So it was my birthday the other week, and my brother -- bless his soul! -- gave me a pair of Grado headphones. He really knows what makes this nerd happy. I've said it in this blog before: I've always wanted Grado headphones but I've never been able to make myself buy a pair. Problem solved, thanks to my bro. Were the Grados worth the wait? In a competitive market of very capable headphones as well as gimmicky "beats," the answer is still "You betcha." Watch me jump on the Grado bandwagon and bang the drum.
Now I've been rocking a pair of Sennheiser HD400-somethings for a while now. These are quite capable open-back (like the Grados) headphones. I've been nothing but praises for Sennheiser ever since, and they're far cheaper than Grado cans. At the same time, Grado has always caught my interest ever since I got a listen from my music-loving co-worker. He claimed superior detail, vocal performance and warmth, though he also admitted that the bass department wasn't so strong. From that casual listen, I came away impressed but also a little skeptical. There was definitely some good stuff going on, but I didn't know if I could justify the price when what I was hearing wasn't that far from what I got from my cheaper Sennheiser 'phones.
The Grado SR60i's are an update of the tried-and-tested SR60 design which has been around for decades. It's been called the best value headphones that money can buy. Audiophiles have said that "audiophile level" listening starts with the SR60. And there's a legion of die-hard Grado fans that swear that the company's headphones are made of awesome sauce. The SR60i's are from the Prestige series and unlike its pricier siblings, it's made of plastic, leather and vinyl. No wood or fancy metal finish here. But make no mistake, it's all about the sound.
For my first listen, I cranked out something perhaps too-familiar to test out the headphones' vocal performance, Adele's 21. That was all it took. I was won over by the sound right away.
Guitarists often talk about "tone," that indescribable quality of sound that conveys richness and character. The Grados had tone. In audiophile speak, it's probably related to "warmth." It was these warm tones conveyed in Adele's voice that I had never heard before, and that made the listening experience so rich and rewarding. The sound reproduction was natural, as if Adele were just somewhere nearby, and that was just delicious.
Whether I threw it music from my phone, my laptop or my A/V receiver, the SR60i's just lovingly pumped out forward-sounding music wrapped up in warmth at all levels.
Just a few caveats
My daily music leans more toward rock, and here the SR60i is supposed to shine. I found the experience for rock somewhat less impressive. The headphones were capable with rock, but just not as wow, especially compared to what same-level Sennheiser headphones can do.
On the low end, bass is full, but not powerful. The SR60i produces a very balanced sound, and this doesn't favor bass-prominent music such as electronica and hip-hop. That's not to say that it's no good. I like my output balanced (that's how the musician mixed it) and without bias. But others out there might look for more krazy beats. There are a lot of headphones around now that cover that.
Audiophiles looking for a soundstage -- the ability to place instruments in 3D space -- may want to look at more expensive Grado models. You don't get much of that spatial stuff here. For the price though, this is really duper high quality stuff from the detail, rich mids, and capable lows.
If the shoe fits
Headphones have a very personal fit, and I found these to be some of the most comfortable headphones I've ever used. And yes, that's saying a lot because I have large, funny-shaped ears and a pointy head. There are just two big foam pads connected by a leather strap, and it works. Usage may vary, depending on your funny-shaped ears.
So now I'm one of those Grado dudes proclaiming how great their headphones are. I'm not just making this up though. After all, I have no reason to defend an expensive purchase -- my headphones were a guilt-free, PR-free, no-strings-attached gift from my brother.
The SR60i's inspire falling in love with music all over again. I can't make that any clearer. The warm output and rich, honest tones that come out of these headphones are pure joy. Worth the price tag. I should never have waited so long to get a pair.