GRADO SR80E: The Evolution

Well, they are very forward, and they have good presence in the vocals. It’s funny. I am finding myself having trouble finding the right words for the midrange, because I would usually say, “a very Grado-like midrange”, but that won’t quite cut it here. It’s the mids here that make the headphone both special, and a somewhat conditional recommendation.   The intensity of the mids can make them rather fatiguing. I find myself using the SR80e at somewhat lower volumes. I can report, however, that the SR80e does sound very good at moderate volumes, so there is no need to crank this baby up all the way in order to get decent sound out of it. For the longest time, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this headphone, but the more I listened to it, the more I really got into that special, in-your-face midrange.

What can help a lot here is doing a good job of picking the right music to listen to with the SR80e. It does extremely well with rock, be it Derek and the Dominos or be it Garbage. It’s fast and it’s forward. Blues and country are also well served by this headphone, but neither of those are genres where I spend much time with. Where the SR80e really surprised me is with acoustic. One of my absolute favorite singers today is Jenny Lewis, and I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed her CD’s as much as I am with the SR80e. Her music has a wonderful intimacy to it that I found incredibly beguiling. If her style of music (acoustic, folky rock) is your thing, you should add this to your list of MUST audition headphones.

If classical is your bag however, this isn’t your headphone. It lacks the thunderous bass for larger, orchestral works, and it doesn’t have the sound stage for any of them. This is a very open sounding headphone, but it is very much an inside your head sound. Its width is only ok, and there isn’t nearly enough depth for the music that requires such things.

Unfortunately, I no longer have the old SR80i with which to compare, but I don’t remember the older model being quite as comfortable as this one. What else I can say is that this is a surprisingly clean, detailed and dynamic sounding headphone for the asking price, more so than I remember its predecessor being.

Conclusion

The things I would usually find as flaws, such as the weakness with classical, weak soundstage, intense mids, feel less like flaws here and just more like observations. No, it isn’t good for classical, but it isn’t trying to be. The SR80e is voiced for specific genres, and that isn’t one of them. The more time I spent using them for their intended genres (especially Jenny Lewis who is so awesome she should be her own genre); I really fell in love with the SR80e.

With that in mind, I am going to issue a blanket audition recommendation. You owe it to yourself to listen to a pair of Grados and hear this sound for yourself. You might spend some time with them and fall in love with them like I did. You might also give them a shot, and say, “YOUCH! This is too intense for my blood”. Both are perfectly probable. Bottom line: you need to hear this and make up your own mind. What can’t be debated is that Grado brought a solid sound and comfort upgrade to their Grado sound, and more that, an unconditional congratulations is in order. You can buy the SR80 directly from Grado or via Amazon where it will set you back $99.

To end on a personal note, this is going to be the last review I write for Headfonia. With my job and my family both vying for my time, I simply wouldn’t be fair to Headfonia as I would be, as we have seen with this review and the WA7 piece, very slow and unreliable. I just want to say thank you to everyone at Headfonia, and to everyone who read any of my reviews. It has been an unreal experience and total pleasure. I am really glad that this ended up being my final review, as it is both from an older and established company, and a budget headphone. I can’t think of a better piece to bow out on. Thank you.

Editor’s Note: I would like to thank Dave for the reviews he did for Headfonia and I wish him all the best with his new job. If you change your mind..

GRADO SR80E: The Evolution
4.2 (84.58%) 48 vote[s]

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20 Comments

  • Reply October 28, 2014

    Krzysztof Maj

    Hello,
    You’re saying that these cans are not for classical. Have you found any other cans from Grado line to be good for classical music? For instance 325is/e?

    • Reply October 28, 2014

      ohm image

      The GR10 earphones are A+ for classical in terms of extension and power in both extremes. Not cans, though.

      • Reply October 28, 2014

        Krzysztof Maj

        Yes, but those are IEM’s. Interested in full desktops headphones.

        • Reply October 28, 2014

          Headfonia_L.

          And it has to be Grado?

          • Reply October 28, 2014

            Krzysztof Maj

            Well, could be also other producer, but if yes, than I am assuming that for the classical music you don’t recommend any Grado cans.

            • Reply October 28, 2014

              Headfonia_L.

              I probably wouldn’t, indeed

              • Reply October 28, 2014

                Krzysztof Maj

                Hm, ok. I have 325is and quite enjoyed classical over them, but I think they need good match with headphone amp – event built-in. I am not saying that 32Ohm cans need headphone amp, but if using let say DAC with in-built headphone out it needs to be a good match. In my case I needed to change some caps/resistors around the opamp to change frequency response in lower/mid bass and now they’re singing.

                • Reply October 28, 2014

                  dalethorn

                  I agree on the 325 series – they are slightly forwad, but in a pleasing way, and never harsh.

  • Reply October 28, 2014

    Anthony Kimball

    Bon Voyage, enjoy life, & thanks for the review!!

  • Reply October 28, 2014

    Marc

    Goodbye Dave and thank you for all the wonderful reviews!! Good luck with your new job!

  • Reply October 28, 2014

    ohm image

    Dave, I am sad to see you go, but love to watch _how_ you left. The pleasure has been all ours. This was a fitting product from which to make a final leap. Well done.

  • Reply October 28, 2014

    John123John

    at least leave us with another HD 650 review before you go! 🙂

    • Reply October 29, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      hahaha, I’ll see what I can do.

  • Reply October 29, 2014

    gagetbOy

    good luck man family 1st is always a good motto.

  • Reply October 30, 2014

    alexandrov

    Thanks for the review
    And you’ll be back, believe me 🙂
    I’ve said the same many times but audio remains my main hobby and I always return 🙂

  • Reply February 17, 2015

    dalethorn

    So I ordered the PS1000e today…

    • Reply February 18, 2015

      Tibor

      You are lucky man!

      • Reply February 18, 2015

        dalethorn

        Very lucky, yes. I expect it will sound very good, but some users have said the bass is very light, so that will be a subject of investigation.

        • Reply February 18, 2015

          Tibor

          I am about to buy 325e soon! PS series are a bit too expensive for me, but I auditioned them both already, and they are perfect 🙂 So share your thoughts then.

          • Reply February 19, 2015

            dalethorn

            In the late 90’s I bought the Sennheiser HD580 that got a rave review on Stereophile, but it was really just too distant, and so I bought the HD565 which was much better I thought, then shortly after that I got the Grado 325 from a store in Santa Barbara, and it was about $325 then if I remember correctly. The 325 was just about the most perfect sound I’ve heard, for balance and for musical enjoyment. When I got the PS-500 in 2011, it had a small bass hump around 75-100 hz, but other than that just perfect through the mids and highs. So it could be the PS-500 of today is better than the 325 of today, but I wouldn’t bet money on it. I think you’ll find the 325 to be an amazing sound.

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