Home Open Back Headphone Reviews Grado RS1e Review – Groundhog Day Again?!

Grado RS1e Review – Groundhog Day Again?!

by Stuart Charles Black
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Originally published 12/20/17.


  • 5/14/22. Article revisit.

Kalimera friend and Welcome aboard!!

Before we get into the Grado RS1e Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…

You’ve come to the right place!!

What I will bring you in this review

  1. Specs/Summary
  2. Build
  3. Comfort
  4. Sound
  5. Pros/Cons
  6. Amp/DAC requirements
  7. Who benefits?
  8. Thoughts from Stu’s Notepad
  9. Consensus/Conclusion
  10. Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!

Grado RS1e


  • Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay!
  • Type: Open back. Closed back vs. open back headphones
  • Fit: Supra Aural (On-Ear).
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm.
  • Sensitivity: 99.8 dB/mW.
  • Frequency response: 12 Hz – 30kHz.
  • Material: Mahogany, Foam, Leather.
  • Color: Brown and Black.


There is some truth to the notion that once you’ve heard one Grado, you’ve heard them all.

After doing a ton of these reviews, it’s starting to feel like beating a dead horse. My local Audio Advice has a plethora of Grado models (in the e series line), and I’ve tried them all on numerous occasions, with different sources.

Because all Grados are pretty efficient and have a low impedance, you’re not going to necessarily need an amp, but one can benefit.

I mostly tested out tracks from Spotify and YouTube. Be aware that these are revealing of source quality, so if the track sounds like poop, you’ll know.


First, we’ll talk about the build quality of these puppies.

The Mahogany is definitely something that will jump out at you immediately as it looks to be very unique – even more so than the previous models in the line.

The problem is that they’re all fundamentally the same. So the law of diminishing returns not only applies to sound but to construction as well.

They aren’t cheap per se, but the way they feel in your hand doesn’t exactly deter any doubts that they’ll break down in some way over time.

The hinges are basically sticks, and you slide a piece of plastic up and down to adjust the fit. Kind of awkward and not very solid in terms of quality considering there’s only a piece of plastic holding it together.

In one of Zeos’ reviews, he described the cable as essentially an extension cord. This is painfully accurate I’m afraid.

Even in the studio, the wiring of this thing is cumbersome, to say the least.

It always feels like it’s going to jerk out of something, and is also much too heavy for the headphones themselves!

This is an issue I’ve harped on in every Grado headphone review thus far, and it’s no different with regard to the RS1e.

When you’ve got a chord that overpowers the cans, there’s a problem. Also, the cable is not detachable and the jack is fairly bulky. It will not fit into a phone with a case.

My question at this point is why?

Why does Grado continue to make the same mistakes over and over and seemingly not care in the slightest?

As in the case of getting to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world… may never know.


Comfort is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the headphone is extremely light and there’s a nice weight distribution here.

On the other hand, the padding is almost useless, and there may as well not even be any.

Because your ear is pretty much exposed to the driver, the thin, hard surface piece that covers it will start to dig into your ear lobes, and it’s not pretty.

I found myself adjusting these way more than is necessary for a headphone in this price range.

This is now an issue spanning 3 headphones since the 125e used the S-cushions. The 225e, 325e, and now RS1e all utilize the L variety and they’re truly awful – even amongst die-hard Grado fans that I’ve talked with!

There are 3:

  1. S cushions. Found on the SR60e, 80e, and 125e.
  2. L cushions: Found on the RS1e, RS2e, 225e, and 325e.
  3. G cushions: Found on the GS1000e, 2000e, PS1000, and PS1000e.

Generally speaking, comfort on the S-cushions is average to slightly above average, on the L-cushions it’s horrible, and on the G-cushions, it’s above average to very good.

The same trick that works with the Gs also works with the Ls.

Slide the headphones forward until the back of the cup hits the back of your ear, and down until the top of the cup hits the top of your ear. So forward and down. This will ensure a pretty good comfort level for the maximum amount of time.


Again, it’s the typical Grado house sound: Great bass response, pretty good mid-range aside from that horrible 2kHz peak, bright/harsh treble.


The mid-range at around 2-3k spikes up by about 10dB before getting pretty peaky/sibilant at the top end. What does sibilant mean?

The problem with the mids, in general, is that they’ll start to sound really aggressive after you’ve been listening to the headphones for a while and it’s too much of a good thing.

You’ll likely be amazed at first, but in time may come to resent how forward and shouty they become. This has always been a point of contention and why many people don’t like the Grado house sound.


The treble is also quite peaky at around 8-10khz, and this is again why I generally don’t recommend any headphones in the line. There are some graphs that show a 15dB peak in these areas, and in my mind, it’s completely unacceptable.

Consider this: Normally when you spend many hours with headphones, your brain becomes acclimated to the new sound and you will likely come to accept it (love it, even!)

With Grado cans it’s the opposite – you’re amazed at first, but then start to realize how deeply flawed the tuning is and it makes for a really disappointing experience in many ways.


That said, the bass is very good, and that’s why I can’t completely dump on Grado products.

It’s extremely smooth, balanced, and has impact, but remains wonderfully articulate and textured. I love the fact that I can hear the bass notes individually rather than just feel them like you would in a typical bass head outfit.

That said, it’s still a very detailed headphone, even at lower volumes.

One other minor difference here is that Grado has now opted for a small mid-bass bump between 100-200Hz or thereabouts.

Fortunately, it isn’t overdone like your mom’s meatloaf so all is well.

All in all, the bass provides a nice kick without sounding out of line and you likely will really enjoy it.

Instrument Separation

Instrument separation is fantastic, and you’ll start to hear all the “extra” stuff that was previously lost. Extra voices, extra instruments, and needle-like precision due to the sound having room to breathe.

Not sure if it’s just me, but the bass also seemed a bit heavier than other models, which was also a positive. In comparing the RS1e to the GS1000e however, the sound appeared “raspier”, and was more Sibilant at higher volumes.

This may be due to the pad switch as I’ve generally found Grado models that utilize the L-cushions are definitely brighter and “scratchier” sounding than the others for lack of a better term.


  • Incredibly detailed, fast, and articulate overall sound.
  • Phenomenal bass response.
  • Great Soundstage. What is Soundstage?


  • Cable.
  • Comfort.
  • The build is iffy but not the worst in the world.
  • 2kHz peak
  • Treble spike

Amp/DAC requirements

At 32 Ohms Impedance and 99.8dB Sensitivity, Grado headphones don’t need an amp but could benefit from one.

Given how bulky the cable is, you may want to go ahead and invest in something like a K5 Pro to start. I was using a NAIM DAC V-1 at the time of this demo but also used my phone as well.

Because Grado headphones are typically brighter than average, I like an Amp that’s a little on the warmer side and I think the K5 Pro really fits the bill nicely.

Who benefits?

I like them with:

  • Classical
  • Jazz
  • Rock
  • Metal
  • Hip-Hop
  • Pop
  • Indie

and anything with crunchy guitars, like Chon. If you’re a metalhead, these will probably suit your fancy.

Thoughts from Stu’s notepad

Here are my jotted-down musings as I was listening.

  • Extra voices.
  • Instrument separation is good.
  • Needle-like precision.
  • Bass heavier than other models?
  • Revealing.
  • Sound has time to breathe.
  • Source important.
  • Raspier on my phone than the 1000e.
  • Sibilant at higher volumes.


The Grado RS1e is a fantastically revealing headphone, with great bass, above-average instrument separation, and excellent Soundstage.

The chord is cumbersome, comfort is below average, and the build is questionable but not quite a deal-breaker.

The 2kHz peak as well as the overly bright treble hold this one back from being worth a purchase in my mind, but your mileage may vary.

Final Word

As always, if you want to see what all the fuss is about, try a 60e and see if you like it.

It provides roughly 95% of what these headphones are about and proves to be a great introduction to Grado’s house sound.

Interested in learning more about them?


Well, that’s about it for today folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Grado RS1e review and came away with some valuable insight.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

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Do you have any experience with these? I’d love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,





Be sure to check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

Grado RS1e









  • Crisp, open sound
  • Good Bass


  • Treble hiss and sibilance
  • Mid-Range Issue @ 2k
  • Comfort is awful

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