Grado makes a wide range of headphones, the PS500e is in their professional series line hence the PS. They are open back reference style headphones that offer the listener a flat response through the core frequencies with roll off in the bass and sub bass range. The lack of bass is somewhat to be expected in an open back design as few are very bassy units. The design is that of a classic headphone with no real embellishments or in your face details. They use a round metal bar on each side to adjust the size that also allow them to pivot along that axis. The Grado PS500e’s will run you around 600 dollars U.S., let’s discuss if you should spend the cash.
PS500e First Impressions
The PS500e’s as mentioned are not flashy headphones, they are relatively small compared to many audiophile headphones and quite lightweight. The build quality to could be a bit better though for the price. One thing I would like to see for 600 dollars would be removable cables. Even if you are not someone who thinks cables make a difference, you may simply want a longer or shorter cable, or perhaps a different connection type. If you want to change anything about the cable you need to open them up and solder on something else, not a task that most people will be up to with their new 600 dollar headphones. I would have also liked to see a bit of padding on the head band, though they are not uncomfortable it may be a nice touch.
The foam ear pads are very soft and quite pleasant on the ears. They conform nicely to the shape of you ear which is important being an on ear style headphone. I normally am not a fan of on ear due to be a glasses wearer, many of them push your ear into the arm of your glasses getting uncomfortable for longer listening. The Soft foam was gentler and the headband fit me well, meaning much less pressure than I felt with others in the past. One thing to note about the fit is there is almost no tilt in the cans themselves so they have fewer fit options than headphones with more pivot points. On the other hand that is one less place to for them to get fatigued and break. Like all headphones I recommend you try them on as no matter how good they sound if they don’t fit well you won’t listen to them.
The PS500e fall into the reference category or perhaps that is what they most closely sound like. They are not quite as flat as some truly dedicated reference sets but they certainly are much more flat than many DJ cans or lifestyle headphones. I listened to them for a week or so straight out of my MacBook Pro and Iphone 11 Pro to get a feel for how they sound on their own, without an amp or external DAC. I have to say I was not wowed by them right away. They sounded good but a bit dark. While they are easy to drive, so no need for a massive amp, they deserve and benefit from a quality DAC. We are also reviewing the iFi Pro iDSD so that is what we used for our DAC. They really shine when you give them a proper source. If you are spending this kind of money on headphones you should be complimenting them with a quality DAC/amp. I do not want to seem as though I thought they sounded poorly on their own, you can just tell they have so much more to offer.
I spent another week listening too all different types of music for about 8 hours a day connected to the Pro iDSD. Through the DAC the Grado’s have detail and clarity to spare, the soundstage is excellent as well. Your music sounds much less in your head and more around you. As a little experiment for my own curiosity, I held my hands over the back and it closes the music in on you so much, you almost don’t realize how wide they are without doing it. The core frequencies where most of your music lives really shine in the PS500e’s, as mentioned they do not have a ton of bass but plenty to enjoy your music, you can hear the bass, just not feel it as much as you would with closed backs. My daily headphones are Audio Technica ATH-M40x which I consider a great budget friendly headphone, they sound pleasing, have some bass and overall do well but can sound a bit unexciting. With the Grado’s you will find that they are beyond that of entry level headphones, they have balance and intention. No aspect of the music is competing for your attention with the PS500e, it’s all just there in harmony. They can also be enjoyed at much lower volumes than my ATH-M40x’s as they sort of fall of when you turn them down. Grado has truly done well to create a superb sound with the PS550e’s, especially when you pair them to a DAC they deserve.
- Transducer Type: Dynamic
- Operating Principle: Open Air
- Frequency Response: 14 – 29,000 hz
- SPL 1mW: 99.8 dB
- Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms
- Driver Matched dB: .05 dB
In the Box: Headphones, Warranty, Grado story-sheet, 6.5mm Golden Adapter
Who are these for, we ask ourselves on each review. If you are someone who listens to headphones critically and have a place where open back is not an issue then you should be checking these out. I don’t recommend these if you are in an open office area or out and about. They are the opposite of noise canceling being open back, you bleed music out as well as let other sounds in, they will just not perform that well on the subway and your cubicle mate may not like your music as much as you do. If you have a more private office situation or are a headphone listener at home they can be a great fit for those people. 600 dollars is a lot to spend on headphones and even more when you consider how much these should have a DAC, while you may not need the 2500 dollar Pro iDSD even a Zen Dac will add in about 120 US dollars to your total. Comparably priced headphones are the currently on Sale Focal Elegia which if you have around 600 to spend but need a closed back for aforementioned reasons may be worth a look. Keep in mind they also deserve their own DAC/AMP. If they fit your head and your budget they are certainly an excellent option in the world of high end headphones. The detail and sound stage are my favorite aspects of them and won’t disappoint.
If you are interested in a set for yourself Please Check out the Cable Company, they carry them and would love to work with on finding your perfect headphone. Link is below,
The Cable Company Provided Hifi Chicken with the Grado PS500e Headphones, this review was not paid in part or full by Grado Labs, The Cable Company is an independent dealer for Grado. The Cable Company has been added to our list of trusted and loved Partners.