Originally published 4/29/17.
- 5/3/22. Article revisit.
Hey there friend and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the Grado Labs SR125e Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
- Video Review
- Amp/DAC requirements
- Who these headphones benefit?
- Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay!
- Type: Dynamic, Open back. Closed back vs. Open back headphones
- Frequency Response: 20 – 20kHz
- Sensitivity: 99.8dB
- Impedance: 32 Ohm. What is Headphone Impedance?
- Material: Plastic, Polymer
- Weight: 9.2 oz.
- Inputs: 3.5mm, 6.35mm (1/4″)
- Cable Length: 2.3m
Let’s find out.
The first thing you’ll notice here is that the 125e mimics the build of both the 60e and 80e, but it’s now $150-175 instead of below $100 (60e) or right around $100 (80e).
Nothing about the build quality warrants the extra money as it looks and feels exactly like the others. I’ve held all 3 in my hands on numerous occasions and can confirm this.
Whether or not they break down on you entirely depends on the model in question. I’ve heard people having horrible issues with them but I’ve also read folks owning the same pair for upwards of 10-20 years.
So your mileage may vary.
From my own experience, they seemed to hold up fine though I’ve never actually owned a Grado (for reasons we’ll touch on later).
The headband adjustment comprises some of the issues people have, as it’s just a long rod moving through a piece of plastic.
I’m sure a lot of how the build performs has to do with keeping the headphones light, but I can’t say I really prefer it all that much.
For one, the non-detachable cable is much too thicc (read: DUMMY THICC) and doesn’t match the stature of the headphones. You’ll likely be annoyed by how bulky and cumbersome it is, and the termination itself is also really fat and annoying.
The headband also feels cheap but fortunately doesn’t dig too much into the top of your head. Again, this is a byproduct of its manageable weight.
While we’re on the subject, let’s talk a bit about comfort.
Most headphones do get uncomfortable after a while, and you’re always going to have to adjust them at least somewhat no matter how good they are.
For instance, my HD600s easily make my most comfortable headphones of all time list, but I still have to make an ever-so-slight-nudge from time to time.
The SR125e kind of lies somewhere in the middle of comfortable to not comfortable at all.
The good news is that it employs the S-cushions which turn out to be the best out of the 3 that Grado uses (G-Cushions and L-cushions).
They are a slight upgrade from your typical drug store variety foam pads, but in reality, aren’t all that much better.
In other words, they still feel pretty cheap at the end of the day.
Fortunately, they don’t dig nearly as bad as the L-cushions and feel alright for the most part when resting on your ears.
Just be prepared to kind of pull them off from time to time for readjustment – around the 45-minute mark seems to be a good indicator of when you’ll really start to feel them.
The clarity and detail are really what make the 125e shine, but I’m not sure the price increase is entirely worth it when you can just get the 60/80e and not even notice much of a difference.
That said, bass quality and articulation here are very good, with no apparent mid-bass bumps but do be aware that there is some roll-off starting at around 50-60Hz.
I’ve always enjoyed Grado-tuned bass and the 125e is no different. There’s nice rumble and thump here without bordering on obnoxious, and the notes themselves are very clear and defined.
The problem spot however has always been the mid-range, which is tuned almost identical to every other Grado set.
There’s a jarring 8-10dB bump that seemingly comes out of nowhere, and while it initially will excite you, the wow factor quickly dissipates when you listen for extended sessions and realize how completely over the top and annoying it makes instruments and vocals sound.
Yes, our ears expect a rise in those general regions (2-3kHz), but Grado headphones take it to an extremely necessary level and it simply ends up ruining what is an otherwise excellent sound signature.
Please understand that is my personal opinion. Your mileage may vary.
I don’t find the treble all that problematic, as it’s crisp and lively and actually comes across a little more subdued than both a 60e and 80e.
The problem is that it’s just a bit too inconsistent from 3kHz and up, and sometimes isn’t quite so sure of what it wants to be.
As in, is it mostly dark? Mostly bright? I’d say it kind of lies somewhere in the middle.
Even so, I can’t complain too much here as I think the way the 125e portrays hi-hats, cymbals, etc. is mostly very good.
- Lively, fast sound. One thing I really enjoyed was the transient response.
- Tight bass. I was pleasantly surprised that for being a bass lean headphone, it sounded rather excellent.
- They handle fast tracks and lots of instruments well. You never feel like your brain is getting clogged up with muddy confusion.
- They do well with most genres.
- Good instrument separation and Soundstage. Not completely “out of your head”, but you will experience those moments on occasion.
- No carry case, which would have greatly helped the fragile perception of these.
- 2kHz spike is really annoying.
- Thick cabling is really annoying.
- Build. You may or may not have issues here.
Being 32 Ohms Impedance and 99.8dB Sensitivity, these will not require separate amplification and are sufficiently efficient. That said, plugging Grado headphones into a phone proves to almost be an exercise in futility when considering the cable issue we discussed earlier.
For that, I would go with some sort of Amp/DAC Combo or stand-alone pairing.
The K5 Pro is great because it’s very versatile, but it’s also going to pair a bit better with the 125e as it won’t sound quite as shouty in the mids due to the K5 Pro’s somewhat higher output impedance and warmer profile.
- Related: How to choose a headphone amp!
Who do these headphones benefit?
They seem to do well with most genres/bands, including but not limited to:
- Dream Theater
- Nature sounds
Bands I really love them with:
Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
Be aware that these both leak sound and fit on your ear. There is no noise isolation whatsoever, so they work best in the comfort of your quiet home studio with minimal distraction and outside noise.
One solution to the comfort issue is to purchase separate ear pads. The Ear zonk L-Cushion donut pads were a big hit with reviewers and did improve comfort levels significantly.
They do very well with all mobile devices such as your iPod, iPad, Phone, etc.
The SR125e is an incredibly clear and detailed headphone with great bass articulation and a decent enough sounding treble. What holds these back for me are the annoying non-detachable and much-too-fat cable, as well as the mid-range spike.
The build may suffer over time, and there are some definite comfort issues though the S-cushions kind of do save these from being a total bust.
I didn’t recommend these in 2017 and I’m not recommending them today either.
If you’re interested in the Grado sound, try a 60e and see if you like it.
If you’d rather bypass this one, I totally get it.
For a headphone that sounds much better overall and is also a lot cheaper, try the KPH30i which is my top budget recommendation for under $100.
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you got something out of this Grado SR125e review and came away with some valuable insight.
Are you convinced that the Grado headphones are worth it? Why or why not? Let me know!
If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to leave them below or Contact me! I very much look forward to speaking with you.
All the best and God bless,