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The Grado headphones are all black. Their cups have large, circular foam pads covering them, and open backs. The open backs are covered by a grate, making the sound element easy to see, but a bit hard to get at. The cups rest in a plastic C-shaped housing, allowing the cups to tilt back and forth. This part is attached to the band by a metal rod. These metal rods both allow the cups to rotate in a full circle and to stretch away from the band, in order to accommodate larger heads. The band itself is metal, and covered with leather.

 

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In the Box

 

In the Grado SR60 box, you'll find a dearth of interesting things. Other than the SR60s themselves, all you get is a sole 1/8-to-1/4-inch adaptor.

 

 

 

 

Durability(3.63)

Overall, the Grados SR60s aren't the most durable headphones. They start out at the plug promisingly enough, with a ridiculously good cord guard that should keep the cable safe from any amount of bending, pulling or other rough treatment. The cord itself is great too; the tough platic coating means that you will never have to worry about it snapping or tangling up on itself. The neck split is also really heavy duty. On the other side of the neck split, however, things take turn for the worse. The thinner cable on the other side of the neck split feels loosely wrapped around the internal wires, and we are concerned that this cable could be damaged by an overly sharp bend or twist. Because it's relatively hollow, the cable can bend and twist around quite a bit at the neck split.

 

The cable is a bit minor compared to how the cups are connected to the band. The cups sit in a plastic half-circle, on two pins so it can rotate. This plastic 'C' is incredibly flimsy, as are the pins that grab onto the cup. The other issue lies in the plastic part at the end of the band, which the cups' metal rods slide through. Essentially, this plastic box attempts to join two pieces of metal; any bending will but the brunt of the stress on this brittle plastic. 

 

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Aesthetics(3.0)

These headphones are no blue-ribbon beauties: they look really cheap. The foam ear padding is vintage 1980, as is the lettering and plastic quality. That being said, we do live in a day and age where such an aesthetic, through some miracle of irony, is considered attractive by many. If you view it in that light, they actually do have some charm to them. If you're in this mind set, feel free to add your own three or so bonus points to this score. Chances are, however, that many people won't like this particular look (although the sliding ear cups do modernize the look a bit). Overall, while the SR60s are kind of ugly, it's a cute ugly.

 

Summary

Judging from our test results, the Grado SR60 headphones provide good, not great audio quality. They had above average scores in tracking and maximum usable volume, and middling scores in frequency response and distortion. As open-backed phones, they obviously didn't provide much isolation; outside noises will get to your ears relatively unimpeded, and anyone in the room will be able to hear what you're listening to. Keeping all this in mind, if the SR60s had better padding, their performance scores could've been better. The foam padding simply does not form a seal with the ear.

We perform our testing using SoundCheck, a professional audio analysis program by Listen, inc. We also use a head and torso simulator (HATS), which provides us with a simulated head and ear. HATS is our site's 'Golden Ear,' which is great because, as a finely-calibrated machine, it functions just like a human ear, but is far more accurate and doesn't get tired of listening to the noises we use in our testing. Our rig lets HATS and SoundCheck sing each other robot songs, then measure how those sounds are affected when filtered through the headphones. It's all very scientific and awesome; if you'd like to find out more, read this.

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Frequency Response*(5.37)*

This test sends a frequency sweep through the headphones at a typical listening level of about 78dB, and the sound that the headphones produce is captured by HATS. The SR60s' reproduction of this sweep is graphed below. The frequencies are graphed along the bottom (rom low frequency at the left to high at the right), the decibel level -- or loudness -- runs down the left side. The green line represents the left channel, while the right channel is represented by red. The dotted lines are the limits both of these lines should fall between; anything to the left and right of these limits is not scored, but we leave them in to show the trend of the line.

 

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As you can see, the SR60s do very well with lower level sounds; the curve is smooth. Towards the higher end it dips sharply, after which point it's a bit erratic. This big dip means that sounds in that range will sound a bit underemphasized compared to surrounding frequencies, which might sound a bit unnatural. But this isn't a huge issue; even with this dip and the ensuing erratic behavior, the most it strays outside of the limits in the section we use for scoring is 5 decibels in the left ear cup. Again, while this isn't perfect, it isn't a serious problem, and the overall frequency response of the SR60s is pretty good.

 

Distortion*(5.59)*

Distortion refers to any difference between the sound that's present in the source, and what the headphones produce. Our system examines distortion by playing a sequence of tightly defined sounds at around 90dB; a loud, but common listening level. It then analyzes the difference between the original waveform and what is piped through the headphones, into HATS's ears. The graph below shows this difference, which is called Total Harmonic Distortion (THD), calculated as a percentage. Again, your X-axis will be playing the role of frequencies, from low to high; the Y-axis represents the distortion as a percentage of the total waveform. 

 

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The SR60s have a bit of a problem with distortion, with bass sounds having some distortion. This isn't uncommon for headphones of this type, but it goes a little higher than we usually like to see. They also feature a spike to about 2% distortion at around 7Khz, which -- if you'll notice -- is about where that dip is on the frequency response chart. Other than these two areas, however, the SR60s perform rather well, keeping distortion to a minimum in other frequencies.

 

Tracking*(7.14)*

Since the SR60s have two ear cups, they also have two different channels: left and right. In this test, we measure the difference, in decibels, between those two channels. Any spikes or dives mean that  one side of your headphones is outputting a higher decibel level than the other. Zero is the middle point, where both headphones are outputting identical loudness levels. If the line moves above zero, the left channel is stronger; below means the right cup will sound louder. 

 

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As you might be able to discern from the graph, the SR60s start off a bit heavy on the left side, even out, then get into a horrible car accident towards the higher frequencies. Typically, anything higher than 7 kHz will go unnoticed, so the worst of that high-end scribble can be disregarded. Overall, the SR60s perform well over most of the spectrum; the difference between the two sides is only a few percent that most users won't notice. 

 

Sound Pressure Level*(7.84)*

For our distortion test, we put the headphones at 90 decibels, which is a normal listening level. For this test, we crank up the volume until the distortion levels go above 3%. The SR60s got up to 110.92 dBSPL (sound pressure level) before they reached that kind of distortion. This is 10 dBSPL less than many other headphones we've tested, but it is enough that you should be able to crank up the volume pretty high on the SR60s without the sound turning into a distorted mess.

 

Isolation*(0.07)*

Isolation refers to the headphones' ability to seal you off form the outside world. The SR60s are not the headphones to use if you want to enjoy your music in a noisy room; they do pretty much nothing to block external sound. They don't have active noise cancellation, so the single green line in the graph below indicates how much the headphones reduce external noise by physically obstructing your ear canal; the higher the line, the more sound is blocked. Again, the bottom line represents frequencies, the left hand side represents how much sound is blocked.

 

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The SR60s are open-backed headphones, which means just about anything on the outside can make its way into your ears. That being said, even other open-backed headphones manage to block out more sound than the SR60s (such as the Sennheiser HD 555s). Towards the higher end of the spectrum, it does block out some noise, but chances are just about every external sound will reach your ears along with your music.

 

Leakage*(2.74)*

Again, the SR60s' open-backed design is an issue here; while this form factor might give you an airy sound quality, it'll also broadcast all of your music to everyone around you. If want to keep your preference for J-Pop to yourself, the Grado SR60s will prove themselves to be a poor confidant.

Summary

The Grado SR60s are a light-weight pair of on-ear headphones. Their foam padding isn't the most comfortable, and the band is without padding entirely, so they don't offer a particularly luxurious wear experience. While they're rather light weight for on-ear headphones, their 6-foot cable hinders their portability. We also liked how the band -- the most breakable part -- could easily be separated from the cups. This way you can either replace the band without buying a new set of headphones, or fix them without having to worry about your industrial-strength epoxy covering the sound elements.

 

Comfort*(5.0)*

The SR60s are moderately comfortable headphones. The foam is a bit coarse, so it can feel itchy at times. Since the pads cover your ears so tightly, your ears might feel a bit toasty, but there is some air flow through the foam, so they won't get a sweaty as they can with some over-ear headphones. The band isn't padded much, so those who don't have much hair might not have adequate cranial padding. In general, we also though these headphones exerted a bit too much pressure on our ears. Again, however, each of these negative attributes are very minor, and shouldn't affect the wear experience too much.

 

 

Extended Use*(4.0)*

Over a period of six hours, the minor inconveniences become slightly more annoying. Our ears felt hotter, the pressure was a bit more noticeable, and the foam felt a bit more coarse. Although they were more comfortable than some headphones, they might not be a good pick if you are a user who indulges in extended listening sessions.

 

Cable Connectivity(7.98)

The SR60s give you about 6 feet, 9 inches between the plug's cord guard and the ear cup. This is a pretty good length for most home theater setups, but it won't stretch clear across the room to get you hooked up to your system.

 

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These headphones also come with an 1/8-to-1/4-inch adaptor, so they can be eaily connected to both a portable music source and a HiFi system.

 

Portability*(1.11)*

Though these headphones are pretty light-weight, they simply aren't portable. For one, they're on-ear headphones. They have a very thin band and their cups can rotate around to lie flat, but they'll still take up a lot of space. Further, there's no case or anything else to manage the cord, which will just end up being cumbersome. The cord also makes these headphones unsuitable for mobile use. 

 

Customizability*(2.0)*

Just about the only option for customizing the headphones lies in cup positioning. These cups can rotate around in a full 360, and tilt about 50 degrees before the foam padding gets in the way. The cups can also slide away from the band, adding up to 1.24 inches of band length on each side. Other than that, the package doesn't really come with any other options for customization, such as additional pads, or an optional headset control.

 

Maintenance*(4.0)*

In terms of disassembly, the Grado SR60s have removable pads, and the cups themselves can be removed from the band with relative ease. Since the band -- and its easily breakable plastic parts -- is probably the best candidate for potential breakage, it's nice to see it can be easily replaced.

 

 

In terms of cleaning, the SR60s don't let you get near the sound elements. Actually, the open-backed cups have a plastic fence, which should do a good job keeping you away from the dust it lets in.

 

Other Features*(5.0)*

Battery Dependency

The Grado SR60 headphones don't need batteries in order to function. Call us old-fashioned, but we think that's worthy of some points. 

 

Value*(7.0)*

The Grado SR60s might not be the most portable, have the best audio quality, or look the prettiest out of all the headphones in the world, but they are well priced. At $69, the SR60s are an excellent pair of entry-level headphones. The only caveat is that these headphones are really paper thin: you'll need a quiet environment, or external noises will disrupt your listening session. If, however, you're looking for a pair of home phones that won't bust up your bank account, the SR60s are hard to beat.

 

Who's It For

Audiophile

The Grado SR60s offer pretty good sound quality, but not the best. The main source of the problem lies in the padding: porous foam forms a terrible seal around the ear. Also, while some prefer an open-back design, it requires an ideal listening environment or else  If you get a chance to try on both, compare the SR60s to the Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones: the soft pleather-covered padding on the QC3s forms a good seal.

Portable User

The six-foot length of cord dangling from the SR60s don't make these the most portable headphones. Also, as on-ear headphones, you can't exactly shove these in a pocket when you're done with them. That being said, if you don't mind three feet of extra cable, the SR60s are a light-weight on-ear option.

Airplane Traveler

Those in airplanes will find these things almost useless. You'd have to turn up the volume so loud that you'd damage your hearing. Open backs are really only a viable option in a quiet listening environment.

Home Theater Use

The SR60s best fit in a home theater or audiophile setup. Here, the open-backed design can create an airy, open soundstage unimpeded by ambient noise. The only issue here would be whether or not the six feet of cord is long enough to reach your sound system.

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Conclusion

Really, we can't say much more about the SR60s that we didn't already say in their value section. They look like cheap plastic or, at best, provide some '80s nostalgia aesthetics. Their sound quality is never bad, but it's not really outstanding either. They're also not the most comfortable headphones out there, although again they aren't really  uncomfortable . Really, the SR60s are either average or above average across the board. If you strictly measure what you're getting for how much you're paying, however, the SR60s are a great deal at $69. We'd recommend the SR60s to anyone who is looking at entering the higher-end zone of home theater headphones, but doesn't want to pay audiophile prices. As long as their open-backed design isn't a detriment, the SR60s are a good pair of on-ear headphones for pocket change.

Meet the tester

Mark Brezinski

Mark Brezinski

Senior Writer

@markbrezinski

Mark Brezinski is a senior writer with seven years of experience reviewing consumer tech and home appliances.

See all of Mark Brezinski's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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