Grado RS1X Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Dec 19, 2021.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Since the RS1e (reviewed here), Grado has gone to a larger 50mm driver, which is different than the 44mm drivers on the RS2X and down. There once was a time when all Grados including the RS1* were 44mm drivers. Grado now differentiates their TOTL RS1 series with the larger driver. The X model here is a reformulation of the 50mm driver on the RS1e. From what I'm hearing, this could be their most resolving driver yet. The difference was quite discernable going from an SR325X to the RS1X.

    5F4A0064 (Large).JPG

    With the X, Grado has further differentiated the RS1 with sexier wood cups. I don't know how they pulled this off, but Grado managed to sandwich maple, hemp, and cocobolo in the wood cups. The wood cups on the RS1X are deeper than the cups on the rest of the lineup. The idea I presume is to maximize the coloration of these woods, which IMO is their best and most interesting yet. Make no mistake, the RS1X is a full-blown Grado interpretative experience. Long time Grado fans will love this. Audiophile wanting something a different may love this. For those who want something that plays stuff back more straight up, there are the SR225X and SR325X. Unlike the SR225X and 325X, the RS1X goes for the classic Grado tonal response on yesteryear, that is lean and punchy with upper mid crunch, but dial it back a bit in the mid-treble so it's no so bright.

    Note that the RS1X comes with bowl pads, no the flatter F style 1980s Joe Grado era cushions. The F pads do not work well on the RS1 series with the 50mm drivers. It kills the mid-treble.

    Grado RS1X
    Frequency Response
    Flat Plate Coupler Compensated (flat line across approximates perceptual neutral)
    upload_2021-12-19_12-23-41.png
     
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    Last edited: Dec 19, 2021
  2. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    I'd need to compare directly with the RS1e to confirm for sure that the RS1X is slightly more resolving (we are talking Sennheiser HD800 level - without the need for exotic amplification too). Other than the enhanced tri-wood coloration the latest X iteration, the most significant difference from the E is the tonal response where the X harkens back to that leaner classic Grado sound. The prior E had a notable narrow mid-bass peak, similar like that of the ZMF Aeolus in that it didn't intrude into the high bass or lower mids. For the X, this mid-bass peak isn't there anymore. The old E may have been slightly more crispy in the mid-treble as well. In other words, the RS1X dials back the mid-bass and to a lesser extent the mid-treble compared to the RS1E.

    Grado RS1X (BLU/RED) vs RS1E (GRY)
    Frequency Response
    upload_2021-12-19_12-38-6.png
    The X doesn't have the E's mid-bass bump and is just very slightly less peaky at 5kH and 8kHz. Not really shown in the graphs above, but subjectively I felt the X exhibited more upper octave air.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 19, 2021
  3. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    To be honest, I miss that mid-bass peak on the prior E version. However, it's always been a time honored tradition among owners to tweak their Grados. The "tape mod" does wonders here. For those who aren't aware of what the tape mod is: wrap electrical tape around the bowls pads - being careful not to wrap too tightly to avoid deforming the pads into a non-circular shape. The adhesive of the electrical tape will do a number on the foam pads after a while. Less destructive painters tape will also do the job, but the lift in the lows will be slightly less compared to electrical tape.

    5F4A0065 (Medium).JPG

    Grado RS1X Stock (BLU/RED) vs Tape Mod (GRY)
    Frequency Response
    upload_2021-12-19_13-11-59.png
    The tape mod raises everything below 1.5kHz by a few db, brings about a small bump at 120Hz, and extends the bass. The change isn't huge, which is kind of the point. We get a bit more bass without changing what makes the RS1 so interesting.

    Also, I forgot to mention that the headstage of the Grado RS1X with the included bowl pads is amazing. I know most Grados have the reputation of having a closed in sound. Not so with the RS1X and a source that can stage deeply. Using the iFi GO Blu (good ol' Wolfson staging) or the Schiit with proper HQPlayer upsampling (for a hybrid megacomboburrito filter), I can actually get a headstage about 10cm in front of head! Headstage isn't super wide either (which I dislike).
     
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    Last edited: Dec 20, 2021
  4. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Think this might have meant to say "raised everything below 1.5kHz by a few dB"? :p

    I cannot remember if you ever got ears on the earlier RS1 models (specifically the very first version that came without the button on the grille but still had square headband adjustment rods) but the graphs here bring that immediately to mind. Curious how much of the perceived differences are due to the wood sandwich and how much are due to the increased diaphragm diameter but this is the first Grado in a few years that's genuinely intriguing. Might not be "sole headphone" material but who can be bothered.

    A Grado that has proper headstage? Pigs are flying.
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Fixed.

    It's possible the RS1e already did this but I did not notice. Headstage is not one of my priorities with headphones. However with the gear that I used, one thing that struck me was good headstage. Good in that I was able to perceive depth and have a headstage in front of my head, which is rarely the case. Other factors may be the increased sense of air with the X. Much like how the HD800 with that top octave helps with the openness. Finally, the cup material could be playing a small role as well. I would not say that the RS1X was super expanded like the HD800. The RS1X's headstage is deeper than wide relative to most other headphones with "open" headstage which are simply just too wide for my tastes.

    The gear differences between RS1e and X were that I used Gungnir A2 in my RS1e review. Here I used Yggdrasil LIM and GO Blu. I'm getting an RS1E in so I can report back (I decided to grab one for myself because of that narrow mid-bass boost).

    I regret not covering Grados as much during that time. The only piece of data that I have for the classic RS1 is this:

    Grado classic RS1 (no button?)
    [​IMG]
    Peaks around 2kHz, 5kHz, and 9kHz.

    The new 50mm driver formulation is a bit different. The 4.5kHz peak on the 50mm RS1X/E isn't anywhere as strong as the on the older 44mm RS1. In fact, one can argue that there isn't any 4.5kHz peak on the RS1X other than a slight ridge in the CSD. As for the 8.5kHz, there's a peak in the FR, but unlike the classic RS1, there is no ridge in the CSD. This explains why I didn't find the RS1X particularly sibilant. The edge definition is a part sharp, but not ear piercing.

    Grado RS1X
    CSD
    FPC Grado RS1x L.jpg
    FPC Grado RS1x R.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Dec 20, 2021
  6. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Here is the top view CSD with lowered floor so we can check out the wood cup effect.

    Grado RS1X
    CSD (-48db floor)
    FPC Grado RS1x L.jpg
    What's interesting is that the lines don't go into fingers that curl down, they tend to go straight across.

    Out of curiosity (I never did this before), here is the same thing but with a -96db floor,

    Grado RS1X
    CSD (-96db floor)
    FPC Grado RS1x L.jpg
    Granted when we go down this low, we will see oddities and including cyclic behavior. However, I'm pretty sure we are seeing some of that woody resonance play here given the distinctness of the ridges horizontally across. Looks like the frequency of wood resonance increases as we go up in frequency.

    Here is a better photo of the RS1X cup that shows how the three woods are sandwiched together. I think it's brilliant how Grado came up with this idea.
    5F4A0067 (Large).JPG
    By the way, those black gimbals are metal, not plastic.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 20, 2021
  7. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Here is the same above, but with the RS1e with its simpler single wood mahogany wood cup. I don't think its wood resonance is as evident or complex as the RS1X.

    Grado RS1e
    CSD (-96db floor)
    FPC Grado RS1e l.jpg
    [​IMG]

    BTW, I should mention that science and learning are fun. Singular SINAD numbers or algorithms (poorly implemented) that rank headphones based on their measured frequency response are dumb.
     
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Grado RS1x
    Harmonic Distortion (D2-D4)
    upload_2021-12-20_9-51-20.png
     
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  9. Philimon

    Philimon A Distasteful, Sad Person

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    I am a Grado fan. Epic ratings for nostalgia, for admitting despite measurements and convincingly explaining why they are special (i am avoiding the word “great”). I know you still have more evidence up your sleeve with burst responses.
     
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  10. Philimon

    Philimon A Distasteful, Sad Person

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    RS1e distortion.
    I like your new format for distortion measurements. Shows how different they can sound depending on volume.
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Grado RS1X
    Attack and Decay Envelope for 10 Cycle Burst
    B1696 Grado RS1X.wav_burst.jpg

    Compared to RS1e
    B1696 Grado RS1e.wav_burst.jpg

    The envelope visualizations (or any) are always tricky. We transmute raw data using math in an attempt to get something that makes sense to us. FR, SINAD, they are all visualizations that take raw data to make things more presentable. However, sometimes (usually never) it makes sense for us to go to the raw wave file.

    Knowing how this visualization works, the most important difference I noted was the 4.8khz decay where the RS1X does better, particularly in the first cycle right after the signal stimulus abruptly stops.

    Grado RS1e
    10-cycle Burst
    upload_2021-12-20_10-18-46.png

    Grado RS1X
    10-cycle Burst
    upload_2021-12-20_10-17-18.png

    Anyway, this seems more academic. Not sure we can really hear the difference.
     
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  12. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I knew the driver would make a difference, but it is fascinating to see how the wood composite changes the sound characteristics over the single wood cups of the e. Thanks for all these measurements!
     
  13. Philimon

    Philimon A Distasteful, Sad Person

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    @4800Hz burst response
    That does not look like what Id expect from a Grado. Such slow attack, but you do say it doesnt necessarily sound like it looks. Compare to RS2e bursts. The slow decay looks normal though for Grado ringing and coloration (and possibly fatigue). And the difference between RS1x and e at @4800 might not be due to wood resonance but the driver changes.

    edit: Can we see 225x vs 225e distortion and bursts? Might be better for the 225x thread. But could demonstrate more driver differences.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2021
  14. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    No SR225e burst. Those measurements were from a while ago and one channel was bad so I returned it.

    All the 44mm Grados (RS2, SR325, SR225, etc.) have the same behavior with the 4.5kHz burst where the first few waves are stronger than the rest like this:
    [​IMG]

    The 50mm Grados, RS1e and RS1x are the opposite where it takes a while to ramp up. THe 44mm Grados have a bit more crunch. The 50mm has a bit more more of the cupped hands sound.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 26, 2021
  15. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    ^Sounds like magnet strength could be higher, you mean? Haven't been playing with mods in forever now but just off the top of my head the lack of damping would make be making those magnets work significantly harder.

    Presuming noise floor is consistent enough between those -96dB cuts: heck yeah the composite sandwich looks to have more interesting play there. I'm curious how it looks like that 2kHz peak decays into two very distinct, separate "fingers" after about 3ms. The RS1e seems to do the same but far less evident. Doesn't at all seem like a typical CSD dip since it takes up more of the X axis with time.

    Thanks for bringing back the wubbly orange 10 burst decays! Those are still easier to read than the later visualisation IMO, and it's interesting to see how behaviour between bursts might vary like how 120Hz on the RS1e seems slightly angled compared to results on the X, or the interesting behaviours of both at 1500, like reticence early on in the cycles?

    Grados are probably some of the more fun ones to see measured because of how extreme they are.
     
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  16. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Compared to the RS1e, the he RS1X looks to have less damping. The impedance peak at Fs is higher and the impedance difference between free air and on head/ear (which would provide some inherent damping) is greater. Both RS1x and RS1e have the same rated efficiency at 99.8db. I'll measure to confirm when the RS1e comes in.

    Less damping would mean greater efficiency at the cost of less driver control - which a larger magnet or lighter diaphragm would have to make up for to maintain the same sensitivity.

    Grado RS1X
    Impedance and Electrical Phase
    (YEL = free air, GRN = on ear)
    upload_2021-12-20_14-31-27.png
    Note that the Fs with the 50mm RS1X (and e) is at rather higher frequency than the 44mm drivers.
     
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  17. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    A bit off topic but FWIW - a lot of (non-custom) drums have also offered different types of wood that the buyer could choose from (for at least a decade that I'm aware of). X number of plies in the shell would be substituted with whatever wood/s was/were chosen. Heard this demo-ed a few times with everything else held constant and it did make a noticeable difference.

    Glad to see Grado is making sure of this concept. Had thought of doing the same for a custom pair of cups I got for my HE6se mods but it was more than I wanted to spend w/o doing it myself. That and cups w/ my mods didn't sound anything like what I wanted but that's a different story...
     
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  18. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Tell me about it. I'd rather collect a few Grados and snare drums than buy the latest overpriced soulless IEMs with drivers cobbled by random Chinese companies who hire designers with shit for ears and no clue what they want to do. I get that that RS1 and the classic Grado sound may not appeal to everyone, but at least there's a vision, an idea, a "chef" behind them.



    Anyway, I'm looking for another snare. That Mapex bronze snare below is too fricking loud and too cutting. Don't get me wrong, I've tuned that drum well and it sounds great ... when I'm standing 25 feet outside the house! I forgot that drums sound really different up close. BTW, none of the drums in the video above sound like the "full microphone mix" in real life. There's an art to recording drums to making them sound like how they do on records.

    ezgif-3-5706b0dd8e.gif
     
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    Last edited: Dec 20, 2021
  19. Qildail

    Qildail Almost "Made"

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    Would you be able to say what the inside cup measurements are? I'm having a time finding reliable numbers anywhere, but I get the impression they look smaller in pictures than they really are.
     
  20. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    First, I am not a technical expert on the construction of drums so take everything I say with a grain of salt.

    Here's a very rough guide:
    https://www.thomannmusic.com/onlineexpert_page_snare_drums_shell_materials.html

    Beyond that, without knowing what you want or not, what brands (or custom manufacturers) you like, etc - the closest parallel I can think of is when I tried different woods on the same model ZMF headphone. It changes the sound noticibly, but not so much that I would confuse say an Auteur for a Verite Closed or Eikon or other factors such as the chain itself or the pads you use will get drowned out. There is also some degree of interaction - different woods of the same ZMF model may sound better with different pads / chains / whatever. And of course, personal preference.

    ZMF headphones are not a perfect parallel though as it seems to work a little differently - of the drums I've heard, I didn't notice as much of a correlation between wood hardness and "faster / slower transients" or "darker vs brighter"or other similar effects vs. there seems to be a general correlation with all of the ZMF headphones. Also, you probably know this already, but for a same model drum, changing the drum heads, sticks, person, etc. will probably bigger difference in the overall sound / tuning vs new woods.

    W/ regards to wood choice - I think it's also like ZMF headphones - you just have to listen to a few to know what you may want. What I thought I would like and didn't like on different ZMF headphones based on "wood traits" did not match my actual preferences after listening in person. For drums, I generally (not always) prefer beech and/or mahogany with maple with the maple on the outer layers, but a lot of this also depends on the type and model of drum itself. Assuming you have 5+ layers of wood - the inner layers will impact the sound more than the outer layers (given that the sound interacts with this wood the most / first). How much of each layer, how the finish or treatment may impact things (or not), and so many other factors, etc. will vary per mfg though.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 20, 2021

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