Grado PS500 Review

Sections

Pros

  • Exceptional sound quality
  • Competitvely priced for their sound quality
  • Solidly built
  • Open-back design creates open, spacious sound

Cons

  • On-ear design becomes uncomfortable
  • Headband lacks padding
  • Not exactly stylish
  • Open-back design means you need a quiet enviroment to listen.

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £650.00
  • 14-29,000Hz frequency range
  • Mahogany and Aluminium alloy earpieces
  • 2m cable with 1/4in jack
  • On-ear design

Grado has a long history of producing top quality headphones with a
signature mid-range heavy sound but with its range-topping PS1000 model
it veered slightly away from this tone producing a flatter more
‘accurate’ sound that we loved. However, for most of us £1,500 is a bit
more than we’re willing to spend on headphones, no matter how good.
Thankfully Grado has been accommodating enough to produce a more
budget-friendly version of its flagship model in the form of the Grado
PS500. Retailing for a still substantial £650, they remain a premium
offering but for the quality of sound they produce you could almost
consider them a bargain.


The Grado PS500 are styled in traditional Grado fashion, eschewing
anything extraneous or fancy in favour of putting as much money and
effort as possible into making the product sound good rather than look
good. In principle it’s a philosophy we admire, though we must admit to
being a little tired of how punishingly it’s applied. Admittedly there’s
an argument for saying that few over-ear headphones look genuinely
attractive but here the point is proved with gusto. The skimpy headband
and large earpieces combine to create a look that can only be considered
charming in its retroness.

Grado PS500 7


What makes this largely forgivable is that these are meant purely as a
listen-at-home headphone. Their open-back design means they block almost
no outside noise and what you’re listening to is leaked to the outside
world, so they are completely unsuited for travel. Hammering home the
final nail for portability is the thick, weighty cable, which is
totally impractical for stuffing in a pocket. The only concession to
travel is the ‘phones’ relatively low weight of 300g, which not only
stops them sitting hard on your head but also stops them flying off your
noggin from the slightest movement – in comparison the 500g PS1000 are
highly prone to taking a tumble.

Sadly this is the only area where these phones can be considered
comfortable. We don’t overly mind the essentially non-existent padding
on the leather wrapped headband or the simple adjustment mechanism that
lets the earcups rotate and slide freely on thick metal poles – indeed
this mounting system allows the cups to adjust nicely to the contours of
your head. However the padding on the earcups is simply inadequate.
Grado has long been criticised for using somewhat scratchy uncovered foam that’s
not overly soft, and so it is on these headphones. They’re not
horrendously uncomfortable by any stretch, and our thoughts on comfort
are compromised slightly by many of us wearing glasses, but regularly after an hour or so’s listening we’d be pretty uncomfortable. Overall
we’ve encountered many a more comfortable pair.

Grado PS500 4


Part of the problem is the on- rather than over-ear design. Both the
padding and the speaker grille come in contact with the ear and apply
mild but eventually uncomfortable pressure. In contrast, over-ear designs largely avoid putting pressure on the ear by fully surrounding
it. The PS1000 use much larger cushions that achieve precisely this and
are much more comfortable because of it so why Grado is still persisting
with this on-ear design throughout most of its range, we don’t know.
You can buy the large cushions separately but they cost a galling £50.

Grado PS500


Before we get too carried away with the negative stuff, though, let’s
return to some positives. The build quality is superb. The majority of
the headphones’ structure is metal aside from the plastic parts that
clasp the adjustment rods and the clips for the earcups themselves, but
these are both thick and feel strong. The headband is finished in
real leather and the earpieces themselves are built like the proverbial
out house. They may look all metal (aluminium alloy) but they actually
have a mahogony core into which the driver is mounted. The combination
works to almost eliminate transient distortions, resulting in a truer
representation of your music.

Grado PS500 8


The cable is also of excellent quality with eight conductors made from
ultra high purity long crystal (UHPLC) copper for maximum signal purity.
Moreover, it’s thick and strong so should take plenty of wheelie chair
punishment. Strangely, though, it’s ‘only’ 2m long which, while adequate
if you’re sitting next to your source, is insufficient if you like to
sit back from your source, on a sofa or such like.

Grado PS500 1


Terminating the cable is a quality gold plated 1/4inch (6.35mm) jack.
Disappointingly you don’t get a converter for a smaller 1/8in jack in
the box, unlike with the PS1000, which is an annoyance for those wanting
to use these headphones with an mp3 player – a perfectly sensible
desire considering the low 32ohm impendence of these phones.
Incidentally, you get nothing else in the comically basic box – again,
it’s all about saving money to invest in the headphones themselves.

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