IMPRESSIONS: Sony Qualia, Audio-Technica L3000, Grado GS1000.

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by markl, Jun 18, 2006.

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  1. markl

    markl New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    cyberspace
    Preface for SH Forum Members
    I'm a headphone geek. I LOVE headphones. I'm one of the few people who's been lucky enough to be in a position to have sampled the vast majority of the world's *great* headphones of the last 20 years. I'm an active participant on the world's foremost headphone epicenter, www.head-fi.org, where you might know me by the same name as here: "markl".

    I currently own what is considered (by most) to be the greatest dynamic (as opposed to electrostatic) headphone ever made-- the Sony MDR-R10. Released initially in 1989, it remains on a plane of its own, and due to its $4K price was reduced to less than 2500 copies produced by hand by Sony over the course of 15 years through 2004 when the R10 was sadly discontinued.

    Despite the fact that the headphone hobby (obsession) is at an all-time peak (Head-Fi is THE most active audio-related forum on the Web); sadly we've been given and then taken away any number of high-end cans in the last 5 years. Not one of the hand-full of headphone-makers is currently producing a *serious* high-end can except for Grado, with it's latest GS1000 (so new you've probably never even heard of it).

    The Sony Qualia headphone was part of what Sony hoped would be a long-lasting high-end line of Qualia products. It didn't pan out; there are a lot of orphaned Qualia products right now, the Qualia headphone is just one of them. It retailed for over $2.5K last year and was *supposed* to be the replacement for the late great MDR-R10 (which I own).

    Audio-Technica is not really yet well-known among average Americans. They are a Japanese company much like Austria's AKG that makes headphones and various recording equipment (including microphones). It is largely due to Head-Fi that they've achieved a substantial presence here in the USA over the last few years. They are one of the most active headphone makers in that they release new products on an annual basis, unlike most which can have a decade or at least 5 years in between new products.

    The L3000 "Leatherhead" is the most expensive headphone product Audio Technica has ever released (another $2500 headphone). Even though it was a limited edition, it still remains the most ambitious can they ever made.

    So why all the pre-amble? As I said, I *love* headphones, and I really do believe that there is a bias against them in audio circles, and in many cases that is simply due to the relatively low-cost of entry. Yes, headphones are cheaper (in most cases) than good speakers. But great headphones in a great system (with proper amplification) can sound simply astonishing. I have PSB Straus Goldi's as main speakers in my speaker-based system (OK, not the most expensive but surely the most over-achieving at their price-point). However, chiefly, I'm restricted to headphones as my primary music source. I can tell you that the Sony R10 is heavy-duty competition for the PSB Stratus Goldis, and that's saying a lot (to me).

    So, here I've been given the Sony Qualia, the AKG L3000, and (soon to receive) the Grado GS1000, by friends who want to hear my take on these phones. I previuously took the AKG K701 to task (their most recent attempt at the high-end), much to the chagrin of a few Head-Fiers, so that is the sub-text of this review.

    So here it is, my first impressions at least...


    Well, here we go again! :D :evil: :D

    I know a few curmudgeons don't like my reviewing headphones in real time, for whatever reason, but I'm going ahead and doing it again anyway. So sue me. :D As always, please take them for what they *are*-- for-fun observations recorded as they happen. Thanks in advance for your cooperation in this matter. :he90:

    Thanks to a very kind benefactor, I was very lucky to receive a pair of Sony Qualias plus the Audio-Technica L3000 or "Leatherhead". Kudos to you, my friend. Soon, I will also be receiving a Grado GS1000 from an equally kind anonymous donor and will follow up when I get them, here in this very thread.

    So, off we go. I've been listening all day, and here are my first impressions:

    Test Bed
    Source: Sony 555ES SACDP with full sacdmods.com mod package
    Amp: Ray Samuels HR-2

    Sony Qualia Impressions Day 1

    Build Quality, Fit 'N Finish
    This headphone is insanely light-weight. I happen to like the looks, very sleek and sexy, but I know some object to its very modern, aggressive styling. I notice that the headphone cord seems kind of cheap and thin, although the jack is nicely over-built and very heavy. Other than that, it seems well-made, but like any expensive headphone, it does not look like it should have to cost as much as it does based solely on appearances. Not sure exactly what a $2500 headphone "should" look like (diamond accents?), but anyway...

    As you know, Sony blew it by creating a custom fit system with three sizes, small, medium and large. There is no self-adjusting headband like any sane headphone has. This is a size Medium, and amazingly it happens to fit my rather large-ish head quite well, and is a bit loose actually. The large size headband must be made for King Kong. :p

    It's a comfortable headphone. It doesn't quite gently hug and caress your head like the R10, but it's still a pleasure to wear.

    Like the AKG K701, there is an inordinately large amount of space in the inner donut holes, so you are provided with way too many potential positions to rest them on your head. Where are they supposed to be? I'm still trying to figure out proper positioning. However, sound does not seem to shift as much as it does with the K701 when you change positions.

    First Impressions: Sound
    I was *really* looking forward to these as they are the succesor to the R10 (as you know by now, my all-time fav). I'm always looking for a better headphone, always excited when there's a new contender; believe it or not, I'd jump off the good ship R10 for something better at the drop of a hat. Could this be the ONE? :basshead: :p

    Well, based on my first impressions-- no. :p Make that "no way". :eek:

    Now I didn't like the AKG K701 at first but it grew on me over time to the point where I begrudgingly respected them for what they were. But there was a LOT of burn-in on that phone, and the sound evolved heavily with time; this Qualia is fully burned-in. My first impression of the Qualia is actually somewhat more negative than it was for the K701, though my expectations were certainly higher. Here's what I wrote in my notes:

    1. Thin, noisy, brittle, metallic, tinny, at times like a static-y transistor radio. Has that "headphoney" signature. It sounds fake.

    2. Everything sounds like it's happening inside a carboard box. There's a hollowness to the sound and a sea-shell effect.

    3. When music gets loud and heavy, there's very audible distortion at any volume, something just goes wrong. It's a sizzly, hissy, tizzy, tinny sound, sort of a halo of grunge, if you will. Things get blurry. It rings slightly and is echo-y, too.

    4. Drums can (at times) sound like carboard boxes being beaten.

    5. Singers have the dreaded "cupped hands" effect as if they are cupping their hands over the mike.

    6. Electric bass lines are simply excellent. This is the only part of the presentation that sounds realistic. It's better than good, actually, in fact it's tight as hell, reasonably firm, with good tone to boot. What went wrong everywhere else?

    7. Reasonably black background.

    8. I was afraid, based on some reportage, that the Qualia would be bright, but it's not at all. In fact, I would say it's fairly balanced, and I'd say that actually, if anything, the very top-end is slightly rolled. This is apparent on cymbal hits which are repressed somewhat and blurry or hazy. Beyond that, I sense no obvious frequency anomolies. The problem is chiefly with the cans' *tone*, which is just wrong-- brittle, thin, metallic, etc. I can't believe how "off" it is. Did they even listen to this before they released it? Very disappointing.

    9. Qualia is very sibilant. It's extremely noticeable and not just a transitory thing here and there. Annoying.

    10. Soundstaging is decent, but not as big as I've read. It's fairly coherent left-to-right and does a pretty good job front to back.

    11. Qualia is not as resolving or detailed as I've read. It's OK, but I think even the K701 shows more detail.

    12. There's a weird bluntness to the sound. Edges are not defined at all. Transients are blunted or repressed. There is no attack with these cans.

    13. Images are not sharply focused or crisp.

    So, aside from a few bright spots, my first impression of the Qualia is mostly negative, at times bordering on "are you *kidding* me" territory. I doubt I could grow to love their sound. Color me very disappointed... :(


    AT L3000 Impressions Day 1
    My only previous experience with upper-level Audio Technica headphones was with the W2002, which I definitely enjoyed for what they were, especially the bass and the DADS system with "ear massage". :basshead: :p

    Good as they were (they were then the flagship), I'm skeptical Audio-Technica can build an R10-killer, but you never know...

    Build Quality, Fit 'N Finish
    Now this looks more like a luxury product. The leather is extremely attractive, and I am especially impressed with the headphone cord, actually-- it's thick, heavy duty, and covered with a very nice mesh fabric. The headphone jack isn't as nice as I remember that of the W2002 being. Same cheap-ish thin plastic "wings" that hold the phones on your head.

    The same way that there's too much empty space in the ear-holes of the Qualia, there's just too little in the L3000. My ears are jammed in there pretty tight. These are heavy headphones, much heavier than the Qualia or R10. They exercise a bit more clamping force, too, though they aren't uncomfortable.

    First Impressions: Sound
    With all due respect to the Qualia, now, here we have a *real* headphone. The L3000 is on an entirely different level than the Qualia (though honestly the Sony sets that bar rather low :p ). Here are my initial impressions exactly as I wrote them, in order.

    1. Sounds slightly "underwater". A *bit* closed in but not bad.

    2. Drums very punchy, snappy and suitably thunderous. Me likey. Much better drum tone than Qualia, too.

    3. MUCH more natural tonality overall than Qualia. This headphone sounds A LOT more real.

    4. Treble roll-off? A bit murky or dingy. A bit of a blanket-over-the-speakers effect in the highs, they're kinda muffled. Sounds rise to a certain level and then seem to hit a wall.

    5. Not as resolving or detailed as the R10 or even the Qualia.

    6. Definitely head-bobbers. Superior PRAT. Very involving headphones, makes you want to move with them.

    7. Male voices especially well-rendered.

    8. Soundstage is of decent size with no immediately detectable gap in the middle. Relatively black background, but not near that of the R10.

    9. Eletric bass is firm and solid, but needs a bit more warmth. Still, it's very fluid and plucky, easy to follow, and seems to go quite low indeed. You can really *feel* the bass of the L3000, I assume this is DADS at work once again.

    10. Sound is a bit "soupy", it all kinda melds together in a sort of stew, albeit a fairly tasty one.

    11. A tiny bit of the "cupped hands" effect that more clearly plagued the W2002.

    12. Like the Qualia, though to a lesser extent, the leading edges on the L3000 are slightly blunted. They are a bit fuzzy and blurry, instead of sharp, focused and incisive.

    13. Not the best "palpability" factor. You are separated a bit from the sound in the mids, which as reported earlier are somewhat foggy or blurred, but not too bad.

    Overall, the L3000 has nice (but not spectacular) tonality, it certainly sounds "real" enough; but the bass and PRAT are clearly the stars of the show. They won't be revealing any new details or nuances in your favorite recordings, but they will get your head and maybe even your feet moving.

    At first blush the L3000 is certainly an impressive headphone, in terms of what it does well, it does them *very* well. But you give up some key things in order to get them (*sigh*-- isn't it always that way?).

    Even at this early phase, I know I definitely haven't found a replacement for my R10s with either can. The L3000 will be fun to explore much further. I'll give the Qualia one or two more chances, but really, I know it's a waste of time.

    OK, flame away! :rolleyes: :p
     
  2. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey
    I guess there's a reason why Sony's Qualia line didn't make it... :sigh:
     
  3. vinyl anachronist

    vinyl anachronist Senior Member

    Location:
    Tigard, Oregon
    I've heard the new Grado, at the Headroom exhibit at the HE show a few weeks ago. IT IS BY FAR THE BEST HEADPHONE I'VE EVER HEARD. I want them. They had all the others in the same room, the Sennheiser 650s, the AKG 701s, all the Staxes, and it was all set-up so you could switch phones and compare all you want. The new Grado is beautiful to look at, extremely comforatble, and the sound was unbelievable. I want them. They're $1000, but are they worth every penny. Did I mention that I want them? My birthday's coming up, y'all...
     
  4. markl

    markl New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    cyberspace
    Impressions, Part 2
    OK, so I've had a few days to sleep on it and have come back fresh to both the Sony Qualia and the L3000. I've listened to them both again all day. Have my opinions evolved any?

    Yes.

    Sony Qualia Second Impressions
    I've now tried these headphones in every possible position on my head. I've tried them at every possible volume. I've tried them with nearly 20 CDs. What do I think now?

    I do not like them Sam I am. I do not like them tilted forward, tilted back, shifted up or shifted down. I do not like them with hard rock. I do not like them with soft rock. I do not like them with soul. I do not like them with jazz. I can find no excuse for these phones, Sam I am. Here are my latest impressions, as I wrote them:

    1. Don't play as loud at same volume as the R10s.

    2. Do not sound good pushed all the way forward on my head, same awful sound.

    3. Do not sound good raised up as high as they will go on my head.

    4. Do not sound good pushed down as far as they will go.

    5. Wait a minute-- what's this? Move them backwards on your head as far as they will go, with the headband teetering on the crown of your skull and about to fall off and-- yes, stop the presses! Wow, they are now merely *awful*. Is this the position its fans have found that makes them acceptable to them? Probably. But they paid $2.5K for them (where I did not), so they may be looking for ways (any way really) that could possibly justify their purchase, and maybe this is it. OK, so now you've got a "maximized" Qualia; but you've still got a very poor and expensive headphone teetering on your head uncomftably...

    6. If I was coming at this from the outside, and bought the Qualias in the genuine belief that I was buying into the best possible headphone that modern 21st Century technology could possibly provide, I would be completely right in concluding that headphones as a medium for sound delivery are a total JOKE, and not to be taken seriously as audiophile devices at all. But boy, would I be wrong (as we all know).

    7. The Qualias are beyond "poor". IMHO, they are an insult to any upright hominid with two working ears.

    8. There is no excuse for these headphones at $50; but at $2.5K, they are positively *insulting*. They are an OUTRAGE. :mad:

    9. Pure EXCREMENT, however, to call the "pure" anything" is a back-handed compliment they don't deserve.

    10. Life is way too short for me to spend even 10 more seconds listening to them, let alone *writing* about them (though I do so in hopes of alerting you to their deficiencies so you won't waste any of your own time or money in them).

    11. I hope everyone involved in their design and production gets fired from Sony and that 100% new blood is brought in to design their next attempt at the "high-end" as the Qualia is a complete and utter FAILURE on every level.


    AT-L3000 Second Impressions
    Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh... Like a breath of fresh air. These cans are very very good. Me likey. Here are my latest thoughts...

    1. Great soundstaging. Very coherent, nice depth, excellent left-to-right imaging.

    2. These cans just ROCK. Plain and simple. If you are not into hard-rockin' music, they may not be for you as they aren't especially good at finesse or delicacy; it's a bit of a blunt instrument that wants to whack you over the head (but it isn't fatiguing as highs are recessed). But if you're looking for a headphone that can *move* you, and involve you directly with fast-paced, high-volume music, the L3000 is a fine choice.

    3. No other headphone I've heard can portary drums like this one. Fantastic oooomph and thud and thwak. If only cymbals were resolved enough and not buried somewhat in the mix, as the highs are sadly recessed. So, you get half of the drum kit played optimally, but the other half a bit reserved. You won't believe kick drums on the L3000. Damn.

    4. The L3000 grabs you on an emotional level, affects you in your deepest lizard brain. You can't help but *groove* when these things play. They are FUN.

    5. Still, these are somewhat muffled headphones. The highs just aren't complete and resolved. There's a heaviness to them that kind of muffles them.

    6. Bass and PRAT are just amazing. Yet the bass is perfectly balanced and does not appear to intrude on other frequencies. It's solid, thick, and firm (though again, I'd wish for a *bit* more mid-bass warmth to expand it's tonal palette). I've not heard a headphone that can compete here for the most part.

    7. There's a LARGE segment of folks that are only concerned with audio such as it regards bottom-end performance as a criteria for judging how well any system performs on an absolute level. If it doesn't deliver chest-shaking bass , it's just not "good" at all, no matter what else it does. For the moment, I will suspend jusgement on whether that's a "primitive" or "incomplete" way to look at the audio world. But if you find yourself in that category, I'd have a hard time imagining you anything less than thrilled with the perfrormance of the L3000.

    8. As for me, I wish I could graft aspects of the L3000's bottom end and sheer PRAT to the Sony R10. Now THAT would be a headphone to beat the band...

    Mark
     
  5. LeeS

    LeeS Music Fan

    Location:
    Atlanta
    Nice review Mark. Thanks!

    We look forward to the Grado review. I've been looking forward to some high end Grados...maybe I will check out the GS1000s.
     
  6. LeeS

    LeeS Music Fan

    Location:
    Atlanta
  7. markl

    markl New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    cyberspace
    UPDATE AND FINAL THOUGHTS ON the ATH-L3000 AFTER 325 HOURS BURN-IN

    OK, so as reported elsewhere in the thread, this pair of L3000 were fairly "virgin", and had perhaps 50 hours break-in on them. Other L3000 owners indicated this is another one of those stubborn, long-burn-in-period cans. Though I found much to love about the L3000, I had complained that the upper-mids to the highs were recessed and seemed blanketed, smothered, or even underwater. This is said to decrease with burn-in. I've now put 325 hours total burn-in on these cans (that includes the 50 they already had on them). How do they sound now?


    Damn good. No, make that DAMN GOOD! :basshead:

    I really, really like these headphones, and I don't hardly like any headphones, ever. :p They do some things not just a *little* better than other cans, but some things no other headphone (I've heard) can touch. Here are my listening notes from the last couple days.

    1. L3000 is not a headphone for folks who want to listen at microscopic volumes to dainty, plinkety-plink light-weight prudish music. So often with upscale, expensive gear like this, they are voiced for an inoffensive, wispy, subtle, nuanced sound best enjoyed by bearded elderly pipe-smoking stuffy professors of classical music theory. Not so the L3000. This is a "meat 'n potatoes" headphone for you and me, the proletariat, designed to please the inner head-banger in all of us. It doesn't have the time or energy for subtlety, and will not sound good to anyone at low volumes. It *demands* that you crank it and let it rip, and insists you feed it with beat-heavy fast-paced, aggressive music. That's where it's at its best and doing what it's made for. In short, the L3000 kicks *ss!

    2. Like the W2002, the L3000 has a profound grip on the music. Like with that erlier AT headphone, the L3000 leaves me with the impression that this driver is one formidable and tough cookie. It *feels* strong and durable, and built to crank without distorting; however, if we are honest, it *does* sound a bit rigid and overly inert and stubborn. This is why the highs aren't as sparkly, crisp, or expressive as you get with, say, the R10. Yes, the highs have improved somewhat with burn-in, but no one will mistake this for the unfettered, utterly transparent and fluid R10 in the highs. The L3000 must be listened to at louder-than-normal volumes to get the upper mids and highs to "wake up" and even still they will never be as open as the R10. Still, treble is clean and natural, and luckily will *never* cause fatigue no matter how loud you find yourself cranking it. BTW, the L3000 also does not play at *quite* the same volume as the R10 at the same level on my HR-2.

    3. This sheer gripping force on the sound is not without its benefits; in fact, it's responsible for the very best thing about the L3000-- B-A-S-S BASS! :basshead: There is NO headphone (that I've heard) that is in the same ball-park with the L3000 in terms of the pure *rightness* (make that "righteousness") of its bass. This phone has more solidity, more firmness, more foundation and goes deeper than any phone I've ever heard. I don't find the bass intrusive *most of the time*. I know there are many Head-Fiers who (to me) seem a bit "over-sensitive" to bass in headphones. If they can hear any bass at all (hard to do with headphones, I've always said this is their major Achilles heel vs. speakers), they get offended and reject them. Me, I'm used to the bass you get from a pair of full-range speakers coupled with a subwoofer, so some cans can sound anemic to me. So, I don't care if there's so-called "extra" bass on any headphone so long as it doesn't muck up anything else. For the most part (not 100% of the time), the L3000's bass, while profound, stays within its prescribed box. Because 90% of the time its doing better headphone bass than I've ever heard, I can forgive the 10% where it causes some slight jumbled muddiness in the transition to lower mids. I can certainly live with it, it's an OK trade-off with me.

    4. PRAT. Like I mentioned earlier, this can has slam to burn. Drums are oh-so-delightfully thumpy and punchy. Drums sound like actual drums, another near-impossibility for many cans. Big ol' kick drums sound like nothing you've ever heard through a headphone. Ka-boom! Ka-boom! Nice. Even the electronic squiggles that float through so many modern music soundscapes take on a new-found palpability. Your ears will "feel" the music in a way usually reserved for speakers. Yet, as I said, it's never fatiguing. Nice trick.

    5. Total head-bobbers. You'll be playing air-driums (if not air guitar) and rocking back-and-forth to all your favorite hard-rock albums. Groove-a-licious!

    6. The comfort level on these is extreme, even over long periods. They are a bit "grippy" and create a nice seal. I do have a big-ish head, but I like a slightly "grippy" fit, so these headphones just feel great. They certainly won't budge as you are rockin' out (and you will be) and shouldn't cause you any discomfort.

    7. When I want to listen to some solo acoustic stuff, small acoustic combos or female vocalists (and if I listened to classical or jazz), the L3000 would be far from my first choice. But when AC/DC, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Dinosaur Jr., Black Sabbath or some other similar band beckons, hell ya, I'd want the L3000s on my head!

    8. Soundtage is pretty coherent left-to-right, but lacks any depth. All the musicians are on the same plane, and kind of blend together in a bit of a (tasty) stew. The R10 clearly delineates every player and shows you *exactly* where they are standing in relation to the mike. The R10 shows you the air and space around the musican, and shows you the dimensions of the studio/venue, providing all those crucial spatial and ambient cues. L3000 can't really do that.

    9. Tone, tone, tone. Almost forgot. Yes, it's so easy to overlook (I almost just did it), unless the headphone does it right (few do) and the L3000 definitely gets it right. It sounds "real" and "natural". It does not have that "headphone-y" signature, or sound artificial or overly sweetened, icy cold or mushy warm (though they are *pleasantly* warm, maybe "luke-warm"). These cans are the antithesis of "thin". I'd tend to call them "thick", but that had me looking for any signs of slowness or sluggishness. I just don't hear it. No, they aren't lightening fast, but they ain't slow either. Overall, among the very best headphones in terms of portraying sounds *realistically*, and way ahead in terms of bass tone and firmness/solidity. There is a bit of "pishy-ness" and "tinny-ness" (as opposed to the proper "brassy-ness") to cymbals, but it's forgiveable on the whole.

    10. Detail/resolution. No, the L3000 isn't the microscope that the R10 is. You may hear few things you've never heard before in a recording, but no major revelations. The L3000 is all about "macro-detail"; the big picture, the gestalt of the music, rather than "micro-detail"-- "hey I heard the 2nd bassoonist cough!" That's not to say the L3000 are blurry, insensitive, or un-detailed. It does a fine job at providing resolution, but really can't come close to the R10 (but what can?).


    Overall, as you can guess, I'm mightily impressed with the L3000. If I had never heard an R10, in new-fan-boy-ish style, I would breathlessly proclaim these "the best cans ever made". They are GOOD. I would rather listen to them on 20% of my music than the R10s (even though I'd often still miss some things). But for the vast majority of what I like, the R10 is still KING of Headphones for me.

    Still, that makes (to this date) the L3000 the second-best headphones I've ever heard. Damning with feint praise? Not necessarily. They definitely do certain things better than any other can I've heard. I will surely miss those things and miss the L3000 when I have to send it back later this week. Between now and then, you can bet that I'm gonna be spinning many of my favorite hard-rock discs with the L3000 firmly strapped on to my grateful noggin!



    EDIT: In a week or so, I'll get my mits on the Grado GS1000. Stay tuned!


    EDIT 2 for SH Forum Members-- As an FYI, the Audio-Technica L3000 were a limited-edition headphone from AT, now sold-out, so sadly, you can't buy one (unless you find a used one). They were around $2.5K new.
     
  8. LeeS

    LeeS Music Fan

    Location:
    Atlanta
    Mark,

    We are still waiting on the Grado GS1000 review. :)
     
  9. markl

    markl New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    cyberspace
    Grado GS1000 Impressions Day 1
    Anyone remember this thread? :p OK, finally got the Grado GS1000s (thank you very much, my anonymous benefactor). These are more than fully burned in, so no issues there. I haven't listened to a Grado in over 3-4 years, and as you may know, previous models have not been among my favorites, so this should be interesting. So, off we go. :gs1000smile:

    Build Quality, Fit 'N Finish
    Yup, still look like they were designed circa WWII. The little posts that hold the earcups to the main frame move up and down a bit too easy; one would prefer locking detents that would help prevent the cans from "drifting" around as you wear them. Although I have no evidence of this, one suspects the headphones may loosen as I wear them, I'll watch for it. The "joint" where the posts attach to the earcups and where they pivot is alarmingly fragile-looking. I would think you would need to baby these headphones. The wooden ear cups are very attractive in person. The gigantic foam bowl pads are... well, frankly, cheap-looking and feeling. Kinda rough on the skin but hardly uncomfortable.

    In fact, the GS1000 is probably the lightest weight full-size cans I've ever worn. However, they are somewhat loosey-goosey on my head. If I shake my head slightly, the cans do shift in position a bit. Like the AKG K701, there is a huge cavernous space within the bowl pads that allows for far too many potential positionings, so I anticipate experimentation will be necessary to find the spot where they "lock in".

    The cord is covered in a nice, thick rubbery material that should keep the cord well-protected in case of mis-hap. However, it is conspicuously *shorter* than any other full-sized can's cord, so I suspect at least 80% of people will require an extension cord for listening. Nice way to sell a few extra Grado extension cords methinks. :gs1000smile:

    Overall, physically, no, they don't strike you as "high-end" $1000 headphones. The L3000 and R10 (and to a lesser extent the Qualias) give at least some impression they are upscale cans. Though, as I've said brfore, none of those cans look like they should cost what they do; and that said, what on earth *should* a $4000 headphone look like anyway?

    First Impressions: Sound
    Color me surprised. Nay, *amazed*, dumbfounded. :eek: These truly are a Grado of a different color. The "un-Grado" indeed.

    1. Natural sound? From a *Grado*? :eek: No way. Incredibly, tonally, these are the headphones that sound closest to my beloved R10s (the "un-headphone"). Warm, creamy, inviting and analog. A bit "woody" and speaker-y, rather than typically "headphone-y". Like the R10s, they sound like nice mini-monitors instead of headphones. I never thought I'd hear another can that could come close to the R10's dead-on, realistic, naturally delicious tonailty, but here it is. Damn are these things *accurate* and true to life. They have absolutely none of that weird syrupy, sticky, icky, glazed artificial-flavoring Grado house sound I dislike so much. However, the GS1000 errs a bit on the dry side, but not at all bad. These are definitely not your father's Grados. You've come a long way, baby. Bravo!

    2. The highs are-- I can't believe I'm typing this-- actually *less extended* than the R10's. The top end is shockingly well-behaved and not typically Grado sharp and bright or spitty. It does not scrape at the ear drum or drill into your skull. In fact, if anything, I would say it's a bit too "soft". Edges are not sharply defined. These aren't the most crisp, focused or incisive can. Cymbal crashes are a bit frayed and grainy.

    3. Less bass volume than the R10. Bass is a bit weak and distant-sounding. These cans are all about midrange. They lack extreme top or low end dynamic range. There isn't a lot of heft or slam to the sound. It's a bit light-weight. I suspect this has a lot to do with the distance of the drivers from the ears, which, given the depth of the big bowl pads, are probably the most far away from the ear drum as any headphone.

    4. Background slightly "gray" compared to the best cans, but not awful.

    5. The GS1000 is not *quite* as resolving as some of the best cans, but they are no slouches. The sound is a bit "soupy" and thick (relatively speaking). Individual sounds don't quite stick out as much as they should, not as much air or definition as you get with R10s.

    6. As you move the Grados back toward the rear of head, the highs come into sharper focus. Bass also increases in volume. Like with the K701, the problem is that the ideal position sonically is not where the headphones naturally want to be on your head.

    7. GS1000 is slightly sibilant. S's are slightly pronounced and projected. It's noticeable, but not awful.

    8. Soundstage is very round, making it taller than the wide-screen R10. Not as wide to the far left and right as the R10, but still plenty big. Very nice depth to the image, better than any other can outside of R10. Like the R10, the GS1000 does not appear to have any gap in the middle, the image is seamless.

    9. The sound is a bit floaty, flickery, ghostly and light-weight, typical of most open designs. Not as much body, substance, and weight as you get with the R10 or the L3000. However, it does yield a sound that is very effortless and flowing. Man, I do wonder what would happen if you could stick this driver in a nice closed enclosure!

    10. Extremely adept at portraying shifts in volume, going from quiet to loud. Small sounds stay small, big sounds are appropriately big. A very "uncompressed" sound, which means the GS1000 can portray carefully constructed mixes just right, so your attention is shifted where the artists/engineers want, rather than giving you ADD where everything is shoved under your nose all at once.

    11. Drums sound like real drums. As I've hammered home too many times, for me, one area where headphones generally suffer vs. speakers is in portraying realistic drum sounds. The Sony R10 and CD3000 are still the champs, but the GS1000 is not far behind. The R10 and CD3000 have the uncanny ability to portray the drum's innards and the reverbing sound that happens within the drum itself. The Grado GS1000 actually does this too, but not quite so fulsomely. So, you actually get a little bit more than the sound of the stick on the skin, you get most of the full drum sound. I would rate the Grados very high on the tricky and difficult drums test.


    Given my negative pre-disposition toward anything Grado, I was fully prepared to come here and write a scathing report, even worse than the Qualias. But, incredibly, I have to say these headphones are far from awful, and much more than merely "good"-- they are, in a word, EXCELLENT. Truly, IMHO, the GS1000 absolutely belongs in the list of top headphones ever made. They are breathtakingly "real" and natural. They sound spookily like life. They are a real achievement in the headphone arts. When you consider you used to have to pay $4K to get tonality out of a headphone this good, at $1000 they offer serious value. No, they don't have quite the same extension at both ends as the Sonys, don't have their sheer resolution, or soundstaging ability, but what does?

    Overall, I would say I'm taken aback by how good the Grado GS1000 is; I was absolutely not expecting them to sound nearly this great or perform at this level. At this stage, I can definitively say that I prefer them greatly over the AKG K701, which I grew over time to grudgingly admire. It would be hard to pick a winner between the GS1000 and the ATH-L3000, they are so different. I would say, right now, that the GS1000 is at least on par with the excellent L3000, though they each do different things well.

    OK, that's all for now. :gs1000smile:
     
  10. TommyTunes

    TommyTunes Senior Member

    I just receievd mine 2 days ago after a 4 week wait (Grado was closed for vacation). They are truely an amazing 'phones when it comes to bass retrieval. I have never heard acoustic bass (and paino) portrayed so naturally. They really shine on recordings that have been recorded in real space, as opposed to closed-miked recordings. The instruments are realistic in size. I have heard the Quailia which are also oustanding but a bit too in-your-face for me, but given that both the Sony's and the Audio-Technica are between $3K and $5K, the Grado's are a steal. If the RS-1's put you on stage, the GS-1000's are a 3rd row perspective. Personally I find the RS-1's more comfortable. The RS-1's and GS-1000's are 2 different headphones each offer a unique perspective and I'll be happy to keep both.
     
  11. TONEPUB

    TONEPUB Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Have been living with the GS1000's for a while now and very happy with them.
    We will have a review in TONE-Audio's headphone planet column come Oct 5....

    Very excited though. These have made a headphone believer out of me!
     
  12. TONEPUB

    TONEPUB Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Mark, just curious-what are you using for source components to do all of
    these reviews? That can make a huge difference on what you are hearing.
     
  13. -=Rudy=-

    -=Rudy=- ♪♫♪♫♫♪♪♫♪♪ Staff

    Location:
    US
    Jeff--buried in the first post in this thread:

    Test Bed
    Source: Sony 555ES SACDP with full sacdmods.com mod package
    Amp: Ray Samuels HR-2

    :thumbsup:
     
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