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Grado SR-80

A Review On: Grado SR-80

Grado SR-80

Rated # 5 in On-Ear
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Price paid: $120.00
Posted · 37444 Views · 6 Comments

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". 




That's where it broke, probably twisting was the force that finally did it, but a blob of hot glue was used as the strain relief. Hot glue doesn't stick on plastic over time anyway. I'm sure the glue let go first, then normal use broke it.
my SR80s just broke again. first time it was the cord close to where it met the plug. this time, where the cord went into the Y-splitter.
Yup, the cord is the weak link in these. I did my own cord replacement once using some Mogami Neglex wire. I don't remember it being a very hard job. Someplace in the forum there's a thread about using star-quad mic cable for this job, which should work fine. My cord lasted much longer than theirs, but got changed when I had a driver issue that they had to go back to Grado for.
Ånd, guess what... mine just broke too! Left ear, internal. Since it's been about 8 years since they've been back to meet their maker, I'll probably send them to Grado this time.
The original S-r60s (not the 60i) were "burned in", but that wouldn't make a difference anyway. Both had the original pads which are no longer made, but identical. The differences between the 60 and the 80 was huge, as I think I indicated in the review. In that visit to the high-end audio store I mentioned I did try the current 60i and 80i. I still hated the 60i, preferred the 80i by a fair margin. The pads were identical on both models. And my original Sr80 beat the new 80i, still do.
Now, since I wrote that review, I have discovered the Audyssey amp app for IOS. There's a setting for the 80i. It's not a precise match for the old Sr80, but close enough. All the issues I've had with the Sr-80 over the years, the timid and reserved but solid bass, the upper mid edge, all of that is completely taken care of with the Audyssey amp app! It makes the old Sr-80's sound simply world class. I could probably even live with Sr-60is now with that app, though I haven't tried them.
Interesting mod, but you need the swivel action on the cup mount for positioning. You don't need it to lock, you need a rotation limit of something like 30 degrees. That might be possible with a bit of machining to the rod, but since I've already glued my rod blocks (because they both fell off) I'm pretty sure I'm stuck...if you'll pardon the pun.
i really enjoyed reading this. I think its because i felt like i was living out everything that you were talking about ha. Great job writing this.
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