Monday, January 10, 2005

Grado SR-60 Headphone Review

I have just received my Grado SR-60s and am currently burning them in. Out of the box, they'll suck. Break them in properly with a nice selection of booming hip-hop and high pitch guitar riffs at reasonably high levels. You dont have to be wearing them to do this. After this bried ritual, you'll start hearing the bass taking form after 30 or so minutes.

I haven't even had 40 minutes in them and I am already very impressed. I HEAR EVERYTHING. Every little detail. I can hear the fingers of the guitar player move from fret to fret between chords, heretofore unheard stuff in the mix like background vocals and effects.

Unfortunately, the limitations of MP3 compression are also made more evident. For example, some complex tonal passages sound distorted especially those that are at the high end of the dynamic range (LOUD), but if you lower the volume, you will hear that distortion continues. The distortion is in the track, not due to the hardware. I have been able to address this by hiking the sampling rate from 194kbps to 320 kbps. Unfortunately, I had to rip my entire collection over again. A lot of work and time spent for bliss. Not that bliss has been achieved. I feel that the MP3 file format lacks the dynamic range of CDA. Cant wait for a portable hard drive player to support the new SACD standard.

I started my tests with a little Jet, Modest Mouse, Linkin Park, Thievery Corporation, Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi by the London Symphony Orchestra for good measure and finished off with Smells like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. I am almost teary eyed with joy. The bass is sufficient by my standards. It is whole and robust. You can almost caress it with your hands. It is not booming by any measure. It is accurate. As background, I prefer to listen to flat sound. No added bass, treble, X-bass, loudness, BBE or any of that other junk that can be added to the music. I would rather increase the SPL to hear the detail than mess with the sound. It is here where the SR-60s shine. You dont need a lot of volume to hear the detail. I can't say it enough, "everything is there" or "more than you use to know".

The only downside I have seen so far is that the power handling seems lacking. They are sufficiently loud but they seem to be having a hard time when I crank it up to rock concert levels. That is the one caveat. If you are the type with a couple of 12 inch subs in your car, or cant get any satisfaction with a pair of decent stand up speakers (B&Ws?), these may not be for you.

I cant wait to move up the Grado line as I am extremely happy with these entry level phones. However, if you intend to use it on an iPod, I think this is the only Grado headphone that can be driven to satisfaction by a portable.


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