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Grado SR-80

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #5 in On-Ear


Pros: Aggressive mids, Tight lows

Cons: Isolation, Initial fatigue, Sometimes too bright, Cable


The Grado SR80i is one of the entry-level models in a legendary lineup. It is the first pair of proper cans I have owned. I'm a big fan of metal but being a student didn't have enough cash to burn on high-end stuff and after a bit of lurking found that cans were being recommened by many for listening to metal. Also, I wanted a better set of cans to really enjoy my new source (FiiO X3). So after a bit of saving up, I ended up buying these and I must admit, I have not been disappointed.





Since I bought it solely for listening to metal, I wanted to try out as many variations (sub-genres) I could with it. The source used for this review is a FiiO X3 connected to a PC as a DAC. Instead of the headphone out, the line out signal is used and fed to a FiiO E12. Provided below is a list of the test tracks used for the review. All tracks were encoded at 16bit/44.1kHz FLAC and were originally sourced from the corresponding CD releases.

  1. "Fade to Black" by Metallica
  2. "(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth" by Metallica
  3. "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" by Agalloch
  4. "Solitude" by Candlemass
  5. "Left Hand Path" by Entombed
  6. "Under a Funeral Moon" by Darkthrone
  7. "In the Halls of Awaiting" by Insomnium
  8. "An Old Man and a Child" by Lykathea Aflame
  9. "Below the Sun" by Ahab


Initial Impressions

On my very first listen it was a big step-up from all the previous (el cheapo) cans that I had owned. The overall response was much faster, the bass was punchier and much more controlled, the presentation was pretty spacious and there was an overall richness to the tonality which I liked. However, the initial listening session did not last long as I not was acquainted with the level of brightness these cans put out. Although I'm not a firm believer of the burn-in theory, I thought I might give it a try and started reviewing after ~50 hours of use just to be fair.


Accessories and Build Quality

The unit comes in pretty standard carboard box with a thick foam block on the inside. The only accessory that comes with it is a 3.5mm to 6.5mm adapter. Out of box, the unit felt plasticky and light putting me in doubts. Even if the design looks a bit jurassic, I personally liked the retro charm it exhibits. It is however sturdy enough. The plastic parts might not look too appealing but are decently built. No part of the product makes any clunky noises as such. Later, I realized that I much preferred the light weight of these cans. There were no problems regarding the cable although I felt that the overall feel and quality could have been better.



There were no issues with fit and comfort.



Bass - For testing bass, I extensively used Track 2 from my list of test tracks because of Cliff Burton's bass solo. The bass sounds tight, has good presence but does not go deep enough. sometimes can slightly veil the decay of bass guitar notes at times thereby affecting the naturalness of the sound but it does not by any means sound muddy. Drums have good impact. Track 5 on the list is pretty fast but the bass just about manages to keep up for the most part. Overall, the bass is quite punchy and there were no signs of muddiness anywhere. The quantity and quality are overall pretty good.


Midrange - I tried the two fastest tracks on the list, i.e. Tracks 5 and 8, and was very impressed with the presentation of the instruments. The midrange on these cans sound forward and of the in-your-face kind. It is certainly the kind one wants for fast-paced, energetic and aggressive music. On initial listening, the mids feel a bit harsh but gradually, with time, it isn't an issue anymore.


Treble - The higher frequencies tend to sound bright. The extension is average but acceptable. The details weren't too hard to pick out. There wasn't any noticeable sibilance with any of the test tracks but at high volumes, there were a few instances where the treble got really ear-piercing.


Imaging - There are no issues whatsoever with instrument separation and position. Although the soundstage is not exactly big, I still liked how it sounded more spacious than my other cheap cans.


Isolation - I can't really complain much about the isolation because of the open-back design. There are no issues with indoor usage but you just can't take these out for a walk.


Other Observations - The soundstage width didn't vary too much while trying out different sources. The depth, however, improved with better sources. Also, I didn't notice any improvement with additional amplification. To begin with, these weren't too hard to drive.



There aren't too many things to things to complain about at the price point. Even though these cans aren't the type that can handle anything you throw at them, they do exceedingly well for those they were built for. Apart from these, there's a plethora of community mods out there that should attract a certain audience. Everything said, I felt that it was $100 well spent especially when it gets you in the mood to raise the horns do some good ol' headbanging.


Pros: Very musical, dynamic, fast and very detailed.

Cons: Can be a bit harsh sounding sometimes. And comfort can be a little rough at times.

Not a review, just my little opinion on these nice headphones.


My Grado SR80s are the older ones (Not the new 'i' version) I'm guessing my SR80s were made around in 2001-2003 etc.


All I can say these SR80s are very musical sounding headphones, and they can sure boogie too.


I think the SR80s are one of Grado's best headphones in my opinion. And can sound just as good as headphones costing £250+. Very good value for money !!







Pros: great sound, light weight, cool retro styling, made in USA

Cons: crappy cord, not very durable

A couple of years ago, I took the bait and bought my set of Grado SR80s. Its been mostly love ever since.


I adore the sound, which is pretty spectacular, especially at this price. Could use a little more robust bass, but i just pump up the bass with EQ. Sound is really clear and musical.


They're easily powered by a computer or ipod. I tried a CMOY with mine but didn't notice much if any difference.


They're lightweight, and since I live in a small Manhattan apartment and have my phones on ALL the time, the light weight is key. I can wear these for hours and experience very little discomfort.


I love the retro styling. Some hate it. I don't. To me, its like those old boxy Volvos. Unique and cool.


The ear pads are not great, and i will probably replace them soon.


But the REAL problem with the Grado SR80s is the cord. I HATE it. Not only has mine broken twice and needed to be re-soldered, but it twists up all the time in an annoying fashion. I had to solder on a new plug too, as the original one had a short in it.


I don't like the Y-splitter, as I prefer the cord going into just one side of the headphone. I also really prefer a coiled cable to a straight one.


But for this price, i can't complain too much. I just really wish Grado would make these with a robust cord. And if it was coiled, even better. Its no wonder so many are forced to re-cable Grados.


One other thing...because they're open, sound leakage is huge. They are not good for public transportation. They are not good if you're in the same room with someone who doesn't want to hear the sound coming out of your headphones. I use them at home, and I live alone, so this is not a an issue for me.


So, to sum up, as much as I dislike the cord, these headphones still rate just about a 5 because the sound is just so good at such a low price.




Pros: Warm but mostly uncolored, transparent

Cons: cord material and reliability

I've owned a pair of SR-80s since 1996 when my old Yamaha phones collapsed beyond repair. I auditioned a pair of SR-60s at a local high-end store, and when I was ready, got a pair.  I was very disappointed!  It wasn't at all the sound I had heard in the audition.  I was unhappy enough to return them, and in a newsgroup (remember them?) complained about my experience.  Group members had been praising the SR-60s at the time, and I couldn't get behind that.  To my surprise, I got an email from Joe Grado asking for my shipping address!  He offered me a pair of the SR-80s, said if I liked them, I could pay for them, and if not, give them to somebody else.  Can you imagine that?  Needless to say, after listening to them for a few weeks, I sent them a check for payment in full. 


I've owned that pair ever since. They've traveled, been outside in the cold, rain, and sun.  I changed the ear paids to Sennheiser pads, replaced the cord myself once, then had Grado do it twice.  But I still have them, still use them almost every day.  They are very affected by the output impedance of the amp that drives them.  They're ok in an iPod, but fantastic if you hit them with a good solid low Z source.  


They're pleasant, soothing, as spacious to listen to, but I can't mix on them.  I do some filed recording, and they just make everything sound TOO good.  But for pleasure, they're my choice. 


The cord is weak spot.  It's thick and in cold temperatures acts as stiff as a garden hose.  The strain relief at the ear cups is just a blob of glue, which pops off and then you break a wire in the cup.  My own replacement was Mogami Neglex wire, which held up better, but wasn't really headphone wire.  The stock pads from the 1990s were hot, and the on-ear Sennheiser HD414 pads fit fine, and though you lose a bit of the top and bottom, still retain the character of the original phones.  When I got them back from repair, they had black pads installed, similar to the 414 pads.  Nice, worked well, but dissolved in a few years.  So, I'm back to the 414 pads...for now.  I'm due to send these in for a rehab soon. 


I recently auditioned a bunch of headphones back at that original high-end store.  The sound of the SR-80s still beat even the $600 Sennheisers (don't recall the model), but the amp used was pretty much junk, and my amp is way better.  But today's SR-80s are pretty much the same as the mid 1990s ones I have, if perhaps a bit less "weathered". 




Pros: Affordable, Precise, exceptional clarity, look great, plenty of mods available.

Cons: A little lacking in soundscape, You really NEED the Grado L-Cush pads.

I could not recommend SR-80i's any higher to someone that's looking in that price range.

I did months and months of research before settling for a pair, I read just about every review out there.

Realistically I do not think that for the money you could get yourself a better can.

I fitted Grado L-Cush (from the SR-325i) pads to mine and it made the world of difference, not just to comfort but to the audible landscape.


Pros: Decent Soundstage, Fairly Accurate, Vocals are a Strength

Cons: Lack of clarity, transparency, and highs. Not as 'bright' as one would believe

For 4 years I've tried to love these headphones.  But I can't get above simply 'liking' them.  I listen to lossless (flac) Jazz, Blues and Rock using a mi-fi quality $500 DAC.  


In a nutshell, I am continuously looking for better transparency/clarity/detail.  I have tried to understand the common description of SR80's as 'bright' - however, the only 'bright' sound I have found is in a peak in the response that centers on male and female vocals.


I have tried cup and cable mods, looking for improvement, but have come up wanting.  The cup mods made the most difference.  The cable upgrade had little impact.


Pros: Soundstage is excellent, clear highs,

Cons: Cord is too long, tendency for headphones to swivel out of place constantly, underpowered bass response

They have very open, bright and oftentimes a trademark piercing mids and highs quality about them, which makes the soundstage sound very very clear.  In fact the  sound is very bright at times and their top volume can double as a small speaker..the brightness and soundstage can be heard from 20 ft plus if the volume is raised at max, that is how clear they are.   That said, these headphones are best used if you want a flat response, they have nice tight lows but they are not punchy, the upper of the low frequencies is the best aspect of its bass , so they would be great for classical.     For those looking for modern music like EDM, hardcore, rap, I would not recommend them.     


Design:  It is what it is and have a very mature, simplistic look.   They are for pure listening purposes from a comfortable couch and even laying on your back, they do not fall off which is a double edged sword unless you get new earpads-they range from uncomfortable from a few minutes of use to extremely uncomfortable within an  hour.   The earcups are a hard-dense foam but they are not plush enough that they can circumvent the lack of padding touching the ears.  It will cause fatigue in short time.    Most uncomfortable headphones out of the box experience I've ever seen.


Next and in my opinion, the worst thing about them... since the earcups CAN swivel out of place as there are no place holders, one can forget which way they are supposed to swivel back into if they are laid flat on a table.  This is a huge design flaw which happened me within the first 5 times I used them, so I very strongly recommend hanging them up somewhere.   They are not suitable for constant travel (long, thick cable, can not fold and they can/will swivel out of place) so they won't swivel from their correct alignment, if the cables twist enough they can break.  I had them stored in their original box and the force from how they were coiled up, caused the cable to break at the adjoining vertex, until even the internal audio cable was cut loose.


Pros: fantastic sound for the price, probably no better

Cons: pad is really bad

These headphones sound really good for their price point. But the pads are really scratchy and can't be worn sometimes.


Pros: Fabulous sound, but I use it only while trying to fall asleep

Cons: Terrible, terrible foam

I have had it for a very long time. Smooth, rich sound. I use it exclusively with my iPhone and iPod nowadays.


The foam just ripped even though I gave it TLC! I wrote to the company and a received a snarky response from a smart-ass there - he must hate working there, or what. As a result, I was determihed not to buy it from them and shaped my own foam - looks like the wheels on the Flintstones car, but works!


Pros: Amazing sound for the buck -- real lows, real highs with only a bit of harshness on occasion

Cons: Crappy build quality. Cheap foam ear pads which lead to fatigue. The plastic sheathing covering the individual can feeds will crack and cut wires.

So, I bought these for my office some years back. They were better than average for office listening, with the open design suitable for not entirely ignoring one's colleagues. I was underwhelmed by the physical design, but listen for a little while and that mostly goes away. If you're very careful with them, they might even last more than a year or two... but alas, that was not my case. 


The problem is the cable... specifically, the cabling after the split. They used some sheathing material over the wires to each speaker which did not age well. In my case, it cracked, and eventually one of those surprisingly sharp pieces cut one of the wires, and that was that... until early 2015. 


I got myself a PonoPlayer for Christmas, and I've been playing with different headphones. One thing I noticed was that, compared to other PMPs and smartphones, I was getting unexpectedly good sound out of some phones and earbuds I had pretty much written off. And I hadn't even played with balanced mode on the Pono (separate differential connection to each speaker). So I bought a $10 cable from Monoprice, with two 3.5mm jacks at either end. Cut it in half, and rewired the SR-80i with separate cables per ear -- the 1940's styling of the Grados actually made this pretty easy, they're simple to take apart. 


And now -- best sound ever. Really starting to remember why I liked these back in 2011, only they're better than ever with the Pono and the balanced connection. 

Grado SR-80

Grado SR 80 befor the i and and comfys...

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