Tom’s description of the Raffinato could, in broad strokes, also fit the Grandioso—especially the part about the headphone offering an impressive degree of midrange vividness and focus. If I had to come up with two descriptors for the Grandioso’s sonic persona the words I might choose would be “voluptuous” and “seductive”; this is one of those headphones that, like certain types of photographic film (from back in the day when most cameras still used film), tends to make tonal colors seem a little bit purer and more vivid, vibrant, and intense than they appear in real life. Some might argue, perhaps correctly, that this kind of sonic vividness may be the result of an artificial set of colorations of some kind, but even so there is no denying the appeal of the sound, since it tends to make many kinds of music seem more powerful, intimate, and alive.
The Grandioso’s midrange vividness does, at least on some recordings, come with a few sonic “strings attached,” in the sense that it can tend to accentuate any traces of upper midrange edginess or glare that may be present in the mix. On the other hand, the ATH-W1000X also manages to make most records sound subtly more expressive than they otherwise might.
The ATH-W1000X’s treble response is reasonably well extended, but not quite as silky smooth or refined as the highs produced by some of the best ‘phones in its price class (e.g., the HiFiMAN HE-5LE). The tradeoff, though, is that the Grandioso does a very good job of revealing treble details—in particular, the leading edges of treble transient sounds.
I would say that, on the whole, the Grandioso’s bass might be a bit tighter and better defined than that of the Raffinato, although the two are pretty close. One point to note is that the ATH-W1000X does a great job of conveying the wallop and drive of instruments that are rich in mid-bass output, such as bass guitars, kick drums and the like. But where the Raffinato could sometimes seem a little loose and lacking in definition when playing down low, the ATH-W1000X now offers a somewhat greater degree of low-frequency pitch definition and thus takes a step forward in overall bass clarity.
The good news here is that the ATH-W1000X captures much if not all of the sonic appeal of the ATH-W5000, but at a significantly lower price, and while upping the ante with a few new sonic advancements of its own.
To hear the Grandioso’s newfound bass definition in action, not to mention its signature vivid midranges, try playing the first movement (Prelude: Andante) of the Copland Organ Symphony as performed by the San Francisco Symphony (SFS Media, SACD). The movement features a lovely, slowly unfolding pipe organ passage where the upper register of the organ states a rising them even as low pedal notes sound a descending theme. This is the sort of passage that can and often does exposé bass problems in headphones (or, for that matter, loudspeakers), yet the Grandiosos handled the passage gracefully, delivering a good measure of bass clarity while preserving upper range clarity and vividness. Could other ‘phones have produced an even tighter, clearer and better-defined rendition of the pipe organ pedal notes? Perhaps a few headphones might have offered superior low-end performance, but most of the ones that could do so also turn out to cost more than the Grandioso.
To understand both the benefits, but also potential drawbacks, of the Grandioso’s vivid midrange sound, trying listening to a modern, non-audiophile-grade studio-made pop recording, such as “Fading” from Jewel’s Sweet and Wild [Valory]. In keeping with typical studio practice these days, Jewel’s vocals are very closely mic’d, so that you not only enjoy a certain kind of “hyper-clarity,” but are also subjected to more than a few moments where the singer’s voice sounds overly hot, glassy, and hard-edged. The good news is that the ATH-W1000X powerfully renders the ultra-clear vocals in an intense, emotionally compelling way. The not-so-good news, however, is that the Grandioso’s signature midrange vividness also makes the track’s overly hot, glassy sound seem painfully over-the-top at times.