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The PS1000s don't drive fancy cases to arrive at your door. They come in a headphone version of a pizza delivery box. It's part and parcel of running a family business the old-fashioned Grado way. Think mom 'n' pops vs. the regional chains. You could protest. Only the careless with money squander it on silk-lined flight cases which will never get used again. Touché. But if the competition can give you the sonic goods and luxury touches all for less money, why cut Grado any slack? Touché grande. Plainly, these folks lacks the big corporate resources. Scale of operation does have its benefits. It's not inherently evil to be huge as Sennheiser and audio-technica are by comparison.

The housings rotate and carelessness twirls up their Y leads. The leather sleeve of the bridge is insufficiently padded. With the serious weights of those metalized wood enclosures, wear comfort isn't as high as with the HD800s or Raffinatos. Spastic head jerks during air guitar solos will send these Yanks flying or at the very least slipping. Tallying up non-sonic demerits relative to what your money can buy elsewhere—let's not even mention the top Ultrasones—Grado's PS1000s neither look nor feel like state-of-the-art reference products. And sonics? Here we get serious. Grado has always celebrated a lush midrange and very stout bass achieved by clever contouring and a loss of ultimate detail. The PS1000s retain the house sound, linearize it more and add yet higher SPL potential which previously could send the very prodigious bass into break-up mode. That's generally the trouble with bass. The more you offer—lower and louder—the more apparent it is when something caves in. If you can bring the PS1000s to their knees however, you're made of far sterner stuff than your scribe.

Of the four headphones I own, the Grados are the party animals and rockers. Not fat per se, they definitely get down on the fulsome side of warmth. They also offer the bangiest and most blusterous bass of the bunch and outright ask to be fed Massive Attack fare. Particularly when compared to the Sennheiser HD800s, finesse of resolution as measured in airiness, litheness and speed comes in a clear second if not actual third.

It's academic to speculate whether that's psychoacoustics or test-bench gospel. It's the subjective impression one gets when rotating between my headphones. Grados in general produce the Vandersteen effect. Until the advent of the Model 5, Vandies had more developed and lower bass than competitors but were also clearly mellower and softer - dialed for comfort not speed. That too was the Grado recipe. The PS1000s continue the proud tradition with even more of a good thing while sharpening magnification power to counter-balance the low-frequency gains.

One reason why subjective resolution isn't as intense is due to the signature Grado housing. With the driver at the very front (inside) and prevented from actually touching the ear only because of the sculpted foam ring, the housing's back (outside) is hollow. It's a resonant cavity whose action can easily be identified when closing in on the wire-mesh openings with the hands.

The sound shrinks and dries out as the hands move in; strangulates and pales when the hands seal off the openings. So strategic resonance is an innate part of the Grado sound and with it comes a ringier or fluffier mien than what the more damped and sealed wooden bodies of the Japanese W5000s produce.

In speakers this flavoral opposition relates to vented vs. sealed alignments. The former is fuzzier or bloomier—the precise appellation depends on your biases—the latter drier or more precise. In short, the somewhat opulent juiciness of the PS1000s was bought at a price. The designer's craft resides in just how well that expenditure was hidden from the discerning ear. If you've heard a good powerful push/pull valve amp, you already know the answer. The additive action is audible and why you fancied such an amplifier to begin with. But it's also quite even to telegraph its specific attributes mostly in A/B comparisons.

This PS1000 doesn't have the airiness and speed of the HD800; the higher articulation of the slightly drier yet similarly 'romantic' W5000; and the tautly sprung beat fidelity of the K-702.

But it offers the most generously burnished tone and the most powerful and well-controlled bass to arguably be the best choice for those who listen to predominantly modern popular music which on a whole isn't that well recorded but demands proper anchoring down low. The biggest hurdle here really is the high price when considering the old-fashioned and somewhat funky 'vintage army radio operator' appearance. It's where a small outfit like Grado stretches itself thin to be out-muscled and out-blinged by the far greater resources of its corporate competitors.

Is the PS1000 worth the money? It's a fair assumption that the Grado model one or two steps below the PS1000 offers greater value and very equivalent performance. Grado after all has worked this sector for ages. Without altering their proven base recipe, it's been about evolutionary refinements. Trickle-down benefited the whole range, the lower models improved and thus stole headroom for advances at the very top.

It's for Grado aficionados who own all the pricier models—or have comparative access during a headfi meet—to determine exactly how much separates them. I believe that the PS1000 is of greatest appeal to the pre-installed fan base of Grado enthusiasts who want the very best their provider of choice makes. Newbies to the Grado house sound open-eyed to competing offerings will likely hedge their bets. They might focus on the RS1i or GS1000i instead to get the lion's share of the Grado house sound without paying all the way and not getting the tactile and cosmetic refinements all the way should imply - and elsewhere does. audio-technica and Sennheiser have true all-around statement efforts on their hands with the ATH W-5000 'Raffinato' and HD800 models respectively. AKG still lacks a replacement for their previous king (which I still own) while Beyerdynamic has their new T-1 (which I haven't heard).

For most unassailable top spot in the current pantheon of what I've heard, I nominate the Sennheisers with the stern proviso that their stock wire harness be upgraded. While my personal listening habits actually favor the Raffinatos, I doubt that they match general tastes as universally as Sennheiser has managed. Hence 'unassailable' is my assessment of the HD800's ranking. For a far lower price, the AKG K-702 with a replacement harness and after protracted break-in meanwhile are sonically studio-mastering neutral and highly capable. From among this batch, they are clearly the best buy. But, they're not true hifi references nor do they pretend to be. That spot is reserved for whatever AKG has in mind for their eventual K-1000 replacements.

In closing, the PS1000 delivers the traditional sonic Grado virtues at their very best yet short-changes the informed luxury shopper on secondary matters which are sonically irrelevant. Whether that makes them irrelevant period is a valid question. I let you be the judge. In my digs, the PS1000s are the equivalent of my Zu Essence loudspeakers - feisty, fulsome, dynamic and warm whist offering rather more refinement than pure career rockers would. The AKG K-702s are the DeVore Fidelity 9, the Sennheisers the ASI Tango R. The audio-technicas are the Rethm Saadhana when driven from a Yamamoto A-09S 300B SET. While generalizations all, they're actually more apt than you might suspect.
Quality of packing: Cheap but effective.
Reusability of packing: A few times.
Condition of component received: Flawless.
Completeness of delivery: Perfect.
Wear comfort: 90%.
Website comments: Thankfully simple but informative.
Human interactions: None, the review pair was purchased outright.
Pricing: One of the costliest of 'up there' headphones and in matters of appearance and presentation, overtaken by competitors who offer more for less.
Final comments & suggestions: None really. The idiosyncratic design is firmly embedded in tradition and the logical conclusion of the firm's prior efforts.

Grado Labs website