Changing pads has been popular for Grado and Alessandro owners who want to improve the sound of their headphones. The pads alternatives include comfies pads, HD414 pads, TTVJ flats, Headphile C-Pads, Grado Bowls, and Grado GS1000 Jumbo bowls. Currently, I have Grado bowl pads and Jumbo bowls in addition to the stock comfies that comes with the MS1i. Changing the pads will indeed change some characteristics of the sound, but is it for the better?
Left: Alessandro MS1 with comfies. Right: Alessandro MS1i with comfies.
Left: Alessandro Ms1 with bowl pads. Right: Alessandro MS1i with Jumbo bowls.
I first tried changing the comfies pads to bowls. While the general Grado sound signature is maintained, the sound loses a little bit of warmth. There is some reduction in midbass and mids, which were very forward, while a touch of treble sparkle is now added. This results in a less full-bodied but clearer sound; and the better-controlled midbass actually improves instrument separation on some tracks. All in all, which one is better between the comfies and the bowls really depends on your preference, recordings, and moods. Some recordings sound better with comfies, some better with bowls. However, after having the MS1i for a while, I prefer the extra control of the bowl pads more times than not over the forward midrange and slamming mid-bass of the comfies. I also tried swapping some Jumbo pads to the MS1i. I like the change in bass, it sounds more accurate with a deeper tone and better control. The improved soundstage though nothing extraordinary is still very welcomed for many genre of music. The deal-breaker is that the mids sound distant and the treble at times can be strident. These glaring flaws makes the Jumbo bowls the least preferable pads to use with my MS1i.
Currently, the Alessandro website is selling both the MS1 and the MS1i, and a question begs to be asked: is the new MS1i worth the extra $10 over the MS1? Apart from different housing chamber, I don’t really notice any other visible difference between the two. The cable, headband, and jack are the same. However, when listening to them side-by-side, there are some noticeable difference worthy to note. The biggest difference is that the MS1i has an added midbass compared to the MS1. This bumped midbass of the MS1i is an added fun for some songs, but when the music gets complex, it sometimes gets in the way of instrument separation. In addition to the midbass, the MS1i also maintains a very slightly darker, weightier, and warmer tone compared to the MS1. Summing it up, if you want a little bit more slam, go with the MS1i, but if you like your bass a bit tighter and value a slightly brighter tone, go with the MS1. On a side note, if you plan to pair the Alessandros with bowl pads, the MS1i with its warmer tone is a better match than the MS1. Keep in mind that these two headphones still sound quite similar, only tweaked a little differently here and there. It is hard to say which one I like more, and I myself wonder why the MS1i has to be priced $10 more expensive than the MS1. However, much like the original MS1, this MS1i is still a good headphone that is worth the look if you are looking for $100 headphones or if just want to try the Grado sound.
System for auditioning:
Headphones: Alessandro MS1i, Alessandro MS1
Source: Ipod Nano 1st Gen, Pioneer CLD-1570K
Amplifier: Pioneer VSX9500s
Thanks for winsome for making this review possible.