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Grado PS1000 Headphones & Graham Slee Solo Super Ultra Linear Amp Review

The Grado PS1000 headphones are extremely comfortable, thanks to the design the company have implemented. The ear pieces dont make contact with the ear directly due to the shape of the foam pads. Like the GS1000’s headphone, they leak a lot of sound, and everyone in the vicinity will hear what you are listening to. Not ideal phones for commuting, thats for sure.

The PS1000 headphones are substantially heavier than the GS1000i, which makes them slightly less comfortable for long term use. The GS1000i become almost transparent when they are worn and you would be hard pressed to know if they are on or off. The PS1000 are heavy enough to make their presence known. I wouldn’t say they were uncomfortable, but with a 500g weight, they may prove hard to handle for some of the prospective audience.

The GS1000i’s are one of the finest phones I have heard to date, and while many audiophile users will argue that the Sennheiser HD800’s are a better all round product I really couldn’t disagree more. Music fidelity, beyond a certain point will be a very personal decision and there really is something incredibly special about Grado headphones. For me, anyway.

Initially, I found the PS1000 to be harsh and somewhat forceful, however having used many Grado headphones over the years, I knew that a long ‘bedding in’ period lay in front of me. Several weeks later the drivers were starting to relax and settle into their rhythm, which I have to say is extremely moving.

They excel with timing and delivering the essense of a great recording. Dynamically they are even better than the GS1000i’s which until recently I didn’t think was possible.

Once fully bedded in, the transparency is bewitching, they reveal subtle nuances in recordings which you might not even be aware are there in the first place. They have a sublime ability to resolve fine detail and present it perfectly within the overall soundstage. Bass impact is more pronounced than the GS1000i, and we thoroughly enjoyed Enigma‘s MCMXC a.d. from 1990. This recording is one of the better mainstream ‘pop’ releases and contains some of the most powerful low end bass frequencies we have experienced.

While a lesser headphone will distort and even skim across the surface of the bass line, the PS1000’s were able to resolve an almost infinite layer of impact from ‘Principles Of Lust’. At anything even approaching half volume on the Graham Slee Ultra Linear Amplifier we could feel every one of the bass lines rammed down into the cochlea … volume misuse could cause serious ear damage. Staggering presentation would be an understatement.

Shifting quickly to the GS1000i proved that the PS1000 phones were actually resolving more detail and impact from the lowest bass frequencies. We don’t often believe everything we read, so it is nice when you can experience the technical data in real world, musical terms.

Jeff Wayne’s remastered musical ‘War Of The Worlds’ was an extremely pleasurable experience, the presence of Richard Burton in the soundstage was incredible, his voice richly toned and delivered with all the necessary dramatic impact. Switching amplifiers to the excellent, yet budget Creek OBH11 was a good indication that the Ultra Linear was in fact doing a stellar job. The harshness of the recording was exposed, making it sound more ‘digital’ and much less’ vinyl’. Graham Slee has really worked wonders with this amplifier, of that I have no doubt. The treble is dynamic, yet smooth as silk, and not overly exposed as to dominate the frequencies, as is almost always the case with digital recordings.

Just as impressively, Mike Oldfield’s deluxe, remastered Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn were ultimately so impressive that I could imagine myself back in time to my teenage years, listening to the vinyl recordings on my valve amplifier. Abeit, without the annoying analogue hiss and cracklings from my slightly abused collection. The Grado PS1000’s are seemingly an almost perfect match for the Super Ultra Linear amplifier and I found myself actually enjoying the music, rather than tweaking the settings every 30 seconds.

Schubert‘s magical Piano Sonatas, beautifully played by Marta Deyanova again transported me to another time, when music meant something, rather than the modern day age of compressed, disposable digital downloads. The clarity and definition resolved from the system was breathtaking, yet I experienced none of the long term treble sibilance so normally associated with the medium. A warm, yet detailed undercurrent was carrying the music through the headphones, and I could feel the emotional impact of the recording in all its glory. Several hours of unadulterated enjoyment later I was finally able to move onto another of my favourite recordings.

Comparisons were able to be made with clear distinction between recordings of Bach’s Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin, by both Pavlo Beznosiuk and John Holloway. The baroque violin that is Holloway’s favoured instrument has a subtly different tone, and somewhat shows the traditional limitations of the conventional violin in repertiore. The dynamic impact and emotional tie of the passages were held firmly in place, and a full range of tones was able to transcend the normal limitations of a headphone environment.

Oxygene 7-13 by Jean Michel Jarre, the 20 bit mastered version was resolved with incredible detail, with Parts 8 and 10 exhibiting such control over the bass frequencies that I had to share the experiences with several friends. My excitement was heightened by the responses of the people who all couldn’t literally believe that dynamic delivery this passionate was possible from a simple compact disc.

With the Graham Slee Super Ultra Linear amplifier in the chain, the dynamics and musicality were presented with such a rich tapestry that it was often difficult to believe that a valve based amplifier was not somehow in the chain. Sure, we could distinguish a little more background noise from this specific amplifier, but it is a part of the charm and lends itself perfectly to recapturing a warmer presentation of the music. Even when I switched to my Beyerdynamic A1 headphone amplifier, I felt somewhat disappointed and this cost me £1,000 a few years ago.

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