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Grado PS2000e Headphones review – the 2017 £2,700 flagship

I tested the headphones today with a variety of FLAC and WAV files either in 16 bit or 24 bit format, via the Astell and Kern AK380 over optical to the Chord DAVE.

I also hooked in a Mac Pro desktop system over USB into the Chord DAVE and it worked flawlessly. It is important to note that due to the sensitivity of the Grado PS2000e it can pick up even faint line noise from even some great amplifiers. The PS2000e also can get loud very quickly so be careful with the volume control levels – especially if you are moving from other headphones such as Beyerdynamic or Sennheiser (300-600 Ohms).

Paul Simon – Rhythm Of The Saints (2011 Remaster) 24 bit 96kHz.

I was a big fan of the Paul Simon Graceland album, and I have heard it that many times that I decided to move onto his follow up album which didn’t seem to receive such critical acclaim. I actually ended up liking this album more and some of the arrangements are incredible. ‘You Can Call me Al’ – well yes Simon you can, but give me a break.

I played ‘The Coast’ from this album and The PS2000e exhibited great control over the low end, producing sub bass that enhanced the overall impact of the track. The mid range was slightly forward, yet very refined and smooth. The treble didn’t convey signs of an out of proportion, accentuated V shaped curve although there was plenty of detail around higher end frequencies. The GH2 seemed a little more neutral to my ears, although they didn’t bring out the same level of detail as the PS2000e. Soundstaging from the PS2000e is bigger than the GH2 with more ‘space’ around the instruments.

My overall feeling after listening to this track is that Grado have opted to extract quite a lot of detail from the drivers, but played via the Chord Dave, there was no sign of any harshness or sibilance which is sometimes indicative of a headphone created by a manufacturer to extract the highest level of details possible. The PS2000e tread the line well but if you have a highly detailed solid state system you may need to experiment with the configuration.

I decided to eliminate the Chord Dave from the mix just to see how the headphones sound direct from the Astell and Kern AK380 amplifier. I noticed that the mid range seemed more ‘forward’ and that a slight amount of bass and sub bass was removed from the mix. The Chord Dave also maintains great control over the upper register frequencies too. The PS2000e might be easy to drive, but adding in quality partnering equipment reap dividends.

Beth Hart – Fire On The Floor – 24 bit 44.1kHz.

This is a great album that never really hit the mainstream and Beth Hart is a vocalist you will either love or hate. Her gritty style of delivery embodies passion and fire. The track ‘Woman You’ve Been Dreaming of’ is beautifully recorded with her vocal positioned up front beside you and crystal clear in the mix.

Beth has mastered the technique of getting her voice to break just at the right time and the Grado PS1000e were able to beautifully portray her naked, emotionally fired vocal range. The GH2 are impressive with this track as well, but the PS2000e took the soundstage a level further – making it just as intimate, but wider – as if you could hear her voice decay into the distance.

I also didn’t notice the slight edge to her vocal in the mid range that was apparent with the GH2. The PS2000e deliver vocals in an exceptionally smooth way that is difficult to explain, but I have to stress that when I removed the Chord Dave from the mix, the emotional impact and soundstage was lessened.

Using a standard 3.5mm output from the Astell and Kern indicated just how good the headphones are – they don’t suddenly sound rubbish without the Chord Dave in the chain, but the soundstage, detail retrieval, smoothness in the high end – all drop a level without the Chord Dave DAC involved. Its tricky to explain, but the simple thing to say is this – If you can’t afford the Chord Dave then please do NOT get a demo. You will likely be auctioning your kidney on ebay to buy one.

The PS2000e bass response shows considerable heft – its not as visceral or ear pounding as the Abyss 1266 but I love the weight and sub bass response which is without question more refined and a step up from the previous PS1000 series.

Kiasmos – 24bit 44.1kHz.

I love this album and always use it as a test source for any new headphones or speakers I spend time with. I first tested with the track ‘looped’ – which is an ambient relaxing piece of electronic music which always finds my playlist in the evening. The PS2000E deliver a smooth, sultry sonic experience which is thoroughly enjoyable. This track sounds very alive with the HiFi Man HE1000 V2 and GH2 as well.

Sub bass response on the Grado PS2000E is first rate, and a significant improvement over the PS1000 which remain in my collection. The track ‘Dragged’ is another great showcase for sub bass and the PS2000e really delivers where the PS1000 falls down. The PS1000 had great response but I was never very impressed with the sub bass. The PS2000e maintain a very high level of composure, even when driven to ear shattering volumes.

William Orbit – My Oracle Lives Uptown – 24bit 44.1kHz.

This is a very well recorded electronic oriented album and a great showcase of headphone strengths and weaknesses. I played ‘Optical Illusion’ (Billy Buttons Mix) which features Maggie Reilly style vocals and a repeating, ambient riff to transport you into a relaxed state.

The GH2 headphones performed admirably with this track – showing a very clear neutral delivery. The PS2000E exhibited a similar, refined sound signature but with more headroom, clarity and detail in the high end. The sound stage also sounded wider from left to right with even some v axis extension. Sub bass response was similar, with the PS2000e bringing a little more weight from the lower registers. All in all, both GH2 and PS2000e impressed, but the PS2000e was bringing an extra level of detail from the recording. This was more noticeable when using the Chord Dave DAC.

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