Grado GR10 – Away The Avoirdupois

The Sound

NOTE: GR10 is sensitive. You won’t need to set your player or amp very high before its volume ramps up crazily. But it doesn’t isolate as well as other earphones, and you may find yourself ramping up the volume when out and about. Be careful. Don’t destroy your ears.

Also: the GR10 requires a pretty good output in order to sound its best. That doesn’t mean loud. That means high-current, low-impedance, and noise-rejecting. A great amp for it is the Vorzuge Pure II, or the Portaphile Micro.

Upon first listen, I decided that it belonged to the group of earphones that is all about linear resolution, a group that boasts a relatively flat frequency response, and is often construed as boring, or made for studio use and measurebators.

Somewhere there’s a certain nail I hit near the head; but there’s a whole other one that I missed. You see, GR10 does boast a rather flat output. Bass resolves good detail below 60Hz, and highs do the same beyond 14kHz. There is plenty of sparkle and a good deal of space between notes and instruments between both extremes.

That’s the usual preamble to me saying something like: “but these can be fatiguing”, or “you won’t get a lot of sound pressure from the bass”. Ex-nay on the addendum-ay. For, while it is a linear-running earphone, the way it handles lows and highs is special. Ditto the mids. Ditto the lows.

I think it’s time I whip out the vocalist licking your eardrum metaphor. GR10, while accurate, and while fast, manages to spend time examining, but not scrutinising, often-overlooked details. In trance, those little things happen to be the forward edges of electronic bass beats and the small lateral details of synthesised percussion.

The sound stage is wicked. It is wide, spatially detailed, and deep. At the same time, it is wicked neutral. It’s not the sort of sound you typically get from closed earphones. At times, music will lick around your head like you’re standing in front of an unplugged banana stage trembling under the wiles of David Lee Roth’s clones. Still, there are no shifts, no timing errors, no extra contrast to trick you into thinking that what you hear is wider than it really is.

Switching to an audiophile-favourite genre: 30-something females whining about love and love lost on top of a piano: your favourite diva’s voice will be perfectly centre-anchored, and where called for, will unfurl gently out. Guitar is meaty, and organic. Sex-o-phones spring from the blackness with emotion. Phase is coherent and top-to-bottom speed is in sync.

The vocalist herself gets very close to your eardrum. Close enough for you to tell whether or not she chewed gum before singing, but not close enough to tell if it was spearmint or cinnamon. If you want to get closer in a nice way, you need to move up to the Noble Audio K10. The GR10’s mids are safely stowed in the centre. They certainly don’t jump out as do their Primo 8 contemporaries, nor are they as detailed as those of the K10. Mids are slightly lifted with regards to bass and treble, but mainly in the above-1K region.

Highs are slightly shinier than neutral. They are smoothly detailed, and well-extended. They are fast, spacious, and joyous. That last point isn’t one that often creeps up on closed earphones. And, it’s a point that makes the GR10 perfect for every genre out there. Nothing ever wigs them out. And getting any frequency to distort is damn difficult.

Like the highs, the GR10’s bass is smoothly detailed. It hits low notes well, but with no extra accentuation or warmth. It’s errs warm and is incredibly musical, not to mention well-paced, and artefact-free. It’s got the forward edge and pressure of a large-diameter diaphragm. It keeps perfect pace with EDM and fast trance. In fact, it’s the sort of bass that fast genres call for, while perfectly capable of stirring up a good show for 1990’s hip hop. It’s not the warm, centre-weighted bass of the Earsonics EM32 that is can rattle the bolts out of your brain. But then again, if it was, you wouldn’t be reading this review.

The Grado sound is something you have to experience. It defines its retail space. It is addictive. And even though my long-term experience squeezes in just two earphones, it is proved every time I come back to the GR10 after reviewing and enjoying larger, much more expensive earphones.

It is a sound worth investing in.

The Conclusion

If it weren’t for the so-so stress relief, the curly-cue cable, and the easily rubbed type, the GR10 would be perfect. It’s got a sound that stands toe-to-toe with much more expensive earphones, but it’s far more comfortable and costs far less. If only it isolated a bit better, it would completely dominate all of my out-and-about listening. But even with those mild digs, it is one of the best earphones out there, at any price.

Grado GR10 – Away The Avoirdupois
4.1 (82.58%) 31 vote[s]

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

43 Comments

  • Reply November 6, 2014

    willy vlyminck

    I agree,the GR10 is just wonderfull, The only thing I did is change the standard tips for Comply, both the 200 and 500 models fit. For those looking for a similiar soundsignature in over/on ears, the Philips Fidelio L2 is might be the best quality/ price solution.

    • Reply November 6, 2014

      ohm image

      Complies do warm the sound up a bit more, and I can see why someone would like it. But I’m full-time a fan of the ortofon/Grado tips.

      • Reply November 6, 2014

        willy vlyminck

        They define the bass a bit better ,they seal better, and never fall out, because after a while you don’t take notice anymore having them in your ears, and than i feel if they are still there

        • Reply November 7, 2014

          ohm image

          The ortofon/grado tips do loosen up depending on the earphone insertion angle. But I find them the best fit yet.

  • Reply November 6, 2014

    willy vlyminck

    I use the GR10 with my iPhone 5s / iPod Touch, and the combination sounds af if they were made for each other, somethimes I use the Beyerdynamic A200p for bigger dynamics, but Dac soundsignature is very similair to the ones in the Apple devices, so on the road you can keep it simple with only one device.

    • Reply November 6, 2014

      ohm image

      I’m about to upgrade to an iPhone 6 soon. I’ve barely used my 5 for music listening- only because I don’t dig running battery low.

      • Reply November 6, 2014

        willy vlyminck

        You can’t go wrong with that one, WhatHifi claims it sounds even better than the 5s so said one reader here, but I stick to my 5s as I only got it since april.

        • Reply November 10, 2014

          ohm image

          Well, if it ends up sounding good, hello hello. I’ve not finished doing up my wife’s 4s and my 5, but as soon as we switch over, I’m keen on reviewing all of them; if Lieven lets me, even here.

          Concerning the Grado GR10, I’m keen about the following:

          1. high current for medium-high volumes with low impedance output
          2. low amounts of background noise
          3. minute volume adjustments (I already know that will be difficult via the volume rockers).
          4. as always: gapless playback – famously, only Apple do this 100% correct.

          I think you and I will have to share comments in forthcoming articles.

      • Reply November 6, 2014

        dalethorn

        You’ll love the sound of the 6.

        • Reply November 7, 2014

          ohm image

          Very excited to hear that. That said, I don’t listen to music through a phone because I don’t like the battery drain, or cables hanging here and there.

          But we’ll see.

        • Reply November 8, 2014

          SallyMaeSusan

          I LOVE the sound from my 5; with Ety HF3’s, it’s a match made in heaven.
          I won’t be upgrading till they sort the…er…’build quality’ issues out.

  • Reply November 6, 2014

    Ford

    Hi.
    Just curious how it is compared to Final Audio Design Heaven VI?

    • Reply November 7, 2014

      ohm image

      Ford: I only wish I had the heaven VI on hand. I do not. I borrowed it some time ago and enjoyed it, but can’t give any useful comparison other than this: the Grado GR10 is a lot lighter, more comfy, and easier to use whilst out and about.

  • Reply November 7, 2014

    willy vlyminck

    Listening tip with your GR10; Damien Rice newest album, no other in ear can capture the emotional side as good as the Grado’s, it will make you cry, well maybe almost

    • Reply November 8, 2014

      ohm image

      Damien Rice: I’ll have to look him up. Cheers.

  • Reply November 7, 2014

    Pade

    How do you make your GRAD’s shine like green gems, is that due to flash? My dull booger GRADC’s cries at the table when I’m not using them.

    Don’t comply, get custom silicone ear tips. They don’t look pretty on gr10’s but they are as comfortable as the stock tips and isolate better than comply’s. They seat in my ear as discreetly as the stock ones.

    • Reply November 8, 2014

      ohm image

      I almost always use flash in everything I shoot. Flash is one of the best ways to get things to look nice. And these… can look damn nice.

      I’m not sure I’ll go for custom silicon. I love how small/compact, comfy the GR10 is. If that was ruined by a bulky tip, much of what I love (apart from sound) will be gone.

    • Reply November 10, 2014

      willy vlyminck

      Can you send picture of them? I already did think of doing the same, but i an still happy with the comply’s. The custom ones do not affect the sound?

  • Reply November 10, 2014

    Thom ng

    Hi luv yr review on gr10. I using ue900 should I upgrade to grado gr10 or noble 4c or noble k10 , thks

    • Reply November 11, 2014

      ohm image

      Thom, I’m sorry but I don’t own the UE900. I have used it on occasion but not enough to be comfortable saying: go for this earphone.

      Also, I’ve never heard the Noble 4c.

      If you want a custom earphone, go for the custom earphone. If you want an easy-to-use universal, and all the comfort it affords, the GR10 is my favourite. It is a wonderfully voiced take on a neutral earphone. The K10 is more silky and broad in the midrange. It is also a custom.

      You can’t go wrong with either, but you have to decide: what do you want? custom? universal?

  • Reply November 11, 2014

    malifact

    Hi Nathan, I was a big fan of the Grado GR10s. They were
    probably my favourite universal IEM, but I had to sell them because I had
    problems with the fit and the isolation was not enough for me. Could you recommend
    a CIEM with a similar sound signature? Or failing that a universal IEM with better isolation?

    • Reply November 13, 2014

      ohm image

      There are loads of universal earphones with better isolation. But signature-wise, there are no CIEMs with a GR10 complementary sound. The Noble K10 has a wide mid section, but is more flowery/flowy than the GR10, and not quite as redolent with apparent speed.

      The moving armature produces a wonderful sound all its own, not balanced armature, not dynamic. The LEAR BD4,2 is a GREAT example of a hybrid done right, that is as natural as the GR10, though with a few artefacts thrown in.

      If you can, check it out.

      • Reply November 17, 2014

        malifact

        Hi Nathan. So it sounds like the closest to the GR10 are the Noble K10 and Lear BD 4.2, correct? Do you have a preference out of the two. Thanks

        • Reply November 18, 2014

          ohm image

          I’d say tonally, the Lear is closer, but for overall cleanliness the K10 is closer. Consider them a meld. If the Lear was as well crafted as the K10 (and considering its price, I’d expect it to be much better), it would hands-down be a must have.

          Soundwise, it is fantastic by any standard and unique among all custom earphones. The K10 is also great, but the Lear is something unique AND beautiful.

  • Reply November 15, 2014

    digitldlnkwnt

    I’m glad someone finally reviewed these. They have been around forever, and while i have never listened to these, my wife and I both really dig the GR8’s.

    • Reply November 16, 2014

      ohm image

      It’s amazing how good they sound considering:

      – They cost ‘only’ 400$
      – They bear only one driver
      – They are four years old

      But with the right fit and good ear pads, I’ve not found a more coherent earphone, anywhere.

  • Reply February 3, 2015

    KopiKia

    How does these compare to the Dita Answer, particularly in bass and treble(since I’ve read nothing but praise for the GR10’s mids)? I currently own the Dita, but I’ve been finding that they lack a bit of emotion. If these are about on par with Dita + emotion I’ll grab them in a heartbeat!

    • Reply February 12, 2015

      ohm image

      That is a very good, and difficult to answer, question. The GR10 are a bit smoother in transition from bass to mids, but can be a bit more exciting in the upper mids. Both are pretty much perfect, although the GR10 is a bit more controlled over the entire range.

      I’m not sure I’d say it is more emotional, just more coherent. And, much, much better fitting, smaller, lighter, and more comfy. The GR10 is emotional for the person that is into headphones that are reference-tipped. It’s way more emotional than the CK10, but more of a better version of the same thing than it is an emotional kick.

      • Reply February 12, 2015

        KopiKia

        Argh, this isn’t as clear cut as I hoped it would be. Being smaller, more comfortable and being able to wear straight-down(which I very much prefer vs over-ear) is a big plus for me. I do tend to feel a sore on my left ear with the Dita after an hour or two. I will probably get the GR10 anyway, it is almost impossible to listen to the Dita for long hours(for me), which is a bit of a shame.

        By the way, are yours the older ones with silver nozzle or the newer refreshed version with bronze nozzle? Wonder if there’s a difference between the two. Appreciate your response, cheers!

        • Reply February 19, 2015

          ohm image

          Yes, mine are the older ones with the silver nozzle. Cheers.

  • Reply February 22, 2015

    Krzysztof Nowaczyk

    I have the opportunity to buy new GR10 or used NuForce Primo. Which one would you choose? Source would be FiiO X5 (+Cayin C5/E12a) and Hifiman re-901. Music genre is not really a factor since I listen to many genres.

    • Reply March 19, 2015

      ohm image

      I’m sorry for being so very late.

      The two are very different. I can’t recommend one over the other until I know what you want. I prefer the GR10, but that is because I like its smoothly forward signature. The Primo is supremely smooth, but if you don’t like totally smooth signatures you won’t like it. Ditto the GR10 vis-à-vis a forward signature.

      Plus there’s fit: the Primo fits over the ear only and comes with memory wire. It is larger. The GR10 is tiny, stealthy, and it disappears. It can be worn over or under ear.

      The Primo isolates WAY better and probably is a bit tougher.

      They both rock, but for completely different things.

      • Reply March 19, 2015

        Krzysztof Nowaczyk

        Thanks:) I bought Primo, mainly because of value (it came with 2 cables and plethora of tips and foams and I paid like 60% of retail value).

        Haven’t got a chance to evaluate them properly (for now, like 3h of listening and I’m not impressed). But I gotta say – on HM901 with balanced card but in unbalanced mode (to be fair:)), re600 is way better in every aspect I can think of.

        Sony XBA-A3 is a different beast but also of higher value to me.

        Still considering Grado though… one question if I may? Bass- sub and mid, quantity to be exact. Both re600 and Primo is enough to me in that departament but I’ve read that GR08 is lacking quite a bit in bass quantity… How is GR10 in that respect?

        • Reply March 19, 2015

          ohm image

          Again, I’m sorry.

          The GR10 is more contrast from top to bottom than the GR8, and that means it has a bit more bass punch than the GR8. It’s not huge, but it is a bit more forward, and also a lot easier to nail stable volume.

          The Primo is laid back. I LOVE it. But at times, it can be a bit _too_ laid back. Neither Grado is like that.

          • Reply March 19, 2015

            Krzysztof Nowaczyk

            OK, thanks.
            I’ll give Primo another shot or few shots:)
            With Grado I think I’ll wait for a chance to test them before buying.

        • Reply April 16, 2015

          willy vlyminck

          The Grado’s reproduces bass when it is on the recording, and well produced like Steven Wilsons latest opus, but they are not Senns IE80 with weighty 3D bass, but they offer a more natural and detailed sound, so it is a matter of compromises.

      • Reply April 16, 2015

        willy vlyminck

        I wear them over the ear, so they get a bit deeper and give better isolation.Superb results. I listen mainly to prog and avant- prog with occasional some folky stuff now and than.

  • Reply August 14, 2015

    Eli Segal

    How is the sound of the GR10 compares with that of the MS1i in terms of frequency response?
    Thanks!

    • Reply September 17, 2015

      ohm image

      I’m sorry, I don’t have the MS1i.

  • Reply February 1, 2016

    hello

    Hi, How would you compare it to Shure SE535?

    • Reply February 4, 2016

      ohm image

      I’m sorry but I don’t own those earphones. I’ve heard them a lot and find the two incompatible. The SE535 is much warmer and has a more pronounced low end and a softer high end. They fit much differently, too. I prefer the GR10, but find the Shure’s isolation and relaxing style nicer for certain situations.

  • Reply April 26, 2017

    Jack F

    I love mine. Thought I lost them and bought another pair. Wound up washing and drying the original pair. They are very clean and none for worse so now I gave two pairs.

    • Reply May 1, 2017

      ohm image

      We’re obviously on the right page. So… you have two pair. My wife loves mine and wants her own… perhaps I could relieve you of one if it is working fine (and of course, laundry clean)!

      Are you on Head-fi? I have paypal.

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