SR80 vs SR225 vs SR325 vs HP-2
Mar 14, 2002 at 12:34 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 22

Ross

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I now own all four of these headphones, so I thought it is time to post some impressions and comparisons.

Let me get the obvious stuff out of the way first, so you don't have to skip to the end:
  1. I love all of these headphones. They are all musical and fun to listen to.
  2. The HP-2s sound better than the SR 325.
  3. The SR325 sounds better than the SR225 (with some minor qualifications).
  4. The SR225 sounds better than the SR80, but not all that much.
  5. I like all of these headphones better than the W2002 or the RS-1.
  6. I like the HP-2 better than the Sony CD3000 in terms of sound quality, and possibly on a par with the Sennheiser 600 (subject to further review).
  7. Both the CD3000 and the Sennheiser 600s are much more comfortable than the HP-2. The newer Grados are marginally more comfortable than the HP-2, but not as comfortable as the Sennheiser 600s, CD3000s or Beyer 770/990.

Okay, with that out of the way, a bit of introduction. I grew up on the Sennheiser sound, starting with some HD450s over ten years ago (which I still have), followed by the 560II, 580 and then 600 (with some A-T 911s along the way). The way Sennheiser produce music sounded "normal" to me, especially the 580/600 which I have always considered to be a headphone reference, in terms of both sound quality and comfort.

A couple of years ago I bought some Grado 325s. Out of the box they sounded horrible, gritty, colourless, boomy - I couldn't understand why anyone liked them. Over the next few months they ran in, and so did I - meaning that I got used to their sound, which was so different to the Sennheisers I was used to. I began to like them for some types of music, because they went loud and had a lot of impact, so for rock or dance music they were ideal. For classical or jazz I still preferred the Sennheisers.

Over the next couple of years they gradually grew on me, and when I loaned them to a friend for an extended period, I decided to buy some SR80s to tide me over until they returned. The SR80s were an interesting comparison. They arrived a week or two after the 325s had gone, so I couldn't compare them directly. Unlike the 325s, they sounded just fine out of the box, even with the bowl pads they came with. I was surprised by how similar the SR80s sounded to the way I'd remembered the 325s. The same liquid midrange, if not quite the same bass impact.

When the 325s returned, I was able to do a more detailed comparison. The 325s were clearly more extended at both ends, more neutral and with more three-dimensionality - there was more space around instruments. However, the differences (apart from the bass) were not all that huge. And the trade-off for the 325s neutrality was that the SR80s sounded a little "sweeter" than the 325s, possibly due to the plastic earpieces.

(Around this time I ordered some RS-1s for comparison. I spent a week with the RS-1s and then returned them. They sounded so dark, muddy and coloured that I couldn't listen to them, although I tried repeatedly. It was always a pleasure returning to the 325s with their neutrality and their ability to differentiate tonal colours, which the RS-1s were lacking.)

Lately I've been listening more and more to the Grados, especially the 325s, for their lush midrange and liquid sound. They were still a little coloured compared to the Sennheisers, and weren't nearly as comfortable, but they have a musicality which is very engaging and seductive. However, I had two issues with the 325s: the first was the thumpy bass (especially with bowl pads), and the second was that I was missing the slight sweetness that the SR80s had and that I suspected came from the plastic housing. I was also aware that some people - notably Headroom - believe that the 225s are better than the 325s.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to order some 225s to see if they would address these issues - i.e. produce the liquid musical sound of the 325s but without the bass boom, and with a little extra "sweetness" from the plastic earpieces. Simultaneously, VKA advertised a mint pair of HP-2s, so I decided to buy these as well.

Both headphones arrived on the same day, so I left them running in over a couple of nights on my Maxed Out Home (old version), while listening in occasionally to see how they were developing. I have now been listening to both headphones for several days and can offer some views, although these are still preliminary.

First, the 225s: are they better than the 325s? You will see from my summary above that I thought the 325s still had the edge, although the 225s do benefit from a less insistent bass and a slightly sweeter presentation. However, they don't have either the frequency extension or the three-dimensionality of the 325s. The 325s are also tonally more neutral, although the slight colouration of the 225s is pleasant and euphonious, appearing as a kind of enrichment of the midrange; it is not overwhelming and muddy in the way that the I felt that the RS-1 (and, to a lesser extent, the W2002) suffered from a "woody" colouration. (Obviously, very few others seem to be as sensitive to this form of colouraton as I am.)

I should add that I do not think that the 325s are bright compared to the 225s (as some have suggested); in fact, I find the 225s a little brighter than the 325s. I also do not regard the 325s as fatiguing or harsh.

The 225s were actually very similar to the SR80s, and until I did a direct A/B comparison I was not able to tell the difference. They certainly look identical, apart from the badge with their model number on it. I was expecting the 225 to have a bigger earpiece like the 325s, but it has exactly the same dimensions as the SR80. Both the SR80 and 225 have the same tonal balance, the same sweetness, the same liquid midrange, and slight smearing of details (compared to the 325). The only real difference was slightly deeper bass and a slightly greater sense of "fullness" in the 225s.

The HP-2s are a completely different style of headphone, both in appearance and sound. I won't spend much time on the appearance of the HP-2s (there is plenty of information on this elsewhere), except to note that VKA had maintained these in excellent condition. They were the least comfortable of the various headphones. Their additional heaviness and the stiffness of the headband, as well as the slightly abrasive quality of the flat pads meant that they were not as pleasant to wear as the lesser Grados, and certainly nowhere near the comfort level of the Sennheisers.

The comparison between the HP-2 and other Grados was interesting. All four Grados had a definite family sound, and there was no doubt that they came from the same source. However, the SR80, 225 and 325 sounded tonally very similar, with some slight differences in presentation; the HP-2, although similar in some ways, was in others quite different. The best analogy I can give was that the SR series Grados sounded like children of various ages, while the HP-2 was grown up, a mature version of the others. The SR series were fun, but the HP-2 took the sound to a new level, maintaining the musicality but adding detail, presence, balance and greater neutrality.

Even compared to the 325s, the HP-2 had a great deal more detail,with a natural perspective and pinpoint imaging. Tonal colour was as close to perfect as I've heard - every instrument was clearly differentiated, not only spatially, but timbrally. The HP-2s had good high frequency extension without emphasising that region. The bass was not as deep as the Sennheisers, and the image was a little smaller than the 600s, but the bass went deeper than the 325s, and without the boom - it was a tuneful bass, in correct proportion. The midrange is not emphasised as it is in the SR series, but it is more realistic. Voices have a sense of realness and presence that they do not have through the SR series.

A comparison with the CD3000 was also interesting. The CD3000 is a very good headphone, but my initial enthusiasm for these has waned. There is a certain insubstantiality to the sound, and an "artificial" quality, especially compared to the Sennheiser 600 and, now, the HP-2. The HP-2 sounds so real and natural, the CD3000 sounds like a cartoon version of reality by comparison.

As well as the Maxed Out Home, I also tried the HP-2 with the Earmax Pro, but liked this less than the Maxed Home (but I generally like tubes less than solid state, so this was expected). The sound was more controlled and not as soft with the Headroom amp.

It is a pity that the HP-2 is no longer made because it - and presumably the HP-1 - are undoubtedly the best headphones Grado have ever made. However, to reiterate, I love all of these Grado headphones, and could happily live with any of them without much complaint. While some are better than others in various respects, all convey the essence of the music, and that to me is more important than conveying the last degree of detail, the deepest bass note, or the highest, quietest cymbal sound.

Apologies for the length of this post (hey, it could have been a lot longer!), and I hope it is interesting for a few other people.

Ross
 
Mar 14, 2002 at 1:11 PM Post #3 of 22

DarkAngel

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Thanks for your impressions. I share your enthusiasm for the the Grado 325, and I would not spend more for the RS1 or RS2 as I prefer the 325, also like you I don't find them bright sounding at all and am always puzzled when others mention this. I have both the 325 + 225, and the larger chamber of 325 allows them to sound more 3D and deeper bass. The 225 may actually be slightly more detailed and great value. I have not heard the 80 but am surprised it is that close to the 225 in performance. I think headroom is off the mark with their "dissing" of the 325.

I still like the Sony 3000, they are extremely detailed with great treble extension. I have to adjust the Max filter switch when using them (this is great feature of Max amp) or they can sound bright. I use them exclusively for classical listening where the recordings are much higher quality then rock music.

Too bad the HP2 is not made anymore, as many members here prefer them to the current RS + SR series.

BTW I really appreciate people doing these comparisons, although everyone should remember results are personal preferences and very dependent on amp/source/cables used.
 
Mar 14, 2002 at 2:13 PM Post #4 of 22

stymie miasma

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Thanks Ross for that extremely helpful comparrison. I have been enjoying some SR60s that I purchased from Planar a little while ago. If all goes to plan, I hope to record my thoughts regarding these and the Sony 7506s for other newbies/folks on a budget - hopefuly I will be able to express what my ears are healing as eloquantly as you have.

When I audtioned the SR80s I recall not being as thrilled as I was with the SR60s. Bear in mind that the 80s were straight out of the box. Have you ever had a listen to the SR60s? I am curious to know whether the 'homogeneity' you hear between the 80s and the 225s extends to the 60s.

You certainly have a smorgosboard of wonderful headphones at your disposal. Have you ever thought about taking these out on the road for a tour of the eastern seaboard??
wink.gif
If you do get tired of the CD3000s I might be interested in relieving you of them, subject to available funds
tongue.gif
 
Mar 14, 2002 at 2:47 PM Post #5 of 22

Vka

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Thanks Ross for the Excellent Review!
That was very informative
smily_headphones1.gif

Currently, HP-1/2 (+DCT-1 combo) has been the best dynamic headphones I have ever heard so far with the exception of R-10 and W2002 which I have not heard yet.
Also the SR200 sound very similar to the HP-2 whereas RS-1, MSP and SR60 sound different.
 
Mar 14, 2002 at 4:18 PM Post #6 of 22

delenda est Sony

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Excellent review! Useful for future UpGradoing plans...
smily_headphones1.gif
(Evidently to the 325!)

However a plug for my SR125 is in order! I loved these in auditions much more than the 60s or 80s and thought the 225 was only marginally superior, not worth the extra cost. I think potential Grado buyers should buy either the 60s, 125s, or 325s depending on budget. To me the "interim steps' (80 & 225) don't offer enough of a sonic differnce to justify the increased cost over the 60 or 125 respectively. All opinion though, and in any case you'd be hard pressed to go wrong with any Grado headphone. (Though I haven't seen much info on the SR40s...?)

Nice job Ross!
 
Mar 14, 2002 at 6:04 PM Post #7 of 22

lini

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Mhm, intetresting. When I did my own comparisions of the current Grado lineup, afew months ago, I actually liked the SR80 and the RS2 most. I'd claim the SR80 to have the best price/performance-ratio, while the RS2 seemed to have most well balanced sound to my ears.

Greetings from Munich!

Manfred / lini
 
Mar 14, 2002 at 11:47 PM Post #10 of 22

Hirsch

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Ross, thanks for the excellent review. The only Grado I've got is the SR-200, which I've been steadily listening to more and more. I'm going to have to listen to some more Grado phones at some point.

I've also got the CD3000, which is a great can, with a major caveat: it's very amp dependent. No midrange to speak of with the SHA-1. However, using the ZOTL, the Sony seems to have blossomed, and has a sense of presence that it cannot reach with the Melos. If you get a chance to listen to the Sony with a good tube amp (the Melos has a solid state driver section), give it a try. IMO the CD3K is too revealing for its own good, which makes it difficult to fit into a system...but when it locks in, it's great.
 
Mar 14, 2002 at 11:53 PM Post #11 of 22

huy_ha

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Thanks for the good read. Just wondering what recordings you used as reference points.
 
Mar 15, 2002 at 12:27 AM Post #12 of 22

Ross

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Quote:

If you get a chance to listen to the Sony with a good tube amp (the Melos has a solid state driver section), give it a try.



Hirsch, I've tried the CD3000s with my Earmax Pro, but I prefer it (and all my other headphones) with the Maxed Home.

Quote:

Just wondering what recordings you used as reference points.


I was going to add something about this, but then realised the review would be even longer!

I used some piano recordings, principally Martha Argerich's Bach and Chopin discs on DG, Bach's St Matthew Passion (latest Harnoncourt recording), Rebecca Pidgeon's New York Girls Club (I hate this CD, but it has great sound quality, making it ideal for hi fi testing), Bjork's Vespertine, Dvorak's Symphony No 9 (Kubelik recording), a live Pat Metheny Group CD, Ella Fitzgerald's George & Ira Gershwin Songbook, Chemical Brothers Come with Us, Miles Davis Some Day my Prince will Come, Air's Moon Safari and a number of others.

Ross
 
Mar 15, 2002 at 1:30 AM Post #14 of 22

Ross

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That battle is still being waged, Shivohum.

Ross
 
Mar 15, 2002 at 1:33 AM Post #15 of 22

joelongwood

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Quote:

Originally posted by KR...
Joe, are you going to the New York Headroom meet?

Headroom won't be at the stereophile show, so I will be skipping that.


They're not gonna be at the Stereophile show? Damn! Where and when is the NY Headroom meet?
 

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