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.
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..