Grado RS1e Review: Close to perfect

Grado RS1e9.5Compared to many companies producing headphones, with their own approach to packaging, design, and materials used, Grado Labs looks like a very conservative enterprise. For example, the...

Grado RS1e Review
Grado RS1e Review
Grado RS1e Review
Grado RS1e

Compared to many companies producing headphones, with their own approach to packaging, design, and materials used, Grado Labs looks like a very conservative enterprise. For example, the entire Prestige series of headphones, as well as the younger model of the Reference series Grado RS2e, have the same packaging and equipment. However, after seeing the big box with the Grado RS1e, it became clear that something new had finally arrived.

Grado RS1e headphones are supplied in an impressive package (dimensions 350x265x80 mm) made of very thick cardboard, the end of which has a magnetic clasp. The front side of the packaging is designed in a minimalist style – only the company name is printed on a white background. On one of the ends are the technical characteristics of the model. When opening the box, its contents are hidden by a thin layer of foam protection, removing which we see the following. Standard cardboard information insert (photo and text) about three generations of the Grado family producing audio products. The Grado RS1e headphones themselves, which are placed in a thick layer of foam protection and, predictably, a gold-plated adapter from 3.5 to 6.3 mm, placed on the headphone cable.

This could be the end of the package, as was the case in previous models, but not in the case of the Grado RS1e. Either the price tag has noticeably increased compared to younger models, or the desire to highlight the flagship model of the Reference series, they decided to expand the RS1e kit with another accessory. It turned out to be not a hard case, not a soft case, and not a replaceable pair of ear pads. This complete accessory was… a headphone extension cord. A little more about him. You take this extension cord in your hands and you understand – you are shaking the thing. It looks more like a power cable or even a cable. Its length is about 3.7 m, the extension cord is 12-core (the cable in the headphones is 8-core), made of copper, the plug is straight 6.3 mm. At the same time, its connection with Grado headphones is implemented in a very unexpected way. The RS1e headphones have a 3.5 mm plug, and the extension cable is designed for a 6.3 mm input. Therefore, the headphone cable must first be connected to an adapter (3.5 to 6.3 mm) and then to an extension cord. What if suddenly the sound source does not have a 6.3 mm input?.., again you need to turn to the next adapter (but I think that such a scenario will be extremely rare).

Through the Grado website, in addition to the headphones, you can purchase branded accessories – a hard case or a beautiful wooden case.

Design and ergonomics

The design of the RS1e is broadly consistent with that of other Grado headphones. Unlike younger models, the Reference series is made using light brown leather and wood. Mahogany is used for the Grado RS1e bowls. The headphones themselves look like an expensive, vintage and time-tested item. The wooden bowls are engraved with Grado Reference Series and the RS1e model number along the perimeter. The right and left channels are indicated by letters printed on black plastic inserts, to which the earcups are attached using metal rods. The standard headphone cable is not detachable; in the RS1e it is 8-conductor and ends with a 3.5 mm gold-plated jack.

At first glance, both Reference Series models RS1e and RS2e look the same. But headphones made using leather and wood cannot be identical. The shade of the skin, the color of the wood, and its pattern will not only distinguish one pair of headphones from another, but small differences can be noticed even in the bowls of the same pair. Don’t forget that Grado RS1e are made by hand, which also introduces a certain variety – the accuracy of the leather covering of the headband, the thickness of the leather seam and its processing, and the quality of polishing of the wooden bowls will differ between different pairs of headphones. And since the number of manual operations is quite high, I have never seen perfectly executed Grado headphones – there are always minor flaws.

The ergonomics of a particular pair of headphones may differ slightly from another. For example, my test model initially had good downforce feel, but weakened a bit after a few days. Theoretically, the steel headband can be neatly bent. Out of the box there is an unpleasant chemical smell from the impregnation of the ear pads, which disappears after a few days.

As you know, Grado RS1e are classified as open headphones in terms of acoustic design . Moreover, these are the most open of all the open headphones I have ever listened to. There is no noise isolation in the headphones, which needs to be taken into account when listening to music.

If you don’t pick on manufacturing nuances and choose a copy that fits comfortably, then the Grado RS1e are pretty good headphones – the materials are tactilely pleasant, relatively light in weight, and due to their design, they don’t cause overheating during long-term listening.


Even budget Grado models can surprise with the width of their stage, so the flagship of the Reference series is all the more in order with this indicator. The Grado RS1e offer a very wide stage that feels spacious, airy and has clear instrument separation. The construction of the stage can be conventionally described as a kind of oval, when the width of the stage is greater than its depth. In my opinion, the conventional distance between the listener and the stage is not very large. From the first notes, headphones encourage you to concentrate on the music. Their sound is very clear and detailed.

Grado headphones are simply “prescribed” for such genres as jazz, instrumental music, including acoustic, vocal works, classical music, classic rock and art rock. Of course, you can listen to many other musical genres in the Grado RS1e, but the headphones above are the most interesting.

The bass in the headphones is both full-bodied and highly readable. Low frequencies are presented moderately, but are able to go deeper and sometimes add tonal softness, without “mess” or loss of control. The bass has good speed and natural decay. For example, slap sounds from Marcus Miller are transmitted by headphones with all the necessary bite and impact. As a result, the low frequencies in the Grado RS1e are moderate, have the necessary fullness, they are controlled and detailed.

The mids of Grado headphones are often called “proprietary”. Their main feature is the harmonic richness and naturalness of sound. The midrange plays very richly, emotionally, with decent separation of instruments. Vocals are rendered richly, cleanly and clearly. On some recordings, the vocals, both female and male, have a certain warmth, and they begin to sound chamber and soulful.

The high frequencies of the Grado RS1e demonstrate airiness and extension. HF is able to show brightness, often moderate, and intensity, while remaining controlled and not drowning out other frequencies. The HF resolution, however, like the midrange, is at a level sufficient for those who like to analyze these ranges. At the same time, the headphones deliver high frequencies without a hint of monitor dryness and, most importantly, without forgetting musicality.


The Grado RS1e headphones stand out from other models with their old-school design. In the manufacture of headphones, far from the most modern and technologically advanced materials are used. In production, preference is given to natural leather, wood and metal elements; The presence of plastic is minimal. As an open-back model, the RS1e delivers exceptional staging, balanced sound, volume and excellent detail.

Returning to the information from the official website, where the Grado RS1e is called “the point of no return”, “an audio masterpiece” and those headphones, upon hearing which, interest in models for the mass market disappears. The statements are quite bold and categorical, but let’s leave this to the conscience of the company’s marketers. In my humble opinion, the Grado RS1 is still not a universal model suitable for any genre; headphones have their own characteristic sound signature. Therefore, the RS1e, like some other Grado models, is difficult to recommend for purchase without first listening. Judging by some reviews, the sound of the Grado RS1e is not suitable for everyone; some consider it too intrusive and a little tiring. In contrast, we can say that Grado RS1e want to saturate the music with a variety of sound colors and their shades, to convey airiness and transparency to the listener. Will you like this presentation? Only you can decide. But if you find yourself an admirer of Grado’s signature sound, then the pleasure of listening to the Grado RS1e is almost guaranteed.

  1. I own a pair of early RS1’s and I’m extremely happy with them. I still own them but have to send back because by this time the wires leading into the phone themselves. With headphones over 20 years old this is not unreasonable. I’ve enjoyed them immensely and listen to a variety of genres. They represent themselves well and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them!

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