Grado SR80i First Impressions

 ***Please note this is not the final review but first impressions, it will be refined later***

These are my first Grado cans and they looked beautiful the first time I saw them. The first impression I got from looking at these was they were some retro headphones from the 70's. These are very crude headphones in the manner that these are very simple headphones in the headphone world, they only have the vital parts nothing extra or anything that may be just "for show". If I was going to make a comparison, I would say this situation would be like comparing the AK47 to a more current gun like the FN Scar. This simple and old-style look really catches my eye and I just LOVE this look, looking at these headphones just once, I can already see how these headphones are put together and in truth nothing is really hidden from the user, it's just simple headband, ear-cup, driver, wire.

But introductions and first impressions aside, lets get onto the review:

Things to take note of:

Tranducer type: dynamic
Operating principle: open air
Frequency Response: 20-20,000 Hz

Impedance: 32ohms
Cable Length and Termination: 2m cable 3.5mm (6.3mm jack included)

  • Best bass response for those in it's sound range
  • Quite balanced, neither bass, mids or highs seem overpowering
  • Soundstage, soundstage on these headphones really vary, sometimes they sound really 3D but during others they sound kinda linear. When this happens it feels like these you're sticking speakers beside your ears
  • Soundstage is amazing with digital/electric sound/music reproduction
  • Thick cable, this cable thickness may even be considered overkill by some
  • When amped these headphones are MONSTERS that matches headphones in the $150 range sonically 
  •  Look, there may be some who love or hate the retro look
  • If you are really picky about your headphones having a really clean and new aesthetic look, you will not get it
  • The comfort is not the best
  •  Ear-cushions warm up after 15 mins of use, not everyone will like this feeling
  • ABSOLUTELY NO NOISE ISOLATION! If it's isolation you need, look elsewhere, these headphones are completely open (I can hear the clicking of my keyboard keys as I type with these on)
  • Sound leaks like CRAZY! It is guaranteed that people will hear everything you hear at the same volume you hear it as the backs of these headphones are pretty much completely open
  • Clamping force of the headphone will probably get to you at 2 hours of continuous use
The package of the SR80i is fairly simple, flat box with a transparent film that shows the headphones inside. Nothing special.

The highs and treble are generally really clear and controlled as long as there is no more then 4 tones going quickly at once. The treble is around average for this price range and should be more then enough to satisfy a casual listener. The treble is very satisfying and I don't find it lacking at all but it lacks the detail and clarity to match that the quality of headphones in the next price range. The treble quality can is usually maintained as long as you don't have more then 4 fast instruments going at once. Despite my initial delight with the treble quality, what really made me say average for treble quality instead of excellent is because it failed the speed test when it came to treble.

Though my Review Music page is nearly blank at the time I am writing this, I already have a near set playlist of test songs to test the various situations and one of the songs I use to test speed is Look Around by Red Hot Chili Peppers. This song has an intro and chorus that will pretty much test a headphone's speed capabilities to the max and the SR80i did fairly well, that is until I heard the treble in the course, because of the activity in the chorus the treble seemed like it was drowned out and mixed with the other sounds. This was a deal-breaker, the treble pretty much sounded mushy harsh and could barely be audible.

I really like the mids on these headphones, they never feel like they are being overwhelmed by any of the other tones and balanced enough so the mids don't block out any other tones either. The harmonic distortion on these headphones are definitely noticeable, but not to the point that they will bug the listener most of the time. The speed of the mids are generally good, but they lack the speed to keep up completely with a strumming guitar as sometimes a strumming guitar's tone may sound a tad distorted and mashed together (Face Down-Acoustic) and acoustics may sound a little distorted, but this isn't really noticeable. My recommendation is avoid acoustic music with these as acoustic songs really make distortion more noticeable on these headphones.

Bass is undoubtebly one of Grado's strengths. The bass on these are excellent for the price range and is almost definitely enough to satisfy bassheads. In this price range, majority of the competitors lack quality bass for the price with headphones that mainly focus on the highs and mids. But like some of these headphones the SR80i's still fall out from the 20-100 Hz bass range where bass response just plummets (a pattern shown in the Shure SRH 440 as well as the Sennheiser HD 448). So just be aware that your bass level may be inconsistent depending on what you're listening to, you will have killer bass when listening to something like The Time/Dirty Bit by the Black Eyed Peas while bass will be near mediocre on Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show.

Overall the soundstage is really nice, but how well the soundstage is is really dependent on the song. Sometimes you will have a song with EXTREMELY dynamic soundstage with one instrument and nearly flat soundstage with another instrument on the same song. Sometimes it is really hard to decipher the virtual "distance" illusion created by the headphone's soundstage, but at it's best the soundstage can rival the Sennheiser HD 558's (which are worth more then twice as much) soundstage wise (and soundstage isn't a weak trait in the HD 558's either). And even at it's worst, the soundstage of the SR80i is still better then that of those in its price range. I would argue that soundstage could be the SR80i's best trait.

Overall Impressions
I had a really entertaining experience with the these headphones, and they are definitely on my recommend list if it fits their needs. Currently, it is one of the best in its price range, but of course it isn't without it's flaws like the treble speed, mids speed as well as the bass drop-off from 100Hz and below, there is also the tradeoffs with being open-back headphones, but in my opinion, the $100 price tag is totally worth it and these are excellent budget headphones.

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