Grado RS2X Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Jan 15, 2022.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Of the latest "X" Grados, it's the RS2X maintains that maintains the classic John Grado sound. For those who are not aware, Grado has recently shaken things up significantly with their lineup. The SR225X and SR325X use the new flat F-pads which bring these models toward a more neutral sound while still maintaining that Grado twist with the upper mids. The RS1X is an evolution of the RS1E with the 50mm drivers which was already different enough (read review here). The Grado RS2X is old school John Grado. Lean, punchy, unabashed crunchy mids, emphasized in the upper registers more than the low. This also means that the RS2X works with the flat pads for those who prefer the voicing of the SR225X and SR325X (this is my preference). There are quite a few pad rolling options, so I'll cover some of them in a bit.

    The RS2X borrows bit from the RS1X with the wood cups. Instead of fusing three different woods, the RS2X sandwiches two woods, maple and hemp. I never had a chance to hear the special edition hemp, but this approach sound really nice. The effect is subtle and an actually an improvement in the wood coloration rather than different.

    RS2X (left) vs RS2r (right)
    5F4A0075 (Large).JPG

    The biggest surprise which caught me off guard was the improvement in resolution, plankton, microdynamics. I had to do a double take; but yes, after direct comparison, the RS2X is as good as the RS1E with respect to immediacy and expressiveness. It would seem that Grado has improved both the RS1X and RS2X over the prior E versions, with the RS2X receiving a greater incremental improvement. As such, the RS2X with the F-cushions has become one of my daily headphones.

    First, let's take a look at some frequency response measurements and compare.

    Grado RS2X (stock bowl pads)
    Frequency Response
    upload_2022-1-15_22-13-26.png

    Grado RS2X (stock bowl pads) GRN/RED -vs-
    Grado SR225e (prior generation with bowl pads) WHT
    Frequency Response
    upload_2022-1-15_22-57-13.png
    The RS2X with the stock bowl pads is the most classic "John Grado" sounding of the current X lineup.

    Grado RS2X (stock bowl pads) GRN/RED -vs-
    Grado RS1X (stock bowl pads) WHT
    Frequency Response
    upload_2022-1-15_23-9-33.png
     
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    And here is the RS2X with my preferred pads, the Grado F cushions. I don't think these are available yet. I borrow these from the SR225X. The downside with these pads is that headstage gets closed in compared to the bowl pads which have a more open and expansive headstage. The F pads will close in the headstage compared to the stock bowl pads, with the width being reduced more than the depth. Surprisingly, even with the F pads, I was still able to get decent depth. The RS1X and RS2X to a lesser extent will have a more expansive headstage compared to the models below it (SR325, SR225. etc). The F cushions do make the frequency response of the RS2X really nice - along the lines of the Grado HF3 with TTVJ Deluxe pads and not quite as dark or HD650ish as the RS2e with the TTVH pads.

    Grado RS2X (F flat pads) BLU/RED
    upload_2022-1-15_23-33-1.png
    Short of the Joe Grado HP1000 which uses similar F cushions, the RS2X with the F cushions is one of the most neutral Grados I've heard.

    I can hear soundstage (with speakers), but when it comes to headstage, I'm deaf (actually I really just don't care). However, if you want expansive headstage, the F pads may not be for you. It's going to be tradeoffs if because more open sounding pads will generally be brighter sounding. I would recommend the Geekria bowl pads. They look exactly like Grado bowl pads, but they deform a bit more. The result will be something between the F cushions and Grado bowls. Another method could be taped bowls like this, which brings up the lows a few db while maintaining the much of the more open sound of the bowls. I've also got some Shipibo pads which I will cover in another thread.

    Grado RS2X (F cush)
    CSDs
    FPC Grado RS2X F L.jpg
    FPC Grado RS2X F R.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2022
  3. TomNC

    TomNC Friend

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    The F cushions are available at https://4ourears.com/collections/headphone-cushions.

    I got the F cushions for my RS1i, but I don't like the combo; the bigger over-ear G cushions with some mod to create even greater space/less contact pressure for my ears remain a better option for the RS1i to my taste.
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Grado RS2X (F pads)
    Harmonic Distortion (D2-D4)
    upload_2022-1-16_21-26-1.png
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Yeah, the F cushions rest directly on the ear and may be be comfortable for many people. Some guys at work hated those pads.

    --

    Grado RS2X
    Impedance and Electrical Phase
    GRN = on ear
    YEL = free air
    upload_2022-1-16_21-42-16.png
     
  6. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    is it just me or does this seem more reactive to a seal? Don't think previous Grado measurements other than the 225X showed impedance bumps quite like that. Do these have less in the cups than e.g. the RS1X (smaller overall internal volume though)?

    EDIT: never mind, this is comparable behaviour to the RS2e and is less extreme than the SR325x. Interesting how much difference the relatively minute changes in design can make here.
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    SR225X, SR325X, and RS2X all seem to be about the same with respect to impedance behavior. Typically a free-air impedance peaking at 175-200 ohms and on ear around 100-ohms. SR225X has similar resonance frequency as RS2X at 75Hz. SR325 resonance frequency looks to be pushed low. Using the same pads, the SR325 is slightly bassier with marginally deeper bass extension.

    Note graphs below have different Y-axis scale.

    Grado SR225X
    Impedance and electrical phase (GRY)
    Free air (YEL) and On-ear (GRN)
    [​IMG]

    Grado SR325X
    Impedance and Electrical Phase.
    (GRN = on ear, YEL = free air)
    [​IMG]


    Now the RS1X with its 50mm driver is much different. Impedance peak is about 115 ohms with free air and 85 ohms on ear. It's more inherently damped. I also suspect a stronger magnet too.

    Grado RS1X
    Impedance and Electrical Phase
    (YEL = free air, GRN = on ear)
    [​IMG]


    ---


    Now it's time for me to make an Grado guide that covers SR225X, SR325X, RS2X, and RS1X. BTW, Shipibo pads review coming up.
     
  8. Grattle

    Grattle Friend

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    This is probably my next purchase. I believe that the general consensus on the RS2 has always been that it's the sweet spot in the mid-upper tier. Many preferred the RS2e to any other Grados on the long lived Grado Appreciation thread (huge thread going way back) on Head-Fi.

    How does the bass response correlate with the FR measurements? I know you stated that they are neutral. I'm starting to lean toward better bass quality vs quantity, which is something I would have never even known existed before reading postings here. As a Tool fan since the early 90's, it's really rewarding to hear just how amazing Justin Chancellor is. I'm not sure you can appreciate his skill and range on just any setup. I've learned that part of what I thought was the lead guitar is really a seamless symbiosis of Justin's bass and Adam's lead. Very rewarding to have my love for Tool to grow in meaningful ways because of the ability to hear "better" through wise gear choices.

    Side note: Lurking here has been the most informative and rewarding experience for me. The diversity of opinions and well thought out posts and impressions are invaluable. I've been trying to hit a variety of sub-forums here and the information you can find in older posts is amazing. SBAF continues to be like a sweet Vidalia Onion. There is layer upon layer of knowledge from a wide variety of people who each have a unique take. The recent attention to Grado is a prime example. The open-mindedness and underlying expertise of many of the members is very refreshing. Thank you to one and all. I've learned so much since coming here.

    @purr1n, the Grado reviews you've been posting recently are very much appreciated.
     
  9. murphythecat

    murphythecat GRU-powered uniformed trumpkin

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    thx for the review and the measurements!

    On my pair, ive find the hd650 foam installed in front of the RS2x help a little for the brightness without removing details

    I personally just couldnt like the F pads enough with the RS2x: its uncomfortable. It did boost the bass drastically, but the sound becomes messy to my ears. soundstage gets crushed (lateral soundstage seem lost and all instruments come from almost the same "spots"). The F pads made me want to sell the RS2x but the Stock pads do need some bass boost eq to sound really balanced and neutral so yeah, tough compromise if one doesnt have access to good bass eq.

    Could you share measurements of the RS2x with the Bowl pads with electric tape and Shipibo pads?
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    In the queue. Tonight maybe. I've been busier than ever.

    The bass response correlates very well to perception. However, one aspect of bass quality isn't all that great, and that's distortion. This isn't a showstopper though. Grados as we go up the line have really nice articulation and crisp transients. The SR1a suffers from similar: even earlier bass rolloff, even higher distortion, but great articulation and tight transients. It's funny because measurements aren't everything and sometimes one aspect of reproduction is so good that we can live or not notice the no so good.

    The RS2 (i,e,x) or otherwise has always been the higher-end value favorite of Gradophiles - considered to be the most liveable (for those who felt most of the Grado lineup was too bright or too mid-aggressive). I think part of this could be that there's a heavier dose of of second harmonic up to 350Hz compared to RS1 or SR325. I don't have RS1i to confirm though. With the resolution and immediacy improvements of the RS2X to match prior RS1 iterations, I don't see a need to go to the RS1e/x unless one wanted something unique. (RS1x and RS2x will both remain in my stable).

    Anyway with respect to the RS2X, I did feel that it sounded less muddy and much clearer in the midbass and below compared to the RS2E (and all other Grados below it). Here is quick distortion comparison using the same F cushions for a proper apples to apples. We can see that the RS2X bass distortion is improved compared to the E. Third and fourth are slightly better, but let's concentrate on the second harmonic.

    RS2X F cushions
    Second harmonic
    upload_2022-1-17_10-31-37.png

    RS2E F cushions
    Second harmonic
    upload_2022-1-17_10-31-24.png

    Animated to better see relative improvement of RS2X to RS2E
    ezgif-2-08a7ad7d78.gif

    Here's the kicker: I bet the guys at Grado measured absolutely nothing. I am sure that they knew enough about certain engineering parameters to get a little bit more out of it, to do some things they that wanted to achieve. However, I'm absolutely certain their process involved pure subjective listening instead of looking at APx555 plots all day. And I think that's awesome and refreshing.

    Years ago, I went back in time and wrote about the HD650 (and by association the HD600), brought it back to worthwhile consideration. Why not Grados? It wasn't that long ago that it was either Grado or Sennheiser. People back then bought Grados and enjoyed their music from them. I understand that some people felt or eventually grew to feel that Grados were too bright, but there have always been tweaks for that which were never truly explored by the "reviewers".
     
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    Last edited: Jan 17, 2022
  11. Grattle

    Grattle Friend

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    The animated graph is a great addition. Much clearer than looking at the graphs individually. Love it.
     
  12. Philimon

    Philimon Friend

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    RS2x stock l-pad distortion and CSD please? For comparison to f-pad. Additionally for comparing stock vs stock RS2x vs RS1x.

    What is point of RS1x now?

    Guesses as to why Grado would put f-pads on 225x and 325x, but not RS2x? More expensive = older consumers = more hearing loss compensation?
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Will get those measurements later.

    RS1X still has improved technicalities over RS2X, although the gap is smaller. RS1X still has more interesting wood cup resonance effect because of its more complex three wood sandwich. The effect is more pronounced, probably because the cup is longer. Finally, RS1X has a more unique Grado sound which is slightly different. The mid-treble isn't as bright and one part of the upper mids is just slightly dialed down. This is why the flat pads do not work on the RS1X. I use the stock pads or sometimes the stock pads with the tape mod with the RS1X as the flat pads do not work.

    My guess is that F-pads were kind of an experiment, to draw in a different audience with their middle lineup. While the higher end Grado remains true to their distinctive sound.
     
  14. murphythecat

    murphythecat GRU-powered uniformed trumpkin

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    @purr1n : can you include the RS2x with the bowl pads modded with electric tape measurements?

    Many Thanks!!!!
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2022
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Grado RS2X
    CYN = taped bowls
    YEL = stock bowls
    upload_2022-1-21_19-15-11.png
     
  16. murphythecat

    murphythecat GRU-powered uniformed trumpkin

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    Not what was expecting! Taped pads with the RS2e boosted from 4khz to 6khz. On the RS2x i only see improvement: lower peak from 2 to 4 khz without any drawback. How is subjective impressions with taped bowl pads?

    i know i ask a lot, but is it possible to put in the same graph RS2e with stock pads and taped mod and superpose with RS2x with stock pads and taped mod pads.
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    CYN = RS2X taped bowls
    YEL = RS2X stock bowls
    VIO = RS2E taped bowls
    WHT = RS2E stock bowls

    upload_2022-1-22_9-24-47.png
     
  18. murphythecat

    murphythecat GRU-powered uniformed trumpkin

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    Do you feel the dip from 2 to 4khz beneficial or it darkens the presentation too much? Taped bowl pads with RS2x recommended or not?
     
  19. Philimon

    Philimon Friend

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    @murphythecat Tape mod is easy. Try it (i recommend electrical tape because its malleable). Then you tell us please. More data thx. I plan to buy an RS2x later but ime taped bowls is not as nice as ttvj deluxe or reversed bowls or some Geekria versions.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2022
  20. RedFuneral

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    Can you expand on what effect the wood cup resonances bring to the sound for those of us less familiar with wood? I'm interested in these both because & in spite of the wood having been using the Hifiman R10D which overdoes its colorations to the extreme. The timbral effect is cool but the slow transients & clipped treble not so much. Can woodies still do metallic sheen/sparkle? Keep up with fast music?
     

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