The following article is outdated, but we are leaving it here for reference purposes. FYI, the Grado SR80 mentioned below has now been replaced by the Grado SR80e. Still under $100 and the concept below still applies!:
Many years ago in my early teens, I asked for and received a J.C.Penney stereo cassette player with built in speakers... cost about $100. That cassette player was my first introduction to recorded music and sounded nothing like the boom boxes of today, but I played the heck out of that thing. Later, I hooked up a pair of external speakers which were literally car stereo speakers installed in a cardboard enclosure. As I look back at those days I realize the quality of sound from my tapes must have been awful! But the point is this, I ENJOYED listening to my music.
Naturally my sound systems since then have progressed well beyond that original cassette player. Most of us who enjoy our music on compact disc these days probably have a decent stereo to play our CD's on. However, due to marketing budgets and cut throat prices of some huge stereo equipment manufacturers, we sometimes forget there is a whole industry dedicated to better sounding stereo equipment. Many of you have probably never stepped into a high end stereo store, but there are dozens of companies researching and marketing stereo equipment which sounds better than the average department store stereo.
Now many of you are saying you can't even afford to consider the high price equipment normally associated with Audiophiles (folks who spend money on better sounding equipment)! I understand, but if you love to listen to your music and if you would like to hear more detail from your current stereo, don't forget about HEADPHONES!! The detail and quality of sound reproduction even from your standard stereo is normally improved by the use of headphones. Factors affecting music reproduction such as speaker placement, outside sounds, size of room, type of furnishings and size of speakers are no longer an issue with headphones.
As is usual with most products, the more you spend on cans (reviewer lingo for headphones), the more you get. Sound quality does vary quite a bit between brands and models. Plus with many headphones in addition to better sound you are also paying for styling, comfort and sometimes brand name. In my research of headphones for our store last year, I discovered audiophile magazines again and again talking about Grado headphones. Grado is a small audiophile company dedicated to better sound at affordable prices. They lack styling, (most of their headphones look alike), and comfort is also somewhat lacking. But as far as comfort is concerned, I can't wear any headphone for more than about an hour before I have to give my ears a break.
Good sound quality from most brands of headphones begins at about $80 and GREAT sound quality begins at about $200. Not so with Grado. Their $69 SR60's have won many accolades and sound better than any cans I have listened to under $100. Grado's $95 SR80's add quite a bit of punch on the bass compared to the SR60's and receives my vote for best value in cans at any price! I have compared the SR80's to $150 Grados' and $200 and $350 Sennheisers' which have all been highly touted by reviewers. Yes, I can hear some differences, but the improvements are minimal when connected to standard sound sources. In addition to great sound when hooked up to your home stereo, the SR80's (and SR60's for that matter), sound wonderful plugged into portable CD players.
Imagine, back in the 1970's it was a $100 cassette player that turned me on to music. Now many years later, that same $100 can be your entry into audiophile quality sound reproduction. Life's pressures are more demanding on my time than ever, but with my Grado SR80's, I still enjoy listening to my music!
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