Grado SR60e Headphones Review
By Stephen Hornbrook on
I won’t lie, I am spoiled by the recent flux of high-end planar magnetic headphones and haven’t listened to a $79 pair for quite some time. For a company with a reputation like Grado, I will make an exception. Grado Labs has been around since 1953 when Joseph Grado began making phono cartridges in his kitchen. It wasn’t until 1989 that they released their first headphone and, within a couple years, the subsequent SR line.
Then in 1994, Grado introduced the SR60 headphones. Fast forward to today and we have the latest generation of the SR60. The Grado SR60e is part of the new “e” Prestige Series of headphones where Grado is emphasizing sonic quality in a value package.
A Classic Design Reborn
Not much has changed in the looks department with the new “e” series and that’s ok. The classic Grado design is simple, clean and still looks good today. The Grado SR60e is an open-back, over-the-ear headphone utilizing a dynamic driver. With a 32ohm impedance and sensitivity of 99.8db at 1mW, these are easy to drive with any portable device. One of the first things I notice when comparing the new generation Grado SR60e to the older SR60’s is how much more sensitive the new “e” series is.
They pump out a noticeable gain in volume given the same amount of wattage. This makes them easier to drive, yielding better performance on smartphones and tablets. Another difference is in the driver casing itself. The Grado SR60e’s casing has 50% more depth than the SR60, measuring 1.5” compared to 1”. Not to worry though, the new generation is just as light on the head as before.
On the inside, the Grado SR60e features a new driver design and a new cable all the way from plug to the driver. The driver uses a new polymer said to better dampen resonant distortion. At 80” the cable is long enough to give the listener some freedom from the source. If you liked the sound of previous generation Grado SR60 models, fear not as things have only changed for the better. Midrange and treble sounded cleaner and bass extension improves.
Quality Sound for only $79?
I tested the Grado SR60e headphones out on a Meridian Explorer, NAD D1050, and an iPhone. The Grado’s play nice with all sources, even the lower powered iPhone. I have no problems reaching loud listening levels via the iPhone. For an on-ear headphone, I find the Grado SR60e quite comfortable. They are light and put little pressure on the ears. I do feel a bit of earache, as I always do with on-ear designs, during long listening periods. This is partially due to the fact I wear glasses. The wrapped headband has a good amount of travel so the Grado’s will fit most head shapes and sizes.
The sound of the Grado SR60e is open, clear, and free of mid and low-end coloration. Hans Zimmer’s score for Man of Steel has an excellent low-end punch to the large bass drums and an exceptionally wide and deep soundstage for a sub-$100 headphone. Brass instruments fell a tad empty, and they could use more body in the midrange. The Grado SR60e’s are free of the colorations endemic to affordable headphones and deliver quality sound.
The Black Keys’ “Little Black Submarines” showcases the Grado SR60e’s ability to add dimensionality to voices and instruments. Auerbach’s voice is clear and neutral with excellent clarity. When the song kicks into second gear, the SR60e doesn’t break a sweat. This headphone pumps out the tunes with plenty of energy and volume, all the while remaining neutral.
“A Wolf at the Door”, featured on Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief album, is as good as it gets on a headphone costing under $100. Percussion comes through as concise and meticulate. The low frequencies are enough to anchor the music and keep the beat going, but I don’t recommend this headphone for bass nuts. I would take the clarity of the Grado SR60e’s any day over the muddy, distracting bass of most cheap headphones.
Jonsi’s score to We Bought a Zoo sounds better than I expected via my iPhone. The sound is full, dynamic, and neutral. Soundstaging again is remarkable for a $79 headphone. I can see why Grado’s have been, and still are, recommended as the best low priced headphone. It’s amazing that Grado can still deliver a top-notch headphone for $79 and keep the manufacturing in Brooklyn.
A Top Notch Value Headphone
Grado has improved upon its classic SR60 design with the new “e” series model. The increased sensitivity makes the Grado SR60e an excellent choice if you plan on using them with a portable device like an iPhone.
If you are sick of muddy, flat sounding music and don’t want to spend a lot of money, the Grado SR60e is a terrific choice. Even with the explosion of the headphone market over the least few years, the Grado SR60e still remain one of the few choices for quality sound in the double digit range. I’m shocked Grado can still manufacture these headphones in the states for the same $79 price. A remarkable value indeed.
Quality headphone sound for pennies on the dollar. This latest generation sounds even better on portable devices.
Some compression in the midrange, not for bass freaks.
Grado continues its Prestige series by improving on overall sound and sensitivity. This affordable headphone is among the best in its price range if you are looking for an open soundstage and sound that is clear and concise.