There are several reasons why I got involved in reviewing these headphones. First, I gifted my trusty Grado 125 headphones to the son of my colleague Karl Sigman. Karl and his son Jason came over for a visit and Jason let it be known that he wanted to get Beats headphones for a birthday present, because ‘they are cool’. Peer pressure was a powerful motivator for the soon to be 12 year old. I asked Jason to try the Grado 125s. He was mesmerized by the sound and it was a joy to see his reaction. ‘Dad, I have to have them.’ After the visit was over, I called Karl and told him I wanted his son to have the headphones and it was my gift to him. I now had to replace them. What to do?
The second reason is the dramatic growth in the headphone market. It’s been many years since I had to look for headphones and I was curious what was making headphones so popular. Unless you’ve been living in a bomb shelter, out of touch with the world, the headphone market has exploded.
Over the years, I’ve had a positive relationship with Grado products; my first cartridge was that incredibly inexpensive ‘green ’model that I think cost $5.00 in the 70s. I was always attracted to the Grado ‘house’ sound — warm, rich and easy to listen to. A lot of time has passed and the company has expanded and developed a full range of headphones and cartridges.
After examining their website I chose the Statement GS1000e model. I liked what the literature had to say about them and while not the most expensive headphones on the market, a thousand dollars is still nothing to sneeze at.
I had one problem — no top of the line headphone amp to match with the Grados. What I had on hand was my old Musical Fidelity V-CANS headphone amp. While very serviceable, it’s not top of the line, and I wanted better. John Chen, the head of marketing for Grado was kind enough to arrange for me to have the lone of a Schiit LYR 2 tube hybrid headphone amplifier which he felt would allow the Grados to perform to their full capabilities.
Back in 2010, the Schiit Valhalla headphone amp was introduced as a very solidly constructed product with high performance for extremely reasonable pricing. So, it was with great anticipation that I began the review.
Physically, the GS-1000es are extremely light and comfortable with a sort of retro look about them that I found charming. The ear cups are large foam with open backs that completely cover your ears. They come with a very substantial six foot, hardwired cable. Grado also includes a matching 12 foot extension cable giving 18 feet of walk around distance. Also included is an adapter for most portable applications.
As I mentioned earlier, the Musical Fidelity V-CANS headphone amp provided a serviceable level of performance but the LYR 2 moved the bar much higher and I now understood why Grado named their headphones the Statement. The headphones sounded three dimensional, dynamic with a full frequency response. Imaging was excellent without any edge or artificiality. The subtleties of the music were clearly expressed with detail that didn’t shout at you. The combination was warm and sumptuous.
In the midst of doing this evaluation, the NY Audio show happened and I was fortunate enough to sample a wide variety of headphones first hand. What became evident was that there are some very fine headphones available. One can go from super transparency, super detailed to soft warm and fuzzy. Take your pick. What I can say without any equivocation is that the Grados fall on the slightly warmer, full bodied category. Perhaps the addition of tubes in the Schiit LYR 2 headphone amp contributed to this observation. When I went back to the Musical Fidelity amp, the same sonic characteristics of the Grados were evident but to a lesser degree and not nearly as enjoyable.
Grado Labs has been producing headphones for over half a century and are going strong with no end in sight. It has not been a company to sits on its laurels but one that continually looks to improve its products. The GS 1000-e Statement is an example of that. This is the latest version of the Statement (US$1,000), implementing improvements in design and materials that makes them one of the best headphones in a very competitive market. I highly recommend them to anyone who is ready for some serious headphone listening.
Further information: Grado Labs