Grell OAE1 Headphones: Don't Buy If You're Unsure

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Vtory, Jul 5, 2024.

  1. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    I have these, and I think they sound real good. But the first post is right in that they bring the bass, but not so much the treble. Mids pretty good. Off the bat you will likely be underwhelmed, but after you listen for a while I think you'll appreciate what these can bring to the table.

    The treble isn't muffled or weird (like the Grado Hemp), its just not very resolving - not much "sparkle" as another noted. But this also means its an easy listen, minimal harshness. And it also means that songs that sound terrible on "sparkly" headphones will likely sound fine on this one. Probably easier described as the "Sennheiser veil" of days yore is alive and well in this model.

    Soundstage is not as wide as some other headphones but has surprising depth and is 3-d sounding.

    I also have the RS1x, and they are very complementary. The OAE1 honestly does most stuff excellent, but when I want the pure resolution instead of thickness and depth I use the RS1x.

    The best thing about these is they sound great on pretty much all content. I found that they are best at electronic, pop, and jazz genres and songs with a lot of stereo separation. I prefer the RS1x for vocals/metal to get the extra resolution/air.

    TLDR; if you wish they came out with an HD650 that had more bass and a bigger soundstage, you'll probably love these


    tested on project polaris amp, pro-ject pre box s2 digital '23 edition DAC
     
  2. gxleetw

    gxleetw New

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    I too also went through the same journey of immensely underwhelmed at first, followed by making position adjustments for hours, before finding a place on my head to make it sound the best in the relatively sense. However I still in the end decided to send it back due to tonality issue, since it doesn’t pass my acid test of piano reproduction. It simply sounded off, presumably due to said “voicing” characteristics. In comparison, my humble 6xx and Shure 1540 render much refined and relatively accurate reproduction.
     
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  3. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    You've got a fair lot of excellent gear in the signature, were you using the Kara to power the OAE1? Curious to know what sort of upstream works best for these; something tells me the usual suspects for biodynas may need not apply.

    ********
    If anyone who owns an OAE1 also happens to own something like a Dayton measurement mic, I'd be curious to see how response changes when measuring directly on-axis relative to the diaphragm and off-axis. That'd be a free-air measurement I guess since it'll be difficult to get on-axis response with any firmer coupling. Curious whether that'd be any more representative of how things might sound in the upper registers.

    EDIT: I'm dumb, measurement mics are omni so direction won't matter as much. Duh.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2024
  4. gxleetw

    gxleetw New

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    I was using all combinations of my possession - Kara, Magni piety, Magni heresy, and TEAC UD501 loaned from my friend with upstream being either Yggdrasil LIM/OG, Modi3+, TEAC 501, or my Linn spinner.

    Despite the known character of each component , the said issue was universal to my ears although OAE-1 can be enjoyable with some materials.

    ——————————
    (NVM. Ishcabible already did that)
    My systems were mostly for two channel listening. It would be great to hear direct report comparing how OAE performs with lesser and higher caliber amps.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 8, 2024
  5. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    Not the guy you responded to, but I can say these do require some decent power despite their published sensitivity ratings seeming to indicate otherwise. The 100mv @ 32ohm of the pre box s2's integrated HP jack was not enough to drive these well, even though it does okay with my grado rs1x. With Project Polaris, low gain without input attenuation and 0.1ohm output impedance seems the ideal setting for the OAE1; on the other hand, low gain with input attenuation in-line again while fine for the rs1x was not quite enough power to be optimal for the OAE1. The FiiO KA11 had enough power to drive the OAE1 but the dynamics, bass, soundstage, and treble aren't as good as Project Polaris - so even KA11 with its powerful (for an ultra-portable DAC) integrated amp can't quite hack it as well as a desktop amp.

    In terms of sound signature, even with a delta sigma DAC and solid state amp, the OAE1 are both warm and thick with big soundstage and powerful bass. So I imagine any of the typical components that would increase thickness or warmth significantly that people use to add euphonic color would make the OAE1 sound worse/syrupy. A more neutral component chain would likely be best for this headphone, which TBH is refreshing after the equipment dance I had to do with the HD800. I guess this sort of sets up a catch 22 for the OAE1, though, because often when people upgrade to a more powerful amp which the OAE1 benefits from, they also elect amp/dac equipment with more euphonic warmth/thickness color and higher output impedance - which would greatly play against the OAE1's stock sound profile.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 9, 2024
  6. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    Headband material is whack, tuning is jacked-up - treble whackery - spatial presentation is actually enjoyable for me when I want that specific tuning. Low volume chill-out/drop-out/tune-in is the mood. The treble dip creates a hallway effect that - combined with the full-system design (driver placement/materials choices/'room') creates the intended effect while somewhat maintaining an overall natural timbe & experience. You are constantly reminded of the treble issue with most non-electronic music.

    TL/DR- Good for a party trick. Movie Theater / Gaming / Strange Consumer tuning. I like the timbre through most places. Resolution is sub HD600 level.
     
  7. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Think it's worth the $350 MSRP with respect to resolution, might be more palatable if someone ends up prioritising (competitive?) gaming and movies over music? IIRC this is the general price point that the Meze 99 Classics occupied and I wasn't much a fan of those, though I could easily see why lots of folks were really into them. Haven't yet gotten ears on the 109 Pros to compare but that seems to be a higher price tier.
     
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  8. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    It depends what your gaming priorities are. Some people want the "footsteps" frequency range emphasized so they can score higher on fps games; I am not sure these would be great in those regard. For an immersive gaming experience though, these would be good for that.

    Very simply and summarily, this is a headphone to buy for games, movies, or music - if you like the more relaxed style of sound of the HD6xx lineup but wished that style of headphone had a bigger soundstage and more bass. It's the biggest soundstage I've heard from a headphone with both 1) large amounts of bass, and 2) more relaxed treble that works on all content at loud volumes without fatigue/discomfort - even when powered via a neutral solid state amp.

    I think that's really the big thing this headphone offers. Ability to render 100% of content without running into anything that sounds shrill or thin, but maintaining a huge soundstage in the process. If you don't fuss much about soundstage, there are better options. Personally, I can't stand small soundstage headphones, so this was a great addition to my setup.

    BTW, rumor has it the next run of this (non-"signature") may have price increased to $400.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 11, 2024
  9. Wilewarer

    Wilewarer Almost "Made"

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    Just from the graphs here, I feel like the contrast to the HD800 goes beyond just smashing the 6k peak. The HD800 has significant low rolloff, is pretty level to maybe 1.5k, gradually slopes down into a dip bottoming out around 4k, sweeps back into the 6k spike we all know and maybe don't love, and then has another peak or two beyond that before we get into "inaudible to human adult" frequencies.

    This thing has a super bass boost (all the way up to like 400Hz or a bit past!), then is level to about 2k, gradually slopes UP to have a peak around 4k, then a big dip around 6k, and maybe another dip or two before the end.

    I don't know that it's -exactly- an inverse HD800 (how would that even work with compensations?), but... it sure seems to be making the opposite tuning decision at a lot of key points.
     
  10. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    That CSD chart with an utterly even decay and a comment they are "dry" suggests to me they have very little in common except sharing the same father.
     
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  11. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    I believe the LCD-2 Closed have a similar film cap filter.
     
  12. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    Personally for the styles of music I primarily listen to (not all electronic genres, but the majority of tracks often has at least some electronic component) I like the OAE1 much more than the HD800/HD800S/HD820 which I owned for some time at one point or another. The OAE1 are super different, the only thing in common is both attempt a big soundstage in different ways. Importantly also, the OAE1 works on every single track and any type of adequately-powered amp without pain, heh; although I heard if you underpower the OAE1 or use it with a super high output impedance amp it sounds quite bad.
     
  13. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Following up from OP.

    After nearly two weeks of use, I've decided to return OAE1. Despite my best efforts to appreciate them, several issues led to this decision.

    1. Fit: The most crucial factor in my decision. From day one, the OAE1 presented persistent fit problems that haven't improved over time. I believe the headphones are designed for smaller heads than mine. To continue using them, I'd need to modify the headband irreversibly, likely voiding the warranty and return policy.
    2. Bio-cellulose Drivers: I'm generally not a fan of bio-dynamic drivers, with few exceptions. While they often excel in midrange quality that this community favors, My ears typically fail to hear airiness, crispness, and high-end-ish qualities I love. Given my satisfaction with other driver materials (graphene, metal-ceramic composite) in lower-priced models, I suspect this is a driver-related issue rather than the "tier" of the product. Unfortunately, the OAE1's sound signature aligns with this pattern.
    3. Treble Tuning: As discussed earlier, the final production tuning appears to have tamed the upper treble with a notch filter. Initially, I didn't perceive any negative effects, but extended listening across various genres revealed that certain audio cues (e.g., saxophone overtones, organ and piano presence) were far less prominent compared to other headphones I tested (i.e., O2, RS2x), especially in tracks I believe less processed. While this might not be a critical flaw for headphones in this price range, the combination of #2 and #3 created a negative synergy that made me seriously reconsider OAE1's sonic merits, especially given the definite fit issues.

    As a final comparison, I briefly switched from the OAE1 to the Susvara (my usual go-to when I look after spatiality). The immediate difference in soundstage depth (relative to width) and more in-head localization was more striking than anticipated, indicating structural benefits of front-located drivers. Nonetheless, Susvara's superior reproduction of spatial factors, combined with its excellent ergonomics, resolution, dynamics, and tonality, further questioned the expected head time of OAE1 if I keep.

    In conclusion, while the OAE1 have their own merits and pretty well balanced for such an experimental design, the combination of fit issues and sonic characteristics that don't align with my preferences led to my decision to return them. But I strongly wish OAE1 sparks insights and idea for other headphone designers so that we can see more this style product on the market with better maturity.
     
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  14. Dzerh

    Dzerh Friend

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    I'll keep mine.
    For me ergonomic is not the best, still OK, - I can easy spent half of day in these. On some tracks I wish tremble would be more "piercing".
    In general, my experience with OAE1 pretty much mirrors @Ruined 's one.
     
  15. Robson

    Robson New

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    I haven't posted any impressions until now because I feel fundamentally conflicted with the Grell.


    It's both disappointing and intriguing at the same time. I'm disappointed with its ergonomics, and with its fundamental inability to do a good job resolving detail much of the time. It's just OK in resolution. It's also weirdly dark and bright at the same time, and while there is pretty deep bass it's kind of flabby and definitely lacks in definition. But occasionally it sounds simply fantastic (maybe 15% of the time), and its headstage is very interesting.


    Recording quality and genre also make a difference... I tried some Bach piano sonatas with Glenn Gould, I also didn't think the piano sounded right. It has sounded good with electronic music and some current Reggae, but not so good with some older rock recordings. I feel like the Grells sound pretty great 15-20% of the time, just OK maybe 50%, and not good or worse about 30% of the time, IDK... YMMV and all that.


    It needs a good deal of power, and positioning on the head is crucial. I've yet to dive into EQ'ing with it, so I've been using it as is. It was also an oddly disorienting listen at first, I felt like it sounded out of phase or had too much cross-feed applied. I checked both, and used my trusty Stereophile test CD rip to make sure all was set correctly, and it was. It takes some "brain burn it" to adjust to it I think.


    From what I've read trying to use this with a dac/dongle will result in disappointment, and even a 1W amp is most likely not enough. I've used it with mostly the Flux FA-10 Limited, and to a lesser extent the Nitsch Pietus Maximus, and while it sounds good on both I think the Flux is a better pairing as it more resolving, and has a bit more treble forward tuning.


    The Pietus Maximus is also a very good match, it does help bring up the mids on the Grell and has a very pleasing tonal balance overall.


    I also had connector issues at first in spite of all the warnings about it! Push to click really applies here!


    I only briefly tried the Grell on the DSHA-3, as I just got a 4.4 to 4 pin XLR adapter. While the OAE1 sounds marginally best on this amp, I don't feel the headphone "scales" enough to really make a lot of difference what amp (or DAC) you use beyond a certain point. I generally prefer a multibit/R2R type of DAC, and something like a Modi Multibit or Bifrost 2 paired with an equivalent amp should sound fine with it, among many others.


    TLDR;


    The Grell OAE-1 is a worthy effort, and I appreciate the thought and design put into it. I think it looks good, and is of pretty high quality for its price. I definitely would want to see more extension for the arms, and less clamp pressure. The overall look and package is very nice, though the SE cable is a disappointment. From the product description it sounds like both cable are comparable in materials and construction, but they are not. The balanced cable is clearly of higher quality.


    Would I recommend the Grell OAE-1? Probably not, as it currently is. If someone is looking at this vs a Sennheiser 600/650/6xx, I think those are a better choice. What they do well, they do much better than the Grell. Yes, the Grell has better bass, and a much bigger/wider soundstage, but tonally it sounds off. The HD 600 series have a much more realistic presentation of what the music sounds like than the Grell.


    I will also mention the DCA/Drop Aeon RT/X line as possible alternatives, which when on sale would be close(ish) in price to the Grell. Again, they are more resolving, and have a more musically realistic sound (to me anyway) than the Grell.


    I will probably keep mine anyway, as it is an interesting design. The only other "ear speakers" I know of are the Raal and the MySphere, but I've not heard either. But I'm still undecided...


    What I'd like to see in an OAE-2: bigger cups, more extension and less clamp pressure, a more resolving driver, and a smoother, less wonky tuning. I kind of view the current OAE-1 as a late beta, or a late release-candidate if it were software. Almost there, but not quite!
     
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