Pros: Great Sound Quality, Cool Design
Cons: Uncomfortable, Need different pads
Grado SR80i Review
I’m going to review every little thing about the SR80i, so get ready.
Additional Details: I bought the SR80i around Christmas of last year (2012) and ended up returning them because of a lack of bass and poor comfort. I’m now much more experienced with headphones and audio in general, so they don’t sound really bad, or feel as uncomfortable.
Let’s start out with something basically insignificant, the packaging. Now with the headphones priced beyond $200, you usually get some really good packaging. Sennheiser really knows what they’re doing, as does Sony and AKG. As for Grado and Beyerdynamic, not so much. The SR80i comes in a rectangular box. In the box, the headphones are held together by foam. In the box, you get the headphones and a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter. That’s it. I wish they gave you a bag but whatever.
Construction: These most definitely don’t actually feel like $100 headphones judging by the weight and complexity of the design. However, I don’t think these will break any time soon like something like an MA900 or HD5xx would. Most headphones have problems with accidents. I’ve sat on these and they didn’t break. I sat on the MA900 and now the rotation system is a little damaged. No big deal, but it says something. Moreover, the aesthetics on these really appeal to me. They look very cool and retro.
Comfort: The main weakness of Grados. With the s-Cush pads, these aren’t totally uncomfortable. They do build up heat and overall the comfort is not that great compared to really everything I have, but they are still not that bad. Basically, they aren’t as uncomfortable as people say they are.
Sound: Two things I am definitely satisfied with are the bass quantity and treble presence. There is DEFINITELY enough bass. Great amount of bass for all genres, including hip hop. However, the bass roll off is not good. I’ve tried EQ and they just can reach below 55 Hz very well at all. For rock however, the bass is definitely satisfying. More bass than the HD 558.
Tons of cans have problems with treble presence, mainly lack thereof. These don’t… simple as that.
Yes these are engaging, yes these are bright, and yes, they have some warmth, but no, the mids aren’t balanced. Compared to the MDR MA900 and HD558, the upper mids are ridiculously emphasized. You can really hear it when an artist yells or sings really loud when the volume is turned up on your source. The vocals don’t have a good weight to them, there’s just not enough warmth. It’s good for some genres, but for certain artists like FLOW, it’s horrible.
The main problem with the mids seems to come from the plastic construction of the cups. The louder noises in the upper mids sound strained and strident. This only happens at louder volumes.
So since, as you can see, I am definitely not satisfied with the comfort, nor sound, I decided to take things into my own hands. I bought the L-Cush pads, that pads used on the Sr225i and up. I also applied the tape mod with Scotch Vinyl Electrical tape (google it), put them through a good receiver, and applied some EQ adjustments. The difference before and after my modifications are amazing. Almost night and day.
The sound stage improved, the bass depth improved, instrument separation improved, highs are less fatiguing, the vocals have a nice texture, and the overall sound is improved dramatically. No more congestion at higher volumes, no more honky mids, no more crazy stuff! These sound even better than the SR225i stock imo, so they’re on the same level as the MDR MA900, HD598, etc imo. That’s simply how good they are. Now of course the soundstage, like I said before, is small, but it has a good shape, and the imaging is top notch. At $100, you can’t ask for more. It’s crazy how even the bass depth improved. I can now actually use these for hip hop and things of that sort. Just fantastic. They still love rock.
Now one con of the added L-Cush pads: more uncomfortable. The new pads are hard, and I could only survive a 45 min session with them, and I see myself as pretty tolerable to discomfort. I still gladly wear them though, since they sound so great.
Moreover, these things sound like Grados, a different sound signature, a different presentation of the same frequencies you already heard in your music. In conclusion, I think at the $100 price tag, the SR80i beats all of it’s competition, including the MDR 7506, SRH 440, ATH M50, HD558 (perhaps in the same league, but I prefer the SR80i), HD518, and many others. Sure, the build is questionable, sure they’re relatively uncomfortable, and sure the bass doesn’t go super low. For all they do wrong, they do 10x better in a different area (provided you mod them a bit). Am I a Grado fan? Who knows. Am I a Sr80i fan? Most definitely.
Overall, they arent in the same league as the MA900, DT880, AD900x, etc, but they sound enjoyable. Plus they cost 1/2 the price.