Grado RS1 and Alessandro MS-Pro


Grado’s RS1 has achieved a cult status above others current-production Grados. People say that the RS1 is the pinnacle of the “Grado sound”. When Grado introduced the GS1000 with its massive soundstage as the new top-of-the line above the RS1, people were very excited about it. Yet after some time, the hype died on the GS1000, and people comes back to the RS1 as their favorite Grado. Recently Grado introduced an even higher priced model, the $1700 PS1000, supposedly designed to improve on GS1000’s weaknesses.

Though the final verdict is still not yet out, many initial impressions from people who has listened to it are not that favorable. Other than the RS1, the truly desirable Grado are the out of production HP1000 and the PS1 models. But their price of $1500 and upwards are prohibitive to many.

At the same time, a lot of people have been wondering about RS1’s sibling, the Alessandro’s MS-Pro. Though priced at the same price level as the RS1, it sees less fame than its brother. We are curious if that’s due to the lack of exposure/reviews, lack of distribution, or if the sound is simply inferior than the RS1. This review will attempt to answer that.

The RS1 has undergone several variations. The vintage RS1s with the brown leather headband (the current one is black leather) is famous for a smoother sound than the current in-production RS1. The current RS1 has undergone 3 variations: Buttoned RS1 (refers to the small button on the grill, with “RS1” engraved), Buttonless RS1, and the RS1-i. The unit we are reviewing is the Buttoned RS1.

Grado RS1 and Alessandro MS-Pro
4.67 (93.33%) 3 votes

  • K3cT

    Glad you loved the HF2 as much as I do brother. 😀

  • They’re about the same, as I think they’re based on the same driver technology. The MS-Pro has a more neutral stance and not as forward as the Grado, so that may come out as less aggressive in some recordings. Though reputedly the vintage RS1s have a smoother top end. Never tried them, though.

  • TheMiddleSky

    ow 🙂

    ok, then for the staging, especially about “depth” and “hight”, which one is better? or just exactly same? in your review you wrote that RS1 seems a bit more congested, so I think MS Pro is better here, or I just wrong?

    • Technically, they're both the very close in soundstage performance. However, the more forward presentation of the RS1 often gives an impression of a less spacious soundstage.

  • TheMiddleSky

    Hey Mike,

    I'm just wondering, between both of them, which one is smoother (less sibilant or harsh) ?

  • TheMiddleSky

    oh, if that so, have you ever tried the new RS1i?, because from what I read, some people said that RS1i has smoother sound compare to buttoned RS1 (I guess the RS1 like what you're using for this review)

  • Not the RS1i, but I've heard the MS-Pro "i" version (thanks to Jaben), and didn't notice any difference to the non "i" version.

  • Pat M

    I recently purchased the RS1i (latest edition, no button). My decision to do so was based on wanting a great semi-portable rig, semi-portable insofar as I can carry it around my house. I can't just sit at my computer and listen to music all the time so a true desktop is not in my future. I have an AudioTrak IMAMP for this purpose, and I think it is fantastic. The problem is it's not quite to the power level needed to fully appreciate my HD600s and DT880s. Don't get me wrong, they both sound very good out of the Imamp, but there is definitely something missing as they are so hard to drive. Enter the RS1. I've had a Grado SR80 for a while and enjoy the Grado sound. I had contemplated going up in the Prestige line but taking everything into consideration (particularly the easy to drive nature of the Grados) I figured, why not get the gold standard and I am very happy with my RS1 purchase. The Imamp drives these to full sound with complete ease and room to spare. Out of the box the RS1 were a bit sterile and shrill (bright) sounding but after about 30 or 40 hours of burn in have smoothed out quite a bit. I also did a variation of the Grado 'bowl tape mod' which really rounds out the sound quite nicely. Everything I've thrown at them sounds fantastic, partiularly metal which I've always had trouble finding a really good HP match for.

    Can you recommend any OP Amps to roll into the Imamp that may compliment the RS1 sound?

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • Hi, Pat.
      Thanks for the impressions. Personally, I think the LME49720 (Metal TO-99 Package) which gives a very thick and tubey midrange will work well with the Grado RS1 signature. You may want to give that a try.

      • Pat M

        Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Cortes

    Really, very good review. This review has drawn my interest in the RS1, for sure I'll be worthy listening to them.

  • Simon

    MS-Pro still sounds like a grado correct? Does the MS-Pro sound better with guitars or RS1? I've heard people say the Pro does electric guitars better. Looking at their website, it would be no surprise if it did guitars better, guitars seem to be Alessandro's kind of thing so I never would have thought they would excel with classical music

  • Zuqi

    Nice review.
    I have a few questions, Does Ms pro share same sound signature with Ms1 while RS1 have similar sound with sr325?

    I audited ms1 and sr325is yesterday and I prefer the sound of ms1 to 325, as 325 has a “odd” soundstage to me, and hf2 also gives me similar impression so I assume that grado cans have similar tone.
    I also tried senn’s hd650, byer’s dt880 and akg 701. None of them could compare ms1’s engaging mids. So I guess alessandro sound is what am looking for.

    How does mspro sounds compared with ms1? Does it also have similar amount of bass punch as grados? Does it good at playing rock tracks? Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      Yes the MS1 and MS-PRO is of the same house sound. Likewise RS1 and SR325i.

      For the MS-PRO, bass punch is not as much as the Grados, and I also feel
      that the more “grown up” sound of the MS-PRO (bigger soundstage, clearer
      separation etc) makes it a more mature sound but perhaps not as engaging
      as the MS1 and is not the perfect cans for Rock.

      These are the things of the past. I think you should check out the
      HD25-1 for an upgrade from the MS1 or get the HD600 or a Hifiman HE-500
      if you want to go full size.

      • Zuqi

        I will give HD25 a try when I have a chance.
        How about ms2 sounds compared to ms1? Does it have more treble than ms1? If I use an ipod and a portable amp, will it makes a decent difference between ms pro and ms2? Thank you.

      • Zuqi

        I will give HD25 a try when I have a chance.
        How about ms2 sounds compared to ms1? Does it have more treble than ms1? If I use an ipod and a portable amp, will it makes a decent difference between ms pro and ms2? Thank you.

        • Anonymous

          Faint memory here,
          I think the MS2 does have more treble than the MS1. I personally dislike
          the metallic tone of the MS2 housing. I’d be better off saving the money
          and getting a bowl pad (the one that comes with the MS2 and the MS-Pro)
          and swapping the stock pads of the MS1 with that bowl pad if you want to
          change the MS1 sound to a more MS2/Pro like.

          I’ve used the bowl pad on the MS1i once and noticed it sounded really
          close to the MS-PRo except without the wooden timbre and the large

          • Zuqi

            Thanks a lot for your info.

  • Sam

    Good review.Just wanted to ask about the differences between the SR225-i and the Rs1-i in terms of sound quality. This won’t be my primary headphones as I have other headphones for other genres of music but I’m looking for a good headphones now for Rock and Metal and I’ve been considering the SR225-i, the RS1-i, and the HD-25-1

    • Anonymous

      Hi Sam,
      I really can’t be so sure since it’s been a long time since I listened to either one. But the SR225-i has a looser bass and is not as punchy as the RS1s. The wood housing also leads to better timbre for the instruments, especially if you’re listening to acoustic guitar and such. The RS1’s soundstage should also be more open than the non-i version.

      I’ve never listened to the RS1-i model, but it should be an improvement over the SR225.

      • Sam

        I was also considering 2 new headphones for other types of musicThe first would be a warm headphones to use with old recordings and vocals and from what I’ve heard, the HD650 does that vey well but I’ve also seen that you liked the AHT-ESW9A a lot for the same purpose and I’m sure there are other options I haven’t heard of.
        The other type of music is Trance (Armin Van Buuren) style and for that I need a punchy headphones and from what I’ve heard from you the Pro700 MK2 would be great for that but I’m not sure if I can handle that much bass since I’m accustomed to the light and controlled bass I’m getting from the K701 so I was wondering about any other options. I’m not sure if the Pro700 MK2 will be able to render the mids from the vocal trance tracks correctly as well.

        • Sam

          There’s also a problem regarding my first question. I’m not sue if one headphones will do it for me when it comes to rock and metal as the rock tracks that I listen to tend to suffer from the effect of the loudness war with highly boosted treble and lots of heavily distorted guitars unlike the Metal music I listen to which I find to be well recorded. Not the best recoding quality but quite a decent one. Treble is not boosted here. I’m talking about bands like Opeth, Katatonia, and Threshold with minimal distorted guitars and more focus on accoustic guitars, keyboard, and drums. Sometimes even instruments like Cello and violin are introduced so I don’t think that a headphones that tones down the treble would sound good with this type of music since the sparkle is essential here to feel the music.

          • Sam

            I know I’ve already asked a lot but this is the last question, I promise. I’m planning on buying the HD800 as well about 3 months from now mainly for classic music but what I want to ask is: do you think if I pair it with the Lehmann BCL, it would also soung good with this type of metal music? or would I be better off with the T1 paired with the Auditor? The main reason of purchase remains classic music though.

  • Sam

    I know this is a poor quality video from youtube but it’s just to get a feel of what type of metal music I mean.
    I mostly listen to progressive Metal I think.

  • Hi Mike, have you tried the RS1-i by now? I tried the MS Pro and RS1-i and found that the MS Pro is smoother and more laid back and enjoyable to me. RS1-i seems more “aggressive” and forward vocal but the treble seems to be a bit too much on some female vocals that I feel a bit irritating as I’m quite sensitive to those sound (I dislike Beyer because of that), what do you think?

    • Yes the RS1i is smoother and fuller than the RS1, but essentially the sound signature is the same.
      I do prefer the MS Pro-i over the RS1i. It’s just a more neutral headphone, better all rounder in my opinion. Still the RS1i has that Grado signature that people like.

      • Mike, after some audition, I settled in the MS Pro, playing various type of music with my WA6SE, beautiful sounds from all kind of music, crystal clear quality and tight bass, it gives me something different from my W3000ANV and both are excellent!!! Thanks for your help.

        • You’re welcome!

          I’ve started to listen to the MS-Pro again, and I think it’s still one of the best headphones around. It has such a nice open sound that even the HD800 can’t beat. The wood timbre is one of the most beautiful around (you don’t get this kind of a timbre with ATH’s wooden headphones).

          • I passed on the Graham Slee Solo deal from Jaben though, as I want to use my WA6SE for those slower pace music and Asgard for faster pace, perhaps try out the Burson Soloist in the future

            • Alright but you’ve got the right headphone.

              For some music the MS-Pro can be a bit bright tho.

          • khubmai


            May you tell me the different between MS-Pro and ATH.

            So interesting that you write “The wood timbre is one of the most beautiful around (you don’t get this kind of a timbre with ATH’s wooden headphones).”


            • Well one of the difference is the timbre aka how instruments sound. The wooden Grados (including Alessandro) IMO has one of the best timbre out there, followed by the HD600/650 (even better than the HD800 IMO).
              The ATH wood headphones, I’ve never really opened them up so I don’t know how the construction of the acoustic chamber is, but I don’t feel the timbre of the wood that much.

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  • Zuqi

    Hi Mike, In terms of neutrality/perfect tonal balance, do you think ms-pro’s manage to get that?

    • Yes fairly neutral

      • Zuqi

        Thanks for prompt reply. In terms of treble, between mspro and rs1i, which one is closer to neutral? I compared the two today and I am a bit confused about the definition of neutrality.