Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 559 Comparison Review

Best Open-Back Headphones Under 100 Dollars Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 5590

The world of inexpensive open-back headphones, two come to mind as leaders in the audiophile world: the Grado SR80e and the Sennheiser HD 559. And while one is on-ear and one is open-ear, they’ve left me wondering how their individual sound signatures compare to each other. What type of listener would benefit from which headphone? Today I’ll aim to find out with this Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 559 comparison review.

Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 559 Comparison Review

In the Box – Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 559 Comparison Review

Grado SR80e Sennheiser HD 559
Grado SR80e headphones  Sennheiser HD 559 headphones
3.5 mm  to 6.3 mm adapter 3 m audio cable with 6.3 mm connector
documentation documentation

Specifications – Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 559 Comparison Review

Grado SR80e Sennheiser HD 559
Frequency Response 20 Hz – 20 kHz 14 Hz – 26 kHz
Impedence 32 ohms 50 ohms
SPL 99.8 dB (1 kHz/Vrms) 108 dB (1 kHz/Vrms)
Price $99 $99

Design – Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 559 Comparison Review


Holding the headphones up side-by-side, it is clear that they have vastly different designs. The Sennheiser HD 559’s headband is made mostly of plastic. It also has a super soft cushion on its underside that is coated with a light velvet material. Oh the other hand, the Grado SR80e’s headband is made of metal and is coated with leather. It doesn’t have any significant padding. However I found it to be more comfortable than the HD 559’s headband. Why, you ask? The HD 559 is heavier than the SR80e and hugs the head tighter. The SR80e is  incredibly light and doesn’t squeeze my delicate head.

Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 559 headband


Because the Grado SR80e is an on-ear style headphone and the Sennheiser HD 559 is an over-ear style headphone, the sizes of their earcups vary greatly from one another. The SR80e has a smaller, circular earcup with a metal grill, leaving the innards of the headphone visible and open. As a result, it has a much more retro sort of look. On the other hand, the Sennheiser HD 559 has a larger, oval-shaped earcup. It has a more modern look because of its plastic designs and cloth covered grill. Additionally, the HD 559 rocks modestly in its yolk to adjust to different head shapes and sizes. However, the SR80e doesn’t rock, and only spins on its yolk fully around over 360 degrees.

Buy Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 559 earcups


To add to its old-school look, the Grado SR80e earpads are foam with no coating. They are also relatively thin in comparison to the HD 559. Contrarily, the HD 559 pads are thicker and fit fully around the ear. They consist of soft cushions coated in the same light velvety material of the headband cushion. In addition to feeling more secure than those of the SR80e’s, they also have better sound isolation (as one might expect with an over-the-ear headphone).

Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 559 earpads


Both the Grado SR80e and the Sennheiser HD 559 headphones have somewhat burdensome cables. However, the SR80e cable is a bit more arduous because it is thicker, fully attached to the earcups, and more prone to twisting because of the limitless rotation of the earcups. The HD 559’s cable, on the other hand, is detachable and is a bit thinner. It is a longer cable than the SR80e but it feels more manageable to me.

Sound – Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 559 Comparison Review

Both the Grado SR80e and the Sennheiser HD 559 have great sound stages, especially for their conservative price of $99. Their sound signatures, though, are quite different from each other.

Grado SR80e

The SR80e is more high-mid-centric. As a result, vocals are beautifully detailed and crisp in addition to sitting a bit higher in the mix than they would otherwise. This high-mid emphasis combined with the warm and colorful high frequencies — a Grado signature in my opinion — makes vocal breath and cymbal sustain sparkle in a unique and warm way across genres and vibes. As a result, the high-mids have a nice sense of depth and contribute to the detail of its expansive sense of width.

The SR80e doesn’t have a lot of low end extension, and has modest lows in general. However, it regains some of its energy down there by a boost in the low-mids, where bass guitars love to bump.Due to a scoop in the midrange, music with a lot of electric guitars and synths feels a little thin and less powerful than one might want. Therefore, these headphones are better for folks listening to acoustic music such as folk, jazz, Bluegrass, or any vocal centric music that don’t rely on low-end for emotional impact.

Sennheiser HD 559

On the other hand, the Sennheiser HD 559 has much more energy in the midrange.Like the SR80e, it also has some emphasis in the low-mids so bass guitars and even electric guitars and synths have some added thickness. In general, it is a less colorful sounding headphone than the SR80e. It’s high frequencies are more polite and laid back, although it seems to have more extension here, and thus better imaging.

It’s low frequencies are more audible and have better extension than the SR80e, so kick drums, bass synths, and other low frequency rich instruments have more impact here. Unfortunately, this low end sometimes blends and becomes blurred with the low-mids which makes that area of the frequency spectrum a little bit soupy. Like the SR80e, the 559 has a great soundstage for the price, although its depth comes mostly from its midrange rather than its high-mids. Additionally, it has a better sense of height than the SR80e because of its low and high frequency extension.

Overview – Grado SR80e vs Sennheiser HD 559 Comparison Review

Both the Grado SR80e and the Sennheiser HD 559 are solid sets of headphones, especially for just $99. They have very different sound signatures from each other, but both benefit from a great sounding soundstage. Both are great to listen to a variety of genres. However, the Grado SR80e’s sound better with acoustic music like jazz, folk, singer-songwriter and other vocal centric genres. The HD 559 is better for heavier, mid-range centric music like rock, metal, and genres with synthesized instruments like pop and electronic.

The Grado SR80e and the Sennheiser HD 559 are available for the best price here:

Grado SR80e at Audio 46

Grado SR80e on Amazon

Sennheiser HD 559 at Audio 46

Sennheiser HD 559 on Amazon

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Steph is a musician, recordist, mixer, and producer. In addition to longform written reviews, he also handles the MajorHiFi Youtube channel. Contact: