[Review] Beyer DT 880 vs. Grado SR 325 vs. Grado RS 2

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi and General Audio' started by mtl, Jan 12, 2004.

  1. mtl

    mtl

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    Beyer DT 880 vs. Grado SR 325 vs. Grado RS 2

    So, last Saturday I spent about three hours comparing three different headphones with loads of music, covering a wide range of different musical styles.
    Listening was done via a Myryad Z 372 and NAD C 542 as source and the usual headphone-sockets of NAD's C 350 and C 372.
    First impression was: Beyer and Grado products a different in a way that makes it almost impossible to compare them side by side. It's really a different concept.
    I started with the Beyer DT 880 – obviously the top of the range cans by Beyer.
    These are quite impressive headphones, especially if one takes into account the relatively modest price (well at least compared to the Grados in question...: the D 880 would be mine for about 173 £). They are pretty comfortable, relatively light (270 g) and they cover an impressive frequency response from 5-35K HZ with a nominal impedance of 250 Ohms. There's nothing they really do wrong and without the direct comparison to the Grados I'd probably have bought them right away. I couldn't really see the advantage of the single-sided coiled cable though.
    The music I started with was classical / orchestral – one of my favourite demo-discs: Holst's Planets (Jupiter and Uranus) with the Philharmonia and Gardiner. With this I wasn't sure if I'd ever warm up with the Grado sound. The Beyers were very well blended with perfectly integrated bass and treble, never too forward – though maybe a bit 'cloudy', laid back – whatever you want to call it. It's like sitting at the back of the hall, but not on a seat but between the rows on the floor.
    The RS 325 was rather “in the face†in direct comparison and the treble (trumpets!) was a bit too pronounced I thought. The midrange transparency was quite impressive though. Much more air and space between the different instruments – more slam at the bottom end (bass trombone!). The RS-2 had, of course, the same family sound – but was smoother (in fact rather sweet and silky) in the treble and the bass was far better integrated. It later showed with jazz especially (Patricia Barber, Night Club, Yellow Jackets, Blue Hats): The SR-325 seemed to have more quantity of bass than the RS-2 though quality-wise nothing really is added. The RS-2 just presents the bass with ease but without shouting at you: “hey, look at this deep, deep bass†(like the RS 325 does) – it's just there and sounds right. Transparency is stunning. Whereas the DT 880 creates a relatively compact picture (with the soundstage right between your ears - whereas the Grados seem to go beyond these) and sort of tends to blend the mix together, the Grados are by far superior when it comes to details within the mix. That was noticeable especially in baroque (Buxtehude, Membra Jesu Nostri with the Sixteen - Bach, St. John Passion, turba-choirs 16b & 16d, & soprano Aria “Zerfliesse†with the Gardiner forces) and classical chamber (Haydn, string quartet op. 33/6, andante with the Mosaiques). While listening to a drum-percussion intro to some big band piece with the Beyers I was wondering if some details actually were in the mix or just outside noise mixing with the music. With the Grados it was clearly a part of the music. Also the Grados seemed to be better in separating instrumental voices that sort of do sit quite close together sonically (like in the introduction of the finale in Mendelssohns violin concerto, here with Mullova and Gardiner). Yes, the Grados are more “aggressive†too (especially the SR 325) but if the DT 880 does nothing obviously wrong, the RS-2 does so many things obviously better (and it should, considering the price difference)...
    One thing I noticed with the treble of the DT 880 was strange btw. Although treble as such was relatively civilised when compared to the SR 325 it had the same tendency to overemphasise fricatives like or [z] when it came to female vocals. The RS-2 made this sound more natural. With pop / rock (Steely Dan, Rickie Lee Jones and Journey) the Grados anyway were the more involving phones. They seriously rocked though all in all the Grados are clearly the more analytical of the two phones.
    So, conclusion? Comparison between these three isn't really fair. The DT 880 is £ 173, the SR 325 (18-24 K HZ, 32 Ohms) is £ 287 and the RS 2 (14-28 K HZ, 32 Ohms) is £ 442. Comfort-wise the SR 325 felt a bit shaky on the head, the RS-2 was (light as it is) quite comfortable.
    1st dilemma: three hours with three headphones cannot tell you how you will feel in the long term with each of them.
    2nd dilemma: I could get the Alessandro MS Pro headphone imported from the States for 699 $ (£ 378 – including shipping!). The MS Pro is a tuned Grado RS 1 (!) which would cost me about £ 619 here in Switzerland... So I could get a RS 1 for less than a RS 2. Tempting.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2004
    mtl, Jan 12, 2004
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  2. mtl

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Thanks, mtl! I'm seriously considering the Beyerdynamic 880s, which I checked out last Saturday and liked. (I'd love to be able to consider the Grado RS-1 and -2, but they're unfortunately out of my price bracket). However, it's interesting to hear a fellow classical listener confirm the 880s' strengths (especially in relation to the price). Must have another listen and listen out for the things you picked up.
     
    tones, Jan 13, 2004
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  3. mtl

    cookiemonster

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    I thought the 880's sounded excellent with classical when i had them.
     
    cookiemonster, Jan 13, 2004
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  4. mtl

    PBirkett VTEC Addict

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    Your impressions of the DT880 are similar to mine. However, I did notice the occaisional sibilance with it, and I find it laid back to the point of boring over the longer term, with fairly weak bass slam compared to most other cans in its price class.

    I have not heard upper range Grado's but I've read much about them. The SR-325 is supposedly VERY bright, and can be fatiguing. The RS-1, although more expensive, will give back the missing bass that you felt was present in the SR-325, whilst retaining its silky smooth character.

    I'd recommend to you checking out the RS-1, and perhaps also stick the Senn HD650 and Sony MDR-CD3000 into the mix, as these are all capable cans.
     
    PBirkett, Jan 14, 2004
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  5. mtl

    mtl

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    Well, I think as soon as the US$ is falling again, I will order one of those MS Pro cans by Alessandro [www.alessandro-products.com/headphones.html ] - or, in other words, a Grado RS-1. I used to be a loyal client of my hifi-shop, but with price differences this huge I think I can justify my betrayal...
    Besides I still will have to buy my headphone amp from them (most likely the MF x-can v3 - unless Grado's own wooden box really does give significantly better results).
    BTW the positive side effect of my audition was that I was quite relieved when I got home and listened to my system again. Often you hear from people who notice the weaknesses of their systems after experiencing phones like the RS-2 because they heard things in the mix they've never heard before etc., etc.
    In fact I did not miss a thing at home – all the details were there, even the bass was not lacking any weight at all. Must be something like positive system-synergy. Anyway, I still do wonder why the N804 sometimes is accused of lacking deep bass (or maybe it pays that I did invest in some bass strong speaker cable?).
    Anyway, this explains why I'm usually pretty underwhelmed when listening to CDs in record shops on the average AKG or Sennheiser phones. I always could hear more details on my home system. With the MS Pros at least I will be able to hear the same amount of detail without disturbing the rest of the family...
     
    mtl, Jan 14, 2004
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