The GR8 is done. It was bright enough to keep forward-loving listeners like me happy, but vocals weren’t quite bitey enough for some, and atmosphere-creating high-mid edges could be a little soft. But the GR8 is done.
The GR8e is a wonderful evolution of the original.
First, I estimate it to put out about 5dB more sound pressure at the same volume setting of your player. People always said the GR8 was hard to drive. They were either deaf, or they were drunk on spec lists, wagging chins behind idiot reviewers who used spec lists like pulpits. The GR8’s 120Ω impedance scared the brainless. But it was easy to drive, getting great volume and taking in good enough current from most, if not all respectable portable players and amps. The 116dB mW/32Ω GR8e’s spec list won’t scare you. Its 32Ω. Its sensitivity is 116dB. It gets loud. It gets clean, sizzle-free noise from just about every source. And, it doesn’t amplify hiss much more than did the GR8. But you won’t find that on a spec list.
It plays back heavy-bass notably smoother, and less splashy than the GR8, which makes it sound fuller and chunkier. Still, you won’t flip one to a dubstep-addict hoping to see a head explode. Smooth, round, and mostly flat bass signals won’t do that. Sorry. Transitions from low bass to upper bass is buttery in comparison. The GR8’s bass tended to come in suddenly, faking bigger impact than it really spat. The GR8e’s got the impact pressure, but is backed up by greater extension and definition. It still plays back flat. Even highs, this time more extended, are flat, they’re just closer to straight than before.
But mids are where things really are different. They’re sparklier and clearer, especially up there near the highs, and really especially in that band that houses everything from violins to vocals, and wherever the jaw harp belongs. Contrast between mids and lows is starker, and highs stick out a bit better than they did in the GR8. The net effect? The GR8e is drier, more open, and less steamy than the GR8. That’s totally not to say that the GR8 was steamy. It’s just that next to the GR8e, it lacked clarity, contrast, and space, still while sounding Swedish miles clearer than, say, an Earsonics S-EM6.
Next to the GR10, the GR8e puts out about as much volume per input voltage. Already I’m looking forward to a flight to Canada this summer, wife on my left (or right, trip-to-the-loo dependent), plugging into whatever crappy amp Delta put in their spongy armrests, splitter spreading between us, fingers intertwined, heads inclining ever closer, ever closer, and during a particularly sniffy movie moment, me leaning in for a peck. TMI? Pish posh. That moment? Brought to you by similarly sensitive earphones, one for him, one for her. My wife has already told me the GR10 is hers. She digs the turquoise. And, while I prefer its contrastier sound, not enough.
Basically, the GR10 has more contrast and tighter mids. Its lows are more punchy, but just. The GR8e’s mids are airer, liver. If atmosphere is your criterion, I’d probably say that the GR8e’s sound stage is wider left to right. If contrast and in-between detail is, I’d give nod to the GR10’s more 3D sound.
Which brings me to Akhenaton & Faf Larage, an awesome wine-sipping hip-hop duo. GR8e has the speed, and airy vocal range that do right by them. Pair the GR8e with MC Solaar, with Faf and friend, and you’re away. Its wide, airy midrange does wonders to the purposely chaotic. Fast electronic-infused hip hop, Die Antwoord for instance, needs a tighter mid section. GR10 FTW. Organic music: choir, chamber music, jazz, folk, and on and on, really really sound at home with through the GR8e. Vivaldi is sort of a toss up. The GR8e is more touching, the GR10 cleaner. Trance, too, prefers the cleanliness of the GR10. But rock, man, rock is where the GR8e is at. And folk. Those two love the GR8e’s live-ish sound.
The GR8e’s got the same lovely comfy design as the GR8/10 and it closes the performance gap between the two while maintaining the GR8 sound. It’s not hard to drive, and ampless sounds way better than the ortofon e-Q8. If you love Grado, or rock, grit, airy mids, and a mostly neutral signal in a cute design a hamster could swallow, you owe it to yourself to check this earphone out.