RS1e is burning in the headphones for 160-hours* acclimatizing to its sound.

    Subjectively, compared to the RS2e (stock bowl pads), the RS1e isn't so lean and bright. There's very strong mid-upper bass emphasis which makes the sub and low bass reticent. The mid-treble peak or the RS2e is non-existent on the RS1e. However, the mids are just as "Grado" as ever, maybe even moreso! It's quite glorious, but only if you like this sort of thing. Keep in mind that I've liked oddly tuned stuff in the past like the W3000.

    Here's the frequency response of the Grado RS1e.
    upload_2020-2-22_18-24-8.png

    The 10-11kHz peak of the RS2e isn't there on the RS1e. In fact, the top octave is attenuated quite a bit compared to the rest of the spectrum. What seems surprising is that the RS1e now has a peak at 8kHz which I usually find more annoying than 11kHz peaks (RS2). However, this just didn't seem to be the case subjectively. This could be because the 8kHz peak is a few db lower and the mid-upper bass bump balances it out.

    Grado RS1e vs RS2e Frequency Response
    GRN = RS1e L
    RED = RS1e R
    GRAY = RS2e L and R
    upload_2020-2-22_20-46-34.png

    *I thought it was burn in until @netforce told me this unit was an on-display demo at TSAV. So I guess it comes to down my ears acclimating to their sound. And maybe me switching some amps and DACs around - an inherent process that I usually forget about.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2020
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Here is a comparison between RS1e with stock bowl pads to the RS2e, but this time with the TTVJ Deluxe flat pads.

    Grado RS1e vs RS2e Frequency Response
    GRN = RS1e stock bowl pads L
    RED = RS1e stock bowl pads R
    GRAY = RS2e L and R TTVJ Deluxe pads
    upload_2020-2-22_20-53-1.png
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Harmonic distortion measurements below. FWIW, I felt the RS1e sounded clearer, less veiled, more refined, and more nuanced than the RS2e. The harmonic distortion measurements would seem to indicate otherwise. The only spot where the RS1e does better is 200-300Hz. Oh well.

    Grado RS1e
    Harmonic Distortions, absolute (not %)
    upload_2020-2-22_20-58-2.png

    Grado RS2e
    Harmonic Distortions absolute (not %)
    upload_2020-2-22_20-57-44.png
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2020
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  6. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    How do CSDs look? I recall the RS1s I had had something of a grand resonance play in comparison to more "boring"/damped cans like the K550 or DT880[250] I had at the time— made for an interesting sound that sparked the honeymoon glow and flight of fanboyism, haha.

    Curious how those resonances might be aiding in that sense of clarity in spite of THD since it weirdly made for more audible nuances, though it was still a pretty claustrophobic presentation— kinda like how the X00 can push stuff to the foreground at times, but without the closed back that muddied low-level nuances up. The overall "more refined Grado" voicing v lower end cans might also be helping, hah; I found the i-generation SR line generally more fatiguing to listen to, more tinnitus triggers.

    Bass extension and distortion figures look about right by the way :p
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Let's take a look at burst response decay to see if there are any other clues to why the RS1e sounds "cleaner" than the RS2e. Sometimes the distortion reflects clarity of lack or veil. Sometimes it doesn't (SR1a). However, both harmonic distortion and transient response together might get us a better picture. Not an exact picture, but a better one. I'm not Amir. (It's likely that the muted sub and low bass make the distortion in these areas somewhat moot).

    IMO, the RS1e is a little bit faster than the RS2e in terms of decay, although it does have a tendency to bounce in a more orderly fashion (which isn't exactly a bad thing either, as STAX tend to do this - the result being a smoother or more refined less grainy sound). Note the obvious distortion of the 50Hz signal though of the RS1e.

    Grado RS1 10 cycle Burst Response Decay
    B1696 Grado RS1.wav.jpg

    Grado RS2 10 cycle Burst Response Decay
    B1696 Grado RS2.wav.jpg

    Animated GIF of the above.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2020
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Here is another view of the bursts, this time with no log function applied. The RS1e has an even stronger tendency than the RS2e of going nuts at the onsite of a signal at 1.5kHz and also upon decay where it keeps ringing. However, at 4.8kHz, it's actually somewhat sedate and takes time to get up to speed. Also note the distorted signal at 50Hz and the sawtooth wave shape tendency at both 50Hz and 120Hz.

    RS1e
    B1696 Grado RS1.wav.jpg

    RS2e
    B1696 Grado RS2.wav.jpg

    Quite a bit of mid-upper bass and not much below it. It's not terrible annoying. We are getting usable output to what a KEF LS50 does, but just with a ton more mid bass.

    Be right back with them. Yes, the RS1, "i" or "e" version or otherwise, has longer cups. Could the more regular 1.5kHz and 4.5kHz bounciness of the burst responses above attributed to the driver or the cups?
     
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  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    CSDs

    Grado RS1 CSD L and R ch
    FPC Grado RS1 l.jpg
    FPC Grado RS1 r.jpg
     
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  10. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    I haven't dicked around modding enough gear to know what longer cups might do (more wood in 'cabinet' = more stuff to resonate, similar to how the Fostex kids and presumably ZMFs [never heard a ZMF before, sad] leverage cups to colour sound?) but I do think the greater surface area of a bigger driver might account for the more "restrained" lower end, if mounting to baffle is similar as on the RS2? Very tight pants on the 50Hz burst it looks like.

    My lack of speaker know-how is manifesting again: what are the usual tradeoffs going up and down in diaphragm size? Larger ones have greater risk of modal breakup, no? Unless I'm mistaken a larger surface area will tend to push the resonant frequency of a driver down too so I expected better bass extension than the modern RS2, but maybe the cups on the RS2 just don't have it peak where you'd expect so the bass extension looks better? Weird. Don't actually remember whether the first buttonless RS1 had the diaphragm pushed forward and I'm too shy to ask the buyer, haha.

    You posted CSDs just as I was typing this. Holy shit that 9kHz. The regular "pulses" at ~2kHz are definitely cup resonances though. What's the wavelength of a 2kHz signal?
     
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  11. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Overhead CSDs (to 5ms) Grado RS1e L and R ch
    FPC Grado RS1 r.jpg
    FPC Grado RS1 l.jpg

    There is good evidence of the RS1 wood resonance play here: the fairly distinct horizontal lines that go across, to 2kHz, with a few less to 5kHz, less still to 10Hz, and maybe even one or two to 15kHz. All Grados exhibit this behavior, but with the RS1e, it's more evident (more lines, more distinct, more discernible pattern).

    Note that the SR80 drivers that I put into similarly sized wood cups have a similar pattern with the horizontal lines. However the RS1e's pattern has a more distinct pattern with less random "blobs".
    FPC SR80 mod Deluxe L.jpg
     
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  12. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Larger driver typically nets lower distortion and lower Fs, all things being equal. But things are not equal here. It looks that Grado is pushing the driver harder with the extra mid-high bass bump. The Fs looks to have be moved up in frequency too to facilitate this.

    Here is the RS1e impedance curve. The resonance frequency Fs has been moved higher to 138Hz compared to RS2e which was around 85Hz.

    Grado RS1e Impedance Curve
    GRN = against coupler / ear
    YLW = free air
    upload_2020-2-22_22-13-38.png

    As far as the CSD peak and blade at 9kHz. I do wonder if the razor blade sharp ridge indicates a more spot-lit peak that I escaped the recordings that I've been using. In many respects, it looks like an ortho wall, which I feel is benign in most cases. I think it's more likely that the 9kHz is about the same level as the 2kHz and just slightly above the mid-bass boost level that keeps it from being annoying. Could also be that I'm running it from a bloomier amp. And that I've burned-in the RS1e for 400 hours * or my ears have acclimated to the sound. Bottom line is that the RS1e subjectively sound flatter in the highs compared to the RS2e, even when the RS2e is equipped with TTVJ Deluxe flat pads.

    *100 hours may be believable. 400 isn't. Anything that changes significantly after 400 hours is broken. Also I've never heard anything that still sounded outright bad at 24 hours that actually got any better to the point of sound good later no matter the hours.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2020
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  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    In closing, I am not going to convince anyone here on SBAF that the Grado RS1e is for you. From the measurements above, there are plenty of reasons to stay away.

    However, the RS1e is both new and old. The "e" variant is a up-to-date take on the Grado sound. Not as lean and bright, in fact, not bright at all. A mid-upper bass boost with even more Grado mids, but tamed highs. The nuance, refinement, and clarity are superior to the rest of the RS and SR lines. The bass articulation is on-par with the best.

    Despite the high cost, I find that the RS1e suites its particular niche much more than the RS1 ever did. It's obvious that Grado had a vision for the sound that it wanted for its top of the line for its RS/SR series and met that vision. I find myself susceptible to the RS1e's charms and I just might buy them for myself.

    Special thanks to @netforce for The Source AV for this loaner. They offered and paid for postage both ways.

    IMG_20200222_165541.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2020
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  14. The Zone

    The Zone Rando

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    Hey purr1n, you mentioned in passing using a bloomier amp with RS1e... any specific amp recommendations with these, or, if not, general criteria for choosing one?
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    It's a top-secret very slightly bloomier solid-state amp in a small form factor. Can't say much more

    Otherwise I think Night Blues Mini, Drop ZDT Jr., SW51, Vali 2, Lyr 3, or Project Horizon might do the trick.
     
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  16. Grattle

    Grattle Friend

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    Damn those are some nice looking headphones.

    This has been an enjoyable and educational read. Your discussions regarding what the various graphs and plots mean is really appreciated.
     
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  17. Schopenhauer

    Schopenhauer Big Boobs, Big Grin

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    @purr1n You suggest that it's "likely that the muted sub and low bass make the distortion in these areas [i.e. <100hz] somewhat moot". Do you think it would follow that the XBass feature on, say, the Micro BL, since it kicks in (if I'm not mistaken) at around 60hz, might exacerbate the distortion characteristics of the RS1e? And if so, might it thereby throw a "veil" on the overall signature of the headphone?

    Initially, I thought that XBass might fall at exactly the right place in the frequency range to fill in some of the sub and low bass on the RS1e. But the distortion measurements have me questioning my thinking.
     
  18. Mr.Sneis

    Mr.Sneis Friend

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    What the hell happened to this place, is it 2004? Says the Melos amp guy :)
     
  19. ivanrocks321

    ivanrocks321 Rando

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    Man I was so hooked on grados back in the day. Still got my HP1000 still tho. Nice to see some talk about them again for ppl who are new to the hobby and grado.
     
  20. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I still need to send the Melos to you.
     
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