Grado RS1 and Alessandro MS-Pro

What about soundstaging and instrument separation? If I listen really hard, I can tell that they both have identical soundstage size and both has a fairly good instrument separation. However, if you’re just sitting down and enjoying music without being critical, the RS1’s soundstage sounds smaller to the MS-Pro. Again, I think this is due to the more frontal mids getting in the way of other things and giving a congested impression. Not only does the soundstage sound smaller, the RS1 also sounds less open than the MS-Pro. Though this is not a crucial drawback for Rock and Jazz (given the strengths of the RS1 for those genres), but for playing classical music, you feel that RS1 shrinks the size of the concert hall.

The RS1 and the MS-Pro share so many traits, but they are voiced for different music. Given that the MS-Pro is only better with classical explains why the RS1 is more universally praised. Honestly, the competition for the MS-Pro is tough. There are so many other options for classical: HD600/650, the AKG K1000, the HD800, and the Stax Omegas, whereas the RS1 sound is unique only to Grados, with the RS1 being on the top. The other Grados like the GS1000, PS1000, PS1, and HP1000 have a different sound, and most people comes back to the RS1. When you are reading this, you may think that I’m biased toward the RS1, but actually I’m not. My music is mainly classical. I own the MS-Pro for this review, and I have no interest in obtaining an RS1. Writing a review, I have to be as objective as I can, and I do think that most people will  be more happy with the RS1.

Here comes the kicker: I do think that the recently released, slightly cheaper, Grado HF2 is better than the RS1 in playing RS1’s own playlist. It has a more full bodied sound, a smoother and more seducing mids, and a very very musical bass. Luckily I don’t have to buy the HF2, cause I know, now that it’s discontinued, its used price is about to go up.
Maybe we’ll try to do a RS1i review and see what improvements come with the “i”.



System for auditioning:
Headphones: Grado HF2, Alessandro MS-Pro
Source: CEC CD5300 CD Player
Amplifier: Beta22 3-Channel

Thanks to Dayak for making this review possible.

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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