Grado RS1e Audiophile Headphone Review
Grado needs no introduction; they’ve been producing headphones since 1990 and have stuck to the same design ethic since then, making their headphones one of the most recognisable out there. Of course, there have been changes going on within the headphones themselves, not least with the ‘e’ range which was released a while back.
The Grado RS1e is one of these, with mahogany earcups and a very retro headband which makes us think of radio operators during World War II. Had their headphones sounded this good at that time, would the Allies have still won? It’s a real enigma.
- Good clear Grado sound
- Attractive construction
- Good quality extension cable included
- Cable’s a bit serpentine
Design and Appearance
The headband design is as simple as possible; pins and gimbals allow for size adjustment and that’s all. They say the best designs are the simplest, so this is not meant as a criticism! The quality of the headband and stitching is definitely something which needs to be remarked upon, even just from a retro-appreciation standpoint.
The mahogany earcups carry this theme very well too. They match the headband very well and go against the ‘shiny and new’ look that a lot of headphone makers strive for with their models. The Grado RS1e might have been introduced decades ago; this is testament to the fact that Grado is happy to rely on the tried and tested, rather than push designs that might be gimmicky and fashionable.
Durability and Build Quality
The RS1e is not designed for use anywhere other than at home or work, so we have no problems with its light and relatively barebones quality. The headband assembly won’t take kindly to being sat on though! The cable is a thick PVC coated affair much like the rest of their range; it would be nice to see a change here. It is supplemented by a 450cm Grado extension cable however.
There are no strain reliefs on the cable where it meets the headphones, so just ensure your foot is not on the cable when you stand up.
The wooden earcups are well turned and finished, and together with the leather headband they do look good.
The Grado RS1e may look good, but padding is relatively spartan. Given the weight of this model, it’s not an immediate issue but pressure points may announce themselves during longer sessions, on the ears and over the top of the head.
Grado is known for a fairly bright and airy sound from their headphones and the RS1e fits right in. There is bass in good proportion however, and the RS1e appears well balanced without any obvious peaks.
Note: There are reports that the RS1e improves after a certain burn-in period which pays no heed to review deadlines. If possible, this reviewer will return and update these impressions if necessary.
MORE INFO: Grado GS2000e Audiophile Headphone Review
Sub-bass is there but fairly muted; it’s there if we look for it, but it may easily be missed in unfamiliar pieces. Low/Mid bass is more prominent with a nice width; it’s well controlled too and gives an impression of effortlessness, like it’s just pouring into the ears.
It has a well defined form and there are no concerns here; lots of space is left for those higher frequencies for which the Grado name is known.
The midrange is extremely clear and crisp-sounding which is a two-edged sword. With well produced and more ropey recordings alike, we get everything warts and all. Needle noise and pops on your digitised vinyl collection will be apparent, but older recordings are generally very well rendered.
Vocals may get a bit peaky here and there; particularly female vocals which can reach towards the piercing at times. Also, certain sounds such as bells, resonance on an electric piano or anything like that can cause issues depending on your particular sensitivity to these frequencies.
Faithful to the Grado sound, treble is fully present and is well balanced with the midrange. There is no obvious trouble between these areas of the frequency response, and so the midrange just seems to continue on up into the treble naturally. It makes for an airy and intricate sound, with plenty of fine details.
- Soundstage and Separation
Soundstage is about average for an open-back; the sound seems to be coming from without, but the listener is not surrounded as such. Similarly, imaging and separation does not benefit from the clear midrange harmonics as much as expected, so maybe the wooden earcups are having an effect here, or this particular headphone needs a bit of running in before reaching its potential.
Music genres good for and why
The Grado RS1e is a real toe-tapper with any genre; however if you’re fond of sub bass in your tunes, you may miss this a bit. As mentioned though, it may improve as the headphones receive more use.
Grado’s RS1e is a graceful and svelte looking piece of kit, and sounds it too. It’s not bass light though, with a good balance between the various frequencies. There is a low bass rolloff so extremely low bass may be attenuated a bit.