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Grado SR225e Headphone Review: Audio Bliss for $200

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Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Grado

Handcrafted in Brooklyn, NY

First impressions usually count for a lot, correct?  Well, my first impression of a Grado product was not all that positive.  I had a small LAN party at my house one night and I invited over the audio lead for Ritual Entertainment and got him set up on one of the test machines.  He pulled out a pair of Grado SR225 headphones and plugged them in.  I looked at them and thought, “Why does this audio guy have such terrible headphones?”  Just like most others that have looked at Grados the first time, I thought these were similar to a set of WWII headsets, and likely sounded about as good.  I offered my friend a more “gaming friendly” set of headphones.  He laughed at me and said no thanks.

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The packaging is relatively bland as compared to other competing "high end" headphones. Grado has a reputation of under-promising, yet overperforming.

I of course asked him about his headphones that he was so enamored with and he told me a little bit about how good they actually were and that he was quite happy to game on them.  This of course got me quite interested in what exactly Grado had to offer.  Those “cheap looking” headphones are anything but cheap.  While the aesthetics can be debated, but what can’t be is that Grado makes a pretty great series of products.

Grado was founded by Joseph Grado in 1953.  Sadly, Joseph passed away this year.  Though he had been retired for some time, the company is still family owned and we are now seeing the 3rd generation of Grados getting involved in the day to day workings of the company.  The headquarters was actually the site of the family fruit business before Joseph decided to go into the audio industry.  They originally specialized in phonograph heads as well as other phono accessories, and it wasn’t until 1989 that Grado introduced their first headphones.  Headphones are not exactly a market where there are massive technological leaps, so it appears as though there has been around three distinct generations of headphone designs from Grado with the Prestige series.  The originals were introduced in the mid-90s then in the mid 2000s with the updated “i” series, and finally we have the latest “e” models that were released last year.

The company also offers five different lines of headphones that range from the $50 eGrado up to the $1700 PS1000E.  They also use a variety of materials from plastic, to metal, and finally the very famous wood based headphones.  In fact, they have a limited edition Grado Heritage run that was made from a maple tree cut down in Brooklyn very near to the workshop where Grado still handcrafts their headphones.

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That townhouse in the middle? That is where the vast majority of Grado headphones are made. Not exactly what most expect considering the reputation of the Grado brand. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Grado)

I was sent the latest SR225e models to take a listen to some time back.  I finally got to a place where I could just sit down and pen about my thoughts and experience with these headphones.

Click here to read the entire Grado SR225e review!

The Cans

There is very little about the SR225e that can be described as fancy when it comes to the appearance of the headphones.  They are still very much the Prestige style that was introduced back in the mid-90s.  The construction of these headphones is relatively simple, but time tested and true. 

The head strap is a single, stiff vinyl piece that covers the metal band that connects the two speakers.  This is not particularly comfortable, but it is not uncomfortable either.  I have very little hair and I can feel the roughness of the material and in the summertime it gets hot enough in my office that it becomes sticky with sweat.  It is not a breathable material unlike other competing units which might feature cushions or “pleather” type materials.  The strap can easily stretch to fit a wide variety of head sizes and does not squeeze uncomfortably.  The strap then attaches to a plastic block piece which also holds onto the posts on which the speakers are attached.

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Opening the box seems a personal affair, like opening a letter (not that many people do that anymore). Space is not wasted and the packaging is night and day from most other headphone manufacturers.

The driver housing on the SR225e is a molded plastic shell with a metal screen.  The headphones are open units, so they let external noise come through as compared to closed headphones which do a good job in keeping external sound out.  The idea behind open headsets is that the driver does not need to work so hard to vibrate when the area behind it is open.  It also has a positive effect on response all up the frequency range. 

The headset is only 35 ohms of resistance, which is not that much as compared to other top end models which can feature resistance up to 600 ohms.  This allows use in a wide variety of players that may not be able to amplify higher resistance headphones.  This should allow clean and bright sound in portable MP3 players that feature a good DAC or cell phones that provide above average sound reproduction.

Between the flexible metal strap and the adjustable height posts for the speakers, these headphones have no problem fitting many different head sizes.  The cups feature the distinctive padding that Grado is known for.  These pads take a little getting used to.  When I first tried my now ancient Grado SR125 headphones I could only wear them for about an hour before they became uncomfortable from the material pressing on my ears.  It is not smooth, it is not plush, and it certainly is not velour.  It is a little rough, but firm.  The overall thought behind the padding is to give enough space between the ear and drivers, and not have that space or material wear down easily.  After some usage my ears did adjust to the feel of the headphones and I had no problems beyond that.

The one aspect that could be make or break for users is the open air design.  Ambient noise has a tendency to make it through these speakers.  If a user were to take these to a large LAN party or listen to a portable music device on the subway, then outside noises will make it into the headphones.  The users’ ears are not sealed off from the environment they are in.  The best listening environment is obviously one that does not have a lot of people or external distractions.  One positive with having an open design is that you can actually hear people calling your name when you are engrossed in whatever activity you are using these headphones for.

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The headphones themselves are carefully packaged up and protected by the solid box and generous amounts of foam.

The cable is very thick and is about 5’6” in length.  Previous models had longer cables, but I can understand that in mobile applications that extra length is problematic.  It is plenty long for me to plug it into my computer on the floor and the extra weight of the hanging cable is not distracting. Again, it is quite thick and somewhat stiff.  The design and build certainly show that it has a focus for serious audiophile listening rather than riding a bike through the busy streets of a metropolitan area.


September 9, 2015 | 11:18 AM - Posted by funandjam

Good review! Really like the personal touches in the unboxing experience. I'm sure they are really great sounding headphones, but that band with no padding would just kill it for me, looks way uncomfortable.

September 9, 2015 | 01:13 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

It isn't cushy, but it isn't as uncomfortable as you think.  They are solid, but they don't weigh that much.  Tastes will of course vary, but if you get a chance try them out yourself.

September 9, 2015 | 01:28 PM - Posted by KingKookaluke (not verified)

Nice article Josh. I may be swayed to go back into corded headphones. My problem is that I fidget around in my chair and end up running over the cords and eventually tearing them to hell.

September 9, 2015 | 02:04 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I hvae a handle on one of my drawers on my desk that I slip the cord into.  It keeps the cord above the ground, yet still allows me plenty of wiggle room in terms of motion.

September 9, 2015 | 02:17 PM - Posted by funandjam

you said wiggle and motion in the same sentence! :D

September 9, 2015 | 02:22 PM - Posted by Gubby (not verified)

How long are they expected to last? And are they good for using when walking around the city?

Can you also post some newbie stats related to your audio source like format, kbps,etc? Thanks! :)

September 9, 2015 | 04:53 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I have a pair of SR125 cans that are 11 years old and still work great.  I only had to replace the ear pads (those are inexpensive).  If you take care of the cable, they are going to be fine for strolling around.  Might actually be safer too because you can hear some of the ambient sound around you.

Source material includes CD audio, MP3 @ 320 kbps, and DVD Audio.

September 9, 2015 | 02:49 PM - Posted by ChrisMag (not verified)

I've been using a set of SR-60 headphoens for 15 years. They're fantastic. The 60's do need a decent headphone amplifier to perform their best, but it's well worth it.

As far as the design, I've replaced the earpads a couple times, which only cost a few dollars. One gimbal had a post come loose also, but Grado sent out a replacement free of charge well outside of the warranty. Great company to buy from.

September 9, 2015 | 05:02 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Yeah, I haven't heard anyone really badmouth Grado. Their claim is that if you buy a product, you are like family to them.  Pretty big family...

September 11, 2015 | 12:38 AM - Posted by pdjblum

I have the SR80's and the earpads recently started to disintegrate. I looked a while ago on the grado site and replacements were $30 or $40, I forget. Is there another place to get them for less? Thanks.

September 11, 2015 | 12:40 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I just looked on Amazon (search for Grado replacement earpads) and a whole bunch of options popped up between $5 and $40.

September 11, 2015 | 02:50 PM - Posted by pdjblum

Thanks much Josh. Will do. Hope I can find them for closer to $5. If it is $40, I am thinking of using that money to get the ones you reviewed instead as that would be a huge upgrade.

September 9, 2015 | 07:31 PM - Posted by Krieger (not verified)

Thanks for the review Josh. I've been using the SR60's for over a year now and i quite like them as my alternative to Sennheiser's HD598. I find the Grados are a cooler pair of headphones to wear for extended periods while computing. I'm a bit of a hot head and over ear headphones become uncomfortable and sweaty after too long especially on summer days. The SR60s were my test to see whether I should invest in a higher quality set. Have you made a comparison between the lower end Grados to this pair?

September 10, 2015 | 01:21 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I directly compared them to the older SR125 models.  There is a big difference in overall quality with the SR225e.  Much more transparent, didn't struggle with the high end, and a better overall experience.  Likely a big jump from the SR60s.

September 9, 2015 | 11:11 PM - Posted by Anonymous31276 (not verified)

" These pads take a little getting used to. When I first tried my now ancient Grado SR125 headphones I could only wear them for about an hour before they became uncomfortable from the material pressing on my ears."

I could never get past this point, I loved the sound but always went back to my Sennheiser 555's. Glad to see them getting some love though, I don't think most (younger) people understand just how good headphones can sound.

Comfort should always be first though.

September 10, 2015 | 08:11 AM - Posted by BlackDove (not verified)

Been using my SR80is for years. Grado are the best.

September 11, 2015 | 01:06 PM - Posted by Michael McAllister

If PC Perspective is going to be doing headphone reviews more frequently, may I suggest checking out the Sennheiser HD 600s? I have a pair, and while they are not cheap, they sound lovely and are incredibly comfortable!

Sennheiser support is also really great (U.S.-based). Had an issue with a cable shorting out intermittently. Wasn't sure if that was the headphones or the cable so they sent me a brand-new pair!

September 12, 2015 | 01:49 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I have always heard good things about Senn.  I guess we can attempt to find a contact with them!

September 14, 2015 | 10:08 AM - Posted by Brandon M (not verified)

My fiance has a pair of the lower end Grados, I think the 80i or something, and I have a larger than average head and wear glasses and I find them unbearable to wear after 20-30 minutes of use.

September 14, 2015 | 11:04 AM - Posted by Subsailor

The metal band that sits on your head it bendable. Grab it with both hands and open it really hard and see if it works for you. Repeat the bending/unbending until it's the correct clamping force for your head.

September 17, 2015 | 11:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Not something you want to do with your girlfriend's headphones, methinks :)

September 17, 2015 | 08:32 PM - Posted by McLeod (not verified)

I had a pair of SR80s I used for at least 6 years. I liked the sound so much, but didn't like the profile for traveling and listening to music on the go. To that end, I bought a pair of I radon which I very much enjoyed until the cord started shorting out after a couple years (I was stupidly rough with them). Now though, I upgraded to the SR325is for my primarycans. I also use a headphone tube amp as well to help drive the phones even more. I cannot express the level of fidelity the 325is has. The 225e I have not heard but I can tell you it is a true joy to hear the sound. I will say that the headband on the 325is is a lot more comfortable than on the SR80 I had. The 325 has a thicker and more leather like headband. I really recommend trying to find a local shop to test these guys out. It is really worth it...especially if you like music even a little bit. You immediately notice things in your music you never heard before.

September 17, 2015 | 08:34 PM - Posted by McLeod (not verified)

Edit: "I radon" should say, iGrado.

October 31, 2015 | 09:13 AM - Posted by Krieger (not verified)

I was considering the SR225's but a sale came up and I bought the SR325E at 15% off instead. They are superb. I was using the SR60 up until now for about a year or so to test whether I like them and if i could wear them for extended periods while computing. I remember thinking how great i thought the SR60's (and my HD598s) were that could hear all sorts of sounds that you never could before... well that was with some concentration. The 325E's just bring all of those sounds right up front and drop them down right beside you. I was a little worried that an upgrade may be a waste of money, that i wouldn't hear that much of a difference but they are noticeably improved. The sound is quite crisp but also have a clean crunchy bass. They are so clear they almost make some songs feel unfamiliar lol. There will be some adjust to using them but I am really enjoying them. Luckily the ear pads don't bother me and I actually find them less hot on my ears/head than i did with the SR60's. Cords a little short though. Anyways it was your review that got me back on track to find my ultimate headphones thanks!

August 17, 2016 | 01:30 PM - Posted by Mariaz

Recently, I had a look about some exciting deals for headphones on the web space, but my brother suggested me to read reviews about the products before making a decision, and avoid wasting money on something that is not as good as described.

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