Pros: Detailed, soundstage, Airy
Cons: Requires DIYing, Depth in soundstage
First of all I just want to thank everyone involved in making these headphones and for providing me an opportunity to write a review on these. I'd like to focus this review by mainly comparing the SennGrados to other Grados, but I'll also compare it to other headphones like the Mr.Speakers Mad Dogs 3.1 as well as a surprise boss battle by the Grado HF-2s!
I currently own the O2 DAC/AMP combo and will be using that with my laptop for this review.
When I first listened to the SennGrados, I immediately noticed the wider soundstage and greater detail compared to the Grados I've listened to in the past. They provide a wider soundstage and greater detail compared to the SR-60s, MS-1e (based on memory), and SR-225. The SennGrados sound open and free while lower end Grados can sound a bit congested and lost especially when listening to classical. In the past I have owned Grado RS-1s but it's been so long since I've listened to them that I won't comment on whether or not I believe the SennGrados provide greater detail.
I can say though, I was not impressed with the Grado RS-1 for the money (imo SR-225s get you pretty close) and the SennGrados according to memory do have a wider soundstage than the RS-1s. An awesome feat for $40 drivers!
One thing I found lacking at first was a slight thinness to the sound and lack of bass, when switching between my modded Grado SR-60e and SennGrados . However,I noticed they needed quite a bit more power so I switched to high gain and that made a big difference. Bass became very present but not overpowering. The highs and mids filled out, really completing the sound. Comparing the SennGrados to the SR-60es the highs extend further, mids or vocals may seem a little less lush at times, and the bass is simply just better. I feel the SennGrados bas provide a perfect balance between, tone and impact. The bass is present but never overpowering.
The SennGrados provided my literally first jaw dropping moment in listening to music, it was so powerful that I had to step away, it was quite an emotional experience. It happened while I was looking up songs for this review and I was randomly going through classical songs until I found Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major op.3. If you can I suggest looking up that song on youtube, it's performed live, and led by Sayaka Shoji. These cans are simply amazing for classical and really anything that can show off the soundstage of your headphones.
The exact moment my jaw dropped was roughly around the 6:44 mark where the full orchestra comes to support Sayaka Shoji beautifully. The extended smooth highs and soundstage are well represented in this song. The SennGrados seemed to be tailor made for this song. I preferred listening to that specific song over the modded SR-60e, stock SR-225, Mad Dogs, and yes the HF-2s. The Grados and Mad Dogs just don't provide as much air or open in sound. One thing I can say the Alpha Dogs and HF-2s seem to have more depth in soundstage whereas the SennGrados soundstage seems to mainly go left to right. I'm not sure exactly why but the highs for SennGrados are amazing for string instruments.
Comparing the SennGrados vs the Mad Dogs 3.1 and HF-2s I find instrument placement more accurate as I find that they both have more depth in soundstage and maybe that's why they seem more detailed.
When listening to rock music however I feel the SennGrados don't have the same grit or intimacy (probably due to smaller soundstage) as a Grado. In general the Grados have a warmer tone overall compared to the SennGrados. The guitars on my modded Grado SR-60e and stock SR-225 have a bit more grit and twang compared to the SennGrados. By no means do the SennGrados sound bad with rock music, but I find guitars just rock a bit more on Grados in general. In my opinion it became clear when listening to AC/DC - Thunderstruck and Funkadelic - Maggot Brain. I did a quick A-B comparison and there was just a bit more soul in the guitars. Not all rock sounded best with Grados though because when I put on Talking Heads that was a completely story. The SennGrados clearly outperformed the modded SR-60e and stock SR-225. The wide, detail, open sound of the SennGrados carries all of the instruments wonderfully and really showcase Talking Heads well.
Now, when putting on Daft Punk I think you could go either way but I prefer the SennGrados due to wider soundstage and a bit of a cleaner sound. It's really fun listening to all the synths and small details with the SennGrados. In my opinion it's one of the best headphone I've heard for artists like Daft Punk and Radiohead.
Highs: Extends very well, bright but not harsh, String instruments sound amazing
Mids: Slightly forward, could be a little more lush in vocals but still good
Bass: Very well defined, present but never overpowering (I really like the bass it's spot on imo)
COMFORT: These particular headphones use the grado frame, and so obviously wears like a Grado. If you find Grados comfortable you'll find these comfortable and if not well then they won't be comfortable. One thing I want to mention though are the wood cups are surprisingly light.
BOSS BATTLE: Grado HF-2s vs SennGrados
So how do the SennGrados fare against the Grado HF-2s? Well, it's a bit of a David vs Goliath situation but the SennGrados put up a good fight, and the SennGrados have a wider soundstage compared to the Grado HF-2s. The Grado HF-2s however exhibit greater detail, warmer and a fuller sound. It's a bit easier to hear all the small details in a song compared to the SennGrados. Keep in mind though I still feel the SennGrados out perform Grado HF-2s in classical due to the soundstage.
I feel like I could go on and on comparing the SennGrados to the Mad Dogs and HF 2s along with the lower end Grados and compare the nuances of each headphone but that would make my review way too long.. Do I feel they are the be-all and end-all of headphones? No, I still think guitars on Grados sound best, but considering the drivers are only $40 the value these headphones provide is outstanding. The SennGrados are still quite versatile and perform incredibly well especially for classical, electronica, and jazz. They exhibit an open and wide sound that is unheard of in a Grado headphone (at least from what I've heard.) I've never listened to the Grado GS-1000 or Grado PS series at all. In some cases the SennGrados can still rock very well and outperformed the lower end Grados when listening to Talking Heads.
It really is an amazing headphone considering that the drivers only cost $40. I like to say these headphones have a stupid, good value and hopefully I'll be able to have my own SennGrado in the future. They are no slouch at all either when comparing to "higher end" headphones such as the Mad Dogs and the Grado HF-2s and in some cases outperforms them.
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed the review.