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Grado SR125i now comes in at the most affordable

2/13/2014 11:42:53 AM
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With a distinctive retro styling, these cans would look cool in public, but are best suited for listening at home.

Although it sits in the middle of the New York-based company’s six-strong Prestige range of headphones, Grado has recently slashed the prices of its cans so that the SR125i now comes in at the most affordable end of this group. From a style point of view, they have all the visual hallmarks of the Prestige series – chunky cabinets, heavy branding, thin head band and large foam pads.

Grado SR125i

Grado SR125i

The flexible headband is formed of narrow steel and covered in leather without any real padding. Unless you are blessed with the natural cushion of a thick head of hair this can become rather uncomfortable after lengthy listening. The cans also look a touch cheap, being formed of lightweight plastic. The enclosures twist freely and easily glide up and down the antenna-like poles so that fitting is easy.

Grado has used a vented diaphragm and non-resonant air chamber with the driver’s diaphragms subjected to a special ‘de-stressing’ process in order to enhance inner detail.

The Y-shaped cable is by far the most highly engineered cord in this group. Made from ultra-high purity, long crystal (UHPLC) copper voice coil wire and terminated in a 6.35mm plug, it’s thick and stiff so not really suitable for use anywhere other than when sat in a comfy chair within 1.8m of your hi-fi amp. That doesn’t preclude it from use with a computer (using a 3.5mm adapter), although it becomes inelegant and cumbersome and is best suited to use with a headphone amp, perched on the edge of a desk. The cable and open-back design of the cans together mean they are not ideally suited for use on the move with portable devices or in noisy environments.

Sound quality

The Grado SR125i phones are not bass hounds, but that’s not to say you feel particularly shortchanged in that respect. Richard Burton’s vocals at the start of The War of the Worlds SACD aren’t as velvety and enriched as you get with, say, the B&Ws, and as the cylinders come off the tripod the transients tail off quickly. Midrange and upper end are nicely controlled, and everything feels open and airy. The twang of the lead guitar is lively and enthralling.

Grado SR125i

Grado SR125i

The Lark Ascending SACD is a satisfying, tonally balanced listen, although the crescendo in the fifth minute very nearly distorts. If you want a highly detailed, ultra energetic sound the Grado isn’t the model for you, but Minus The Bear’s Listing sounds clean and there’s a touch of warmth to proceedings that you don’t get elsewhere. It’s a similar story switching to the Musical Fidelity headphone amp, with Snowed In At Wheeler Street sounding controlled and a little restrained.

The SR125is don’t have the sense of scale you can find elsewhere, but that isn’t to say the sound is unsatisfactory. These are intimate, cosy headphones that are like stepping into a pair of comfy slippers. The punchy drums in the 24/96 download of Could You Be Loved thud and diminish rapidly, while the guitar and Marley’s vocals are dynamic, but not overly energetic.

Grado SR125i

Grado SR125i

Thanks to its open-back design, the Grado SR125i headphones are well suited for use in domestic environments. Fans of full-fat bass should direct their ears elsewhere but the drivers have been tuned to deliver a nicely controlled, easy listen that’s unlikely to leave you wanting more in any sonic respect. The thin headband does throw up some comfort issues, but aided by their relaxed character these headphones are ideal for those wanting to enjoy lengthy listening.

On Test

Despite an impedance that’s about average for the group, varying between 41.6ohms at 68Hz and 32.0ohms at 1.3kHz, the Grado has the second-lowest sensitivity at 111.2dB for 1V rms input at 1kHz, averaged over both capsules. Still, this is plenty to deliver high SPLs with most sources. Low output impedance is advisable given that the impedance variation is large enough to generate a 0.5dB frequency response change with 10ohm source and 1.0dB with a 30ohm source. Capsule matching error was poor at ±9.3dB, suggesting that it interacts rather differently with the left and right artificial pinnae used for testing. Although the SR125i is typical of the marque in having a diffuse-field-corrected frequency response that peaks in the upper bass and also has some excess in the treble, nevertheless it offers the flattest corrected response here and fair bass extension of 26Hz.

Specifications

·         Price: $245

·         Product: Grado SR125i

·         Origin: USA

·         Type: Open back, on-ear headphones

·         Weight: 170g

·         40mm dynamic drivers

·         Thin metal headband with leather cover

·         HPLC copper voice coil wire

Verdict

·         Sound quality: 4.5/5

·         Value for money: 4/5

·         Build quality: 4/5

·         Features: 4/5

 

 
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