Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Grado SR-80i Review

Grado SR80i's
The Grado SR80i's are open backed, on ear headphones that sport an impressive combination of an expansive sound stage, a warm sound signature that plays particularly well with vocal, acoustic and rock music, a sparkly upper register with tight and controlled bass all for the extremely reasonable $100 dollar price point. The SR80i's mark an improvement over the original Grado SR80's, this includes slightly improved bass response due to newly enhanced driver units.  The 'i' moniker indicates "improved" according to Grado, and the SR80i's do indeed offer marked improvements over the original SR80's like increased ear pad comfort and an ever so slightly tweaked design.  The SR80i's are truly spectacular on almost every single level and are currently one of my favorite headphones in my collection.  Aside from a few minor drawbacks that buyers need to be aware of, the SR80i's sport a fantastic price to performance ratio.  Prepare for the SR80i's to be showered with praises in the next few paragraphs because these headphones are honestly in my opinion some of the best value cans on the market for their respective price point.

The SR80i's are manufactured by Grado Labs in the U.S.A, specifically in Brooklyn New York.  They came packaged in a rather simplistic box reminscent of 80's style packaging.  Within the flat box is of course, the SR80i's themselves surrounded snugly by a plethora of protective foam, a 3.5mm to quarter inch adapter, a nice little note to the buyer about the headphones and a warranty notice.  No carrying case nor pouch is supplied with the SR80i's, but considering the open backed nature and price of the headphones this is not a detractor as you wont want to be taking your SR80i's out of the house very often. Other than the aforementioned items, accessories are strictly limited to the quarter inch adapter.  This is part of Grado Labs no nonsense, no frills approach to absolutely awesome audio quality.

SR80i Right Ear cup/ Driver Housing
If you haven't gotten the vibe yet simply from the aesthetic design, the SR80i's are purposely intended to look have a retro look and feel to them.  The first thing I thought about when I first saw the SR80i's and many of Grado's other headphones was of the old 50's and 60's style headphones, specifically the headphones that the radio operator uses in the beginning of the popular Kings Speech movie.  The aesthetic design is fairly polarizing: you either love it or you hate it.  I happen to love the retro design and feel of the headphones, but folks preferring more modern looking gadgetry will likely not care for the Grado SR80i's aesthetic design. They are an on ear design, and the pads take a bit of getting used to.  They are a tad bit itchy at first, but if you wear them enough and break in the pads, the itchiness will recede in time.  The build quality is what I would categorize as sufficient.  They are most definitely not travel headphones.  The construction is far too fragile for travel and the open back design defeats the entire purpose of travel headphones.  I have confidence that, if treated carefully, they will last many many years but if you are one of those that tend to abuse your gear, you may want to look elsewhere: your SR80i's won't hold up long.  The headband has absolutely no padding on it whatsoever.  This did not prove to be a detractor for me as I have plenty of hair atop my head, but for those who are bald, this fact could prove to be a comfort issue.  I only have one major gripe in regards to the build/ design of the SR80i's.  The ear cups have the ability to swing around infinitely and this often results in the cables being tangled and twisted. Aside from this minor flaw, the SR80i's score an acceptable level of fit and finish.

As far as sound quality is concerned, the SR80i's are absolutely some of the very best budget oriented open backed headphones on the market.  The SR80i's embody what I would consider to be a relatively warm sound signature, but they simultaneously don't sacrifice upper range clarity and definition.  The instrument separation is absolutely phenomenal for headphones in the $100 dollar price bracket. When  listening to rock and acoustic style music, I am able to discern each individual instrument with absolute ease.  Listening to any type of acoustic or instrument oriented music (in other words, non-electronic music) the SR80i's provide an incredible amount of depth, width and three dimensional feel to the music that is simply not found in comparable open backed headphones.  In my opinion, I feel that the Grado SR80i's dish out the perfect amount of bass.  The bass is not overbearing nor deficient or lacking in tightness and definition for that matter.  It blends beautifully with the mid range.  The Grado SR80i's are not plagued by recession in the lower, mid or higher ranges.  Everything is beautifully balanced and equally proportional. The mid range is extremely clear and precise and results in outstanding guitar representation. The treble is bright and sparkly, symbol crashes are crisp, female vocals are represented beautifully. All of this is maintained without the slightest amount of sibilance or harshness to the upper range.  Many people indicate in Grado SR80i reviews that the SR80i's are best suited for acoustic and rock music genres.  I respectfully disagree, as I have spent countless hours listening to trance and similar electronic genres with the Grado SR80i's and was impressed by the tight bass response and sparkling treble and how it translated when listening to electronic music.  Do not be deterred from the SR80i's if you aren't a rock listener, they perform equally as well with most electronic genres.  In regards to pure sound quality, the SR80i's are unmatched at the $100 dollar price point.  I could not be happier with these headphones, they are truly spectacular.  I now fully understand why Grado headphones have attained such a following.

flat ear pads and 3.5mm plug
There are a few things that buyers need to be aware of before they buy these headphones however.  The first is that these headphones ARE NOT intended for travel or out of the house use.  They have a relatively fragile build quality and in addition they are open backed headphones that readily let sound in and out.  In other words, they don't block outside noise hardly at all and they also leak whatever you are listening too.  Open headphones are not and have never been really designed for traveling or any similar function.  In addition the SR80i's are an on ear headphone design.  Many reviewers have complained about the comfort level of the SR80i's, and while I don't have a problem with them, be aware that they will be sitting on your ear.

In summary, the Grado SR80i's are an amazing set of headphones at an absolutely amazing value and entry into beginning audiophile grade open backed headphones.  If you don't mind the open backed, on ear design of the headphones and love a warm, beautifully balanced sound signature all at a budget price, then the Grado SR80i's are the headphones for you.

Be sure to check out the product links below:
CLICK HERE for Grado SR80i Product Page
CLICK HERE for Grado SR80i Amazon Product Page

1 comment:

  1. I have Grado SR80i. Experienced no discomfort whatsoever. Superb. One of the best headphones I've ever had!