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.
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.