Grado RS1X Review and Measurements

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

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Oh geez, probably all too well. Keep in mind there are the batter heads and the resonance heads. They can and are usually tuned to different frequencies. Then there are the snare wires, 20 wire, 14 wire, and tension.

    With respect to transients and attack, it seems that with wood and there isn't much difference. However metal usually has a stronger attack and more energetic sound. This seems to be true with turntables and headphone cups, e.g. SR325. Before the X with the flat F cushions, the SR325 with the metal outer cup and the bowl pads was known to the be most energetic and aggressive sounding of the Grados. This sound had its fans, but many also screamed bloody murder because it was too much. With the F cushions which make the sound more neutral, the SR325X are one of my favorites. Which reminds me, I need to put this stuff on the loaner program.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2021
  2. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Agreed on both.

    Have also noticed the difference between woods on a snare is more subtle but there is definitely a huge difference when there is a complete material change (ie wood to steel to aluminum to composites, etc.). Differences are what you describe - much stronger attack, louder, more energetic, etc. in addition to tonal or other changes.

    On a different note, I'm more curious different cup shapes - I found a bigger than expected impact on the sound when I was screwing around with cup shapes on my HE6se mods. After that, I also wonder about what would happen if the woods were mixed together in a more blended way - i.e shredded into tiny pieces and stuck together again (I'm sure the adhesive would also make a difference here). Would it be it's own sound, a not as good sound since the structure of the wood has been destroyed, or would it it just be an smooth blended average of it's constituent components?
     
  3. Philimon

    Philimon Friend

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    You meant RS1e and RS1x. Typo I assume.

    I think this improper distinction made @rhythmdevils believe RS1 and RS2 are still basically the same. But their paths diverged at “e” series where RS1 went to a bigger driver. RS2 remains classic Grado for better and worse. What we want to know is how much the newest RS2x is better and worse than RS2e (for loaner tour in which rhythmdevils is charge).
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    fixed typo.

    The RS2x will be on the way.
     
  5. goodvibes

    goodvibes Acquaintance

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    I think you'll like those, Try the big cups as well.
     
  6. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    Many thanks to Grado and RD for putting this loaner together!

    [​IMG]

    I've been into Grados for about 15 years. The speed, sparkle, and efficiency drew me in. It wasn't until later that I had more context to appreciate their other strengths. They're fantastic at recreating the experience of a live rock or jazz show. Vocals and guitars get the focus.

    RS1x refines the classic recipe. It's not going to surprise anyone familiar with the previous models. Detail and instrument separation is improved. The triple wood build is beautiful in person.

    [​IMG]

    Comparisons were made with a Holo Audio Spring 2, DNA Starlett, and a stack of 90s grunge classics.
     
  7. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    I'll refrain from subjective comments because I am a direct competitor to Grado... BUT, I'll post some FPC measurements with B&K compensation:

    L cush with tape in the forward position (as received):

    upload_2022-2-8_14-37-31.png

    distortion with the taped L-cush where -10dB on the Y axis is around 90dB SPL (the distortion is in % as marked on the right side of the Y axis):

    upload_2022-2-8_14-38-34.png

    CSD -35dB floor / ~2.7ms:

    upload_2022-2-8_14-39-52.png

    Some pad findings:

    These Gerod brand OEM pads (the S size which is actually the medium option) are a bit bassier than the taped L-cush, but they don't need the tape treatment and have pretty similar flavor above 1khz aside from slightly mellower in the 4-6khz area which some may find favorable. I can't find a way to copy the link without lots of URL gore so I'll just post a screencap. I find the Gerod pads more comfortable, being slightly larger in size than the L cush but not as large as the big bowls. They have less concavity than the L cush but a wider front face.

    upload_2022-2-8_14-45-15.png

    Left L cush, right Gerod S:

    upload_2022-2-8_14-59-5.png

    upload_2022-2-8_14-59-31.png

    Gerod (no tape) in white vs taped L-cush in red:

    upload_2022-2-8_14-46-16.png

    You can also flip the taped L-cush pads backwards for a response that's almost identical to the Gerods (graph below). The L cush pads have a denser foam around the back of the pad, so when you flip them such that the back portion is facing forward, you get a bit more low end even though the comfort may be hit or miss for some depending on your ear shape since the opening is a bit wider than the regular orientation.

    upload_2022-2-8_14-47-36.png

    I had a bit of a brain fart and didn't save measurements with the non-taped L cush pads, but I also did most of my listening with the taped pads and gerods both of which I vastly preferred.

    I was very glad to hear these :)
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Thanks for finding the Gerod pads. I was looking for the Geekria bowl pads (look the same as Grado, but more lows, less bright). LOL, I do wonder if the Geekria pads are the same as the Gerod, and maybe the Bokie, Vever, and whatever brand pads. It's entirely possible all these weirdo brand pads come from the same factory in China.
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Imma gonna steal that when I make my Grado guide.
     
  10. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    I am 99% sure this is true because I've bought them all and they all look and sound the same (within each cut/shape category)... except for the actual genuine Grado pads, which are different. I haven't tested a genuine Grado G-cush, but the large bowls from other brands are all the same relative to one another as far as I've been able to tell. You can find them all on Aliexpress/baba at a lower price too - maybe the same price once you account for shipping, but at a lower price per unit if you order 10+ pairs at a time which is what I've been doing.

    There are Geekria pads that are identically shaped to the L cush (which is a different shape from Gerod), but they use lighter foam (more bass-light) and the individual foam pieces are put together using less sturdy adhesive, so they tend to split at the seams (Geekria left, Grado right):

    upload_2022-2-8_18-3-56.png

    upload_2022-2-8_18-4-29.png

    upload_2022-2-8_18-5-51.png

    Here's one of my favorite oddball pads also sold by Geekria. They have less bass than the generic bowls, but the mids and highs have less ups and downs (at least on my own headphone design), more linear vs the bowls:

    upload_2022-2-8_18-7-27.png

    It doesn't help that Geekria and other brands don't give actual names to their pads... makes it nearly impossible to search for specific models without browsing through a few pages and examining pictures on each listing.

    Sidenote - I'm working on having custom exposed foam earpads made right now in two different shapes, and of course MOQ requires 1000+ pairs to be purchased at a time which is far more than I need. When they're ready I'll be happy to sell them to SBAF Grado users too, at cost + shipping :)

    I love the sound profile you can get from variously shaped exposed foam pads. I don't foresee myself missing leather/suede etc for quite some time...
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2022
  11. Mystic

    Mystic Mystique's Spiritual Advisor

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    Grado RS1x loaner impressions

    Gear: Bifrost 2, Studio B, Auteur & VC

    Thank you to the sbaf crew for this loaner. This was my first time really getting a good listen with a pair of Grados.

    I hate them. I’m honestly surprised by the resurgence of this brand over the last couple years. I think this might just be the worst headphone I have ever put on my head.

    Where to even begin. The build quality is garbage. The wood is very nice looking, but that’s literally it. The headband has next to zero padding. The ear pads are made out of 300 year old styrofoam and the gimbals look and feel like they cost 10 cents to make.

    Comfort is non existent. Even if the sound was good, I still wanted to rip them off my head minutes after putting them on.

    Sound: It’s never a good sign that you get a headache 5 mins after listening. These make the HD800 and the Beyer DT880 seem like easy listening. These were way too bright and forward. Bass was anemic. They didn’t sound detailed at all to me. They had that kind of fake “turn up the treble to make it sound detailed” thing going on. I could only listen to these in short bursts as I got a headache every time.

    I never want to hear another Grado again. I cannot believe these cost $750. If I spent that kinda money on these I would feel like I got scammed.

    Too each their own though. I don’t want to rain on those who enjoy Grados. This brand is just clearly not for me. Always been a Sennheiser and ZMF guy, so that tells you something about my sound preferences.
     
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  12. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

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    Grado RS1x loaner impressions
    Looks like Mystic and I have similar taste...

    Chain
    Roon (Qobuz/Redbook) -> Ambre -> Pavane -> A&S XLR to RCA -> Stratus (ACME 2a3, EML Rectifier)

    Thoughts
    I liked the pads with electrical tape on them, I think they increase the bass a bit though the tone isn't to my taste with either pads. Otherwise my impressions of the sound match Mystic including the 5 minute headache.

    I wouldn't call their build "cheap" except for the non-detachable cables. To me they have a minimalist aesthetic which I like. Since they're so light I thought they are comfortable. Then those ear pads started creating hot spots on my ears and yeah, their comfort sucks.

    Sadly I could not compare with other headphones, just too painful to use them for any length of time. :(
     
  13. TomNC

    TomNC Friend

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    To improve comfort of Grado headphones with smaller on-ear pads like the RS1 series, clamping pressure can be mitigated by bending the headband (understandably this is impossible for the loaner unit); the hard on-ear pads may be replaced by the larger G pads which can also be altered for further comfort (see the attached picture of my RS1i).

    For those who can accept the somewhat forwarding sound signature, Grado headphones have the immediacy through good speed and transparency, and pleasant coloration which are hard to find in today's realm of dynamic headphones.

    Inspired by an SBAF post about modding of a pair of IEMs, I also had some success in suppressing the fatiguing tendency of RS1i by covering a central portion of the material in front of the drivers with some thin, paper-like 3M tape.

    Hope these notes provide some additional perspectives to readers of the RS1X loaner impressions.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. murphythecat

    murphythecat GRU-powered uniformed trumpkin

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    Are you using the stock pads? The f pads are rough but the l pads are comfy for me. Not zmf comfy but very far from ur experience….

    oof, looking at the rs1x review, very glad to have went with the rs2x.
     
  15. StageOne

    StageOne Friend

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    I’ve been a fan of Grado for a while, my first pair of decent headphones was the 125i and I used them for many years but eventually moved on. When the Hemps came out with their bass and warmer tilt I grabbed a set and have been enjoying them since. But curiosity led me to try the RS2e which I really liked but could not find a good price on a use pair. Now after hearing the RS1x, I might be changing my plan.

    When I received the loaner I wanted to give it a quick listen and plugged it into my office setup which consists of a RPi > RDAC > SW51. Not sure which component was the culprit but it didn’t work. There was a distinct 3-blob effect and the center image was way above my head. I felt like I was standing under the performer.

    More evaluation in the main rig
    RPI/Pi2AES > Yggdrasil A2 > Freya+ > Starlett

    With this setup, the staging was far better, 3-blob imaging was gone it was more cohesive and had decent depth. Compared to my primary headphones, Utopias, the center image was wider and a little more forward.

    Running through my test list, these are crisp, fast with open/airy treble. Detail retrieval is noticeably better than the Hemps. In fact it’s a bigger step overall from the Hemps to the RS1x that I thought it would be. Hemps are flatter, less detailed and tilted more warm.

    I started off with the stock pads but ended up preferring the taped bowls. They kept the stock sound signature but add just a touch more bass peak and extension. I tried the F-Pads from the Hemps and as others have stated, those are a no-go. The don’t add much and kill all the good bits.

    Comfort wise, they took a little more fiddling/adjusting to get them comfortable than the Hemps but I eventually got use to them and it wasn’t an issue. They are a bit heavier than the Hemps but still far lighter than my Focals. The cable still remains a source of frustration and not any better than the other Grados I’ve owned or tried. I do like that they still sound good at very low volume levels. Just a few clicks up on the Freya+ and it’s clean and detailed.

    Overall I like the RS1x and I’m debating picking a pair up but first I want to see if the RS2x is going to be the sweet spot.

    Thanks to Grado for loaning these to SBAF and @rhythmdevils for facilitating all the loaners.
     
  16. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    [​IMG]

    Honesty, not professed honesty (e.g. "this is an honest review"), is why I love SBAF.
     
  17. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

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    I’m not sure, two pairs of pads in the box, one pair has electrical tape around the outside (I liked these better), the others didn’t.

    Perhaps you have better pads or a more forgiving ear shape.
     
  18. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    Loaner Tour Impressions
    Thank you so much SBAF for the loaner tours, and thank you to @rhythmdevils for putting so much time and effort into making them happen. I also thank Grado for generously lending us these headphones.

    Given that generosity, I feel bad for not having devoted as much time and attention to the RS1X as I should have: I received them on the same day I also received the loaner HD 8XX headphones, and I spent more of my time with the latter. In part that was because I felt I could say more about the latter headphones as I have the HD 800 SDR. By contrast, this was my first taste of a pair of Grados and, quite frankly, I was pretty flummoxed by their sound, at least with the stock pads.

    Without the tape-mod pads, the sound of the RS1X was highly distinctive, if not idiosyncratic; I’ve not heard a pair of headphones quite like this before. The tone sounded off to me, and there was a general kind of diffuse kind of quality to the sound. I don’t mean that it was endlessly or imprecisely spacious but rather that, because of the lack of bass, it was as though there wasn’t a firm foundation to the sound. It was like a sprinter trying to start a race without the benefit of a set of starting blocks. Or something.

    Frankly, the Grado’s sound with the stock pads was not in the least bit appealing, and coming from so far out of left field for me, I decided not to spend too much time trying to figure out what was going on, especially since the RS1X with the tape-mod pads sounded so much better.

    I tried the Grados out of two chains, Audirvana on an old MacBook Pro -> Bifrost2 -> Massdrop Cavalli Tube Hybrid (MCTH) and SW51+ out of the high Z out. I’m not sure either of these combinations was ideal. I compared the Grados to the HD 600.


    Impressions with the tape-mod pads out of the MCTH
    The MCTH tends to add a bit of fullness to the bass and a bit of an emphasis to the treble, which can be a bit crystalline and fatiguing with some headphones like the Focal Clear. Here I heard the RS1X to have a decent amount of mid-bass emphasis, as compared to the other pads, but not any sub-bass to speak of, and the treble was quite pronounced. These are borderline bright headphones.

    I wonder if there’s not enough emphasis to the mids as the sound is quite thin, especially with male vocals. Sounding all kinds of wrong, Elvis has left the building. The piano also sounded thin and odd.

    Stringed instruments sound pretty good. Massed strings in orchestral passages have a nice timbre to them, as do the individual instruments. The cello comes across nicely, although there’s a bit of a reediness to its sound. The strings' reverberations are readily apparent, and thanks to the decent resolution, you get a realistic sense of bows scraping across them.

    Brass instruments also have decent bite. They can be a bit parpy or farty, at times, though.

    Electric guitars have a lot of bite and a decent amount of crunch; I’ve never heard the Stooges I Wanna Be Your Dog have as much bite before. I think this is where the Grados excel. Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah also sounds excellent: the guitar has a nice chiming sound to it, and there’s an excellent reproduction of decay to notes and, with it, lingering and overlapping echoes to individual notes and chords.

    There is no sub-bass whatsoever and the mid-bass tends to be quite lacking, too, although not always. Double basses don’t have enough weight to them. Electric basses can be a bit loose and boomy.

    Macrodynamics are quite strong but there’s not much slam.


    Comparison with the HD 600 out of the MCTH
    • The HD 600 are warmer and less bright
    • The RS1X offer more bite to strings and electric guitars
    • Both resolve details about as well, out of this amp, at least
    The HD 600 are better in almost every way, at least for my preferences:
    • The HD 600 have a smoother, more coherent and even sound
    • The HD 600 have richer, more forward mids
    • The bass strength is fairly similar but it’s tighter and cleaner on the Senns
    • The piano sounds more correct from the Senns
    • The HD 600 have much more slam (which is to say there’s more bass impact)
    • The HD 600 also have stronger macrodynamics
    • The HD 600 have better, more precise imaging, much better layering and separation
    • The HD 600 has decent staging depth; the RS1X has none
    • The HD 600 has better clarity, by which I mean that, in direct comparison, there’s a kind of a haze to the Grado’s sound

    RS1X from the SW51+ and out of high output jack
    The sound is much warmer and richer now, more full bodied and coherent, in part because the SW51+ compensates for the recessed mids. The mids now sound decent. (Elvis has re-entered the building). The bass still isn’t the best: it’s more emphasized and has more rumble, but it’s still a bit boomy and can be lacking in pitch differentiation at times. The treble isn’t quite as emphasized. The bite to electric guitars isn’t as sharp but it’s still the defining trait of the headphones. Acoustic guitars still have nice sparkle.

    The overall sound is mellower and less fatiguing. It’s closer to the sound of the HD 600 out of the MCTH.


    Regardless of amp
    My biggest reservations about the RS1X are in its technicalities, which suffer irrespective of the amp I used. Perhaps the RS1X needs a big boy amp to shine?

    Speed and resolution are noteworthy. But the staging is awful. There’s no depth to it whatsoever. The music pans hard to the left and the right ears—and there can be times when there’s not enough of a center image—and the music sounds as though it’s coming to you on a single plane inside the head and between the ears. There’s next to no forward projection to the sound. Imaging isn’t the best, either, and I found the separation and layering to be quite poor, as well. More complex orchestral pieces sounded a bit hazy, indistinct, and smeared over.


    Conclusion
    I’m not really sure what to make of the RS1X. I suspect the gear I used didn't do these headphones any real justice, and I’m not sure I gave these headphones enough of a shot. As such, I’m reluctant to pronounce a verdict about them beyond suggesting that they’re probably not ideally suited to be all-rounder headphones, and that if a certain kind of tuning is your thing—one that prioritizes speed, perhaps, and excitement and keen treble—then these could be great.

    The cable is absolutely awful, good only for self-flagellation, I should think.
     
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  19. foo_me

    foo_me Friend

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    First of all, would like to really thank the SBAF loaner program for allowing me this opportunity to demo these cans!

    My equipment:
    FLAC -> Pi2AES I2S -> Rockna WaveDream XLR -> EC Studio dev amp

    Impressions:
    I've been a Grado fan for a very long time but most of my experience and ownership has been with the older models (vintage button RS1, PS1, and HP1/HP2). I compared the RS1x with my current favorite headphone, the super vintage RS1 with pink drivers. Given these are very old and likely to die one day and pretty much as unobtanium as they come, I really want to find some kind of substitute or backup. I'm not used to writing impressions these days but I'll try my best to convey what I liked and didn't like about them.

    What I like:
    • Comfort: I'm a fan of the on-ear style. The headband was somewhat snug but I'd guess they would open up and be more flexible and comfortable with time and use.
    • Presentation: Has the traditional in your face view into the music that grados are known for. I like feeling close to the stage for much of the music I listen to like Jazz , jazz vocals, smaller classical ensembles, classic rock, etc. For anything larger like orchestral music, I do have the HD800SDR. That being said, the RS1X was like being in row 1 of a movie theatre...at times, a little too close and it's hard to see the entire movie screen. I like to be a few rows back that the super vintage RS1s provide.
    • Resolution: Being close to the music, I feel like they're very resolving and detailed

    Didn't like:
    • A little too aggressive and fatiguing at my normal listening levels. The EC dev amp is pretty neutral and transparent so a warmer amp might match better with these there could be a synergy issue.
    • Vocals were engaging but not as refined as vintage RS1s. Had a metallic sheen to vocals but bothersome primarily in comparison to the RS1.
    • Bass was weak as others have mentioned.
    • Taped pads - I preferred the bowls over the taped pads that also came with it. Felt kind of odd. It made it less aggressive but felt the sound the sound was odd. Lost some of the airiness that I love and the headstage depth sounded smeared. I mainly listened to the stock pads. I tried the TTVJ pads on my RS1 on them but sounded weird as well.

    Overall, I liked the RS1X but didn't love them. It does several things well but I would have to somehow tame it down without having to use the taped bowl pads to take it seriously.

    As an aside, I love the super vintage RS1s because it's not fatiguing at all and there's a lot of qualities balanced together within an intimate headstage. The one I thought could best serve as an alternate to it for me was the ETA GenG loaner that I listened to. I really enjoyed it and thought I could get the sound that I prefer with it's tuning options so I'm definitely looking forward to listening to the Mini loaner.
     
  20. SnowPuppy

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