Grado SR80i Headphones Review

Product: Grado SR80i Headphones

Category: Audio

Price: $99.99 Amazon

Review by: Desz Martinez

While I love the convenience and popularity of mp3s, I also love enjoying music in its intended high audio quality, which is why I have kept my CD only car stock stereo installed till this day. I do in fact make sure when converting my CDs to mp3s to convert them to the best quality possible. I have a great ear for music and sounds, but one thing I have learned throughout my years of music listening, music production and podcasting, is that a quality pair of headphones is just as important as the quality of the music, podcast or sounds being played. You just can’t use any pair of headphones to get the full experience of sounds going into your ear.

Introduction: I have been hearing about the Grado headphones for sometime now, everything I have read or watched online has been highly positive about the brand. I needed to get my hands on a pair of Grados to review and test for myself. Sometimes; things get over hyped, yet come out short when tested in real situations. Time to get in a TQ review, let’s check ’em out.

Design and Presentation: The first thing and most appealing thing about these headphones have to be the vintage look to them, I love the old school–vintage look they promote. The SR80i’s come with an adjustable, soft vinyl head band and large ear cushions for comfortable listening. I literally had the SR80i’s on for about 4 hours with none stop tunes and podcasts while doing stuff around the house, so even though they promote a rugged and heavy look, they are light and comfortable.

One thing that may be a good or positive feature, depending on the type of person you are, would have to the headphone’s cord. It is about 6 feet long, so forget taking these headphones to the gym unless you want to jump rope with them, the cord can also get in your way when walking if you let it naturally fall. On the other hand and the positive side of things, the cord is an excellent length for when using the SR80is in the studio, class or office, I found the length to be more of a pro for me since I use the headphones mostly in my office while producing or recording music and podcasts, I also wrap the excess cord and put it in my pocket when walking or doing stuff around the house.

The headphones also come with a 1/4 inch gold plated adapter, great for mixer boards! Unfortunately, the SR80is don’t come with first generation iPhone compatibility; you will need to buy and adapter.

Hands on: Ok, let’s get into the tests. I will have to admit, I’m sort of spoiled by my Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones, so right before I tested the SR80is, I didn’t expect them to sound anything close to what I’m use to. Boy was I wrong.

I tested the headphones with a mixture of music that range from Kanye West to the Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack. Yes, I’m a Phantom of the Opera fan.

I put these headphones to the test of CD and MP3, some mp3s being higher quality than other, and of course one CD to really get the ultimate experience.

Kanye West – College Drop Out: MP3 320kbps

The sound was crisp, very crisp, the treble levels are incredible, volume levels reached very high levels, enough to make me lower it a few notches. One thing that I did notice was the lack of bass with this album; the bass was present, but nothing close to what I have heard on other headphones, but enough to create a full and clean sound. The vocals and synth sounds; sounded crisp, clear, and full.

Green Day – Dookie MP3 128kbps

I imported my Dookie CD at 128kbps just to test out a lower quality mp3 album with the SR80is.  The sound was obviously much lower, but the SR80is kept the crisp and clear sound. It handled the change in volume levels fine and brought the vocals to a front layer, they sounded like they were right next to you ear, yet not too loud or too busy, considering the punk music.

Phantom of the Opera Original Soundtrack MP3 256kbp

I’ve been a fan of the Phantom of the Opera since 5th grade when I was introduced to it by my late 5th grade teacher, Mr. Fadorca. I swear the sounds of “Music of the Night” give me this unexplained power and motivation that is hard to describe. Since I’m real familiar with the soundtrack, I decided to test the SR80is with it. Let’s just say that it shined and sounded better than ever. I heard things I had never heard in this opera soundtrack, the SR80is really work well with Opera music. The deep voices, strong orchestra all sounded crispier and cleaner than ever before. A true motivation, and the cleanest high pitches I have heard.

Mana – Donde Jugaran Los Niños Compact Disc

Ok, this is where we go all out. I went with Mana as the final and only CD test with my SR80i headphones review. Mana is a Spanish Rock band, and I really wanted to hear the guitar strings and smooth vocals. Just like I imagined, the SR80is performed incredible. Not only was this CD crisp, but it was full and rich, and the guitar strings were right next to your ear, a perfect LP to test these Grados out. Mana has a combination of hard and fast tracks mixed with slower guitar powered tracks. The SR80i headphones took care of business.

Wishes or Changes: I really don’t have any whishes or changes other than the request to bring first generation iPhone connection. Yes, I still have the 1st iPhone.

TQ Bottom Line: Overall, the Grado SR80i headphones really surprised me. I hate to compare the Grados with the Beats by Dre Monster headphones, but I use the Beats everyday and for me to go out and say that the Grado SR80i headphone’s crisp and clean sound are on par and even surpass the Beats in certain music, is saying a lot. While the bass is not the best, especially with Rap/Hip-Hop music, there is enough bass to create a full sound and rich sound that impress, especially knowing that the Grados are engineered to be very neutral, adding no emphasis on any parts of the frequency range. In addition, the volume level on the SR80is max at a perfect and comfortable level. And oh yeah, the price–$99 for a pair of quality sounding headphones is the right price, this is what also makes these headsets very desirable, a great price for a pair of outstanding headphones can’t get any better. Bravo Grado! You get 5 michelas out of 5! And that’s rare, like Mr. Clean with Hair!

Michela Rating:

5 Michelas? (What does 5 Michelas mean?) 5 michelas is like drinking 5 of your favorite drinks, you are feeling better than ever, you are the life of the party, your buzz has reached the highest level of happiness, you are truly unstoppable, unbreakable, but most importantly, perfect! The 5 michela rating is the only rating to have an after party in honor of your perfection! Congratulations!

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  • TigerClaw

    How good is the bass on these Headphones, I’m using the Bose On-Ear Headphones and the bass on them is incredible. Feels like your in a room with your surround sound cranked all the way up with your powered subwoofer booming that deep bass.

    • The Bass is rich and full, but not the best for music with deep bass at high volume–Rap/Hip-Hop music for instance. But the key is “High Volume” they perform well with mid volume. And just like on my review, I tend to compare these to the Beats by Dre headphones which are made for deep bass and are $200 more than the SR80is. Not a good comparison, but the Grados actually match the clear and crisp sound. Grados just don’t get as high volume as the Beats. I think if you were to listen to them, you would be impressed, I haven’t tried the Bose On ear, so I wouldn’t be able to give you a head to head comparison.

  • Illmatic

    Great review. These sound like some good headphones, im still rocking the iPhone headphones. Let me have these……for free.. That is all..later

  • TigerClaw

    I see, Its just I like my Bose headphones because of the level of bass it produces without the distortion. The music I listen to really thrives on them because of the deep bass. I listen to a lot of trance, techno and house music and they produce large amount of bass that makes you feel like your in a club with large pounding speakers around you. :).

    • Umm I didn’t try Trance or techno music. I’ll give it s shot tonight and report back. What do you recommend?

  • TigerClaw

    I use the Bose On-Ear Headphones, They are pricey though, They normally run for $179.99.

    • I meant for the trance or techno music.

  • TigerClaw

    So much trance music out there, Hard to recommend any specific ones.

  • Peku

    Both ‘Beats by Dre’ and pretty much all the phones from Bose are not Hi-Fi phones or audiophile phones. Grados are.

    Beats by Dre are just meant for bass, and sold at three times what they’re worth because of the branding. Bose headphones are just the laughing stock of the hi-fi world.

    I don’t see the point in comparing phones made for bassheads to phones made for people who actually appreciate the mid and high frequencies as well.

    And Green Day is not punk.

  • Justin Bulk

    I have recently bought the Grado sr80i after deciding Beats where probably going to be a case of style over substance (although it sounds like they are very good if you’ve got the cash).
    I have listened to a range of music on them and would say that electronic music (techno, dubstep, electronica) sounds incredible on them, you will hear parts of the production that you’ve never heard before. Try Benga – 26 Basslines on them if you like bass heavy production. The separation of sounds is incredible. Take more minimalist music e.g. James Blake – Limit to your Love and you hear crystal clear piano,beautiful vocals followed by rich sub-bass. Modern classical music like Haushka and Max Richter also sounds fantastic.
    I love these headphones, perfect for losing yourself in the music – the down sides are looks and leakage – not ideal for public use unfortunately.

  • The K-Man

    Bought the Grado sr80i just over a week ago, and let it sit and burn itself in for 8 hours at the loudest volume I could stand, on a variety of my CDs. I fed them a Whodini Greatest hits collection to work in the bottom. “Awesome 80s” for a wide range of pop sounds, a Telarc release of Beethoven’s nos 5 and 7 for dynamic range, and a first release CD of Dire Straits’ Bros In Arms.
    First let me say that my “out of box” at the store experience with these Grados was one of the BEST I’ve ever had. I auditioned them through a headphone amp driven by the dealer’s PC using Pandora to drive my selections.
    After my “burn in” the experience got only better. If the Grado experience means “these headphones neither add to or detract from your music” – then I am all aboard! There is nothing I can say that I hear emphasized when switching between genres, CDs, and radio stations via these headphones. I feel like I’m I’m hearing what’s there.
    I think the only disappointment with these headphones might come for those who want their bass like they might have in their cars – enough to rattle the license plates and crack the windshield! Sorry – the Prestige series by Grado are too honest for that. I personally would say they are slightly bass anemic – but only in the very deep sub-50Hz realm – nothing an EQ couldn’t fix up. If you want that type of bass out of the carton, go for the Beats by Dre, or Sony’s MDR-XB series phones. But if you want ACCURATE, what is there is what’s there, sound – you can’t go wrong with the sr80i or for an extra 20-note the sr125i.
    And while it looked silly, I actually tested out the theory that these open-back headphones will drive fellow airline passengers or coworkers batty by placing them on a melon at the volume I normally listen to. And unless I moved my head to within 12inches of that melon I honestly could not hear much more than occasional treble bursts of the music. It’s not that intrusive!
    I’ve been recommended Grados and have been reading about them for the past 3 years and am glad that I finally took the plunge for them. The upgraded pads are good for 1-2 hours at a time on this head, and any EQ I apply via the SR80i is only disruptive to the listening experience!

  • Anon E Mus

    Stopped reading at ” spoiled by my Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones, so right before I tested the SR80is, I didn’t expect them to sound anything close to what I’m use (sic) to”