To start I'd like to thank David @Upstairs Audio in Columbia for being such a gracious host, this was a first for me. I've never had the chance to look around a real high end audio store before, nor get a chance to really listen to some top of the line 2 channel speaker set ups before. I know I was really excited, and probably a bit of a burden, non the less David was more than ready to let me spend a little time with quite a few of their speaker set ups and get a chance to do a brief listen through their Grado product line.
Here's their case, they sold everything form the SR 60E right up to the RS2E and the PS500E. I had my Hifiman HM901 and iBasso PB2 with me along with my Nhoord Red V1 for comparison. This is by no means a review, but more of my initial impressions with each headphone!
Tone of each of the first 3 SR series headphones is pretty consistent, each move up the ladder brings a better bass quality. With the SR 125E having the best bass presentation. I settled on the G Crush pads in the end, with those pads I found a sound similar to my Nhoord Red V1, fun bass with a warm forward midrange, and a nice sense of top end sparkle. The biggest loss in the SR125E from my Nhoord V1 Red was depth in sound stage, but at around half the price I felt these were still a great entry point for any one curious about the Grado Sound! I also listened to the SR60E with the L Crush pads, and I honestly felt that they and the SR 80Es are also a good place to start. The biggest difference being that my Superlux HD 668B left me more impressed than either of those did.
Wow, these had an abundantly aggressive forward sound. Out of the line up that I had to try, these had by far the MOST exciting sound. I also preferred them with G Crush Pads, I found them to add a nice sense of space to the PS500E along with a more balanced presentation of it's very aggressive forward mid range. The bass was very solid, a good step up from my fun Nhoord.
Most impressive of all was the Grado RS2E, I enjoyed the best with the L Crush Pads. There was really no comparing these to my Nhoord Red V1, they had a more intimate mid range with an equally spacious sound stage. A tighter bass, with better top end extension and detail throughout the entire presentation! By far, these were phenomenal to listen to with my HM901 & PB2 combo. It was a bit hard to put these down that day as well, as they had a dynamic quality to them similar to my HE 4 but without the need for a high output amplifier, nor the bulk. While I'd imagine that compared directly to the HE 4, the RS2E wouldn't be as impressive, just by it self it was beautiful to listen to, That's what impressed me the most, to have a beautifully dynamic spacious presentation, without the bulk and weight of a full sized headphone!
My time with the Grado's was short lived, as I also wanted a chance to hear the Planar Magnepans they had set up!
I used my Hifiman HM 901 as a source, into their Rouge Audio Cronus. The team their did a great job placing ECC 82 tubes into their pre stage! The Maggie 1.7s I listened to were phenomenal, they offered me the same quality of sound that my HE 4 has, but being speakers with a more palpable presentation. I can feel the low notes of the Cello in my legs, my arms and my chest, and the weight of the shifting notes of the sax against not only my ears but across my face. These like my HE 4 can really raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
The MMGs pictured next to the bigger and more impressive 1.7s were also pleasant. They offered a similar presentation that the Grado RS2E did, except it was room filling! A great point of entry for speakers I think, and something I could certainly see my self owning. The MMGs are just big enough to fill up their building with a very balanced natural sound, while they offered little to no tactility they were just pleasant to listen to, something that I'd appreciate while cooking or hosting guests! They didn't suffer from having as powerfully defined a sweet spot as the 1.7s did.
I ended my time with David by listening to the Maggie 3.7s, Powered by a pair of Rouge Audio M180 mono blocks, these were by far the most natural sounding set of ANYTHING I've yet to hear. David and I sat at the back of a well lit room, and enjoyed some music sourced from my HM 901, and I heard details in my music that I was not familiar with! In particular, the breath taken by pianist Igor Levit as presented in the Goldberg Variations album, was a sound I'd hear before on my HE 4... but only the Maggie 3.7s presented it free of the lingering decay of his playing. For a brief second, he paused took a quick breathe and began again. And going back to hear it on my HE 4, sadly that breathe did not stand out as naturally as it did on the Maggie 3.7s, it didn't sound as... real!
So, having a new sense of what top of the line sounds like, I returned home, really in awe of both the impression those 3.7s left with me as well as how beautiful the Grado RS2E sounded.