Grado Headphones... "Good, Better, Best!" by Bill K
Quite a while back I was asked to write an article by GearCrave about Grado Headphones perhaps narrowing down the Grado line to "Good, Better, and Best." I was immediately reminded of the old Radio Shack ads that used such a format. But, the concept seemed appropriate given the various models Grado offers.... so, here it is... (Note, Grado has since altered their headphones slightly. However, the current models are only slightly tweaked for minor improvements, so the article is still quite relevant... current model numbers will be noted).
Grado is a smallish audiophile manufacturer out of Brooklyn, NY that has been in business over 60 years. They basically only manufacture two types of products, turntable cartridges and headphones. They focus on sound quality and their headphones have continually caught my ear. I've been reviewing headphones since 1995 and have consistently been impressed by Grado. While they do offer multiple headphones in their line-up, being familiar with most of the models, it's fairly easy for me to weed down their offerings to Good, Better and Best.
Good - Grado SR80: (Current Model - SR80x) For quite a few years now, I've felt the SR80 offers just about the best "Bang for your Buck" in the headphone world. It's sound quality is well above that of any headphone you'll find sitting on a department store shelf! You hear very good detail in the mids and the highs from the SR80's. And bass wise, though it might not be louder, it has a good clean bass and not muddy like the sound you'll find on most of the discount headphones. And a plus, the Grado's are easy to drive. While they are a good headphone for home use, they are also being used by many connected up to portable players. Though they are not portable sized headphones, (more of a mid-sized headphone), the earpieces do rotate 360 degrees so they can lay flat and are stowable in a suitcase or bag. FYI, all Grado's are what is known as "Open" headphones. They have open grills behind the drivers, (speakers), so sound does leak in and out. While this may preclude them from being used in some public places, the open headphone design is a major improvement that gives the headphones a more natural sound than that of a "Closed" headphone.
Better - Grado SR325: (Current Model - SR325e) Grado offers two models between the SR80 and the SR325. But basically, they are the SR80 tweaked for slightly better sound. It's not until you step up to the SR325 that you get a bigger jump in sound quality. The SR325 has a larger body than that of the SR80 and it is machined from a special non-resonant, very hard alloy as compared to the plastic body of the SR80. The larger sound chamber of the SR325 gives it a fuller sound and better bass. In addition, the drivers are tested and more closely pair-matched for exact imaging. The voice-coils are wound from ultra-high purity, long crystal (UHPLC) oxygen free copper. The SR325 can be powered by many portables, but it is somewhat more demanding of power than the SR80. Therefore, it's borderline as to whether you would want to use this headphone with a portable player or not? And given it comes with a standard 1/4 inch plug, Grado obviously feels this is more of a home headphone. Author's Note: I've always felt the 325's are better with the optional larger G-Cush earpads. Comfort is improved, and to my ears, the sound is fuller. Here's a link to the G-cush at Amazon, (Grado G-Cush), and here's a link to a less spendy version of the larger earpads from a third party, (Affordable G-Cush Alternative).
Best - Grado GS1000: (Current Model - GS1000e) GS stands for "Grado Statement!" This is a beautiful, wooden bodied headphone that has captured the ears of many audiophiles. The GS1000 has an even larger body than that of the SR325, as well as larger G-Cush earpads. The size gives it an even fuller sound, (often referred to as a "Larger Soundstage"). The wooden body optimizes the tonal quality, not to mention an added allure! Grado redesigned the driver in order to achieve a correct balance between the driver and the wooden driver housing. The driver and wooden housing work together to move air and react to sound vibrations and are less affected by transient distortions. Speaking of allure, one might equate this beautiful wooden headphone to a hand crafted instrument! A labor of love, as well it should be as like most Grado headphones, I'm sure the GS1000 is mostly hand made/assembled in Grado's Brooklyn facilities. Update: Grado has since brought out several spendier models. We did compare a couple of their "Professional Series" headphones with the GS1000e and we preferred the GS. The Professional Series models produced a sound that was a bit more laid back, and perhaps more accurate? But they didn't rock us like the GS1000e did! We love the detail we hear from Grado's and "laid back" sound is not what drew us to the Grado's in the first place.
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