Having recently reviewed the Grado SR 325is for Playback, which I thought were exceptionally good headphones, I was thrilled when Grado offered a chance to review their maximum supreme PS1000 headphone ($1695). Given what Grado does at the $300 price point, I was curious in this review to see what they could deliver at 5X the price.
Like other Grados, the PS1000 is an open back headphone. That clearly makes them less suitable for use on airplanes or in an office. Some listeners, however, insist that open-back headphones are consistently more natural sounding.
Technically, the PS1000 seems relatively simple and straightforward, but many an unassuming audio product has proven to be spectacularly accurate. Grado has paid much attention to the driver housings, which consist of an inner mahogany section and an outer frame of a very hard metal alloy. Actually to call it a frame is a misnomer, because this hunk of metal resembles a puck more than anything. Grado also says they worked long and hard to get the air chamber behind the drivers properly shaped to minimize transient distortions. That is a claim we’ll return to. Finally, the engineers on the PS1000 project utilized new, even more pure, copper in the drivers and the supplied cables.
We have here a seemingly simple headphone from a value-oriented maker, but at a premium, high-end price. Can it compete with top-tier offerings from Sennheiser, Ultrasone, or even from Grado themselves? Let's see what this test revealed.
Consider this headset if: you want headphones with excellent transparency and tonal balance and you want to avoid the occasionally edgy or harsh sound that often comes along as part of the package with other headphones that promise very high levels of transparency.
Look elsewhere if: macro-dynamic slam is at the top of your list of sonic desires, or if you need closed-back phones due to your environment.
Ratings (compared to similarly-priced headphones)
Let’s start with the elements of the PS1000 that make it the real deal and a contender among the very best, because this is a very fine headphone to be sure. It isn’t perfect (no headphone is), and I’m going to eventually offer some criticisms. So, I want to be sure readers understand Grado’s achievement here, which is impressive indeed.
The bugaboo of most headphones lies in the treble region. If you look at the target frequency response curve (the one that psychometricists say sounds flat or balanced or accurate to the human ear), you’ll see that it isn’t flat. And you’ll see specifically that the target curve calls for a pretty big response rise in the treble region. I’m not a headphone designer, but I’m guessing that this target curve isn’t that easy to hit. I also suspect the curve is old and not exactly right. Moving beyond speculation, I am an audio equipment reviewer, and I can say from experience that almost no headphones seem to hit the curve. The Grado PS1000 comes as close as anything I’ve heard to getting the treble region right.