Grado RS1 and Alessandro MS-Pro

Most people say that Grados are very uncomfortable. Personally, I may have become adjusted to the Grado fit over the years, and I find them not as bad as people think. They are not as comfortable as big circumaural headphones with verlour pads like the Beyer DT770 or DT880, but the Grados wins in size and weight. I also like their “semi-portable” size, and I can still take them outdoors, as long as I am not in a very noisy area.

Among the small-bowl grados (SR80 to RS1, or MS2 to MS-Pro), the wooden models are the most comfortable. They have a really light wooden housing, a thick leather headband, and somehow a better fit than the plastic and aluminum housing models. To make fit even better, you can always bend the headband to accomodate you better. In this respect, the RS1 and the MS-Pro should be identical in fit and comfort, seeing that their construction is identical, other than the RS1 button on the grill.

alessandro_mspro_1

The Grado RS1 and the Alessandro MS-Pro share so much similarities in outward appearance, and upon brief listening sessions, many people can’t distinguish the difference in their sound. We suspect that the drivers are identical on both cans, only tweaked slightly differently, and the cable is probably 100% identical.

The similarities are very striking. They are both just as detailed, just as transparent, just as fast, and just as extended. Yet when you listen to the two cans, the difference is clear: the presentation of the mids. The MS-Pro has a very neutral presentation, but the RS1 have a more forward and slightly colored mids added with a small bump in the upper bass. This difference may seem small, but when listening to music, small differences can make or break the experience.

I really wanted to know which music would work with which cans, so I listened to a wide variety of music for this review: Beethoven, Michael Buble, Muse, Coldplay, Radiohead, Norah Jones, Puccini, John Legend, Alicia Keys, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, and Stan Getz. 9 times out of 10, playing a random playlist, the RS1 wins. The forward and agressive mids just makes songs very engaging and toe-tapping, whereas the neutral presentation of the MS-Pro tends to sound less engaging. Anything that is not orchestral music is better played on the RS1. Its mids works with everything from Stan Getz to Norah Jones to Coldplay. Even Andrea Bocceli’s vocal on Puccini’s Boheme prefers the RS1. Another trick that the RS1 has is a slight bump in the upper bass that adds body and groove to just almost every music. This is the kind of bass that makes Jazz and Rock alive, though it may not work with heavy, low frequency bass in Hip Hop or Dance. Keep in mind that the MS-Pro is far from a boring cans. We compared it to the AKG K701 once, and the MS-Pro just sounds so much more musical to the K701. But next to the RS1, the MS-Pro reminded me of the K701.

If it wasn’t for classical music, there probably be no reason to own the MS-Pro. The RS1 just rocks with rock and grooves with anything else. But put in a classical track, a concerto from Mozart or a symphony from Beethoven, and the RS1’s strength becomes its weakness. First of all, the aggressive mids is very obstructing for orchestral music. It’s too forward, it messes with the composition of the different instruments playing together, and things sounds mixed and congested. In contrast, the neutral mids in the MS-Pro presents notes clearly and beautifully, without any bumps in the frequencies. Again, the small upper bass bump on the RS1 that really makes you move with Jazz and Rock, becomes an odd sound, like a frequency out of tune when playing a Symphony. You know that the bass bump is not neutral, and that it shouldn’t be there, and it really becomes a nuisance with classical music. It’s also through listening to violins that I realize that the mids on the RS1 is colored, and though it works wonders on vocals, it makes your string instruments sounds unnatural. Clearly, the MS-Pro is voiced for classical music, while the RS1 is for everything else.

grado_rs1_1

Grado RS1 and Alessandro MS-Pro
4.5 (90%) 4 vote[s]

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36 Comments

  • Reply September 26, 2009

    K3cT

    Glad you loved the HF2 as much as I do brother. 😀

  • Reply October 8, 2010

    Mike

    They’re about the same, as I think they’re based on the same driver technology. The MS-Pro has a more neutral stance and not as forward as the Grado, so that may come out as less aggressive in some recordings. Though reputedly the vintage RS1s have a smoother top end. Never tried them, though.

  • Reply October 8, 2010

    TheMiddleSky

    ow 🙂

    ok, then for the staging, especially about “depth” and “hight”, which one is better? or just exactly same? in your review you wrote that RS1 seems a bit more congested, so I think MS Pro is better here, or I just wrong?

    • Reply October 9, 2010

      Mike

      Technically, they're both the very close in soundstage performance. However, the more forward presentation of the RS1 often gives an impression of a less spacious soundstage.

  • Reply October 8, 2010

    TheMiddleSky

    Hey Mike,

    I'm just wondering, between both of them, which one is smoother (less sibilant or harsh) ?

  • Reply October 8, 2010

    TheMiddleSky

    oh, if that so, have you ever tried the new RS1i?, because from what I read, some people said that RS1i has smoother sound compare to buttoned RS1 (I guess the RS1 like what you're using for this review)

  • Reply October 9, 2010

    Mike

    Not the RS1i, but I've heard the MS-Pro "i" version (thanks to Jaben), and didn't notice any difference to the non "i" version.

  • Reply November 4, 2010

    Pat M

    I recently purchased the RS1i (latest edition, no button). My decision to do so was based on wanting a great semi-portable rig, semi-portable insofar as I can carry it around my house. I can't just sit at my computer and listen to music all the time so a true desktop is not in my future. I have an AudioTrak IMAMP for this purpose, and I think it is fantastic. The problem is it's not quite to the power level needed to fully appreciate my HD600s and DT880s. Don't get me wrong, they both sound very good out of the Imamp, but there is definitely something missing as they are so hard to drive. Enter the RS1. I've had a Grado SR80 for a while and enjoy the Grado sound. I had contemplated going up in the Prestige line but taking everything into consideration (particularly the easy to drive nature of the Grados) I figured, why not get the gold standard and I am very happy with my RS1 purchase. The Imamp drives these to full sound with complete ease and room to spare. Out of the box the RS1 were a bit sterile and shrill (bright) sounding but after about 30 or 40 hours of burn in have smoothed out quite a bit. I also did a variation of the Grado 'bowl tape mod' which really rounds out the sound quite nicely. Everything I've thrown at them sounds fantastic, partiularly metal which I've always had trouble finding a really good HP match for.

    Can you recommend any OP Amps to roll into the Imamp that may compliment the RS1 sound?

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • Reply November 3, 2010

      Mike

      Hi, Pat.
      Thanks for the impressions. Personally, I think the LME49720 (Metal TO-99 Package) which gives a very thick and tubey midrange will work well with the Grado RS1 signature. You may want to give that a try.

      • Reply November 4, 2010

        Pat M

        Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Reply November 5, 2010

    Cortes

    Really, very good review. This review has drawn my interest in the RS1, for sure I'll be worthy listening to them.

  • Reply December 2, 2010

    Simon

    MS-Pro still sounds like a grado correct? Does the MS-Pro sound better with guitars or RS1? I've heard people say the Pro does electric guitars better. Looking at their website, it would be no surprise if it did guitars better, guitars seem to be Alessandro's kind of thing so I never would have thought they would excel with classical music

  • Reply July 2, 2011

    Zuqi

    Nice review.
    I have a few questions, Does Ms pro share same sound signature with Ms1 while RS1 have similar sound with sr325?

    I audited ms1 and sr325is yesterday and I prefer the sound of ms1 to 325, as 325 has a “odd” soundstage to me, and hf2 also gives me similar impression so I assume that grado cans have similar tone.
    I also tried senn’s hd650, byer’s dt880 and akg 701. None of them could compare ms1’s engaging mids. So I guess alessandro sound is what am looking for.

    How does mspro sounds compared with ms1? Does it also have similar amount of bass punch as grados? Does it good at playing rock tracks? Thanks!

    • Reply July 2, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yes the MS1 and MS-PRO is of the same house sound. Likewise RS1 and SR325i.

      For the MS-PRO, bass punch is not as much as the Grados, and I also feel
      that the more “grown up” sound of the MS-PRO (bigger soundstage, clearer
      separation etc) makes it a more mature sound but perhaps not as engaging
      as the MS1 and is not the perfect cans for Rock.

      These are the things of the past. I think you should check out the
      HD25-1 for an upgrade from the MS1 or get the HD600 or a Hifiman HE-500
      if you want to go full size.

      • Reply July 3, 2011

        Zuqi

        I will give HD25 a try when I have a chance.
        How about ms2 sounds compared to ms1? Does it have more treble than ms1? If I use an ipod and a portable amp, will it makes a decent difference between ms pro and ms2? Thank you.

      • Reply July 3, 2011

        Zuqi

        I will give HD25 a try when I have a chance.
        How about ms2 sounds compared to ms1? Does it have more treble than ms1? If I use an ipod and a portable amp, will it makes a decent difference between ms pro and ms2? Thank you.

        • Reply July 4, 2011

          Anonymous

          Faint memory here,
          I think the MS2 does have more treble than the MS1. I personally dislike
          the metallic tone of the MS2 housing. I’d be better off saving the money
          and getting a bowl pad (the one that comes with the MS2 and the MS-Pro)
          and swapping the stock pads of the MS1 with that bowl pad if you want to
          change the MS1 sound to a more MS2/Pro like.

          I’ve used the bowl pad on the MS1i once and noticed it sounded really
          close to the MS-PRo except without the wooden timbre and the large
          soundstage.

          • Reply July 5, 2011

            Zuqi

            Thanks a lot for your info.

  • Reply July 5, 2011

    Sam

    Good review.Just wanted to ask about the differences between the SR225-i and the Rs1-i in terms of sound quality. This won’t be my primary headphones as I have other headphones for other genres of music but I’m looking for a good headphones now for Rock and Metal and I’ve been considering the SR225-i, the RS1-i, and the HD-25-1

    • Reply July 5, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Sam,
      I really can’t be so sure since it’s been a long time since I listened to either one. But the SR225-i has a looser bass and is not as punchy as the RS1s. The wood housing also leads to better timbre for the instruments, especially if you’re listening to acoustic guitar and such. The RS1’s soundstage should also be more open than the non-i version.

      I’ve never listened to the RS1-i model, but it should be an improvement over the SR225.

      • Reply July 5, 2011

        Sam

        I was also considering 2 new headphones for other types of musicThe first would be a warm headphones to use with old recordings and vocals and from what I’ve heard, the HD650 does that vey well but I’ve also seen that you liked the AHT-ESW9A a lot for the same purpose and I’m sure there are other options I haven’t heard of.
        The other type of music is Trance (Armin Van Buuren) style and for that I need a punchy headphones and from what I’ve heard from you the Pro700 MK2 would be great for that but I’m not sure if I can handle that much bass since I’m accustomed to the light and controlled bass I’m getting from the K701 so I was wondering about any other options. I’m not sure if the Pro700 MK2 will be able to render the mids from the vocal trance tracks correctly as well.

        • Reply July 5, 2011

          Sam

          There’s also a problem regarding my first question. I’m not sue if one headphones will do it for me when it comes to rock and metal as the rock tracks that I listen to tend to suffer from the effect of the loudness war with highly boosted treble and lots of heavily distorted guitars unlike the Metal music I listen to which I find to be well recorded. Not the best recoding quality but quite a decent one. Treble is not boosted here. I’m talking about bands like Opeth, Katatonia, and Threshold with minimal distorted guitars and more focus on accoustic guitars, keyboard, and drums. Sometimes even instruments like Cello and violin are introduced so I don’t think that a headphones that tones down the treble would sound good with this type of music since the sparkle is essential here to feel the music.

          • Reply July 5, 2011

            Sam

            I know I’ve already asked a lot but this is the last question, I promise. I’m planning on buying the HD800 as well about 3 months from now mainly for classic music but what I want to ask is: do you think if I pair it with the Lehmann BCL, it would also soung good with this type of metal music? or would I be better off with the T1 paired with the Auditor? The main reason of purchase remains classic music though.

  • Reply July 5, 2011

    Sam

    I know this is a poor quality video from youtube but it’s just to get a feel of what type of metal music I mean. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qw1M-e0CeQ
    I mostly listen to progressive Metal I think.

  • Reply June 16, 2012

    Victor Yu

    Hi Mike, have you tried the RS1-i by now? I tried the MS Pro and RS1-i and found that the MS Pro is smoother and more laid back and enjoyable to me. RS1-i seems more “aggressive” and forward vocal but the treble seems to be a bit too much on some female vocals that I feel a bit irritating as I’m quite sensitive to those sound (I dislike Beyer because of that), what do you think?

    • Reply June 18, 2012

      Mike

      Yes the RS1i is smoother and fuller than the RS1, but essentially the sound signature is the same.
      I do prefer the MS Pro-i over the RS1i. It’s just a more neutral headphone, better all rounder in my opinion. Still the RS1i has that Grado signature that people like.

      • Reply June 19, 2012

        Victor Yu

        Mike, after some audition, I settled in the MS Pro, playing various type of music with my WA6SE, beautiful sounds from all kind of music, crystal clear quality and tight bass, it gives me something different from my W3000ANV and both are excellent!!! Thanks for your help.

        • Reply June 19, 2012

          Mike

          You’re welcome!

          I’ve started to listen to the MS-Pro again, and I think it’s still one of the best headphones around. It has such a nice open sound that even the HD800 can’t beat. The wood timbre is one of the most beautiful around (you don’t get this kind of a timbre with ATH’s wooden headphones).

          • Reply June 19, 2012

            Victor Yu

            I passed on the Graham Slee Solo deal from Jaben though, as I want to use my WA6SE for those slower pace music and Asgard for faster pace, perhaps try out the Burson Soloist in the future

            • Reply June 19, 2012

              Mike

              Alright but you’ve got the right headphone.

              For some music the MS-Pro can be a bit bright tho.

          • Reply June 19, 2012

            khubmai

            Mike

            May you tell me the different between MS-Pro and ATH.

            So interesting that you write “The wood timbre is one of the most beautiful around (you don’t get this kind of a timbre with ATH’s wooden headphones).”

            thank.

            • Reply June 19, 2012

              Mike

              Well one of the difference is the timbre aka how instruments sound. The wooden Grados (including Alessandro) IMO has one of the best timbre out there, followed by the HD600/650 (even better than the HD800 IMO).
              The ATH wood headphones, I’ve never really opened them up so I don’t know how the construction of the acoustic chamber is, but I don’t feel the timbre of the wood that much.

  • Reply May 28, 2013

    Zuqi

    Hi Mike, In terms of neutrality/perfect tonal balance, do you think ms-pro’s manage to get that?

    • Reply May 28, 2013

      Mike

      Yes fairly neutral

      • Reply May 28, 2013

        Zuqi

        Thanks for prompt reply. In terms of treble, between mspro and rs1i, which one is closer to neutral? I compared the two today and I am a bit confused about the definition of neutrality.

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