Grado PS500 Review



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


  • 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.