Grado SR325x Review
From their look to their fit to their sound, the headphones from Brooklyn-based Grado Labs always come with unique and iconic features. Though the company creates headphones for all sorts of uses and purposes, their Prestige series seems to be where they focus their efforts in striking a balance of quality and affordability for the everyday consumer. Grado released the open-back X series of their Prestige line over the summer of 2021, which mean all headphones in Prestige now feature Grado’s new 4th generation driver. Today, I’m going to be taking a look and listen with the most high end offering in the Prestige line: the Grado Labs SR325x. Clocking in at a moderate, neither expensive nor cheap $295, we’re going to see what exactly it has to offer.
What’s In The Box?
-Grado Labs SR325x Headphones
-6.5mm Golden Adapter
Look and Feel
The SR325x is the only headphone in Grado’s X series to feature metal housing made from brushed aluminum, making it stand out from the rest of the pack. They include a thin leather headband with stylish white stitching along the perimeter that adds a nice touch of visual pop. Those who know Grado won’t be too surprised to hear that the earcups are padded with F cushions, which contribute to the particularly flat and over-ear character of the ear cups. At first I thought I didn’t like the feel of the SR325X, with the inside surface of the cans pressing directly against my outer ear. I really did get used to this feeling after just a short period of time however, and was able to wear them for a number of hours without frustration and with only a few light adjustments. What likely helped contribute to my easy adjustment was the decently light weight of the SR325x, coming in at 360 grams, as well as a gentle headband that struck just the right balance of hanging and clamping.
As is signature for Grado, the speakers are connected to the headband with simplistic metal sliders that allow the cans to spin around and around without restriction. Grado Prestige X series headphones also come with a new headphone cable, which I liked quite a bit for its thick, durable and professional quality. My only minor complaint at the end of the day is with the F pads, which collect a fair amount of heat as they pressed directly against my ear; this is pretty manageable as it’s somewhat offset by the open-air design of Grado’s Prestige X series.
The most significantly upgraded feature is Grado’s dynamic driver, which has now been upgraded to its 4th generation iteration. Specially tuned for the SR325x, the company has improved the driver design with a more powerful magnetic circuit, a lighter voice coil and a reconfigured diaphragm. Grado claims these features are responsible for reduced distortion and increased efficiency and harmonic clarity. The wire that comes included with the SR325x is also step up from previous releases in the Prestige line, featuring super annealed 8 conductors and extra insulation (annealing involves using a slow cooling process that adds extra malleability to the metal in the wires). Lastly, the aluminum metal housing that’s exclusive to the SR325 in the X series brings more color and precision to its sonic image.
-44mm Dynamic Driver
-Frequency Response: 18Hz – 24kHz
-Sensitivity: SPL 1mW: 98dB
-Impedance: 32 ohms
The extra efforts Grado Labs made in the imaging department certainly paid off. The phaser effects on the album Currents by Tame Impala went in full circles around my head, a feeling that was heightened by the direct contact the speakers were making with my ears. The powerful vibrations produced by the SR325x gave me the impression that they were lightly and pleasantly resonating around my skull, resulting in a vivid positioning of the various tracks in a mix. While the SR325x produced an alluring and desirable spherical image, it did feel a little small, mostly constrained around my head rather than reaching out past me like some open designs are capable of doing. The exception to this was the high end, which gave hi hats some variation in distance.
If you’re familiar with Grado, you know that their EQ balance is quite truly one-of-kind, maybe even a bit extreme. While the low end is definitely of note and will be elaborated on below, its the signature Grado mids that aren’t just boosted, but rather come out ripping with vengeance. I won’t lie, it could take some getting used to for some listeners, but Grado has basically built themselves on this distinct sound that many listeners have fallen in love with and pledged their allegiance to. It’s not that I didn’t like it at first, it was that I didn’t get it. After a few listens, however, it really grew on me, and I feel like I finally understand the niche hype the Grado name generates.
There’s a truly awesome boom in the SR325x that can make you forget just how open its design is. As I mentioned before, the contact that these made up against my ear gave them an extra vibratory quality, which complimented the loud low end exceptionally well. Not only is the bass powerful, but also accurate and defined, existing on a separate plane from the rest of the textures present in the SR325x. Its dramatic when the bass drops out on the track, and then really noticeable when it comes pushing its way back in. A commendable low end quality was the clear distinction between the boosted lowest frequencies and low mids, a rather tricky feat that only the most clever bass-heavy headphones can accomplish.
The middle of the frequency spectrum is where Grado Labs has its fun. I’d venture to say that more so than any other characteristic, the SR325x is a hell of a harmonic headphone that does particularly well with loud tracks. Distorted guitars sound thick and extra crunchy, while acoustic drums have an emphasized thump in their transients. Trebly electric basses had a an added bright grit and crunch as well. The mids balance swings bright, and introduced a strong, almost piercing quality to higher vocals that at times was a little piercing but at other times got me hyped. The mids game is a risky one to play, and a lot of headphones that go this route lose definition and end up creating an imprecise wall of sound that gets expressed as a single layer. This isn’t the case with Grado’s SR325x, which had a center that was as intricately layered as it was loud. I would say that there is, on one level, a singular harmonic layer (particularly in the high mids) that serves as a composite energy of the middle frequency components of a track. The headphones then create a space between that layer and the individual parts that compose it, thus providing a layered distinction between the “real” parts and their combined, sublime energy.
I found the high end to sit separately from the the rest of the SR325x’s spunky sonic qualities and act the most naturally. It’s likely the fact that it doesn’t get wrapped up in the bustling energy present in the lows and mids that it can take on more depth than the rest of the frequency spectrum. Hi-hats had an unobstructed crisp whispyness that was uniquely soothing against the backdrop of the aggressive mids. Other than ride cymbals and tambourines having the subtle tink that good highs can render, clip distortion sounded pretty great the as their extra high pitched, buzzy harmonics emanated out of the mid’s madness distinctly and clearly.
I went into this review moderately familiar with Grado Labs, having curiously picked around several of the Prestige X series headphones not too long ago. After sitting down with the SR325x, the best the series has to offer, the excitement that Grado generates for some people finally clicked with me. It’s not about EQ accuracy and analytical listening: it’s about an absolutely off-the-wall energy that made me feel helpless against the temptation to pump the volume and get the biggest dose of vibrating harmonic energy possible. The SR325x is very fairly priced at $295, offering moderate affordability alongside a high quality, in-your-face fun balance that casual listeners can appreciate as much as hardened audiophiles.