Cartridges

The Grado Statement 2 Cartridge

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Grado Labs. This Brooklyn company, also known for their diverse crop of headphones has been making incredible phono cartridges for decades now. All the way down to their entry level cartridges, Grado stands for high performance and supreme value.

When the original Statement made its way here about 8 years ago, it’s combination of midrange warmth and sheer musicality won over everyone that experienced it. On many levels the original Grado Statement had outdone the revered Koetsu in my cartridge collection in the magic department. Realizing that “magic” is a pretty tough thing to quantify, the Statement’s ability to breathe life into well worn recordings was tough to argue with. The only fault with the original Statement was its moderate tracking ability – it just couldn’t negotiate the most difficult records in my collection without a bit of mistracking.

The Statement 1 a few years later proved a tremendous improvement in performance. We try not to exhaust our adjective glands here, but the more music any component can reveal without damage, the more we see that as a “best” choice. You may have different priorities, but these are ours. Keeping that bias, if you will, in mind, the Statement 1 improved on all the original Statments pluses without any loss of that musical magic. Now a much better tracker, the Statement 1 also brought more extension at both ends of the frequency spectrum. What started as a damn good bargain for $3,500 was now a world class cartridge for $3,500.

Grado has kept the price the same and doubled the performance of the Statement 2. Still, the incredibly rich tonal character of this transducer remains intact, yet the level of extension and refinement is mind blowing for a $3,500 cartridge. That’s American know how, and it doesn’t hurt to have over five decades of experience on  your resume.

Zooms through the grooves

This is made instantly clear spinning the Windham Hill classic, Michael Hedges Aerial Boundaries. The quick paced, plucky, dynamic style that was uniquely Hedges’ explodes from between my speakers. While accentuating the different characteristics of the phonostages used for this review (Pass Labs XS Phono, Audio Research REF Phono 3 and conrad-johnson TEA 1s2) the Statement 2 keeps its own personality no matter what it’s plugged into. Regardless of what phonostage you posess, rest assured that the Statement 2 will not be the limiting factor.

Making use of four coils, this moving iron design has a lower moving mass than even the most delicate moving coil cartridge. This results in the killer transient response experienced with even the most complex musical pieces. It also helps the Statement 2 extract more music from the mediocre records in your collection as well, making it a better choice as a “do everything” cartridge. Where some ultra high-end cartridges narrow their focus so much, they only sound lovely with your best recordings, the Grado Statement 2 allows all the records in your collection to give their best.

Ironically, the Statement 2 joins a few of the other components reviewed this issue in terms of providing a high level of balance in the performance that it delivers. No one aspect of performance is compromised over another. Hand cured wood body notwithstanding, if the Statement 2 were an automobile, it would be a new Corvette Z06. You could spend three times more money for a Ferrari or an Aston Martin and you would get more prestige. You might even get more looks from the valet parking your car. But in terms of sheer performance, the mighty Corvette leaves nothing on the table to its much more expensive European rivals.

The same can be said for the Statement 2. I’ve got a handful of five figure phono cartridges. The Statement 2 runs with them all and on some levels bests them. It’s my new choice as the daily driver high performance cartridge, and the synergy with my Audio Research REF Phono 3 is out of this world good. I’d put that combination up against anything at any price. You can spend $15k on an Atlas or a Goldfinger. I’ll pocket the difference and take a nice vacation instead. The Statement 2 kicks that much ass, seriously.

Easy setup

As with past models, the Statement 2 is very easy to set up. Using the Feickert Protractor, along with a bit of listening, I had the Statement 2 optimized in about 20 minutes and I was being fussy. Grado suggests a range of tracking force of 1.5 to 1.9 grams and I found happiness on the Ortofon TA_110 tonearm closer to 1.9 grams and about 1.7 on the new TriPlanar. (another splendid match for this cartridge)

Because of the Moving Iron design, this cartridge is loaded at 47k ohms and with the 1mv output, you can use it with a lot of phonostages that might only be considered MM, giving it more flexibility than you might think. With the ARC REF Phono 3, the low gain setting worked fine, as with the Pass XS Phono.

Dynamic and quiet

Looking back on my listening notes over a few months’ time, there are a lot of comments on how quiet this cartridge is. Whatever the exact stylus profile it is that the Statement 2 has, it seems to hug the grooves better than most that I’ve auditioned. Again, the extra tracking ability of this cartridge over its predecessor is a welcome upgrade.

Where some cartridges can sound either flat or overblown, regardless of musical selection, classical pieces sound as big as required, yet even the most delicate string ensemble recordings retain their lightness, the Statement 2 serves the music totally, never really imparting a signature sound. Where my favorite Koetsu cartridges tend to round the fine details off, ever so slightly, like a great tube amplifier from the 60s, the Statement 2 does a better job at providing a high level of tonal saturation while retaining tonal contrast and the most minute details. The result is an incredibly lively presentation overall.

Both ends of the frequency spectrum are equally intoxicating. Whether tracking through Jaco Pastorius ripping up the fretless neck of his instrument, Stanley Clarke playing a standup bass, or Deadmau5 scratching, this cartridge has a powerful lower end. The top end is just as exciting, with acoustic instruments sounding natural and correct, yet Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music keeps it’s composure without grating into your skull, as it can on a cartridge less refined.

Does it all

With premium phono cartridges costing more than used BMW’s these days, if you can even get one, it’s refreshing to see Grado holding the line on the price of the Statement 2. This is a no compromise cartridge that is so reasonably priced it begs for one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2017. There is no reason to spend more money than this on a top phono cartridge. I give the Statement 2 my highest recommendation.

The Grado Statement 2 Phono Cartridge

MSRP:  $3,500

www.gradolabs.com

Peripherals

Turntables                 Feickert Blackbird with Ortofon TA-110 arm and TriPlanar

Phonostage                Pass XS Phono, Audio Research REF Phono 3

Preamp                      Pass XS Pre

Power Amp                Pass XS 300 Monoblocks

Cable                          Cardas Clear

Speakers                    Focal Sopra no.3, MartinLogan Neolith, Sonus faber El Cremonese, Quad 2812

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