Grado headphones

Grado SR325e Headphones Review 01

Grado Labs, is a U.S., Brooklyn-based company that hand makes headphones and phono cartridges.  Founded by Joseph Grado in 1953, the company has dabbled also in other products, including loudspeakers, turntables, and even a wooden tonearm.

Today, Grado headphones come under five main lines, which are: Prestige, Reference, Statement, Professional and In-Ear.  The SR325e sits at the top of the “entry-level” Prestige Series.  Though the Prestige Series is their entry-level, the models within have received numerous awards.  Yours truly has been using a set of Grado SR80 headphones as a reference, for over a decade.

Grado released an update to all its headphones in June 2014, branded as the e-Series.  Grado does not frequently make crossline series updates, so any series update is worth taking note of.  This latest e-Series is said to be a full optimization of both design and materials, delivering the greatest dynamics and fidelity ever achieved by the company.

Like all new e-Series models, the 325e incorporates a new driver geometry that Grado developed for the ultimate precision.  In addition, the 325e uses a new 8 conductor cable that provides greater control and stability of the upper and lower frequencies; magnetic field fine-tuning for symmetry throughout the full range of the voice coil and a wider, more cushioned headband for increased comfort.

I personally love the look of Grado headphones, the mid-40’s styling cues mixed in with current materials give them a timeless retro-trendy quality.  The 325e is rather unique in that it has solid aluminum earcups that portray an industrial steam-punk visage.  The metallic silver earcups, combined with the chromed mesh covered donut-hole openings, stylishly contrast with the black leather headband, trim and earpads.   Fit and finish are very good but none of the Prestige Series headphones come across as opulent – you want bling, go elsewhere.  Rather, the Grado 325e exudes a matter-of-fact persona with a unique, purposeful and durable form that is undeniably cool, with real personality.

Along with its unique styling, the 325e, like all Grado headphones is an open-back design.  That means, it demands a quiet listening environment but also delivers a more spacious (non-claustrophobic) listening experience, much more like listening to stereo loudspeakers within a room.

On the technical side, the 325e has a frequency response of 18 – 24,000 Hz, sensitivity of 99.8 dB/1mW and nominal impendence of 32 ohms.  The box contains the headphone, a Grado story-sheet and a 6.5mm gold-plated adapter plug.

The feel of the Grado 325e is a little different than other headphones given the substantial weight of the aluminum earcups.  It is blessed with a wider leather padded headband but the weight of the earcups prevented me from forgetting I was wearing them.  Move suddenly and you will unleash the inertia of those earcups – yes, the 325e is best used when stationary; definitely an armchair headphone.  As well, the Grado bowl earpads, though absolutely necessary to get the desired soundstage and tonal balance, are somewhat coarse against sensitive skin.  Yes, they take some getting used to but once I did, I found myself easily comfortable for a couple hours of straight listening.