The PS2000e is the new flagship of the Grado Labs headphone collection
It’s tempting to call them the Cadillac of headphones… they’re big and heavy, chrome plated, and made in the USA. They also harken back to the glory days of audio where the pinnacle of sound quality was all that mattered.
The PS2000e headphones from Grado Labs are all that; precious and unsurpassed in dedication to audio purity. Their substantial cost, at $2,695, wouldn’t even make the top ten list of most expensive headphones. But there are none better.
Grado headphones are designed and built like musical instruments. There are no robots or 3D printers at Grado. What we have here are carved Maple chambers, clad with a custom aluminum alloy which dampens any ringing, hand-made in the Brooklyn factory and tuned to the ears of John Grado.
That’s a lot of trust for one set of ears, but it’s worked out pretty well for the company so far. Grado is probably the most respected headphone maker in the world, turning out thousands, not millions of pairs per year. Last year Consumer Reports Magazine named Grado to five of it’s top ten headphone picks.
The PS2000e headphones are admittedly heavy (a whopping 28 ounces) and Grado has politely given us a wider, more comfortable head-strap with additional padding. The new Smoked Chrome finish is a nice touch too.
Like all Grados, these are open-back headphones with a two-wire retro design: one heavy wire from each ear-cup. While other companies long ago combined wires to flow from one side only, Grado never saw a good reason to do so because it would mean using less substantial wire and compromising the sound quality for aesthetics and comfort. These headphones use twelve-conductor cable with UHPLC (Ultra-High Purity, Long Crystal) copper. A 4-pin XLR balance cable is available as an option.
The PS2000e, the new flagship of the Grado line, carries the exact same technical specs as the PS1000e but they don’t sound the same. The 1K uses Mahogany chambers while the 2K employs Maple. How much actual credit goes to the wood species for the tighter, more detailed experience of the PS2000e headphone is beyond my grasp. Ask a silviculturalist.
There are a series of other improvements in the PS2000e, and at this level every bit of minutia counts. A new driver, a microscopic change to the diaphragm geometry, even consideration of the sound diffraction caused when the wave hits the grill that sits half an inch off your ear… they all play a tiny but important part.
John Grado likes to listen to Eric Clapton, so I put on Riding With The King by Eric Clapton and BB King. Grado says, "If the artist performed it, and the engineer captured it on the recording, you will hear it”. I’ll second that emotion.
I’ve been using Grado GS1000 headphones for more than 15 years so I am very familiar with the Grado sound and sweet spots. Listening through the PS2000e was like one of those Claritin commercials where they peel back the haze to reveal a bright sunny day.
Louder, crisper, brighter and more detailed was the music. I don’t much care about superficial things like the sound of a guitar pick, or a breath between phrases, which of course you can hear with any good headphones. Rather, I’m impressed by music that is vibrant and genuine, and a headphone that doesn't artificially color the experience.
The PS2000e is transparent to the music but, sadly, not to the listening experience. People’s ears are oval-shaped, not perfectly round, and the sheer weight of this product (think full beer helmet) causes the inside of the foam ear cup to touch the top of my ears. It makes a crunchy noise if I move my head, or even smile, and that's audio interference in my opinion. The ear cups don’t carry any of the weight so it all rests on the head strap. Reclining my head causes it to slide a bit and I have to make an adjustment. By comparison my trusty GS1000 Mahogany headphones weigh a mere 11 ounces.
To call the competition ‘lightweight’ is too clever by half, but it’s true. These are professional headphones and I’ve spent hours listening to various music through a Tascam mixing board, a good headphone amp, and also through my iPad, but I can’t find a flaw. Switching back and forth between other expensive high end headphones is like sticking your head underwater.
In conclusion, I can survive the weight and customize the ear cups with a razor blade, but I can’t live without that awesome audio experience. The Grado PS2000e is by far the best headphone I’ve ever listened to.