Based in Brooklyn, NY, headphone company Grado are proud of their history, passing down their sound through 3 generations since being founded in 1953 as a phono cartridge manufacturer. Part of their prestige series, the SR80 is, as Grado puts it, “the first Grado headphone, this is the legendary pair that started it all.” It has of course been updated numerous times since its conception, and recently they’ve upgraded its cable and headband. Let’s dig into the widely-loved sound of these classic headphones.
Look and Feel
The SR80x’s all black, vaguely vintage, industrial look is a style many listeners are sure to latch onto. Additionally, their small speaker drivers and light weight make them very easy to wear. The addition of the plush headband and the braided cable add an extra level of comfort to their durable build.
All Grado headphones are handmade in Brooklyn. The SR80x’s open back design features the 4th generation of Grado’s “X Series” dynamic drivers. This updated version of the SR80x also features a 4 conductor cable to improve the audio signal.
These have an impedance of 38Ohms and a frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz
These have a substantially wide soundstage. It gives a great amount of cinematic immersion and opens up music, creating an airy sense of space. I played Highasakite’s song “Under the Sun” to test out their soundstage because of its immense vocal stacking and wide stereo reverb. The SR80x allowed this song to travel the full length and width of its composition, timpani drums booming beneath feathered out harmonies. Strings sat further back in the mix but were never fully lost as their sounds had ample space to flow beneath the massive sound of the rest of the song.
The SR80x have a comfortable, warm high end. They’re unmistakably on the brighter side, but avoid any harshness in this area with how silky and smooth they are. Their detail and accuracy in the highs is the first piece of their impressively articulate, crisp sound. They’re not overly-snappy in the high end, further contributing to their more liquid treble. If you want a very clean, modern high-end with some vintage warmth, the SR80x hits the nail on the head.
These have extremely crisp, somewhat extended mids. They have the signature Grado midrange sound, which to me has a sharper, saturated quality. This adds a lot of presence to vocals, strings, and keys. For those who are very mid-sensitive, these may occasionally come off a bit resonant at higher volumes. Listeners with less delicate hearing in this area will find the mid range is defined and forward. Listening to Strawberry Switchblade’s “Go Away,” the SR80x gave a great body to the song’s thinner, 80s-stricken timbre. Keys and strings especially felt very well-defined and brought out on this track, while the vocals carried seamlessly without ever getting buried.
Over-ear headphones are rarely the first place to look for head-shaking, sub-heavy bass, but you can still get plenty of punch and impact. The SR80x do not feel sub-filled or bass abundant, but still defined and percussive in their lows. Their low end’s best quality to me was its tightness and purity. Listening to Sabrina Claudio’s “Natural,” the heavy R&B drums and bass hit right where I wanted them to. Enough punch to cut through the mix without dominating it. While the basement frequencies were not highly intense, I didn’t feel their bass response was incomplete, just very controlled.
The SR80x earns its historically positive reputation, and feels like a headphone that will continue its reign for years to come. Their signature sound is definitely clear and will not be for 100% of listeners, but the large majority will be quite impressed with the quality these provide for their price. If you’re looking in the $100-$200 price range, the SR80x is a must-listen.
You can purchase Grado’s SR80x at Audio46