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Apex of Articulation
on January 23, 2014
I am very happy with this purchase, despite the fact that the expense of the RS-1i is beyond my comfort level. I feel there's two kinds of luxury product: one where all the "luxury" is in the initial design, and the actual product can be stamped out in mass production. I'm wary of overpaying for that type of luxury. Then there's luxury in a product that emerges from the time spent by skilled artisans on the individual product that I'm buying. If my tastes align with the artisan, then the luxury can, despite a high price, still be an "excellent value." That is the Grado RS-1i for me.
The tangible nods to "luxury" are the air chambers of mahogany, but the expense (for Grado) is really in the time they spend "curing" the wood to achieve the sound they want. There's no shortcut to that time.
The result is that these headphones are able to deliver a crisp treble when the cymbal clashes at the same time that you hear the lyrics perfectly while still being able to follow the bass as it dips down low. That ability to articulate the entire audio spectrum simultaneously is difficult, rare and yet achieved by this Grado.
My set came with an extension cable (Concert DVD listening!) and the adaptor from 1/4 inch to mini-plug (iPod, yay). These phones are lightweight, but not loose; comfortable enough where it touches you without feeling "silky." The ergonomics are thus good but not out-of-the-park -- except for mahogany, of course. As for sound...
Quadrophenia, The Who: Frankly, I usually let Entwhistle's bass move underneath my conscious listening, sharklike, dangerous and often murky. Not with the RS-1i. That shark has teeth and a flash of quicksilver fin that I now perceive, no matter how deep below me.
Captain Jim's Drunken Dream, James Taylor: Crisp mandolins, beautiful voices so clearly defined that I could hear where each rose and dipped instead of just sensing that it was "pretty."
Sorry-Grateful, Timothy Nolan: This male vocal with piano accompaniment rendition was as lovely as could be hoped, and yielded two unexpected tests: precise soundstage as Nolan slightly moved position relative to the mics, and lack of "chestiness" in the male voice (as Julian Hirsch used to say).
Don't Get Around Much Anymore, Harry Connick, Jr. Hadn't listened to this track in quite a while, and got so caught up in the opening solo voice and piano that I boosted volume and quite forgot about the big band waiting for its moment. When the horns bit in I jumped - but did NOT wince. Normally, at that volume with other phones, including the Grado SR-80 I own, I would have winced. But with the RS-1i all the sonic bite was "natural" to the horns, no added distortion. Wow.
Debussy: La Cathedrale Engloutlie, Erich Kunzel: Cincinnati Pops Orchestra (on Telarc): OK, here's where a headphone is a headphone and not a subwoofer. The dwarf-king-low pedal note of the organ is heard clearly, but can't be felt in the gut, of course. Crucially, it did not interfere with the clarity of the notes above it. A thought: long ago I read that the ultimate listening experience configuration consists of quality headphones AND a subwoofer playing at once. With open-air phones like these, that scenario makes sense (once the family is out of the house. Go run some chores, family!)