Some technology is so expensive that it's almost impossible to talk about in terms of value. Retailing for just over £1,800 it's safe to say the Grado PS1000 is just such an example. They are some of the most expensive non-custom headphones in the world, tripling what many people would already consider silly money for a pair of headphones, so can they possibly be worth the outlay? We set our ears to critical, donned the metal big boys and commenced hours of quizzical beard-stroking. Here's what we think.
The Grado PS1000 buck a few trends of standard headphone design. The leather clad headband is rather thin and weedy looking, while two delicate looking steel rods are all that hold the earpieces in place. The earpieces themselves and their foam surrounds are also enormous. What's more there are no extras like removable cables or remote controls here – these are pure listening tools. With regards the latter, the cable is very thick and feels high quality, and should the worst happen, re-cabling is possible but it's not the simple plug 'n' play operation that it is with the Sennheiser HD800.
On top of the driver units sit huge foam pads that rest around your ears. These are the only elements of the Grado PS1000 designed to be perishable, with replacements costing around £60. That may seem – and indeed is – pricey for a few lumps of foam, but they utilise different densities to offer optimum comfort and stability, which is something they most certainly achieve. They're so large and deep that there's next to no contact between your ear and the earpiece or foam, meaning your ears never get squashed. What they can't do, however, is stop the huge weight of the headphones pulling them from your head.
The back of each can is made from solid metal, with only the parts hidden by the foam pads built from the Grado staple, wood. And the result is a set of cans that weighs a hefty 500g – tip your head forward or back or turn it too swiftly and the headphones will come tumbling down. So solid are they that even the grilles that cover the open backs of each headphone feel like they could stop – or at least nicely julienne – a bullet.
When on your noggin, they have a very distinct look that - while we wouldn't call it stylish - is at least styled. If you dream of looking like an aircraft controller from the 1940s, these are the cans for you. Remove the foam pads though and they're actually relatively petite.
A wood-rimmed speaker housing is glued into the metal base, which itself isn't constrained into any particular angle by the headband. A deceptively tough antenna-like rod of metal sticks up into the headband, relying on simple friction to stay in place and allowing each speaker housing to be height adjusted and swivel through 360 degress. They have a tendency to slip, or at least sag, on your head if you move about a lot, but as already hinted at, these aren't really headphones for on the move.
Another reason for wanting to keep these consigned to your abode is the open-back design that leaks a lot of sound. You can generally listen at normal volumes without completely annoying a whole office but the person sat next to you on the train might get somewhat miffed. All told, if you wear them out, you virtually deserve to be pointed at and ridiculed - they'll double the width of most heads. Sat at home by your hi-fi, though, they'll look the business. Oddly enough though, thanks to the high-efficiency drivers they'll actually perform well plugged straight into your £30 MP3 player, so for portability they beat some other premium headphones that require an additional amp. The standard jack of the cable is a full-size 5.3mm one, but a 3.5mm converter extension cable is included too.
In the home then, the combination of the lightly but sufficiently padded headband, huge spacious foam pads, that ingenious self-adjusting metal rod and their airy open-back design means that despite their bulk these headphones are comfortable to wear for hours on end. Whether you're sitting down for some extended relaxed listening or if you're a musician that wants to practice all day without disturbing others, these couldn't be better. What's more, there's a certain sense of smug satisfaction knowing that while they don't necessarily look the part (except in a very utilitarian way), there's one heck of a lot of cash sitting on your coconut when wearing these 'phones. With their precarious weighty stance, it can almost feel like you're wearing a crown.
Thanks to John Lewis for supplying our review sample.