Review: Grado GS1000i Headphones


Grado Labs is a company that has a legendary status and a cult following in the audiophile world. To this end, the Grado GS1000i are what some believers might call the pinacle of the Grado tradition, keeping the core of their signature sound while evolving it with beautiful sophistication. Oh, and rich, rich mahogany.

In fact, the GS1000i's drivers have been described by some as “the finest electricity-to-sound transducer in the world.” We take these luxurious cans for a spin to see if they sound as gorgeous as their tropical hardwood enclosures look. Spoiler alert: They do.


The design of the Grado GS1000i follows the signature Grado design aesthetic that's seen across their line. The headband of the GS1000i is a very lightly padded leather band – beautifully stitched and pleasingly polished. The adjustment of the earcups features the same sliding friction mechanism as other full-sized headphones in Grado's lineup, which features a metal rod and a plastic brace. Similarly, the tilt mechanisms of the earcups is made from a high density plastic.

Thanks to this tension-based adjustment system, the headband height is essentially infinitely variable, so it's possible to get exactly the right fit. The tension system is also strong enough that your adjustments stay put as well.

Despite lots of familiar design cues – and even identical parts to some other in the Grado line – one of the most striking departures in the GS1000i is the use of specially cured mahogany bowls for the earcups, which add a distinctive, retro look to the earphones. If you're looking for sci-fi stylings, the Grado aren't your cans, but these Grado do have a beautiful flare that will definitely garner some attention.

Build Quality

For me, the build quality of the Grado GS1000i is mixed. On the one hand, the use of premium materials like mahogany and a light but nicely crafted leather headband are a nice touch. The non-detachable cable for the headphones is a wholly sturdy thing that seems like it might feel quite at home connected to a leafblower or an industrial vacuum cleaner; it's thick, but also surprisingly supple. Despite the weight, it doesn't really affect the comfort of the headphones at all.

The elements that bring down the experience are the aforementioned uses of plastic in the headband adjustment anchors. In addition, the foam earcups, while extremely comfortable (to me), seem like they will inevitably need to be replaced and I can't help but wonder if a more durable and sleeker solution might have been able to render the same high level of comfort.

Personally, I'd prefer metal in these parts from a durability standpoint, but the use of plastic has an important consequence – lightness. Despite using solid wood for the driver housing, the Grado GS1000i are still extremely light on the head, which we'll discuss in the following exception.



Despite a somewhat intimidating appearance, the GS1000i are deceptively easy wearing. With relatively huge, 1.5″ thick foam pad, the Grado GS1000i are incredibly comfortable. As circumaural headphones, the pads completely encircle the ears, so there's zero pressure on your ears themselves. What minuscule pressure these headphones do exert (which is practically non-existant at that) is very evenly distributed to your head.

While the headband is not much more than a metal band enclosed in a leather band, nothing more substantial is really necessary due to the light weight of the headphones. Just as there's very little weight on the sides of the head, the GS1000i exert only a very minor pressure on the top of the head. There's no appreciable clamping pressure – these things just seem to float. So, despite any objections against the plastic used or the minimal headband, there can certainly be no arguing with the sublime comfort of these headphones.

Between the light weight, super comfortable pads balanced design, all this adds up to zero physical fatigue using the GS1000i.


The GS1000i come with a Grado 1/4″-to-1/8″ mini-plug adapter and an extra-long 15 foot extension cable. Both of these accessories feature the same very heavy-duty construction of the GS1000i's stock cable.


The Grado GS1000i, despite somewhat massively large earcups, are not hard to drive headphones. At 32ohms impedance, they do perfectly well using the low gain on the Ray Samuels Audio Predator – comfortable listening volumes for this setting are around 9 o'clock and 11 o'clock on the volume pot for me, depending on the recording.

For portable use – if one was so inclined to use the GS1000i in some quiet (they're open backed, after all) locale on the move, or perhaps just untethered from a computer or dedicated sound system, these Grado are just as easily driven by an iPhone or any similarly powered DAP.

When the GS1000i are amped, however, there does seem to be a nice but subtle extension to the bass, which creates a more substantial presentation overall.

Initial Impression

I've taken hold of the Grado GS1000i and PS500. Naturally, I had to defer to the rich mahogany. My first impression? These cans are smooth. There's a truly organic richness to these headphones that I am loving. While it sounds counter-intuitive, the subtlety of these headphones is striking. There's a cohesiveness to the sound – from the lows to the midrange to the highs – that makes for beautiful, beautiful sound reproduction.

Burn-in, shmurn-in. The GS1000i sound fantastic out of the box.

Sound Quality

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the sound quality of the Grado GS1000i is lushness. There's a gorgeous, warm and relaxed signature to these headphones that's striking. From the initial listening, the quality of the GS1000i is apparent.

First, the soundstage of the Grado GS1000i is immense. But, more importantly, the soundstage of the GS1000i simply feels right. Moreover, as open-back headphones, there's a beautiful air and naturalness to the GS1000i's sound that's not easily achieved by closed ‘phones. There's a laid back and liquid quality to the sound of the GS1000i, but at the same time also full of detail. Again, the sound comes across as very naturalistic.

While the Grado GS1000i don't have a truly visceral bass slam, the low end feels solidly grounded nonetheless. For most genres, the low end comes across beautifully and naturally, and with a satisfying speed. All that said, if you listen exclusively to dubstep, I can't say the GS1000i will punch in your eardrums in like a pair of say, Beats by Dre. The bass reproduction comes across as an emphasis in the mid-bass, which is supported by the GS1000i's frequency response graphs.

After putting the GS1000i through a period of burn-in, the midrange seems to open up a little in terms of clarity, and seemed to come forward in the presentation just a little more. Still, the sound matured into one that was fluid throughout.

Overall, the sound of the GS1000i comes across as effortless. Thanks to the massive soundstage afforded by the headphone design, vocals and acoustic treatments have a particularly appealing airiness while still possessing precision and intimacy. String instruments in particular sound rich and supremely detailed with these Grado cans – and, of course, precisely imaged.

One thing to note about these Grado's is that the position of the drivers in relation to one's ear can greatly vary the sound of the headphones. Of course this is true of all headphones, but I found the difference more noticeable with the GS1000i than with most other cans, due to the very large bowls.


Think of the GS1000i like a fine scotch or bourbon – these are headphones to savor. They offer so much depth and detail to even familiar music that it's easy to get lost exploring and relishing in the GS100i's expansive, lush signature sound.

While I have a few quibbles about the plastic elements used in the construction, the phenomenal comfort and sound quality of these cans make them a pleasure to use. The Grado GS1000i are a pair of headphones that are supremely designed for enjoyment. From their extremely lightweight and comfortable design to the smooth, naturalistic sound quality, they seem intended for extended use for hours on end without the slightest fatigue.

Overall, the way I would describe the Grado GS1000i's sound is that it's incredibly cohesive. There's an internal consistency that these headphones delivery that allows for an incredibly immersive listening experience that is perfect for extended use. You can plug in these cans, queue up a few of your favorite albums, and float away into sonic bliss.