The New Grado Sound: Grado PS500
Two years ago Grado released a special edition HF2 headphone that met a very warm reception from the headphone community. With the HF2, Grado demonstrated not only the use of a wood-metal housing combination, but more importantly, a different version of the Grado sound.
The HF2 was very smooth, as if it had tube amps directly planted on its drivers. Treble was smooth and unoffensive, midrange was full bodied and lush, bass was more present and pleasant. Though still a forward sound, it wasn’t as aggressive and as bright sounding as the standard Grados. It was somewhat taking the direction to the roots, the Joseph Grado HP1000 model, and yet it was still quite different. That was the new Grado sound that the HF2 brought, and everybody loved it. After roughly two years, we now have a new Grado that reminds us of the HF2. The same housing shape. The same silver finish (though the HF2 is a plain anodized finish, while the PS500 is a painted on finish). The same wood-metal combination. And most of all, almost the same sound.
THE NEW GRADO SOUND
The PS500 and the HF2 seem to be the new direction that Grado is taking. Previously, modern Grado sound signature followed the same guidelines from the entry level SR60 to the RS1 model. We all know how fun the SR60 was with its glaring treble and forward sound. The first time I auditioned the SR60, it really blew me away with all those details! Why would I pay $400 for a muffled Sennheiser headphone (HD650) if I can have much better detail level with just $60. Of course, as time goes I started to realize that those are just treble, not true micro details. (And apparently everyone else also seem to realize the same thing — hence the general shift toward dark sounding headphones and people pledging alliance toward the Stax O2, the Audez’e LCD-2, the JH16, and *gasp* the not-so-cool “veiled” Sennheiser HD650.)
What have happened is that as we spend more time on headphones, our ears become more sensitive, and what was once a nice and clear treble becomes a bright, excessive, treble presence. Thus, when the HF2 was released, everybody loved it. Gone is the bright treble replaced by a less offensive yet still forward signature, smoother sound across the frequencies, and a much better bass presence. For years, Grado owners have tried to smooth out the sound with a thick sounding tube amp, but now they don’t need to anymore as the new Grado sound will give them that smooth tube sound even without a tube amp.
Seeing how the crowd loved the HF2, sometime after the release of the HF2 I called Todd @ TTVJ and told him that it would be a good move if Grado releases a new model, not a limited edition model, based on the HF2 sound because that’s what people want. Well I’m not saying the PS500 was my idea, but I’m just saying, you know, since Todd is pretty close with the Grado folks (hence all HF2s are only sold through TTVJ). Sshhhh! Don’t tell Grado I said what I said.
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