Pros: Dynamic attacking sound, detail, soundstage
Cons: Some find the pads uncomfortable, the cable.
The Grado SR80 is a classic headphone. It has a classic style, like a old radio ham. It has been around virtually unchanged for donkeys years. It is a superb entry to audiophile headphone listening.
Often overshadowed by the baby of the range, the SR60, which has won numerous awards. The SR80s can be had for only £20. When I auditioned for my first headphones, the first to go were the SR60s. The SR80s had more dynamics, detail, everything really. I preferred them to some similarly priced Sennheisers, which did not retrieve the same detail.
They are know as the rock headphones because of their dynamics and attack. Attack is the speed that a note is started. So if a track goes quiet and then starts again, the Grados can startle with how suddenly the new passage begins. This also creates strong dynamic swings, which work well for rock and orchestral music. Their open backed design makes for a wide sound stage, where instruments feel as if they are around you and not trapped inside your head.
Some may find them too bright and not a relaxing mellow listen. I think that they do acoustic and vocals in such a way that you feel you are there, with the singer.
The only, issue and it is for some is the foam pads sitting on the ears. There are two types, bowl with an open centre and flat, like Mickey Mouse ears. I prefer the latter. They also leak a lot of sound and let in a lot as well. So they are no use as portable headphones to be used on public transport.
The cable is fixed and goes into both sides and is prone to twisting. I hang mine upside down every so often, so the weight of the headphones (which is not much) helps to pull out any twists.
By the SR80s with confidence that you are already 90% of they way to serious audiophile headphones. Classic.