Grado SR80i Review


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, it 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 just like the AK47 and it's strong recoil, these headphones aren't the most comfortable. Some people won't mind, but out of the 42 or so people I've let audition these headphones, 34 said that it got annoying after 15 minutes.


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

Pros

  • 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 

Cons

  • 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
  • Needs an amp to work at its best
  • These headphones are absolutely brutal on poorly recorded songs and offer no forgiveness whatsoever. Here's an example, on some compressed tracks or badly recorded tracks, the treble may sound harsh or raspy.

Package 

The package of the SR80i is fairly simple, flat box with a transparent film that shows the headphones inside. Nothing special.




Unamped Highs/Treble

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 does 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. Now this is how these headphones sound to me unamped, but when amped properly, this problem totally disappears. As well, like I said in the previous example in the pros and cons, sometimes the treble will sound harsh and raspy and this will occur on any fast song if it is compressed.

Unamped Mids

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.

Unamped Bass

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.

Soundstage

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.

 Amping

 I would definitely amp these headphones when possible as amping improves its overall performance. I found that when I amped the SR80i's their general speed improved as well as the overall richness of the mids and treble. I wouldn't say that amping gives the SR80i's a whole new improvement, but it does give overall improvement. As I previously said, both the highs and mids lacked a little detail if they were running off an unamped source, but most of this is fixed by amping. The only problems I find remaining is the following:
  • Acoustic detail with steel string guitars still seem a little lacking and a tad mixed at times
  • Bad recordings still sound bad

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 it's problems with portability, 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.



Stereo Use

Getting bored from time I decided to watch play a little Call of Duty, now I've always loved using my vintage Kenwood RX-V5 for media use and now was no exception. Turn on the receiver, plug in and I realize the cable was too short for me to make it back to my couch. So first note there: extension cord is recommended. Now I already mentioned that the comfort is very subjective, and I found that the ear pads tended to warm up and the headband would occasionally give me a minor headache after 3 hours of continuous use. But of course, when your busy fraging noobs, you ignore minor things like this. But comfort and cable length aside, these headphones did an excellent job reproducing every footstep, bang and explosion. Of course every headphone can do that but in the midst of all the chaos I could still hear the footsteps of an enemy trying to knife me, once again showing the detail of and clarity of these headphones.

*going to watch a movie with these and give my little report* So will update later

Are these headphones for you?

First of all these headphones sound just AMAZING for the price (I cannot exaggerate this enough), BUT are they for you?

Now these headphones are nothing less then amazing when it comes to sound, but before you consider these for your next headphones, there are a few things that you need to know, especially if they are going to be portable headphones:
  • These headphones lack the "forgiveness" some headphones have on badly recorded songs. Most quality headphones I listen to usually have a little "forgiveness" towards bad recordings (especially if the problem is just with bad mixing) or highly compressed songs, this is not the case with the SR80i's. Basically if you use anything less then lossless you will hear it, if the mixer didn't do a good job, you will also hear it, if you're recording equipment is bad, you will hear it. So what's the point am I trying to make? Avoid these headphones if you're library is full of highly compressed songs.
  • Grado's general target audience is for people with their own isolated space to listen to music, something an audiophile usually has prepared so don't be surprised when you can hear everything going on around you. These headphones don't block zilch when it comes to noise isolation, even the tapping of keys will get through.
  • Given the previous point, the opposite is also true. These headphones leak a LOT, so keep that in mind, especially if your roommate likes their peace and quiet. To exaggerate, I did a little test in one of my classes and pretty much everyone thought I had my laptop speakers on when I was listening to these.
  • The SR80i's have an 2 meter cable so just keep in mind that these headphones aren't the best for portability, with 80 cm of extra cable compared to you're usual portable headphones.
  • Comfort is very subjective, not everyone will find them comfortable especially after continuous use.

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)

(little fact that I found out about after receiving these, the "i" after SR80 does not represent "iPod" or "iPhone" but "improved)

7 comments:

  1. Yes Agreed;this is looking an above than a standred product.I have bought like this a new AT335i iPhone Adapter.Which is also a good branded product.

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  2. Amazing post! I initially found your blog a week or so ago, and I want to subscribe to your RSS feed.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Haha thanks, comments like these are what make writing this blog really worthwhile.

    Here is the link to the RSS feed if you need it:
    http://headphonesfordummies.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss

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  4. What amplifier you currently have?

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  5. I've currently been using vintage amps, the Yamaha CA1010 and a Kenwood amp(forget the model number) from around the same time. They were both flagships back when they were released so they will have to suffice until I get a better amp.

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  6. A very thorough review!

    I've had these headphones for a year and a half. The headphone comfort does improve as you wear the headphones. The "clamping" feeling does not last. The earpad foam gets softer too. I chose to add an extra circle of foam on the inside of the foam to add more ear cushion. On ebay, I bought a $10 "headband pad" that adds more cushy comfort to the headband (but looks really stupid!). When I put them on now, I like how light they are on my head. Also, it is worth it to get a good reusable storage bag for these, to keep them protected for travel or when not in use.

    In my opinion, besides Lossless, mp3 files sound good on these headphones as well, at least the higher bitrates (most of mine are at 320 kbps/LAME files). In a blind listening test, I seriously doubt I could tell the difference between Lossless and 320 kbps mp3 files (but I am only using them with portable players, not a hi-fi stereo.)

    I recently got a good CMOY amp to use with these and that has improved the sound further, compared to just using them on an ipod or portable CD player without an amp. Having an amp helps for quieter classical, choir music especially, or jazz. Even without an amp, these sound great, but the amp does improve these phones (and not just in terms of volume). Since the headphones do not have any distortion, when listening, your ears do not get fatigued after an hour, like with cheaper headphones. So you can listen for a longer time. (I just have to watch the volume level, and be sure it's not damaging!)

    Anyway, great headphones for someone on a budget, looking for good sound.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the complement! They definitely take some getting used to. Usually 320kbs do the trick especially with the SR80i. Most of the time I find slight improvements when listening to lossless files with the SR80i which isn't really enough to justify the extra space if I didn't have a lot of it. The SR80i is a definite recommend for anyone starting out.

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