If you fall in the first camp, you’ll love the design of the Grado SR80e Prestige Series Stereo Headphones.
But the cool retro styling isn’t the only selling point. These headphones sell for a budget price, but deliver excellent sound quality.
As long as you don’t listen to music with a lot of bass.
The SR80e does not do a great job reproducing heavy bass. They are also not as comfortable as more expensive models.
If the weaknesses are things you can live with, then these headphones are a great value for the price. The Grado SR80e review below will help you decide if they are right for you.
Grado SR80e Review: Overview And Features
These are on-ear headphones that were initially released in the mid-80s. Over the years they have undergone some serious upgrades, including redesigned drivers.
When you first check out these headphones, you’ll notice the chunky design and large ear cups. They may not look as flashy as today’s modern headphones, but they outperform most
As open back headphones, they have a great soundstage, but they do not block out environmental noise. As a result, they are best used at home or in the studio, not in loud public places.
If you’re looking for a model that can handle vinyl, or any other source, the SR80e sounds great, but it may not be up to the task if you primarily listen to music that has a lot of bass. Unfortunately, this is a common issue with lower priced models.
- Clear sound
- Foldable design
- Low price
- Large soundstage
- Not as comfortable as more expensive models
- Not good with bass-heavy tracks
- Do not block out environmental noise
There’s no doubt that these headphones have an unusual fit. The foam pads on the ear cups feel pretty firm, and are not as soft as fake leather. Unfortunately, they’re not quite as comfortable as other models in this price range, but you can comfortably wear them for a few hours at a time.
The headband is made out of thin spring steel. It has no padding, but the band is pretty wide and features a pinch-free design, so you can easily remove the headphones without discomfort.
The ear cups attach directly to the headband via a basic pivot and rod mechanism. The lack of a hinge in this design means that the headband is responsible for providing the angle adjustment for the ear cups.
If you’re someone who can spend hour after hour going through your vinyl collection and getting lost in your music, then you need headphones that are comfortable and adjustable. Unfortunately, these tend to struggle in both areas.
They do feature a flexible design that allows you to adjust the headband and ear cups for a more comfortable fit, but the adjustability has its limits.
With higher priced models you’ll find a dial or knob that you can use to increase or decrease how tightly the cups fit against the ears, in addition to an adjustable headband. That’s where this model falls flat. The only offer the standard adjustability you get with models made for the casual listener.
The ear cups swivel freely and allow for a more custom fit. The foam padding on the ear cups can feel stiff and scratchy when new, but after you break them in, it becomes much more comfortable.
If you still don’t like the foam pads, you can upgrade them and choose a different style directly from the manufacturer’s website. The headband is fairly tight, which may make it unsuitable for people with a larger head size.
Since this is an over-the-ear model, the clamp has to have a tighter fit to keep the ear cups securely in place. After the breaking in period, you’ll notice that the headband doesn’t feel quite as tight.
If comfort is one of your top priorities, you’ll want to spend more on a pair that can offer the level of comfort you need for longer use (see the comparison section below).
The Grado SR80e has a razor sharp sound, with excellent dynamics. The integration of the treble and mids, combined with the mid-range detail is exceptional, which is what gives this pair great high-end flavor that you normally wouldn’t find in a model in this price bracket.
For an on-ear pair, they offer a pretty good bass punch, too. That is surprising since most open headphones have more diffused bass. That said, they do struggle with havy bass sounds at higher volumes.
Due to the open back design, sound leakage isn’t a surprise. Unfortunately, the passive noise isolation is basically non-existent, which means you will hear noise from your surroundings, even if you have the volume cranked up all the way.
These headphones can be difficult to listen to if you turn the volume all the way up. The hardness of the sound can result in searing vocals and aggressive sounding guitar, which is impressive in it’s detail and definition, but does not not exactly sound smooth to your ears.
In terms of volume level, these headphones are about average. Connecting them to a receiver and your turntable, or an amp and your turntable can give them the juice they need, but at a higher volume you may notice more issues with sound quality, especially when it comes to bass.
Instead of taking a more laid-back approach, the design places the music up close to the ears. While there’s nothing wrong with this design considering it can give music more energy, it may feel uncomfortable for some users.
Overall, they are durable, made from basic metal and plastic components. The molded components and plastic housing don’t feel as solid as what you’d find on higher-priced models, but they do feel thick and well-built.
The ear cups pivot on the metal rod and can be positioned flat for transport and storage. Unfortunately, there’s no folding or hinge option.
The included cable has a thicker insulation than other models in this price range. This improves the cable’s durability, but it also adds some weight, which can be tough on the connection points. Overall, the headphones are lightweight, though.
The thick rubber cable feels study and measures seven feet in length. At the straight jack you can see the tough strain relief. The Y splitter is where you’ll find the real weak points, since the cable tends to get pinched around the plastic casing located around the Y splitter.
Since this is a fixed cable, you won’t be able to easily upgrade it for one that’s more durable or longer. For casual listeners the fixed cable isn’t a big deal, but it may be a deal-breaker for the serious audiophile who loves to upgrade their vinyl listening gear.
Since the Grado SR80e features an open back style design, you can expect a wide soundstage. When you listen to music on your turntable, you’ll notice how controlled and tight the bass is at lower volumes, but it can easily be drowned out if you’re listening in a noisy environment.
With the built-in precision drivers, you notice the excellent articulation and frequency response, regardless of how low or high you have the volume. Despite the fact that the frequency response isn’t neutral, the headphones sound great for most genres. But they are not a great choice for those who primarily listen to bass heavy tracks.
While there are a few design flaws, such as the Y splitter weak points, a limited adjustability, and the scratchy ear pads, overall, these headphones are comfortable, lightweight, and they deliver a great sound. That is why they made our list of the top headphones for listening to vinyl.
Grado SR80e Vs Beyerdynamic DT 990 Headphones
The Beyerdynamics DT990 headphones also have an open back design, but they handle bass heavy tracks effortlessly, which is a big weakness of this Grado model.
They also feature an impressive sound pressure level that comes in at ninety-six decibels and a comfortable ear cup design, complete with velour pads that are plush and thick, so they easily outperform the Grado headphones in terms of sound quality and comfort.
The DT 990 offers a strong treble and bass sound, and a more versatile, adjustable, and comfortable fit. Naturally, this comes at a mich higher price.
If you’re on a tight budget, the Grado SR80e is the better choice by default. But if you can afford the Beyerdynamic headphones, they are worth every penny. Thay are far better.
Learn more in our in-depth Beyerdynamic DT 990 review.
Grado SR80e Prestige Series: Conclusion And Rating
Quality really matters when it comes to headphones. A bad pair can completely ruin your listening experience. But if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll have to compromise.
Luckily, there are good compromises, like the Grado SR80e Prestige Series headphones. They are a great buy, considering the low price.
While they may not be anywhere close to the best pair on the market, due to the somewhat uncomfortable design, sound leakage, and the inability to handle bass-heavy tracks, they do offer a solid performance, that is far better than expected for this price range.
These are a great budget buy, with some definite weaknesses. As long as you can live with those weaknesses (i.e. you don’t need powerful bass and sound isolation), you will be hard-pressed to find a better bargain. That is why they score a Top Record Players rating of 4.7 out of 5.