You knew this was a pair of Grado headphones the moment you caught a glimpse of the picture, didn’t you? Of course you did. The Brooklyn-based headphones savant has been rocking the ‘WWII fighter pilot’ look for decades, after all, and it quite obviously sees no need to change a demonstrably winning formula when it comes to the best wired headphones.
There’s plenty of modernity complementing the retro looks, mind you. The question is: is it enough to make you part with what is, let’s face it, serious money to own the Grado GS1000x Statement?
Grado GS1000x Statement: Price & Availability
The Grado GS1000x Statement are on sale now, and in the United Kingdom they cost £1295. In the brand’s native America they’ll set you back $1195. In Australia they sell for AUD$2099 or thereabouts.
Given their asking price, their hard-wired nature and their open-backed configuration, we’re tempted to deploy the word ‘niche’ to describe the likely appeal of the GS1000x. But then we remember the reputation of the brand we’re dealing with here, and change our minds...
Grado GS1000x Statement review: Features & What's New?
At a glance, the Grado GS1000x Statement look broadly similar to every other pair of over-ear headphones the company has delivered over the past decades. But while it’s true that the visual aesthetic remains recognisable, Grado’s ongoing policy of upgrade and improvement means the GS1000x are a markedly different proposition to the GS1000e and GS1000i that went before them.
For example, this is the first time Grado has used anything but mahogany wood - which it prizes for its warmer tone - in the construction of a GS1000 driver housing. For the GS1000x, mahogany is combined with ipê - a durable tropical wood (as well as a tropical-sounding word that's fun to say) - in a drive for greater sonic solidity and robustness.
Grado has fitted its latest model ‘X’ dynamic drivers here, specifically - so it claims - to take advantage of the audio warmth inherent in mahogany. The 50mm design has a new, more powerful magnetic circuit, lower-mass voice coil and reworked diaphragm, all intended to improve efficiency and reduce distortion.
The headband arrangement and cables have been reworked, too. The chunky, heavily shrouded cable has 12 super-annealed copper conductors, and the minimally padded, leather-covered headband now has some white stitching. For Grado, this is what passes for a design flourish.
In some ways, though, it’s business very much as usual. The metal gimbals have next-to-no movement in them. The headband adjustment mechanism is rudimentary (and, on our review sample at least, quite squeaky). In a way, it’s almost reassuring… Grado has always been a singular company, and this sort of agricultural element to its products is quite endearing.
Grado GS1000x Statement review: Performance
Obviously there’s little point in spending this sort of money on a pair of headphones and then just plugging them straight into the side of your laptop and hoping for the best. If you want to hear where your Grado money has gone, well, you’d better be prepared to spend equally big to bring the best from them. A proper headphone amplifier seems only reasonable in the circumstances - and so this test is conducted with the GS1000x Statement plugged into an iFi iDSD Diablo, and only then does a laptop get involved. A laptop with a lot of nice big high-resolution digital audio files on board, of course.
Treat the Grado with the correct amount of respect, and they will reward you in spades. Without sounding even remotely uptight, dispassionate or academic, they deliver a vivid and almost forensically detailed sound that is almost endlessly absorbing. ‘Compelling’ isn’t too strong a word to apply here.
They’re not perfect, you understand - very little that's ever produced, if anything ever, frankly, acquires that accolade - even though it costs a great deal of money. So let’s deal with the imperfection first - it’s mild, after all, and so it won’t take long.
From the bottom of the frequency range to the top, the GS1000x tonality is even, naturalistic and of a whole - except for a tiny area at the bottom of the high end, or perhaps the very top of the midrange, somewhere around there. There’s just a hint of airiness, of insubstantiality, to this little portion of the frequency range. In and of itself it’s far from fatal - in fact, if the rest of the Grado frequency response and tonality wasn’t so utterly convincing, it would hardly be noticeable at all. But nevertheless, there it is - and basically, this is what keeps the GS1000x from achieving something very close to perfection.
In every other respect, these headphones are persuasive in the extreme. Their low-frequency reproduction is deep, solid and alive with fine detail regarding texture and tone. It’s the same story at the opposite end: treble sounds have bite and shine, but it’s properly balanced and never gets too much of a glint in its eye. And in the midrange, the amount of detail that’s retained and revealed brings a recording, in particular a vocalist, bounding to life. Nothing escapes the attention of the Grado, no matter how transient - and consequently these headphones leave you in no doubt as to what’s going on.
Dynamic headroom is considerable, and so the big volume variations apparent in, say, an orchestral piece are almost startling in their intensity. Low-level harmonic variations evident in, say, a solo piano are just as fully realised - again, it doesn’t matter in the slightest to the GS1000x how minor, how far back in the mix, how fleeting an audio element even is. These headphones identify it, contextualise it, and integrate it seamlessly.
They do good work when expressing rhythmic potency, those well-controlled low frequencies generating proper momentum. Even tricky tempos pose no significant problems - the Grado are among the most even-handed and unfussy headphones when it comes to the more corporeal aspects of music-making. If you like to listen to a lot of dancefloor-orientated music, you’ll find them gregarious company - even if getting out of your seat to shake your hips isn’t easy thanks to the length of the cable you’re attached to.
Grado GS1000x Statement review: Design & Usability
As far as Grado is concerned ‘design’ is something that happens to other people. Grado ‘constructs’ much more than it ‘designs’ - and though the materials that make up the GS1000x Statement are eminently fit for purpose, and in some cases very expensive, they’re deployed purely in order to position the drivers correctly over the wearer’s ears. You know a company doesn’t pay too much attention to ‘design’ when it gets all excited about some white stitching on a black leather headband.
Given that they’re substantial over-ear headphones, hard-wired to a length of chunky cable that terminates in a 6.3mm plug, it’s pretty obvious the sort of use the GS1000x are going to get. They’re for plugging into an appropriately talented source of music at one end, and for positioning over your ears at the other. At less than 400g they’re not the most burdensome headphones around, and a combination of mild clamping force and nicely judged intensity of cushion material makes them easy to wear for even quite long stints. They’re about as open-backed as it gets, mind you, so listening to the GS1000x is probably best enjoyed alone - as they leak sound almost enthusiastically.
Grado GS1000x Statement review: Verdict
This is a lot of money to spend on headphones, especially headphones that more-or-less insist on being used when alone. But if you’re OK with this, you’ll find the GS1000x Statement will keep you listening long after you should have gone to bed.
Grado is staring in the face of near-sonic perfection with the GS1000x. And now you're staring at your wallet, aren't you?
In their own way they’re just as single- (or bloody-)minded as the GS100x Statement, but the Audeze LCD-X are equally, though differently, capable. Bigger and heavier than the Grado, with a planar magnetic driver that brings us very close indeed to the word ‘reference’, they’re ideal for anyone who wants to learn all that there is to know about a particular recording.