Alessandro MS1i Review

For a long time, people have been recommending the Alessandro MS1 as a more neutral-sounding alternative to the Grado the SR60/80/125. Priced at the magic number of $100, it is regarded by many as one of the best sounding $100 headphones. The Alessandro MS1i is an updated version of the Alessandro MS1, with bigger cups and maybe a tweaked driver. The price has gone up to $110, $10 more expensive than the original MS1.

Before going into differences between the two, I want to first focus on the general sound of the MS1i. The Alessandro MS1i, like most Grados, is a forward-sounding headphone. One of the traits that make it such a forward sounding headphone is its soundstage, which is very small. The general feel of the sound is the same as if you’re standing on stage in the middle of the performers. You hear sounds coming from different directions, but the source of each sound is very close to you. This seems to aid in the MS1’s ability to sound very good with rock music, more on that later.

alessandro_ms1_1

Overall, the MS1 has a pretty good tone with enough body. The bass has good presence and is clearly bumped up; fortunately, it is pretty well controlled with a good and swift slam, although it’s not yet that deep bass punch into your gut. The swiftness of the bass is a blessing for fast complex rock songs, as smearing can be avoided while maintaining the fast rhythm of the music. The mid is also voiced very forward, further proving the point that this headphone is not made for accuracy or neutrality. On the flip side, the MS1i is very good for rock music. Sound of electric guitars always jumps at you with energy, excitement and rawness not many other cans have. I imagine a lot of people doing air guitar poses while listening to the MS1i; it also helps that the MS1i can stay securely on your head free of creaking and microphonic. Like its Grado peers, if you like your music to be immediate and rocking, the MS1i is among the best in its price range. However, this Alessandro is far from a one-trick pony, with the help of its good tone, the MS1i plays all kinds of music quite well as long as you don’t mind its small soundstage. It also sounds particularly good with acoustic recordings, as its tone fits acoustic instruments well. Female voices sound sweet, not the most accurate, but just sweet and pleasant.

alessandro_ms1_2

The Alessandro is also one of the clearest sounding cans you can have for the price. Although not very 3D sounding, the MS1i is surprisingly detailed. Instrument separation is very good, albeit limited in small soundstage. I also noted that speech legibility is very good; I was able to follow each line of the lyric sang by the singer. This made me interested to try them out with movies, and indeed, the dialogues sounded very clear and legible. Another major selling point of the MS1i is perhaps its ability to sound good out of your average MP3 players. My Ipod Nano has trouble driving headphones like the HD580 and AKG K701 to sound good. But this MS1i is very enjoyable direct, and I don’t feel like I’m missing an amp that much going direct. Off course, when I connected the MS1i to an integrated amplifier, the overall transient attack and bass tautness improved, giving more ‘oomph’ and refinement to the sound even from low volume, but this one doesn’t scream the need for an amp unlike those headphones I mentioned before.

No headphone is perfect, and I do have some criticisms for the MS1i. The first one is that it is not the smoothest sounding headphone out there. The combination of in-your-face sound with bumped midbass and forward midrange can be fatiguing for some people. This always in-your-face sound and small soundstage is also not a good fit for classical music as the sound doesn’t seem to fill or envelope your head, but tended to be played in the middle of your head. For classical, I prefer a smoother sound with a wider dynamic range and more importantly a more 3D sound. Some people mentioned comfort issues with Grados, but luckily I don’t have much issue with the Alessandro’s comfort. Yes, it is not the most comfortable headphones out there and the fit can be tight; however, it is a very light headphone and the steel headband can be bent to reduce ear pressure.

Alessandro MS1i Review
3.9 (78.33%) 12 vote[s]

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56 Comments

  • Reply June 8, 2010

    denging

    Well, quite often I see people underrate the musical power that lounges beneath the MS1's exoskeleton. Being an Alegrado Fanboy myself and a proud owner of Alessandro MS1, I think your review is somewhat inspiring. Despites the fact that synergy is the key to every magical, sweet moment we have experienced inside this so called realm, thx for being neutral and uncolored in reviewing those Grado House's piece of art Mike. Looking forward to reading some more balanced review from you man.

    • Reply June 8, 2010

      Mike

      Thanks dude. The MS1s are indeed special. A bit underrated these days.

      Hadi wrote this one though. 🙂

  • Reply August 8, 2010

    labilabi

    Yeah Mike, Jaben bundle, i brought it to our last grato minimeet. I see, i heard jena cable is expensive. So maybe i’ll keep it as what it is, and burn it long enough and hope it will be better. Maybe the placebo effect helps me :). Thx anyway. Btw, good site, keep the good work mike.

    • Reply August 9, 2010

      Mike

      Try the HD25-1. It has the Grado agressive sound, but not as piercing. Bass is also punchier. 🙂

  • Reply August 8, 2010

    labilabi

    nice review, good english too 🙂

    i own ms1i metal mod, can't compare much to the stock one, coz i only heard it in minutes. But i can say the stock one is smoother, too smooth maybe (is smooth always a good thing?), n detail.

    The only reason i bought metal mod is to get more bass, as reviews say so. The metal mod appearance is much bigger, with distancer, and .. much HEAVIER ! The heavy could be the dealbreaker if i knew it before. You can't move easily when using it, and easily fatique your neck. I think i just need get use to with it.

    The sound? With comfy, the bass is much and good, as i expected, the detail and sharp are still there, less smooth than the stock, but more spirit in attacking your songs and your ears. More fun. Good for me.

    With jumbo pad, the bass drops, more clearer and wider stage, but also more sibilant, and sharper. I think distancer and jumbo pad is a bad combination.

    Do you have any idea how to make it less sharp? Recabling? If yes, what kind/brand of cable? Thanks.

    • Reply August 8, 2010

      Mike

      Are you talking about the Jaben metal mod? Grado is known for the sharp treble, with the exception of the HP1000 and the HF2. I don't think you can change that character by a recable job. Perhaps a good copper wire like the Jena can help a little, but definitely it won't make the Grado into a smooth headphone.

  • Reply November 8, 2010

    sk1887

    Thanks for this review, I now know I need to find headphones with good soundstage, as I love classical music.

  • Reply May 4, 2011

    Sean

    Another great review! I’m really glad I found this site and truly enjoy reading your articles. As a headphone enthusiast myself, I also own the Alessandro MS1 (original, not the MS1i). While digging around the Internet, I found several interesting facts.

    1) MS1 uses the Grado UF/106/92 32Ohm (Grado 32) driver. I can see the words printed through the plastic mesh.

    2) It is confirmed the much higher end Grado 325i uses the same driver! Look at the picture here (http://blog.goo.ne.jp/macmach1/e/021aca7fd60dbf055cc41f911e8f3fcd) The site is in Japanese, so, you will have to use translate.google.com.

    3) It is also confirmed that the new iGrado also uses the same drivers. Check out the following site (http://bbs.headphoneclub.com/archiver/tid-107991.html) again, in Chinese, so need to translate.

    4) Could it be? Grado is importing these drivers from Taiwan? I found the following export/import manifest:
    http://fob123.com/show-customs/ANQIKA090126800-17274564_f15
    Again, site in Chinese. However, it clearly shows that the speakers are UF 106 92 32Ohm. This final link is speculation however.

    That said, the MS1 must be a real bang for the buck, if it uses the same drivers as the 325i.

    • Reply May 5, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hey Sean,
      There has been much speculation that the entry level grados share the same driver as the high end models, but your links are the first one that gives a more solid proof. Interesting indeed. So far we only thought that the MS1 shares the same driver as the Grado SR125, but nothing higher.

      • Reply May 5, 2011

        Sean

        Hey Mike,

        What’s more interesting is that I suspect that the Grado drivers are made in Taiwan (Amazing what a little googling can do.). This seems to be contrary to what John Grado is claiming. If you look at http://fob123.com/show-customs/ANQIKA090126800-17274564_f15
        you will see that a container (243Kg) of the UF 106 92 32Ohm speakers being shipped from Kaoshiung (Taiwan) to SYOSSET NY11791 US (via the Port of Tacoma) and Syosset NY is roughly 36mi away from Grado’s HQ and Factory. Assuming that each driver is roughly 24 to 26 grams each, this container must have contained roughly 10,000 drivers arriving at Grado around mid Feb 2009.

        Although these are all just guesses, but there are too many hits.

        Please note, not that it matters at all, the Grado sound is still sublime for rock and I still love my MS1.

        Hope this has been interesting….

        Sean

        • Reply May 5, 2011

          Anonymous

          Hang on, I’m trying to translate the pages and see what it says.

          BTW, Got a picture of the MS1’s UF/106/92 driver?

          • Reply May 5, 2011

            Sean

            I can try to take a picture of my MS1 when I get home. However, the drivers are behind the plastic mesh and a wire, it maybe hard to see….. If I do get a picture that is legible, how do I send it to you?

            • Reply May 5, 2011

              Anonymous

              contacts@headfonia.com should do it. 🙂

              • Reply May 5, 2011

                Sean

                Hey Mike,

                Okay, some macro pictures of the MS1 drivers sent. Not the clearest (due to the plastic mesh) however, you can make out the words. In real life, you can see the printing quite clearly.

                Have fun!
                Sean

        • Reply May 5, 2011

          Anonymous

          Yo Sean,
          You’re good man… :thumbs up: :thumbs up:

    • Reply May 5, 2011

      Sean

      Sorry, the link on (2) above has an extra character that broke it. The unbroken URL:

      http://blog.goo.ne.jp/macmach1/e/021aca7fd60dbf055cc41f911e8f3fcd

  • Reply June 9, 2011

    steve kenney

    Just got my MS1i’s…….definately run them in for a good few hours first, you will be dissapointed with them out of the box, but they get soooo much better after a few hours!, i listen to a lot of 70’s rock and these are the best sounding cans ever for guitars.  Great service from Alessandro, ordered on their website, paid $20 more for express shipping (couldn’t wait!) but they will ship worldwide for free, they arrived less than a week later to the UK via FedEx fully tracked since they left Alessandro.  Really pleased with them so far….

    • Reply June 10, 2011

      Anonymous

      Thanks for sharing, Steve!

  • Reply August 17, 2011

    DodgersKings323

    Can’t decide between the 60/80/Ms1 for rock and metal, already have the AD700s for classical.

    • Reply August 18, 2011

      Anonymous

      The MS1 has been quite popular with the local crowd who also listens to Metal and Rock. It seems to be the better all rounder than the entry level Grados. The non I version has a better bass articulation and so it would be a better choice for Metal.

      • Reply November 27, 2011

        Donunus

        Even when using the bowl pads, the original ms1 is still more articulate? I was thinking the standard ms1 had less bass which makes it seem more articulate only when using the stock comfy pads.

        • Reply November 28, 2011

          Mike

          Sorry, what? I got lost there.

          • Reply December 1, 2011

            Donunus

            I was just asking since the stock comfy pads(S-Cush) make the bass a little fatter than the bowl pads(L-Cush) that whether the ms1 you say has more controlled bass than the ms1i are using those stock pads. When these cans are fitted with the bowl pads, they do make the sound tighter and leaner and actually make the older ms1 a little lean in the bass. I was wondering then if the newer ms1i would sound better suited with the bowl pads vs the older ms1.

            The much more expensive HF2 for example sound less tight in the bass vs even the sr60s when using those comfy(S-Cush) pads and were tuned to sound good with their own bowl pads. I’m basically asking if the ms1s behave the same way as the higher end models in that way.

          • Reply December 1, 2011

            Mike

            Don’t the MS1 (and MS1i) both come with the comfy stock?

            And if you change it to the bowl then you would get that change in the sound — just the way you described it. I think this applies to all Grado models. Bowl pads = more spacious, leaner, more articulate. Comfy = fatter, fuller sound.

            But obviously the higher end models are tuned together with the bowl pads that they ship with. Hence you still get a good bass punch even with the bowl, whereas this is not the case with the MS1 and the SR60.

            You’ll be surprised though, how close the MS1-i sounds to the MS-Pro when you change it to use bowl pads.

          • Reply December 1, 2011

            Donunus

            ANSWER TO POST BELOW 🙂 

            Yup they both come with stock comfies. What I was getting at is that since you mentioned that the old ms1 may be more articulate than the ms1i , this makes me think that the newer ones could sound better with bowls than the older version because the higher end cans that are tuned for the bowls are usually fatter and seemingly less articulate than the cheaper models when you put comfy pads on them.

          • Reply December 1, 2011

            Mike

            That’s a good point, Donunus.

            So basically you’re suggesting that MS1-i with bowl pads may have better articulation than MS1 with comfies.

            I never did that comparison, but the MS1-i sound very good with the Bowl pad — that I can confirm.

          • Reply December 1, 2011

            Donunus

            Answer to below… I was just suggesting that the ms1i may be better than the ms1 when both are using bowls because the fatter less articulate sound on comfys translates to a more balanced sound with bowls. And the old ms1 may sound a little too thin with bowls vs the ms1i 🙂

  • Reply September 7, 2011

    Ryanadiputra

    got this one from jaben store @ surabaya mike 🙂 , pretty good sounding, and well yes, not quite comfortable with the pads, but definitely worth buying 🙂 

    • Reply September 7, 2011

      Anonymous

      It is still one of the best deals around, Ryan. 🙂

      • Reply September 7, 2011

        Ryanadiputra

        well yes 🙂 , jaben said, i need to play some music for few hours to make it sound good 🙂 , but yes, this headphone is far better than my Samson SR850, i loveeee open headphones :p 

        • Reply September 8, 2011

          Anonymous

          Yes, actually the Grados and Alessandros are the most open sounding among even other open-back headphones. I bet you are truly enjoying the sound. The MS1i, I think I need to add that to the Recommendations list, it truly is one of the best, tested by time, out there.

  • Reply September 29, 2011

    Eskimoo

    hi Mike,

    i found this unit’s sound quite impressing .
    what mods we can apply to make Ms1i less muddy, soundstage widen & got bit depth, separation better?
    at least not so cramped & muddy like original.

    • Reply September 29, 2011

      Anonymous

      Change and get the RS-1 style pads. Or you can go really big for the PS1000 style pads, but it’ll kill the midrange.

      • Reply September 30, 2011

        Anonymous

        uhhh, seems RS-1 the ‘safe’ one.

        • Reply September 30, 2011

          Anonymous

          Yes I think so too.. The PS1000 style pads are impressive due to the soundstage at first (also they seem to boost treble) but after a while they are not too fun. 

          • Reply October 3, 2011

            Anonymous

            over-modification things sometimes disturb the “balance” from genuine-design.

            oh i forgot, you talked about pad-modifications, how about the “bowl” ?

  • Reply February 22, 2012

    AhUmmm

    Hi Mike,
    what is the best desktop-amp for MS1i: Matrix M-Stage, Graham Slee Novo or Little Dot II?

    Talking about portable-amp, what is the best: JDSLabs Cmoy, Fiio E17 or Digizoid Zo?

    • Reply February 22, 2012

      Mike

      AhUmmm,
      There is no best amp for any headphone, just like there is no best headphone for any music.
      http://headfonia.com/a-guide-to-headphones/

      • Reply February 22, 2012

        AhUmmm

        You’re right Mike, i asked a wrong question (my english is poor)…

        I’m considering buying one desktop amp and one portable amp to power my MS1i.
        I listen rock, jazz and eletronic music.
        I’m looking for a dektop-amp with a RCA output to be used as a pre-amp, my budget is 350/400 dollar. I’m considering to purchase one between: Matrix M-Stage, Graham Slee Novo and Little Dot II. If you were in my shoes, what would be your choose?

        Thanks

        • Reply February 22, 2012

          Mike

          I would go with the Novo for the MS1. But the RCA out is not a pre-amp out, it simply is a parallel chain that passes the input signal to another device.

  • Reply September 2, 2012

    Papoom Vibhatasilpin

    Hi Mike,
    I’m own ms1i and listen to all genre of music but listen to rock most. Now I’m thinking about moving for M50. I wondering is it the right move?

    • Reply September 3, 2012

      Mike

      The M50 is cleaner and better technically, but I think the MS1i is the more fun sounding.

      • Reply September 15, 2012

        Papoom Vibhatasilpin

        I’ve decided to keep MS1i and buy Audio-Technica TAD500. I wish you will review Audio-Technica TAD500 someday.

        • Reply September 15, 2012

          Mike

          Thanks Papoom,
          I heard the TAD300, was alright though it is very entry level. I can imagine the TAD500 being better.

          • Reply January 19, 2015

            Le Nguyen Phi

            It have a nice sound with very nice mid though. Bass is neutral and a little bit light. I drive it with Fiio e18 and it sound okay for most genres.

  • Reply August 3, 2013

    JD

    Loved the review, but with these having an open back and leaking a lot of sound. Is there a closed back headphone that would be comparable that I could ware on subways and in a library?

    • Reply August 3, 2013

      Mike

      Hi JD,
      Not quite comparable but the popular closed back for subways and library you can check out the ATH M-50, Sennheiser HD380Pro.

  • Reply September 24, 2013

    Ricardo Abdallah

    Awesome review! I have a pair of those and I love it!

    I have a doubt, do you think that a DAC will improve the sound quality of these headphone? I was looking for HM 101, because it’s a bargain and offers great quality, especially an improvement on soundstage… I don’t know, is there another (cheap, because I live in Brazil rs) dac better for this kind of headphone? I hava a macbook pro and listen mainly Classic, Hard and progressive rock, and some kind of heavy metal.

    Thanks a lot, and sorry about my english!

    • Reply September 24, 2013

      Mike

      The HM101 amp is underpowered. You’ll get better results with the Fiio E07K.
      No problem with the english, Ricardo!

      • Reply September 26, 2013

        Ricardo Abdallah

        Thanks a lot! Now I’m curious about this Fiio! I’ll see it!

        • Reply September 26, 2013

          Mike

          You’re welcome, Ricardo!

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