If Grado were to build its museum, the original SR80 headphones would most likely be included in the collection of the company’s most cherished artefacts.
These headphones would be the equivalent of the crown jewels in the Tower of London treasure.
Grado’s very first pair of open-back headphones were constructed in 1991 on the dining room table of the Grado family.
These headphones served as the foundation for the open-back headphone empire that Grado would go on to build.
According to the available information, in its absence, Grado would be completely deserted at present.
Aside from the fact that they have been a part of both the Prestige Series and the Prestige X Series for the past three decades, they are the longest Grado model in production.
The brand-new Grado SR80x takes the place of the previous Prestige E Series model, the SR80e, which was recognised by many What Hi-Fi? Awards in 2014.
The Grado SR80x headphones are part of the company’s Prestige X range, which is located below the company’s Reference Series and are the company’s second-most affordable pair of headphones after the SR60x.
Even though they have a cheap price (£129.95, $125, or AU$179), the wired and open-back design of the SR80x means that sound leaks in both directions.
Because of this, they are better suited for usage in the house rather than in the office.
Even if the level isn’t turned up extremely high, everyone in the vicinity of you will be able to hear the music that you are playing if you are listening to heavy metal and the volume is turned up quite high.
What About Its Design?
The unusually holey ear cups, which serve as a visual cue to the open-back design, allow sound to soak through at the rear of the headphones.
As was to be expected, Grado has maintained the same industrial look across the generations of its products; yet, when placed side by side, the SR80e and SR80x reveal certain changes in their respective generations.
In addition to the newly designed ‘x’ that is located on the ear cup, the cable that is 1.8 metres in length now features a 4-conductor design and a strong braided jacket.
Furthermore, the cushioning that is located underneath the pleather headband has been significantly increased in thickness.
This is most likely going to be the last time a Spot disparity is heard throughout a game.
The only feature that may be considered a differentiating factor is the stitching on the new headband.
The earpads are made of a circular foam that is large enough to cover the bulk of the ear but still manages to be small enough to rest pleasantly against the eardrum.
The earpads of the SR80e, which we have used on and off over several years, have, for the most part, kept their shape and padding, which enables us to attest to the product’s long-term durability.
Even though the non-padded headband on the SR80e is sufficient for long listening sessions, the padding of the SR80x is a pleasant addition; it helps keep the listening experience more comfortable, especially when listening for extended amounts of time.
Adjustment of the headband is possible thanks to a conveniently located slider on the headband itself.
However, the launch of a new Prestige line by Grado is justified by a feature that is hidden from view.
What About Its Drivers?
The 44mm drivers that are used in the Prestige X models are entirely new and are of the fourth generation.
These drivers use a more powerful magnetic circuit, which results in increased efficiency.
Additionally, the voice coil and diaphragm have been redesigned to have a lower mass, which helps eliminate distortion.
Because of the improved sound quality, Grado asserts that these headphones are more convenient to use with a variety of portable devices.
This is a particularly essential feature. Despite this, Grado headphones come with a 6.3mm converter that allows them to be used with devices that have a headphone connector measuring 3.5 millimetres.
What About Its Sound?
Since we got our hands on the SR80x two weeks ago, we’ve used them with a variety of sources, such as an Astell & Kern A&K A&norma SR15 music player and Naim’s Uniti Atom streaming system, and the Grados have never sounded feeble or out of place with any of these devices.
Even if the headphones are on the cheaper end of the price spectrum, a more costly setup can still benefit from the SR80x’s class-leading transparency.
In this review of the SR80x, we are anticipating hearing the same kind of sound magic produced by the new driver as we heard in the previous review of the SR325x.
In addition, the SR80x are noticeably crisper, cleaner, and more detailed than their forebears, which is an encouraging indicator of the product’s reliability.
The use of the SR80x gave the song “Lost Cause” by Billie Eilish a greater sense of punch and space around the basic drum and bass loop rhythm.
On the other hand, the SR80x does not only bring her voice closer to the ear of the listener, but it also makes it more tactile and, as a result, more sensual.
This brings nothing new to the table: The SR80x inherits everything that makes the Prestige models so popular, including their agile-footed dynamic range, expressive rolling dynamics, and intelligence across well-defined frequency ranges.
Additionally, the SR80x inherits the punch and panache that have made the Prestige models such natural performers.
This time around, an additional generous sprinkle of refinement has made their straightforward, clinical presentation all the more apparent.
While we are evaluating headphones, we realise that we are engrossed in the words of Eilish’s song “Your Power,” and we find ourselves dancing along freely to “Therefore I Am.”
This is the kind of experience that makes us want to hear an entire album from start to finish.
What About The Final Verdict?
If you can accept the fact that these headphones perform best when worn in quiet environments and during “me” time, then you won’t be disappointed by the exceptionally open and fluidly dynamic output they provide.
If you can’t accept that, then you might be dissatisfied.
It was not required for Grado to rip up its rulebook and recreate its renowned headphones to keep up with the competition.
Having said that, the enhancements that have been made to the SR80x are most certainly a step in the right way.
We wouldn’t be surprised if this continues to be the case for the foreseeable future for as long as people continue to use wired headphones, given how dominant they are in this particular market area.