First Listen: Grado Statement Series GS1000i Headphones Review

November 22, 2014

I only read about them. I never tried them on. I never heard them. That's not something one normally does when parting with several hundred dollars or more for headphones. But, what I had read had me convinced that the Grado Statement Series GS1000i Headphones were a must-have for my collection. Needless to say, I am pretty happy with my purchase.

You see, I picked these up gently used for nearly half the price of a new pair... that's a deal that can't be passed up for a can like this that has a real fan following. What's more, I have a friend that raves about Grado cans, and pairing his peer pressure with the raving reviews about the bass, soundstage and detail retrieval of the GS1000i, I had to go for it.

But, you probably want to know how they fit, feel and sound, right?

For starters, I'm not generally a fan of ear pads that actually touch my ears. On-ear cans? Forget it. I prefer a circumaural fit that engulfs the ear, providing a nice seal and no pressure on the ears at all. Despite the GS1000i having the largest ear cups in Grado's lineup, these pads do still touch the ears. Yes, they do surround them and seal nicely, but because of the tapered funnel-like design, you will have ear contact. So far, though, I haven't found this to be too much of an issue, but it is worth noting. Second, these pads are a bit scratchy. It's apparently a common occurrence among Grado pads. It's "just the way they are." I've heard that washing them with shampoo helps to alleviate it and soften them up a bit, but I haven't tried it yet.

As for the size and weight, these are big cans that will leave you looking like Princess Leia if her buns happened to be made from hand-matched and finely shaped mahogany wood. But that doesn't matter because you'll only want to use these in the privacy of your home listening room where you can truly submerse yourself in the stunning performance of the open-back design. The GS1000i, despite its size, is also surprisingly light. Likely the lightest large, full-size headphone I have ever tried.

And, finally, the sound. Well, it is truly amazing. Airy, three-dimensional and engaging are the first descriptors that come to mind. Grado headphones are known to have a unique and lively sound signature. The quality of their mid-range presentation is often raved about. I believe the GS1000i strays from the "typical" Grado sound, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The GS1000i, by far, has the best bass performance I have ever heard. It is nothing short of powerful. At first impact, you may find it overpowering actually, but as your ears adjust to the unique frequency response of this can, you will hear just how natural the sound reproduction is. I used to play percussion instruments; I've not heard kick drums reproduced so authentically before. In other words, the bass is phenomenal, natural, smooth and very engaging. 

I'm going to skip over the mids for a minute and talk about the highs. The treble has a noticeable boost over the mids, similar to my Beyerdynamic T90, in my opinion, that adds a real sparkle to these headphones. I've heard people complain that the GS1000i can be sibilant and "screechy" or harsh.... That my friends is likely your recording, not the cans. It should be noted, however, that many Grado models do exhibit some wild peaks in the upper mids and treble region. The treble on the GS1000i, is again, by far, the most revealing I have experienced, but with that comes the fact that it will exaggerate poor or bright recordings further. The sheer amount of detail retrieval is truly impressive, but I believe it could be too much for those that don't anticipate that, don't want that out of their music, or, sorry to say, have crappy recordings and sources. You will hear the faintest noises: Music sheets shuffling, fingers sliding across strings, deep breaths before horn blasts, comments from the live crowd. All that said, having high-quality recordings playing from a clean source is paramount with the GS1000i, otherwise, you do stand to be disappointed.

Now, back to the mids. Their performance is no less impressive when it comes to clarity, instrument separation and authentic sound. However, the mids DO come off as being a bit recessed as both the powerful bass and stunning clarity of the highs takes over. In my experience, you need to give your ears some time to "break in" and adjust to the frequency response characteristics of this headphone before you write it off as being a slouch in mid-range performance. Once you are accustomed to the sound, everything comes together quite nicely.

I truly believe that the GS1000i gives you the most "live" sounding experience in headphones. When you put these on, you will feel like you are 10 rows back, center stage. And while the overall detail retrieval has hints of a live studio session, the sound signature of the Grado GS1000i is more authentic of a small venue live performance than that of what you'd hear sitting in an acoustically-treated studio. To me, you get the best of both worlds and a truly lively and engaging listening experience.

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