For the past three days, I have been locked inside the MajorHiFi review office with the Grado GH4. While my boss and coworkers attempt to batter the door down, I’ve been putting this headphone through the paces. Costing a fair-to-middling $550, the GH4 is the latest entry in Grado’s heritage lineup, utilizing Norwegian Pine for the driver housings. But how does this wood influence the sound? And how does this new Grado stack up against its siblings?
Grado GH4 Review
The GH4 comes in your usual Grado box. Inside, you get a pair of headphones, a 1/4” stereo adapter, and some nice literature about the Grado Family.
Once you break these headphones out, you’ll find the GH4 sporting a snazzy pine wood housing with a rich stain that enhances the natural grain. The headband uses black leather like most of the newer Grado models, and the headphones come with the standard L-Cush earpads that sit over-the-ear (or right on top of the ear, if you have giant elephant ears like me).
Cabling is a standard mid-range Grado affair, with their usual not-too-thin cable measuring a good 6 ft (1.8 m).
Frequency Range: 13-28,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms
Sound Pressure Level: 99.8 dB
In the Specs Department, the GH4 doesn’t look too crazy; it’s rocking a somewhat wider frequency range with a little extra emphasis in the highs and lows. Meanwhile, that low impedance of 32 ohms means these cans won’t require a ton of amplification, and should work well with a phone, computer, or personal music player. Sound pressure is also fairly accessible, with 99.8 decibels – if you can’t get adequate volume, seek professional medical attention.
The GH4 offers an energetic but accurate low end. With strong detail aplenty, this part of the frequency range exhibits excellent control with no bleed, compression, or distortion. However, despite this clean, articulate character, these lows still play host to a deep, full bass. In essence, this is a competent, contrasting low end with plenty of energy that lends itself well to any music tastes, while exhibiting a naturally warm sound that’s simply to die for.
Not quite forward-leaning, the midrange remains full to the point of bursting. The sound is present, but not so oppressive, offering plenty of detail and fidelity while remaining well-tempered and controlled. That being said, there’s some good tonal accuracy, and some good separation, too. Compared to other Grados, the GH4’s midrange bears a very strong resemblance to that of the RS2e, with just as much articulation while remaining just as clean.
The highs on the GH4 come across as slightly bright. There’s a certain vibrancy to notes in this part of the frequency range, but strings and vocals never become too shrill or grating. Instead, there’s a fine amount of detail up to a point, verging on sparkling. However, that detail seems to roll off at the highest parts of the high end, giving the impression of a slightly relaxed or clipped high end. That being said, strings and vocals still sound fantastic – they’re just missing a tiny iota of detail.
Beautiful. Forget the stock earpads. Spring for the larger G-Cush pads from Grado and prepare to kiss the sky. The larger pads really open up the soundstage a step further, adding some extra separation to an already-awesome headphone. But straight out of the box, the GH4 won’t disappoint you, either. This headphone offers realms of depth and space, breathing life into music and breaking down your very perception of reality in a heady, delicious, relentless torrent of auditory stimuli. Every little breath of a musician, or the plucking of a string. The shiver of a violinist’s bow, or the way s vocalist’s voice splinters with emotion. The GH4 doesn’t have soundstage that you will hear so much as feel.
The high end on the GH4 is the only weak point to the whole headphone. And it’s only weak when you stack this headphone up against the Grado RS2e (at a similar price of $495). While the GH4 has a robust, intoxicating and mesmerizing low end, the RS2e has the tiniest bit more detail in the highs. That’s it. That’s the big failing of the Grado GH4. And that may not seem like a big deal, but it kind feels like Grado got within a hair’s breadth of the perfect headphone.
The RS2e still beats out the GH4 in terms of all-day accuracy. But the GH4 is really the headphone you’ll want to listen to ALL DAY. Or in my case, all day every day.
Now my coworkers are almost through the office door. Luckily I’ve stacked some heavy Audeze cans in front of the door, so that should buy me enough time to finish this review…
With a robust warmth in the low end and stunning detail throughout, the GH4 is my new favorite headphone. Taking the separation and clarity that Grado is known for – and pairing it with rich Norwegian Pine for those lovely lows – the GH4 constitutes a stunning achievement in audio engineering.
For Audiophiles who want precision accuracy without those beautiful lows, though, my recommendation would have to go to the Grado RS2e. Despite sounding a little less fun, this Grado is still a slightly more accurate alternative.
If you’re on the hunt for a more dynamic sound signature, skip the GH4 and opt for the PS500e instead. At $595, this Grado uses an aluminum housing that imparts lower lows and higher highs to the sound, though it does so while skimping just a tiny bit on detail.
For an open back headphone with tons of soundstage and natural warmth, the GH4 stands out, besting any of the very best out there. Sennheiser HD660S? Bested. Hifiman Sundara? Bested. Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro? BESTED.
But you need to snatch up this rare gem while you can: Grado’s Heritage Series headphones are notoriously limited in production, and anyone who hears this sound is going to snatch one up, posthaste.
If a pine tree falls in the woods, and no one hears it through a Grado GH4, did it really make a sound? Who cares. You have more important questions to answer, like “Why didn’t you buy the GH4 in the first place?” At a fair $550, this headphone harbors heavenly hifi the likes of which I’ve never heard. Run (don’t walk) to your nearest Grado dealer and get this headphone before it’s gone forever. As for me? My fellow MajorHiFi reviewers can listen to the GH4 when they pry it from my cold, dead ears.
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