Grado Labs is a family run business that operates out of Brooklyn, New York. Instead of mass-producing their headphones in Chinese factories like most headphones manufacturer do, they take pride in hand-making each of their Grado headphones.
The Grado SR80e is recommended by many as a great starter open-back headphones because of the price range and quality. There are many dazzled reviews on the internet and that got us curious. Not one to let a great budget headphone get past us, we made a trip down to our local “Headphone Cafe” – Zeppelin & Co to audition the headphones. Read on to find out more.
Difference between Grado SR80i and Grado SR80e?
SR80e is the third generation model of the SR80 while SR80i is the 2nd generation model. While Grado merely states that it’s an upgrade, they did not officially state the tech improvement. There is a review that mentions the SR80e is more laidback and have better bass. Do take it a with a pinch of salt.
Build Quality and Comfort
The Grado SR80e is an open-back, on-ear headphones with a unique design. The retro “80s headphones” design is the central theme around the Prestige Series which the Grado SR80e falls under.
The perfectly rounded ear-cups have large foam ear pads attached that extends beyond the plastic driver unit. The retro-ness is accentuated with the wire grill cover that allows you to see the drivers. The metal prongs that connect the faux-leather headband to ear cups gives the vibe of a vintage radio headset.
Foam ear pads
Foam ear pads are what I will usually find on office headsets used for telecommunication workers. It was surprising to see it on headphones. Granted, the foam is larger and thicker, thus, more comfortable. My gripe with these type of foam ear pads is that it can be easily torn. Any contact with a sharp object will send it ripping. There are complaints that the foam ear pads feel scratchy to some ears but I had no problem with it.
The rubber cable is thick and sturdy. It measures at 2m (7ft). You can see the tough strain relief at the straight jack. However, the weak points are at the Y-splitter. You can see that there were already pinching of the cables around the plastic casing of the Y-splitter.
Overall, the Grado SR80e feels lightweight and is comfortable. It is not exactly portable despite the rotatable ear cups due to the long and thick cable. The fragile foam ear pads also make me feel unsafe to chug the headphones in my bag.
Before I put on the headphones, I thought it will feel flimsy because of the on-ear fit. However, the headphones did a good job of staying put and it cradled my ear well.
Noise isolation & Sound Leakage
As an open-back headphones, this section should not come as a surprise to you. The SR80e leaks sound like a damaged tap. Any article which mentions that you can probably get away with it in an office is straight up lying.
The passive noise isolation is non-existent. Picking a right ambiance settings for your music will be important for the SR80e.
Despite what most reviews mentioned, the mid-bass’s punch is weak. Songs like Bassline Riddim demonstrate a tight bass but the weight is lacking. On the lower range of the bass, I don’t really feel the cello presentation in Taska Black – Leave Me as well as other headphones like the AKG K92.
Despite the mid-range being exclaimed as the pride of the Grado’s headphones, I was somewhat disappointed with the lower mids. It doesn’t extend as deeply as I wish it would. The upper mids was good but nothing as satisfying as a closed-back headphones can bring me.
This is where the SR80e really shines. In House Work, you can hear the treble sparkle and it comes off really clean. I tried out the tricky electronic violin distortion segment from Rude by Daniel Jang and it came off really amazing. You can still hear the energy of it without having it muffled or graininess.
Did I enjoy my music on it?
Classical songs sounded really great on the SR80e. Songs with strong vocal presence like Rap and Pop did good but EDM less so because of the weak bass punch.
It did well for complex songs like Help by Borgore and Dreams by Adventure Club. The sound separation between layers is good. In fact, dynamic songs without bass sounded really damn good on the SR80e. Listening to Creep, I could distinctly hear the guitar and the male vocals shining through the headphones.
The sound signature is neutral without any frequency being more pronounced or emphasized.
- Transducer Type: Dynamic Drivers
- Operating Principle: Open Air
- Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
- SPL 1mW: 99.8 dB
- Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms
The SR80e can be driven effectively to a loudness of 110 DBSPL (rock level concert) with any mobile devices.
Find out more: Headphone Power Calculator
Overall, the Grado SR80e did decently for me. At sub $100, this pair of open-back headphones allows first-timers to try out something different without breaking the bank.
If you are a fan of EDM or bass-heavy songs, you will do better elsewhere coz the Grado SR80e will not give you the punch that you desire.
However, the headphones did very well for songs that are dynamic and complex and you are in for a treat if your playlist is full of those songs.Buy “Grado SR80e” on Amazon