Let's peruse some pictures of the Grado SR80s.
With the bulky foam taken off the unit, all that's left is a thin mesh to protect the speaker element from your earwax.
See that mesh? Also see those exposed connections, solder points and wires underneath that mesh? That's because the s are what we call open-backed headphones, exposing the back of their drivers to the world.
Not the most durable thing in the world, the leather band covers a decent amount of area to distribute the weight well.
An absolute beast of a thing, the two meter (6.56 foot) long Y-cable of the is protected by thick rubber insulation, and is as bulky as it is heavy. Definitely meant for the indoors.
At the end of that bulky cable is the plug, a standard-looking 1/8th inch affair with a 1/4th inch adapter.
Despite the 's rather thick insulation, the cable guards for the headphones are virtually nonexistent. Running out of the bottom of each ear cup without a piece of rubber or plastic to protect the wire's insulation, this is a point of likely breakage or failure eventually.
Along with your carefully-crafted headphones, the 's packaging includes a 1/4th inch adapter, and some assorted documentation.
One of the first things we noticed about the s is that while their construction seems to be solid, one of their key features leads to a potential catastrophic failure. Namely, the solder points on the speaker units themselves are virtually unprotected. Not only are the contacts uninsulated, but the grate on the back of the headphones doesn't have a mesh or any sort of material to block foreign-object damage of any sort. Should a large enough water droplet build up near the contacts, it's very possible to short or destroy your headphones. Don't wear these outside.
If there's one thing Grado is known for, it's their retro look. While it may not appeal to EDM fanatics or those looking for the latest and greatest in fashion, we've noticed many in the hipster crowd rocking these.
For all their faults, the s have a very good frequency response for those who like a more dynamic response. It may not be perfectly neutral, but there are ranges of emphasis that boost the highest notes of string instruments (~1kHz) and the attack on hi-hats and cymbal splashes (~8-10kHz), to give it a little flavor. Bass is not emphasized all that much, so users who like drum 'n bass music or anything that relies on a lot of low frequencies should look elsewhere.
Over time, heat doesn't build up too much, and the fit doesn't really change. Identical scores here.
Aside from the enterprising few who will break the casing and re-cable these headphones, there isn't much Average Joe can do to customize the s. That's not inherently a terrible thing, but it's something worthy of note for anyone who wants to make their headphones reflect who they are personally.
The featureless, long cable is capped by a 1/8th inch plug, and is ensconced in a thick rubber insulation. It's on the bulky side, so definitely not something you want walking around anyways.
Given that these headphones are not meant to be taken outside, we strongly recommend that you leave them at home. Should you absolutely have to take them with you, you can probably put them in a messenger bag, but only if there isn't much risk of foreign-object damage, and enough room for the brobdingnagian cable.
In addition to the really low durability, the s are very hard to maintain, as there's really nothing you can do if something shorts or breaks. You can take the pads off and replace them, however.
It's easy to see why the s are popular, but there are a few quirks that make these cans less than ideal for the high-end audio crowd. It has its draws, but when they're coupled with things like high distortion, tracking problems, and exposed connections, it's a little tough to hold the s up as an example of great headphones for the price.
That's not to say that these are objectively bad: they're not. They have a great frequency response, are comfortable, and have a fun retro look that should please those who are into that sort of thing. Still, it's not enough to mask the deficiencies of the headphones, and considering their high distortion, are more like the Instagram of audio products.
If you're looking for a more affordable set of open-back headphones for at home, these cans are not a bad bet, usually coming in at just under $100. Still, see if you can try them out before buying, as not all will like their audio.
Meet the tester
Staff Writer, Imaging@cthomas8888
A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.
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