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Grado PS1000 - Sound Quality and Value

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



  • Recommended by TR
Grado PS1000


Our Score:


Grado PS1000 Sound Quality

Prepare the drum roll. How good do the Grado PS1000s sound? Predictably, they sound utterly fantastic.

Most obviously they provide the open airy sound associated with their open-backed design, but also supply the voluminous bass that sets of this type often lack. The sheer volume and power of the low-end surprised us, even if Grado is known for the powerful, forward sound of its headphones. Put your hand over the grilles of one of the cans at decent volume and it's not unlike placing your hand over the bass port of a subwoofer - you can feel the air being pushed out.

Grado PS1000

If you have tried the Sennheiser HD800 and found them a little light in the low end, the Grado PS1000 are an excellent alternative. They do cost around £800 more though - hardly small change however you look at it.

This bass, which extends very deep (these 'phones have an astonishing 5-50,000Hz frequency range, compared to a more typical 20 - 20,000Hz) as well as offering huge presence, doesn't infringe upon the rest of the frequency bands either, as you might expect of a lesser headphone. Here there's just so much space that each frequency band can stretch its legs without invading another's space.

Grado PS1000

This aural impression of spaciousness is provided on two fronts - sound stage and sheer detail. An open, airy sound is common to virtually all decent open-backed headphones, but the sound stage is particularly wide here. Normally when we talk about detail in our headphone reviews, we're referring to the high-end - where the finest sonic details are expressed - but in the Grado PS1000 the level of detail across the board is stunning. Separation is incredible, letting you perceive discrete instruments and other sonic elements much more clearly than you would even with an excellent pair of £200-500 headphones.

Assessing particular genres that work well with the Grado PS1000 sound is something of a fool's errand, because it's rare to find anything it doesn't excel at, and enhance. Classical orchestrations sound full and lush, and beautifully refined when they need to be. Strings are sweet and textured, and the orchestral "hits" of brass and string sections are imbued with a power that's rare to hear outside of a concert hall.

Grado PS1000

Similarly, the distorted guitars and insistent drums of Queens of the Stone Age's Songs for the Deaf album are doubtless powerful enough to put a smile on singer Josh Homme's face. We noticed precious few sonic slip-ups. The only criticism we could muster was that the PS1000 bass was occasionally a little too ripe for drone-y indie music, such as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's Belong, where we'd have dialled back the low end a notch or two given the choice.

Smooth, insightful and as high-end a headphone as we've ever heard, where most high-end headphones let you hear the proverbial strings, the Grado PS1000 lets you hear between them too. Some may still prefer a set with lighter bass, such as the Sennheiser HD800 or Audio Technica ATH-W5000, as their lighter sound can supply a slightly greater impression of "airiness", but to call them categorically better is plain wrong – no other headphone we've tested comes close to replicating the full range, detail and clout of a high-end Hi-Fi. What's more, the refinement of the sound means these cans never sound tiring. Not only are they physically comfortable enough to wear for hours, your inner-ears will also love every moment.

Grado PS1000 Value

On the subject of value, the Grado PS1000 are a tough sell. They're a lot more expensive than the HD800, Sennheiser's top-end model, the Denon AH-D7000 and the Audio Technica ATH-W5000, not to mention Grado's own GS1000 (a snip at £1,000). The only mainstream headphone that can compete in sheer price tag terms is the Ultrasone Edition 10, which retails for roughly the same price. When matched with the right amp, some claim it's the best set of headphones in the world.

Grado PS1000

However, it's also a trickier set whose aggressive treble can turn sibilant. The extremely efficient and easy-to-drive PS1000, on the other hand, can even be powered by a lone MP3 player with still immensely enjoyable results. For the best output you will want to plug it into a nice valve headphone amp, to add a touch of that valve warmth. It's worth noting, though, that we tried it with a powerful solid state amp and could barely turn the volume dial without risking hearing damage - that's how sensitive they are.


The Grado PS1000 are one of the most expensive pairs of headphones you'll find, but they're also one of the best. Powerful bass, wonderfully subtle-but-intense levels of detail and an incredible soundstage make this pair an unbridled joy to listen to, no matter what musical genre you throw at them.

Drawbacks are few, but that price is something that's hard to swallow when key rivals like the Sennheiser HD800 cost significantly less. However, with a superb metal and wood build, these headphones are built for life.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design & Features 9
  • Sound Quality 10
  • Value 7


May 18, 2011, 2:56 am

You describe these as having superb build - because of the materials used - however the headband and in particular the rods look almost as if they're designed to break as soon as possible. Am I being cynical; is there a genuine acoustic justification for making them that way?

Of course this is all a moot point, as I could never justify the cost, but it seems like bad design to me even if they do look rather nice.


May 18, 2011, 4:02 am

Wearing Grados is like rubbing your ears with sandpaper. And yes I have scars on my ears to prove that. But seriously, why would Grado use 1£ pads for a pair of cans that cost £1,835.00?


May 18, 2011, 5:22 am

I can't comment on the PS1000s specifically, as I've only had a short time with a pair, but going by my RS1s the headband construction isn't as it is for acoustic reasons, but rather as they're headphones to use hooked up to a hi-fi, they don't need to be amazingly rugged; so they aren't. To be brutally honest, the headband isn't amazingly comfortable for long-term listening, so I bought a padded leather covering for my Grados - it's the one weakness of these headphones and at this price is almost unforgivable.

Unlike the headband, the metal and wood driver housing is definitely acoustically important - the RS325s introduced the combination with the idea that the different resonances of the two materials would compliment each other, and it definitely works - the PS1000s take that concept to its rightful fruition. The metal adds a crispness to the high-end that's hard to describe, but is very audible. Incidentally, the Sennheiser HD800s use a special polymer material (saying plastic makes it sound cheaper and less significant than it is) to accomplish the same effect (i.e. the drivers' housing doesn't negatively affect their sound).

Speaking from personal experience and taste (subjectiveness follows), but the only headphone's I've ever listened to that can match these are electrostatics, and then you're getting into really stupid money (5k+ easy and it's almost pointless comparing dynamic drivers to electrostatics as they're a different proposition with their own strengths and weaknesses).

Moreover, as well as the crazy price of the PS1000s you'll need to spend another several hundred pounds on a CD player and amplifier (or stream FLAC files to an amp) to make proper use of these headphones. I'm can only hope Andrew has his tongue in his cheek when he suggests you might listen to these using a £30 MP3 player. I happen to use a Marantz CD6003 CD player and PM6003 amp with my RS1s and I can assure you the difference between listening to them through that combination and an iPod nano is like night and day. And that's not even a particularly expensive setup.

Le sigh. Even when I'm not writing for TR, I'm writing for TR.

Hamish Campbell

May 18, 2011, 12:44 pm

1800 quid and they couldn't be bothered wiping the excess glue from the wood insets.

It's on my list for when I become a multi-millionaire though.


May 18, 2011, 2:22 pm

Ironic that - given the way hearing acuity deteriorates markedly from our teenage years onwards - most folk with sufficient disposable income to consider £1,800 reasonable for a pair of headphones will be quite unable to differentiate them sonically from more pedestrian sets.

Still, most of us can't distinguish cheap and expensive wine in blind tasting but still like to buy an expensive bottle once in a while, so psychology rather than absolute performance is probably the story here!


May 18, 2011, 2:54 pm

>> the rods look almost as if they're designed to break

I've got the much cheaper SR125's that I use for work, and if it's the same then those rods are not going to break very easily.


May 18, 2011, 6:45 pm

For those earning millions and for those just sitting on the coach or office twiddling their thumbs.

People have to work hard for their money and look after their family. Nothing justifies £1800 for a pair of headphones...


May 18, 2011, 9:05 pm


That is a ridiculous statement. You can't appreciate/afford or understand it hence it must be useless to everyone and can't be justified.
I don't earn millions or sit in the office twiddling my thumbs but yet I've spent a good amount of money on my headphone setup. Its just like any other hobby or interest. Like how people want the best cameras, fastest graphics cards, processors, SSD's, best Smartphone's, laptops, tablets etc.

Back to the topic, I agree with other posters here that for the asking price its nothing extraordinary. There are a lot more options for less than the price as the reviewer has noted and they all trump the PS1000 technically.

Unless you are a die hard grado fan and must have the best of their best, it is definitely not worth it. I actually consider it the only failure in Grado's line-up.

I have listed of the headphones that I think trump the PS1000 technically:
Audeze LCDD-2 (Magnetic Planar) $945
Hifiman HE-6 (Magnetic Planar) $1200
Sennheiser HD800 £1000
Beyerdynamics T1 £800

Pair any of the above headphones with a decent source and good amplifier and for 90% of the music they will trump the PS1000.....imo :)


May 18, 2011, 10:22 pm

Don't hate on people just because they either have the money to buy this sort of stuff or are willing to save for it.
This is an investment; buy something like this, and you'll probably never have to buy another headphone (for indoor use anyway) for the rest of your life, provided nothing happens to it.
That's why some people shell out extra ordinate amounts of money on a HiFi setup: audio equipment like this seldom becomes irrelevant, so it can last you decades upon decades.
It's all about priorities :-)


May 19, 2011, 6:25 am

For that price, I'd expect top artists to come to my house at least once and perform live in a private performance to compare just how good they ACTUALLY are...

Ala Miah

May 19, 2011, 4:16 pm

At this price point they should be better then sex. Somehow I don't think these are that good!


May 19, 2011, 5:55 pm

Depends on what you think is overrated :)


June 2, 2011, 10:31 pm

I was originally really dismissive of your complaint that they're like sandpaper but since having had my hair cut I totally see what you mean. They're not out and out uncomfortable but they do catch the top of your ears ever so slightly and irritate them. I do love the sound of these 'phones but I agree Grado needs to sort out it's rather elitist attitude towards actually making its products comfortable and practical.


June 20, 2011, 5:22 am

Build flaws as experimented and corrected:
- the headband could be more soft
- the plastic pieces holding the "delicate looking steel rods" are weak an I have to fix them because the speakers fall of and they didn't hold the steel rod firm enough, so the speakers slip down. Now, after fixing it with four screw its perfect.
- after bending the headband to achieve more pressure of the foam to the head the can now feels comfortable an held perfectly in place when moving the head.

So much about build flaw of this can. I use them a lot and now I' m very pleased with the comfort.

Sound quality? I plug them directly in a hifiman HM-801 or cowon J3. The files are lossless, .wav ripped at PCM 48kHz, 16 bit.
Every music is a delight. Without any flaws in every frequencies. Organ works: you feel the deepest sound as in a church, very precise an poweful - that's impressive. Voices, great orchestra, percussion - everything sounds great - and this with no highest-end source or amp, just out of good mp3-Player. To mention is also the very natural tonal balance - a reference. To be very picky the sound could be a little more "dry" and be a notch more dynamic but with another higher-end source this would perhaps be better...
Have also the cowon D2+ and S9: the J3 has clearly the better sound. The hifiman has more power than the J3 to drive the cans and this makes a difference.

I wasn't satisfied with other cans. I couldn't imagine that cans can produce a listening experience of enough high level, enough near the experience of live music. This cans are satisfying very high attempt. For such a quality hearing experience I would have to spend more than five times the price and would not be able to enjoy the music so much times. (have some experience in hearing highest-end systems, have had a fine, highly tuned equipment with crimson pre -& mono-end amps - but it's actually not in use - with the ps1000 I don't miss my system so much).


May 17, 2014, 1:59 am

The question is: Can headphones provide an experience nearing that of speakers? I find I listen to music with my whole body. I don't think I can get this with headphones, at any price.


May 24, 2014, 10:41 pm

it is no joke,but they sound quite good with cowon players,tried with a7 iaudio cowon,it has 5 band grafic equalizer.Nice highs ,midbands guitar etc...Vocals still sounds a bit recesed , a bit on hard side not so intimate like on harbeth shl5,bass may be lacks tightness and definition or my ears does not accept low bass from 5-50,i noticed that with other cans which have similar freqeuncy response 5-30 etc.. .Author is right,don't go loud,you can feel waves of bass in your ear drums.

Andy Miller Photo UK

August 1, 2015, 8:53 am

Hi -- thanks for the article and the comments. I agree with most.

The key question is why headphones instead of speakers (or in addition to)? The answer for me is I have both -- but unless I turn up my hi-fi to quite high levels (it's all relative) - I don't get the same experience as through cans. So very late at night or when I would disturb others its the cans.

Hugo a several hundred pounds does not cut it -- its more like tens of thousands.

Value is in the EARS of the beholder -- I have a pair of PS1000s -- they are wonderful (I have also owned dozens of other cans). While you can plug them into any source -- they are most well fitted to high end sources and high def/resolution media. So my cost comparison is to an equivalent quality amp/speaker -- and that's £15-20,000 - assuming the source and the DAC is the same. So £2k is a good deal for a reference quality alternatives to a ref amp and speakers.

Aaron Rayvid

September 23, 2015, 3:22 am

I get more pleasure out of these cans, the new e-model, than any other high-end gear I have owned, except maybe, sometimes, a Voyd Plus Turntable/SME-V/Koetsu Urushi into any of several dynamite valve and solid state pre-amp/amps, and ProAc Response speakers. I would choose the Grados with my current electronics (the Schiit gear that Grado themselves use) and lossless digital files by a smidge because the combo is a bit more consistent, and actually has a similar sonic signature - right down to the crystalline highs, juicy but controlled mids, and deeeeeeeep but tonally real-world and dynamically tight and driving bass, the latter being just a bit less inclined toward upper-bass bloom when pushed - according to my self-proclaimed accurate memory. I WOULD like a feeling of greater grip to the foam cushions on my noggin, which have never irritated my skin at all, while the band itself has never announced its presence except to slide off if I lean way down to pick something up. In terms of musical “you are there”, nothing - and I have listened long and honestly to every set mentioned in this review except one - but nothing is in the same class. May be hyperbole, or sound like it - but these are in a class by themselves - and sui generis things often evoke strongly contradictory reactions. But my opinion is that of a seasoned audiophile, with hearing that remains flat up to just past 17K (I’m 51 and a drummer, so maybe lucky), so I represent an opinion that has credibility even if not the last word. And, as for some people i have read on different forums who say ad hominem things like you have to be a Grado employee or eat magic mushrooms daily to exalt these devices, well, that kind of thinking is moronic. Different strokes. Lots of people, a surprising majority, are absolutely blown away by the experience of these phones - so it is a self-evidently valid perspective, even if different tastes yield different opinions. Should be fun, not like some bitter fundamentalist audio religion. There is a very good chance that you will be enchanted - french root meaning seduced by song - by these phones. And you can pay them off in a few months, and own them outright after that, and if music is important enough, there will be no hardship - we’re not talking a Bentley or an Ivy League education, after all. Try some, buy some, as George Harrison said.

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