Grado GS3000X Review and Measurements: Don't You (Forget About Me)

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Feb 12, 2024.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Incidentally, this review will lean towards a stream of consciousness style. Currently, I'm in the process of recovering from COVID. Fortunately, I didn't face any respiratory complications; instead, I've been grappling with intense fatigue, necessitating lengthy naps lasting several hours each day. Feel free to pose any questions to maintain our usual conversational flow.

    IMG_1655.jpg

    Two summers back, at the Texas Audio Show, I found myself in the "high-end" room where an intriguing conversation caught my attention. A fellow attendee, deeply engrossed listening to music from the Schiit Folkvangr and Grado GS3000X system, exclaimed, "These headphones are truly exceptional, remarkably neutral." Now, I understand that for those familiar with Grado's signature sound, such a statement might raise eyebrows. However, the attendee seemed genuinely impressed, speaking with unwavering conviction.

    Being a devoted fan of Grado myself and entrusted with the Grado guide here, I couldn't help but share the initial skepticism many of you may feel. We all know that Grado headphones come with their own distinct characteristics, but the terms "neutral" and "Grado" (unless referring to the latest X series with the F-cush) aren't typically associated.

    Curiosity piqued, I had to experience it firsthand. There they were, the Grado GS3000X paired with the Schiit Folkvangr (still an outstanding amp) and the Schiit Bifrost 2/64 as the source (although in hindsight, I believe the LIM or MIB DACs might offer a better match and I intend to explore this later). My initial reaction? Simply put: "Wow!"

    Sure, there's a hint of midbass (to be expected and perfectly acceptable), the treble has a slight brightness (yet far from piercing or overly sibilant), but oh, the midrange—absolutely glorious! Technically speaking, it's impeccably flat, while subjectively, it's rich and inviting. Tonally, imagine a gentle U-curve—not quite a V, but a U, where the emphasis on midbass and highs gracefully yield to the lush mids without intruding.

    Now, you might wonder if I'm simply swept away by enthusiasm. Well, the only way to know for sure is to put it to the test. These are just preliminary measurements, as I wanted to gauge the response. I plan to conduct more thorough measurements later, including the usual array of tests (from frequency response to distortion analysis, attack and decay, CSDs, and more). But as you know, I'm not one to fixate solely on measurements—what truly matters are the subjective aspects. Measurements serve for academic understanding and, on occasion, to unravel the mysteries behind why things sound the way they do.


    Grado GS3000X
    Frequency Response
    upload_2024-2-12_19-23-42.png

    I have a confession to make: some fifteen or so years ago, I was the proud owner of a GS1000 headphone. It was one of those classic models from the past that I sold and later regretted, only to eventually forget about it. I ended up replacing it with a PS1000, hoping to find the same love, but it never quite lived up to my expectations. After the PS1000, Grados faded from my mind for many years.

    Now, enter the GS3000X. This headphone embodies everything I loved about the original GS1000: a focused mid-bass boost, precise mids, and outstanding clarity, particularly in the lower frequencies—arguably surpassing even the RS series. Its articulation rivals that of the esteemed Final Pro D8000, delivering a crispness and tightness in transient response that is immensely satisfying. A significant factor contributing to this performance is the hybrid cup design of the GS3000X. Unlike the limited edition HF-2, which featured metal exteriors and wooden interiors, this innovative design blends materials to achieve a tight transient response while adding a subtle woody resonance decay

    IMG_1653.jpg

    The GS3000X truly shines with its subdued U-shaped response. Moving past the lower-treble range, it offers a refined, almost understated mid-treble and beyond, evoking memories of the revamped RS-1X driver. (To my knowledge, the GS3000X is equipped with the larger 50mm Grado driver.)

     
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    Last edited: Mar 12, 2024
  2. TomNC

    TomNC Friend

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    IME, Grado headphones remain ones the closest to Sony R10 in terms of speed, immediacy, and sweet tonality. Hope the X versions tame the fatiguing characteristic often associated with previous Grado headphones.

    I am also interested in learning more about the GS1000X which is $800 lower in MSRP ($1195 vs $1995).
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2024
  3. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    ohhh... cocobolo... most favoritist wood ever (and would match my OG Auteurs). Can't wait to see the rest and a grado would really provide a different flavor in the stable...
     
  4. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    How quick on its feet is the driver, does it manage really busy and chaotic passages without falling on its feet? Would be curious to see burst decay on this one compared to other Grados and better references e.g. Senn/Audeze/Focal.

    The FR on this made me doubt it was a Grado even with the photos, but yeah I love a well done V/U-shaped response especially at lower level listening. Mainly how's headstage dimension and layering contrasts out of the big boy system, and how's it compare out of a more modest stack?

    Maybe wish bass would extend lower down but having tried out some decent nearfields in stores etc rolling off around 100Hz isn't.... terrible, but yeah might suck for Daniel Deluxe and similar?
     
  5. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    Still only good on the genres that the Grado excels at? Jazz/Rock/Vocals.
     
  6. HeyWaj10

    HeyWaj10 Almost "Made"

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    I really need to hear these, then. Emotionally, I'm really connected with Grado for a myriad of reasons. But I've struggled to truly love the RS series sonically. They have some incredible attributes, but the sum total just didn't do it for me in the end. Aside from the really high price of the GS3000X, they really spark my intrigue.
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Absolutely, the wood's fine grain against its deep, rich hue is undeniably visually stunning.

    QUOTE="YMO, post: 425048, member: 6068"]Still only good on the genres that the Grado excels at? Jazz/Rock/Vocals.[/QUOTE]

    Similar to other Grado headphones, the GS3000X boasts a fast transient response, in contrast to the slower transients of classic Sennheiser models like the HD600/HD650. Even during busy passages, it handles well unless pushed to very high sound pressure levels exceeding 90dB. The Sennheisers tend to hold up better at ear-splitting volumes. I'll gather burst attack and decay measurements later to provide a more comprehensive analysis.

    The GS3000X exhibits a finely crafted U-shaped response, notable for its accurate midrange. The soundstage is impressively expansive in width and comparable to the HD600/HD650s in depth. This differs significantly from the RS/SR supra-aural designs, largely due to the G cush big bowls which enhance comfort—many may prefer the circum-aural G bowls for this reason.

    In terms of bass, drawing a line down from the mids hits around 70Hz, which isn't bad at all. There's plenty of midbass presence, akin to the punch of a 6-inch nearfield speaker tuned for midbass emphasis.

    The GS series excels with classical music, thanks to its accurate mids without the crunchiness found in the RS or SR series. However, it may struggle with electronic music featuring deep low notes below 37Hz. Regarding the highs, the GS3000X is non-fatiguing, offering a tastefully balanced U-shaped response. The mid-treble and beyond have a mellow quality similar to the latest RS1X model.

    Let me see if I can get these on a limited loaner for select people with genuine interest. This is on loan to me.

    The GS3000X isn't fatiguing at all, as @Lyander said, a tastefully done U-shaped response. Mid-treble and up is actually mellow like the latest RS1X.

    Maybe a GS1000X as a more affordable general loaner?
     
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  8. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    I had GS2000x before, and it wasn't bad at all but still have the Grado biases. I think I got rid of mine when I started I try out other non-Grado headphones. To its benefit, the GS series is still light and comfortable to use. As usual need something good in the chain to make it "click."

    Something like BF2 > DNA Starlett would be a solid setup if someone being a baller for the GS3000x. I never use Grados for electronic music unless you don't want sub-bass.
     
  9. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    Oh yes @purr1n what makes the GS3000x special in a land of $2k+ headphones, including stuff from ZMF? $2k and you can't replace the cable
     
  10. goodvibes

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    I just heard a GS1000x and thought it more balanced than anything they've done at the price range as well. The PS500e (Grado fast done right) and GS2000E (full bodied Grado) will always have a soft spot in my heart and the GS1000x isn't better than those but it's not really worse either. Nice balance of attributes and comfort and less of the Grado 'presence', probably similar to what's described by the OP.
     
  11. Mikeyt

    Mikeyt New

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    Those are attributes that I also get with my Grado GH4, along with a beautiful midrange. I'd love to hear and compare to the higher end GS models someday.
     
  12. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    Is the U shape similar to the HE-4? Or less so?
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    The GS series offers a distinct level of articulation and tautness that I find not quite matched by ZMF headphones. While some ZMF models may boast faster performance, the Grado GS series possesses a subjective quality of "sudden stop" that is particularly satisfying. Additionally, the midrange, spanning from 500 to 4kHz, is exceptionally flat and accurate from a frequency perspective. Unlike many headphones with bumps at 1kHz, peaks at 3kHz, or recessions after 2kHz, the GS series maintains near-perfection in this regard. This is why I suggested including classical records in the mix, alongside the traditional genres like jazz and rock for which the SR/RS series are renowned.

    Now, let's turn to objective measurements. Take a look at the Cumulative Spectral Decay (CSD) below. While there may be some ringing at 5kHz and 7kHz, observe how rapidly the mids decay. It's a phenomenon I've seldom witnessed before.

    Grado GS3000X
    CSD
    upload_2024-2-14_12-51-33.png
    upload_2024-2-14_12-52-29.png

    So yes, I think the GS3000X has special qualities subjectively, backed up by objective measures. I can definitely see having this in my rotation.
     
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  14. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    No, the U-shaped response of the GS3000X differs from the HiFiMan HE-4. The main distinguishing factor is the absence of sizzle or unnatural highs, which is crucial.

    The HE4 exhibits a slight upper mid depression and a mid-treble peak just past 8kHz, whereas the GS3000X showcases a slight lower treble emphasis but mellows out in the mid-treble and beyond.

    GS3000X (GRN) -vs- HiFiMan HE4 (WHT)
    Frequency Response
    upload_2024-2-14_13-7-16.png

    Also the HE-4 has all sorts of weird resonances from being an entry level poorly damped ortho. The GS3000X (CSD) above is just up another league, or three.
    upload_2024-2-14_13-11-57.png
     
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  15. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    @Lyander:

    Grado GS3000X
    Attack and Decay Envelope from 10 Cycle Bursts
    upload_2024-2-14_13-38-54.png

    For the GS3000X, a setup like the Schiit Bifrost 2 paired with a DNA Starlett amplifier would indeed be a solid choice for those willing to invest. However, there may be concerns about the combination being too thick-sounding for the GS3000X, which tends to prefer a cleaner sound while maintaining smooth highs.

    To achieve this, you might want to consider pairing the DNA Starlett with a cleaner DAC like the MIB DAC, or alternatively, pairing the Schiit Bifrost 2 with an amplifier from Eddie Current (EC) to strike the right balance.

    ---

    Regarding driving the GS3000X, it's worth noting that it's super easy to drive, much like the GS1000 I owned before. Even with extremely modest DIY amplification setups like a CMOY or CHA44 on a breadboard (my setup in the late 2000s), the GS1000 could outperform Sennheisers that typically require better amplification to sound decent.

    With the GS3000X, it's capable of keeping up with the better dynamics in terms of resolution, microdetail, and microdynamics. However, achieving a significantly better sound often requires top-notch gear upstream, which is typical for Grado headphones.

    The Bifrost 64/2 with the Folkvangr powering the GS3000X was a stunning combination.
     
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  16. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    How about Sorkris2541 and Starlett then @purr1n?
     
  17. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Attacks other than the traditional Grado baseball bat to the face around 4800Hz kinda confirms your impressions so far I think-- they level out hella fast, pretty "crisp" in response and all that, but aren't harsh with how it's a bit rounded on the onset especially around the midrange.

    What the crud is that midrange decay, yeah that's wild. These aren't fully comparable since the measurement floor is 6dB lower for the Utopia (ONLY IF IT'S NOT TOO MUCH OF A BOTHER, would be curious to see how the GS3000x does with CSD floor at -36dB), but it's even faster than that????

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    That 500Hz decay is interesting. Seems to correlate with the spectrographs and CSDs, bit of a resonance play there, but not super fast (relatively speaking) like other wooden headphones, more drawn out and romanticised? That's cool. Your Utopia squiggles below just to carry that comparison forward, but yeah I don't see similar bounce in the decays for something like an Aeolus, so maybe it's something like the difference between a vibrato (Aeolus) and a tremolo (GS3000X)?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    EDIT: Wait sorry Marv I just want to confirm, are these the redone, non-borked measurements for the Aeolus? IIRC the original measurements you had up were of a faulty unit so you needed to redo; I'm hoping that these are the fixed ones, ergo "Aeolus 2". The Aeolus decays I grabbed from: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/zmf-aeolus-measurements.9802/
     
  18. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Here. Apples to apples.

    Focal Utopia
    upload_2024-2-14_20-22-26.png

    Grado GS3000X
    upload_2024-2-14_20-22-55.png

    A big part of it is just the simplicity of the Grado design. Small cup, big comfy foam bowl. There just isn't much sound reflecting and refracting about. The foam bowls probably absorb / let pass sound through instead of it bouncing back.
     
  19. NewEve

    NewEve aka: Empeiros Audio

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    @purr1n How do you like it compared to the ZMF Bokeh?
     
  20. M3NTAL

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    I hope all these reviews generate some cashflow for Grado and they pay it back with a SB-X model. (Super Best) - I'll keep buggin' about it until they finally hear us.

    I'm still playing around with Symphones drivers until I hear a Grado that changes my mind.

    HF-2 was my last Grado, for reference, but I have heard a few of the large metal and wood cup variants over the last few years. None of them have grabbed me emotionally. The HF-2 was the last one that I felt some kind of emotional connection to.

    I have a suspicion that the Hemp that I keep passing on isn't going to change my mind with the current crop of dynamic drivers out there.

    Do you have ETA O2 burst measurements? Could be neat to see what current supra aurals are bringing in the time / phase domains.

    Thank you for continuing to review these Marv. I didn't think SBAF would be back at Grados for some time.
     
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