Pros: Great mids, Tight lows, Soundstage
Cons: Isolation, Sometimes fatiguing and overly bright
The Grado SR80i is one of the entry-level models in an extensive lineup. It is the first "high-end" over-ear headphone I had bought.
On my first listen it seemed like a huge step-up from all the previous (cheap) cans that I had owned. The soundstage was noticeably much wider. The lows seemed tighter and the overall timing got much better. To my ears, the soundstage did not vary too much in width but did in depth when I switched over to better sources. For me, the most stellar aspect of this product would be the mids. The richness/fullness of the mid-range is what these cans are all about. The lows are also good but at times seemed a little loose and leaky. The highs seemed clear and usually non-sibilant but with some recordings, they feel a tad too bright. There is usually no need for additional amplification however the volume needs to be turned quite a bit as compared to IEMs. Also, I did not notice any difference in the sound with amp-ing. Details are good but not of the level of some of my better IEMs.
As a metalhead, like many others, I agree that these cans are ideal for fast-paced, aggressive musical genres. Although I must admit that I liked it even better with some high-res Jazz classics. It really opens up classic heavy metal albums like Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" and "Master of Puppets". There is this certain "punch" in the sound of these cans that really bring up the excitement levels in the listener. Guitar riffs feel over the top and shredding away in a layer of their own. Acoustic instruments have nice airyness in their tone. Sadly though, I would disagree that these cans can be used for all and any sub-genres of rock/metal. Infact for styles like doom, stoner and black metal, the overall presentation felt somewhat congested. The overall cleanliness and instrument separation dipped noticeably. I feel the numerous community-mods have already brought some improvements in these areas.
Isolation-wise, these cans just cannot be taken outdoors. The open-back design greatly affects isolation even though that is one of the primary factors that make the SR80i sound like it does. It is a bit of a no brainer when it comes to indoor usage. Listening to these is usually a very "personal" and "private" affair.
Comfort-wise, I did not have any considerable issues but the sound signature does give quite a headache when listening for an extended period. However, if I were to trade an awesome, exciting, in-your face sound for an interval of headaches, I'd happily do so. The build quality is acceptable although the plastic parts feel somewhat cheap and not very well finished. A 3.5mm to 6.5mm adapter is the only included accessory and is rather chunky and very well built. The design is somewhat old-school when compared to other products but it does not bother me.
Everything said, I feel its $100 well spent especially when it gets you in the mood to raise the metal horns do some good ol' headbanging.