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Grado PS500

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Brooklyn's Grado Labs newest is the Grado PS500, an ingenious take-off from their fabulous top-of-the-line PS1000 full-size headphone made more compact and affordable. The PS500 headphone has a completely open-back, on-ear 'earpad' construction ideal for audiophiles seeking the best sound Grado offers with a richly immersive tone at a price that won't make you sell your vintage vinyl collection to pay the bill.

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Product Features:

  • Similar structure & looks to pricey Grado PS1000 but in more affordable 'on-ear' size
  • Low 32 Ohm impedance perfect for iPod , iPhone and iPad listening - no amp required
  • Large rare-earth diaphragms with gold wiring for superb definition of subtle musical details
  • Fully open-back, vented earcup construction
  • Designed, engineered and hand-tooled in Brooklyn USA

What's In The Box:

  • Grado Labs warranty insert


Leave it to HeadRoom and Grado to team up yet again at Rocky Mountain Audio Festival debuting a brand-new headphone to the world. Last year, we were the first to present the GR10, Grado Labs' top audiophile in-ear monitors at the famed Denver high-end event; this year we offered RMAF attendees advance ear-time with the latest addition to the family, the Grado PS500 headphones. The Grado PS500 design DNA descends directly from their top full-size 'around-the-ear' [circumaural] 'Professional Series' model, the upscale PS1000 ($1,695), and both headphones share similar metal outer housings encasing wood-framed drivers. The smaller 'on-ear' [supra-aural] size of the PS500 will typically rest on the outer earlobes for most wearers and employs standard Grado 'bowl' earpads [with cut-out center; L-CUSH]. The PS500 tone sticks close to Grado's lively signature sound with a more pleasingly plump bottom-end response than we hear in other Grado headphones, along with the expected super-extended mids and highs. For bass lovers hemming & hawing about Grado's low-octave authority, the PS500 delivers plenty of bass heft focused through the prism of Grado's beautifully balanced musical delivery. A few may perhaps find the overall essence leaning slightly towards "bright" with some recordings -- a' la the Grado SR325i -- while seekers of ultimate presence and detail in the upper treble ranges will no doubt swoon with big-grinned delight at the astonishing clarity and clean punch. Always a uniquely appealing brand to headphone geeks, Grado's hand-built USA-made quality and charm are clearly embodied in the PS500. We think they're superb headphones bringing classic Grado performance down to a within-reach investment for music lovers questing for purity and resolution in their personal audio experience.

Rating at a highly efficient 32 Ohms impedance like most other Grado cans, the Grado PS500 sounds fabulous without needing a headphone amp. Naturally, we always feel that adding a dedicated headphone amplifier can help audibly improve timbral smoothness and expand soundstage imaging via our killer HeadRoom crossfeed circuitry, but it is certainly not a required accessory for enjoying the headphones direct from computers or portable iPhone and iPad sources. The PS500 have a padded leather-cushioned headband with metal height adjusters connecting the rounded matte aluminum earcups to the headband, thus allowing for up & down adjustment plus full 360 rotation. This feature is nice for placing the headphones down flat for storage or transit. The PS500 headphone cord is a straight high-definition 'Grado proprietary' copper/OFC cable attaching to both earcups in a 'Y'-type connection. As with other on-ear Grado designs, there exists a slight tendency for the earpad fit to be a bit uncomfortable after extended listening due to the texture of the pad cushions, which may sometimes be ameliorated by gently (gently!) bending the headband frame to better conform to the top of the head. The available Grado Lab 'soft' style earpads [$15, 'S-Cush' earpads; sold separately] may also help tame the comfort issue for some heads. The PS500 high-quality OFC headphone cable terminates to a full-size 1/4" stereo plug and measures approximately 6ft in total cord length.

NOTE: No plug adapter is included for small iPod / iPad or computer jacks. If you need to plug into a 1/8" [3.5mm] 'mini' jack on your audio source or player, you'll need the Grado 1/4"-to-1/8" mini-plug adapter. If needing a longer cord than 6ft, the Grado Labs 15ft headphone extension cord is available (sold-separately).

A free 1-year manufacturer's product warranty remains standard on all Grado headphones and is serviced directly by Grado Labs at their Brooklyn NY shop ONLY with your HeadRoom authorized dealer purchase receipt.

HeadRoom is now a fully authorized Grado headphone recable specialist! Please call us if you are interested in re-cabling your Grado headphones with our exclusive HeadRoom/Cardas 'Fat Pipe' upgraded headphone cord!


  • Manufacturer Warranty: 1 Year
  • Headphone Type: Earpad
  • Impedance @ 1kHz: 32 Ohms
  • Detachable Cable: No
  • Cord Length: 6ft
  • Cord Type: Straight Y
  • Coupler Size: Medium
  • Ear Coupler Type: Earpad
  • Driver Type: Dynamic
  • Acoustic Seal: Open
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB

Reviews At A Glance
2 Reviews

Average Rating 
(Showing 2 of 2 reviews)

Professional headphones for serious listeners
Posted by SupersonicHD from NY on 2012-12-28

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Incredible musicality, strong acoustics, highly revealing of track info, dynamic and live
Cons: Non-neutral; prominent midbass, top octave rolloff, poor isolation

The Grado PS500s are very enjoyable headphones to listen to due to their extremely live presentation even though I feel they don't deliver the most neutral sound possible. However, the midbass 'bump' gives naturally recorded music some added warmth. But because the back of the headphones are so open the mid treble and top octave lose strength and focus. As a result, these headphones definitely favor acoustical music genres over hard rock or electronica but will sound great with anything in between.

They seem to be designed for professional monitoring of studio recordings and not just for the most demanding critical listeners, which suit my tastes fine because I like to hear everything that is on my CDs. These headphones never fail to impress me with all that my CD collection (pop, jazz, classical, vocal R&B) has to offer; its like getting a live performance of your favorite artists for free. It really sounds like I'm listening to the music being performed in the actual venue it was recorded in whether that be a studio, concert stage, or a club. All the expressiveness of the horns, strings, piano, snare, bass, male/female vocals, etc. are there and seem to come through almost effortlessly. And its so revealing you can even hear sounds that were not even meant to be on the recording like a truck passing by, the musicians breathing/moving, or the audience talking clearly and distinctly. Speaking of which, the PS500s would make a terrible choice if you intended to take your music on the go since there is virtually no isolation between you and the outside world with these headphones. They are designed for critical listening in a quiet room with no one else around... like a recording studio.

My main gripe about these phones is that the hybrid air chamber design originally meant for the PS1000 doesn't perfectly scale down well to the PS500 ultimately affecting its tonal response and timbral accuracy. This, incidentally, may be the reason why it has better isolation characteristics toward higher frequencies than the larger PS1000, but contributes to a weaker sound overall. This is more or less intentional at the price point to satisfy certain listeners, but definitely makes the PS1000 the better all-rounder. The PS500 has a moderate dip in that frequency band whereas the PS1000 has a strong peak and much less rolloff.

My other concerns are with its comfort and build quality. The earpads aren't soft like my Sennheiser HDs but they seem to be made to funnel the sound directly into my ears. Grado makes a larger cushion (not softer) for the PS1000 that I could try but I'm worried that it will degrade or make the presentation more distant on these diaphrams. Everything about these headphones yields to the precision of its drivers anyways so for the price I'll consider this a fair compromise. I don't mind its spartan appearance at all; I just think it lacks the added hardware to keep everything firmly in place over time. The ultra high purity copper cabling really is to be expected at this price but I would have liked the DIY option of upgrading the rather short cord.

Sound Quality
Look & Feel

4 out of 6 people found this review helpful. Did you?

Grado PS-500 Stereo Headphone Review by Dale
Posted by dale from Akron Ohio on 2011-10-22

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Sounds really good
Cons: None

I have several headphones besides the PS-500, and I've reviewed some of them, so I should find it easy to describe the PS-500, yes? Maybe not. By now I've discovered that my "other" headphones fall into the category of "polite" ear speakers. Inoffensive, smooth, and clean they are, and while the PS-500 shares their better qualities, polite and obsequious aren't one of them.

I have quite a variety of music tracks in Jazz, Classics, Opera, Rock, Blues, Country and other genres, and I've been running through the list for days to see what the PS-500 isn't a good match for. So far everything sounds good. Better than good, actually - everything sounds alive.

I've read a lot of reviews and discussed different systems with enough people that I have some idea of the adjectives they might apply to the PS-500. Terms such as warm, forward, or lush come to mind. In anticipation of that, I would suggest warm as in the warmth of a cello in an intimate setting, forward as in being near enough to the cello to bask in that warmth, and lush as in the full complement of harmonics that defines the characteristic sound of the instrument.

I like a lot of headphones. I love the Grado PS-500. It makes music sound right. Before I continue with the music and sound analysis, some notes about the hardware:

The comfort is instantaneous. This is one of the few headphones where the foam cushions sit on and around the ears and have no pinching effects or adjustment difficulties. The headband is a simple leather-wrapped flat spring steel band about 1-1/4 inches wide. For people who don't like feeling pressure from a headband, I recommend pulling the earcups down slightly more and letting the earcups support most of the weight so the headband isn't carrying all of the weight or pressing on the head.

The cord is thick but flexible and about five feet long, terminated in a 1/4 inch plug. When used with most small music players, a 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch adapter is required. I use the Grado adapter, two of which I've had for ten years now since they're very well made and reliable. Many headphone cords today are single-sided, where the cord goes to one earcup and then some additional wiring carries the signal to the other earcup across the headband. The other major type is double-sided, where the left and right channels are carried in a 'Y' configuration to each earcup directly, eliminating the need for additional wiring inside one earcup and across the headband. The PS-500 is this latter type, which I prefer personally since less wiring means a purer signal path.

The PS-500 is a low-impedance headphone of average efficiency, so it can play at medium to loud volumes with most small music players. So far I haven't found a music track that doesn't play loudly enough with an iPhone, after trying about 200 tracks at random. Many headphone reviews and commentaries will describe the need for a headphone amplifier or the equivalent in computer amplification to get the best sound possible from the headphone. Some of those reviews and comments even suggest that the sound from small music players such as the iPhone is not suitable for serious music listening at all. My experience with small music players is limited to the iPhone4, iPod Touch, and iPod Nano Touch. These three music players will provide about 98 percent of the sound quality of a good headphone amp, from the deepest bass to the highest treble, although calculating that percentage is purely subjective. My experience with two different headphone amps plus several desktop and laptop computers tells me that the differences are subtle, but the better headphone amps do "open up" the sound better, providing more "air" around instruments and voices and better reproduction of the upper harmonics that give each instrument its distinctive tone color.

Note that the PS-500 is also an "open-air" or "open-back" headphone, which has advantages over the "closed" variety in various aspects of sound quality. On the other hand, some of the sound can be heard by persons sitting nearby depending on the volume level and how quiet the setting is. You probably won't disturb anyone on the subway at rush hour if you play music at average volume with the PS-500, but in a quiet office someone in the next cubicle may object unless you keep the volume fairly low.

Now that I've covered the basics it's time to get to the music, i.e. how the PS-500 sounds with actual music tracks. Most of my music tracks are 320k CBR MP3's, which are the highest quality MP3's that are generally available. I have a couple hundred FLAC tracks which are uncompressed digital music, but the difference between those and 320k MP3's is very subtle, and normally only expert listeners can tell the differences. I also have a few hundred CD-quality or lower MP3's, which for most of those tracks is all that's available and I'm lucky to have them, so while I enjoy listening to those to whatever extent is possible, I don't use them for evaluating sound quality in a headphone review.

The use of equalization ("EQ") with hi-fi equipment is controversial in some circles, and many audiophiles (purists?) refuse to even consider applying EQ or tone controls, no matter if a recording sounds much better with than without. I mention it here because I've mentioned it in my other reviews, and I want to note here that I haven't used EQ for this review, but I'm not shy about applying it on a case-by-case basis when it makes the difference between enjoying a recording and rejecting it outright. My suggestion to any music lover is to think of EQ as a simple tool that may save a recording at least temporarily until it can be replaced, as long as it doesn't become the opposite of that and actually degrade the sound as many audiophiles dread.

The following are my examples of music tracks in certain genres or qualities, with my comments as to how the PS-500 sounds with each track. Note that when you see a comment like "soft highs" or "strong bass", it's more a characteristic of the music than the headphone. Reading through the list will bear this out since some tracks will note "soft highs" while others will say "strong" or even "zingy" highs. The purpose here is to give you an idea how the PS-500 will likely sound with your favorite music genres.

10000 Maniacs - Peace Train (late 80's); soft highs, fairly strong bass line, average soundstage.

Andrea True Connection - More More More (late 70's): Smooth and even from top to bottom, good soundstage.

Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled well by the PS-500.

Beatles - And I Love Her, Things We Said Today, I'll Be Back, I'll Follow The Sun (~1964, in stereo): Amazing sound quality and soundstage, with excellent voice and instrument detail. These four tracks are prima facie evidence that any negative qualities you see in this list are very unlikely to be a function of the headphone.

Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound but average headphone soundstage unfortunately, even though the PS-500 is above average in presenting soundstage width and depth.

Bill Evans Trio - Nardis (early 60's): Fairly close-up recording, but highs softened a little - very pleasant sound overall.

Billy Eckstine - Imagination (date??): Sounds like a recent high-quality stereo recording. Excellent from top to bottom and a great vocal demo.

Blood Sweat & Tears - And When I Die, God Bless The Child, Spinning Wheel (late 60's): Decent sound quality, and fortunately (I think) given the strength of the brass instruments, the highs are slightly soft.

Blues Project - Caress Me Baby (1966): Rarely mentioned, but one of the greatest white blues recordings ever. The loud piercing guitar sound at 0:41 into the track is a good test for distortion or other problems. Handled well here.

Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled well by the PS-500.

Buffalo Springfield - Kind Woman (~1968): A Richie Furay song entirely, rarely mentioned, but one of the best sounding rock ballads ever. This will sound good on most headphones, but it's a special treat with the PS-500.

Cat Stevens - Morning Has Broken (early 70's): A near-perfect test for overall sound - this track will separate the best sounding headphones from the lesser quality types. Nothing specific, except that almost any deviation from perfect reproduction will stand out with this track.

Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the PS-500 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

Cocteau Twins - Carolyn's Fingers (1988): Unusual ambient pop with excellent guitar details.

Commodores - Night Shift (~1985): Good spacious sound with very detailed bass guitar lines.

Cranes - Adoration (~1991): Very good piano leading into a goth-flavored song with very unusual vocals.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - The Midnight Special (1969??): Classic CCR featured in Twilight Zone, this track has great guitar sounds and a really good ambience despite a mediocre soundstage.

Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five (1959): Paul Desmond piece - good test of saxophone sound and cymbals, less so the other instruments.

Dead Can Dance - Ariadne (1993??): Atmospheric goth music - good ambience in spite of mediocre soundstage.

Def Leppard - Bringin' On The Heartbreak (1981): MTV goth/pop/metal at its best - good ambience and high energy - the better headphones will separate the details and make for a good experience. Lesser quality and the details tend to mush together.

Del Reeves - Girl On The Billboard (early-mid 70's): Classic truck-drivin' country tune with a Thelma & Louise theme, this song's overall recorded quality (almost typical of Nashville in the 70's) is a superb demo if you can get past the peculiar lyrics.

Dick Hyman - Dooji Wooji (1990??): Swing-era composition played with perfect technique by all band members, with excellent recorded sound.

Enrico Caruso/Caruso 2000 - La Donna e Mobile, M Appari Tutt Amor, etc. (early 1900's and 2000): Disliked by many critics and purists, this recording was the extremely arduous task of marrying the best obtainable restoration of Caruso's voice to a modern orchestra, with all of the odd timing problems inherent in the old RCA mechanical recordings. For me, it's one step closer to hearing my first great music idol as he actually sounded then, circa 1903 to 1919. Plus the fact that my grandmother met Caruso through her longtime friend and neighbor Evan Williams, who was also a big RCA recording star at that time. For many young people who can't get past the obvious barriers of the ancient mechanical sounds and distortions, this recording and future efforts with better technology may be the best hope for them to appreciate the greatest singer of his day, and perhaps ever. The PS-500 headphone brings this voice to life to a very satisfactory degree.

Frank Sinatra - Fly Me To The Moon, I Get A Kick Out Of You, My Way, Strangers In The Night, That's Life, Theme From New York, New York (1950's to 1980): If you're thinking of buying a Grado PS-500 and haven't listened to Sinatra, or if you're low on swag, get some of Frank's stereo recordings and live it up.

J.S. Bach - E. Power Biggs Plays Bach in the Thomaskirche (~1970): Recorded on a tracker organ in East Germany, the tracks on this recording have the authentic baroque sound that Bach composed for, albeit the bellows are operated by motor today. The PS-500 plays all of the tones seamlessly from ~32 hz to the upper limits of the organ, which are near the upper limits of hearing.

Jamming With Edward - It Hurts Me Too (1969): Intended originally as a test to fill studio down time and set recording levels etc., this was released a few years later for hardcore Rolling Stones fans. Although not as good technically in every aspect as the Chess studio recordings of 1964, and in spite of the non-serious vocals by Mick Jagger, this rates very high on my list of white blues recordings, and sounds absolutely delicious with the PS-500.

Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has some loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical on some headphones. The PS-500 does it well.

Kim Carnes - Bette Davis Eyes (Acoustic version, date??): Stripped-down ("acoustic") version of the big hit - good voice and guitar sounds.

Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch (~2009): Featured in The September Issue, this song has heavy overdub and will sound a bit muddy on some headphones.

Merle Haggard - Okie From Muskogee (1969): Another good-quality country recording with almost-acoustic guitar accompaniment.

Milt Jackson/Wes Montgomery - Delilah (Take 3) (1962): The vibraphone is heavily dependent on harmonics to sound right, and the PS-500 plays it superbly.

Nylons - The Lion Sleeps Tonight (A Capella version, 1980's): High-energy vocals sans instrumental accompaniment - an excellent test of vocal reproduction.

Pink Floyd/Dark Side of the Moon - Speak To Me (1973): Deep bass impact.

Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues (1968): Dirty, gritty blues that very few white artists could match. On some headphones the vocals and guitar lack the edge and fall more-or-less flat. If you're a really good person, playing this song will probably make you feel nervous and uneasy.

Tony Bennett - For Once In My Life, I Left My Heart In San Francisco, I Wanna Be Around To Pick Up The Pieces, The Best Is Yet To Come, The Good Life, Who Can I Turn To (1960's and later): Frank Sinatra's favorite singer. Highest recommendation.

Sound Quality
Look & Feel

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