What Hi-Fi? Awards 2016 winner: Grado SR325e headphones

grado_bb_on-ear-headphones_gradoFounded over half a century ago, Grado has long been an established name in audio. From the roots of building turntable cartridges on a kitchen table, the company has now grown to be one of the most renowned open-backed headphone manufacturers in history…

Remarkably, it’s still a family-run business with the Grado family in firm control, which just goes to show the passion that’s inherent in the hi-fi business. A quick skim through a web search will show a slew of headphones and turntable cartridges that all receive excellent ratings, so it’s no surprise that the SR325e model has been crowned with the What HiFi? Award for best home on ear headphones £200-£400, for the second year in a row. Let’s take a look and see why…

Build wise, they don’t immediately strike you as anything different. The leather headband isn’t bulging with the promise of comfy padding, but once placed on your head, it’s evident that this isn’t a problem. They feel lightweight and not invasive at all. The drivers are open-backed, meaning the rears of the cups are vented. Aside from the sound benefits (more on that later), it gives a lovely minimal styling to them which the metal finish complements. The cups have foam cushioning around them but leave the drivers to sit behind a fine mesh that your ears also rest on. It doesn’t look that comfortable but a few minutes wearing them will reassure you that they won’t cause a problem. For those wanting a more solid ear pad, alternative sizes are available via special order.

Grado’s familiar open back design gives a very transparent sound.

Grado’s familiar open back design gives a very transparent sound.

Starting off with Hella Good by No Doubt, the precision of the Grado’s timing is the first thing that strikes you. Whether it’s the breathy vocals that pan from ear to ear or the various synth effects, I felt the accuracy of the Grado’s delivery zip in and out of my ears. The weight of the kick drum gives reassurance that despite being open backed, the SR325e headphones don’t sacrifice bass in order to achieve lots of top-end transparency. Switching to the contemporary jazz of The Brad Mehldau Trios’ cover of Wonderwall and the openness of the live recording is really expressed well. All the little organic noises like the slap of the double bass strings against the neck of the instrument creep in underneath the music and let you really appreciate the performance that you’re hearing. Naturally, I was compelled to stop whatever it was I was doing at the time and just sit back, close my eyes and soak up the atmosphere and presence of the music. In fact, it almost doesn’t matter what one plays on them, as a new appreciation for whatever genre of music you choose will be gained!

As an open-backed design, there is an obvious limit to the practical usage of such headphones. They really aren’t going to be appreciated by anyone you happen to be next to, as the sound naturally leaks out. This is due to the vented design of the cups that let a considerable amount of sound out. No trips on the bus or using them at your computer in work then. Likewise, they don’t make any effort to block out any ambient sound from your surroundings either. However, this is not the aim of any open-backed pair of headphones. The aim is always to give you the most open and dynamic sound for the money and the SR325e headphones give you this in spades. You can’t always turn your speakers up at home and these are where the Grado’s come into play. Providing that there isn’t anyone else to annoy in the room that you use them in, you’ll be hard-pushed to find a better option for clear, dynamic and precise headphones at this price point.

Give your local store a call today to arrange an audition of the Grado SR325e‘s.

Please click here to find out more about the Grado SR325e headphones.

Author – Steve, Bristol store.