I’ve been meaning to get a Grado for some time, mainly just to get an alternate sound than my usual warm-sounding headphones and earphones. The audition of the SR80i and SR225i (the two Grados in the series that people recommend as value for money) was okay, but I didn’t feel like it was worth plonking down about a hundred dollars (for the SR80i) for a different sound at that time.
But when the iDSD Micro was offered at Stereo, with a pre-order special that came included with a free SR60e, I jumped at the offer. Asking for an upgrade to the SR80e, which Stereo kindly allowed with the top-up of the difference, I got a well-regarded pair of value-for-money headphones at a mere $25. Granted, my iDSD Micro was $649, but that was the original price and I was planning to spend that money anyway.
The SR80e (which is the recently updated series) and iDSD Micro took a bit of time before they were in stock again, and collecting them two days ago, I quickly put them to use.
As with the audition, the SR80e was not the most comfortable of headphones. The earpads, being on-ears, itched terribly upon initial wearing, but I quickly got used to that. The clamping pressure wasn’t too high, and the headphones were exceptionally light, making them quite comfortable. However, with an hour of wear, my outer ear was feeling sore from being pressed against the sides of my head, and it’s a little hot especially with the weather like it is here in Singapore.
I considered getting the over-ear earpads for the higher Grado series, but hearing how they ruin the sound, I decided not to. So I would have to get used to these pads (and I doubt I’ll use the SR80e for long listening sessions anyway). The cable was pretty darn thick, but along with a 6.3mm adaptor, there was nothing else in the plain ‘pizza-box’ as they call it. It’s a very basic package, which is a far cry from the more premium offerings of other headphones and earphones. Granted, there may be a price difference, but the same packaging is used all the way up to the SR325e, which is nearly S$400.
As for the sound, it’s everything as others have said. It doesn’t have an anaemic bass per se, but bass is definitely not one of its strong suits. The mids were clear enough, although a bit fuzzy to my ears. The treble was as tizzy and sharp as I expected, although the sibilance wasn’t something too uncomfortable for me to handle despite my sensitivity to it. It definitely made guitars bite harder and cymbals crash more energetically compared to warmer headphones like the HP50, although any compression artifacts and poor mastering gets highlighted even more than my UM Pro 30s.
The soundstage was wider than any of my IEMs, although my IEMs (and IEMs in general) were never known for wide soundstages. The HP50 was definitely a more intimate headphone than the SR80s, although my ability to identify distances is too iffy for me to make any definite conclusions. The open nature of the SR80e and the emphasized treble definitely helps with giving the headphones a sense of air and space. The imaging wasn’t too bad, helped by the treble, but my UM Pro 30s was far better at extricating details from the music.
Do I enjoy the SR80e though? At the moment, definitely. I’ve been lacking a bright headphone in my collection thus far, and the SR80e is a cheap, good-sounding, if uncomfortable option. It makes my rock music rock harder, although I’ll definitely avoid using it for any more than what it’s really good at. There are no headphones in the world that can handle all genres of music and give the best account; so the more the merrier I say!