Here at MajorHifi, we’re not-so-closeted fans of Grado headphones. So naturally we jumped at the chance to sit down with the Grado PS500e professional-series headphones for an in-depth review on these snazzy open-back headphones. But at $595, how do these babies stack up against other headphones? And where do they sit in Grado’s product lineup? Let’s check it out.
Grado PS500e Review
The Grado PS500e, like just about every other Grado headphone, comes with some bare-bones packaging and a minimum of accessories. In this case, the only accessory is a 1/4″ stereo adapter plug.
Popping the headphones on my head, they sit much like any other Grado headphone. The leather headband is comfortable, while the on-ear earpad isn’t for everyone. Even with my giant, protruding ears, this isn’t too uncomfortable, and more than sufficient for a marathon listening session.
Transducer Type: Dynamic
Operating Principle: Open Air
Frequency Response: 14 – 29,000 hz
SPL 1mW: 99.8 dB
Normal Impedance: 32 ohms
Driver Matched dB: .05 dB
As these specs show, the PS500e offers a wider-than-average frequency range, good volume (for an open-back headphone), a low impedance (so no need for an amp), and a driver with low, low distortion.
The PS500e exudes a deep and articulate low end with strong detail. There is a slight oomph to the bass, the impact being a little subdued but still noticeable. Control is good, helped along by the usual clarity and separation we see in an open-back design, leading to no bleeding in the lower frequencies.
Midrange sound on the PS500e offers an ear-melting level of fidelity, with vocals always coming through clean and precise. Indeed, the midrange on these headphones is phenomenal, and when paired with the natural airiness of the design, the sound borders on orgasmic.
Perhaps the weakest aspect of most Grado headphones is a tendency to lean bright. Nowhere is this more true than with the PS500e. While these headphones might only sound slightly bright, the crisp, sometimes-piercing sound comes at the expense of some high end detail – something I noticed detracting from select classical pieces.
For an open-back headphone, I expected these headphones to have a decent level of soundstage – and indeed they do. Obviously, this is thanks to the driver as well as the design, but clear sense of instrument placement and finer depth give me the impression that I’m listening in a cocoon of sound. The PS500e’s soundstage in one word? “G’damn.”
The only thing that suffers on the PS500e is a lilliputian amount of high-end detail. Overall, the headphone is marked by a fine attention to detail in the lows and mids, while offering copious amounts of space, as well as clarity. The well-defined and breathy sound is intoxicating, and we’re liable to forgive the missing details in the high end just because the rest of the frequency range sounds so freaking good.
As far as $600 headphones go, you’d be hard pressed to find a better sound. The $699 Audeze E-L8 might offer a deeper, more detailed low end at the expense of midrange and high end detail. The Audio Technica ATH-A2000z might offer a similar sound, but with more compression due to a closed-back design. Within the Grado lineup itself, the PS500e presents a noticeable upgrade in fidelity from the $295 SR325e – which utilizes the same aluminum housing, but carries much more distortion. Compared to the $495 RS2e and the $695 RS1e, the PS500e may not be as clean or revealing in the high end. All three headphones are about as bright as one another, but the Reference series adds a bit more clarity and separation to the equation, and comes across as pretty revealing with most sources. So if classical music is your preference, the RS2e or RS1e might offer a more agreeable sound, while the PS500e will excel at rock (especially metal!), hip-hop, EDM, and some acoustic stuff.
You can find these headphones for the best price at: