It’s an open, airy sound signature with a very articulate and smooth bass response. I actually find it to provide just the right amount of thump without becoming too overbearing. I think that by and large, Grado really gets it right with the low end. It’s clear and detailed, and has a lot of nice texture. You’re able to pick apart individual notes but also enjoy it as a whole.
I found the 500e to be more revealing than I was expecting. The entire e-series line of Grado headphones are very similar, but both the GS1000e and PS500e are the two that stood out as being slightly better than the rest as far as sound goes. It’s not a big difference, but it’s apparent after some time spent with them.
Of course, like all Grado’s, there is a sibilant nature to them, and I found that 2 notches below max volume sounds just right on my Samsung Galaxy S5. 1 notch below is tolerable, but pushed to the max will result in some rather grating areas at times. What does sibilant mean?
What I really like about these is how clear and articulate they sound. At the beginning of the song “FHKD” by Honne, there’s a conversation going on, or more accurately, some guy is just babbling about God knows what. I’ve always tried to make out what he’s saying, but couldn’t. With the PS500e, I was able to discern a couple of his words (he says “Gathering teeth”). I thought that was cool considering he’s not that loud, but the 500e’s give his voice some depth and spaciousness.
That said, the same weird peak (found on other Grado’s) between 2 and 3k is apparent, and is the primary reason these headphones can come across harsh and metallic at times.
As far as build, the 500e feels pretty solid, but doesn’t have a lot of heft and that’s okay. The cups don’t feel cheap, and the headphone is light enough for the lack of headband padding not to matter much.
The cable isn’t detachable, and I find it to be too bulky and heavy for any sort of practical use. The headphone definitely isn’t portable, but even in studio it can be a bit cumbersome due to that industrial looking chord. The headphones terminate in a 3.5mm jack, but it’s too thick for me to plug into my phone without taking the case off (I have an otter box). This is an ongoing issue with Grado’s, and I don’t understand it.
Comfort is a mixed bag. On one hand, the headphones are extremely light and have a fairly good weight distribution. On the other hand, The L-cushions kind of expose your ear to the hard surface that blocks the driver, and it can become rather uncomfortable over time. There is a trick that I found works in a similar way to the Grado GS1000e. Learn more:Grado GS1000e Review. Slide the headphones forward so the back of the ear-cup is touching the back of your ear lobe. Then push the headphones down so the top of the ear-cup is touching hte top of your ear lobe. This method will result in a rather good fit, and lasts much longer without pain.
Sometimes sibilant due to the 2k bump plus the bright treble.
Courtesy of Zeos. 🙂
Because these are very efficient and have a low impedance, an amp isn’t required. I find that my Schiit Magni/Modi provides so much power that I’m not even able to turn the dial up past even 9 o’clock. How to choose a headphone amp!
A tube amp will likely tame that treble as Z Reviews points out, but it’s not worth it if all you’re going to do is turn around and spend more money to rectify a problem that can simply be avoided. Tube Amp vs. Solid State.
Who these headphones benefit?
They will do well with most genres, but will not provide the slam needed for EDM, though I found them pretty adequate in the bass department.
I liked them with:
The Grado PS500e provides some nice detail and texture with a great low end response and plenty of clarity. The mid-range and somewhat harsh treble hold it back from being a worthy recommendation, and the frustrating cable is likely to cause headache. Comfort and build are also questionable.
If you’re interested in this type of sound, the Grado SR80e will provide about 90-95% of this sound signature, at a fraction of the price. Though I do like the sound of the 500e for the most part, I can’t justify it’s cost when there are glaring build and comfort issues. The 80e is a safe bet because it is more comfortable (due to the S cushions), and sounds just about the same.
My biggest issue with Grado headphones is the diminishing returns factor. As the price goes up, you’re getting a smaller and smaller increase in sound quality, while build and comfort remain exactly the same. Not okay in my book. However, the 80e is a nice introduction to the line, and I do recommend it. Interested in learning more about it?
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.