Home Before You Buy Series Before YOU Buy A Grado Headphone, READ THIS!!

Before YOU Buy A Grado Headphone, READ THIS!!

by Stuart Charles Black
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Part of the “Before You Buy” Series!

 

Ah, Grado headphones. Are any of them worth a purchase in today’s overcrowded headphone landscape?

What are their strengths? Who should stay away? Do they all sound the same? Are they all built the same?

All of these answers and more, comin’ up..

Greetings bass head and Welcome aboard. Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music, all over again so…

 

Grado Grah-do potato pot-ah-toe.

Are any of them worth purchasing?

If you’re really curious about the Grado sound, buy a 60e and see if you like it.

Yes, the 60e and 80e are basically identical. Anyone who tells you otherwise is LYING!

They could have honestly just bypassed the 80e altogether and nobody would have cared.

For the most part, I do enjoy the Grado house sound.

The bass is extremely articulate, the treble is actually pretty good by and large, albeit a bit lumpy.

What are their strengths?

They make great Rock headphones and do incredibly well with Hip-Hop. I also like them for some Jazz and Classical pieces.

I’ve demoed the entire e-line on numerous occasions and I remember being very impressed with the portrayal of music in general.

Most of the time, the headphones sound really natural.

The bass does start to roll off after about 50Hz, but it’s clean, articulate, and detailed.

You can hear individual bass notes with ease and it really makes for a spankin’ good time.

The soundstage is also quite impressive, especially for an On-ear. What is Soundstage? [Detailed Explanation]

This isn’t a K702 by any means, but it rivals that of a Sundara or DEVA for certain.

The depth and width are very good, and the imaging and placement of instruments are excellent as well.

I’m able to pick out where stuff is fairly easy, which makes for a realistic portrayal of the soundscape.

It isn’t “like you’re there”, but does have a pretty live flavor with a nice bounce like Jay-Z.

The build is a bit of a mixed bag.

I’ve had people tell me they’ve had theirs for years and years without issue, while others seem to break down fairly easily.

Do know that they’re extremely lightweight and pretty flimsy. In today’s climate, the design seems dated.

I could excuse the build if they were actually comfortable, but sadly they’re not, at least over long periods.

I’m frequently finding myself adjusting them off of my ear lobes because they tend to dig.

The Best Audiophile Headphones

Grado’s SR60e is a good but flawed headphone.

Grado utilizes 3 cushion variations:

  1. With the S’s I’m adjusting them pretty frequently as the On-ear design starts to really dig into my ear lobes after about 45 min. to an hour. This is a headphone you’ll start to notice after a while. There’s no getting around it.
  2. The L-cushions are even worse. They tend to dig even harder and their design makes absolutely no sense from a comfort standpoint.
  3. The G-cushions are probably the best out of the 3 and provide a truly Around-the-ear fit with the best overall sound. Open, spacious, and grand. This is in large part why the GS1000e was my preferred out of the entire line.

Even so, the cable isn’t detachable on any of them, and it’s entirely too bulky for the weight of the cans themselves.

It’s always in the way and just ends up being a giant hassle. The 3.5mm termination is also overweight like it ate too many cupcakes.

There’s no reason a headphone as light as the 60e should have such a heavy, thick cable.

IT’S DUMMY THICC, but doesn’t really need to be. It makes no sense.

If you can believe it, the cable gets even worse the higher up the line you go.

Grado GS1000e vs. PS500e

Why.

Sometimes I feel as though Grado just made a bunch of arbitrary design decisions in order to be different without real rhyme or reason – from the weird build to the bizarre 2k spike, to the cables, the termination, the aesthetic.

It all reeks of being super pretentious and then scoffing at those who “don’t get it.”

Sort of like those crazy hipsters you see in Asheville, North Carolina who walk down the street thinking they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread when they actually look like complete buffoons.

If you’re an old pretentious hipster snob with a cup of coffee that you paid $20 for, Grado headphones may be just what the doctor ordered.

And yes, I listen to Indie music so I’m kind of poking fun at myself here a little as well. 🙂

Don’t get mad!

So who should stay away?

If you value your money, I wouldn’t invest in anything more than a 60e.

If you’re a normal person, you may just end up returning it for something else. The law of diminishing returns is perhaps most apparent in Grado headphones.

If you don’t plan on EQ’ing down 2kHz by about 9dB, stay away.

It’s the one glaring flaw that shows up on graphs of every single Grado headphone, and it’s really, really annoying.

No, it’s not excusable. Any headphone manufacturer that emphasizes any frequency by 9-10dB should really be ashamed of themselves, and that’s putting it nicely. It’s not just one, it’s all of them.

Why? It’s completely asinine and ruins an otherwise very good headphone.

The worst part is that you have these whiny Grado fans who try and justify their shortcomings and make excuses for the offensively colored sound, claiming things like

“You have to amp them properly” or

“Different strokes for different folks” or

“Grado headphones are for particular people”

or some equally as stupid crap you’d find on Reddit. Man get outta here with that apologist horse sh**.

No headphones should need a specific type of Amp just to sound good. That’s ludicrous.

Just look at any graph and tell me that the 2kHz peak is necessary. It’s not. It’s asinine and there’s no reason for it.

A mid-range bump done correctly would be something like the K702.

Not shouty, not in your face, and you can listen for hours without fatigue – musically or otherwise.

Philips SHP9500 vs. AKG K702 vs. HIFIMAN DEVA

Color, done correctly.

Do they all sound the same?

This is another point of contention amongst Grado apologists.

I will say that there are subtle differences as you move up the line, but the problem again is diminishing returns.

You’re basically shelling out more and more money for less and less of a difference or improvement.

If I’m being honest, the sound signatures from headphone to headphone don’t vary enough to warrant any sort of significant increase in price. At all.

If you want to play semantics, that’s fine. But it doesn’t help your case. Yeah, there are some differences.

Very tiny and minuscule ones.

If that makes you feel better about dropping hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for what is probably a placebo, more power to you.

I’ll stick to companies that don’t try and blatantly rip me off while insulting my intelligence.

Are they built the same?

This is a bit tricky, so bear with me.

The weight and feel of Grado headphones do mostly stay the same as you move up the line.

I find little difference between a GS1000e and 60e from a purely “peace of mind” standpoint.

That is to say that I feel as though both would break down at an equal or similar rate.

I don’t feel as though a GS1000e, even despite its wood cups, wouldn’t just suddenly malfunction. It may very well.

The same goes for the rest of the line.

But as for “are they all built the same?” No, they aren’t.

Some are made mostly of plastic, while others have metal, alloy, and/or mahogany.

That isn’t really the issue though, as it’s confined mostly to the cups.

The general build and functionality are more or less the same, i.e. flimsy.

The Chinaman is not the issue here, dude Walter

The issue is that I don’t feel as though purchasing one of the more expensive ones is actually a good long-term investment, regardless of what they’re made out of.

I’m more worried about how they are constructed. If you can honestly hold a Grado headphone in your hands and feel great about it, I won’t argue with you.

But for me, that’s just not the case.

The problem with Grado headphones in today’s climate is not that they’re “bad” per se.

They’re just dated and not relevant anymore, in my opinion, what with the dozens of better options out there.

This is my PERSONAL. OPINION. If you don’t like it, that’s completely fine.

You’re certainly entitled to yours! Just don’t comment telling me what I need to do in order to enjoy a Grado headphone.

Because I don’t care. I don’t care about Consumer Reports, what others say, etc.

I have no interest in Grado cans anymore. Period. If and when I decide to resume interest, it will be because I made that decision. Not you.

Rant aside…

A Koss KPH30i is a much better investment than a Grado will ever be.

Why pay $80-100 for lots of potential headaches when you can pay $20-30 and get 99% of the audiophile sound and no BS?

Koss KPH30i

Glassy.

The KPH30i is a perfect headphone. There’s nothing about it I would change and I paid $20 for it. TWENTY. Let that sink in.

Wanna know what it looks like when a noob hears proper sound for the first time?

Check out exhibit A, my mom. Her jaw literally dropped when she pressed play.

No, these aren’t great photos but I literally had seconds to get the camera ready because none of it was planned.

This was all spur-of-the-moment in real-time.

Koss KPH30i

Wha? How?! This will likely be your reaction.

Koss KPH30i

Laughing at silly Grado fan boys.

Koss KPH30i

A very happy customer indeed.

Video Discussion

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So what are you waitin’ for?!

 

If it’s not available on Drop:

 

And while you’re at it, check out the next video in the “Before You Buy” series. I know it will help you out immensely on your journey.

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion/review Grado headphones and are now better equipped to make a purchasing decision!

Would you buy an SR60e? Are you familiar with the company? If so, what are YOUR experiences? I would love to hear your thoughts. Until next time…

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

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22 comments

ben September 12, 2021 - 5:56 pm

You should leave ‘personality’ and ‘humour’ out of your writing. Just comes across as weird and needlessly aggressive.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black September 12, 2021 - 7:05 pm

Skimmed back over the article and yeah, it’s kind of aggressive in tone but hey, that’s what the Grado cult can bring out of you lol. Lately, I’ve been finding that my personality and humour in articles actually results in way more shares but I’m still going to be myself regardless of if people like it or not. For instance, if I went back and edited the content to suit your opinion (just one in a sea of them), then that would be kind of fake.

Reply
zac December 15, 2021 - 7:33 am

“I” quite “enjoyed” your “personality” and “humor” in this “article”

Thanks for keeping my dollars in my wallet and my koss on the ears.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 17, 2021 - 2:04 pm

Haha thanks man! Another Grado video/article will be coming out at some point covering the X series. 🙂

Reply
Brandon Campbell April 29, 2022 - 10:12 am

My first “real” headphones about 20 years ago were the Grado SR80s, I loved them and would still be using them today if my current living situation didn’t necessitate closed-backs (found your site because I’m considering the AKG K371s).

Reply
Stuart Charles Black May 2, 2022 - 7:59 pm

K371 is a great choice for closed-back isolation! Check out my review and comment there with any questions! 🙂

Reply
Alyssa November 7, 2022 - 1:12 am

Very nice review by a boy who takes the internet too seriously and can’t be objective about his opinion that these aren’t for HIM. He’s good at SEO and bad at being kind. I said it was a boy.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black November 7, 2022 - 4:47 am

Lol wat. Were you high when you wrote that? ?

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Tobias December 30, 2022 - 5:35 pm

Just for the reason that they wont change that disgusting cable and make it detachable makes me dislike Grados already. And with the X Series they made it worse and covered that vacuum cord with plastic mesh. I dont know why somebody would do that, and I certainly dont want it.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 31, 2022 - 4:37 pm

Yeah, the cable is a huge turn-off. Seems Grado is still stuck in 1990. What a great way to put it. That was the most awful chord I’ve ever used and it’s not close. I can’t wait to review the X series. xD

Reply
Neil February 2, 2023 - 6:11 pm

Thanks for the review Stu. Been following your reviews for a few years now (youtube, etc.) . Sometimes the reviews put me off, sometimes I love them. That said, PLEASE keep being you. I think you have gotten better and better at reviewing over the years and this Grado review is a prime example. I agree with most of your criticisms (the ridiculous cord, the uncomfortable pads, the waste of money if one “upgrados”). However, I have to say, I’ve had a pair of SR-60s for over 27 years. (Alas, they were the gateway drug drug into my way over-the-top current IEM and headphone collection. Why if I only have two ears do I have about 20+ headsets? (And talk about diminishing returns – IEMS!!!). Sorry, I digress. My reason for writing here was to tell you it was great to find this review, to be reminded of how fond I am of those old SR-60s, and most importantly to thank you for your honest, spicy, and comprehensive reviewing.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 3, 2023 - 7:34 pm

Haha! Upgrados.

Thanks a lot for the kind words, my friend. I will keep being me. You’re another one I’ve chatted with who has had a pair for many years. Some people tell me theirs breakdown very quickly. I’ve always found this very interesting.

I’m glad you’re enjoying them though and have had them for so long! Contrary to my reputation, I’ve always said I mostly enjoy the sound outside of 2kHz. It tends to ruin a good thing, but I digress.

I truly appreciate you stopping by and for such a nice comment. I really have made it a goal of mine to improve myself and my writing over the last few years (as well as fix older articles), and it’s starting to pay off!

So it’s always cool when someone else notices.

With that said, keep in touch! I would love to chat more.

-Stu

Reply
Brandon February 10, 2023 - 7:09 pm

This review is so confusing. You start by saying for the most part you like grados and they’re great for certain genres, then all of a sudden you’re shitting all over them…

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 10, 2023 - 9:25 pm

If “shitting” on Grado headphones means pointing out both the good AND bad (which I clearly do), then you’d be correct. But a review is meant to highlight everything, NOT cater to one side.

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Jamshid Buhariwalla February 11, 2023 - 10:21 am

The kph30i are faaantastic!
BU
T…
If one wants a bit more meat and presence ( with clarity and soundstage)
AN
D
Without breaking the bank…
Any recommendations, Stu?
Thanks
Jimmy, India

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 15, 2023 - 2:21 am

Hey man you’ll probably want to move up to something like a 6XX, K702, or 400se for that.

Reply
Alex February 12, 2023 - 7:17 am

I noticed a very obvious difference between the 80, 325, and 1000s when I tried them on in store re: sound quality and presentation. This is a strange review.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 12, 2023 - 4:22 pm

Reply
mrprinn February 22, 2023 - 9:15 am

Ive had my grado 60e for a couple years. Cable broke a year in, soldered in some RCAs to make em detachable. I unfortunately agree with a lot of the criticism in this article; however I do believe that the ease of modding these things adds an extra element of fun. any ~60 headphone recommendations to get intricate sounds?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black February 22, 2023 - 4:48 pm

Yeah, I wouldn’t mind trying a mod for those. Funny you mention that and soldering. I’m waiting on an MDR-V6 and plan on doing the detachable cable mod for it!

As far as recs, hmm…my favorite headphones for those things under $100 are SHP9500 and KPH30i.

Reply
Andrew April 28, 2023 - 2:09 pm

I just gotta say, I owned the KPH30i. Two pairs. Neither pair lasted more than a year. The headband is the most fragile of any headphone I’ve every owned. I’ve owned many. I’ve never had a headband break, except the KPH30i where both pairs broke. And I’m hardly a headphone abuser. I also have Koss Porta Pros and KPH40, both of which sound better than the KPH30i and which are far more durable. The budget range Koss headphones all sound great and cannot be beaten in the price range, but in no way shape or form would I consider them competive with even a bottom shelf Grado. I’ve owned the Grado 60i for 13 years and about five years ago got the 225e. Simply put, the Grados provide an emotional involvement with the music that is simply not there with the Koss. Also, I don’t find the 225’s to be “slightly” different from the 60s. The difference to me is quite substantial. I am hardly an “audiophile” or a gearhead. Going up a few notches along the Grado line makes a serious difference. That’s just my experience. Also, I think your mom has the headphones on backwards.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black April 29, 2023 - 11:49 am Reply

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